Niccolò Machiavelli.

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guarded againft by the ftri(fte{l injundions of due
exercife and labour.

I fay therefore, it is the mod prudent way to make
choice of a fertile fituation, provided proper care be
taken to obviate the evils by falutary laws, which
otherwife luxury and abundance m,ay probably occa-
fion. When Alexander the Great intended to found a
City to prepetuate his name, Dinocrates aTi Archiredt
advifed him to build it upon Mount Athos, which
would not only be very ftrong, but might be reduced
into the fhape of a man • a circumftancc that could
not fail of being much admired, and muft contri-
bute greatly to his glory. But the King afiving
how the inhabitants were to be furnifhed with pro-
vifigns, he confelfed he had not thought of that ^%
at which Alexander could not help laughing very
heartily, and leaving the mountain as it was, he built,
Alexandria, where he knew people would be glad to
live on account of the richnefs of the Soil, as well as
the advantages they might reap from the vicinity of
the Sea and the river Nile.

If then we confider the Origin of Rome, and admit
it to have been founded by ^Eneas, it muil be num-
bered amongft thole cities that have been built by
foreigners; but if the foundation of it is to be afcrib-
ed to Romulus, it may be looked upon as buik by
the natives of the country in v/hich it (lands. In
either cafe we fhall find that it was free in the begin-
ning and independent on any one. It will likewife
appear (as we fhall fhew hereafter) that the inhabitants
were laid under fuch fevere reftriflicns in feveral
refpe6ls, by the laws which were made by Romulus,
Numa, and others, that neither the fertility of the
country, the conveniency of the Sea, the frequent

f Plutarch, in vit. Alexandrl.

B 5 and

6 Political Discourses upon Book I.

and fignal victories they gained, nor the greatnefs of
their Empire, were able to corrupt them for many
ages : on the contrary, they maintained their virtue
with fuch inflexible rigour, as there are few or no ex-
amples of in any other Common-wealth. And fince the
great exploits performed under that Government
both at home and abroad, which are recorded by
Livy, were conducted either by public or private
Councils, I fhall begin my Difcourfes with what
feems moil worthy of oblervation in their civil and do-
meflic affairs, and the confequences attendant there-
on, with which, the firft book, or rather the firil part
of this work will conclude.


Concerning the different for/s of Government, and efpe daily

that oj Rome.

OMITTING all mention at prefent of fuch
Cities as were dependent in their firft founda-
tion, I fhall fpeak of thofe only that were originally
free, and condudled themfelves as they thoucrht fit,
either in a Republican or a Monarchical form of Go-
vernment, and thefe, as their plan and origin were
different, had likewife different laws and conftitu-
tions. Some of them had laws delivered to them by
one perfon at the firil, or at leaft very foon after tlieir
foundation ; as the Spartans received theirs imme-
diately from Lycurgus : others had their laws given
them at different times, according to the feveral ac-
cidents and exigencies that happened ; which was the
cafe of Rome. That State, therefore, ma^ juflly be
deemed fortunate, which falls into the hands of a
wife man, who makes fuch laws at firft, as want no
amendment or new- modelling afterwards, but are
fufiicicnt of themfelves to ftcure and protedl thofe
that live under them ; as it happened to the Spartans,
whole laws were fo excellent that they were inviolably


Chap. II. The First Decad of Livv. f

obferved for above eight hundered years, without
occafioniiig any murmurs or commotions of confe-
quence. On the other hand, that State, muft be in
fome meafure unhappy, which, for want of prudence
and forefight in the Legiflators at firft, is reduced to
the necefTity of reforming and altering its laws upon
fudden emergencies : dill more unhappy when its
laws are of fuch a nature, that inftead of conducing
to promote the true ends of government, they have
a quite different tendency ; for in that cafe, there is
hardly any poffibility of reforming it. As to others
which are eftablifhed upon good principles at firft,
and capable of improvement, if they are not alto-
o-ether perfed, they may become more and more fo
in time by divers accidents and occurrences, though
perhaps not without fome dangerous Ihocks and con-
culTions ; for men are naturally averfe to any innova-
tion or change in their cuftoms and laws, except they
are convinced there is an abfolute necelTity for it :
and as this neceflity muft be occafioned by fome im-
pending danger, the State may be fubverted, before
the remedy can have its effedl. Of this we have
fufficient proofs in what has happened to the Republic
of Florence, at various times, and upon different
occafions : particularly upon the commotions that
happened at Arozzo and Prato ; the former of which
produced a new reformation in the State, and the
latter great confufion.

But as I propofe to treat more particularly of the
laws and conftitution of the Roman Republic, and
fhew what accidents contributed to bring it to pe'r-
fedion, I muft obferve in the firft place, that^-acord^
ing to fome authors, there are but three forts of go-
vernment, wz. Monarchy or Principality, Ariftocracy,
and Democracy ; and that thofe who intend to ered:
a new State, muft have recourfe to fome one of thefe
which he likes beft. Others (and with more judg-
ment, as many think) fay there are Six forts ; three of
which are very bad, and the other three good in
themfelves, but liable to be fo corrupted that they

B 4 may

8 Political Discourses vpbN , Book L

may become the worft. The three good forts have
been juft now mentioned ; the other three proceed
from thefe, and every one of them bears fuch a re-
fembiance to that on which it refpectively depends,
that the tranfrtion from one to the other is fliort
and eafy : for Monarchy often degenerates into
Tyranny, Ariflocracy into Oligarchy, and Democracy
into licentious Anarchy and confuiion. So that who-
ever fets up any one of the former ihree kinds of Go-
vernm.tnt, may afiure himfelf it will not be of any
long duration; for no precaution will be fufEcient to
prevent its failing into the other that is analogous to
it, on account of the afiinity which there feems to be
in this cafe betwixt virtue and vice, perfedlion and

This variety of Governments am.ongil mankind,
appears to have been the effect of chance : for in the
beginning of the World, the inhabitants being few,
they fome time lived feparate from each other like
beads y but afterwards as they multiplied, they began.
to unite for their mutual defence, and put themfelves
under the protection of fuch as were mofl eminent
amongft them fcir courage and ftrength, whom they
engaged to obey and to acknowledge as their chiefs*,,
Hence arofe the diftindtion betwixt honeft and dif-
honeil, juft and unjuft: for when any one injured his
benefactor, his ingratitude excited a fort of fellow-
feelino; and indignation in others, as well as kindnefs
and rcfpecl for thofe that behaved differently : and
as they confidered that they might fome time or other
perhaps be treated in the fame manner themfelves, if.
proper meafures were not taken to prevent it, they
thought fit to make laws for the reward of good men,

* Cum prorepftTunt primis animalia terris,
JVlutum & turpe pecus, glandem arque cubilia propter,
Pugnabant armis, quas poft fabricaverat ufusj
Donee verba, quibus voces fenfufque notareiit,
Nominaque invenere: dehinc abfiftere bello,
Oppida cceperr.nt munire, & ponere Isges,
Ne quis fur ellet, neu latro, neu qiiis adulter.

Hor. Satir. lib I. iii.


Chap. JI. The First Decad of Livv. ^

and the punlfiiment of offenders. This firfi: gave rife
to juflice in the world - •, and from this confidcfation
it came to pafs in procefs of time, thac in the elec-
tion of a new Chief, they had not lb much regard to
couracre and bodily ftrength as to wifdom and inte-
grity. But afterwards, as this kind of government
became gradually hereditary inftead of eledive, the
the heirs of thefe Chieftains foon began to degenerate
from the virtue of their Ancellors, and to behave
therpfeives as if they thought the main duty of a
Prince confiiled in furpafiing all other men in luxury^
extravagance, effeminacy, and every fort of volup-
tuoufnels -, by which in a while, they firll; grew odious
to their Subjeds, and then fo jealous for themfelves,
that they were forced to diftrefs and cut off others for
their ov;n fecurity, and at laft to become downright
Tyrants. This firft occafioned combinations and
confpiracies for the dellrudion of Princes ; not
amongft the weak and pufillanimous part of their
fubjects, but amongft fuch as being more eminent
for their generofiry, magnanimity, riches, and birth,
could not endure any longer to fubmit to thcie pitiful
and opprefTive Governors.

The multitude therefore, fwayed by the authority
of the Nobles, rofe in arms againft their Prince, and
being freed from his yoke, transferred their allegiance
to their deliverers, who being thoroughly difgufted
at Monarchy, changed the form of Government, and
and took it into tjieir own hands. After which they
conducted both themfelves and the State, according
to the plan they had formed, preferring the common
good to any particular advantage, and behaving in
private as vveil as public affairs with affjduity and mo-
deration, whilfl the remembrances of their pail: fuf-
ferings continued trefh upon rheir minds. But this
authority afterwards devolving upon their Sons, who
had not feen thefe changes, nor experienced the mi-
feries of tyranny, they began to grow fo diffatisfied
with that fort of civil equality, that they call off all

* — Utilitas jufti prope mater & sequi. Hor. Satir. lib. I. iii._


io Political Discourses upom Book L

reftraint, and giving themfelves up to rapine, ambition,
and lull, foon changed the government again from
Ariftocracy into an Oligarchy. Their adminiftration
however becoming as infupportable in a while as the
tyranny of the other had formerly been, the people
naturally began to look out for fome deliverer ; and
having fixed upon a leader, they put themfelves
under his banners, and abolifhed Oligarchy, But
when they had done this, and came to refied: upon
the oppreiTions they fuftained under a Tyrant, they
refolved never to be governed again by any one man ;
and therefore agreed to fet up a popular Government,
which was conflitutcd in fuch a manner, that the
chief authority was not veiled either in a Prince or in
a Junto of the Nobility. ^Now as all new efiabHfh-
ments are held in fome degree of reverence and-*ve-
neration at firfl, this form fubfifted for (ome time ;
though no longer than thofe people lived who had
been the founders of it : for after their death, their
defcendants degenerated into licentioufnefs, and fuch
a contempt of all authority and diftindtion, that,
every man living after his own caprice, there was
nothing to be feen but confufion and violence ; fo
that either by the advice of fome good and refpeclable
man, or compelled by the abfolute neceiTity of pro-
viding a remedy for thefe diforders and enormities,
they at lafl determine once more to fubmit to the do-

' minion of one : from which tlate they fell again in
time through the fame gradations, and from the
abovementioned caufes, into mifrule and licentiouf-

^ nefs.'^uch is the rotation to which all States are
fubjea ; neverthelefs they cannot often revert to the
fame kind of Government, becaufe it is not pofTible
that they fhould fo long exift as to undergo many of
thefe mutations; for it frequently happens that when
a State is labouring under fuch convulfions, and is
deftitute both of ftrength and counfel, it falls a prey
to fome other neighbouring community or nation that
is better governed ; otherwife it might pafs through


Chap. II. The first Decad of LivrV i|

the feveral abovcmentioned revolutions again and
again to infinity,

( All thefe forts of government then, in my opinion,
are infirm and infecure •, the three former from the
ufual {horrnefs of their duration, and the three latter
from the malignity of their own principles. The
wifeft LegiQators therefore being aware of thefe de-
fers, never eftablifhed any one of them in particular,,
but contrived another that partakes of them all, con-
fifting of a Prince, Lords, and Commons, which
they looked upon as more firm and liable, becaufe
every one of thefe members would be a check upon
the other : and of thofe Legiflators, Lycurgus
certainly merits the higheft praifc, who conftituted an
eftablifhment of this kind at Sparta, which lailed
above eight hundred years, to his own great honour
as well as the tranquility of the Citizens/f/ Very dif-
ferent was the fate of the Government eftablifhed by
Solon at Athens, which, being a fimple Democracy
only, was of fo fhort a continuance, that it gave way
to the tyranny of Pififtratus before the death of the
Legiflator : and though indeed the heirs of that
Tyrant were expelled about forty years after, and the
Athenians not only recovered their liberty, but re-
eftablilTied Solon's laws and plan of government,
yet they did not maintain it above a hundred years,
notwithftanding they made feveral new regulations to
reftrain the infolence of the Nobles, and the licenti-
oufnefs of the Commons ; the neceility of which
Solon had not forcfeen : fo that for want of tempering
his Democracy with a fhare of Ariftocracy and
princely power, it was of fhort duration in compa-
rifon of the conftitution of Sparta.

But to return to Rome. Though that City had not
a Lycurgus to model its conftitution at firft, in fuch a
manner as might preferve its liberty for a long courfe
of time; yet fo many were the accidents which hap-
pened in the contefts betwixt the Patricians and the
Plebeians, that chance effedled what the Law-giver
had not provided for. So that if it was not perfedl


t'i Political Discourses UPON Book I;

at the beginning, it became fo after a while ; for though
the firft laws were deficient, yet they were neither in-
capable of amendment, nor repugnant to its future
perfection : fince not only Romulus but ail the reft
of the Kinas that fucceeded him made fcveral good
alterations in them, and fuch as were well calculated
for the fupport of liberty. But as it was their inten-
tion to found a Monarchy and not a Republic, when
that City had fhaken off. the yoke of a Tyrant, there
feemed to be many provifions ftill wanting for the
further maintenance of its freedom. And notvvith-
Handing tyranny was at laft eradicated by the ways
and means abovementioned, yet thofe who had chiefly
contributed to ir, created two Confuls to fupply the
place of Royalty •, by which it came to pafs that the
name alone, and not the authority of Princes, was
extinguifhed. So that the Supreme power being
lodged only in th^ Confuls and Senate, the Govern-
ment confillcd of no more than two of the three Ef-
tates which we have fpoken of before, that is, of
Royalty and Ariftocracy. it remained therefore ftill
neceffary to admit the people into fome ftiare of the
Government ; and the Patricians growing fo infolent
in time (as I (hall fhew hereafter) that tlie Plebeians
could no longer endUre it, the latter took arms, and
obliged them to relinquifh part of their authority,
left they fliould lofe the v/hole ; on the other hand,
the Confuls and Senators ftill retained fo much power
in the Common-wealth, as enabled them to fupport
their rank with dig-nitv and honour. This ftrup^ele
gave birth to certain Officers called tribunes of the
Peoples after the creation of whom that State became
more firm and compa6l, every one of the three de-
grees abovementioned having its proper ftiare in the
Government -, and fo propitious was fortune to it,
that although it was changed from a Monarchy into
an Ariftocracy, and afterwards into a Democracy, by
the fteps and for the reafons already affignedj yet the
Royal power was never entirely abolilhed and given
to the Patricians, nor that cf the Patricians wholly


Chap. III. The first Decad of Livy. jg

to the Plebeians ; on the contrary, the authority of
the three Eftates being duly proportioned and mixed
together, gave it the higheft degree of perfedtion
that any Common-wealth is capable of attaining to ;
and this was owing in a great meafure, " if not alto-
gether, to the difienfions that happened betwixt the
Patricians and the Plebeians, as fhali be Ihewn more
at large in the following Chapters.


To what accidents it was owing that the Trihunes of the
People were created at Rome\ and how they contributed
to make that Common-wealth more ferfe^,

THOSE that have written upon Civil Govern-
ment, lay it down as a firft Principle, and all
Hiflorians demonilrate the fame, that whoever would
found a (late, and make proper laws for the govern-
ment of it, muft prefuppofe that all men are bad by
nature"^, and that they will not fail to fnew that na-
tural depravity of heart, whenever they have a fair
opportunity 5 and though it may poITibly lie conceal-
ed for a while, on account of fome fecret reafon
which does not then appear to men of fmall experi-
ence ; yet Time, (which is therefore juftly called the
Father of truth) commonly brings it to light in the end.
After tne expulfion of the I'arquins at Rome, there
feemed to be a perfect harmony betwixt the Patricians
and Plebeians ; the former having laid afide their
ufual arrosance, and aifumed an appearance of fa-
miliarity and affability even towards the lowed of the •
people. The reafons of this were not difcovered
v^-hilft: the Tarquins lived ; for the Patricians being
flill afraid of them, were likewife apprchenfive that

* This a harlli fuppofition. But does not every Chriflian aU
moft daily juftify the truth of it, by confcfling it before God and the
World ; and are we not exprefsly told the ianic in Itrvera! pafTages of
the Holy Scriptures, and in all Sylienis o'i human Fhilci'opliy.


14 Political Discourses upon Book T»

if they fhould opprcfs the people, they might be
tempted to call in that family again ; and this was the
true caufe of their Teeming moderation. But as foon
as the Tarquins were dead, and the Patricians deli-
vered from thofe apprehenfions, they began to vent
that malice upon the Plebeians which they had fo
long concealed, and to treat them in the mod info-
lent and injurious manner, which may ferve as a fuffi-
cient proof of what I have juft faid, that men are
never good but through necefTity ; on the contrary,
when good and evil are left to their choice, and they
can praflife the latter with impunity, they will not
fail to throw every thing into diforder and confufion.
Hence arifes the common obfervation, that hunger
end poverty may jnake people indujlrious, hut laws only
can make them good: for if men were fo of themfelves,
there would be no occafion for laws, but as the cafe
is far otherwife, they are abfolutely necefTary.

After the Tarquins were dead, who had been fuch
a check upon the Nobility, fome other expedient feem-
ed wanting that might have the fame effedl •, fo that
after much confufion and diforder, and many danger-
ous contefts betwixt the Patricians and Plebeians,
certain Officers, called tribunes, were created for the
fecurity of the latter : who, being veiled with fuch
privileges and authority as enabled them to become
Arbiters betwixt thofe two Eftates, efFedlually curb-
ed the inlolence of the former.


^he dijfenftons betwixt the Patricians and Plebeians made
the Roman Common-wealth more powerful a?id free.

IMuft here fay fomething of the conteds that hap-
pened at Rome betwixt the death of the Tarquins
and the creation of the Tribunes, and afterwards en-
deavour to refute the opinion of thofe who affert,
that the Roman Republic was fo fubjcdl to tumult,


Chap. IV. The first Decad of Livv. r^

fediticn, and confufion, that if its good fortune and
military virtue had not over balanced thefe defects, it
would have been much inferior to any other. It muft
be owned indeed, that both fortune and valour did
not a little contribute to the aggrandizement of that
Empire : but it feems to me as if thefe people did not
confider, that where there are good Soldiers there muft
be good order and difcipline, which is likewife ge-
nerally attended with good fortune.

But to defcend to fome other particulars relating to
that City. I fay thofe that cavil at the diflenfions be-
twixt the Patricians and Plebeians, cavil at the very
caufes which in my opinion contributed moft to its
liberty ; for whilft they objed to them as the fources
of tumult and confufion, they do not confider the
good effeds they produced ; feeming either to for-
get, or never to have known, that in all Common-
wealths, the views and difpofition of the Nobility and
Commonalty muft of necefTity be very widely if not
totally different : and that all the laws which are
made in favour of liberty, have been owing to the
differences betwixt them, as might eafily be demon-
ftrated from what happened at Rome ; for from the
time of the Tarquins to that of the Gracchi, v/hich
was a period of above three hundred years, the con-
tefts that arofe were very feldom attended with tht
banifhment, and ftill feldomer with the execution of
any of the Citizens.

There is no reafon then to look upon thofe hu-
mours as noxious, nor that Republic as difunited, ia
which during fo long a fpace, and fo many ftruggles,
nor above eight or ten people were fent into Exile^
very few put to death, and not many punifhed with
pecuniary fines on account of thole commotions; nor
can it with any juftice be called a difordered or ill
governed State, where there were lb many examples
of every kind of virtue ; lince good examples pro-
ceeded from good education, and good education
from good laws, and thofe laws from thofe diiTenfions
which many fo inconfiderately coridemn. For who-

16 Political Discourses upon Book I,

ever will look into the confcqnences of them, will
find that they feldom occafioned banilhment or any
other violence that was detrimental to the public
good ♦, but laws, on the contrary, that were highly
conducive to the prefervation of their common liber-
ties. If any one however Ihould obje6t, that it mud
be a ftrange and horrible fight to fee not only the
Commonalty in an uproar againft the Nobility, and
the Nobility againfl the Commonalty, and both of
them running through the ftreets in a tumultuous
manner; but tradelmen (hutting up their {hops, and
all forts of people flying by droves out of the City 5
a Spedtacie, as they imagine, that muft frighten any
perfon that beheld, and even thofe that read of it : I
anfwer, that every State ought to have proper means
in its hands to gratify the demands of the people, ef-
pecially thofe States that are obliged to have recourfe
to the Commonalty for their affiftance upon any exi-
gency : and as the Roman Republic was fuch, when-
ever the people wanted to have a new law made, they
either raifcd a tumult or refufed to enlifl themfelves
as Soldiers in time of war^ till thev had obtained
fome fort of Satisfadtion. And it feldom happens
that the demands of a free people are either unrea-
fonable or prejudicial to liberty, as they commonly
proceed either from adual oppreffion, or the dread
of it ; but if that apprehenfion fliould prove ground-
lefs, it is no difficult matter to pacify them by a pub-
lic conference, where they are always ready to liften
to any man of worth and authority that fhall think
fit to harangue them : for though the people may
fometimes be in an error, as Tully fays, they are
open to better information, and foon convinced, when
a perfon of whofe veracity and integrity they have, a
good opinion, undertakes to fhew them their mifl-ake.
We fhould not therefore be too forward in cenfur-
ing the conftitution of the Roman Republic *, efpe-
cially when we confider that the vaft thinp;s which it
accomplifhcd muft be owing to proportionable caufes;
and that if the diflenfions that happened in it occa-

Ch-ap. IV. The First Decad of LiVy* fj

fioned the creation of Tribunes, they were rather of
advantage than otherwife : for they not only procur-
ed the people a fhare in the adm»niflration of Go-
vernment, but Were the Guardians and Confervators

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