Niccolò Machiavelli.

The works of Nicholas Machiavel ... : translated from the originals : illustrated with notes, annotations, dissertations, and several new plans on the Art of war (Volume 3) online

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free. On the contrary, if it fcems wonderful to fome,
how the Athenians arrived at fuch a height of gran-
deur, in the fpace of an hundred years only, after
tiiey had (haken off the yoke of Pi fi ft rat us -, and much
more amazing, perhaps, that the Roman Empire
Ihould increafe in fo prodigious a manner after the
expulfion of Kings, yet it may readily be accounted
for 'y fmce it is not a regard for the good of one par-
ticular man, but for that of the public, which makes
a State great and powerful ; and it is paft doubt, that
the good of the public is not fo much confidered in
any other form of Government, as in a Common-
wealth •, for there every meafure is pnrfued, that may
conduce to the bcnent of the whole, how prejudicial
foever it may prove to the intereft of any private per-
fon ', and there is always fuch a majority of thole that
are advantaged by this manner of proceeding, as will
be fufficicntjy able to carry their point, in fpitc of
any oppofition from others that mufl fuffer by it. But
the cafe is quite different in States that are under the
Government of a Prince ; for there it generally hap-
pens, that what makes for the advantage of the Sove-
reign, tends to the prejudice of the Public, and vice
verfa * : fo that whenever free States degenerate into

• " How this will hold, fays E. Dacres, with the general, and almofl:
received tenet, I cannot fee j being, that the Prince and People are
faid to make only one politique body, and the welfare of the part
canno: be feparated from the whole." Famous is that Fable of ^^fop,
concerning the Belly, and the re It of the members, which Menenius
Agrippa made uk of to reconcile the Commons of Rome, who upon a
<}uarr€l with the Senate retired into the hoiy mount. Whereby it
came to appear, that the Belly afforded its fervice too, and as well
gave an received nourilhment, dittributing by the veins, thioughout

' P 4 Tyranny

2i6 Political DiscoupisEs UPON Book IL

Tyranny, the leaft evil they mud expeft is to make
no further progrefs in riches, power, or dominion :
and it is pretty well if that be the worft, fince they
commonly, nay almoll: always indeed, from that time
begin to decline and fall to decay. For, if the Ty-
rant fhould chance to be a fpirited enterprizing man,
and extend his Empire by war, the Public would
not be at all advantaged by that, nor any body bene-
fitted but himfelf ; becaiife he dares not advance any
of his fubjeds, how worthy and virtuous foever they
may be, left he fhould make them fo powerful that
he might afterwards grow jealous of them : nor will
he venture to make thofe States which he conquers,
either tributary and dependant upon that which he ha$
ufurped, becaufe he will not think it for his intereft
to let his fubjeds grow ftrong and united, but to keep
every Town and Province divided, and wholly de-
pendent upon himfelf; fo that he alone, and not his
country, is the tetter for thofe acquifitions ^ for ^
further confirmation of which (if there can ftill re-
main any fort of doubt) let any one read Xenophon's
Treatife upon Tyranny, wherein he will find fufficieni;
matter for his conviction.

Thefe things being confidered, it is no wonder that
people in ancient times abhorred Tyranny, and were
fo pafTionately fond of Liberty, that they adored the
very name of it ; a remarkable inftance of which,

the whole body out of the meat which it had digefted, the blood well
conceited, whereby each part was nourifhed. Who is it that feeli
iiot, wh6n any part fails, that the whole is in diforder ? And who
fees notlikewife, when any part of the body draws into it more thaa
its propoj-tionable noiiriture, that the whole pines thereupon ? As
from the fwejiing of the fpleen, the health of the whole body is dif-
turbed, and theret'ore, by Tome Politiques, not unfitly compared to a
Prince's Exchequer, which, when it exceflively abounds, beggar? the
whole country. *' It is a folly to think, (fays a Spanifn Author) that
the povei-ty of the Commonalty will not redound to the breaking of
private patrimonies, nor can great revenues continue where the Com-
monwealth is raked to the veiy bones." All thefe things ferve to
argue the mutual fympathy, as between the head and tlie members,
fo between the Prince and his fubje(Sls j and to divide the intereft of
the Prince from that of the people cannot agree with good policy ;
lor, as in the natural body it breeds difeafcs, fo in the politique it
Vi educes diforder s and deltiuf\ion.
'^ ^ WC

Chap. ir. The First Degad OF Livy; 2iy

we have in the cafe of Hieronymus, Nephew to Hiero
the Syracufan ; for, upon the news of his death, ^he
army, which at that time lay encamped not far from
the City, at firft took up arms againft the Confpira-
tors, who had affaffinated the Tyrant ; but, when
they were informed that the people in the City de*
clared for Liberty, they were fo charmed with that
name, that they foon laid them down again, and be-
gan to take meafures for the re-eftablifhment of the
Commonwealth. Nor can it feem flr^nge, that the
people (hould fhew but little mercy to thofe that have
deprived them of their freedom, fince there have been
fo many examples of their rage upon fuch occafions.
1 fliall, however, content myfelf with one, which
happened at Corcyra, a City in Greece, during the
coiirfe of the Peloponefian war : for Greece being di-
vided into two fadions, one of which adhered to the
Athenians, and the other to the Spartans ; many
towns had partizans of each fide within the fame
walls. But the Nobility having got the upper hand
at Corcyra, and depriving the people of their liber-
jties, the latter, by the afliftance of the Athenians,
were enabled to take up arms, and rifing upon the
Nobility foon overpowered them : after which, they
fhut them all up in one prifon, from whence they
took them out by eight or ten at a time, under 4
pretence of banifhing them into different parts, but
afterwards put them to the mod cruel kinds of death.
Of which, the reft, being at lail informed, refolved
to behave themfelves like men in that extremity, and
exert their utmoft efforts to avoid lo ignominious a
fate. For this purpofe, having armed themfelves as
well as their circumftances would admit of, they re-
folutely ^^f^nd^d the entrance of the prifon, and
would let nobody come in, till the people ran tumul-
tuouQy together, aiid got to the top of the building,
which they uncovered, and throwing down the roof
and v.alls of it upon their heads, foon buried them in
their ruins. Many other inftances of the like terrible
nature happened in that country j from whence the


^iS Political Dscourses upon Book IL

truth of the old obfervation is fufficiently evinced,
that people 'generally run greater lengths in reveng-
ing the lofs of their liberty, than in defending it.

Confidering therefore fometimes with myfelf, what
ihould be the realbn, that people are not fo zealous in
alTerting their liberties at prefent, as they were in for-
mer times, I think it is owing to the fame caufe, that
makes them not fo bold and courageous as they ufed
to be-, namely, the difference betwixt their Education
and ours, occafioned by the difference betwixt the
Chriftian and Pagan Religion, For our religion hav-
ing (hewn us the true way to real happinefs, infpires
«s with a contempt of worldly glory : which being
the chief end of the Pagans, and the object wherein
they placed their Summum bonum^ made them more
fierce and daring in their adions. This may appear
from many of their Inftitutions, particularly their Sa-
crifices, which were very magnificent indeed, when
compared with the fimplicity of ours, in which the ce-
remonies are rather delicate than pompous or ftriking,
and not attended with any cifcum-flances of ferocity
or Eclat, In thofe of the Pagans, befides the fplen^
dour of the folemnicy, the very adlion of the Sacrifice
was full of blood and crueky, as great numbers of
vidlims were butchered upon thofe occafions : which
inured men to horrid fpedtacles, and made them fan-
guinary and cruel. Befides which, they deified none
but men full of worldly glory, fuch as great Com-
manders and illuftrious Governors of States. But our
Religion, inftead of Heroes, canonizes thofe only that
are meek and lowly, and given to the contemplation
of heavenly things, rather than to an adtive and bufy
life ;. and that happinefs which the Pagans fought
from courage, bodily ftrength, and other qualifica-
tions that conduced to make them hardy and fierce,
"we look for in humility, felf-denial, and a contempt
of the world ; fo that if our religion ever requires us
to (hew any degree of fortitude, it is to be manifefled
in our lufferings, rather than in any thing elfe. This
inflitution therefore feems to have enervated mankind,


Chap. IL The First Dec ad of Livy. 219

^nd given up fome as a prey, tied and bound into the
})ands of others that are more wicked, who may dif-
pofe of thenrj as they pleafe ; fince, in order to obtain
Paradife, they perceive the generality of them more
ready to fuffer injuries than to revenge them. Now
that the world is thus crippled and hamftrung, and
hea^'en itfelf appears to be in a manner difarmed, is
owing to the pitiful and erroneous explication, which
fome have taken upon them to give of our religion,
as if it enjoined folitude and indolence, and forbad
an adive and ferviceable life : for if they had confix-
dered that it allows us to defend and exalt our Coun-
try, it certainly allows us alfo to love and honour it,
and to qualify ourfelves for its defence*. This fort

• upon this Paragraph, the abpvementioned E. Dacres fays as fol-
lows, "Here Machiavel falfely imputes the caufe of mens cowardli-
nefs to the Chrittian Religion. I neede not alleadge any bi^ttells
foughten by Chriftians, to prove him a Lyar : hiftories frequently af«
foarde us examples, as well ancient as modern, where they have been
as rel'olutely foughten by the Chriftians, as ever were any by the Pa-
gans ; nay, our own memories may well fupply us with fome if we
want. If we marke from whence Machiavel takes his argument, it is
from that the Pagairs'lleW a multitude of facrifices, the fight of which
being terrible, made men of the fame difpolition. By the fame reafon
it muft follow, that our Butchers and Surgeons are more valiant than
/Other men, as who cnftomarily have their hands imbrued in bloud,
I may well allow them to be more cruel j and therefore our laws ex-
clude them from being upon a jury of Life and Death j but of being
more valiant, I never heard they had the reputation." Let us hear
alfo what a great Prelate of our Church fays upon thispaffage, which
is much more to the purpofe, ** It is obje^ed (fays he) that the Chrif-
tian Religion is apt to difpirit men, and to break the courage and vi-
gour of their minds by the precepts of patience, humility, meekneif,
forgiving injuries, and the like. This objeciion hath made a great
roife in the world, and hath been urged by men of great reputation
and infight into the tempers of men and the affairs of tlie world. It
Is/aid to be particularly iniifted upon by Machiavel, and very likely it
may 5 though I think that elfewhere he is pleafed to fpeak in terms
of great refpej^, not only of Religion in general, but likewife-of the

Chriftian Religion But howlbever this objedtion maybe, I dare

^Pj^ea! both to reafon and experience for the confutation of it. i. To
reafon, and that as to thefe two things, i. That the Chriftian Re*
ligion is apt to plant in the minds of men principles of the greateft re*
ibiunon and true'i courage. It teacheth men upon the beft and moft
rational grounds to defpiie dangers, yea and death itfelf, the greatelt
and molt formidable evil in this world ; and this principle is likely to
infpire men with the greattft coinage : for what need he fear any
thing in this world, who fears not death, after which, there is nothing
IP this wond to be feared ? And this the Chriftian Religion does, by


220 PoLiTitAL Discourses upon Book 11,

fort of Education then, and thefe falfe Interpretations,
have been one great caufe, that there are not now fo

giving men the jiiEirance of another life, and a happinefc infinitely
greater than any that is to be eajoyed in this world. And, in order
to the fecuring of this happinefa, it teacheth men to be holy, juft, and
to exercife a good confcience, both towards God and man j which is
the only way to free a maa from all inward tormenting fears of what
snay happen to him after death. ** This makes the riglueous man,
fays Solomon, as bold as a Lion." Nothing renders a raan more un-
idiaunted, as to death and the confequences of it, than the peace of
his own mirvd ; that is, not to be confcious to himfelf of having wil-
fully difpleafed him, who alone can make us happy or miferable in
the other world. So that a ^ood man being fecure of the favour of
God, may, upon that account, reafonably hope for greater happinefs
after death, jthan other men: whereas a had man, if he be fober, and
hath his fenfes 5-waked to a ferious confideration of things, cannot
but be afraid todie, and to be extremely anxious and folicitous about
what will become of him in another world: for furely it would make
the ftowteft man breathing afraid to venture upon death, when he fees
heU beyond it. Poflibly there may be fome monfters of men, who
have fo far fupprefled the fenfe of Religion and ftupified their own con-
fciences, as in a good meafure to have conquered the fears of death
and the confequences of it : but this happens to very few, and at
fometiraes only. So that if vice and wickednefs do generally break
the firmnefs of m-ens fpirits, it follows, that nothing but Religion can
generally give men courage againft death. And this the Chriltian Re-
ligfon does in a mod eminent manner, to thofe that live according to
it ; our bleffed Saviour having delivered us from the fear of death, by
conquering death for us, and giving us affurance of the glorious re-
wards of another life. a. Meeknefs, patience, humility, modefty, and
fiich virtues of Chriftianity, do not in reafon tend todifpirit men, and
break their courage, but only to regulate it, and take away the fierce-
nefs and brutifhnefs of it. This we fee in experience, that men of the
truelt courage have many times the leaft of pride and infolence, of
pafTion and fiercenefs. Thofe who are better bred, are commonly of
more gentle and civil difpofitions: but therefore they do not want
^rue courage, though they have not the roughnefs and foolhardinefs
of men of ruder breeding. So that in a true Chriftian, courage and
greatnefs of mind are very confiftent with meeknefs, patience, and
2u}mility. Not that all good men are very couragious i there is much

2f this in the natural temper of men, which Religion does not quite
iter. But that which I am concerned to maintain is, that Chriftia-
nity is no hindrance to any man's courage, and that, ceteris paribus^
fuppofing men of equal tempers, no man hath fo much reafon to be
^j valiant, as he that hath a good confcience ; 1 do not mean a blufter-
ing, and boifterous, and rafli courage, but a fober, calm, and fixed
valour, a. I appeal to experience for the truth of this. Did ever
greater courage and contempt of death appear in all ages, fexes, and
conditions of men than in the primitive Martyrs ? Were any of the
heathen Soldiers comparable ro the Chriftian Legion for lefoiution and
courage, even the Heathens themfelves being judges? The Religion
of Mahomet feems to be contrived to inlpire men with fiercenefs and
defperatenefs of refolution j and yet I do not find, but tUat generally
where there hath been any equality in numbers, the Chriltians have


Chap. II. The First Decad o^ Livv. 221

many Republics in ihe workl as there were formerly ;
and confequently that the love of Liberty is not fo
ftrong and operative in mankind, as it ul'ed to be in
ancient times : but yet I am inclined to believe, that

been fupeilor to them in valour, and given greater inftances of refo-
hition nnci courage than the Turks have done. So that I wonder upoa
what grounds this objeftion hath been taken up againil Chriftiaiiity,
when there is nothing either in the nature of this Religion^ or from
the experience of the world, to give any tolerable countenance to it.
And furely the bed way to know what effeft any Religion is likely to
have upon the minds of men, is to confider what effects it hath had la-
the conrtant expeiience of maHkind/"" See Archbifhop Tiliotion's
Sermon upon Matth.xi. 6. entitled the prejudices againft Chriltianity
confidered, voK II. p. 411, 412. fol. Edit, of his woiki>> printed at Lon-
don, 1735. S^^ ^^^'^ vol. II. p» 61, & feq. of Mr. Bayle's Theological
Works epitomized, by R. Boulton, where it is fhewn how much true
greatnefs of mind is promoted by Chriftianity.

Upon the whole, Machiavel feems not fo much to be blamed for
what he has faid in this Chapter as many people have thought : for it
•is plain from what he fays eifewhere in many places, th;\t lie does not
here fpeak of pure and undefiled Chriftianity as it was delivered to us
by its Divine Author ; but degenerated, as it was in his time, into the
moft abominable degree of corruption and adulteration. The Romifb
Religion in that age was no more like true Chriftianity, than a com-
mon Strumpet can be faid to be like a chafte Matron: and as it is ge-
nerally obferved, that the beft things when corrupted are apt to be-
come the worft, fo it fared with the doftrine of Jefus Chriftj which
from being the pureft and moft noble of all others that ever exilted,
was then polluted to fuch a degree by the heads of it and other vv-ickcd
men, that inftead of anfwering the divine ends which it was defigneci
to promote, it was perverted to the faddeft purpofes by vile interpre-
tations of its generous and heavenly precepts, and the pitiful educa-
tion of youth which a parcel of lazy, ignorant, and unchriftian Monks
had introduced in confequence of fuch interpretations. When men:
/peak of vinegar, they do not mean wine in its pure and uncorrupted
ftate ; and when Machiavel fpeaks of the eftefts of the Romifh Reli-
gion, it is evident from many other j^alfages in his writings, that Ke
does not deilgn to refieft upon true and genuine Chriftianity, On
the contrary, he fpeaks of it with the higheft rcfpect, and always re-
commends the pradice of it. For inftance, he fays, chap. xii. book I.
of thefe Difcourfes, ** that if Chriftian Princes had taken care to prfe-
ierve their Religion in the purity it was delivered to tiiem by its Au-
thor, it is certain Chriftendom would have been much more happy
and united than it is at prefent : but it is the fureft fi^n of its declen-
sion, to (ce that thcfe who live neareft the Church of" Rome, which, is
the head of our Religion, have the leaft devotion : for whoever wjU-
examine its firft principles, and compare ihem with the pracVice of
thefe times, will find it no difticult matter to perfuade himl'clf that
either fome dreadful icnurge, or perhaps utter dcftruiStion is hanging
oyer our heads." See the reft of that chapter: fee alio chap. xi. and
xiii. of the fame book. Many other ftrokes there are of this kind ih
difterent parts of Machlavefs woiks.j but let ihele futlice, to prevent
further prolixity.


222 Political Discourses, upont fiook ll

the overgrown power of the Roman Empire contri-
buted Hill more to this ; for it was fo great that it
conquered and extinguifhed all other Republics and
free States.

However that may be, it is certain, that when the Ro-
man Empire was broke up affd dilToived, very few of
thofe States ever joined together again, arfd recovered
their freedom: though when it firtl began to increafeand
extend itfelf, the Romans in every corner of the world
found numbers of Commonwealths not only ready
armed and confederated againft them, but exceeding
obftinate in the defence of their liberties : which
lliews, that without a very uncommon degree of
courage and virtue, they could not have fubdued thofe
people. Of this I (hall give but one indancc in the
cafe of the Samnites ; but it is a remarkable one.
They were fo il:rong and refolute (according to Livy}
that though they had been defeated in numberlefs
battles, their towns plundered, and their territories
laid wafte ; yet they made head againft the Romans
till the Confulate of Papirius Curfor, Son to the firlt
Papirius ; a period of forty -fix years. But now that
Country, which v/as formerly fo populous and full of
towns, and where the inhabitants were fo brave and
well difciplined, that nothing but the Roman valour
could have fubdued them, is in a manner defolate and
uninhabited. This may be eafily accounted for, when
we confider that it was then free, and at prefent is in
a (late of fervitude : for all States that have the full
enjoyment of Liberty make a furprifing progrefs, and
arc enabled to do very great things, as I faid before:
becaufe the inhabitants muft naturally increafe very
fad, where matrimony becomes defirable, by the con-
fideration that they lliall not only be able to fupport
themfelves and their families, but that their children
will inherit what they get without any fear of having
it taken from them by force ; and further, that thofe
children, inftead of being born (laves, may become
great men and governors of the State, if they behave
themfelves virtuouily. Wealth of all kinds, whether


Chap. II. The First Decad of Livy. 2^^

fuch as refults from Agriculture or Manufaflures, in-
creafes likewife very faft in a Republic : for every
one cheerfully endeavours to enrich himfelf by fome
means or other, when he is aflurcd he fhall be fuf-
fered to enjoy the fruit of his labours in peace : fo
that men vie with each other in providing for the pub*-
lic, as well as their own particular interell, to- the
great advancement and emolument of both.

Very different is the condition of thofe that do ncc
live under a free Government-, and the lefs liberty
they have, the fewer of thole advantages will they
experience which we have been fpeaking of. But of
ail yokes, that of living in liibjeAion to a Common-
wealth is the heavieft and moft miferable ; for, in the
firft place, it generally endures the longed, and there
is the lefs hope of ever being able to fliake it off" ^
and, in the next, it is the policy of all Republics to
weaken and exhauft other States that are dependent
upon them, in order to itrengthen and invigorate
their own : which is a maxim not pradifcd by Princes^
except they be Barbarians, depopulators of Provinces,
and fcourgers of mankind, like the eaftcrn Tyrants,
who endeavour to extinguifh all civil order and Liber-
ty. But a Prince of any benevolence or humanity,
for the mod parr, loves and cherifhes the people than
are fallen under his dominion, in common with the
rell of his Subjedts, and leaves them in quiet pollef-
Hon of their former cuftoms and privileges : fo than
if they cannot thrive and flourilh like thole that are
perfectly free, yet they do not abfolutely fink into
ruin, like others that are in downright flavery ; I mean
fuch fort of flavery as thofe fall into, who become fub-
je6l to a foreigner; for, concerning the fervitude
which is the confequence of being opprefTed by one
of their own Citizens, 1 have already fpoken elfc-
where- ■^.

* See book I chap. xvi. xvii. xviii. oi";there DncQurCp.s. The PxincCs
c^ip. viii, ^ alibi paflim.

ii4 PoLiricAL Discourses uPon Book ll

Whoever then maturely confiders the whole of what'
I have faid above, will not be furprifed either at the
power and flrength of the Samnites whilft they con-
tinued free, or a:t their weaknefs and abjedb condition
after they had loft their liberty. Livy takes notice of
this in many pafTages of his Hiftory ; particularly, in
his account of the war with Hannibal : where he tells
us, that the Samnites being grievoufly harrafTed by a
Roman Legion which then -lay at Nola, fent to kip-
plicate the afliftance of that Commander : and that
their Deputies reprefented to him amongft other
things, " That though they had held the Romans at
bay for the fpace of an hundred years, with their own
forces only, and commanded by their own Generals^
and had often made head againft two Confular armies,
under two Confuls at the fame time ; yet they were
then reduced to fo low an ebb of fortune and fpirits,-
that they could hardly defend themfelves againft one
Legion only that was quartered at Nola."


^bat Rome made itfelf ftrong and powerful by dejiroyirtg

Online LibraryNiccolò MachiavelliThe works of Nicholas Machiavel ... : translated from the originals : illustrated with notes, annotations, dissertations, and several new plans on the Art of war (Volume 3) → online text (page 21 of 44)