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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of the public liberty, a3 I fliall il\ew in the next
Chapter *.


* ** Montefquieu hath often given it as Ms opmion, fays the Au«
*' thor of the Efxinate of the Manners and PrhicipUs of the Times, Vo^*
** II. Se6V. xii. That Fadions are not only natural but necelTi^ry to
** free Governments."' This opinion, however, is in fome fenfe er-
roneous, became too general. The Author borrowed it with nian^
other important obfervations in his book from Machiavel's Difcourfes
upon Livy, But in juftice to the Florentine, we muft obferve that he
limits the obfervation to the times in which publ c Spirit was predomi-
nant : whereas the other extends it to later periods, when felfiOi Am-
bition had quenched the love of one's country; and hence arofe his
error. As thefe two Authors, in the writer's opinion, poflefs the high-
eft ftation in the political fcale, it may be worth while to give a com^.
parative ll^etch of their different characters. Machiavel, born and
bred in tumultuous and profligate times, and occupied in the affairs of
a diftempered Republic, caught his firll principles from vvhat he fanx),
MontefquieU) more happy in his birth and fortune, enjoying an early
leifure in a quiet and well regulated Monarchy, drew his fiifl princi-
ples of Politics from what he read. Yet neither was the former giveri
tip to mere perfonal obfervation, nor the latter to mere ftudy : in the
progress of life, Machiavel applied himfelf to books, and Montefquieii
to men ; yet, as was natural, their lirlt habits prevailed, and gave to
*!ach his diftinft and peculiar character. Hence, though both faw the
internal and fecret pangs of Government, (which, in my opinion, no
writer but thefe two did ever fully comprehend or penetrate) yet they
faw them by different lights, and through different mediums. Ma-
chiavel's leading guide was FaSi \ Montefquieu's was Philofophy. Iri
confequence of this, Simplicity forms the Charafter of one. Refine-
nient that of the other. The Speculative Frenchman forms a fine fyf-
tem ; to the completion of which, he fometimes tortures both Aigu-
rnent and Fa<5t ; the plain and downright Florentine builds on Fads»
independent on all Syllems. The polite and dilinterefted Sage is warni
jn the praiie of Uonef^y • the aflive and penetrating Secretary, above
praife or cenfnre, gives a bold and ftriking pidfure of the 'vcays of mem
Hence, whilft the firll gains every heart by the force of moral Sym-
pathy, the latter hath b:-en unjuftly deteiled, as the Enemy of Virtue
ana Mankind. Machiavel is negligent, yet pure and frrong, fcorning
the minuter graces of compofition ; Montefquieu is elegant, yet ner-
vous; and to the acutenefs of the Pliilofophcr, often adds the fire of
the Poet. Both were the fiiends of freedom and mankind ; both (xx-
perior to the Genius of their time and country : both truly great : the
Florentine fevere and great ; the Frenchman great and amiable.

Before we can determine therefore, whether the Factions that divide
ft free country be falutary or dangerouSj it is neceifary to know vvhat
is their foundation and objeft. \\' they arife from freeiom of opinion
and aim at the public welfare, they are falutary : but if their fource
be felf-intereff of vvhAt kind fwevsr, then they are dangerous and de*

Vol. Hi. -C flruaivc.

i8 Political Discourses won Book t.

C H A P. V.

Whether it is fafer to trttfl the guardianpoip cf Ulerly in
the hands of the I^obi'ity or the Commonalty : and whe-
ther thofe that only define to maintain iz^hat they have^
or thofe that want to ufurp more^ are the moft likely ta
excite €omrn9tions in a State*

TH E wifeft I.egiflators have always made it their
principal care to provide a barrier for the li-
berty of the States they have founded ; and accord-
ing as that has been well or ill fecured, the freedom
of thofe States has been of longer or fliorter dura-
tion ; and, as there muR of neceffity, be boih Gran-
dees and Commoners in every RepubliCj it has beers
a matter of doubt, in which of thofe two orders, it
would be moft proper to veil: that charge. The
Spartans formerly, and the Venetians lately, com-
mitted it to the Nobility y but the Romans thought
fit to lodge it in the hands of the Commonalty, Lee
us examine then, which of thefe Republics made the
wifcr choice.

ftrufl:ive. I cannot give a better coTnment on this truth, than in the
words of Lord Bolingbroke : ** As long, lays he, as the Spirit of Li-
•< herty prevailed, a Koman facrificed his owr,, and therefoie no doubt,
•' every other perfona! iiiteieft, to the intcrtlt of the Com in oil -wealth :•
*•' wheit the latter (that is; th^ Spirit of Fadion) fucceeded, the Sntereft
♦• of the Common- wealth was confidered i>o othervvife, than in fii-bor-
<* dinarion to that par/ uular intereft which each peribn had efpoufedr
<* The principal men, inilead of making their grandeuK and glory
<* cotuiii, as they formerly had done, in that vvhiciv the grandeur and
«•* liberty of the Common- v^eaith rtSe6ted on theni,^ confidered them-
«* felves r.ovv as Individuals, not as Citizens; and each would Ihinc
«* with his own light. To this piu'poff alone they en^ployed the Com-
** mands they hid of armies, the Governn>i:nt of Piovinces, and tlie
*' influence they JKrqnired over the 'Tribes (or different Claires of peo-
*' pie) at Rome, and over the Allies and Subjecls of the Republic.
** Upon piincip!>is of the fame kind, inferior people attached them-
•* felves to them ; and" that zeal and induliry, nay that courage and
*' magnanimity, which had been formerly exerted in the fervice of the
** Common-weaitb, were exerted by the Spirit of Fa<^tion, fur Marius^
** or-Syiia, for Csf*r orPompey."

^ Now,

Chap. V. Th5 First DecIad -op Livy. 19

Now, if we weigh their refpcdive motives for acfl-
ing in this manner, we (hall find that very powerful
reafons may be afljgned on each fide of the qutdion ;
but, if we confider the duration of thofe States, v;e
niuil declare in favour of the former •, as the liber-
tics of Sparta and Venice were of longer continu-
ance, than thole of Rome. To come to their feve-
ral motives then •, and, in the firll place, to v;har
may be urged in behalf of the Kom.ans. — It may be
faid, that the guardianfnip of Liberty ought always
to be lodged in the hands of fuch as are lead defi-
rous to encroach upon the rights of others ; and thac
if we reflect upon the different views and pafilons of
Nobles and Commoners, we fhall always find a lu-l
of power and dominion in the former •, whilft the
Jatter feldom afpire to any thing further than to de-
fend them.felves from opprelTion j and confequently,
as they have no ambition to rule, they mud be truer
friends to liberty than the Nobles; fo'that, when the
people are entrufted with the confervation of liberty,
it is reafonable tofuppofe, they will be m.ofl: zealous
in its fupport ; and that, as they ' do not defire to
violate it themfelvcs, they will take care to prevent
others from fo doing. On the other hand, the Ad-
vocates for the Spartan .and Venetian efLablifhrncnts
may alledge, that two very good ends are anfv/ered,
by committing the care of the public liberty to the
Nobility : for, in the firfl place, it fatiates the am-
bition of thofe, who by thac means, will have the
chief authority in the Common -wealth, and leaves
them no pretence to be difcontented : and, in the
next, by taking that power from the reftlefs multi-
tude, it deprives them of the opportunity of raifing
tumults and feditious commotions in the State, which
often drive the Nobility to defpair, and ahvays are
attended with the mjoil pernicious confequences. In
confirmation of this, they produce the Republic of
Rom.e itlelf for an example -, v/here the Tribunes of
the people having got the power into their hands,
were not content with one Plebeian Conful, but in-

C 2 fified

20 Political Discourses upon feook L

fifted that both of them fhould be chofeii out of tha^
order 5 after which, they likewife feized upon the
Cenforfhip, the Prxrorfhip, and all the other greac
offices in the Common-weakh. But not fatisfied with
this, they proceeded with the fame degree of licen-
tioufnefs, to encourage certain bold and popular men,
to thwart and infult the nobility; which in time gave
rife to the domination of Marius, and at lafl proved
the ruin of that Common-wealth.

It mufl be confefTed, therefore, that after maturely
confidering both fides of the queftion, it ftill feem^
a doubtful point, in what hands one ought to trufl
the guardianfhip of Liberty ; fince it is no eafy
matter to determine, whether thofe that only defire to
fupport themfelves in the pofleffion of what they al-
ready have, or thofe that want to ufurp more, are
the mofl dangerous fort of people in a Republic.
But to come to fome conclufion upon the whole ; if
the State in queftion be defigned to extend its domi-
nion, and becom^e a large Empire, as Rome did ; the
condudl of the Romans muft be clofely copied in
every thing •, but, if it is fuch a one as denres no-
thing more than to maintain its own, it will be fuffici-
ent to imitate the example of the Spartans and Veneti-
ans, in fuch a manner, and for fuch reafons, as fhall be
given in the next Chapter.

Let us now difcufs the other part of the queftion,
viz. whether thofe that are afraid of lofing what they
have, or thofe that grafp at more, are the moft dan-
gerous fort of people in a Common-wealth. Marcus
Menenius being made Didator, and Marcus Fulvius,
General of the Horfe (both Plebeians), to quell a
confpiracy whi:h had been formed at Capua, were
likewife vefted with a power of inquiring into the
condud of fuch citizens at home, as had been guilty
of bribcrv, or anv fort of undue means, to obtain the
•Confulfliip and other honours in the Government.
But the Nobles apprehending this enquiry was
chiefly levelled at them, gave out, that it was not the
Nobility that had been guilty of fuch practices, but
4 the

Chap. V. The First Decad of Livy. 21

^he Conimonalty, who having neither virrue nor
birth to entitle them to honours, were obliged to
have recourle to thofe mean artifices, of which they
.accufed the Dictator in particular, with fuch viru-
lence, that after he had made a fpeech in public, in
:which he complained of the afperGons that had been
thrown upon him by the Nobles, he ^laid down the
DidatorflTip, and fubmitted to be tried by the people,
who acquitted him. But in the coude of this trial,
it was warmly debated, which of the .two were the
nioft dangerous perfons, thofe that contented them-
selves with defending what they had^ or thofe that
wanted to ufurp more : as too ob.llinate a manner of
proceeding in either, might excite great diiturbances
and commotions *. Such evils, however, are mod


* « I look upon it as a peculiar happinefs, fays an excellent Modem
;** of this nation, that were I to chufe under what form of Government
*' I would live, I fliouid moft certainly give the preference to that
,*' which is eftabliflied in my own Country. In this point, I think, I
*' am determined by reafon and conviction; but, if I fhall be told,
•'^' that I am aftuated by prejudice, I am.fure it is an honeft prejudice j
** it is a prejudice that arifes from the love of my Country, and there-
** fore fuch a one as I will always indulge. That form of Government
" appears to me the moft reafonable, which is rnoft conformable to the
quality that v/eiind in human nature, provided it be confiftent with
public peace and tranquillity. This is what may properly be called
Liberty, which exempts one man frooi fubje6lion to another, fo far
*' as the order and ceconomy of government will permit. Liberty
;** ihould reach evei'y Individual of a People, as they all fliare one com-
** mon nature: if it only fpreads among particular branches, there
^* had better be none at all ; fince fuch a Liberty only aggravates the
** misfortune of thofe that are deprived of it, by fetting before them
■*' a difagreeable fubjeft of comparifon. This Liberty is beft preferv-
** ed, where the Legislative Power is lodged in ieveral Perfons, efpe-
** cially if thofe Perfons are of different ranks and interefts ; for where
*' they are of the fame rank, and confequently have an intereftto ma«
" nage peculiar to that rank, it differs but little from a defpotic Go-
*' vernment in a fingle Perfon. But the greatelt fecurity a People can
** have tor their Liberty, is when the Leg;flative Power is in the hands
■** of Perfons fo happily diftinguiflied, that by providing for the par-
** ticular interefts of their fevera! riinks, they are providing for the
<' whole body of the People : or in other words, when there is no part
*' of the People that has not a common intereft with at ieaft one part
** of the Leoriflators.

" If there be but one body of Legiflators, it is no better than a Ty-
ranny ; if there are only two, there wjll want a calling voice, and
one of them muft at lalt be fwallo-.ved up by difputes and conten-
*' tions that will naturally arife betwixt them. Four would have the
;** fame inconvenience as f.voj and a greater numbsr would Itill caufe

C 3 ♦^ moi*



^i Political Discourses upoM Bock L

frequently cccafioned by thofe that are in poflefilon
of power J for the apprehenfion of lofmg what they
have operates as ftrongly in them, as the defire of

** more confufion. I could never rev.d a pafTage in Polybius, and an-
«' other in Cicero, to this purpcie, without a fecret pleafiire in applyincr
^' it to the Englifh Conftitution, which it fuits much better tlian the
*• Roman. Both thefe great authors give the pre-eminence to 3
*' mixed Government, confn'iing oF three branches, the Regal, the
" Noble, and the Popular. They had doubtlefs in their thoughts
** the Conftitution of the Roman Common-wealth, in which, the
*' Conful reprefented the King;, the .Senate the Noble?, and the Tri-
** bunes the Peopls. This divifion of the three Powers in the Roman
*' Conftitution was by no means fc diftindl and natural, as it is in the
^' Englifli form of Government. Amongll feveral objeiSlions that
^* might be made to it, I think the chief are thofe that ajfe^l the
" Conlular Power, which had only the ornaments, without the force
** of the Regal authority. The Number had not a cafting voice in
^' it; for which reafon, if one did not chance to be employed abroad,
*' whilil the other fat at home, public bufinefs was fometimes at a
*^ ftand, whilft the Confuls pulled two ditferent ways in it. Befides^
*' I do not find that the Confuls ever had a negative voice in palTin«?'
*^ a Law, or Decree of the Senate ; fo that indeed they were rather
*• the chief body or the Nobility, or firll Miniiters of the State, than
?* a diftintl branch of the Sovereignty ; in which none can be looked
** upon as a part, who are not a part of the Legiilature. Had the
*' Confuls been invefted v>'ith the Regal authority to as great a degree
f as our Monarchs, there would never have been any occafion for a.
f' Diclatorfliip, which had in it the Power of all the three Orders,
** and ended in the fubverfion of the whole Conftitution.

*' Such a Hiftory as that of Suetonius, which gives us a Sncceffion
*' of abfolute Princes, is an unanfvverable argument againit defpotic
** power. Where the Priiice is a man of wifdom and virtue, it is
*' indeed happy for his people, that he is abfolute ; but fince, in the
*' common run of mankind, for one that is wife and good, you find
«* ten of a contrary chara6ler, it is very dangerous for a nation to
^* ftand to its chance, or to have its public happinefs or mifeTy depend
** upon the virtues and vigesof a fingie perfon. Look into the hiftory
f* I have mentioned, or into any feries of abfolute Princes, how many
*' tyrants you muft: read through, before you come to an Emperor
** that is fupportable ! But this is not allj an honeft private m^n,
**. often grows cruel and abandoned, when converted into an abiblute
Prince. Give a man power of doing what he pleafes with im-
punity, you extinguifti his fear, and confequently overturn in him
*< one of th.e great pillars of Morality. This too w-e find confirmed
^' by matter of fa6l ; how many hopeful heirs appareiU to great Em«
** pires have become fuch monfters of luft and cruelty, as are a re-
** proach to human nature, when in poffeifion of them ?

*' Some tell us, we ought to make our Governments on earth like
" that in Heaven, which, fay they they, is altogether jMonarchical and
*' unlimited. Was man like his Creator, in goodnefs and juftice, who
** would not follow the great model ? But where goodnefs ami juftice
** are not efiential to the Ruler, who would wiOi to put himfclf into
** his hands, to be difpofed of according to his particular will and
" pleafure ?" - ^ ^


Chap. VL The First Decad of Livy. 23

fi-ainins more docs in others ; becaufe, men are apt to
think they cannot jccurely tnjoy what they poiTcrfs
already, without" adding ilill more to it, Befides, the
more power they have, the more able they will be to
raife tumulcs, and to bring about any change or alrera-
t.on they defire. And, it may be added, that their
infolent and extravagant manner of living, infpires
thofe that are excluded from the adminillration, with
a fort of envy, and a deure of having their (hare in it,
either to plunder their adverfciries, or to get thofe
honours and emoluments into their ovm hands, which
they fee others make fo bad a ufe of.


IVhelher fuch a form cf Gcvernment could have been efiah^
lijhed at R.ome^ as could have prevented animofnies he*
tu-ixt the Senate and the Pecple.

WE have already (hev/n whateffeds the contefrs
betwixt the Senate and the People produced
at Rome. Now as thefe (Irugales continued till the
time of the Gracchi, and then proved the bane of
public liberty, it may be alked perhaps, whether that
State mic-ht not have attained to fuch a height of
grandeur and authority as it did, under another lorm
of Government, which could have either prevented
or extmguifncd thofe inteftme d;;cords r lo folve
' this Queition, we m.uil: examine tne conflirution of
fuch Republics as continued tree tor a long courie of
years Vv'ithouc any tumults and dilTr[^fi)ns, to fee
v,'hat kind of Government they lived under ; and
then confider whether the fame could have been in-
troduced at Rome; and fmce i have already men-
tioned thofe of Sparta and Venice, let the former
ferve for an example in ancient, and the latter in mo-
dern times. Sparta was governed by a King, and a
fmiaii Senate : Venice does riot eive anv difterent titles
to thofe that govern ; for all fuch as are qualified to
be admitted into the adminillration, are called by
one common appellation, Gentlemen or Nobles^ which

C 4 indeed

24 Political Discourses upon Book f,

indeed was rather owing to chance, than the pru-
dence of their Law givers. For, as a great number
of people were forced to retire into thofe Ides, where '
Venice now (lands, (for the reafons abovementioned)
and the multitude at lafl: encreafed to fuch a de(>ree,
that it became neceflary to make fome lav/s, in order
to live peaceably and fecurely together, they eflab-
lifhed a form of o-overnment ; and affembhno^ fre-
quently in council to make further provifion for their
common 'afety, when they thought they were nume-
rous enough to fubfiit of themfelves, thev ordained
that nobody that fhould come thereafter to live
amongil them, fhould have any fhare in the government.
But their numbers (till increafing, and many others
coming afterwards to fettle there, who therefore coukj
not be admitted into the adminiftration, they called
thofe that were already pofleffed of it, Gentkiiien or
Nobles^ for their greater honour, and the reff, only

This form then, might both be eflablifhed at firfl:,
and afcerv/ards fupported without tumults or contefts^
for, when it was introduced, all the inhabitants being
admitted to a fhare in the Government without dif-
tindion, no body had any reafon to complain -, and
thofe that came to live there afterwards, finding the
adminiflrafion already fixed and {t\.i\it(^^ had neither
caufe nor means to difturb it ^ for they could not
pretend they were deprived of any privilege, nor had
they power or weight fufficjent to raife diffenfions,
becaufe the government kept a ftrid hand over them,
and did not employ them in any charge that might
give them lb much authority. Befides, after all, the
number of new comers was not fo great, as to exceed
that of the firft Settlers, or Noble Venetians •, fo thac
the latter had not only an opportunity of eflablilhing
their government firmly at the beginning, but the
power iikewife of keeping it united afterwards.

Sparta, as I faid before, being governed by a
King, and a little Senate, was alio enabled to fup-
port itfelf a confiderable time; for all foreigners be-
ing excluded, the number of inhabitants in that State


Chap. VI. The First Decad of Livy. 25

was but fmall, and thefe living with great reputation,
under the laws given by Lycurgus (the ftritSl obfer-
' vation of which prevented all caufes of tumult and
diirenfion) continued a long while united ; for though,
by his laws, there was a diftinclion of rank and con-
dition eftablifhed, yet the revenues of the lands were
almoft equally divided amongft them : fo that one
being very little, or perhaps, not at all richer than
another, the people were the lefs dilTatisned by being
kept at fome didance by a few Nobles who v>^ere in
the adminillration -, and not being opprefied by them,
never thought of afpiring to any higher degree of
power. This was in fome meafure owing to the con-
dition and circumftances of their Kings, who, being
eledlive, and furrounded by the Nobility, had no bet-
ter expedient to fupport their dignity, than by pro-
tedting the people from .violence and injuftice: by
which, the latter being freed from all fear of oppref-
fion, did net defire any fnare in the Government ;
and therefore, when there v/as no reafon for envy
or ftrife with the Nobility, there could be nothing to
diflurb their union. But the two principal caufes of
this long union, were the following : In the firfl:
place, the number of inhabitants in Sparta was fo
fmall, that they might eafily be governed by a few :
and, in the next, as they admitted no foreigners into
their Common-wealth, they were neither liable to be
foon corrupted, nor to multiply in fuch a manner as
to become formiidable to the few that governed them,
Thefe things being confidered, it plainly appears,,
that if the Roman Lav/.givers had intended to con-
fliitute a Republic, that fhould continue in peace and
unity, like thofe abovementioned, they mud have
taken one of thefe two courfes ; that is, they muft
either have adled like the Venetians, in not employing
the common people in their wars -, or, like the Spar-
tans, in admitting no foreigners into their State. But
as they did both, it threw fuch a degree of ftrength
into the hands of the Plebeians, that they had it in
^hdr power to raife tumults and feditions whenever


t6 Political Discourses UPON Book I.

they pleafed. On the other hand, if this Republic
had been lefs divided, it would not have been fo
ftrong, nor could it ever have arrived at fuch a pitch
of grandeur as it did. So that if anv method had
hctn found to prevent the difTeiUlons that happened
in it, it mud iikevvife have extinguiOied the caufes
of its agrandisenient ; for whoever will examine the
courfe of human affairs, will foon fee, that it is al»
mod impolTible to remedy one inconvenience v;ithout
falling into another.

If then you fuffer a people to encreafe, and traia
them up to arms, in order to extend your Empire,
you will not be able to govern them as you could
wifh i and, if you keep them low and uilarmed, in
order to render them more tradable, thev v/ill either
make no conqueils at ajl, or not be able to maintain
them if they do, or become, fo daftardly and effemi-
nate, that you mud of neceffity fall a prey to the firil
Invader. In ail fuch undertakings, therefore, we
ought to take that courfe, which after mature delibe-
ration, feems to be fubjedl to the fewefl and lead
inconveniencies, and to look upon it as the beff •, for
none are wholly exempt from diiiicukies and accidents.
Rome, indeed, afc^^r the example of Sparta, might
have chofen a prince to rule over it for his life, and
have formed a little Senate ^ but it could not like-
wife have extended its Empire, without augmenting

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