Niccolò Machiavelli.

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cution againft great offenders -j^. Whereas if fuch

• See the Eftimate of the Manners and Principles of the Times,
vol. ii. fedh 4. where this pofition is more fully illuftrated.

t The State of France is much altered in this refpedt lince Ma-
cbiavel's time: the Parliaments now having very little authority in
Vom^arilbn of what trey had formerly.

^4 delin«;

§44 Political Discourses upon Book III,

delinquents were fuffered to efcape with impunity,
they would foon encreafe fo fad, that it would be
impoffible to reform the State without great danger
and difturbance, and perhaps the utter difiblution
of it. ^

I conclude then that nothing is more necefTary
either in a Republic, or a Religious Eftablilhment,
or a Monarchy, than a frequent reformation of the
abufes that have crept into them, by reducing them
to their firfl principles, in order to reftore their origi-
nal vigour and reputation : and this ought to be done
by good laws, or the virtue of particular men (which
will have the fame effe6l) rather than by exterior force.
For though this proves the bed remedy fometimes (as
the Romans experienced when their City was taken
by the Gauls) yet it is fo dangerous that it is by no
means to be defircd. But to fhevv how much the
adcions of particular men contributed to the grandeur
and eftablilhment of the Roman Republic, and what
other good efFecls they wrought, I fhall confine myfelf
chiefly to that fubject in this my third and laft book
of Difcourfes upon the firft Decad of Livy's Hiftory :
and though fome of the Kings indeed performed
great and remarkable exploits, yet as Hiftory has
related them at large, I fhall omit all mention of them
here, except in fuch things as they did for their own
private emolument, and begin with Brutus, the Fa-
ther of the Roman liberties.


n^t it is the part of a wife man to feem a fool upon


NO man ever a6led more wifely, or deferved
greater praife than Junius Brutus when he pre-
tended to be a fool : and though Livy afllgns but one
reafon for his fo doing, namely, that he might live
quietly and preferve his eftate j yet when we tho-


Chap. II. The First Decad of Livy. 345

roughly confider his manner of proceeding, it feems
probable that he put on that dilguife that he might be
taken lefs notice of, and deliver his Country from the
yoke of Kings, whenever a convenient opportunity
of expelling them fnould prefent itfclf. That this
v;as his intention may appear in the firft place, from
the interpretation he put upon the Oracle of Apollo,
when he fell down, as it were by accident, and kiiTed
the ground, out of a perfuafion that the Gods ap-
proved of his defigns "^ : and in the next, from his
pulling the dagger out of Lucrctia's body after fhe
had killed herfelf, and obliging her farher, hufoand,
and many others of her relations and friends who were
afiembled upon that occafion, to take an oath that
they would no longer fuffer any King to reign la

This example may ferve to warn thofe that are
difcontented under the government of a Prince, to
confider their own ftrength ; and if they find they
are able to cope with him, it is the fafeft and mofu
honourable v/ay to declare themfelves his enemies,

* Delphos ad maxime inclytum in terris oraculum mittere ftatuit ;
neque refponfa fortium uUi ali conimittere aufus, duos filios in Grje-
ciam raifit. Titus & Aruns profc6li : comes his additus L. Junius
Brutus, I'arquiniu forore regis natus j juvenis longe alius ingenio
quam cujus fiinulationern induerat. Is quum primores civiratis,
in quibus fratrem fuum, ab avunculo interfeftu'.ii audifiet ; neque in.
animo fuo quicquam regi timendnm, neque in fortuna concupif-
cendum relinqueie fratuit : contemptu tutus elTe, ubi in jure paruni
pra'fidii eflet. Ergo ex induflriafaftusad iniitationem ftu'.titi^, quuni
ie fuaque pr^edse eflb regi fineret, Bruti quoque baud abnuit cogno-
men ; ut lub ejus obtentu cognominis, liberator iile populi Rouiani
animus, latens aperiretur tempore fuo. Is turn ab Tarquiniis duftus
Delphos, ludibriuni verius quam comes, aureum baculum inclufum
corneo cavato ad id haculo tulille donum Apollini dicitur, per am-
bages effigiem ingenii fui. Quo poftquam ventum eft, perfedlis patris
mandatis, cupido incefTit animos juvenum fcil'citandi; "ad quetn
eorum regnu!ii Romanum eflet venturum :" ex infimo fpecu vocem
redditam t'crunt, ** Imperium fummum Romce habebit, qui veftruru
primus, o juvenes, ofculum matri tulerit." Tarquinii, ut Sextus,
qui Rom.ce reli6lus fuerat, ignarus relponfi, experfque imperii elTet,
rem fumma ope taceri jubent : ipfi inter fe, uter prior quui"» Ro-
niam rediflet, matri ofculum daret, forte pcrmittunt. Brutus alio
ratus Ipeftare Pythicam vocem, velut fi prolapfus cecidiffet, terram
ofculocontigit ; fcilicet quod ea communis mater omnium mortalium
eflet. Liv. lib. 1, cap. Ivi.


54^ Political Discourses upon Book III.

and to make open war upon him : but if they are too
weak for that, they miifl court his favour, and en-
deavour by all means to ingratiate themfeives with
him, efpecially by an obfequious attention to his will,
and feeming to be delighted at every thing that
pleafes him. : by which condu6l they may not only
live fecure from all danger, but partake in the good
fortune of their Prince, and procure an opportunity
cf accomplifliing their private defigns. Som.e indeed
are of opinion that fuch men ought neither to live fo
near a Prince, as to be buried in his ruin, if he fhould
fall ; nor fo far off as not to be able to advantage
themfelves by it. And this certainly would be the
beft courfe if it could be followed, but as I think that
is hardly pofilble *, it feems necelTary to have recourfe
to one or other of the two jufl mentioned, and either
to alienate one's felf totally from him, or endeavour
to fecure his favour: for whoever does otherwife,
efpecially if he be a man of any eminence, muft live
in continual danger. It is not fufficient to fay, "I
exped nothing, 1 v/ant neither honour nor prefer-
ment, I only defire to live quietly and unmolefted
without meddlinor in any thing :" for fuch declarations
meet with little credit, and men of diftinguifhed qua-
lities, though void of ambition, cannot live in obfcu-
rity and repofe, be they ever fo defirous of it ; be-
caufe no body believes them to be in earned : fo that
although they fliould really chufe retirement them-
felves, other people will not let them continue in it.
It is necefTary therefore fometimes to adl the fool, as
Brutus did f : and that is fufficiently done by fiat-

* And yet Lepidns did fo, as Tacitus tells us, Annal. IV. c. xx.
** Hunc ego Lepidum, (lays be) teraporibus illis, gravem & fapientei'n
virum fuille comperio. Nam pleraque ab fsevis adulationibus alio-
rum in inelius flexit : jieque tameii temperamenti egebat, cum squa-
bili auftoritate Sc gratia apud Tiberium viguerit. Unde dubitare
cogor, fato & forte nafcendi, ut castera, ita principum inclinatio
in hos, offenfio in ilios ; an fit aliquid in noftris confiliis, liceatque
inter abruptam contuniatiam, & deforme obfequium, pcrgere iter
ambitione ac periculis vacuum."—

f We find David doin^^; the fame, long before Brutus, at the court
of Achilh : when *' he changed his behaviour and feigned himfelf


Chap. III. The First Decad of Livy. o^y

tering, and fawning, and doing, and faying every
thing that can gratify a Prince, how difagreeable
foever it iray be to a man's own private judgment
and inclination. But fince we have given due honour
to the wifdom of Brutgs, in making ufe of fuch means
to recover the Liberty of his Country ; let us now fay
fomething of the fevere meafures he took to pre-
ferve it.


Tmt in order to preferve Liberty when newly reco-
ver ed^ it is necejfary to put fuch men as the Sons of
Brutus to deaths

TH E rigour with which Brutus proceeded in
maintaining the Liberties of Rome after he
had recovered them, was abfolutely requifite; though ic
was a very rare, if not an unparelleled action for a
Father to fit in judgment upon his own Sons, and not
only condemn them to death, but be prefent at their
■execution ■^. Thofe however that are confervant in
ancient Hiflcry, well know that in any change of
Government, either from Liberty to Slavery, or from
Slavery to Liberty, it is neceffary that fome of thofe
that are enemies to the ruling eftablifhment fhould be
punifhed in an examplary manner : for whoever con-
verts a free State into a Tyranny, and does not cutoff
fuch men as Brutus j or a tyrannical Government into
a Free State, and docs not rid himfelf of fuch men

mad, and fcrabbled on the doors of the gates, and let the fpittle fall
down upon his beard." i Sam. xxi. 13.

Incipiens efto cum tempus poftulat aut res,
Stultitiam fimulare loco prudentia furama eft,

are therefore no bad maxims.

* Confules in fedem proceflere fuam, miflique Liftores ad fumen-
dum fupplicium nudatos virgis caedunt, fecurique feriunt : cum inter
<;>mne tempus pater, vultufque, & os ejus, fpedaculo effet, emi-
hente animo patrio inter publicje p:^nce miniflerium, Liv. lib. II.
tap. 5.


34^ Political Discourses upon Book III.

as his Sons, will not be able to fupport himfelf long.
But fince this matter has already been largely dif-
cufied in another place, I refer to what is there faid
upon it *, and fhall add only one example which
happened lately, and in our own Country.

Pietro Soderini havingr reftored the liberties of Flo-
rence, was of opinion, that by patience and clemency
he fhould be able to mollify the minds of fome, who,
like the Sons of Brutus, were impatient under the new
Government f . But in this he found himfelf miftaken,
and was fo much the more to be blamed, as he was
a very wife man, and not only faw the neceflity of
proceeding with rigour, but that the behaviour and
ambition of thofe that oppofed him, would furnilli
him v/ith a fufficient handle to cut them off; and yet
he could never prevail upon himfelf to do it : for
befides the hope which he entertained of extinguifhing
their malevolence by his lenity, moderation, and ge-
nerofuy, he thought (as he often declared to his ac-
quaintance) that in order to deprefs his adverfaries
effedlually, he fhould be obliged to affumean extraor-
dinary degree of authority, which would be a breach
not only of the laws, but of that civil equality which
he himfelf had fo llrenuoufiy endeavoured to re-
eftabliih ; and that though he fhould not make an ill
ufe of it. It would yet alarm the people in fuch a man-
ner, that after he was dead they would never make
another Gonfalonier for life •, which he thought v/as
abfolutely necefiary. Now though thefe confidera-
tions were wife and good in themfelves, yet it is not
proper at any time to let an evil grow too predomi-
nant, in hopes of doing good in the end, efpecially
when it will probably truftrate your intention. He
ought rather to have perfuafed himfelf, that if he lived
and maintained his ground, he fhould be able to con-
vince the world, that what he had done was for the
fake of the Public, and not out of private ambition

* See the Prince, chap. v. vii. viii. & paflim. See alfo chap,
Yii. of this book, and book L chap. xvi. '

t Compare this with chap, xxxiii. book I. of thefe Difcourfes.


Chap. iV. The First Decad of Livy. 349

or felf-interefl: •, and to have made fuch provifions,
that no fncceeding Gonfalonier fliould have it in his
power to do evil by the fame meafures which he had
taken to do good. But he was miflaken in his ac-
count^ and forgot that fuch enmities are neither to be
extinguiihed by time, nor appeafed by generofity : an
error that was attended with the lofs of his authority,
reputation, and the liberties of his Country, all which
might have been prevented, if he had followed the
example of Brutus. Now if it is no eafy matter to
prefcrve a free Government, it is no lefs difficult to
maintain one that is abfolute, as I fhall fhew in the
next Chapter.


^hct a Prince can never be fafe in a State^ whiljl thofc
are alive whom he has deprived of it,

TH E death of Tarquinius Prifcus by the Sons
of Ancus, and that of Servius Tullus by Tar-
quinius Superbus, may ferve to fiiev^ hcv; dangerous
a thing it is to deprive a Prince of his State, and fuffer
him to live, though .you iieap ever fo many favours
upon him. Tarquinius Prifcus thinking his right to
the Kingdom indifputable, as it was given him by the
• people, and confirmed by the Senate, fimply imagin-
ed that the Sons of Ancus could not be diOatistied
with him, fince he had been chofen by the general
voice of the Romans to reign over them : and Servius
Tuilus found himfelf deceived, after he had endea-
voured to footh the refentment of Tarquin's Sons by
all manner of favours. From the firfl; example there-
fore, a Prince mav learn that he can never be fafe
upon his throne, whilft thofe are alive whom he has
difpoffefTed of it, and from the fecond, that a former
injury is never to be called by any fubfequenc obliga-
tions J efpecially if the obligation is not equivaienc to
to the injury.


'gyo Political Discourses upow Book III.

Without doubt it was very weak in Servius Tullus,
to imagine that the Sons of Tarquin would be con-
tented with being his Sons-in-law, when they ought to
have been his Sovereigns : for fo general is the third
of dominion in mankind, that it is not only common
to thofe that have a right to rule, but to thofe that
have none j as we may fee in the inftance of Tullia,
daughter to Servius and wife to Tarquinius Superbus y
who was fo enflamed with this paffion, that not con-
tented with being a King's daughter, fhe longed to be
a Queen, and laying afide all filial tendernels and af-
fedion, incited her hufband to murder her father,
and ufurp his Kingdom. But if Tarquinius Prifcus
and Servilius Tullus had taken care to fecure them-
felves againft thofe whom they had fupplanted, neither
of themi v/ould have loft either his life or his Kins-
dom. Tarquinius Superbus indeed was afterwards
expelled, becaufe he could not keep within the bounds
obferved by his predecefibrs, as (hall be fhewn in the
next Chapter.


How a King may lofe his Kingdom though it he hereditary,

Ervius Tullus dying without heirs, Tarquinius?

Superbus, who had flain him, took pofTefiion of

his Kingdom, without encountering any of thofe diffi-
culties or dangers which his predecefTors had to ftrug-
gle with : and though the manner by which he
obtained it was bafe and fcandalous^ yet if he had
kept himfelf within the lame bounds that the former
Kings had done, and not provoked the people and the
Senate, his deportment would have been borne with,
and he might have fupported himfelf in the govern-
ment. The rcafon of his expulfion then, was not that
his Son Sextus had ravifhed Lucretia, but becaufe he
had violated the laws of the Kingdom, and governed
like a Tyrant j having wholly deprived the Senate of


Chap. V. The First Decad of Livr, 351

their authority, which he took upon himfelf, and
caufed all public bufinefs, which ufed to be tranfaded
openly and in their prefence, to be carried on pri-
vately in his Palace, to the great difgufl and diflatif-
fadlion of his fubjedis : fo thac he foon deprived the
Romans of the liberty they had enjoyed under their
former Kin2;s. Nor was he content with making the
Senate his enemies, but likewife excited the hatred of
the common people, by confining them toofeverely to
hard labour contrary to what they had been ac-
cuftomed to in the days of his predeceiTors. The Ro-
mans therefore, thus groaning under his pride and
cruelty, were fufiiciently difpofed to rebel as foon as
they had a convenient opportunity; and though the
rape of Lucretia had never happened, any other freOi
inftance of oppreffion woidd have produced the fame
effefV. But if Tarquin had aded like the other Kings,
and fliewn due reverence to the lav/s of his country,
Brutus and Collatinus would have applied directly to
him, and not to the people, for juPcice upon his Son.
From hence Princes may learn this lefTon, that when-
ever they begin to trangrefs the laws, and defpife the
cuffoms which their fubjecls have been long ufed to,
that moment they likewife begin to lofe their povver
and authority : and if ever they fhould become fb
wife when reduced to a private ilation, as to perceive
how eafy a matter it is for a prudent and good Prince
to maintain himfelfin his State, fuch adifcovery mud
ftill add to the bitternefs of their lofs, and be a more
exquifite punilliment than could otherwife be inflifled
upon them ; for it moil: certainly is a matter of much
lefs difficulty to gain the aftcdions of good men, than
of bad, and fafer to obferve laws than to trample upon

Whoever then would learn to do this, needs not be
at any great pains about it, as he has nothing elfe to
do but to look into the lives of good Princes, fuch
as Timoleon the Corinthian, Aratus the Sicyonian,
and fome others ; where he v;ill find that both the
Governors and the governed lived in fuch mutual


352 Political Discourses, &c.' BookllL

fatisfadion and fccurity, that he cannot help being
defirous to imitate their conduct, efpecially when he
fees how little difficulty there is in it : for when peo-
ple live under a good Prince, they neither wifh for
nor would fuffer any change of government; as may
appear from the example of the Corinthians and Si-
cyonians with regard to the two great men above-
mentioned, whom they obliged to reign over them as
long as they lived, though they often attempted to
lay down their authority, and retire to a private con-
dition. Now fince in this and the two preceding
Chapters we have taken fome notice of the difaffec-
tion and hatred which bad Princes excite in their Sub-
jects, of the confpiracy in which the Sons of Brutus
engaged againO: their country, and of the murder of
Tarquinius Prifcus and Servius Tullus, it may not
be amifs to difcourfe more largely of Confpiracies in
the next Chapter, as it is a Subjedt that deferves to
be well confidered both by Princes and private m»en.


Of Confpiracies,

SINCE Confpiracies are of fuch dangerous con-
fequence both to Princes and private perfons, I
thought it neceflary to fay Ibmething of their nature
and tendency in this place, efpecially as many more
Princes have loft both their dominions and their lives
by them, than by open war ; for few people are able
to make war -, but it is in every one's pov/er to form
a conlpiracy. On the other hand, a private man
cannot engage in any enterprize that is fubjecft to
more difficulties and dangers •, which is the reafon
that very few confpiracies have fucceeded. That
Princes therefore may learn how to guard againft
thefe dangers, and private perfons be cautious of
embarking in them, I fliall enlarge upon this Subject,


Chap. VL The First Dicad of Livv. 353

and oimt no circiimllance that may feem necefTary
for the iriftruftion either of the one or the other.

The maxim which I'acitus puts into the mouth of
a Roman Senator is indeed a golden one, viz. '' That
he admired the times that were pad, but conformed
to the prefent ; and though he could not help wifli-
ing for good Princes, he would bear with thofe thac
were bad * :" and they that do odierwife often ruia
both themfelves and their country. If we confider
then in the fir ft place, again fr whom men generally
form Confpiracies, v/e (hall find that it is either againll
their Prince or their country : and to thefe two forts
1 fhall confine myfelf at prefent, becaufe I have faid
enough elfewhere concerning thofe that relate to de-
livering up a town to an enemy, and others of thac
kind f. Let us begin then v/irh thofe that are form-
ed againft a Prince, and enquire into their caufes
which are many and various : but there is one more
frequent and of greater importance than any of the
reft, and that is the general difaifeciion of the peo-
ple. For when a Prince has excited fuch hatred
fcagainft him, it is no wonder that fome of them, who
■have been the m.oft grievoufly injured and opprefTed,
*fhould meditate revenge: and to this they will be the
more effeclually animated by the univerlal difconrenc
which they obferve amongil their Fellow-fubjeds |.

A Prince therefore ou^^ht above all things to take
care not to incur the general hatred of his people,
(and how he is to do that I have [hewn in anocher
place) § for then he will have the lefs to apprehend
from being guilty of any particular a(5t of opprcfilon
or violence : in the firft place, becaufe few men carry
their refentment fo high, as to run any great rifque to
revenge themfelves -, and in the next, if they were fo
difpofed, and had an opportunity of domg it, rhey
would be reftrained by the general aiTcdion which

* See the Prince, chap. iii. note 12.
f See book H, chap, xxxii of thefe Difcourfes.
X See the Piince, chap.xix.
.. § See the Prince, chap. xv. xvi. xvii, xix. xx. & alibi pafTinit

Vol.. Ill, A a they

^54 Political Discourses UPON Book III.

they faw the reft of the people bore to their Prince.
As to the violence which Princes commit upon their
Subjecls, it affedls either their property, their life, or
their honour : in matters of blood it is much more
dangerous to threaten, than to put to death •, for in
one cafe, a Prince expofes himfelf to a thoufand pe-
rils •, but in the other, he runs little or no rifque aE
all •, for when a man is once dead, he can no longer
think, of revenge, and thofe that are alive will fooa
forget him : whereas a man that is threatened, and
Ends that he muft cither kill or be killed, is the moft
dangerous enemy a Prince can have, as I fhall fliew
more particularly hereafter. Next to a man's life,
his honour and eftate lie neareft his heart, and no-
thing affedls him fo much as an attack on either of
them : upon which account, it behoves Princes to be
very careful not to aggrieve their Subjects in thefe
points : for it is neither pofTible to ftrip any one fa
bare that he cannot find a knife to revenge himfelf;
nor to difhonour and debafe him to fuch a degree, as
totally to exringuifh every fpark of courage and re-
fentment in his breaft. In regard to honour, no out-
rage or affront touches a man fo fenfibly as thofe that
are ofTered to his wife, daughter, or other female re*
lation V and next to this we may reckon the contempt
of his ov/n perfon : the latter of which provoked
Paufanias to affaflinare Philip of Macedon, and the
former has frequently proved fatal to feveral Princes ;
even in our own times Julio Belanti confpired againft
Pandolpho, Lord of Siena, who, though he had
given him his daugliter to wife, afterwards took her
away from him, as v;e fliall relate in another place.
The chief reafon tliat induced the Pazzi to confpirc
againft the Medici at Florence,, was the iofs of Gio-
vanni Borromei's inheritance, which he was deprived
of by the award of the Medici ^. There is alfo an-
other motive, and a very powerful one too, which of-
ten engages men to conlpire againft their Prince, and-

♦ See the Hiilory of Florence, Book viii. at the begMining.


Chap. VU The First Decad of Livy. ^^^

that is the defire of delivering their coiinrry. This
^t was that fpirited up Brutus and Cafiius to plunge
their daggers into the heart of Julius Casfar, and oc-
cafioned the confpiracies againlt Phalaris, Dionyfius,
and many others who had enflaved their country :
and indeed it is not pofTible for Tyrants to fkreen
themfelves from fuch dangers, any other way than by
abdication. But as they very rarely can be prevailed
upon to confent to this, they generally come to mi-
ferable ends : hence the Poet truly fays,

Ad generum Cereris fine csede & fanguine pauci
Defcendunt Reges, & ficca morte Tyranni.

Juv. Sat. X. V. II 2i

To Pluto's dreary realms mofl Tyrants go,
Befmear'd with blood, and full of wounds and woe.

The dangers which occur in Confpiracies are {o ma-
ny and various (as I faid before) that there is great
hazard not only in conducing and executing them,
but even after the execution ; becaufe many perfons
mufl: be privy to them : for where one man only is
concerned, it cannot fo properly be called a confpi-
racy, as a dcfign to kill his Prince : in which cafe he
is free from the firft danger that attends all Confpi-
racies ; that is, he cannot be betrayed before the time
of execution, becaufe he has not trufted any one with

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