Niccolò Machiavelli.

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for adtion near at hand ; but when there is fufficienc
opportunity to alter your meafures, and lay a new
fcheme, you may change them as you think proper.
The Confpiracy in which the Pazzi en2:a2;ed asainCb
Lorenzo and Giuliano de' Ivledici at Florence, is frelb
in every one's mem.ory. According to ihe lirft de-
fign they were to be invited to dine with the Cardinal
of St. Georj^e, and there to be afiairinated. In this
plot, every man had his particular part affigned him ;
fome v/ere appointed to kiil them, lome to feize upon
the Palace, and others to fcour the ftreets, and excite
the people to take up arms for the recovery of their
liberties. But wiiiKt the Pazzi, the Medici, and the
Cardinal were attending a folemn fervice in the Ca-
thedra!, the Confpirators received intelligence thac
Giuliano could not dine with the Cardinal at the time
appointed : upon which, they aflembled together and
reiblved to murder them in the Church. But this
entirely difconcerted their plan •, for Giovanni Battilla
^ da iVlontelecco, who was to have been one of the
perfons that were to ilab the Medici, peremptorily
rcfufed 10 do it in the Church : fo tfiat thev were


forced to en:ip]oy others, v/ho not having tn^ie to
compofe themfelves fafRciently for fach an adion,
v^ere guilty of fo many blunders, thac they all pe-
rifned in the attempt.

Want of courage at the time of executin;^: proceeds
either from reverence to the perfjn that is to be dif-
paic-hed, or bafenefs and puliilanimity in the Confpi-
rators :

368 Political Discourses upox Book IIIV

raters : for the prefence and Majefty of fome PrinceJ^
inipire the beholders with a fort of reverential awe and
veneration, which either damp the refolution or mol-
lify the refentmcnt of their enemies. When Mariiis
was taken by the Minturnians, a Slave was fent to put
him to death in prifun : but when the wretch came tc^
execute his commiflion, he v/as fo ftruck v;ith the p:'e-
fence of fo great a man, and the remembrance of his
adtions, that his heart failed him, and he had not the
courage to kill him. Now if the prefence of a man
in prifon, in diftrefs and mifery, had fuch an effe6l ;
that of a Prince attended by his Courtiers and all the
pomp of Royalty, muft certainly ftrike an awe into
the bolded and fofcen the hardeft heart. A confpiracy
being formed againft Sitalcis King of Thrace, a day
was fixed for putting it in execution : but when the
accomplices met at the place v/here he then refided,
not one of them offering to move, they all returned
without making any attempt, blaming each other,
without being able to alTign any reafon for not having
executed their defign. The fame thing happened to
them feveral times afterwards : fo that the Confpiracy
being difcovered, they were ail put to death, after
they had had fo many opportunities of killing their*
Prince. Alphonfo Duke of Ferrara had two brothers
who confpired againfl him, and were joined by one
Giannes, a Prieft and finging man in the Duke's Cha-
pel : and though this man had often at their requelt
brought the Duke into their Company, and given
them an opportunity of affafTinating him, yet neither
of them having the heart to attempt it, they were
difcovered, and punifhed as they juflly dcferved. Now
this irrefolution in confpirators arifes either from the
feverence with which the prefence of a Prince infpires
them, or from his courtefy and affability which takes
off the edge of their revenge. But the blunders and
mifcarriages which often happen in the execution of
confpiracies are owing either to rafhnefs or terror,
both which blind the underftanding and occafion fuch
a hurry and trepidation of Spirit, ihac they make men


Chap. VI. The First Decad of Livv. 3^^

both fay and do things which they ought not. Livy,
fpeaking of Alexamenes the Etolian, who delivered
his country from the Tyranny of Nabis the Spartan,
Jays, that when he had opened his defign to his Sol-
diers, and was juft going to put it in execution, "col-
legit & ipfe animum, confufum tant^ cogitatione rei ;
he collected his Spirits together, which had been in
fome meafure difconcerted, by refledling upon the
execution of fo great a defign :" and indeed it is al-
moft impofTible that any one, though ever fo refolute
and accuflomed to bloodflied, fliould be altogether
calm and unmoved upon fuch occafions It is necef-
fary therefore in undertakings of this kind to make
life of men that have been fufficiently hardened and
tried, and to truft no others, how courageous foever
they may be accounted : for no man can anfwer even
for his own refolution, if he has not thoroughly prov-
ed it before ; for the confufion he mull naturally be
in at fuch a time may either make him drop the dag-
ger out of his hand, or fay fomething which m.ay have
the fame efiecl. Lucilla, Sifter to Commodus, hav-
ing fpirited up Quintianus to kill her brother, he
waited for him as he came to the Amphitheatre, and
ilepping up towards him with a drawn dagger in his
hand, told him " the Senate had fent him that :" upon
which, he was immediately feized before he could
get near enough to flab him. Antonio da Volterra
being fixed upon to kill Lorenzo de' Medici, cried
out, as he advanced towards him, (Hah Traitor !}
which proved the prefervation of Lorenzo, and the
ruin of the co^fpiracy.

If then the event of confpiracies is very precarious
wlien they are diredled againft one man only, it mufl
of necefTity be much more fo v/hen they are diredled
againft tv;o ; indeed in fuch a cafe it would be folly
to entertain the leaft expeflation of fuccefs: tor to
execute fuch an cnrerprize in two differeiK places at
the fame time is next to impoiTible : and if it is at-
tempted at diiTerent times, one will defeat the other;
fo that confpiring againft one Prince is a doubtful.

Vol. III. B b dan-

570 Political Discourses upon Book IIL

dangerous, and imprndenc undertaking -, but to con-
ipire againft two at the lame time, muft either be
downright folly or madnefs ; and was it not out of
the great opinion 1 have of the Author, I could not
believe what Herodian fays of Plautianus, when he
tells us that he ordered one fingle Centurion, v/hofe
name was Saturninus, to afTaflinate both Severus and
Antoninus, though they lived in different places : for
it feems fo flrange and fo inconfiftent with reafon and
common fenfe, that nothing but the authority offo
noble an Hiilorian could everperfuade me to give any
credit to it. In a confpiracy that was formed by
fome young Athenians againft the two Tyrants Dio-
des and Hippias, the former was killed, but the latter
efcaped and revenged his death. Chiones and Leo-
nides, two of Plato's dilciples, confpired againft Ciear-
chus and Satirus, Tyrants of Heraclea, and difpatched
Clearchus, but Satirus laved himfelf, and puniflied
the Confpirators , and the Pazzi, whom we have {"o
often mentioned, killed Giuliano de' Medici only. A
man therefore ought carefully to avoid engaging in a
confpiracy againft more than one perfon at the fame
time ', otherwife he will neither do himfelf, nor his
friends, nor his country, any fervice, but probably
much prejudice, as thofe that efcape will afterwards
become more tyrannical and infupportable, which
was the confequence of the abovementioned conpira-
cies at Florence, Athens, and Heraclea. The fuccefs
indeed of that confpiracy in which Pelopidas engaged
to fet the Thebans free, was wonderful, becaufe he
had all manner of difficulties and dano;ers to encoun-
ter ; and yet he furm.ounted them all : for inftead of
two Tyrants, he had ten to deal with •, he was fo far
from being a favourite, or having free accefs to them^
that he was in banifliment : neverthelefs he found
means not only to get admiffion into Thebes, but to
kill the Tyrants, and rellore the liberties of his coun-
try : but this could not have been effedled without
the affiftance and co-operation of Charon, one of the
Tyrant's Counfcllors^ who kt him into the City, and


Chap. VL The First Decad of Livy. 571

furnilhed him v;ith an opportuniry of executing his .
defio-ns. It would be very dangerous however for any
man to build upon the fucceis of this confpiracy ;
which indeed was almoll miraculous, and is nr.en-
tioned by all writers that fpeak of it, as not only a
rare, but almoft unexanipled event.

Confpiracies are hkewife fometimes defeated when
they are ju(t upon the point of execution, by fome
groundlels fufpicion, or unexpected accident. The
Very morning that Brutus and the other Coni'pirators
were to afiafTinate Julius Ca^far, it happened that the
latter had a long converfation with Popillus Lenas^
one of their accomplices ; which being obferved by
the reft, they fufpefted he had difcovercd their defign
to Ca^far : upon which, they determined not to waic
till Csfar came into the Senate, but to kill him im-
mediately : and they would adlually have done it, if
they had not difcovered that they had no reaion for
fuch a fufpicion, by obferving that there was no alter-
ation in his countenance after the converfation v/as
ended. Such fufpicions then ought to be well weigh-
ed and confidered ♦, efpecially as they are very com-
mon : for v/hen a man who knows himfelf guilty fees
people talking together, he naturally imagines they
are talking of him ; and fometimes a word or two
overheard by chance (though fpoken v/ith a very dif-
ferent intention) throws him into an alarm, as he
thinks they allude to his affair : the ufual confequence
of v/hich is, that he either difcovers it by running
away, or defeats it by too precipitate an execution 5
efpecially if he has many accomplices.

As to accidents, they are fo various, and often
fo fudden and unexpected, that no certain rule can
be laid down how to prevent them. Let it fuffice
then to give an inftance of one only, and to warn men
to guard againft them as well as they can. Julio Be-
lanti of Siena (whom we have mentioned before) was
^ fo provoked at Pandolpho, who had firft given hicri
his daughter in marriage, and then taken her away
from him, that he refolved to murder him : and as

B b 2 Pandolpho

n-jz Political Discourses upon Book IH*

Pandolpho went every day by his door to fee or^e of
his relations that was Tick, the other, having got a
parcel of armed men at his own houfe for that purpofe,
placed one of them to watch at a window and give
him notice when Pandolpho came by. But it hap-
pened when Pandolpho drew near the houfe, and the
man had given Julio notice of it, that he met an ac-
quaintance who flopped him ^ and his attendants
eoin^L forwards, and hearinof a sreat buftle and noife of
arms in the houfe, difcovercd the defign 5 fo that Pan-
dolpho efcaped, and Julio and his accomplices were
forced to fly their country : all v;hich was owing to
the accidental meeting of Pandolpho and his friend.
But as accidents are fudden and unexpedled, as well
as various, no particular remedy can be prefcribed :
all that a man can do, is to confider what is molt
likely to happen, and to make the beft provifion
againfl: it that lies in his power.

It now remains to fay fomething of what is to be
apprehended after a Confpiracy has adually been
carried into execution : and in that cafe there is lit-
tle or nothing to be feared, except fome are left alive
that may revenge the death of the Prince who has
been killed ; as his brothers, fons, or others who have
a right to fucceed him in the Government. Now this
is generally owing either to want of proper care in the
Confpirators, or to fome of the reafons which we have
already given : as it happened in the Cafe of Gio-
vanni Lampognano and his accomplices ; who having
killed the Duke of Milan, left his Son and two bro-
thers alive, who afterwards reveng-ed his death ^ :
and indeed there is fomeihinf/ to be faid in favour of
Confpirators in fuch cafes ; as it is not always in their
power to prevent it ; but when it proceeds from their
own imprudence or want of due care, they have no
excufe. Some of the inhabitants of Forli having
murdered thtrir Prince Count Girolamo, feized his
Countefs Catharina and two of his children i but not

f See the Hiftory of Florence, book vii. towlirds the end.


(Chap. VL The First Decad of Livy." 575

tf3inking themfelves fecure, except they could gee
pofTedion of the Caflle, which the Governor refufed
to deliver up, the Countefs told them, that if they
v^ould let her go to him, ilie would make him fur-
render immediately ; and that fhe would leave her
children with them as hoftages for the performance
of her promife : upon which, they fuffered her to go.
But as foon as fhe v/as in the Caflle, flic got upon the
walls, and not only reproached them mod bitterly
with the murder of her hufband, but threatened to
take the fevered revenge that lay in her power : and
to convince them that flie was not to be reftrained
from it by any affection to her children, (he fo far
forgot the modefly of her Sex, that fhe pulled up her
cloaths, and told them Ihe was flill young enough to
have more : fo that the Confpirators perceiving their,
error when it was too late, and not knowing what
other courfe to take, were forced to leave their coun-
try and fpend the refl of their lives in exile ^. But
of all the dangers that may happen after the execution
of a plot, that which is mofl to be dreaded and mofl
difBcult to avoid, is, when the Prince that is killed
was much beloved by his Subjeds ; for then it is im-
pofTible for the Confpirators to fave themfelves : as
may appear from the death of Julius Csefar, which
was foon revenged by the Roman people, becaufe they
adored his memory ; for the Confpirators being dri-
ven out of the City and fcattered about the world,
fome of them perifhed in one manner, and fome iu

Confpiracies againft a Republican Government arc
not attended with fo much danger to the accomplices
as thofe ao-ainfl Princes : for in condudlino; them the
rifque is not fo great, and in executing them it is buc
equal, and after that there is none at all. In con-
ducing them the danger is not fo great, becaufe any
fubje6t may afpire to the Government, and lay his
fchemes without communicatino- them to anv one :


• See the rime Hiftoiy, towards the end of book viii.

B b ^ after

574 Political Discourses upon Book III^

after which, if they are not fruftrated by foine new
law, he mud necefTarily fucceed-, and if they are, he
has nothing lo do but to wait for another opportunity
and to take different meafures. This however is to
be underitood only of a Republic that is become in
fonie degree coirupt : for in one that is not fo, there
can be no hopes of fuccefs in fuch defigns, as there
is nothing either to occafion or encourage them ; and
therefore no individual will harbour any thoughts of
that kind. But in thofe that are corrupt, there are
many ways and means by which a Subject may afpire
to Sovereignty without expofing himfelf to any great
danger : for in the firfl: place, all Republics are not
pnly more tardy and phlegmatic in their operations
than Princes, but likewife more free from fufpicion,
and confequentiy not fo much upon their guard ; and
in the next, ihey lliew more tendernefs and refped to
their great men, which makes them bolder and more
enterprizmg. Every body that has read the Hiftory
of Catiline's confpiracy written by Sallud, mull re-
member that Catiline not only continued in Rom.e
alter the confpiracy was difcovered, but came intotht
Senate, and infulted both the Senators and the Con-1
ful : and that after he had left the City and was atj
the head of an army, Lentulus and the reft of th(
Confpirators would not have been taken up, if th(
iirongeft proofs of their guilt had not appeared froi
Letters in their own hand-writing : fuch was the lenit^
with which that Commonwealth treated its Subjeds.
Hanno, a Citizen of very great power and authority!
in Carthage, defigning to make himfelf Sovereign oi
it, invited the whole Senate to a great entertainmenl
which he had made to celebrate the marriage of hi;
daughter, with an intention to poifon them and t(
feize upon the government •, and though his defigt
was difcovered, the Senate did not think fit to in«
flidl any punifhment upon him ; but contented them-
felves with making a Law to reftrain the cxpences of
fuch feafts for the future : which fliews what regard
;hey had for Citizens of his diftindion. It is true


Chap. VI. The First Decad of Livy. 375?
the execution of a Confpiracy againft the liberty of
one's country, is attended with many great difficulties
and dangers : becaufe it feldom happens that a peribn
who confpires againft fuch numbers of people, has
ilrength enough to infure fuccefs ; for it is not every
one that has an army at command, as Julius Csfar,
Agathocles, Cleomeqes, and fome others had ; by the
affiftance of which, they prefently enilaved their
country, without either difficulty or danger. Buc
others who have no army to fupport them, and yec
afpire to Sovereignty, mufl either have recourfe to
artifice, or call in foreign affiftance : of the former
cafe we have an inftance in the conduct of Pififtratus
the Athenian, who having made himfelf very popular
by the victory v;hich he had gained over the Mega-
rians, appeared in public one day all over blood, and
pretended that he had been v/ounded and otherwifs
abufed by fome of the Nobility, out of the. envy they
bore him ; upon v;hich account, he defired a guard
might be allowed him for the fecurity of his perfon :
which being granted, he availed himfelf of it in fucli
a manner, that he foon became abfoiute. Pandol-
pho Petrucci, at his return to Siena with fome others
who had been banifhed from thence, was made Cap-
tain of the palace - guards, a poft which was thought
to be of fo little confequence that feveral had refufed
it : neverthelefs, he acquired fuch a degree of autho-
rity and reputation in a fliort time, by the command
which he had over thofe guards, that at la(t he feized
upon the Government. Many others like wife, by
fuch arts, have fucceeded in the fame manner, with-
out expofing themfelves to much danger. But thofe
who have endeavoured to overturn the conftitution of
the country, either by dint of their own ftrength, or
calling in foreign affiftance, have fucceeded accord-
ingly as they were befriended by fortune. Catiline
periflied in the attempt : Hanno, having failed in
his defign to poilbn the Senate, armed feveral thou-
fands of his partizans, but they were all killed toge-
|;her with their Chief. Some of the principal Citizens

376 Political Discourses UPON Book IIL

of Thebes who had confpired againd their Country,
called in a Spartan army to their aid, and made them-
felves Tyrants over it : fo that if we examine the
event of all the Confpiracies which men have engaged
in againft their Country, we fhail find that fevy or
none have been crufhed whilft they were forming ;
but that the fuccefs or mifcarrias-e of them all has
wholly depended upon the execution ; which being
once over, the Confpirators are fubjedl to no other
dangers than thofe that are naturally incident to a ty-
rannical government : againft which, there are no
oiher means to fecure one*$ felf but thofe which have
been already mentioned.

This is all that I have to fay of Confpiracies : and
if 1 have fpoken of thofe only that are executed by
the fword, without taking any notice of fuch as are
attempted by poifon, it is becaufe they are both con-
cluded in the fame manner, and have the fame event.
It is true indeed, that poifoning is attended with more
danger, and is more uncertain than the other ; be-
caufe very few people have an opportunity of doing
it, and therefore they muft employ others that have,
■which makes it very hazardous. Befides, the dofe may
not prove mortal, as it happened in the attempt upon
Commodus, who throwing the poifon up which the
Confpirators had given him, they were forced to
Itrangle him. There is nothing therefore which
Princes ought to dread fo much as Confpiracies ;
fince they generally lofe either their life or their
reputation by them : for if a Confpiracy fucceeds,
they are killed ; but if they difcover it, and put the
Confpirators to death, it is often looked upon as a
trick of ftate, and a contrivance in the Prince to gra-
tify either his avarice or his cruelty with the blood or
cftates of his Subjeds. I cannot conclude this dif-
courfe, however, without advifino; all Princes and
Republics, upon the difcovery of a Confpiracy care-
fully to examine into the nature of it, and to com-
pare the ftrength of the Confpirators with their own,
before they proceed to punifli them 5 and if they find


Chap. VI. The First Decad of Livy. 577

^hem many and powerful, not to take any notice of
the matter, till they are fufficiently able to crufh them :
otherwife, they muft inevitably be ruined themfelves.
They fhould therefore have recourfe to diffimulation
upon fuch occafions ; left the Confpirators, when
they find themfelves difcovered, fnouid grow defpe-
rate and proceed directly to execution. The Romans
having left two legions at Capua to defend it againfl
the Samnites, the Commanders of thofe forces formed
a defign to make themfelves mafters of that place "^",
\vhich being difcovered by the Romans, they ordered
Rutilius, one of the Confuls, to take proper care to
prevent it. The Conful therefore, in order to lull
them into fecurity, gave out that the Senate in-
tended to keep them there a confiderable time : which
report being credited, they thought they had no oc-
cafion to be over hafty in the execution of their defign,
but might wait till they had a proper opportunity ;
fo that they continued quiet till they perceived the
Conful was going to feparate them : upon which, they
began to fufped his intention, and finding they had
no more time to lofe, they immediately feized upon
Xhe Government. An example very fuitable to our
purpofe : for, on one hand, we fee hereby how tardy
men are in fuch affairs whilfl they think themfelves
fecure, and have time enough to put them, in execu-
tion : and on the other, hew adlive and vigorous when
the neceffity is urgent. Nor can either a Prince or a
Republic that is defirous to conceal their knowledge
of a Confpiracy, a6l more prudently, than in artfully
giving the Confpirators reafon to expect they fhall
have a fair opportunity of executing their defigns at
fome certain time afterwards ; that fo, whilft they are
waiting for it, he m.ay have leifureto provide for his
fafety ; and thofe that have acted otherwife, have only
haftened their own ruin, like the Duke of Athens and
Gulielmo de' Pazzi. For the Duke having feized
upon the Government of Florence, and being inform-

• See book ii. chap. xx. of thefe Difcourfes.


37 S Political Discourses upon Book III,
cd that a Confpiracy was hatching againft him, im-
mediately caufed one of the Confpirators to be appre-
hended, without making any enquiry into the nature
of it : upon which, the reft prefently took arms, and
drove him ont of the City *. Much like this was
the condu(5l: off Gulielmo de' Pazzi, who being Com-
mifTary for the Florentines in the Vale of Chiana,
about the year 1501, and hearing that fome perfons
of Arezzo were confpiring in favour of the Vitelli, to
take that town from the Florentines, he went thither
himfelf in all hafte, and inilead of confidering the
{trength of the Confpirators, and comparing it with
his own, or taking other proper meafures to fupprefs
them, he followed the advice of his fon, who was
Bidiop of that place, and ordered one of them to be
taken up •, which fo alarmed the others, that they
iniluntly rofe upon him, and not only made him pri-
foner, but intirt^ly fliook off the yoke of the Floren-
tines. But when Confpiracies are weak and in their
infancy, they may, and ought to be fupprelfed as
loon as pofliie : for it would be fimpk" in that cafe to
follow the examples either of the Duke of Athens,
or Dion of Syracufe, tliough indeed they aded very
different parts upon fuch an occafion : for the former
caufed one of the Citizens of Florence to be put to
death, who had acquainted him with a Confpiracy that
was carrying on againfl him; to lliev/ that he had
more confidence in the affedion of the Florentines
than to believe any fuch thing : and the latter, in or-
der to difcover fome perfons whom he fufpefted of
confpiring againft him, gave Calippus, one of his
confidants, a commiflion to join him, under a pre-
tence of fecret difaffedion and difguft. But both

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 34 of 44)