Niccolò Machiavelli.

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thefe artifices proved of fatal confequence to thofe
that made ufe of them: for the one not only deterred
people from difcovering any Confpiracy, but encou-
raged them to confpire, and the other made Dion the
pccafion of a confpiracy againft himfelf, which endecj

• See the Hiftory of Florence, book, ii.

Chap. VII. The First Decad of Livy. 319

in his ruin ; for Calippus perceiving he might ail
with fecurity under that conuninion, availed himlelf
of it in luch a manner, that he killed his mailer, and
made himlelf King of Syracufe.


flow it comes to pafs that in changes of States from
liberty to fervitude, and from fervitude to liberty^
fome are effected without violence cr bloodjljed ^ and
others are attended with both,

T may feem llrange, perhaps, to many, that in
the revolutions of States a free Government fliould
)e fometimes changed into a Tyranny, and Tyranny
into a free Government, vvithcut any violence or blood-
fhed •, and at others, with great llaughter and confu-
fion : of which we have many inftances in Hiftory,
Thus when the Roman conlticution was altered from
a Regal to a Confular Government, no perfon was
banilhed or otherwife oppreiTed except the Tarquins.
This however may eafily be accounted for, if we con-
fider, that when a State has been acquired by violence,
many mull have been injured, and of confequence
will endeavour to revenge themfelves upon the au-
thors of their fufferings, whenever any fuch change
happens •, from whence much bloodfhed and tumult
muft naturally enfue. But when a Government has
been eftablifhed by the general confent of the peo-
ple, and they afterwards think proper to difTolve it,
they have no occafion to difturb or ufe violence to
any one but thofe whom they have placed at the head
of it. Accordingly when the Tarquins were expelled
Rome, and the Medici deprived of their authority at
Florence in the year 14 14, no other perfon what-
foever was injured by it. Such changes therefore are
not attended with much danger : but thofe that are
^ffedled by people who have been injured and depriv-
ed of either their power or their properties by the


3^0 Political Discourses UPON Book III,

vjfurpation of their late Governors, and mufl: confe»
quently be full of revenge, are always very terrible,
Hiftory abounds with examples of this fortj to which
I fhall therefore refer the reader.


^bat ivhotvey would change the form of a Govern-
ment^ fhoiild duly confider the manners and difpofttion
of the people,

I Have already fhewn elfewhere, that a bad Citizen
cannot do much harm in a State that is not 'cor-
rupted ^ 5 a pofition, which (befide§ the arguments
there made ufe of to prove it) is fully confirmed by
the examples of Spurius CafTius and Manlius Capito-
linus : the former of whom being an ambitious man,
and endeavouring to make himfelf popular at Rome,
by favouring the Plebeians in the fale of fome lands
Vv^hich the Romans had taken from the Hernici, the
Senate began to penetrate into his defigns, and alarm-
ed the people to fuch a degree, that after he had ha-
rangued them one day, and made them an offer of
the money, for which the corn was fold that had lately
been imported from Sicily, they pofitively refufed to
accept of ir, becaufe they looked upon it as the price
of their liberties : whereas, if the people had beea
corrupt, they would not have refufed the bribe, but
have fold their country, and made themfelves Haves.
But the example of Manlius Capitolinus is flill more
remarkable : from which we may fee how foon the
remembrance of all his excellent qualities, and the
many great fervices he had done his country, was
extinguiflied by his inordinate defire of power, and the
envy he bore to Camillus, who flood higher in the
favour of the people : for being blinded by his am-

^ * See book i. of thefe Difcourres, chap. vii. xxxlv, Iv. & alibi


Chap. VIII. The First Decad of Livy.' 381
bition, and not content with a private llation, he en-
deavoured to form a party, and to raife tumults in
Rome, in oppofition to the Senate, and the authority
of the laws ; without confidering the difpofition 01 his
Fellow-citizens, and how unfit they were to receive
fuch impreffions at that time. We may likewife fee
from hence, what a degree of perfedion there was in
the conftitution of that Senate, and how much virtue
and integrity in the individuals : for when he v/as ac-
cufcd, not fo much as one of the Nobility offered to
defend him, though they had always moft (Irenuoudy
fupported each other before, nor did any, even of his
own relations, appear in his behalf: and notwith-
ilanding, it had always been cuitomary for a man's
friends and kinfmen to appear in mourning at thofs
times, and to fhew all other figns of grief and dejec-
tinn, in order to excite compafTion, there was not the
leaft fhew of any fuch thing. Nay, the Tribunes of
the people, who conftantly ufed to favour the caufe
of thofe whom they thought friends to the public,
efpecially if they were perfecuted by the Nobility,
joined heartily with the latter in this cafe againft one
whom they looked upon as a common enemy to them
both : and though the people were at all times ready
enough to fupport their own rights, and to thwart the
Nobility, and had alfo a great regard for Manliusj
yet when the Tribunes cited him to appear before
them, and referred his caufe to their judgment, thev
condemned him to die, without the lead confideratioii
of its former merits. This example is a moft evident
proof of the rigid and uncorrupted virtue which at
that time was to be found in all the different ranks of
people in the Roman Commonwealth : for though
Manlius was a man of very eminent worth, and had
done both his country and many private peribns great
and fingular fervices, yet not fo much as one of his
Fellow-citizens appeared in his favour when he was
arraigned as a Criminal : for, as the love of their
country was more powerful than any other confidera-
tion, and they were more affeded by the prefent dan-

B80 Political Discourses UPON Book Ilf.

ger, than the memory of his pad actions, they chofe
rather to I'ecure their liberties by putting him to death,
than to expol'e them to any hazard by laving his life :
'• hunc exitum habuit vir, nifi in libera civitate natus
eiTet, memorabilis : (fays Livy,) fuch was the fate of
a man, who would have made himfelf illuftrious, if
he had not been born in a free State.'*

We may therefore obferve, in the firft place, thaC
whoever affedls power and authority, mud take a very
different courfe to obtain it in a corrupt State, from
that which is to be followed in one that is not fo : and
in the next, that men ought to confider the temper of
the times, and conform to them-in all their undertak-
ings, but efpecially in great defigns : for thofe that
oppole the current of the times, either through indif-
cretion, or natural inclination, are generally unfortu-
nate, and meet with very different fuccefs in their
enterprizes, fromi what others experience who accom-
modate themfelves to it. If Manlius had been born
in the days of Marius and Sylla, when the Romans
had been long corrupt, and were become capable of
receiving any impreflion that^ ambition fhould think
lit to ftamp upon them, he would certainly have fuc-
ceeded in the fame manner that they did, and fome
others, who afterwards afpired to abfolute dominion:
and on the contrary, if Marius and Sylla had lived in
the times of Manlius, they would as certainly have
been crufhed in their very firft attempts to overturn
the liberties of their country. For one man indeed
may lay the foundation of corruption, and in fome
meafure debauch the principles and manners of his
Fellow-citizens ; but he feldom lives long enough to
corrupt them all to fuch a degree as to reap the fruit
of his labours. And indeed, if he fhould happen to
live long enough for that purpofe, it would be in a
manner imipoITible for him to fucceed in his defigns :
for fuch is the natural impatience of mankind, efpe- |
cially in proje6ls which they are pafTionately bent
upon, that they either cannot long forbear attempt-
ing to put them in execution, or take wrong meafures


Chap. VIII. The First Decad of Livv. 3S1

to obtain their end : lb that either through want of
patience, or judgment, they commonly proceed to
execution at an improper time, and confequently mufl:
be ruined.

A man therefore cannot well overturn the confii-
tution of his country and make himfelf Lord over it,
except he finds the people thoroughly infected by a
corruption that has been introduced by degrees, and
eftablilhed by length of time in fuch a manner, that,
every thing is fallen into a Hate of confufion and dif-
order ; which muft of necefiity happen, if the virtue
of the people is not frequently revived, either by the
example of great and good men, or a reformation of
abufes by new and wholefomjc laws, which may re-
duce the State to its firft principles, as I have fnewn
in another place ^, Manlius then would have been
a great and illuftrious man, if he had been born in a
corrupt State : for whoever is defirous either to re-
flore liberty, or to fet up an abfolute Government,
ought maturely to weigh the difpofition and princi-
ples of the people he has to deal Vv^ith ♦, from whence
he may be able to form a probable conjedure of the
fuccefs he is likely to meet with in fuch an undertak-
ing : becaufe it is no lefs difficult and dangerous a
matter to attempt the reftirution of liberty, when the
people are difpoled to be flaves, than to endeavour to
enflave them, v/hen they are difpofed to be free : and
fince I have faid above, that men ought always to
confider the quality of the times, and to a6l accord-
ing to them in all their defigns, I Ihall enlarge a liule
more upon that fubjed in the next Chapter.

• See chap, i, of this book.


3^4 Political Discourses upon Book III;


^hnt in order to fecure fuccefs in great defigns^ a mail
mvji accommodate himfelf to the times,

I HAVE often had reafon to think that the good
or bad fuccefs of moft men's undertakings has de-
pended chiefly upon their conforming or not con-
forming themfelves to the nature of the times they
lived in. Some men are hoc and impetuous, others
cold and phlegmatic in the profecution of their de-
iigns, which is the caufe that they often mifcarry, ef-
pecially when they have no regard to moderation, ei-
ther in one cafe or the other, but leave the middle
way, and fall into extremes. That man however is
moft likely to fucceed, whofe temper is fuited to the
times, and who adls according to fuch a difpofition -^'.
Every one knows with what caution and circumfpec-
tion Fabius Maximus proceeded, when he command-
ed the Roman armies, and how different his coldncfs
and delays were from the ancient ardour and intrepi-
dity of that people : and yet his undertakings wer6
crowned with fuccefs, becaufe fuch a condudl was
fuitable to the times. For Hannibal being a young
fpirited General, and elated vvith the reputation of two
great victories, which had drained the Roman Com*
monwealth of its befl: foldiers, and thrown it into the
utmoft confternation, it was very fortunate for them
that they had, on the contrary, an old and cautious
commander, whofe warinefs and delays kept the ene-
my at bay, and abated the ardour of their courage :
nor could Fabius ha/e lived in any times, that would
have been better adapted to his own genius and dif-
pofition ; fo that every thing concurred to make him
fortunate. And that this cold and tardy manner of

* Cornelius Nepos, In tlic Life of Alcihiades, fays, in commenda-
tion of that great man, nmongrt the relt of his virtues, he was
*| aftabilis, blandus, teniporibus cailidilJimt inferviens."


Chap. IX. The Fjrst Decadof Ltvy; 38§(

ading was really the effect of his natural difpofition,
and not a matter of choice and prudent deliberation,
plainly appears from his oppofmg Scipio with all his
might, when that General was intent upon tranfporr-
ing an army into i^frica, in order to put a fpeedy end
to the war with the Carthaginians •, fo that if his ad-
vice had not been over-ruled, Hannibal might have
continued in Italy, as Fabius was ftill for adhering to
his old maxims, and the dictates of his own difpofi-
tion, and defiro'js rather to remove prefcnt dilficulties
and dangers than to run into new ones ; not perceiv-
inp- that when the times and circumftances of things
were changed, it was neceffary likewife to vary the
manner of carrying on the v/ar. If then, Fabius had
been King of Rome at that time, it is very probable
he would have been unfuccefsful in the further profe-
Gution of the war ; becaufc he neither could nor
would have accommodated his mealures to the exi-
gency of the times : but hapoenins: to be born in a
Commonwealth, where there v/ere many great Com-
manders, and of different difpofitions and abilities •,
as he was thought to be the mod proper man to pro-
tradl and fuftain the war at one time ; fo when the
circumftances of it were changed, Scipio was oitched
upon as the likeliefr to bring it to a fpeedy and happy

Hence it comes to pafs, that Republican Govern-
ments have more refources in times of didrefs, and
flourifh longer than Monarchies : becaufe they can
better accommodate themfelves to the neceffities of
different times, from the variety of Genius's which
they produce, than a Prince can poffibly do. For a
Prince having been long; accullomed to acl according
to one particular manner, cannot tell how to alter in
when the times change, and it becomes abfolutely
neceffary to vary his meafures. Pietro Soderini, of
whom we have fpoken before, was remarkable for
ills lenity and moderation in all things ; and both he
and his country profpered exceedingly, whilft luch a
condud: was fuitable to the times -, but when it after-

VoL. III. C c wards

^86 Political Discourses UPON Book HI.

•wards became neceflary to proceed with rigour and
afptrrity, and he could not prevail upon himfeif to do
thai, both he and his country were ruined by his pa-
tience and clemency. Pope Julius II. aded with
violence and inipetuofity in every thing : and as the
times required iuch a condudl:, he fucceeded in all his.
undertakings : but if they had altered, and another
fort of conduct had become neceiTarv, he mud ine-
vitably have been ruined, becaufe he could not have
conformed himfeif to them. Now the reafon why
men cannot do this, is firft, becaufe they cannot run
counter to their own natural inclinations and defires :
and in the next, becaufe when a man has pra(ftifed
one method of adting a long while, and always fuc-
ceeded in it, he cannot be perfuaded to try any other:
from whence it comes to pafs, that we often fee fuch
a variety of fortune in one perfon : for, if the wind
changes, and he does not fuit his fails to it, how can
he expedt a good voyage "^ ? It is the fame with re-
gard to Republics, which are ofcen ruined by not al-
tering their meafures according to the times, as I
.have fhewn at large elfewhere -, but in this they are
very flow, becaufe it is a difficult matter to change
their former laws and inftitutions, which cannot be
efFc(5ted except by fome great event that (hakes the
whole conftitution, no individual being able to bring
about fuch a revolution. Now fince we have had
occafion to make mention of Fabius Maximus, wha
kept Hannibal fo long at bay, I Ihall enquire in the
next Chapter, whether or not it is pofiible for one Ge-
neral to prevent another from bringing him to an en-
gagement, if he be determined to do it at any rate.

* *' An cum videam navem fecundis venti? curfum tenentem fuum
(fiiys Tally, Orat. pro. Plancio. cap. xxxix.) fi non ea euin petat por-
tum, quern ego aliquando probavi, i'ed alium non nr>inus tutum atque
tranquilkim, cum tempeftate pugnem periculofe potius, quam illi fa-
lure procCertim propofita, obremperem & paieani ? neque eniin incon-
Itantis piito feutentiam, tanquam aliquod navigium atque ciirfum, ex
reipublic2£ tempeftate moderari." See alio Epilt, ix. lib. ii. ad fami-


Chap. X. The First Decad OF Livy, 387


nat a General cannot avoid a battle^ when the Enemy is
refolved to fight him tipcn any terms.

*' ^^Aius SuLpiTius Diflator, adverlus Gallos bel-
\_^ lum trahcbai, nolens fe fortun;^^ commicccre
adverlus hoflcm, quen temous, dctenorcm indies,
& locus aHenus faccrent. Caius Sulpicius, the Dic-
tator, in the war with the Gauls, ^refolved not to rua
any rifque in engaging the enemy, when he faw that
time alone, and the inconveniencies they luftrrcd ia
a ftrange country, was daily din^imfhing their num-
ber-s" fays Livy, As the greater part of mankind
are apt to be niifled by a particular error, they cannoc
be too often admoniChed, to be upon their guard a-
gainfl: it. Upon which account, although I have al-
ready obfer^'ed more than once, how much the prac-
tice of the moderns differs from that of the anci-
ents, efpecially in things of the greatefl: importance,
yet I do not think it altogether fuperfiuous, to add
fomething more to what I have laid before upon that
topic •, particularly, as our military difcipline at pre-
fent is fo different from thofe maxims and inftitutions
which v/ere in the greatefl: efteem with the inciencs,
that few or no traces of them are left. The reafoa
of this, 1 take to be, that both Princes and Repub-
lics have now left the care of thele thin^^s to other
people, in order to avoid danger : and it at any time
a Prince happens to command his forces, no great
matter is to be expected from it ; becaufe he takes
that command more out of pomp and oftentation,
than upon any other account. Such Princes, how-
ever, are not liable to commit fo many errors as Re-
publics ♦, becaufe they keep the command in their
own hands, and fometimes are perfonally in the field
with their armies : whereas Republics, and efpecially
the Italian States, not being acquainted with the na-

C c 2 ture

|3S Political Discourses UPON Book IlL

ture of military operations, are obliged to truft
ibkly to the conducl of others j though, at the fame
time, in order to keep up their authority, ihey pre-
tend to advife and dire6l -, by which manner of pro-
ceeding they muft of courfe be led into more and
greater errors than if they were prefent with their
torces themfelves; fome of which errors I have point-
ed out before, but fhall here take notice of one that
is of very great importance.

When any of thefe pitiful Princes or Common-
wealths fend out an army, the bell inflrudtions they
think they can give their general, are not to hazard
an engagement upon any account, if it be poflible
TO avoid it : in which they think themfelves as wife as
Fabius, who faved the Roman State by fuch precau-
tion -, not knowing that a commiflion of that kind
can feldom be attended with any good confequence,
and often muft be of great prejudice to themieives.
For they may take this for granted, that a General
who is in the field cannot avoid a battle, if the ene-
my is determined to force him to it at all events : fo
that fuch a CommilTion is no better than giving him
orders to fight the enemy when they pleafe, but not
when he fees a proper opportunity himfelf. There
are two ways, I know, of endeavouring to avoid an
engagement in fuch a cafe -, and thofe are, either by
keeping at the diftance of fifty or fixty miles from
the enemy, and fending out fcouts to give you timely
notice if they fliould offer to advance -, that fo you
may retreat as fall as you can * : or elfe, by lliutting

« *' Several very warlike nations in tlieir wars, fays Montaigne,
book 1. chap. xii. of his Eliays, have found their chief advantage in a
retreat, and done the enemy more mifchief by turning their backs to
them than their faces: of which rwethod the Turks retain fomething
tn this day. Socrates (in Plato) rallies Laches, who had defined forti-
tiide to he nothing more or lefs than ftanding firm in the ranks to face
tl)e enemy : '* What, (lays he,) would it be cowardice to bt:at the ene-
my by giving ground :" At the lame time he quotes that }):dV3ge in
Homer to him, where he con^mends iEneas for his Ikill in retreating.
And as Laches, upon further confideration, owns this was the pra<^ice
oi the Scythians, and in general of all Cavaliy, he urges another picof
jvoin the conduit of the Laccdjcmonian Infajitiy, (ihe molt obliinate


Chap. X. The First Decad of Lrvv. '^9.^y

yourfcif np in fome ftrong town. But in eitlicr calc,
you mud Tudain much damage ; for in one, you
muft leave your whole country to the mercy of t!ic
enemy : and certainly a Prince of any courage or ge-
nerofity, would fooner chufe to venture a battle, tha-i
expofe his Subjeds in fo cruel and fhamelul a manner.
And in the other, your ruin is inevitable : for if you
retire with your forces into a town, you will be
blocked up there by the enemy, and reduced either
to furrender, or to perifli by famine : fo that, which-
foever of thefc ways you take to decline an engage-
ment, you will find it a very bad one. It is right,
indeed, to keep yourfelf clofc intrenched in a (Irong
fituacion, as Fabius Maximus did, when you have fo
good an army, that the enemy dares not venture to
attack you there ; but Fabius could not fo properly
be faid to avoid an en2;a2ement» as to defer it till he
could fight the enemy with advantage. For if Han-
nibal had advanced to attack him, the other, inftead
of retreatin-o:, vvould have fought him there ; but
Hannibal was too wife to rifque an engagement in
fuch circumdances. So that Hannibal declined a
battle as well as Fabius : but if either of them had
been determined to fight at any rate, the other could
not pofTibly have avoided it, except either by one or
other of the methods juft now mentioned, or by ab-
folurely running away.

Tht truth of what I have faid, is obvious from a
thoLifand exaniples ; particularly from that of Philip

of all others in maintaining tlieir gronnd)'who at the battle of Platea,
not being able to break, into the Perfian Phalanx, thought tic to till
back j that lo the enemy fuppofing them to be flying, might break and
difunite that firm body, when they were purfuing ; by which meani
the Lacediemonians obtained a Viclory. As for the Scythians, it ir.
faid of them, that when Darius (et out upon his Expedition to fubdue
them, he fent to reproach their King with cowardice, for always re-
tiring before him : to which the King made anfwei, *' that he did not
do fo out of fear of him, or any other man living; but that it was the
cultom in his country, where there were neither tilled fields, nor town,
nor houfe to defend, or for the enemy to make any advantage of. Bat
that if he had lo voracious an appetite, he might come and view their
ancient place of Sepulture, and there he Ihould have his belly full,"
Bee Herodotus, lib. IV,

Cc q of

^^o Political Discourses upon Book III.

of Macedon, the father of Perfeus, in the war wherein
he was engaged with the Rom;^ns. For, when they
invaded his dominions, he refolved not to come to
any engagement with them, if he could help it : up-
on which account, he encamped with his army upon
the top of a hill, where he fortified himfelf in fuch a
manner, that he thought the enemy would not ven-
ture to attack him. But he was min:aken ; for they
not ojily attacked him, but drove him out of his en-
trenchn^ents, and forced him to fave himfelf by flighc,
which he could not have done, if the country had
not been fo rough, that the Romans could not pur-
fue him. Being convinced therefore, by this trial,
that he could no longer trull to the advantage of any
fuuation in the field, and unwilling to (hut himfelf
up in a town, he refolved to take the other method,
and to keep at a conlkierable diftance from them ;
for vvhich purpofe, when the Romans entered one
province, he always retreated into another. But
finding his affiirs grow worfe and worfe every day,
and that there was no profped: of putting an end to
the war by fuch a manner of proceeding, and that his
Subjedls were harralTed and diltrefl'ed to the laft de-
gree, fometimes by one army, and fometimes by the
other, he took a refolution to try the fortune of a

It is prudent then to decline an engagement, when
you are in the fame circumftances that Fabius and
Sulpitius were : that is, either when you have fo good
an army that an enemy dares not venture to attack

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