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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THE City of Rome being diftrelTcd by famine,
and the public Magazines not affording provi-
fions enough to fupply the wants of the people,
Spurius Melius, (a very rich man for thofe times) di-
Uributed a great quantity of corn amongfr them at
his own expence : by which he became fo popular,
that the Senate apprehending their liberties might be
endangered by it, if he was not fuppreffed before he
grew too powerful, immediately created a Dictator,


Chap. XXVIII. The First Decad of Livy. 439

who canfed him to be put to death. Hence we may
remark that many adlions which appear good and laud-
able at fir ft fight, may yet prove prejudicial and de-
{lru6live to a Republic in the end, if timely care is
not taken to prevent it.

But to diicufs this matter more particularly : I fay
that a Republic can neither be well governed, nor in-
deed fubfifl at any rate without men of reputation i
and on the other hand, that too great a degree of re-
putation in a private man, is fometimes the cauTe of
its ruin. To guard againft which, no particular Ci-
tizen (hould be fufFercd to gain any fort of reputation
but what may be of fcrvice and advantage, inftead
of prejudice, to the Commcnv/ealth and its liberties.
Now the methods by which fuch reputation is to be
acquired, are either public or private : that is, in the
firft cafe, when a man diftinguifhes himfelf either by
his abilities in Council, or in the field, or by doing
fbme other great and material fervice to the Common-
wealth : and thefe ways of gaining reputation, inftead
of being precluded^ fhould be open to all Citizens^
who muft alfo be encouraged by fuch rev/ards for their
good counfels and a(5i:ions, as may content themfelves,
and make them honoured by others : for reputation
acquired in this manner can never be attended with
any prejudice to the public. But in the fecond cafe,
when it is done by private methods, it is very dan-
gerous and deftrudive : by private methods, I mean
fuch as obliging particular perfons by lending thera
money, by giving their dauo;hters marriage portions,
by proteding them againil the authority of the Ma-
giftrates, and other fuch favours as create dependants
and partizans, and embolden them to violate the laws
and corrupt the Citizens. Upon which account, a
well governed Republic, as I faid before, ought to
encourage all Citizens that endeavour to o^ain favour
and reputation by public methods, and fuch as tend
to the glory and advantage of their country : but to
difcourage thofe that attempt it by private means, and
for other purpofes. The Romans accordingly grant-

F f 4 ed

440 Political Discourses upon Book III,'

ed triumphs and many other honours and rewards to
Citizens who had lignaiized themfelvcs in the fervice
of the public : but always brought thole to a trial,
before the people, who endeavoured to advance them-
felvcs by private methods and undue pradlices : and
if the people happened to be fo blinded by plaufible
appearances, that they would not fufier them to be
punifned, a Dictator was immediately created, who
being veiled with a fort of abfolute authority, had it
in his power to reflrain fuch irregularities by punilh-
ing the delinquents in a proper manner; as it happen-
ed in the cafe of Spurius Melius : for if but one oifenT
der of that kind is fufFered to efcape with impunity,
it is fufficient to ruin a Commonwealth ; as it woul4
be exeeding difficult to maintain any good order or
equality in it after fuch an example.


U'hat the faults of the people are generally owing to the


RINCES ought not in reafon to complain of
any violence v/hich their Subjeds commit, be-
jcaufe it is entirely owing either to their own remifT-
nefs, or to their being guilty of the fame themfelves :
and if the people of fome States at prefent are infa-
mous for thieving, robbing, plundering, and other
fuch enormities, it proceeds v/hoUy from the oppref-
fion and rapacioufnefs of their Governors. Romagna,
before Alexander VI. extirminated the petty Lords
who ruled over it, and was full of rafcals who lived
upon murder and rapine j which was not owing to
the natural depravity of the people (as fome think)
but to the wickednefs of thofe little Tyrants, whp
jDeing poor, and yet ambitious to live in fplendour
gnd magnificence^ were obliged to have recourfe iq


Chap. XXIX. The First Decad of Livy. 441

opprefTion and extortion of every kind^. Amongft
other vile and nefarious methods which they pradtikd

* "The Italians (fays the Author of the Efliir.ate of the Manners
and Principles of the Times, vol. ii. ied:. 5.) arc ar. effeminate peo-
ple, yet in the general opinion, void of humanity : they are given
to cruelty, treachery, and affailination. The queltion is then, from
what caufes this fingular appearance may arife ? — It is coinmonly
affirmed and fuppofed to be natural to the country. But they who
talk, thus, I think, mean no more (fo far as they mean any thing)
than this, that there is fome caui'e unknown, which produces this
crime in Italy, rather than elfewhere. Machiavel, who knew man*
kind, afcribes this degeneracy in the people, to the wickf dnefs and ill
example of their rulers." Here the author quotes the pafTage above
marked from Machiavel, and then proceeds in this manner. *'This, ia
ibme meafure, accounts for the inhumanity of the people : but we are
ilill at a lofs as much as ever, how fuch an extirminating principle
came iirft amf^ngft the Great. What follows then, feems the natural
folution of the queftion. When Italy became divided into a number
of petty States, the contentions and factions in thofe States wereend-
lefs. The parties were often too fmall to levy armies. Hence conf-
piracies, infurre6lions, affaflinations by fword or poifon, v/ere the
common, becaufe the readieft, way of profecuting the political defigns
either of the oppreffors or the oppreffed. See Machiavel's hiftorical
trails paflim. By this means the dreadful practice of affaflination,
by being applied politicvally, loft a great part of its horror in the
minds of the parties who praftifed it: thus it naturally crept into
private ufe, and has been of courfe tranfmitted from one generation to
another. — Hence appears the great importance of curbing the violence
and horrors of public contention, by what are called the Laws of War
and of Nations : fince the oppofite conduct is not only attended with,
immediate cruelties, but, wiiat is worfe, is in danger of ftriking its
colours into private life, and giving even to fucceeding times the com-
plexion cf inhumanity. — We muit not leave this fubje6>, without add-
ing a remark upon Machiavel himfelf, who undoubtedly wrote under
the influence of this habit of thinking, fo peculiar to Italy. For we
fee in the paffage now cited that although he fpeaks with refentment
againft the private murders io common in his days, yet he mentionss
thofe political alTairinations with a kind of approbation, for which
Alexander VI. and, his Son Valentine were fo juftly infamous through
all Europe. He exprefbly treats of this method of acquiring Govern-
ment 5 and with all the lang froid of a man talking on a jull and legi-
timate fubjeci. See his Prince, chap. viii. Hence conclulions have
been drawn much in his disfavour, as a man abandoned to all wicked-
nefs ; vvhiilt others have adopted the contrary opinion, and affirmed,
that he pointed out thefe ways of iniquitous policy and aflaffination,
that he might teach mankind more effe6lualiy to prevent them. Now
in truth thefe two opinions are equally groundlefs : for on one hand,
his writings abound with inconteilible proofs that he was a well-
wilher to his country and mankind : and on the other, it mull be al-
lowed, that he hath rather fliewn the methods of treacherous policy,
than the ways of preventing them. The truth is, thofe iniquitous
pradlices which fliock our humanity where familiarized to his imagi-
nation by the common ufage of his country : hence he treated them as
|ie did other political maxims of a better ftamp, and only talked the


442 Political Discourses upont Book HL

to fill their coffers, they made laws to prohibit fucli
and fuch particular things : after which, they foon
broke them themfelves, and encouraged others to do
fo by their own example : but they never punilhed
any one till the number of delinquents became very
confiderable ; and when they did, it was not out of
any refpedt to juftice, but to enrich themfelves with
lines and confiications. Hence it came to pafs, that
their Subjects being impoverilhed, but not in any wife
am.ended in their manners, endeavoured to make up
their lolTes by plundering others who were ftill weaker
than themfelves, fo that we may impute all the evils
and enormities abovementioned to the fcandalous and
wicked example of thofe Lords ; and of how much
weight the eicample of a Prince is, we may fur-
ther learn from the following inftance in Livy« The
AmbaiTadors whom the Romans fent with the fpoils
of Veii to the Temple of Apollo at Delphos, being
taken by fome Corfairs, were carried into Lipari, a
port in Sicily. But Timafitheus, Prince of that place,
being informed of the nature of the prize, whither
the AmbaiTadors were going, and by whom they were
fent, behaved like a Roman upon that occalion, and
reprefenting to the people, in the ftrongeft terms, how
impious and facrilegious a thing it would be to feize
upon an offering that was made to the Gods, the
Ambaffadors were immediately difmiffcd with all their
effedls by the general confent of the people. Upon
which occafion, the Hiftorian fays, " Timafitheus

lansjuage of his time and nation. Nay it appears from a particular
palTage in his works, that he vindicated this pra6lice of affanination,
as being in fome cafes a principle of the trueft humanity. ** Caefar
Borgia (fays he, in his Prince, chap, xvii.) was accounted cruel ; but
liis cruelty not only thoroughly reformed and united Romagna, but
fettled it in peace and kept it firm in allegiance to him. Which being
duly confidered, he will appear much more merciful than the Flo-
rentine?, who to avoid the reproach of cruelty, fuffered Piftoiatobe
deftroyed." Thefe, no doubt are horrid maxims, and could never
have rifen in the mind of fuch a man as Machiavel, but from the caufe
affigned above: and they are the more to be lamented, as they have
thrown a cloud over the fame of one, who, in my opinion, is the great-
eft political reafoner upon fa<^s that hath appeared in any age or


Chap. SXX. The First Decad of Livy.^ 445
mukitudinem religione implevit, quae Temper regenti
€ft fimilis. Timafitheus inftilled a fpirit of piety and
devotion into the people, who are always governed by
the example of their Prince". Much like which is the
faying of Lorenzo de' Medici,

E quel che fa il fignor fanno poi molti,
Che nel Signor fon tutti gli occhi volti.

Princes attra6b the eyes of all, and good
Or b^d, are copied by the multitude.


^haf a Citizen who would do any good in a RepuMic hy
dint of his own authority, muji in the firji place
extinguiJJj all envy : alfo what provijions are to be
made for the defence of a 'Town upon the approach of
an enemy,

THE Roman Senate having intelligence that pre-
parations were making throughout all Tuf-
cany to invade their dominions; and that the Latins
and Hcrnici (who had long been in amity with their
Republic) had entered into a league againft them with
the Volfci, (the perpetual enemies of the Roman
name) began to apprehend that fuch a war muft be
attended with very great danger. But as Camillus
was one of the Tribunes, and vefted with Confular
power, they thought they ftould have no occafion to
create a Didlator, if his Collegues would entrufl him
with the chief command : which being propofed to
them was cheerfully complied with ; " nee quicquani
(fays Livy) de majeftate fua detradlum credebant,
quod majeftati ejus concefliflent : for they looked
upon it as no difparagement to themfelves, to give
the firft place to him."

Camillus therefore, being afTured of their obe-
dience, immediately raifed three armies 5 one of which


444 Political Discourses ufON Book III,

he conduced himfelf againft the Tufcans ; the fe-
cond was encamped near Rome, under the command
of Quintius Servilius, to watch the motions cf the
Latins and Kernici; and the third v/as left at home
^with Lucius Quintius to defend the City, and to
guard the Senate-houfe and the Gates, if cccafion re-
quired. Befides this, he ordered Horatius, one of his
Collegues, to fill the Magazines with corn, arms, and
other {lores that are neceflary in time of war •, appoint-
ing Cornelius, another of the Tribunes, to prefide in
the Senate and Councils, and to expedite the pub-
lic bufmefs : thus the Tribunes in thofe times, vve
fee, were ready eitheir to command or obey, as was
nioft requi fite for the good of the Commonwealth.

Hence we may obferve what great things a good
and wife man may do, and of how much fervice he
may be to his country, when he has extinguifhed envy
by his own merit and virtue : for that ofcen prevents
worthy and able men exerting themfelves by keeping
them down, and not fuffering them to be advanced
to fuch a degree of power and authority as is neceflary
to accomplifh any great purpofe. Now envy is ex-
tinguifhed two ways •, fird, by fome fudden calamity,
or arduous undertaking : for upon fuch occafions,
men being feniible of the danger they are in, lay afide
their ambition, and readily confent to obey thofe by
whofe abilities alone they can hope to be delivered.
Thus it happened to Camillus, who having been three
times Di6lator, and given the moft convincing proofs
of his virtue as well as his abilities, by conflantly at-
tending to the public good, without any regard to
his own private advantage, had fo far extingui(hed
all envy in the breads of his Fellow-citizens, that they
feared nothing from his power, nor thought it any
diminution of their own honour to ferve under a man
of his edablifhed reputation and integrity. The
other way by which envy is extinguiflied, is when
your rivals in power and reputation are removed, ei-
ther bv violence or the courfe of nature : for fuch
men will never be at red, whild they fee you in greater


Chap. XXX. The First Decad of Livy. 44:)

cfleem and authority than themfelves ; efpeciaHy if
they are members of a corrupt (late : for then it is
impoflible they fhould ever be moved by any danger
or emergency, becaufe their education has not fur-
nifhed them with any principles of virtue •, fo that:
out of the perverfity of their nature, they will rather
fee their country ruined, than relinquifh their views.
Nothing but death therefore is capable of extinguifh-
ing this fort of envy : and if fortune is fo propitious
to a virtuous man that his competitors go off by natu- *
ral death, he may then eftabliih his reputation with-
out fcandal, and exercife his power without oppofition
or pffence. But if that does not happen, he muft
endeavour to rid himfelf of them by any means whar-
foever ; for this muft be done before any thing elfc
can be effe£led. Thus whoever reads the Bible with
attention, will fee that Mofes, in order to eftabliih his
Laws, was obliged to put many people to death, who
oppoied him out of envy *. Girolamo Savonarola,

* upon this pafTage, E. Dacres fays as follows, " I doubt the un-
terftandjng which Machiavel advifes others of, he wants himrelfe : not
knowing the meaning of, or not beleeving the holy writt : whereby
he puts men paft fufpicion of his Atheifme. For what he alleadges
of Mofes, he mull needs take originally from Mofes his bookes, be-
ing we have not any author of that antiquity as could write any thing
of his owne knowledge touching thofe times. But thofe Machiavel
feems not tobeleeve further than ferved his own humour, reading the
fcriptures only to a politique end, not fo much for t'le ftrengthening
his beleefe, as the bettering his difcourfe. Yet though Machiavel did
not, 1 hope others will beleeve, that Mofes delivered to the Ifrae'ites
the true oracles of God, and that it was not Mofes that punithed tb,e
delinquents among them, but God fending his immediate judgments ;
as in the rebellion of Corah and his complices, Numbers xvi. Mofes»
did but cite them as to appearance j but God immediately fent his
vengeance, for the Earth under them opened, v. 31 And when that
wretched fellow gathered ftickes on the Sabboth, Numbers xv. Mo-
les awaited till God pafled the fentence upon him for his death and the
manner thereof, v, 35. Therefore Machiavel may juftly be taxed for
traducing Mofes here of more than he hath warrant for, making no
other efteeme of Mofes Ills bringing the Ifraeiites out of Egypt, and
his leadinge them through the wiildernefTe, than of Romulus gather-
ing together a fcattered multitude and laying the foundation of that
Commonwealth ; which aftion, his courage and ambition of rule and
glory thruil him upon : not feeming to take notice that Mofes was
immediately called by God and fent to fnew his wonders and judg-
ments againll the Egyptians, and to conduii the Ifraelites into Ca-
naan, (according to God's promifes formerly made to their forefathers)


44<^ Political Discourses upopj Bookllf;

and Pietro Soderini, Gonfalonier of Florence, likewife
faw the necefiity of afting in this manner : but the
former being only a Friar could not do it, becaufe he
had not fufficient authority -, and fuch of his followers
as had, did not rightly comprehend his meaning;
though that was not his fault, for his Sermons were
full of exclamations and invedives againft the "wife
men of this world ;" a name which he gave to thofe
that envied him and oppofed his meafurcs *. As to
Soderini, he flattered himfelf that time, moderation,
the aufpicioufnefs of his fortune, and his great bene-
ficence, would at lafl: extinguifli the envy that fome
had conceived againft him : for he was young, and
fo well fupported by his friends (the number of whom
was daily increafed by his munificence and liberality),
that he hoped he fhould have been able to furmount
all oppofition, without having recourfe to violence,
or exerting his power in fuch a manner as might oc-
cafion fcandal and difturbance : not confidering thac
time and opportunities are not to be loft, that bene-
ficence is ineffedual, that fortune is inconftant, and
that envy is not to be appeafed by any fort of favours
or good offices whatfoever. So that both thefe per-
fons were ruined at laft ; one of them becaufe he had
not authority enough to rid himfelf of thofe who en-
vied him ; and the other by not doing it when he had
it in his power f.

Another thing to be obferved in the condu6l of Ca-
millus, is the provifion he made both at home and
abroad for the prefervation of Rome : and indeed,
fuch Hiftorians as Livy are much to be commended,
for giving a particular and circumftantial account of
thefe occurrences, that fo thofe who come after thera
may know how to adi: upon fimiliar occafions. We
ought therefore to remark upon this, that it is very
imprudent and dangerous to leave the defence of a
City to a parcel of tumultuous people, without order

\vherein be behaved not lilmfelf either ambltioufly or InfoleiUly ; noi>'
vias any thing done by his own prowefle or policy, but merely by tha
ordinance of God."

« See the Prince, chap, vi, f See chap, lA of this book.


Chap. XXXI. The First Decad of Livy. 447

or command : of which it is plain, that Camillus was
fufficiently aware, by leaving a regular army for the
fecurity of Rome; which many perhaps may think
was altogether unneceflary, becauie the Romans were
a brave people, and inured to war, and therefore it
might have been fufficient to put arms into their
hands v/hen occafion required. But Camillus judged
otherwife, and fo would any prudent man in the like
circumflances : for the multitude ought not to be
trufted with arms, except under certain reitridlions
and proper command. In imitation of this example
then, a perfon who undertakes the defence of a City,
fhould above all things take care not to arm a giddy
and tumultuous multitude, but rather feled: fuch as
he dares truft with arms, and is fatisfied will obey hira
in whatever he commands ; and order thofe who are
not made choice of for that purpofe, to Hay at home
and guard their own houfes. Whoever purfues this
method in a town that is befieged, will find it an
eafy matter to defend it well ; otherwife, it will be
difficult, if not impoHible *-


^hat powerful Republics and truly great men retain
. their dignity and firmnejs of mind in all vicijfitudes
cf fortune.

AMONGST all the noble actions and fayings
which Livy afcribes to Camillus, norhing
fhews the magnanimity of that great man more
plainly than the following : " Nee mihi Diclatura
animos fecit (laid he in one of his fpeeches) nee exi-
]ium ademit ; I am not elated with the Didlatorfhip,
nor was 1 dejected in banifhment." By which we
fee that great men are alvvays the fame in every reverfe
of fortune : for though Ihe may change her counte-

• See the Art of War, book vii. at the beginning.


44^ Political Discourses upok fiooklfL

riance, and fonietimes exalr, and fometimes depref^
them, yet they never vary, but conflantly retain the
fame nrmnefs of mind, and are fo uniform in their
conduct, that fortune feems to have no power over
them : whereas mean and pufillanimous men, buoy-
ed up with profperity, and intoxicated with good for-
tune, impute all their fuccefs to virtues of which they
■were never pofiefled ; and thus become odious and
infupportable to thofe who have any thing to do with
them. This often expofes them to fudden revolution^
of fortune, and then they prefently fall into the other
extreme, and become as abjed as they were arrogant
before. Hence it comes to pafs, that when Princes
of this ftamp fall into adverfity, they generally fly^
inftead of exerting themfelves manfully to oppofe it ;
for as they abufed their profperity, they are incapable
of fupporting themfelves in adverfity. Thefe virtues
and thefe defeds are common, not only to particular
men, but to whole Republics : of which, I fhall give
two examples j one from the condu6t of the Roman?,
the other from that of the Venetians.

The Romans were never difmayed in advef-fity, nor
elated with profperity : for a proof of which, we may
alledge their behaviour after their defeat at Cannsc,
and their victory over Antiochus. For after that de-
feat, though Annibal had routed them twice before,
and reduced them to the laft extremity, they were fo
far from being daunted, that inftead of fuing for
peace, they bravely refolved to continue the war ; andy
contrary to their ufual pradice, refufing to redeem the
prifoners who had been taken by the enemy, they arm-
ed their old men and flaves, and lent afrefh army into
the field : an account of which being fent to Car-
thage, Plan no told the Senate there, " He feared they
were but little better for their victory at CannfE :'*
from whence we fee that the Romans were never dejedted
in thejoweft ebb of their fortune. On the other hand,
they never grew arrogant in profperity, as we may
obferve from the behaviour of Scipio to Antiochus :
for when that Prince fent AmbaiTadors with overtures


chap. XXXir. The First Decad of Livv. 4^5

of peace to Scipio, the latter told them he would not
grant him any terms except he would retire into Sy-
ria, and fubmit entirely to the difcretion of the Romarl
Republic. But Antiochus rejecting thefe conditions,
came to an engagement with the Roman army, and
was utterly defeated : after which, he feilt other Am-
bafladors with orders to accept any terms from the
Conqueror; who contented himfelf however with the
fame which he offered him before the battle, telling
the AmbalTadors, " Quod Romani, fi viricuntur, noa
minuuntur animis, nee fi vincunc infolefcere Iblent ;
that as the Rom.ans were never dejeded when they
loft a battle, fo they knew how to behave with mode-
ration when they were viclorious."

Very different was the behaviour of the Venetians
in their profperity, which they attributed folely to
their own bravery and good conduct, though without
the leaft reafon: for they became fo infolent, that they
called the Kins of France a Son of St. Mark, treated
the Pope and all the reft of the Italian Princes with
the utmoft difdain ; and, not content with their terri-
tories in Italy, vainly imagined they fhould foon ex^*

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