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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form of government, will find that he builds upon a
fandy foundation, if he does not fecure thofe that are
averfe to his new eftablifhment. Indeed I mull own,

* They were ordered by their own father to be put to death, who
a^ifted at the execution,

I think

Chap. XVI. The First Decad of Livy. 69

I think thofe princes unhappy, who are obliged to
have recourfe to violence, in order to maintain their
authority, when the multitude are their enemies •, for
thofe that are hated by a few only, m.ay eafily find
means to rid themfelves of them, without much Icandal
or offence ; but when the whole body of the people is
provoked, they never can be iafe : and the more
rigorous they are, the weaker will their government
become : fo that the befl way is, to make the people
their friends.

Now though this may feem inconfident with what I
have juil before laid down (as I was then fpeaking of
a Common-wealth, but now of a Prince) 1 fliall dif-
cufs the matter as briefly as I can in this place, that I
may have no occafion to revert to it hereafter. >

If then a Prince would recover the affections of a
people (I fpeak of fuch Princes as have loft them by
-becoming Tyrants) he mud in the firit place confjder
what they moft naturally and ardently defire ; and he
will find they chiefly wifli for two things ; one of
which is, revenge upon thofe that have been the oc*
cafion of their Qavery ; and the other, an opportunity
of rccoverino^ their liberties 1 in the former of which,
a Prince has it in his power to give them full fatis-
fadion ; bur, in the latter, only in fome meafure.
As to the firft cafe, the folio vving example is exadly
to the purpofe.

Clearchus, the Tyrant of Heraclea, having been
baniflied from thence, it happened that the Nobility,
finding themfelves too weak to cope with the Plebeians
in fome diflfenfions which arofe betwixt them, entered
into a confederacy with the Tyrant, and brought him
into the government again, to the great mortification
of the people, who thereby entirely loft their liberties.
But Ciearchus foon perceiving himfclf wholly in the
hands of the Nobility, who grew fo infolent and am-
bitious, that he coul4 neither latiate nor reftrain
them •, and that he v;as at the fame time expofed, on
the other hand, to the refentment of the people, who
were enraged to the laft degree, at the lofs of their

F i? liberties

'*]0 Political Discourses upojT BookT.

liberties, refolved to rid himfelf of the former, and
to make the latter his friends. Taking a convenient
opportunity, therefore, he had all the Nobility cut
to pieces, to the great fatisfadion of the people ; and,
in this manner, he gratified their revenge, one of the
two appetites abovementioned, which are fo natural
to them. — But, as to the other, that is, the dcfire of
having their liberty reflored, in which a Prince
cannot wholly comply with them ; he ought to ex-
amine upon what motives they fo pafTionately wifh
to be free; and he will find that fome few of them
do it out of ambition and a third of power; but
that the generality afpire to it, for no other realbn,
than that they may live in fecurity, and without
fear of opprefTion. For in all Governments, how-
foever they may be confiiruted, there are feldom
more than forty or fifty perfons that have any fhare
in the adminiftration i who bein<2; but few in com-
parifon with the reft, may eafily be guarded againll,
either by cutting them off, or by conferring fuch
honours and offices upon them, according to every
man's rank and importance; that they may all be
fatisfied. As to the others, who defire nothing
more than to live in fecurity, they are foon con-
tented, if fuch laws and provifions are made as are
fufficient to protedl them, as well as to fupport the
power of the Prince. When this is once done, and
the people obferve that their Prince does not at^
tempt to violate thofe laws upon any occafion what-
foever, they will be eafy, and think themfelves fafe.
A proof of this we may deduce from the Kingdom
of France, which entirely ovvcs its tranquility to the
obligation its Kings lie under to obferve an infinity of
laws, which effectually provide for the welfare of
their fubjcdls. By the fundamental conftitutions of
that Realm, the King may difpofe of his armies and
finances as he pleafes ; but in ail other things he is
circumfcribed by the laws.

Such Princes, therefore, or fuch Republics as cjid
not take proper care to fecure themfelves at firft,



Chap. XVIL The First Decad of Livy. 71

muft either feize the firfl opportunity of doing it af-
terwards, as the Romans did, or they will certainly
repent of it, when it is too late. For that people not
being yet thoroughly corrupted when they recovered
their liberty, after the expulfion of the Tarquins,
and the execution of the Tons of Brutus, were enabled
to maintain it, by fuch expedients as we have already
mentioned ; but if they had been totally debauched,
they could not have found any means fufficient to pre-
ferve it ; and this we (liall demonitrate in the en-
fuing Chapter.


If a corrupt People Jhculd happened to recover their Liber ty^
it is almojl impojftbk they Jhould preferve it,

IF the regal Government had continued any longer
at Rome, I am apt to believe, that City would
foon have become very weak and contemptible : for,
confidcring v^hat a pitch of corruption thofe Kings
were arrived ar, had it been propagated through two
or three other fucceeding reigns, and the people been
corrupted too, it would have been utterly impodible
to find any mean^ of refcuing it from deftiuction.
But as the body of the people ftill continued found,
after kingly authority was aboliihed, it did not prove
a matter of any great difficulty to reftore liberty and
good order. We mult lay it down then as a certain
truth, that a corrupted State, which has been accuf-
tomed to the dominion of a Prince, can never become
free, though that Prince and his v^hole race fhould be
cxtinguifhed. For fome new Lord will always ftarc
up, out of the ruins of his Prede:elTor ; nor will that
State ever be fettled till a good one fucceeds, whofe
virtue may poOlbly reftore liberty; but even this will
continue no longer than the life of fuch a perfon : as
it happened to Syracufe, at two different times, that
is, under the reigns of Dion and Timoleon, whofe

F 4 virtue

^2 Political Discourses upon ' Book I.'

virtue re-edablifhed liberty in that City whilft they
lived, though it relafped into flavery after they were
dead. But the moH; remarkable example is that of
the Romans themfelves, who, after the expulfion of
the Tarquins, prefently recovered their liberty, and
maintained it-, but after the death of Julius Caefar,
Caligula, Nero, and all that family, the fame people
were never able to make the lead flruCTo-Je for the


recovery of their liberties : and this contrariety of
events in that State proceeded only from hence, that
in the time of the Tarquins tlie people were not yet
debauched -, whereas in the reigns of the abovemen-
tioned Emperors, they had funk into the lowed
degree of corruption. For, at the former period, it
was fufficient to make them take an oath, that they
would never fuffer any one perfon to rule over them
dgain, in order to infpire them with an averfion to the
name of King, and to keep them firm in their refo-
Jution to defend their libert es ; but at the latter,
neither the authority nor rigour of Brutus, though
fupported by all the Legions in the Ead, were capa-
ble of making them ufe any endeavours to maintain
that freedom, which, after the example of the firtt
Brutus, he had attempted to reflore. This was owing
to the corruption that had been introduced amongft
the people by the Marian faction, of which Julius
Caefar being afterwards the Head, took fuch means
to dazzle the eyes of the multitude, that they were
not aware of the yoke which they themfelves were
rivetting upon their own necks.

Now, though perhaps what I have already faid,
may feem fufficient to prove the truth of my aflertion-,
yet, for a further corroboration of it, I fhall take
ieave to inflance another example or two of more
modern date, and fuch as may be more familiar, fince
they relate to tranfa6tions that happened amongd
people well known in our own times. I fay then,
that no accident or revolution whatfoever, could have
rcftored the liberties either of the Milanefe or Nea-
politans, becaufe their manners are totally corrupted »


Chap. XVIT. The First Decad of Livy. 7^

and this plainly appeared npon the death of Philip
Vifconti, when the City of Milan made feveral efforts
to recover its freedom, but could never effe6l it.
Happy therefore was it for Rome, that its Kings dif-
covered their corruption fo Ibon; as it caufed their
expulfion before the venom had time to fpread itfelf
amongft the people, and feize upon the vitals of tb'e
State: fo that the tumults and infurreclions which it
occafioned there, was fo far from being of any pre-
judice, that they were of the highefl iervice to the
people; becaufe the intentions of thofe that excited
them were juft and upright. From whence we may
drav/ this conclufion, that where the people are not
corrupted, tumults and commotions cannot injure any
State % but where they are debauched, the bcft laws
and inftitutions will fignify nothing, except they are en-
forced by f )me perfon of authority, v^ith fuch a degree
of rigour, as will compel the multitude to obey, and
become good by neceiTiry. Now, whether this has
ever been the cale, I confefs, I know not : nor am I
able to judge, with any certainty, whether it ever
can be : for, as 1 faid before, when a City is falling
to ruin, through the corruption of the people, if ic
fhould ever recover itfelf for a while, it mufl be
owing to the virtue of lome one man, and not to
the multitude, who have neither difpofuion or defire
to fee eood order reftored, nor power to maintain it
afterwards. And even in that cafe, it will fink again
into its former confufion, as (oon as fuch a perfon is
dead : as it happened to the Thebans, who were
enabled, by the virtue of Epaminondas, to keep up
the form of a republic whilit he lived \ but after his
dea;h it was quickly difiblved : the reafon of which,
is, that the life of one man is not lufiicient to ac-
cuftom a State to liv^ quietly under whblfome laws
and infiiitutions, which has been lone ufed to riot in
mifrule and licentioufnefs. And if one good man
fhould either live to extreme old age, or be fucceeded
by another equally virtuous, and neither of them can
worli qi thorough reformation in the people, every


74 Political Discourses UPON Book L

thing will go to wreck and ruin again when they die;
vmlels, as 1 before obferved, it is prevented by much
bloodfhed and. running great rifques : for this cor-
ruption and inaptitude to live in freedom arifes from
an inequality in the State ; and, in order to abolilh
that, it is abfoiutely neceflary to ufe very extraordi-
nary means indeed, which few people neither know,
or would care to put in pradtice if they did, as fhall
be fiiewn more particular in another place *.


How Liberty may be fupported in a corrupt State^ where
it has been once efiablipoed \ and. in uhat manner it
may be introduced^ if it was not efiaUijhed there before,

T may appear neither unnecefTary nor inconfiftent
with the foregoing difcourfe, to confider whether
Liberty can be maintained in a corrupted ^tate,
where it has been onceeftablifhed ; and whether it is
polTiblc to introduce it, if it was not eftablilhed there
before. I fay then that it will be very difficult to do
cither : and though it is almofl impodible to prefcribe
any certain rules to be obferved for the accomplifh-
ment of fuch a plan, (becaufe it will be neceflary to
proceed according to the degree of corruption in that
5tate) yet, in order to form fome judgment of the
matter, I fliall here enter into a difcuilion of it.

We muil therefore fuppofe fuch a State to be cor-
rupted to the lad degree, in v^hich cafe the difficulty
will be exceeding great ; nay, indeed, it is almoft
impoffiblc that any laws or regulations whatlbever
fhould be efficacious enough to reform a State, where
the depravation is univerfal : for as good Manners
cannot lubfifl without good Laws, fo thole Laws cannot
be put in execution without good Manners -f. Be-

* See the 26th and 55th Chapters of this book.

f " Political writers," fays the Author of the Eftimate of the Man-
ners and Principles of the Times, vol. II. fei5l. xi. ** have generally
" attributed the full of Suites to fome defedtivs, falfe, or improper


Chap. XVIII. The First Decad of Livy. 75
fides, the Laws that were made when a State was ia
its infancy, and whiift the morals of the people were
yet untainted, will no longer ferve the purpofe of
government, after men are become wicked and cor-
rupt : for though the laws of a State may be altered
upon various accidents and emiCrgencies, yet the
fundamental conftitutions are feldom or never chang-
ed ; upon which account, new Laws are not fufficient,
becaufe the ancient infcitutions, which remain in force,
often make them liable to be perverted.

For a further explanation of this matter, it is ne-
xellary to obfervc, that in Rome certain fundamen-

** Principle woven into the original Conftitution of their Laws." — —
Now this, in that extent in which it is generally affirmed and under-
ftood, I'eems an entire miftake. For Salutary Principles and Manners
will of themfelves fecure the duration of a State, with very ill mo-
delled Laws : whereas the bell Laws can never fecure tJie duration
of a State, where its Manners and Principles are corrupted. Of thefe
truths, Hiftory aiTords inflances abundant. The general defe6l there-
fore of political Inftitutions hath been, their not etfeclually providing
for the continuance and liability of Principles and Manners ; of Re-
ligion, Public Spirit, Honour, Temperance, Fortitude. This truth
will perhaps be readily allowed, as it regards nations that are deeply
funk in effeminacy, and ready to be fwallowed up by foine warlike
neighbour. But it is nolefs certain, as it regards the internal balance
of power in any nation whatfoevcr ; although VDlumes have been
written on that fiibjeft, without fo much as taking this truth into
the account. To offer one inltance out of innumerable that might

be brought from every period of Hiftory. It is the fole force of

Manners and a Principle, that prevents France from falling inro the
deepell and moll abandoned Defpotifm. Tiiis Principle and its cor-
refpondent Manners give the French many of the Bltfiings of Lioerty;
whiift their mere polirical Conftitution favours as much of Defpotifnv
as that of many of their neighbours, who feel all tiie rigours of op-

Hence then appears the important ufe of inveftigating the real and
particular State of the Manners and Principles of a Common-wealth ;
f-nce, though it is a circumltance totally overlooked by many fuper-
ficial Pretende)-s to political Science, and loofeiy and blindly de-
claimed upon by others, yet it is the only method by which we can
rationally determine the Itrength or weaknefs, the danger or fecurity

of a State. r-And here the penetrating Machiavel feems to have

erred in his determination upon this point He fays, ** As good
** Manners cannot fubmit without good Laws, fo thofe Laws cannot
** be put in execution without good Manners." The latter part of
the Sentence is a gieat truth ; the former part is a vulgar error. So
long as the cauies of corrupt Manners are abfent, good Manners
preferve themfelves without La^s, or with bad Laws. Good Laws
are only then neceffary, as the means of prevention, vvhsn corrupt
Manners or Cuiloms take place.


76 Political Discourses upon Book I.

tal inflitLuions of government were firft ellablifhed,
and afterwards Laws were enabled by whjch the Ma-
giftrates kept the Citizens in their duty. By thefe
inftitutions, the Government was divided betwixt the
People and the Senate, the Tribunes and the Con-
iuls ; and forms ellablifhed for the follicitation of
public offices, the creation of iMagiflrates, and cn-
ading Laws : all which inditutions were little or not
at all changed in the various revolutions which after-
wards happened in that State. The Laws, however,
which were calculated to reflrain the licentioufnefs of
the people, as thofe againft adultery and ambition,
the fumptuary Laws, and feveral others, were
either made or altered at different times, as the
Citizens grew worfe and worfc. But the ancient in-
fl:itutions, which ftill fubfifled, at lad becoming in-
effecftual v/hen the people grew corrupt, the new
Laws were neither proper nor fulncent to keep
men in due bounds-, yec they would have beea
highly fo, if the old inilitutions had been altered
iind accommodated to thern wht-n thevvvere intro-
duccd. And that this was the facl, plainly appears
from the forms they obferved in creating Magiftrates
and enavfting Laws : for, in the former cafe, the Ro-
inans never conferred either the Confulfliip, or other
great offices in the Commonwealth, upon any one that
had not foUicited them. Now this inftitution, with-
out doubt, was good in the beginning of that Republic,
becaufe it was iuppofed that no Citizen would venture
to foliicit thofe honours, except i.e was confcious to
himfelf that he had nierited them: and that as a re-
pulfe would be attended with ignominy, every man, in
order to make himfelf worthy of them, would endea-
vour to behave well. But in courfe of time, when
the Citizens were become exceedingly corrupt, this
cuftom, inflead of anfwerin^^ the firft defion of it,
was of very great prejudice : for then thofe that
had the moft power, and not thofe that v^ere the
mod virtuous, began to foliicit the liigheft honours
in the ft^te -, whilft thofe that were poor, though


Chap. XVIII. The First Decad of Livy. 77

thev were good men, durft not oftcr themlclves as
Candidates, for fear of meeting with a difgraceful re-
buff^. This inconvenience did not come upon the
Romans all at once, but ftep by ftep, and, like moft
other evils, gradually: for, after they had conquered
Afia and Africa, and reduced by much the greater
part of Greece to fubjeclion, they began to grow too
fecure and negligent of their liberties, as they thought
they had nothing to apprehend from any other quarter.
To this fatal fecurity on the one hand, and the weak-
nefs of their enemies on the other, it was owing, thac
in difpofing of the Confulfhip, and other honours,
they no longer had fo much regard to merit and ca-
pacity, as to private favour, and advancing fuch men-
to thefe dignities, as were better vcrfed in the arts of
treating, and of canvafiing votes at an eledlion, than
in thofe of conquering an enemy. From this, they
afterwards proceeded to prefer thofe that were the
richeft and mofl: powerful : fo that through the defect
of the original Inftitution, all good and virtuous men
were totally excluded from any (hare in the Admi-

In the other cafe, that is, in making Laws, a Tri-
bune, or any other Citizen, was at liberty to propofe
a new one to the people ; thac fo every one might
fpeak either for or againft it, before it was paffed, if

• Upon t]>is paiTIige, the late quoted Author fays, vol. II. fedl. xiii.
" Mark the uniform efFefts of the n^ine Principles and Caufcs, woi k-
*♦ ing at the diftance of two thoufand years. As the times were tu-
«' multuous till the Union of the Koules of York and Lancatter, it
** was common before that period for Sheriffs to omit or excufe the
*' not making returns for feveral of the Boroughs within their Coun-
*' ties. Soi.netimes giving for the reafon of their omilli >n, that thefe
" Boroughs were not able to fend any Burgefles, becaufe of their Po-
** verty, which was never then complained of, or objedled to by the
•* Boroughs themfelves; though feveial a6fs of Parliament had beea
*' made to compel the Sherjffi to make returns for all the Boroughs :
" nay, fever.d of the Boroughs, after they had once or twice fent up
** their Reprefentatives, found the burden too great, and procured
** perpetual exemptions, which remain to this day." — How differently
do we value this Right at prefent, when no price is thouglit too great
for the purchafe of a Borough ; and no Family, how ancient or ho-
nourable foever, is of any confcquencs, but in proportion to thefe
modern poffeffigns ?


78 PoLiTJCAL Discourses upon Book L

he pleafed : and this likewife was a good Inftitution
whilll the people continued uncorrupc. For then ic
was certainly of Advantage to the State, that any one
who thought himfelf capable of doing the public
a fervice, fliould have leave to offer his propofals : and
that every other perfon fhould be indulged with the
privilege of declaring his opinion of them -, to the
end, that when both fides of the queftion had been
thoroughly examined and difcufled, the people might
chufe that which feemed upon the whole to be moft
reafonable and convenient. But after the Citizens had
loft their virtue, this Inftitution alfo was attended with
very bad confequences, becaufe none but great and
powerful men were then allowed to propofe any law
to the people ; of which they made fo ill an ufe, that
they feldom propofed any thing, but what contributed
more to cftablifti and augment their own power and
perfonal intereft, than to benefit the public : and,
what was ftili v/crfe, the people were become fo ab-
jeft and corrupt, that no-body durft oppofe thefe in-
EOvators : fo that being either deceived by their arti-
fices, or over-awed by their power, they were forced
to confent to their own ruin.

In order therefore to have preferved the liberties of
Rome, even after it became fo corrupt, it was necef-
fary, as they made new laws, to have altered the fun-
damental Inftitutions alfo : for good men and bad are
to be governed in a very different manner, and where
the matter is not the fame, the forms ought to be va-
ried. But fince thefe Inftitutions muft be altered, ei-
ther all at once, as focn as their inconvenience is ge-
nerally acknowledged •, or by little and little, before it
is obvious to every one ; I fay that it is hardly poffible
to do either •, for to alter them by degrees, the wif-
dom of fome provident and fagacious Citizen is requi-
fite, who can forefee the danger at a diftance, and
warn the people of it before it happens. Perhaps,
however, fuch a man may never be born in a particu-
lar State ; and if there Ihould, ]]e may not be able to
convince others of the expediency of what he himfelf


Chap. XVIIL The First Decad of Livr. y'p

perceives neceflary : for when men have been long ac-
cuftomed to any way of life, it is no eafy matter to in-
troduce a change amongil them ; efpecially if they do
not immediately fee the evil that is apprehended with
their own eyes, but are to be wrought upon by argu-
ments and probable conjedlures. — As for altering thefe
Inftitutions all at once, when every body perceives
they are no longer of any fervice, but far otherwife ;
J fay that it is much more eafy to firtd out the incon-
venience than to remedy it : becaufe this cannot be
done by ordinary means, when thofe very means
themfelves have lod their efficacy, and would event
contribute to a contrary end. Recourfe therefore
mufl neccfiarily be had to extraordinary means, fuch
as force and arms : for a man cannot new model a
State as he pleafes, except he firfl feizes upon the go-
vernm,enr, and takes it wholly into his own hands.
Now as he mud be fuppofed to be a good man who
is defirous to reform a State ; and another a bad man,
who makes uk of violence to ^et the government of
it entirely into his hands ; it very fcldom happens
that an honeft man will avail himfelf of forcible and
injurious methods to become abfolute, be his inten-
tions ever fo upright -, or that a wicked man, when
he has made himfelf fo, will ever do any good, or
employ that authority well, which he has done fa
much evil to acquire.

From what has been faid, it will appear how diiH-
cult, or rather how impofiible it is, either to maintain
liberty, or to re-eftablifli it, if loft, in any State,
when the people are become corrupt : but if any
means could be found out to effecl either, I fhould
think it muft be by reducing it nearer the ftandard of
a monarchical than of a popular Government ; that
fo the infolence of fuch as could not be kept within

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