The Full Wiki

Machiavelli: Wikis


Note: Many of our articles have direct quotes from sources you can cite, within the Wikipedia article! This article doesn't yet, but we're working on it! See more info or our list of citable articles.


(Redirected to Niccolò Machiavelli article)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Niccolò di Bernardo dei Machiavelli

Portrait of Niccolò Machiavelli by Santi di Tito
Full name Niccolò di Bernardo dei Machiavelli
Born 3 May 1469(1469-05-03)
Florence, Italy
Died 21 June 1527 (aged 58)
Florence, Italy
Era Renaissance philosophy
Region Western Philosophers
School Renaissance philosophy, realism, classical republicanism
Main interests Politics, military theory, history

Niccolò di Bernardo dei Machiavelli (3 May 1469 – 21 June 1527) was an Italian philosopher/writer, and is considered one of the main founders of modern political science.[1] He was a diplomat, political philosopher, musician, and a playwright, but foremost, he was a civil servant of the Florentine Republic. In June of 1498, after the ouster and execution of Girolamo Savonarola, the Great Council elected Machiavelli as Secretary to the second Chancery of the Republic of Florence.[2]

Like Leonardo da Vinci, Machiavelli is considered a good example of the Renaissance Man. He is most famous for a short political treatise, The Prince, written in 1513, but not published until 1532, five years after Machiavelli's death. Although he privately circulated The Prince among friends, the only work he published in his lifetime was The Art of War, about high-military science. Since the sixteenth century, generations of politicians remain attracted and repelled by the cynical approach to power posited in The Prince and his other works.[3] Whatever his personal intentions, which are still debated today, his surname yielded the modern political word Machiavellianism—the use of cunning and deceitful tactics in politics.



Machiavelli was born in Florence, Italy, the third son of attorney Bernardo di Niccolò Machiavelli, and his wife, Bartolomea di Stefano Nelli. The Machiavelli family are believed descended from the old marquesses of Tuscany, and to have produced thirteen Florentine Gonfalonieres of Justice.[4], one of the offices of a group of nine citizens selected by drawing lots every two months, who formed the government, or Signoria.

Statue at the Uffizi

Machiavelli was born in a tumultuous era—Popes waged war, and the wealthy Italian city-states might anytime fall, piecemeal, to foreign powers—France, Spain, the Holy Roman Empire—and political-military alliances continually changed, featuring condottieri who changed sides without warning, and weeks-long governments rising and falling.[citation needed]

Rigorously trained to manhood by his father, Machiavelli was taught grammar, rhetoric and Latin. He did not learn Greek, even though Florence was at the time one of the centers of Greek scholarship in Europe. In 1494, he entered Florentine government service as a clerk and as an ambassador; later that year, Florence restored the republic—expelling the Medici family, who had ruled Florence for some sixty years. He was in a diplomatic council responsible for negotiation and military affairs, undertaking, between 1499 and 1512, diplomatic missions to the courts of Louis XII in France, Ferdinand II of Aragón, in Spain, and the Papacy in Rome, in Italy proper. Moreover, from 1502 to 1503, he witnessed the effective state-building methods of soldier-churchman Cesare Borgia (1475 – 1507), who was then enlarging his central Italian territories.

Between 1503 and 1506, Machiavelli was responsible for the Florentine militia, including the City’s defense. He distrusted mercenaries (cf. Discourses, The Prince), preferring a politically-invested citizen-militia, a philosophy that bore fruit—his command of Florentine citizen-soldiers defeated Pisa in 1509; yet, in August of 1512, the Medici, helped by Pope Julius II, used Spanish troops to defeat the Florentines at Prato; Piero Soderini resigned as Florentine head of state, and left in exile; then, the Florentine city-state and the Republic were dissolved. For his significant role in the republic's anti-Medici government, Niccolò Machiavelli was deposed from office, and, in 1513, was accused of conspiracy, and arrested. Despite torture "with the rope" (the prisoner is hanged from his bound wrists, from the back, forcing the arms to bear the body's weight, thus dislocating the shoulders), he denied involvement and was released; then, retiring to his estate, at Sant'Andrea in Percussina, near Florence, he wrote the political treatises that earned his intellectual place in the development of political philosophy and political conduct. [5]

Machiavelli's cenotaph in the Santa Croce Church in Florence

In a letter to Francesco Vettori, he described his exile:

When evening comes, I return home [from work and from the local tavern] and go to my study. On the threshold, I strip naked, taking off my muddy, sweaty work day clothes, and put on the robes of court and palace, and, in this graver dress, I enter the courts of the ancients, and am welcomed by them, and there I taste the food that alone is mine, and for which I was born. And there I make bold to speak to them and ask the motives of their actions, and they, in their humanity, reply to me. And for the space of four hours I forget the world, remember no vexation, fear poverty no more, tremble no more at death; I pass indeed into their world. [6]

As a writer, Machiavelli identified the unifying theme in The Prince and the Discorsi:

All cities that ever, at any time, have been ruled by an absolute prince, by aristocrats, or by the people, have had for their protection force combined with prudence, because the latter is not enough alone, and the first either does not produce things, or when they are produced, does not maintain them. Force and prudence, then, are the might of all the governments that ever have been or will be in the world. [7]

Machiavelli died in 1527. He was buried at the Church of Santa Croce in Florence, Italy. An epitaph honouring him is inscribed in a small monument. The Latin legend reads: TANTO NOMINI NULLUM PAR ELOGIUM (No eulogy would be adequate to praise so great a name).



The Prince

Bust of Machiavelli in the Palazzo Vecchio


The Prince's contribution to the history of political thought is the fundamental break between political Realism and political Idealism. Niccolò Machiavelli’s best-known book exposits and describes the arts with which a ruling prince can maintain control of his realm. It concentrates on the "new prince", under the presumption that a hereditary prince has an easier task in ruling, since the people are accustomed to him. To retain power, the hereditary prince must carefully maintain the socio-political institutions to which the people are accustomed; whereas a new prince has the more difficult task in ruling, since he must first stabilize his new-found power in order to build an enduring political structure. That requires the prince being a public figure above reproach, whilst privately acting amorally to achieve State goals. The examples are those princes who most successfully obtain and maintain power, drawn from his observations as a Florentine diplomat, and his ancient history readings; thus, the Latin phrases and Classic examples.

The Prince does not dismiss morality, instead, it politically defines “Morality”—as in the criteria for acceptable cruel action—it must be decisive: swift, effective, and short-lived. Machiavelli is aware of the irony of good results coming from evil actions; notwithstanding some mitigating themes, the Catholic Church proscribed The Prince, registering it to the Index Librorum Prohibitorum, moreover, the Humanists also viewed the book negatively, among them, Erasmus of Rotterdam. As a treatise, its primary intellectual contribution to the history of political thought is the fundamental break between political Realism and political Idealism—thus, The Prince is a manual to acquiring and keeping political power. In contrast with Plato and Aristotle, a Classical ideal society is not the aim of the prince’s will to power. As a political scientist, Machiavelli emphasises necessary, methodical exercise of brute force punishment-and-reward (patronage, clientelism, et cetera) to preserve the status quo.


As there seems to be a very large difference between Machiavelli's advice to ruthless and tyrannical princes in The Prince and his more republican exhortations in Discorsi, many have concluded that The Prince is actually only a satire. Jean-Jacques Rousseau, for instance, admired Machiavelli the republican and consequently argued that The Prince is a book for the republicans as it exposes the methods used by princes. If the book was only intended as a manual for tyrannical rulers, it contains a paradox: it would apparently be more effective if the secrets it contains would not be made publicly available. Also Antonio Gramsci argued that Machiavelli's audience was the common people because the rulers already knew these methods through their education. This interpretation is supported by the fact that Machiavelli wrote in Italian, not in Latin (which would have been the language of the ruling elite). Although Machiavelli is supposed to be a realist, many of his heroes in The Prince are in fact mythical or semi-mythical, and his goal (i.e. the unification of Italy) essentially utopian at the time of writing.


Sixteenth-century contemporaries adopted and used the adjective Machiavellian (in the sense of devious cunning), often in the introductions of political tracts offering more than government by “Reasons of State”, most notably those of Jean Bodin and Giovanni Botero. Contemporary, pejorative usage of Machiavellian (or anti-Machiavellism in the 16th C.) is a misnomer describing someone who deceives and manipulates others for gain; (personal or not, the gain is immaterial, only action matters, insofar as it affects results). The Prince hasn’t the moderating themes of his other works; politically, “Machiavelli” denotes someone of politically-extreme perspective;[8] however Machiavellianism remains a popular speech and journalism usage; while in psychology, it denotes a personality type.


Sebastiano del Piombo,1516,"Cardinal Bandinello Sauli, His Secretary, and Two Geographers." Which is often mistaken for Machiavelli (center right) depicted: (left-right) Cesare Borgia, Pedro Luis de Borja Lanzol de Romaní, and Don Micheletto Corella

The Discourse on the First Ten Books of Titus Livy comprises the early history of Rome. It is a series of lessons on how a republic should be started and structured, including the concept of checks and balances, the strength of a tri-partite political structure, and the superiority of a republic over a principality.

From The Discourses:

  • “In fact, when there is combined under the same constitution a prince, a nobility, and the power of the people, then these three powers will watch and keep each other reciprocally in check”. Book I, Chapter II
  • “Doubtless these means [of attaining power] are cruel and destructive of all civilized life, and neither Christian, nor even human, and should be avoided by every one. In fact, the life of a private citizen would be preferable to that of a king at the expense of the ruin of so many human beings”. Book I, Chapter XXVI
  • “Now, in a well-ordered republic, it should never be necessary to resort to extra-constitutional measures. . . . ” Book I, Chapter XXXIV
  • “. . . the governments of the people are better than those of princes”. Book I, Chapter LVIII
  • “. . . if we compare the faults of a people with those of princes, as well as their respective good qualities, we shall find the people vastly superior in all that is good and glorious”. Book I, Chapter LVIII
  • “For government consists mainly in so keeping your subjects that they shall be neither able, nor disposed to injure you. . . . ” Book II, Chapter XXIII
  • “. . . no prince is ever benefited by making himself hated”. Book III, Chapter XIX
  • “Let not princes complain of the faults committed by the people subjected to their authority, for they result entirely from their own negligence or bad example”. Book III, Chapter XXIX [9]

Other works

Peter Withorne’s 1573 translation of the Art of War

Besides being a statesman and political scientist, Machiavelli also translated classical works, and was a dramaturge (Clizia, Mandragola), a poet (Sonetti, Canzoni, Ottave, Canti carnascialeschi), and a novelist (Belfagor arcidiavolo).

Some of his other works:

Revival of interest in the 19th and 20th centuries

Despite remaining a politically-influential writer in the 17th and 18th centuries, it was the 19th and 20th centuries that rediscovered his political science for its intellectual and practical applications. The most reliable guide to this renewed interest is the Introduction to the 1953 (Mentor Books) edition of Il Principe, wherein Christian Gauss, the Dean of Princeton University, discusses, with pertinent historical context, the commentaries on The Prince made by the German historians Ranke (19th c.) and Meineke (20th c.), the Briton Lord Acton, and others. Citing the consensus that Machiavelli was the first political theorist with a practical, scientific approach to statecraft, considering him “the first Modern Man”. The commentators view the political scientist Machiavelli positively—because he viewed the world realistically, thus, such statecraft leads to (generally) constructive results.

In the 20th century there was also renewed interest in Machiavelli's La Mandragola (1518), which received numerous stagings, including several in New York, at the New York Shakespeare Festival in 1976 and the Riverside Shakespeare Company in 1979, and at London's National Theatre in 1984.[10]

Contributions to Political Philosophy

Machiavelli was in many respects not an innovator. His largest political work seeks to bring back a rebirth of the Ancient Roman Republic; its values, virtues and principles the ultimate guiding authority of his political vision. Machiavelli is essentially a restorer of something old and forgotten. The republicanism he focused on, especially the theme of civic virtue, became one of the dominant political themes of the modern world, and was a central part of the foundation of American political values.

Machiavelli studied the way people lived and aimed to inform leaders how they should rule and even how they themselves should live. To an extent he admits that the old tradition was true - men are obliged to live virtuously as according to Aristotles Virtue Ethics principle. However, he denies that living virtuously necessarily leads to happiness. Machiavelli viewed misery as one of the vices that enables a prince to rule [11] Machiavelli states boldly in The Prince, The answer is, of course, that it would be best to be both loved and feared. But since the two rarely come together, anyone compelled to choose will find greater security in being feared than in being loved. [12] In much of Machiavelli's work, it seems that the ruler must adopt unsavory policies for the sake of the continuance of his regime.

Hans Baron was the most influential scholar to study Machiavelli. Najemy (1996) examines Baron's ambivalent portrayal, arguing that Baron tended to see Machiavelli simultaneously as the cynical debunker and the faithful heir of civic humanism. By the mid-1950s, Baron had come to consider civic humanism and Florentine republicanism as early chapters of a much longer history of European political liberty, a story in which Machiavelli and his generation played a crucial role. This conclusion led Baron to modify his earlier negative view of Machiavelli. He tried to bring the Florentine theorist under the umbrella of civic humanism by underscoring the radical differences between The Prince and the Discourses and thus revealing the fundamentally republican character of the Discourses. However, Baron's inability to come to terms with Machiavelli's harsh criticism of early 15th-century commentators such as Leonardo Bruni ultimately prevented him from fully reconciling Machiavelli with civic humanism.

Pocock (1981) traces the Machiavellian belief in and emphasis upon Greco-Roman ideals of unspecialized civic virtue and liberty from 15th-century Florence through 17th-century England and Scotland to 18th-century America. Thinkers who shared these ideals tended to believe that the function of property was to maintain an individual's independence as a precondition of his virtue. Consequently, in the last two times and places mentioned above, they were disposed to attack the new commercial and financial regime that was beginning to develop. However, Paul Rahe (1992) takes issue with Pocock on the origins and argues Machiavelli's republicanism was not rooted in antiquity but was is entirely novel and modern. Scholars have argued that James Madison followed Machiavelli's republicanism when he (and Jefferson) set up the Democratic-Republican Party in the 1790s to oppose what they saw as the emerging aristocracy that they feared Alexander Hamilton was creating with the Federalist Party.[13] Conservative historians likewise conclude that Thomas Jefferson's republicanism was "deeply in debt" to Machiavelli, whom he praised.[14]

Realist or evil?

For four centuries scholars have debated whether Machiavelli was the theorist of evil or just being realistic. The Prince made the word "Machiavellian" a byword for deceit, despotism, and political manipulation. Some historians argue Machiavelli had a secret (or very subtle) message that explains away the ugly implications of the plain text, saying that Machiavelli really favored virtue after all and was just trying to trick princes into policies that would lead to their overthrow, not their triumph.[15]

Leo Strauss, the American political philosopher, declared himself more inclined toward the traditional view that Machiavelli was a "teacher of evil," since he counsels the princes to avoid the values of justice, mercy, temperance, wisdom, and love of their people in preference to the use of cruelty, violence, fear, and deception.[16] Italian anti-fascist philosopher Benedetto Croce (1925) concludes Machiavelli is simply a "realist" or "pragmatist" who accurately states that moral values in reality do not greatly affect the decisions that political leaders make.[17] German philosopher Ernst Cassirer (1946) held that Machiavelli simply adopts the stance of a political scientist—a Galileo of politics—in distinguishing between the "facts" of political life and the "values" of moral judgment.[18]

Thoughts on the State

Machiavelli was not a political philosopher in the ordinary sense. He did not try either to define the State or to justify its existence. His views about the State are implied as matter of course when he describes how a ruler may retain or acquire control, how he is liable to lose it, which qualities are necessary for a republic to remain strong, or how precarious a Republic’s liberty can be at times. Medieval thinkers had taken the political authority of any prince or king in the community of Christendom to be necessarily limited – by the Emperor (In the case of the Holy Roman Empire), by the power of the Roman Catholic Church in spiritual matters and by the power of natural law (Universal moral principles) that determine the boundaries of justice. Machiavelli did not challenge this long held traditional position. He ignored it, writing as a matter of fact that the state had absolute authority. He thought that the value of religion lies in its contribution to social order and the rules of morality must be dispensed with if security required it.

Machiavelli further differed from medieval thinkers in taking for granted that the power of the state is a single whole and can be centrally controlled, irrespective of whether the state is a monarchy or a republic. He preferred a republic because he preferred liberty. However, he believed that in order for the liberty of republicanism to function, it needed a citizenry who were independent and courageous (Virtuous). Machiavelli believed these qualities were rare and existed hardly anywhere in the Europe of his day since the Romans.

Impact on America

The Founding Fathers read Machiavelli closely. In his Defence of the Constitutions of Government of the United States, Adams praised Machiavelli, with Algernon Sidney and Montesquieu, as a philosophic defender of mixed government. For Adams, Machiavelli restored empirical reason to politics, while his analysis of factions was commendable. Adams likewise agreed with the Florentine that human nature was immutable and driven by passions. He also accepted Machiavelli's belief that all societies were subject to cyclical periods of growth and decay. For Adams, Machiavelli lacked only a clear understanding of the institutions necessary for good government.[19]

See also


  1. ^ Moschovitis Group Inc, Christian D. Von Dehsen and Scott L. Harris, Philosophers and religious leaders, (The Oryx Press, 1999), 117.
  2. ^ White, Michael (2007). Machiavelli, A Man Misunderstood. Abacus.. ISBN 978-0-349-11599-3. 
  3. ^ S. Anglo, Machiavelli: the first century (Oxford, 2005)
  4. ^  "Niccolò Machiavelli". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. 1913. 
  5. ^ Donna, Daniel, in the introduction to the Bantam Classic edition of The Prince, Bantam, 1966
  6. ^ The Literary Works of Machiavelli, trans. J.R. Hale. (Oxford: 1961), p. 139 D.
  7. ^ "Words to be Spoken on the Law for Appropriating Money", in Chief Works and Others [of Machiavelli], trans. Allan H. Gilbert, 3 vols. (Durham, NC: Duke Univ. Press, 1965), v. III, 1439.
  8. ^ In one scholar's assessment, mistakenly so. Writes Anthony Parel: "The authentic Machiavelli is one who subordinates personal interests for the common good . . . If one is to speak of a Machiavellian personality one should mention Moses and Romulus (to use [M's] own examples)." For more on the three sources of historical anti-Machiavellism, see Further Reading, Parel, pp. 14-24, and (in far greater detail): Sydney Anglo, Machiavelli - the First Century: Studies in Enthusiasm, Hostility, and Irrelevance, Oxford University Press, 2005, ISBN 0199267766, 9780199267767.
  9. ^ The Modern Library, New York, 1950, translated by Christian E. Detmold.
  10. ^ Review by Jann Racquoi, Heights/Inwood Press of North Manhattan, March 14, 1979.
  11. ^ Leo Strauss, Joseph Cropsey, History of Political Philosophy (1987) p. 300
  12. ^ Niccolò Machiavelli, The Prince, p. 60
  13. ^ Gary Rosen in Rahe, ed. Machiavelli's Liberal Republican Legacy (2005) p. 231 online
  14. ^ Rahe, Jefferson's Machiavellian Political Science in Rahe, ed. Machiavelli's Liberal Republican Legacy (2005) p. 209 online
  15. ^ John Langton and Mary G. Deitz, "Machiavelli's Paradox: Trapping or Teaching the Prince" The American Political Science Review, Vol. 81, No. 4 (Dec., 1987), pp. 1277-1288 at JSTOR
  16. ^ Leo Strauss, Thoughts on Machiavelli (1957), p 9 online
  17. ^ Benedetto Croce, My Philosophy (1949), p. 142 online
  18. ^ Ernst Cassirer, The Myth of the State, (1946) p.136, online
  19. ^ C. Bradley Thompson, "John Adams's Machiavellian Moment," Review of Politics 1995 57(3): 389-417, in EBSCO


  • Machiavelli, Niccolò (1531). The Discourses. Translated by Leslie J. Walker, S.J, revisions by Brian Richardson (2003). London: Penguin Books. ISBN 0-140-44428-9

Further reading

  • Anglo, Sydney, Machiavelli - the First Century: Studies in Enthusiasm, Hostility, and Irrelevance, Oxford University Press, 2005, ISBN 0199267766, 9780199267767
  • Baron, Hans (1961). "Machiavelli: the Republican Citizen and Author of The Prince". English Historical Review lxxvi (76): 217–253. doi:10.1093/ehr/LXXVI.CCXCIX.217. 
  • Bock, Gisela; Quentin Skinner and Maurizio Viroli, ed. (1990). Machiavelli and Republicanism. Cambridge University Press. 
  • Constantine, Peter (2007). The Essential Writings of Machiavelli. New York: Random House Modern Library. 
  • Donaldson, Peter S. (1989). Machiavelli and Mystery of State. Cambridge University Press. 
  • Everdell, William R. (1983, 2000). The End of Kings: A History of Republics and Republicans. University of Chicago Press. 
  • Hoeges, Dirk. Niccolò Machiavelli. Dichter-Poeta. Mit sämtlichen Gedichten, deutsch/italienisch. Con tutte le poesie, tedesco/italiano, Reihe: Dialoghi/Dialogues: Literatur und Kultur Italiens und Frankreichs, Band 10, Peter Lang Verlag, Frankfurt/M. u.a. 2006, ISBN 3-631-54669-6.
  • Ingersoll, David E. (December 1968). "The Constant Prince: Private Interests and Public Goals in Machiavelli". Western Political Quarterly (21): 588–596. 
  • Magee, Brian (2001). The Story of Philosophy. New York: DK Publishing. pp. 72–73. 
  • Marriott, W. K. (2008). The Prince. Red and Black Publishers.  ISBN 978-0-934941-003
  • Roger Masters (1996). Machiavelli, Leonardo and the Science of Power. University of Notre Dame Press. ISBN 0-268-01433-7.  See also NYT book review.
  • Roger Masters (1998). Fortune is a River: Leonardo Da Vinci and Niccolo Machiavelli's Magnificent Dream to Change the Course of Florentine History. Simon & Schuster. ISBN 0-452-28090-7.  Also available in Chinese (ISBN 9789572026113), Japanese (ISBN 9784022597588), German (ISBN 9783471794029), Portuguese (ISBN 9788571104969), and Korean (ISBN 9788984070059). See also NYT book review.
  • Mattingly, Garrett (Autumn 1958). "Machiavelli's Prince: Political Science or Political Satire?". The American Scholar (27): 482–491. 
  • Najemy, John M. (1996). "Baron's Machiavelli and Renaissance Republicanism". American Historical Review 101 (101,1): 119–129. doi:10.2307/2169227. 
  • Parel, Anthony (1972). "Introduction: Machiavelli's Method and His Interpreters". The Political Calculus: Essays on Machiavelli's Philosophy. Toronto. pp. 3–28. 
  • Pocock, J.G. A.. The Machiavellian Moment: Florentine Political Thought and the Atlantic Republican Tradition. Princeton. 
  • Soll, Jacob (2005). Publishing The Prince: History, Reading and the Birth of Political Criticism. University of Michigan Press. 
  • Strauss, Leo (1978). Thoughts on Machiavelli. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. ISBN 0226777022. 
  • Sullivan, Vickie B., ed. (2000). The Comedy and Tragedy of Machiavelli: Essays on the Literary Works. Yale U. Press. 
  • Sullivan, Vickie B. (1996). Machiavelli's Three Romes: Religion, Human Liberty, and Politics Reformed. Northern Illinois University Press. 
  • Seung, T. K. (1993). Intuition and Construction: The Foundation of Normative Theory, New Haven: Yale University Press. See pp. 133–43.
  • Stefano Zen, Veritas ecclesiastica e Machiavelli, in Monarchia della verità. Modelli culturali e pedagogia della Controriforma, Napoli, Vivarium, 2002 (La Ricerca Umanistica, 4), pp. 73–111.
  • von Vacano, Diego, "The Art of Power: Machiavelli, Nietzsche and the Making of Aesthetic Political Theory," Lanham MD: Lexington: 2007.
  • Viroli, Maurizio (2000). Niccolò's Smile: A Biography of Machiavelli. Farrar, Straus & Giroux. 
  • Whelan, Frederick G. (2004). Hume and Machiavelli: Political Realism and Liberal Thought. Lexington. 
  • Wootton, David, ed. (1994). Selected political writings of Niccolò Machiavelli. Indianapolis: Hackett Pubs.. 
  • Mascia Ferri, L'opinione pubblica e il sovrano in Machiavelli, in «The Lab's Quarterly»,n.2 aprile-giugno,Università di Pisa,2008, pp. 420–433.
  • Giuseppe Leone,"Silone e Machiavelli: una scuola... che non crea prìncipi", Prefazione di Vittoriano Esposito, Centro Studi Ignazio Silone, Pescina, 2003.

Specialized studies


  • Burd, L. A., "Florence (II): Machiavelli" in Cambridge Modern History (1902), vol. I, ch. vi. pp 190-218 online Google edition
  • de Grazia, Sebastian. Machiavelli in Hell (1989), highly favorable intellectual biography; won the Pulitzer Prize; excerpt and text search
  • Hale, J. R. Machiavelli and Renaissance Italy (1961) online edition
  • Hulliung, Mark. Citizen Machiavelli (1983)
  • Ridolfi, Roberto. The Life of Niccolò Machiavelli (1963), a standard scholarly biography
  • Schevill, Ferdinand. Six Historians (1956), pp. 61-91
  • Skinner, Quentin. Machiavelli: A Very Short Introduction (2000) online edition
  • Villari, Pasquale. The Life and Times of Niccolò Machiavelli (2 vol 1892), good older biography; online Google edition vol 1; online Google edition vol 2
  • Viroli, Maurizio. Niccolo's Smile : A Biography of Machiavelli (2000) excerpt and text search
  • Viroli, Maurizio. Machiavelli (1998) online edition, good place to start

Political thought

  • Arciniegas, Germán. "Savonarola, Machiavelli, and Guido Antonio Vespucci: Totalitarian and Democrat 500 Years Ago," Political Science Quarterly, (1954) 69:184-201, argues that modern totalitarianism is a blending of Machiavelli's theories and Savonarola's techniques of rabble rousing. in JSTOR
  • Ball, Terence. "The Picaresque Prince: Reflections on Machiavelli and Moral Change," Political Theory, Vol. 12, No. 4 (Nov., 1984), pp. 521-536 in jstor
  • Baron, Hans. The Crisis of the Early Italian Renaissance: Civic Humanism and Republican Liberty in an Age of Classicism and Tyranny (2 vol 1955), highly influential, deep study of civic humanism (republicanism); 700 pp. excerpts and text search; ACLS E-books; also vol 2 in ACLS E-books
  • Baron, Hans. In Search of Florentine Civic Humanism (2 vols. 1988).
  • Baron Hans, "Machiavelli: The Republican Citizen and the Author of The Prince" in The English Historical Review 76 (1961), pp. 217-53. in JSTOR
  • Bock, Gisela; Skinner, Quentin; and Viroli, Maurizio, ed. Machiavelli and Republicanism. (1990). 316 pp. excerpt and text search
  • Butterfield, Herbert. The Statecraft of Machiavelli (1940).
  • Chabod, FedericoMachiavelli & the Renaissance (1958) online edition; online from ACLS E-Books
  • Colish, Marcia L. "Republicanism, Religion, and Machiavelli's Savonarolan Moment," Journal of the History of Ideas, Vol. 60, No. 4 (Oct., 1999), pp. 597-616 in JSTOR
  • Colish, Marcia L. "Machiavelli's Art of War: A Reconsideration," Renaissance Quarterly, Vol. 51, No. 4 (Winter, 1998), pp. 1151-1168 in JSTOR
  • Fischer, Markus. "Machiavelli's Political Psychology," The Review of Politics, Vol. 59, No. 4 (Autumn, 1997), pp. 789-829 in JSTOR
  • Gilbert, Felix. Machiavelli and Guicciardini: Politics and History in Sixteenth-Century Italy (2nd ed. 1984) online from ACLS-E-books
  • Gilbert, Felix. "Machiavelli: The Renaissance of the Art of War," in Edward Mead Earle, ed. The Makers of Modern Strategy (1944)
  • Jensen, De Lamar, ed. Machiavelli: Cynic, Patriot, or Political Scientist? (1960) essays by scholars online edition
  • Lukes, Timothy J. "Lionizing Machiavelli," The American Political Science Review, Vol. 95, No. 3 (Sep., 2001), pp. 561-575 in JSTOR
  • Lukes, Timothy J. "Martialing Machiavelli: Reassessing the Military Reflections," The Journal of Politics, Vol. 66, No. 4 (Nov., 2004), pp. 1089-1108 in JSTOR
  • Femia, Joseph V. Machiavelli Revisited (2004) online edition, 140pp, good place to start
  • McCormick, John P. "Machiavelli against Republicanism: On the Cambridge School's 'Guicciardinian Moments,'" Political Theory, Vol. 31, No. 5 (Oct., 2003), pp. 615-643 in JSTOR
  • Mansfield, Harvey C. Machiavelli's New Modes and Orders: A Study of the Discourses on Livy (2001) excerpt and text search
  • Mansfield, Harvey C. Machiavelli's Virtue (1996), 371pp
  • Mansfield, Harvey C. "Machiavelli's Political Science," The American Political Science Review, Vol. 75, No. 2 (Jun., 1981), pp. 293-305 in JSTOR
  • Mindle, Grant B. "Machiavelli's Realism," The Review of Politics, Vol. 47, No. 2 (Apr., 1985), pp. 212-230 in JSTOR
  • Najemy, John M. "Baron's Machiavelli and Renaissance Republicanism." American Historical Review 1996 101(1): 119-129. ISSN 0002-8762 Fulltext in Jstor.
  • Nederman, Cary J. "Amazing Grace: Fortune, God, and Free Will in Machiavelli's Thought," Journal of the History of Ideas 60: 617-638. in JSTOR
  • Parel, A. J. "The Question of Machiavelli's Modernity," The Review of Politics, Vol. 53, No. 2 (Spring, 1991), pp. 320-339 in JSTOR
  • Pellerin, Daniel. "Machiavelli's Best Fiend." History of Political Thought 2006 27(3): 423-453. Issn: 0143-781x on Pope Alexander VI
  • Pocock, J.G.A. The Machiavellian Moment: Florentine Political Thought and the Atlantic Republican Tradition (1975; new ed. 2003), a highly influential study of Discourses and its vast influence; excerpt and text search; also online 1975 edition
  • Pocock, J. G. A. "The Machiavellian Moment Revisited: a Study in History and Ideology.: Journal of Modern History 1981 53(1): 49-72. Fulltext: in Jstor.
  • Rahe, Paul A. Machiavelli's Liberal Republican Legacy (2005) excerpt, reviews and text search, shows Machiavelli's Discourses had a major impact on shaping conservative thought.
  • Rahe, Paul. Republics Ancient and Modern: Classical Republicanism and the American Revolution, (1992) online edition
  • Scott, John T. and Vickie B. Sullivan, "Patricide and the Plot of the Prince: Cesare Borgia and Machiavelli's Italy." American Political Science Review 1994 88(4): 887-900. Issn: 0003-0554 in Jstor
  • Skinner, Quentin. The Foundations of Modern Political Thought, v. I, The Renaissance, (1978)
  • Strauss, Leo. On Machivelli (1957)
  • Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Niccolò Machiavelli (2005) online edition
  • Struever, Nancy S. The Language of History in the Renaissance: Rhetoric and Historical Consciousness in Florentine Humanism (1970)
  • Wight, Martin. Four Seminal Thinkers in International Theory: Machiavelli, Grotius, Kant, and Mazzini (2005), ch. 1 online edition


External links


Up to date as of January 14, 2010
(Redirected to Niccolò Machiavelli article)

From Wikiquote

The lion cannot protect himself from traps, and the fox cannot defend himself from wolves. One must therefore be a fox to recognize traps, and a lion to frighten wolves.

Niccolò Machiavelli (1469-05-031527-06-21) was a Florentine political philosopher, historian, musician, poet, and romantic comedic playwright. Machiavelli was also a key figure in realist political theory, crucial to European statecraft during the Renaissance.



The Prince (1513)

Original Italian title: Il Principe (written c. 1505)
  • Upon this, one has to remark that men ought either to be well treated or crushed, because they can avenge themselves of lighter injuries, of more serious ones they cannot; therefore the injury that is to be done to a man ought to be of such a kind that one does not stand in fear of revenge.
    • Ch. 3; Variant translation: Never do an enemy a small injury.
  • The Romans never allowed a trouble spot to remain simply to avoid going to war over it, because they knew that wars don't just go away, they are only postponed to someone else's advantage. Therefore, they made war with Philip and Antiochus in Greece, in order not to have to fight them in Italy... They never went by that saying which you constantly hear from the wiseacres of our day, that time heals all things. They trusted rather their own character and prudence— knowing perfectly well that time contains the seeds of all things, good as well as bad.
    • Ch. 3 (as translated by RM Adams) Variants [these can seem to generalize the circumstances in ways that the translation above does not.]: The Romans, foreseeing troubles, dealt with them at once, and, even to avoid a war, would not let them come to a head, for they knew that war is not to be avoided, but is only put off to the advantage of others.
      There is no avoiding war; it can only be postponed to the advantage of others.
  • If someone puts up the argument that King Louis gave the Romagna to Pope Alexander, and the kingdom of Naples to Spain, in order to avoid a war, I would answer as I did before: that you should never let things get out of hand in order to avoid war. You don't avoid such a war, you merely postpone it, to your own disadvantage.
    • Ch. 3 (as translated by RM Adams)
  • It ought to be remembered that there is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things. Because the innovator has for enemies all those who have done well under the old conditions, and lukewarm defenders in those who may do well under the new. This coolness arises partly from fear of the opponents, who have the laws on their side, and partly from the incredulity of men, who do not readily believe in new things until they have had a long experience of them.
    • Ch. 6
  • Hence it comes that all armed prophets have been victorious, and all unarmed prophets have been destroyed.
    • Ch. 6
  • From this arises the question whether it is better to be loved rather than feared, or feared rather than loved. It might perhaps be answered that we should wish to be both: but since love and fear can hardly exist together, if we must choose between them, it is far safer to be feared than loved.
    • Ch. 17
  • The chief foundations of all states, new as well as old or composite, are good laws and good arms; and as there cannot be good laws where the state is not well armed, it follows that where they are well armed they have good laws.
    • Ch. 12
  • A prince ought to have no other aim or thought, nor select anything else for his study, than war and its rules and discipline; for this is the sole art that belongs to him who rules, and it is of such force that it not only upholds those who are born princes, but it often enables men to rise from a private station to that rank. And, on the contrary, it is seen that when princes have thought more of ease than of arms they have lost their states. And the first cause of your losing it is to neglect this art; and what enables you to acquire a state is to be master of the art.
    • Ch. 14; Variant: A prince should therefore have no other aim or thought, nor take up any other thing for his study but war and it organization and discipline, for that is the only art that is necessary to one who commands.
  • Among other evils which being unarmed brings you, it causes you to be despised.
    • Ch. 14
  • Many have imagined republics and principalities which have never been seen or known to exist in reality; for how we live is so far removed from how we ought to live, that he who abandons what is done for what ought to be done, will rather bring about his own ruin than his preservation.
    • Ch. 15
  • He ought to be slow to believe and to act, nor should he himself show fear, but proceed in a temperate manner with prudence and humanity, so that too much confidence may not make him incautious and too much distrust render him intolerable.
    • Ch 17
  • The prince who relies upon their words, without having otherwise provided for his security, is ruined; for friendships that are won by awards, and not by greatness and nobility of soul, although deserved, yet are not real, and cannot be depended upon in time of adversity.
    • Ch. 17
  • A prince being thus obliged to know well how to act as a beast must imitate the fox and the lion, for the lion cannot protect himself from traps, and the fox cannot defend himself from wolves. One must therefore be a fox to recognize traps, and a lion to frighten wolves.
    • Ch. 17
  • Every one admits how praiseworthy it is in a prince to keep faith, and to live with integrity and not with craft. Nevertheless our experience has been that those princes who have done great things have held good faith of little account, and have known how to circumvent the intellect of men by craft, and in the end have overcome those who have relied on their word.
    • Ch. 18. Concerning the Way in which Princes should keep Faith (as translated by W. K. Marriott)
  • Every one sees what you appear to be, few really know what you are, and those few dare not oppose themselves to the opinion of the many, who have the majesty of the state to defend them.
    • Ch. 18.
  • You must know there are two ways of contesting, the one by the law, the other by force; the first method is proper to men, the second to beasts; but because the first is frequently not sufficient, it is necessary to have recourse to the second.
    • Ch. 18.
  • A prince never lacks legitimate reasons to break his promise.
    • Ch. 18.
  • The prince must consider, as has been in part said before, how to avoid those things which will make him hated or contemptible; and as often as he shall have succeeded he will have fulfilled his part, and he need not fear any danger in other reproaches. It makes him hated above all things, as I have said, to be rapacious, and to be a violator of the property and women of his subjects, from both of which he must abstain. And when neither their property nor honour is touched, the majority of men live content, and he has only to contend with the ambition of a few, whom he can curb with ease in many ways. It makes him contemptible to be considered fickle, frivolous, effeminate, mean-spirited, irresolute, from all of which a prince should guard himself as from a rock; and he should endeavour to show in his actions greatness, courage, gravity, and fortitude; and in his private dealings with his subjects let him show that his judgments are irrevocable, and maintain himself in such reputation that no one can hope either to deceive him or to get round him. That prince is highly esteemed who conveys this impression of himself, and he who is highly esteemed is not easily conspired against; for, provided it is well known that he is an excellent man and revered by his people, he can only be attacked with difficulty.
    • Ch. 19 "That one should avoid being despised and hated"
  • A prince ought to have two fears, one from within, on account of his subjects, the other from without, on account of external powers. From the latter he is defended by being well armed and having good allies, and if he is well armed he will have good friends, and affairs will always remain quiet within when they are quiet without, unless they should have been already disturbed by conspiracy; and even should affairs outside be disturbed, if he has carried out his preparations and has lived as I have said, as long as he does not despair, he will resist every attack.
    • Ch. 19; Variant: Against foreign powers, a prince can defend himself with good weapons and good friends; if he has good weapons, he will never lack for good friends. (as translated by RM Adams)
  • The first opinion which one forms of a prince, and of his understanding, is by observing the men he has around him; and when they are capable and faithful he may always be considered wise, because he has known how to recognize the capable and to keep them faithful. But when they are otherwise one cannot form a good opinion of him, for the prime error which he made was in choosing them. (as tranlsated by W. K. Marriott)
    • Ch. 22. Variant translation: The first method for estimating the intelligence of a ruler is to look at the men he has around him.
  • There are three classes of intellects: one which comprehends by itself; another which appreciates what others comprehend; and a third which neither comprehends by itself nor by the showing of others; the first is the most excellent, the second is good, and the third is useless.
    • Ch. 22
  • There is no other way of guarding oneself against flattery than by letting men understand that they will not offend you by speaking the truth; but when everyone can tell you the truth, you lose their respect.
    • Ch. 23
  • Io iudico bene questo, che sia meglio essere impetuoso che respettivo; perché la fortuna è donna, et è necessario, volendola tenere sotto, batterla et urtarla. E si vede che la si lascia più vincere da questi, che da quelli che freddamente procedano. E però sempre, come donna, è amica de' giovani, perché sono meno respettivi, più feroci e con più audacia la comandano.
    • Translation: I conclude, then, that so long as Fortune varies and men stand still, they will prosper while they suit the times, and fail when they do not. But I do feel this: that it is better to be rash than timid, for Fortune is a woman, and the man who wants to hold her down must beat and bully her. We see that she yields more often to men of this stripe than to those who come coldly toward her.
    • Ch. 25 (as translated by RM Adams)
  • Where the willingness is great, the difficulties cannot be great.
    • Ch. 26
  • God is not willing to do everything, and thus take away our free will and that share of glory which belongs to us.
    • Ch. 26

Discourses on Livy (1517)

Quotes from translations of Discorsi sopra la prima deca di Tito Livio; 3 vols. published between 1512–1517 (Discourses on the First Ten Books of Titus Livius)
  • As all those have shown who have discussed civil institutions, and as every history is full of examples, it is necessary to whoever arranges to found a Republic and establish laws in it, to presuppose that all men are bad and that they will use their malignity of mind every time they have the opportunity; and if such malignity is hidden for a time, it proceeds from the unknown reason that would not be known because the experience of the contrary had not been seen, but time, which is said to be the father of every truth, will cause it to be discovered.
    • Book 1, Ch. 3 Variant portion: Whoever desires to found a state and give it laws, must start with assuming that all men are bad and ever ready to display their vicious nature, whenever they may find occasion for it.
  • Men never do good unless necessity drives them to it; but when they are free to choose and can do just as they please, confusion and disorder become rampant.
    • Book 1, Ch. 3 (as translated by L.J. Walker & B. Crick)
  • The demands of a free populace, too, are very seldom harmful to liberty, for they are due either to the populace being oppressed or to the suspicious that it is going to be oppressed... and, should these impressions be false, a remedy is provided in the public platform on which some man of standing can get up, appeal to the crowd, and show that it is mistaken. And though, as Tully remarks, the populace may be ignorant, it is capable of grasping the truth and readily yields when a man, worthy of confidence, lays the truth before it.
    • Book 1, Ch. 4 (as translated by LJ Walker & B Crick)
  • So in all human affairs one notices, if one examines them closely, that it is impossible to remove one inconvenience without another emerging.
    • Book 1, Ch. 6 (as translated by LJ Walker & B Crick)
  • I am firmly convinced, therefore, that to set up a republic which is to last a long time, the way to set about it is to constitute it as Sparta and Venice were constituted; to place it in a strong position, and so to fortify it that no one will dream of taking it by a sudden assault; and, on the other hand, not to make it so large as to appear formidable to its neighbors. It should in this way be able to enjoy its form of government for a long time. For war is made on a commonwealth for two reasons: to subjugate it, and for fear of being subjugated by it.
    • Book 1, Ch. 6 (as translated by LJ Walker & B Crick)
  • The people resemble a wild beast, which, naturally fierce and accustomed to live in the woods, has been brought up, as it were, in a prison and in servitude, and having by accident got its liberty, not being accustomed to search for its food, and not knowing where to conceal itself, easily becomes the prey of the first who seeks to incarcerate it again.
    • Book 1, Ch. 16
  • It was the verdict of ancient writers that men afflict themselves in evil and weary themselves in the good, and that the same effects result from both of these passions. For whenever men are not obliged to fight from necessity, they fight from ambition; which is so powerful in human breasts, that it never leaves them no matter to what rank they rise. The reason is that nature has so created men that they are able to desire everything but are not able to attain everything: so that the desire being always greater than the acquisition, there results discontent with the possession and little satisfaction to themselves from it. From this arises the changes in their fortunes; for as men desire, some to have more, some in fear of losing their acquisition, there ensues enmity and war, from which results the ruin of that province and the elevation of another.
    • Book 1, Ch. 37 Variant: Nature has so contrived that to men, though all things are objects of desire, not all things are attainable; so that desire always exceeds the power of attainment, with the result that men are ill-content with what they possess and their present state brings them little satisfaction. Hence arise the vicissitudes of their fortune. (as translated by LJ Walker & B Crick)
  • Anyone who studies present and ancient affairs will easily see how in all cities and all peoples there still exist, and have always existed, the same desires and passions. Thus, it is an easy matter for him who carefully examines past events to foresee future events in a republic and to apply the remedies employed by the ancients, or, if old remedies cannot be found, to devise new ones based upon the similarity of the events. But since these matters are neglected or not understood by those who read, or, if understood, remain unknown to those who govern, the result is that the same problems always exist in every era.
    • Book 1, Chapter 39
  • When Scipio became consul and was keen on getting the province of Africa, promising that Carthage should be completely destroyed, and the senate would not agree to this because Fabius Maximus was against it, he threatened to appeal to the people, for he knew full well how pleasing such projects are to the populace.
    • Book 1, Ch. 53 (as translated by LJ Walker & B Crick)
  • It is truly a marvelous thing to consider to what greatness Athens arrived in the space of one hundred years after she freed herself from the tyranny of Pisistratus; but, above all, it is even more marvelous to consider the greatness Rome reached when she freed herself from her kings. The reason is easy to understand, for it is the common good and not private gain that makes cities great. Yet, without a doubt, this common good is observed only in republics, for in them everything that promotes it is practised, and however much damage it does to this or that private individual, those who benefit from the said common good are so numerous that they are able to advance in spite of the inclination of the few citizens who are oppressed by it.
    • Book 2, Chapter 2
  • the end of the republic is to enervate and to weaken all other bodies so as to increase its own body.
    • Book 2, Ch. 3 (translation by Mansfield and Tarcov)

The Art of War (1520)

Quotations from translations of Dell'arte della guerra ; also known as On the Art of War
  • I believe that it is possible for one to praise, without concern, any man after he is dead since every reason and supervision for adulation is lacking.
    • Book 1
  • No proceeding is better than that which you have concealed from the enemy until the time you have executed it. To know how to recognize an opportunity in war, and take it, benefits you more than anything else. Nature creates few men brave, industry and training makes many. Discipline in war counts more than fury.
    • Book 7; Variant translation: No enterprise is more likely to succeed than one concealed from the enemy until it is ripe for execution.
      Nothing is of greater importance in time of war than in knowing how to make the best use of a fair opportunity when it is offered.

      Few men are brave by nature, but good discipline and experience make many so.
      Good order and discipline in an army are more to be depended upon than ferocity.
      • As translated by Neal Wood (1965)

The History of Florence (1521 - 1525)

Original Italian title: Istorie Fiorentine
  • It may be observed, that provinces amid the vicissitudes to which they are subject, pass from order into confusion, and afterward recur to a state of order again; for the nature of mundane affairs not allowing them to continue in an even course, when they have arrived at their greatest perfection, they soon begin to decline. In the same manner, having been reduced by disorder, and sunk to their utmost state of depression, unable to descend lower, they, of necessity, reascend; and thus from good they gradually decline to evil, and from evil again return to good. The reason is, that valor produces peace; peace, repose; repose, disorder; disorder, ruin; so from disorder order springs; from order virtue, and from this, glory and good fortune.
  • If you only notice human proceedings, you may observe that all who attain great power and riches, make use of either force or fraud; and what they have acquired either by deceit or violence, in order to conceal the disgraceful methods of attainment, they endeavor to sanctify with the false title of honest gains. Those who either from imprudence or want of sagacity avoid doing so, are always overwhelmed with servitude and poverty; for faithful servants are always servants, and honest men are always poor; nor do any ever escape from servitude but the bold and faithless, or from poverty, but the rapacious and fraudulent. God and nature have thrown all human fortunes into the midst of mankind; and they are thus attainable rather by rapine than by industry, by wicked actions rather than by good. Hence it is that men feed upon each other, and those who cannot defend themselves must be worried.
    • Book III, Chapter 13


  • War is just when it is necessary; arms are permissible when there is no hope except in arms.
    • This is a quotation of Titus Livius IX:1 iustum enim est bellum quibus necessarium, et pia arma ubi nulla in armis spes est) that Machiavelli uses in Ch.24 of Discourses on Livy.
  • Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer.
    • This has sometimes been attributed to Machiavelli, but more often to Sun Tzu, though there are no published sources yet found which predate its use by "Michael Corleone" in The Godfather Part II (1974), written by Mario Puzo & Francis Ford Coppola: My father taught me many things here — he taught me in this room. He taught me — keep your friends close but your enemies closer.

Quotes about Machiavelli

  • We are much beholden to Machiavelli and others, that write what men do, and not what they ought to do . For it is not possible to join serpentine wisdom with the columbine innocency, except men know exactly all the conditions of the serpent; his baseness and going upon his belly, his volubility and lubricity, his envy and sting, and the rest; that is, all forms and natures of evil. For without this, virtue lieth open and unfenced. Nay, an honest man can do no good upon those that are wicked, to reclaim them, without the help of the knowledge of evil.
  • Call me a dreamer, but one day, my name will become an adjective for everything cynical and untrustworthy in human nature.

External links

Wikipedia has an article about:

Source material

Up to date as of January 22, 2010

From Wikisource

by John Morley in the year 1897



The greatest of the Florentines has likened worldly fame to the breath of the wind that blows now one way and now another way, and changes name as it changes quarter. From every quarter and all the points of the historical compass, veering gusts of public judgment have carried incessantly along from country to country and from generation to generation, with countless mutations of aspect and of innuendo, the sinister renown of Machiavelli. Before he had been dead fifty years, his name had become a byword and a proverb. From Thomas Cromwell and Elizabeth; from the massacre of St. Bartholomew, through League and Fronde, through Louis XIV., Revolution, and Empire, down to the third Napoleon and the days of December; from the Lutheran Reformation down to the blood and iron of Prince Bismarck; from Ferdinand the Catholic down to Don Carlos; from the Sack of Rome down to Gioberti, Mazzini, and Cavour: in all the great countries all over the West, this strange shade is seen haunting men's minds; exciting, frightening, provoking, perplexing, like some unholy necromancer bewildering reason and conscience by paradox and riddle. So far from withering or fading, his repute and his writing seem to attract deeper consideration as time goes on, and they have never been objects of more copious attention throughout Europe than in the half-century that is now closing.[1]

In the long and fierce struggle from the fifteenth century onwards, among rival faiths and between contending forces in civil government, Machiavelli was hated and attacked from every side. In the great rising up of new types of life in the Church and of life in the State, his name stood for something that partisans of old and new alike abhorred. The Church at first tolerated, if it did not even patronise, his writings; but soon, under the double stress of the Reformation in Germany on the one hand, and the pagan Renaissance in Italy on the other, it placed him in that Index of forbidden books which now first (1557), in dread of the new art of printing, crept into formal existence. Speedily he came to be denounced as schismatical, heretical, perverse, the impious foe of faith and truth. He was burnt in effigy. His book was denounced as written with the very fingers of Satan himself. The vituperation of the sixteenth century in the whole range of its controversies has never been surpassed in any age either among learned or unlearned men, and the dead Machiavelli came in for his full share of unmeasured words. As Voltaire has said of Dante that his fame is secure because nobody reads him, so in an inverse sense the bad name of Machiavelli grew worse, because men reproached, confuted, and cursed, but seldom read. Catholics attacked him as the enemy of the Holy See, and Protestants attacked him because he looked to a restoration of the spirit of ancient Rome, instead of a restoration of the faith and discipline of the primitive Church. While both of them railed against him, Catholic and Protestant each reviled the other as Machiavellist. In France national prejudice against the famous Italian queen-mother hit Machiavelli too, for his book was declared to be the oracle of Catherine dei Medici, to whose father it was dedicated; it was held responsible for the Huguenot wars and the Bartholomew massacre. In Spain opposite ground was taken, and he who elsewhere was blamed as the advocate of persecution, was abominated here as the enemy of wars of religion, and the advocate of that monstrous thing, civil toleration. In England, royalists called him an atheist, and roundheads called him a Jesuit. A recent German writer has noted three hundred and ninety-five references to him in our Elizabethan literature, all fixing him with the craft, malice, and hypocrisy of the Evil One.[2] Everybody knows how Hudibras finds in his Christian name the origin of our domestic title for the devil, though scholars have long taught us to refer it to Nyke, the water-goblin of Norse mythology.[3]

Some divines scented mischief in the comparative method, and held up their hands at the impudent wickedness that dared to find a parallel between people in the Bible and people in profane history, between King David and Philip of Macedon. Whenever a bad name floated into currency, it was flung at Machiavelli, and his own name was counted among the worst that could be flung at a bad man. Averroes for a couple of centuries became a conventional label for a scoffer and an atheist; and Machiavelli, though he cared no more for the abstract problems that exercised the Moslem thinker, than he would have cared for the inward sanctities of Thomas à Kempis, was held up to odium as an Averroist. The Annals of Tacitus were discovered: his dark ironies on Tiberius and the rest did not prevent one school of politicians from treating his book as a manual for tyrants, while another school applied it against the Holy Roman Empire; his name was caught up in the storms of the hour, and Machiavellism and Tacitism became convertible terms.[4]

It is not possible here to follow the varying fates of Machiavelli's name and books.[5] The tale of Machiavellian criticism in our own century is a long one. That criticism has followed the main stream of political events in continental Europe; for it is events after all that make the fortune of books. Revolution in France, unification in Italy, unification in Germany, the disappearance of the Temporal Power, the principle of Nationality, the idea of the Armed People, have all in turn raised the questions to which Machiavelli gave such daring point. On the medallion that commemorates him in the church of Santa Croce at Florence, are the words, Tanto nomini nullum par elogium, So great a name no praise can match. We only need to think of Michelangelo and Galileo reposing near him, in order to realise the extravagance of such a phrase, and to understand that reaction in his favour has gone almost as intolerably far as the old diatribes against him.

It may be doubted whether in this country Machiavelli has ever been widely read, though echoes have been incessant. Thomas Cromwell, the powerful minister of Henry VII., the malleus monachorum, told Cardinal Pole that he had better fling aside dreamers like Plato, and read a new book by an ingenious Italian who treated the arts of government practically. Cromwell in his early wanderings had been more than once in Italy, and he was probably at Florence at the very time when Machiavelli was writing his books at his country farm.[6] But a more shining figure in English history than Cromwell, was even more profoundly attracted by the genius of Machiavelli; this was Bacon. It was natural for that vast and comprehensive mind to admire the extension to the sphere of civil government of the same method that he was advocating in the investigation of external nature. 'We are much beholden,' Bacon said, 'to Machiavel and others that wrote what men do, and not what they ought to do.' The rejection of a priori and abstract principles, and of authority as the test of truth; the substitution of chains of observed fact for syllogism with major premiss unproved—-such a revolution in method could not be reserved for one department of thought. Bacon's references are mainly to the Discourses and not to the Prince, but he had well digested both.[7] The Essays bear the impress of Machiavelli's positive spirit, and Bacon's ideal of history is his. 'Its true office is to represent the events themselves, together with the counsels, and to leave the observations and conclusions thereupon to the liberty and faculty of every man's judgment.' His own history of Henry VIII. is a good example of such a life as Machiavelli would have written of such a hero.[8]

The most powerful English thinker of Machiavelli's political school is Hobbes. He drew similar lessons from a similar experience—the distractions of Civil War at home, and the growth, which he watched during many years of exile, of centralised monarchy abroad. Less important is Harrington, whose Oceana or model of a commonwealth was once so famous, and is in truth one of the most sensible productions of that kind of literature. Harrington travelled in Italy, was much at home with Italian politics and books on politics, and perhaps studied Machiavelli more faithfully than any other of his countrymen. He tells us, writing after the Restoration, that his works had then fallen into neglect.[9] Clarendon has a remarkable passage (Hist., bk. X. §169) vindicating Machiavelli against the ill name that he had got from people who did not well consider his words and his drift, and applying judicially enough the Italian's view of Borgia to our great Oliver and his counsellors. Scattered through the Patriot King and other writings of Bolingbroke are half a dozen references to Machiavelli,[10] but they have the air, to use a phrase of Bacon's, of being but cloves stuck in to spice the dish; the Italian's pregnant thinking has no serious place in an author whose performances are little more than splendid beating of the wind. Hume had evidently read the Discourses, the Prince, and the History of Florence, with attention; and with his usual faculty for hitting the nail on the head, he avows a suspicion that the world is still too young to fix many general truths in politics. We have not as yet had experience of three thousand years. We do not know, says Hume, of what great changes human nature may show itself susceptible, nor what great revolutions may come about in men's customs and principles.[11]

Benjamin Constant said there were only two books that he had read with pleasure since the Revolution, the Memoirs of Cardinal de Retz and Machiavelli's History of Florence. It would take a long chapter to draw a full comparison between Machiavelli and Montesquieu, who was undoubtedly set by him on some trains of thinking both in his short book on the Romans, and his more memorable one on Laws. It may be too much to say, as some critics have said, that all the great modern ideas have their beginning in Montesquieu. But this at least is true among other marked claims to be made for him, that in spite of much looseness of definition and a thousand imperfections in detail, he launched effectually on European thought the conception of social phenomena as being no less subject to general laws than all other phenomena. Of a fundamental extension of this kind, Machiavelli was in every way incapable, nor did the state of any of the sciences at that date permit it. As for secondary differences, it is enough to say that Machiavelli put the level of human character low, and Montesquieu put it high; that one was always looking to fact, the other to idea; that one was sombre, the other buoyant, cheerful, and an optimist; Montesquieu confident in the moral forces of mankind, Machiavelli leaving moral forces vague, not knowing where to look for them. Finally, 'Montesquieu's book is a study, Machiavelli's is a political act, an attempt at political resurrection.'[12]


Machiavelli was born in 1469 (two years later than Erasmus), and when he turned to serious writing, he was five-and-forty. His life had been interesting and important. For fifteen years he held the post of secretary of one of the departments in the government of Florence, where he was brought into close relations with some of the most remarkable personages and events of his time. He went four times on a mission to the King of France; he was with Cæsar Borgia in the ruthless campaign of 1502; he did the business of his republic with Pope Julius II. at Rome, and with the Emperor Maximilian at Innsbruck. The modern practice of resident ambassadors had not yet established itself in the European system, and Machiavelli was never more than an envoy of secondary rank.[13] But he was in personal communication with sovereigns and ministers, and he was a watchful observer of all their ways and motives. We need not here concern ourselves with the thousand chances and changes of Italian policies in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. In the long struggle between freedom and tyranny in his native Florence, Machiavelli belonged to the popular party. When they fell in 1512, and the Medici came back, he was turned out of his post, thrown into prison, put to the question with ropes and pulleys according to the hard fashion of the time, shared the benefit of the amnesty accorded when Leo X. ascended the papal throne, and then withdrew to San Casciano. This was the time when he composed most of the writings that have made him famous. Here is his picture of himself, in a letter to a friend (December 10, 1513):—

'I am at my farm; and, since my last misfortunes, have not been in Florence twenty days. I rise with the sun, and go into a wood of mine that is being cut, where I remain two hours inspecting the work of the previous day and conversing with the woodcutters, who have always some trouble on hand among themselves or with their neighbours. When I leave the wood, I proceed to a well, and thence to the place which I use for snaring birds, with a book under my arm—Dante, or Petrarch, or one of the minor poets, like Tibullus or Ovid. I read the story of their passions, and let their loves remind me of my own, which is a pleasant pastime for a while. Next I take the road, enter the inn door, talk with the passers-by, inquire the news of the neighbourhood, listen to a variety of matters, and make note of the different tastes and humours of men. This brings me to dinner-time, when I join my family and eat the poor produce of my farm. After dinner I go back to the inn, where I generally find the host and a butcher, a miller, and a pair of bakers. With these companions I play the fool all day at cards or backgammon: a thousand squabbles, a thousand insults and abusive dialogues take place, while we haggle over a farthing, and shout loud enough to be heard from San Casciano. But when evening falls, I go home and enter my writing-room. On the threshold I put off my country habit, filthy with mud and mire, and array myself in royal courtly garments; thus worthily attired, I make my entrance into the ancient courts of the men of old, where they receive me with love, and where I feed upon that food which only is my own, and for which I was born. I feel no shame in conversing with them and asking them the reason of their actions. They, moved by their humanity, make answer; for four hours' space I feel no annoyance, I forget all care; poverty cannot frighten, nor death appal me. I am carried away to their society. And since Dante says "that there is no science unless we retain what we have learned," I have set down what I have gained from their discourse, and composed a treatise, De Principatibus, in which I enter as deeply as I can into the science of the subject, with reasonings on the nature of principality, its several species, and how they are acquired, how maintained, how lost. If you ever liked any of my scribblings, this ought to suit your taste. To a prince, and especially to a new prince, it ought to prove acceptable. Therefore I am dedicating it to the Magnificence of Giuliano.'[14]

Machiavelli was not meant either by temperament or principle to be a willing martyr. Not for him was the stern virtue of Dante, who accepted lifelong exile rather than restoration with dishonour, content from any corner of the earth to wonder at the sun and the stars, and under any sky to meditate all sweetest truths (le dolcissime verità). Not for the ambitious and practical politician was the choice of Savonarola, who at the moment when Machiavelli was crossing the threshold of public life, had taken death by its savage hand, rather than cease from his warnings, that no good could come to Florence were it not from the fear of God and the reform of manners. Nobody had in him less of the Stoic than Machiavelli; his character was no more austere than the Italian morality of his day; his purse was painfully lean; his active and restless mind sulfered from that 'malady of lost power' which is apt to afflict members of Opposition, and he longed to be back in the business of the State. So he dedicated his book to Lorenzo, in the hope that such speaking proof of experience and capacity would induce those who had destroyed the freedom of his city, to give him public employment. His suppleness did not pay. Nothing came of the dedication for several years. Then some trivial duties were found for Machiavelli, and one important literary task was intrusted to him, the history of Florence. This he completed and dedicated to Clement VII. in 1525. To the same period belongs a comedy, which some have described as worthy of Aristophanes and hardly second to Molière's Tartufe. Like Bacon and some others who have written the shrewdest things on human conduct and the arts of success, he had made but a sorry mess of his own chances and gifts. It must always interest us to watch how men take ill usage from the world, and sad ironical miscarriages of life. Machiavelli's was one of those grave intellects, apt for serious thought, yet that easily turn to levity; console themselves for failure by mockery of themselves; and repay Fortune with her own banter. This is the vein of the brilliant burlesque and satire, with which this versatile genius diversified his closing days. Still, with indomitable perseverance he clung to public things, and he now composed the dialogues on the Art of War, to induce his countrymen to substitute for mercenary armies a national militia—to-day one of the organic ideas of the European system. Amo la patria mia più dell' anima, he wrote to a friend just before his death, and one view of Machiavelli is that he was ever the lion masquerading in the fox's skin, an impassioned patriot, under all his craft and all his bitter mockery. Even Mazzini—so little a disciple of his that he explained the ruin of Italy by the disastrous fact of Machiavelli having prevailed over Dante—admits that he had 'a profoundly Italian heart.' In 1527 he died. The Prince was not printed and published until five years later.

Machiavelli's active life, then, was passed in council-chambers, camps, courts. He pondered over all that he had seen in the light of such antique books as he had read,—Livy, Polybius, Tacitus, some portion of Aristotle's Politics, Dante, Petrarch, Cicero's Offices, Caesar, Latin Poets, extracts from Thucydides (probably in Latin versions). He owns his debt to ancient writers, and in a sense nobody borrowed more, yet few are more original. If he had mastered Thucydides, he would have recalled that first great chapter in European literature, still indeed the greatest in its kind, of reflections on a revolution, where with incomparable insight and fidelity the historian analyses the demoralisation of the Hellenic world as it lay, like the Italian world long ages after, a prey to intestine faction and the ruinous invocation of foreign aid.[15] These terrible calamities, says Thucydides (iii. 82–84), always have been and always will be, so long as human nature remains the same. Words cease to have the same relations to things, and their meanings are changed to suit the ingenuities of enterprise and the atrocities of revenge. Frantic energy is the quality most valued, and the man of violence is the man who is trusted. The simplicity that is a chief ingredient of a noble nature, men laugh to scorn. Inferior intellects succeed best. Revenge becomes dearer than self-preservation, and men actually have a sweeter pleasure in the revenge that goes with perfidy, than if it were open. All this was just as true of Florence in the sixteenth century, as it was of Athens, Corinth, and Corcyra in the fifth century before Christ. The postulate of Thucydides, that human nature should remain the same, still held good, as it has indeed held good at many a stormy period since, the social progress of the ages notwithstanding.

Whether the moral state of Italy was intrinsically and substantially worse than that of other European nations, is a question which those who know most, are least disposed to answer offhand.[16] Machiavelli was as little capable of the fine and true saying of the Greek historian about Simplicity, as he was of the Greek poet's famous lines about love of power against right.[17] Still Italy presents some peculiarities that shed over her civilisation at this time a curious and deadly iridescence. Passions moved in strange orbits. Private depravity and political debasement went with one of the most brilliant intellectual awakenings in the history of the western world. Selfishness, violence, craft, and corruption darkened and defiled the administration of sacred things. If politics were divorced from morals, so was theology. Modern conscience is shocked by the resort to hired crime and stealthy assassination, especially by poison. Mariana, the famous Spanish Jesuit, tells us (De Rege, i. 7) that when he was teaching theology in Sicily (1567), a certain young prince asked him whether it was lawful to slay a tyrant by poison. The theologian did not find it easy to draw a distinction between poison and steel, but at last he fell upon a reason (and a most absurd reason it was) for his decision that a poniard is permitted and white powder is forbidden. What distinguishes the Italian Renaissance from such epochs of luxury and corruption as the French Regency, is this contempt of human life, the fury of private revenge, the spirit of atrocious faithlessness and crime. 'Italian society admired the bravo almost as much as Imperial Rome admired the gladiator: it assumed that genius combined with force of character released men from the shackles of ordinary morality.' Only a giant like Michelangelo escaped the deadly climate. We see the violence of Michelangelo's sublime despair in the immortal marbles of the Medicean chapel, executed while Machiavelli was still alive—Lorenzo, nephew of Pope Leo X., and father of Catherine dei Medici, silent, pensive, finger upon lip, seeming to meditate under the shadow of his helmet some stroke of dubious war or craft, while the sombre superhuman figures of Night and Dawn and Day proclaim 'it is best to sleep and be of stone, not to see and not to feel, while such misery and shame endure.'

Machiavelli's merit in the history of political literature is his method. We may smile at the uncritical simplicity with which he discusses Romulus and Remus, Moses, Cyrus, and Theseus, as if they were all astute politicians of Florentine faction. He recalls the orator in the French Constituent Assembly who proposed to send to Crete for an authentic copy of the laws of Minos. But he withdrew politics from scholasticism, and based their consideration upon observation and experience. It is quite true that he does not classify his problems; he does not place them in their proper subordination to one another; he often brings together facts that are not of the same order and do not support the same conclusion.[18] Nothing, again, is easier than to find contradictions in Machiavelli. He was a man of the world reflecting over the things that he had seen in public life; more systematic than observers like Retz or Commynes—whom good critics call the French Machiavelli—but not systematic as Hobbes is. Human things have many sides and many aspects, and an observant man of the world does not confine himself to one way of looking at them, from fear of being thought inconsistent. To put on the blinkers of system was alien to his nature and his object. Contradictions were inevitable, but the general texture of his thought is close enough.[19]

Machiavelli was not the first of his countrymen to write down thoughts on the problems of the time, though it has been observed that he is the first writer, still celebrated, 'who discussed grave questions in modern language' (Mackintosh). Apart from Dante and Petrarch, various less famous men had theorised about affairs of state. Guicciardini, the contemporary and friend of Machiavelli, like him a man of public business and of the world, composed observations on government, of which Cavour said that they showed a better comprehension of affairs than did the author of the Prince and the Discourses. But then the latter had the better talent of writing. One most competent Italian critic calls his prose 'divine,'[20] and a foreigner has perhaps no right to differ; only what word is then left for the really great writers, who to intellectual strength add moral grandeur? Napoleon hated a general who made mental pictures of what he saw, instead of looking at the thing clearly as through a field-glass. Machiavelli's is the style of the field-glass. 'I want to write something,' he said, 'that may be useful to the understanding man; it seems better for me to go behind to the real truth of things, rather than to a fancy picture.' Every sentence represents a thought or a thing. He is never open to the reproach thrown by Aristotle at Plato: 'This is to talk poetic metaphor.' As has been said much less truly of Montesquieu, reflection is not broken by monuments and landscapes. He has the highest of all the virtues that prose-writing can possess—save the half-dozen cases in literature of genius with unconquerable wings,—he is simple, unaffected, direct, vivid, and rational. He possesses that truest of all forms of irony, which consists in literal statement, and of which you are not sure whether it is irony or naïveté. He disentangles his thought from the fact so skilfully and so clean, that it looks almost obvious. Nobody has ever surpassed him in the power of throwing pregnant vigour into a single concentrated word. Of some pages it has been well said that they are written with the point of a stiletto. He uses few of our loud easy words of praise and blame, he is not often sorry or glad, he does not smile and he does not scold, he is seldom indignant and he is never surprised. He has not even our mastering human infirmity of trying to persuade. His business is that of the clinical lecturer, explaining the nature of the malady, the proper treatment, the chances of recovery. He strips away the flowing garments of convention and commonplace; closes his will against sympathy and feeling; ignores pity as an irrelevance, just as the operating surgeon does. In the phrase about Fontenelle, he shows as good a heart as can be made out of brains. What concerns Machiavelli, the Italian critic truly says, 'is not a thing being reasonable, or moral, or beautiful, but that it is.' Yet at the bottom of all the con- fused clamour against him, people knew what they meant, and their instinct was not unsound. Mankind, and well they know it, are far too profoundly concerned in right and wrong, in mercy and cruelty, in justice and oppression, to favour a teacher who, even for a scientific purpose of his own, forgets the awful difference. Commonplace, after all, is exactly what contains the truths that are indispensable.


Like most of those who take a pride in seeing human nature as it is, Machiavelli only saw half of it. We must remember the atmosphere of craft, suspicion, fraud, violence, in which he had moved, with Borgias, Medici, Pope Julius, Maximilian, Louis XII., and the reckless factions of Florence. His estimate was low. Mankind, he says, are more prone to evil than to good. We may say this of them generally, that they are ungrateful, fickle, deceivers, greedy of gain, runaways before peril. While you serve them, they are all yours—lives, goods, children—so long as no danger is at hand: when the hour of need draws nigh, they turn their backs. They are readier to seek revenge for wrong, than to prove gratitude for service: as Tacitus says of people who lived in Italy long ages before, readier to pay back injury than kindness. Men never do anything good, unless they are driven; and where they have their choice, and can use what licence they will, all is filled with disorder and confusion. They are taken in by appearances. They follow the event. They easily become corrupted. Their will is weak. They know not how to be either thoroughly good or thoroughly bad; they vacillate between; they take middle paths, the worst of all. Men are a little breed.[21]

All this is not satire, it is not misanthropy; it is the student of the art of government, thinking over the material with which he has to deal. These judgments of Machiavelli have none of the wrath of Juvenal, none of the impious truculence of Swift. They cut deeper into simple reality than polished oracles from the moralists of the boudoir. They have not the bitterness that hides in the laugh of Molière, nor the chagrin and disdain with which Pascal broods over unhappy man and his dark lot. Least of all are they the voice of the preacher calling sinners to repentance. The tale is only a rather grim record, from inspection, of the foundations on which the rulers of states must do their best to build.

Goethe's maxim that, if you would improve a man, it is no bad thing to let him suppose that you already think him that which you would have him to be, would have seemed to Machiavelli as foolish for his purpose as if you were to furnish an architect with clay, and bid him to treat it as if it were iron. He will suffer no abstraction to interrupt positive observation.[22] Man is what he is, and so he needs to be bitted and bridled with laws, and new and again to be treated to a stiff dose of 'medicine forti,' in the shape of fire, bullet, axe, halter, and dungeon. At any rate, Machiavelli does not leave human nature out, and this is one secret of his hold. It is not with pale opinion that he argues, it is passions and interests in all the flush of action. It is, in truth, in every case,—Burke, Rousseau, Tocqueville, Hobbes, Bentham, Mill, and the rest—always the moralist who interests men most within the publicist. Machiavelli was assuredly a moralist, though of a peculiar sort, and this is what makes him, as he has been well called, a contemporary of every age and a citizen of all countries.

To the question whether the world grows better or worse, Machiavelli gave an answer that startles an age like ours, subsisting on its faith in progress. The world, he says, neither grows better nor worse; it is always the same. Human fortunes are never still; they are every moment either going up or sinking down. Yet among all nations and states, the same desires, the same humours prevail; they are what they always were. Men are for travelling on the beaten track. Diligently study bygone things, and in every State you will be able to discover the things to come. All the things that have been, may be again. Just as the modern physicist tells us that neither physical nor chemical transformation changes the mass nor the weight of any quantity of matter, so Machiavelli judged the good and evil in the world to be ever identical.

'This bad and this good shift from land to land,' he says, 'as we may see from ancient empires; they rose and fell with the changes of their usage, but the world remained as it was. The only difference was that it concentrated its power (virtù) in Assyria, then in Media, then in Persia, until at last it came to Italy and Rome.'

In our age, when we think of the chequered course of human time, of the shocks of irreconcilable civilisation, of war, trade, faction, revolution, empire, laws, creeds, sects, we look for a clue to the vast maze of historic and pre-historic fact. Machiavelli seeks no clue to his distribution of good and evil. He seeks no moral interpretation for the mysterious scroll. We obey laws that we do not know, but cannot resist. We can only make an effort to seize events as they whirl by; to extort from them a maxim, a precept, or a principle, that may serve our immediate turn. Fortune, he says,—that is, Providence, or else Circumstance, or the Stars,—is mistress of more than half we do. What is her deep secret, he shows no curiosity to fathom. He contents himself with a maxim for the practical man (Prince, XXV.),—that it is better to be adventurous than cautious, for Fortune is a woman, and to master her, she must be boldly handled.

Whatever force or law may control this shifting distribution of imperial destinies, nothing, said Machiavelli, could prevent any native of Italy or of Greece, unless the Greek had turned Turk, or the Italian Transalpine, from blaming his own time and praising the glories of time past. 'What,' he cries, 'can redeem an age from the extremity of misery, shame, reproach, where there is no regard to religion, to laws, to arms, where all is tainted and tarnished with every foulness. And these vices are all the more hateful, as they most abound in those who sit in the judgment-seat, are men's masters, and seek men's reverence. I, at all events,' he concludes, with a glow that almost recalls the moving close of the Agricola, 'shall make bold to say how I regard old times and new, so that the minds of the young who shall read these writings of mine, may shun the new examples and follow old. For it is the duty of a good man, at least to strive that he may teach to others those sound lessons which the spite of time or fortune hath hindered him from executing, so that many having learned them, some better loved by heaven may one day have power to apply them.'

What were the lessons? They were in fact only one, that the central secret of the ruin and distraction of Italy was weakness of will, want of fortitude, force, and resolution. The abstract question of the best form of government—perhaps the most barren of all the topics that have ever occupied speculative minds—was with Machiavelli strictly secondary. He saw small despotic states harried by their petty tyrants, he saw republics worn out by faction and hate. Machiavelli himself had faith in free republics as the highest type of government; but whether you have republic or tyranny matters less, he seems to say, than that the governing power should be strong in the force of its own arms, intelligent, concentrated, resolute. We might say of him that he is for half his time engaged in examining the fitness of means to other people's ends, himself neutral. But then, as nature used to be held to abhor a vacuum, so the impatience of man is loth to tolerate neutrality. He has been charged with inconsistency, because in the Prince he lays down the conditions on which an absolute ruler, rising to power by force of genius backed by circumstance, may maintain that power with safety to himself and most advantage to his subjects; while in the Discourses he examines the rules that enable a self-governing State to retain its freedom. The cardinal precepts are the same. In either ease, the saving principle is one: self-sufficiency, military strength, force, flexibility, address,—above all, no half-measures. In either case, the preservation of the State is equally the one end, reason of State equally the one adequate test and justification of the means. The Prince deals with one problem, the Discourses with the other, but the spring of Machiavelli's political inspirations is the same, to whatever type of rule they are applied—the secular State supreme; self-interest and self-regard avowed as the single principles of State action; material force the master key to civil policy. Clear intelligence backed by unsparing will, unflinching energy, remorseless vigour, the brain to plan and the hand to strike—here is the salvation of States, whether monarchies or republics. The spirit of humility and resignation that Christianity had brought into the world, he contemns and repudiates. That whole scheme of the Middle Ages in which invisible powers rule all our mortal affairs, he dismisses. Calculation, courage, fit means for resolute ends, human force,—only these can rebuild a world in ruins.[23]

Some will deem it inconsistent, that with so few illusions about the weaknesses of human nature, yet he should have been so firm, in what figures in current democracy as trust in the people. Like Aristotle, he held the many to be in the long-run the best judges; but, unlike Goethe, who said that the public is always in a state of self-delusion about details though scarcely ever about broad truths, Machiavelli declared that the public may go wrong about generalities, while as to particulars they are usually right.[24] The people are less ungrateful than a prince, and where they are ungrateful, it is from less dishononrable motive. The multitude is wiser and more constant than a prince. Furious and uncontrolled multitudes go wrong, but then so do furious and uncontrolled princes. Both err, when not held back by fear of consequences. The people are fickle and thankless, but so are princes. 'As for prudence and stability, I say that a people is more prudent, more stable, and of better judgment than a prince.' Never let a prince, he said—and perhaps we might say, never let a parliament—complain of the faults of a people under his rule, for they are due either to his own negligence, or else to his own example, and if you consider a people given to robbery and outrages against law, you will generally find that they only copy their masters. Above all and in any case the ruler, whether hereditary or an usurper, can have no safety unless he founds himself on popular favour and goodwill. This he repeats a hundred times. 'Better far than any number of fortresses, is not to be hated by your people.'

It is then to the free Roman commonwealth that Machiavelli would turn his countrymen. In that strong respect for law, that devotion to country, that unquailing courage, that energy of purpose, which has been truly called the essence of free Rome, he found the pattern that he wanted. Modern Germans, for good reasons of their own, have taken to praise him, but Machiavelli has nothing to do with that most brilliant of German scholars, who idolises Julius Cæsar, then despatches Cato as a pedant and Cicero as a coxcomb. You will hardly find in Machiavelli a good word for any destroyer of a free government. Let nobody, he says, be cheated by the glory of Cæsar. Historians have been spoiled by his success, and by the duration of the empire that continued his name. If you will only follow the history of the empire, then will you soon know, with a vengeance, what is the debt of Rome, Italy, and the world, to Cæsar.

Nobody has stated the argument against the revolutionary dictator more clearly or tersely than Machiavelli. He applauded the old Romans because their policy provided by a regular ordinance for an emergency, by the institution of a constitutional dictator for a fixed term, and to meet a definite occasion. 'In a republic nothing should be left to extraordinary modes of government; because though such a mode may do good for the moment, still the example does harm, seeing that a practice of breaking the laws for good ends lends a colour to breaches of law for ends that are bad.' Occasions no doubt arise when no ordinary means will produce reform, and then you must have recourse to violence and arms: a man must make himself supreme. But then, unfortunately, if he make himself supreme by violence, he is probably a bad man, for by such means a good man will not consent to climb to power. No more will a bad man who has become supreme in this way be likely to use his ill-gotten power for good ends. Here is the eternal dilemma of a State in convulsion. (Disc. i. 34, 18, 10; ii. 2.)

He forbids us in any case to call it virtue to slay fellow-citizens, to betray friends, to be without faith, without mercy, without religion; such practices may win empire, but not fair fame. A prince who clears out a population—here we may think of James 1. and Cromwell in Ireland, and the authors of many a sweeping clearance since—and transplants them from province to province, as a herdsman moves his flock, does what is most cruel, most alien, not only to Christianity, but to common humanity. Far better for a man to choose a private life, than be a king on the terms of making havoc such as this with the lives of other men (Disc. i. 26).


It may be true, as Danton said, that 'twere better to be a poor fisherman than to meddle with the government of men. Yet nations and men find themselves inexorably confronted by the practical question. Government they must find. Given a corrupt, a divided, a distracted community, how are you to restore it? The last chapter of the Prince is an eloquent appeal to the representative of the House of Medici to heal the bruises and bind up the wounds of his torn and enslaved country. The view has been taken[25] that this last chapter has nothing to do with the fundamental ideas of the book; that its glow is incompatible with the iron harshness of all that has gone before; that it was an afterthought, dictated partly by Machiavelli's personal hopes, and then picked up later by his defenders as whitewashing guilty maxims by ascribing them to large and lofty purpose. The balance of argument seems on the whole to lean this way, and Machiavelli for five-and-twenty chapters was thinking of new princes generally, and not of a great Italian deliverer. Yet he was not a man cast in a single mould. It may be that on reviewing his chapters, his heart became suddenly alive to their frigidity, and that the closing words flowed from the deeps of what was undoubtedly sincere and urgent feeling.

However this may be, whether the whole case of Italy, or the special case of any new prince, was in his contemplation, the quality of the man required is drawn in four chapters (XV.–XVIII.) with piercing eye and a hand that does not flinch. The ruler's business is to save the State. He cannot practise all virtues, first because he is not very likely to possess them, and next because, where so many people are bad, he would not be a match for the world if he were perfectly good. Still he should be on his guard against all vices, so far as possible; he should scrupulously abstain from every vice that might endanger his government. There are two ways of carrying on the light—one by laws, the other by force. The first is the proper and peculiar distinction of man; the second is the mark of the brute. As the first is not always enough, you must sometimes resort to the second. You must be both lion and fox, and the man who is only lion cannot be wise. A wise prince neither can, nor ought to, keep his word, when to keep his word would injure either himself or the State, or when the reasons that made him give a promise have passed away. If men were all good, a maxim like this would be bad; but as men are inclined to evil, and would not all keep faith with you, why should you keep faith with them? Nostra cattività, la lor—our badness, their badness (Mandrag. ii. 6). There are some good qualities that the new ruler need not have; yet he should seem to have them. It is well to appear merciful, faithful, religious, and it is well to be so. Religion is the most necessary of all for a prince to seek credit for. But the new prince should know how to change to the contrary of all these things, when they are in the way of the public good. For it is frequently necessary for the upholding of the State—and here is the sentence that has done so much to damn its writer—to go to work against faith, against charity, against humanity, against religion. It is not possible for a new prince to observe all the rules for which men are reckoned good.

The property of his subjects he will most carefully leave alone; a man will sooner forgive the slaying of his father than the confiscation of his patrimony. He should try to have a character for mercy, but this should never be allowed to prevent severity on just occasion. He must bear in mind the good saying reported in Livy, that many people know better how to keep themselves from doing wrong, than how to correct the wrong-doing of others. Never ought he to let excess of trust make him careless, nor excess of distrust to make him intolerable. He would be lucky if he could make himself both loved and feared; but if circumstance should force a choice, then of the two he had better be feared. To be feared is not the same as to be hated, and the two things to be most diligently avoided of all are hatred on the one hand, and contempt on the other.

Test there is none, save reason of State. We should never condemn a man for extraordinary acts to which he has been compelled to resort in establishing his empire or founding a republic. In a case where the safety of a country is concerned, whether it be princedom or republic, no regard is to be paid to justice or injustice, to pity or severity, to glory or shame; every other consideration firmly thrust aside, that course alone is to be followed which may preserve to the country its existence and its freedom. Diderot pithily put the superficial impression of all this, when he said that you might head these chapters as 'The circumstances under which it is right for a Prince to be a Scoundrel.' A profounder commentary of a concrete kind is furnished by Mommsen's account of Sulla[26]—an extraordinary literary masterpiece, even in the view of those who think its politics most perverse. Such a Sulla was the real type of Machiavelli's reformer of a rotten State.

It has been a commonplace of reproachful criticism that Machiavelli should have chosen for his hero Cæsar Borgia.[27] Not only was Borgia a monster, it is said, but he failed. For little more than four years the baleful meteor flamed across the sky, then vanished. If only success should command admiration, Borgia and his swiftly shattered fortunes might well be indifferent to Machiavelli and the world for which he was writing. What Machiavelli says is this—'I put him forward, as a model for such as climb to power by good fortune and the help of others. He did everything that a long-headed and capable man could do, who desires to strike root. I will show you how broad were the foundations that he laid for the fabric of his future power. I do not know what better lessons I could teach a new prince (i.e. an usurper) than his example. True, what he did failed in the end; that was due to the extreme malignity of fortune.' He makes no hero of him, except as a type of character well fitted for a given task.

Machiavelli knew him at close quarters.[28] He was sent on a mission to Borgia in the crisis of his fortunes, and he thought that he discerned in Cæsar those very qualities of action, force, combat, calculation, resolution, that the weakness of the age required. Machiavelli was in his train when terrible things were done. Cæsar was close, solitary, secret, quick. When any business is on foot, said Machiavelli, he knows nothing of rest or weariness or risk. He no sooner reached a place, than you heard that he had left it. He was loved by his troopers, for though he meted stern punishment for an offence against discipline, he was liberal in pay and put little restraint on freedom. Though no talker, yet when he had to make a case he was so pressing and fluent, that it was hard to find an answer. He was a great judge of occasion. Bold, crafty, resolute, deep, and above all well known never to forget or forgive an injury, he fascinated men with the terror of the basilisk. His firm maxim was to seek order by giving his new subjects a good and firm government, including a civil tribunal with a just president. Remiro was his first governor in the Romagna. It is uncertain how Remiro incurred his master's displeasure, but one morning Machiavelli walked out into the market-place at Cesena, and saw Remiro, as he puts it, in two pieces, his head on a lance, and his body still covered with his fine clothes, resting on a block with a blood-stained axe by the side of it. His captains, beginning to penetrate Cæsar's designs, and fearing that he would seize their petty dominions one by one—like the leaves of an artichoke, as he said—revolted. Undaunted, he gathered new forces. Fresh bands of mercenaries flocked to the banners of a chief who had money, skill, and a happy star. The conspirators were no match for him in swiftness, activity, or resource; they allowed him to sow the seeds of disunion; he duped them into making a convention with him, which they had little thought of keeping. Everybody who knew his revengeful and implacable spirit was sure that the conspirators were doomed. When Machiavelli came near one of them he felt, he says, the deadly odour of a corpse. With many arts, the duke got them to meet him at Sinigaglia. He received their greetings cordially, pressed their hands, and gave them the accolade. They all rode into the town together, talking of military things. Cæsar courteously invited them to enter the palace, then he quitted them and they were forthwith seized. 'I doubt if they will be alive tomorrow morning,' the Florentine secretary wrote without emotion to his government. They went through some form of trial, before daybreak two of them were strangled, and two others shared the same fate as soon as Cæsar was sure that the Pope had carried out his plans for making away by poison with the Cardinal who headed the rebellious faction at Rome.

Let us pause for a moment. One of the victims of Sinigaglia was Oliverotto da Fermo. His story is told in the eighth chapter of the Prince. He had been brought up from childhood by an uncle; he went out into the world to learn military service; in course of time, one day he wrote to his uncle at Fermo that he should like once more to see him and his paternal city, and, by way of showing his good compatriots that he had won some honour in his life, he proposed to bring a hundred horsemen in his company. He came, and was honourably received. He invited his uncle and the chief men of Fermo to a feast, and when the feast was over, his soldiers sprang upon the guests and slew them all, and Oliverotto became the tyrant of the place. We may at any rate forgive Cæsar for making sure work of Oliverotto a year later. When his last hour came, he struggled to drive his dagger into the man with the cord. Here indeed were lions, foxes, catamounts.

This is obviously the key to Machiavelli's admiration for Borgia's policy. The men were all bandits together. Romagna is not and never was, said Dante two hundred years before, without war in the hearts of her tyrants (Inf xxvii. 37). So it was now. It was full, says Machiavelli, of those who are called gentlemen, who live in idleness and abundance on the revenues of their estates, without any care of cultivating them, or of incurring any of the fatigue of getting a living; such men are pernicious anywhere, most of all when they are lords of castles, and have subjects under obedience to them. These lords, before the Pope and his terrible son took them in hand, were poor, yet had a mind to live as if they were rich, and so there was nothing for it but rapine, extortion, and all iniquity. Whether Cæsar and the Pope had wider designs than the reduction of these oppressors to order, we can never know. Machiavelli and most contemporaries thought that they had, but the various historians of to-day differ. Probably the contemporaries knew best, but nothing can matter less.

We may as well finish Cæsar's story, because we never know until a man's end, whether the play has been tragedy or comedy. He seemed to be lord of the ascendant, when in the summer after the transaction of Sinigaglia (1503) the Pope and he were one evening both stricken with malarious fever at Rome. There was talk of poison, but the better opinion seems to be that this is fable.[29] Alexander VI. died; Cæsar in the prime of his young man's strength, made a better fight for it, but when he at last recovered, his star had set. Machiavelli saw him and felt that Fortune this time had got the better of virtù. His subjects in the Romagna stood by him for a time, and then tyranny and disorder came back. The new Pope, Julius II., was not his friend; for though Cæsar had made the Spanish cardinals support his election, Julius had some old scores to pay, and as Machiavelli profoundly remarked, anybody who supposes that new services bring great people to forget old injuries, makes a dire mistake. So Cæsar found his way to Naples, with a safe-conduct from Gonsalvo, the Great Captain. He reaped as he had sown. Once he had said, 'It is well to cheat those who have been masters in treachery.' He now felt the force of his maxim. At Naples he was cordially received by Gonsalvo, dined often at his table, talked over all his plans, and suddenly one night as he was about to pass the postern, in spite of the safe-conduct an officer demanded his sword in the name of the King of Aragon.[30] To Spain he was sent. For some three years he went through strange and obscure adventures, lighting fortune with the aid of his indwelling demon to the very last. He was struck down in a fight at Viana in Navarre (1507), after a furious resistance; was stripped of his fine armour by men who did not know who he was; and his body was left naked, bloody, and riddled with wounds, on the ground. He was only thirty-one. His father, who was quite. as desperate an evil-doer, died in his bed at seventy-two. So history cannot safely draw a moral.[31]


From this digression let us return to mark some of the problems that Machiavelli raises, noting as we pass, how besides their profound effect upon active principles of statesmanship and progress, they lie at the very root of historic judgment on conspicuous men and memorable movements in bygone times. In one sense we are shocked by his maxims in proportion to our forgetfulness of history. There have been, it is said, only two perfect princes in the world—Marcus Aurelius and Louis IX. of France. If you add to princes, even presidents and prime ministers, the percentage might still be low. Among the canonised saints of the Roman Church there have only been a dozen kings in eight centuries, and no more than four popes in the same period. So hard has it been 'to govern the world by paternosters.'[32] It is well to take care lest in blaming Machiavelli for openly prescribing hypocrisy, men do not slip unperceived into something like hypocrisy of their own.

Take the subordination of religious creed to policy. In the age that immediately followed Machiavelli, three commanding figures stand out, and are cherished in the memories of men—William the Silent, Henry of Navarre, and Elizabeth of England. It needs no peevish or pharisaic memory to trace even in these imposing personalities some of the lineaments of Machiavelli's hated and scandalous picture. William the Silent changed from Lutheran to Catholic, then back to Lutheran, and then again from Lutheran to Calvinist. His numerous children were sometimes baptized in one of the three communions, sometimes in another, just as political convenience served. Henry of Navarre abjured his Huguenot faith, then he returned to it, then he abjured it again. Our great Elizabeth, of famous memory, notoriously walked in tortuous and slippery paths. Again, the most dolorous chapter in all history is that which recounts how men and women were burned, hanged, shot, and cruelly tormented, for heresy; and there is a considerable body of authors, who through the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries used against heretics Machiavelli's arguments for making short work with rebels, and asked with logical force why their reason of Church was not just as good as his reason of State.[33] What is the real difference between the practices tolerated in the Prince for the self-preservation of a secular State, and all the abominations perpetrated in the name and for the sake of religious unity? Again, how many of the wars of faith, from Monophysite, Arian, Iconoclast, downwards, have been at bottom far less concerned with opinion than with conflicts of race, nationality, property, and policy, and have been conducted on maxims of purely secular expediency?

Frederick the Great is the hero of the most picturesque of modern English historians. That strong ruler, as we all know, took it into his head to write a refutation of the Prince. 'Sir,' said Voltaire, 'I believe the very first advice that Machiavelli would have given to a disciple, would have been that he should begin by writing a refutation of his book.' Carlyle contemptuously regrets that his hero should have taken any trouble about the Italian's 'perverse little book' and its incredible sophistries; pity he was not refuted by a kick from old Frederick William's jackboot; he deserved no more. Thus Carlyle does not let us forget that nobody so quickly turns cynic as your high-flying transcendentalist, just as nobody takes wickedness so easily as the Antinomian who holds the highest doctrine about the incorruptibility of man's spiritual nature. The plain truth is that Frederick, alike on his good side and his bad side, alike as the wise law-maker, the thrifty steward, the capable soldier, and as the robber of Silesia, and a leading accomplice, if not the inspirer, of the partition of Poland, was the aptest of all modern types of the perverse book.[34] It was reserved for the following century to see even that type depraved and distorted by the mighty descendant of a fugitive family from Tuscany, who found their way to Corsica about the time of Machiavelli's death.[35]

The most imposing incarnation of the doctrine that reason of State covers all, is Napoleon. Tacitus, said Napoleon, writes romances; Gibbon is no better than a man of sounding words; Machiavelli is the only one of them worth reading. No wonder that he thought so. All those maxims that have most scandalised mankind in the Italian writer of the sixteenth century, were the daily bread of the Italian soldier who planted his iron heel on the neck of Europe in the nineteenth. Yet Machiavelli at least sets decent limits and conditions. The ruler may under compulsion be driven to set at nought pity, humanity, faith, religion, for the sake of the State; but though he should know how to enter upon evil when compelled, he should never turn from what is good when he can avoid it. Napoleon sacrificed pity, humanity, faith, and public law, less for the sake of the State than to satisfy an exorbitant passion for personal domination. Napoleon, Charles IX., the Committee of Public Safety, would all have justified themselves by reason of State, and the Bartholomew massacre, the September massacres, and the murder of the Duc d'Enghien, only show what reason of State may come to in any age, in the hands of practical logicians with a knife in their grasp.[36]

Turn from the Absolutist camp to the Republican. Mazzini is in some respects the loftiest moral genius of the century, and he said that though he did not approve the theory of the dagger, nay he deplored it, yet he had not the heart to curse the fact of the dagger. 'When a man,' he says, 'seeks by every possible artifice to betray old friends to the police of the Foreign Ruler, and then somebody arises and slays the Judas in broad daylight in the public streets—I have not the courage to cast the first stone at one who thus takes upon himself to represent social justice and hatred of tyranny.'[37]

Even in modern democracy, many a secret and ugly spring works under decorous mechanism, and recalls Machiavelli's precept to keep the name and take away the thing. Salvagnoli, minister for religion and public instruction in a liberal government of modern Italy, laid it down broadly to the scandal, real or affected, of reactionary opponents, Colla verità non si governa. What shall we say of two great rival Powers, each professing with no little sincerity its earnest desire to spread all the boons of civilisation, yet adjusting their own quarrel by solemn bargain and mutual compact that binds down some weak buffer-state in backwardness and barbarism? Yet such inconsistency between practice and profession may be detected in the newspaper telegrams any month by a reader who keeps his eye upon the right quarter. Is our general standard really so far removed at last from Sir Walter Ralegh's description, which has a Machiavellian twang about it,—'Know ye not, said Ahab, that Ramoth Gilead is ours? He knew this before, and was quiet enough, till opinion of his forces made him look unto his right. Broken titles to kingdoms or provinces, maintenance of friends and partisans, pretended wrongs, and indeed whatsoever it pleaseth him to allege, that thinks his own sword sharpest.' An eminent man endowed with remarkable compass of mind, not many years ago a professor in this university, imagined a modem writer with the unflinching perspicacity of Machiavelli, analysing the party leader as the Italian analysed the tyrant or the prince.[38] Such a writer, he said, would find that the party leader, though possessed of every sort of private virtue, yet is debarred by his position from the full practice of the great virtues of veracity, justice, and moral intrepidity; he can seldom tell the full truth; can never be fair to anybody but his followers and his associates; can rarely be bold except in the interests of his faction. This hint of Maine's is ingenious and may perhaps be salutary, but we must not overdo it. Party government is not the Reign of the Saints, but we should be in no hurry to let the misgivings of political valetudinarianism persuade us that there is not at least as good a stock of veracity, justice, and moral intrepidity inside the world of parliaments or congress, as there is in the world without. But these three or four historic instances may serve to illustrate the ἀπορίαι and awkward points that Machiavelli's writings have propounded for men capable of political reflection in Europe, for many generations past.

If one were to try to put the case for the Machiavellian philosophy in a modern way, it would, I suppose, be something of this kind:—Nature does not work by moral rules. Nature, 'red in tooth and claw,' does by system all that good men by system avoid. Is not the whole universe of sentient being haunted all day and all night long by the haggard shapes of Hunger, Cruelty, Force, Fear? War again is not conducted by moral rules. To declare war is to suspend not merely habeas corpus but the Ten Commandments, and some other good commandments besides. A military manual, by an illustrious hand of our own day, warns us: 'As a nation we are brought up to feel it a disgrace even to succeed by falsehood. We keep hammering along with the conviction that honesty is the best policy, and that truth always wins in the long run. These sentiments do well for a copy-book, but a man who acts upon them had better sheath his sword for ever.' This, by the way, may be one reason among others why we should keep the sword sheathed as long as we can.

Why should the ruler of a State be bound by a moral code from which the soldier is free? Why should not he have the benefit of what has been called the evolutionary beatitude,—Blessed are the strong, for they shall prey on the weak? Right and wrong, cause and effect,—are they not two sides of one question? Has it not been well said that 'morality is the nature of things'? We must include in the computation the whole sum of consequences, and consider acts of State as worked out to their furthest results. Bishop Butler tells you that we cannot give the whole account of any one single thing whatever,—not of all its causes, its ends, its necessary adjuncts. In short, means and end are only one transaction. You must regard policy as a whole. The ruler as an individual is, like other men, no more than the generation of leaves, fleeting, a shadow, a dream. But the State lives on after he shall have vanished. He is a trustee for times to come. He is not shaping his own life only; he guides the distant fortunes of a nation. Leaves fall, the tree stands.

Such, I take it, is the defence of reason of State, of the worship of nation and empire. Everything that policy requires, justice sanctions. Success is the test. There are no crimes in politics, only blunders. 'The man of action is essentially conscienceless' (Goethe). 'Praised be those,' said one, in words much applauded by Machiavelli, 'who love their country rather than the safety of their souls.' 'Let us be Venetians first,' said Father Paul, 'and Christians after.'

We see now the deep questions that lie behind these sophistries, and all the alarming propositions in which they close. How are we to decide the constant question in national concerns, when and whether one duty overrules another that points the contrary way? It is easy to assert that the authority of moral law is paramount, but who denies that cases may arise of disputable and conflicting moral obligations? Do you condemn Prussia for violating in 1813 the treaties imposed by Napoleon after Jena? Does morality apply only to end and not to means? Is the State means or end? What does it really exist for? For the sake of the individual, his moral and material well-being, or is he mere cog or pinion in the vast thundering machine? How far is it true that citizenship dominates all other relations and duties, and is the most important of them? Are we to test the true civilisation of a State by anything else than the predominance of justice, right, equality, in its laws, its institutions, its relations to neighbours? Is one of the most important aspects of national policy its reaction upon the character of the nation itself, and can States enter on courses of duplicity and selfish violence, without paying the penalty in national demoralisation? What are we to think of such sayings as d'Alembert's motto for a virtuous man, 'I prefer my family to myself, my country to my family, and humanity to my country'? Is this the true order of honourable attachments for a man of self-respect and conscience? To Machiavelli all these questions would have been futile. Yet the world, in spite of a thousand mischances, and at tortoise-pace, has steadily moved away from him and his Romans.

The modern conception of a State has long made it a moral person, capable of right and wrong, just as are the individuals composing it. Civilisation is taken to advance, exactly in proportion as communities leave behind them the violences of external nature, and the unspeakable brutalities of man in a state of war. The usages of war are constantly undergoing mitigation. The inviolability of treaties received rude shocks between the first Napoleon and Prince Bismarck. 'You are always talking to me of principles,' said Alexander I. to Talleyrand, 'as if your public law were anything to me. I do not know what it means. What do you suppose that all your parchments and your treaties signify to me?' Yet the sanctity of national faith has gained ground rather than lost, and even naked invasions of it seek the decorum of a diplomatic fig-leaf. Though it is said even now not to be wholly purged of lying, fraud, and duplicity, diplomacy still is conscious of having a character to keep up for truth and plain dealing, so far as circumstances allow. Such conferences, again, as those at Berlin and Brussels in our own day, imperfectly as they have worked, mark the recognition of duty towards inferior races, All these improvements in the character of nations were in the minds of the best men in Machiavelli's day. Reason of State has always been a plea for impeding and resisting them. Las Casas and other churchmen, Machiavelli's contemporaries, fought nobly at the Spanish court against the inhuman treatment of Indians in the New World, and they were defeated by arguments that read like maxims from the Prince.[39] Grotius had forerunners in his powerful contribution towards assuaging the abominations of war, but both letter and spirit in Machiavelli made all the other way[40] Times have come and gone since Machiavelli wrote down his deep truths, but in the great cycles of human change he can have no place among the strong thinkers, the orators, the writers, who have elevated the conception of the State, have humanised the methods and maxims of government, have raised citizenship to be 'a partnership in every virtue and in all perfection.' He turned to the past, just as scholars, architects, sculptors, turned to it; but the idea of reconstructing a society that had once been saturated with the great ruling conceptions of the thirteenth century—as seen and symbolised in Dante, for example—by trying to awaken the social energy of ancient Rome, was just as much of an anachronism as Julian the Apostate. 'Our religion,' said Machiavelli of Christianity, 'has glorified men of humble and meditative life, and not men of action. It has planted the chief good in lowliness and contempt of mundane things; paganism placed it in highmindedness, in bodily force, in all the other things that make men strong. If our religion calls for strength in us, it is for strength to suffer rather than to do. This seems to have rendered the world weak.' This 'discarding the presuppositions of Christianity,' as it has been well described, marks with exactitude the place of Machiavelli in the development of modern European thought. The Prince—the most direct, concentrated, and unflinching contribution ever made to the secularisation of politics—brings into a full light, never before shed upon it, the awful manicheism of human history, the fierce and unending collision of type, ideal, standard, and endeavour.

Machiavelli has been supposed to put aside the question of right and wrong, just as the political economist or the analytical jurist used to do. Truly has it been said that the practical value of all sciences founded on abstractions, depends on the relative importance of the elements rejected and the elements retained in the process of abstraction. The view that he rejected moral elements of government for a scientific purpose and as a hypothetical postulate, seems highly doubtful. Is he not more intelligible, if we take him as following up the divorce of politics from theology, by a divorce from ethics also? He was laying down certain maxims of government as an art; the end of that art is the security and permanence of the ruling power; and the fundamental principle from which he silently started, without shadow of doubt or misgiving as to its soundness, was that the application of moral standards to this business, is as little to the point as it would be in the navigation of a ship.

The effect was fatal even for his own purpose, for what he put aside, whether for the sake of argument or because he thought them in substance irrelevant, were nothing less than the living forces by which societies subsist and governments are strong. A remarkable illustration occurred in his own century. Three or four years before all this on secular and ecclesiastical princedoms was written, John Calvin was born (1509). With a union of fervid religious instinct and profound political genius, almost unexampled in European history, Calvin did in fact what Machiavelli tried to do on paper; he actually created a self-governed state, ruled it, defended it, maintained it, and made that little corner of Europe both the centre of a movement that shook France, England, Scotland, America, for long days to come, and at the same time he set up a bulwark against all the forces of Spanish and Roman reaction in the pressing struggles of his own immediate day. In one sense, Florence, Geneva, Holland, hold as high a place as the greatest States of Europe in the development of modern civilisation; but anybody with a turn for ingenious or idle speculation might ask himself whether, if the influence of Florence on European culture had never existed, the loss to mankind would have been as deep as if the little republic of Geneva had been wiped out by the dukes of Savoy. The unarmed prophet, said Machiavelli, thinking of Savonarola, is always sure to be destroyed, and his institutions must come to nought. If Machiavelli had been at Jerusalem two thousand years ago, he might have found nobody of any importance in his eyes, save Pontius Pilate and the Roman legionaries. He forgot the potent arms of moral force, and it was with these that, in the main, Calvin fought his victorious battle. We need not, however, forget that Calvin never scrupled to act on some of these Italian maxims that have been counted most hateful. He was as ready to resort to carnal weapons as other people. In spite of all the sophistries of sectarian apologists, Calvin's vindictive persecution of political opponents, and his share in the crime of burning Servetus, can only be justified on principles that are much the same as, and certainly not any better than, those prescribed for the tyrant in the Prince. Still the republic of Geneva was a triumph of moral force. So was the daughter system in Scotland. It is true that tyrannical theocracy does not in either case by any means escape the familiar reproaches addressed by history to Jesuits and Inquisitors.

In Italy Savonarola had attempted a similar achievement. It was the last effort to reconcile the spirit of the new age to the old faith, but Italy was for a second time in her history in the desperate case of being able to endure nec vitia nec remedia, neither ills nor cure. In a curious passage (Disc. iii. 1), Machiavelli describes how Dominic and Francis in older days kindled afresh an expiring flame. He may have perceived that for Italy in this direction all was by his time over.

The sixteenth century in Italy in some respects resembles the eighteenth in France. In both, old faiths were assailed and new lamps were kindled. But the eighteenth century was a time of belief in the better elements of mankind. An illusion, you may say. Was it a worse illusion than disbelief in mankind? Machiavelli and his school saw only cunning, jealousy, perfidy, ingratitude, dupery; and yet on such a foundation as this they dreamed that they could build. What idealist or doctrinaire ever fell into a stranger error? Surrounded by the ruins of Italian nationality, says a writer of genius, 'Machiavelli organises the abstract theory of the country with all the energy of the Committee of Public Safety, supported on the passion of twenty-five millions of Frenchman. He carries in him the genius of the Convention. His theories strike like acts' (Quinet). Yet after all has been said, energy as an abstract theory is no better than a bubble.

'The age of Machiavel,' it has been said, 'was something like ours, in being one of religious eclipse, attended by failure of the traditional foundation of morality. A domination of self-interest without regard for moral restriction was the result' (Goldwin Smith). We may hope to escape this capital disaster. Yet it is true to say that Machiavelli represents certain living forces in our actual world; that Science, with its survival of the fittest, unconsciously lends him illegitimate aid; that 'he is not a vanishing type, but a constant and contemporary influence' (Acton). This is because energy, force, will, violence, still keep alive in the world their resistance to the control of justice and conscience, humanity and right. In so far as he represents one side in that unending struggle, and suggests one set of considerations about it, he retains a place in the literature of modern political systems and of Western morals.


  1. The most complete account of the voluminous literature about Machiavelli up to 1858 is given in Robert Mohl's Geschichte und Literatur der Staatswissenschaften, iii. 521, etc.

    A later list is given by Tommasini, La Vita et Gli Scritti di N. M., i. 56–8. See also Villari; of Lord Acton's learned Introduction to the Prince; and especially the bibliography attached to Mr. Burd's valuable chapter vol. i. of the Cambridge Modern History, pp. 719–26.

    Of the French contributions, Nourrisson's Machiavel (edition of 1883) seems much the most vigorous, in spite of occasional outbreaks of the curious feeling between Frenchmen and Italians. Among political pamphlets may be named Dialogue aux enfers, entre Machiavel et Montesquieu, ou la politique de Machiavel au 19 siècle: Par un Contemporain (1864)—an energetic exposure of the Second Empire.—Machiavel, et l'influence de sa doctrine, sur les opinions, les mœurs, de la politique de la France pendant la Révolution: par M. de Mazères; Paris, 1816—a royalist indictment of Machiavelli, as the inspirer alike of Jacobins and Bonaparte. M. Tassin's Gianotti, sa vie, son temps, et ses doctrines (1869), published on the eve of the overthrow of the Second Empire, and seeming to use the Italian publicist mainly as a mask for condemning the French government of the day. Gianotti (1492–1572) was of Savonarola's school, and M. Tassin uses him as a foil for Machiavelli. Others of less quality are: Dante, Michel-Ange, Machiavel. Par C. Calemard de Lafayette. Paris, 1852.—Essai sur les œuvres et la doctrine de Machiavel. Par Paul Deltuf. Paris, 1867.—Machiavel, Montesquieu, Rousseau. Von Jacob Venedy. Berlin, 1850. Written after the events of 1848 in Germany, the author's object being to show that the three writers named were the representatives of the only three possible systems of government, and of these three Machiavelli stands for all that is wicked and reactionary, Rousseau for progress and humanity. The book is composed, not from any scientific point of view, but to illustrate contemporary politics. Louis Philippe is said (p. 66) to be the greatest scholar that Machiavelli ever had, and there are a good many remarks on the death of 'Machiavellismus' in France and Germany, which have hardly been borne out by history since 1850.
  2. Machiavelli and the Elizabethan Drama. Von Edward Meyer. Wiemar, 1897, p. xi. Mr. Courthope, History of English Poetry (ii. ch. 12), has shown how much Marlowe had studied Machiavelli, and states his view of the effect of this study as follows: 'What we find in Marlowe is Seneca's exaltation of the freedom of the human will, dissociated from the idea of Necessity, and joined with Machiavelli's principle of the excellence of virtù. This principle is represented under a great variety of aspects; sometimes in the energy of a single heroic character, as in Tamburlaine; sometimes in the pursuit of unlawful knowledge, as in Faustus: again, in The Jew of Malta, in the boundless hatred and revenge of Barabas; in Guise plotting the massacre of the Huguenots out of cold-blooded policy; and in Mortimer planning the murder of Edward II. from purely personal ambition. Incidentally, no doubt, in some of these instances, the indulgence of unrestrained passion brings ruin in its train; but it is not so much for the sake of the moral that Marlowe composed his tragedies, as because his imagination delighted in the exhibition of the vast and tremendous consequences produced by the determined exercise of will in pursuit of selfish objects.'—P. 405.

    The reader will remember that Machiavelli speaks the prologue to The Jew of Malta, with these two lines:—

    'I count religion but a childish toy,
    And hold there is no sin but ignorance.'

    It is not denied by Herr Meyer or others, that Marlowe had studied Machiavelli in the original, and Mr. Courthope seems to make good his contention that it was Marlowe's conception of M.'s principle of virtù that revolutionised the English drama.
  3. 'Old Nick is the vulgar name for the Evil Being in the north of England, and is a name of great antiquity. We borrowed it from the title of an evil genius among the ancient Danes,' etc. etc. On the line in Hudibras, ' We may observe that he was called Old Nick many ages before the famous, or rather infamous, Nicholas Machiavel was born.'—Brand's Popular Antiquities, ii. 364. (Ed. 1816.)
  4. See Tommasini, i. 27–30. Our excellent Ascham declares that he honoured the old Romans as the best breeders and bringers up for well-doing in all civil affairs that ever was in the world, but the new Rome was the home of devilish opinions and unbridled sin, and one of the worst patriarchs of its impiety was Machiavelli.—Schoolmaster (1563–8), Mayor's Edition, 1863, p. 86. Fuller, quoted in Mayor's note, expresses a better opinion of Machiavelli, and says that 'that which hath sharpened the pens of many against him is his giving so many cleanly wipes to the foul noses of the pope and the Italian prelacy' (1642).

    'At the beginning of the seventeenth century the Venetian senate was asked to permit the publication of Boccalini's Commentaries on Tacitus. The request was referred to five of the senators for examination. "It is the teaching of Tacitus," they said, "that has produced Machiavelli, and the other bad authors who would destroy public virtue. We should replace Tacitus by Livy and Polybius—historians of the happier and more virtuous times of the Roman republic, and by Thucydides, the historian of the Greek republic, who found themselves in circumstances like those of Venice." '—Sclopia, Revue Hist. de droit français et étranger (1856), ii. 25.

    For the literary use made of Tacitus against the Spanish domination in Italy, see Ferrari, Hist. de la Raison d'Etat, p. 315.
  5. The edition of the Prince, published by the Clarendon Press, with Mr. Burd's most competent and copious critical apparatus, and Lord Acton's closely packed introduction, supplies all that is wanted. The same Press has republished the English translation of the Prince by N. H. Thomson, who has also executed a translation of the Discourses (1883), and now (1906) of the Florentine History.
  6. An interesting article appeared in the Nineteenth Century (December 1896), designed to show the effect of Machiavelli on the English statesmen of the Reformation. The writer admits that there is no evidence to prove that the action of Elizabeth was consciously based on a study of the Prince, but he finds, as he thinks, proof positive that Burleigh had studied Machiavelli in a paper of advice from the Lord Treasurer to the Queen. The proof consists in such sentences as these: 'Men's natures are apt to strive not only against the present smart, but in revenging by past injury, though they be never so well contented thereafter';—'no man loves one the better for giving him the bastinado, though with never so little a cudgel';—'the course of the most wise estates hath ever been to make an assurance of friendship, or to take away all power of enmity'; and so forth. Burleigh very likely may have read the Prince, but it is going too far to assume that a sage statesman must have learned the commonplaces of political prudence out of a book.

    'Cecil asked English ambassadors abroad to procure him copies, and even that harmless gossip, Sir Richard Morison, wiled away his leisure hours at the Emperor's Court in perusing it, making frequent reference to it in his correspondence (see State Papers, Foreign Series, Edward VI. passim; Sloane MSS. 1523; and Harleian MSS. 353, ff 130–9).'—Pollard's England under Protector Somerset, p. 284.
  7. Dr. Abbott, attacking Bacon with the same bitterness with which Machiavelli was attacked for three centuries (Francis Bacon, 1885, pp. 325 and 457–60), insists that the Florentine secretary was the chancellor's master; but such criticism seems to show as one-sided a misapprehension of one as of the other. Dr. Fowler, once President of Corpus Christi College, has dealt conclusively, as I judge, with Dr. Abbott's case, in the preface to his second edition of the Novum Organum (1889), pp. xii–xx, and in his excellent short monograph on Bacon (1881), pp. 41–5.
  8. Mackintosh reproached Bacon for this way of treating history. Spedding stoutly defends it, rather oddly appealing to the narrative of the New Testament, as an example of the most wicked of all judgments, recounted four times 'without a single indignant comment or a single vituperative expression.'—Works, Spedding and Heath, vol. vi. pp. 8–16.

    On this last point Pascal says: 'The style of the gospel is admirable among other ways in this, that there is not a word of invective against the murderers or foes of Jesus Christ. For there is none against Judas, Pilate, or any of the Jews; and so forth.'—Pensées, Art. xix. 2, Ed. Havet, ii. 39. See also Havet's note, p. 44.

    Bacon says M. made a wise and apt choice of method for government—'namely, discourse upon histories or examples; for knowledge drawn freshly, and in our view, out of particulars, findeth its way best to particulars again; and it hath much greater life in practice when the discourse attendeth upon the example than when the example attendeth upon the discourse.'
  9. Harrington's view is expressed in such a sentence as this: 'Corruption in government is to be read and considered in Machiavel, as diseases in a man's body are to be read and considered in Hippocrates. Neither Hippocrates nor Machiavel introduced diseases into man's body nor corruption into government, which were before their time; and seeing they do but discover them, it must be confessed that so much as they have done tends not to the increase but to the cure of them, which is the truth of these two authors.'—System of Politics, ch. x.

    Elsewhere he compares the Italian to one who exposes the tricks of a juggler.
  10. E.g. Patriot King, pp. 106, 118. On the Policy of the Athenians, p. 213.
  11. Essays, i. 156; ii. 391, where he remarks that historians have been almost always friends of virtue, but that the politician is much less scrupulous as to acts of power.
  12. This sentence is Treverret's, L'Italie au 16ième Siècle, i. 179. Sainte-Beuve has a short comparison between the two in Causeries, vii. 67–70. 'Machiavelli attached himself to particular facts, and proposed expedients. Montesquieu tried to ascend to general principles, and drew from them consequences that were capable of explaining a long series of social phenomena. The Florentine secretary was a man of action, and reproduced in his writings the impressions that he had received from his intercourse with men and business. Montesquieu is always a man of the closet; he studies men in books.'—Sclopis, Revue Hist. de droit français et étranger (1856), ii. p. 18.

    Comte has worked out the place of Montesquieu and of Machiavelli, Philos. Pos. iv. 178–85, and Pol. Pos. iii. 539.
  13. La diplomatie au temps de Machiavel. Par Maulde-la-Clavière. 1892. 3 vols. i. 306, etc. The French gave the signal for the inevitable attack upon the ancient privileges of Latin as the language of diplomacy. At the beginning of the sixteenth century Spain strove to displace French, but did not succeed even when the Spanish power was at its meridian. In the East, the Turk would have nothing to do with Latin. A Turkish envoy to Venice in 1500, though acquainted with Latin, made it a point of honour only to speak Greek. Charles VIII. did not know Italian, and Louis XII. understood it with difficulty. Machiavelli preferred Italian to Latin.—Maulde-la-Clavière, ch. ii. and ch. vi.
  14. Symonds's translation, Age of the Despots, 244–6.
  15. Thucydides was translated by Laurentius Valla in 1452, and a revised version of the translation was produced thirty years later. One of the fullest of the few references to Thucydides is Disc. III. XVI.
  16. See Jacob Burckhardt's admirable work on the Civilisation of the Renaissance in Italy (English translation by Middlemore), ii. 211. 'Was Germany in the fifteenth century so much better with its godless wars against the Hussites, the crimes of Vehmgericht, the endless feuds of the temporal princes, the shameless oppression of the wretched peasant?'—Thudichum, p. 68.
  17. Phœnissæ, 524.
  18. Janet's Hist. de la Science Politique, i. 539 (3rd ed.).
  19. The contradictions were noted very early. Bodin's Republic appeared, in 1576, and there he says: 'Machiavel s'est bien fort méconté, de dire que l'estat populaire est le meilleur; et néanmoins ayant oublié sa première opinion, il a tenu en un autre lieu, que pour restituer l'Italie en sa liberté, il faut qu'il n'y ait qu'un prince; et de fait, il s'est efforcé de former un estat le plus tyrannique du monde; et en autre lieu il confesse que l'estat de Venise est le plus beau de tous, lequel est une pure aristocratie, s'il en fut oncques: tellement qu'il ne scait à quoi se tenir' (vi. ch. 4).

    The argument that the Prince and Discourses are really one work is best stated by Nourrisson, ch. viii. 137–44.

    'The modern study of politics, however, begins with Machiavelli. Not that he made any definite or permanent contribution to political theory which can be laid hold of as a principle fertile of new consequence. His works are more concerned with the details of statecraft than with the analysis of the state. But we find in him, for the first time since Aristotle, the pure, passionless curiosity of the man of science.'—Sir Frederick Pollock in the History of the Science of Politics, ch. ii.

    Tocqueville says: 'I have been reading Machiavelli's History of Florence very attentively. The Machiavel of the history is to me the Machiavel of the Prince. I do not conceive how the reading of the first can leave the least doubt as to the author of the second. In his history he sometimes praises great and fine actions, but we see that it is with him only an affair of imagination. The bottom of his thought is that all actions are indifferent in themselves, and must be judged by the skill and the success that they exhibit. For him the world is a great arena from which God is absent, where conscience has nothing to do with it, and where everybody gets on with things as best he can.'—Tocqueville, Correspond. i. 326–7.

    As for Tocqueville, when he came to handle public business in difficult times, some notions with a slightly Machiavellian flavour began to lodge in his mind. For instance:—'As if you could ever satisfy men, by only busying yourself with their general good, without taking account of their vanity and of their private and personal interests.'—Souvenirs, p. 343.

    'The versatility of men, and the vanity of these great words of patriotism and right, with which the small passions cover themselves.'—Ib. 347.

    'My secret consisted in flattering their self-love [Members of Parliament and Cabinet Colleagues], while I took good care to neglect their advice.... I had discovered that it is with the vanity of men that you can do the best business, for you often get from it very substantial things, while giving very little substance in return. You will never make as good a bargain with their ambition or their greed. Yet it is true that to deal profitably with the vanity of others, you must lay aside your own and look only to the success of your scheme; and this is what will always make that kind of trade very difficult.'—Ib. 361–2.

    'Nations are like men; they are still prouder of what flatters their passions, than of what serves their interests.'—Ib. 394.
  20. De Sanctis, Storm della Let. Ital., ii. 82.
  21. 'However we brave it out, we men are a little breed.'—Tennyson's Maud, i. 5.
  22. Sainte-Beuve has pointed out (Port-Royal, iii. 362–3, ed. 1860) how Machiavelli is here related to Pascal. Pascal's reason allows no sort of abstraction to mix itself up with social order. He had seen the Fronde at close quarters, for he was a man of the world at that epoch. He had meditated on Cromwell. The upshot of it was to place man at the mercy of custom, and at the same time to condemn those who shake off the yoke of custom. 'Custom ought to be followed only because it is custom, and not because it is reasonable or just. People follow it because they think it is reasonable, and take antiquity for the proof that it is so,' etc. etc.—Pensées, Art. vi. 40. Ed. Havet, i. 82.
  23. See Ferrari's Hist. de la Raison d'État, p. 260; de Sanctis, Storia della Let. Italiana, ii. 74–89; Quinet, Révolutions d'Italie, ii. 122.
  24. Disc. i. 47. Aristotle, Politics, iii. 11; Jowett (Notes, p. 129) has an uneasy note upon the point. On the whole, Machiavelli seems to take broader and sounder ground than anybody else.
  25. Baumgarten's view is elaborately stated in his Geschichte Karls V. i.; Anhang, 522–36, and Signor Villari's answer in his Niccolò Machiavelli, 496–502.

    Guido da Montefeltro says in the Inferno (xxvii. 75): L'opere mie non furon leonine, ma divolpe—'My deeds were those of the fox, and not of the lion.' Bacon, in a well-known passage, uses a more common figure: 'It is not possible to join serpentine wisdom with the columbine simplicity, except men know all the conditions of the serpent.'—Advancement of Learning', ii. 21, 9.
  26. Hist. of Rome, IV. X. vol. iii. 380–91 (Eng. Trans.).
  27. E.g. Scherer, Études Crit. vi. 102, etc.
  28. See Tommasini, i. 242–65; Villari, Bk. I. ch. v., i. 392. For M.'s picture of the Italian princes, see Arte della Guerra, Bk. vii.
  29. Gregorovius thinks that there are too many arguments both ways for us to form a decided opinion.—Lucrezia Borgia, II. c. v. Pastor is confident that it was Roman fever, and goes fully into the medical question.—Gesch. der Päpste, iii. 471–2. Dr. Garnett argues strongly against poison, English Historical Review, 1894, ix. 335–9.—Creighton, iv. 43–4.
  30. Prescott, Hist. Ferd. and Isabella, ii. p. 498.
  31. See Cæsar Borgia. Par Charles Yriarte. Paris, 1889.

    The Borgian policy is set out with much reason and force in Bishop Creighton's History of the Popes, Bk. v. ch. xi. vol. iv. pp. 44–53. Also the character of Cæsar Borgia, pp. 64–6. Dr. Pastor, writing from the catholic point of view, does not shrink froma completely candid estimate of Alexander VI.—See Gesch. der Päpste, iii.
  32. The saying of Cosmo de' Medici, Ist. Fior. Lib. VII., where Machiavelli reports others of his sayings, and gives a vivid account of Cosmo.

    Bacon tells us in characteristic language that Henry VII. desired to bring celestial honour into the house of Lancaster, and begged Pope Julius to canonise Henry VI.; but Julius refused, as some said, because the king would not come to his rates, more probably, however, because he knew that Henry VI. was a very simple man, and he did not choose to let the world suppose that saint and simpleton were the same thing.—History of Henry VII.; Works, vi. 233 (Spedding and Heath).
  33. Ferrari, Hist. de la Raison d'Etat, 300. Per la fè il tutto lice. Ger. Lib., iv. 26.
  34. 'Frederick the Great of Prussia, in November 1760, published military instructions for the use of his generals, which were based on a wide, practical knowledge of the matter. . . . When he could not procure himself spies among the Austrians, owing to the careful guard which their light troops kept around their camp, the idea occurred to him, and he acted on it with success, of utilising the suspension of arms that was customary after a skirmish between hussars, to make these officers the means of conducting epistolary correspondence with the officers on the other side. "Spies of compulsion," he explained in this way. When you wish to convey false information to an enemy, you take a trustworthy soldier and compel him to pass to the enemy's camp to represent there all that you wish the enemy to believe. You also send by him letters to excite the troops to desertion; and in the event of its being impossible to obtain information about the enemy, Frederick prescribes the following: Choose some rich citizen who has land and a wife and children, and another man disguised as his servant or coachman, who understands the enemy's language. Force the former to take the latter with him to the enemy's camp to complain of injuries sustained, threatening him that if he fails to bring the man back with him after having stayed long enough for the desired object, his wife and children shall be hanged and his house burnt. "I was myself," he adds, "constrained to have recourse to this method, and it succeeded." '—Maine, International Law, 150–1.
  35. 'A monarch's promises,' Alva writes to Philip II. (1573), 'were not to be considered so sacred as those of humbler mortals. Not that the king should directly violate his word, but at the same time,' continued the Duke, 'I have thought all my life, and I have learned it from the Emperor, your Majesty's father, that the negotiations of kings depend upon different principles from those of us private gentlemen who walk the world; and in this manner I always observe that your Majesty's father, who was so great a gentleman and so powerful a prince, conducted his affairs.'—Motley, Dutch Republic, Pt. 3, ch. 9.

    More than one historian has pointed out as a merit of Louis XI. (1461–83), that it was he who substituted in government intellectual means for material means, craft for force, Italian policy for feudal policy. There was plenty of lying and of fraud, but it was a marked improvement in the tactics of power to put persuasion, address, skilful handling of men, into the place of impatient, reckless resort to naked force. Since the days of Louis XI., so it is argued, we have made a further advance; we have introduced publicity and open dealing instead of lies, and justice instead of egotism.—Guizot's Hist. de la Civilisation en Europe, xi. p. 307.
  36. The late Lord Lytton delivered a highly interesting address, on National and Individual Morality Compared, when he was Lord Rector at Glasgow, and he said this about the case of the Duc d'Enghien: 'The first Napoleon committed many such offences against private morality. But the language of private morality cannot be applied to his public acts without limitations. The kidnapping of the Duc d'Enghien, and his summary execution after a sham trial, was about as bad an act as well could be. But I should certainly hesitate to describe it as a murder in the ordinary sense. Morally, I think, it was worse than many murders for which men have been tried and punished by law. But I do not think that the English Government in 1815 could, with any sort of propriety, have delivered up Napoleon to Louis XVIII., to be tried for that offence like a common criminal.'
  37. Life and Writings of Mazzini (ed. 1891), vi. 275–6.
  38. Popular Government. By Sir Henry Maine. 1885, p. 99.

    A recent German pamphlet (Promachiavell, von Friedrich Thudichum: Stuttgart, 1897) hopes for a second Machiavelli, who will trace out for us, 'with rich experiences and a genial artistic hand,' the inner soul of the Jesuit and of the Demagogue.—p. 107.
  39. See an interesting chapter by Professor Nys of Brussels, Les Publicistes Espagnols du 16ième Siècle (1890).
  40. Nys, Les Précurseurs de Grotius, p. 128.

    During the sixteenth and the seventeenth centuries Machiavelli's maxims became the centre of a large body of literature, of which the reader will find a full account in Ferrari's Hist. de la Raison d'Etat, part ii. Some interesting points on the Neo-Machiavellism of the nineteenth century are marked by Henry Sidgwick, in his little volume Practical Ethics (1898), pp. 52–83.

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010
(Redirected to Database error article)

From LoveToKnow 1911

(There is currently no text in this page)


Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary

See also machiavelli


Proper noun



Machiavelli (plural Machiavellis)

  1. Niccolò Machiavelli (1469-1527), Italian statesman and writer, whose work The Prince (1532) advises that acquiring and exercising power may require unethical methods.
  2. A Machiavellian person


Got something to say? Make a comment.
Your name
Your email address