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The Prince
By: Nicolò Machiavelli
Major Topic: Politics
Minor Topic: Diplomacy

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         “The Prince” was a present to Lorenzo di Piero de' Medici. Machiavelli, in his cover letter, sought to get into Lorenzo's good graces by a gift. But not by the usual gifts of fine things, rather with a gift comprising of what is of great value to Machiavelli and should be to a good prince: the knowledge of the actions of great men. Which was acquired with experience, study and reflection then presented in a clean, clear and short format. That is, without the usual adornments, allurements or embellishments so as to make it as useful as possible. Machiavelli hoped that Lorenzo would not consider him presumptuous to offer such a gift but rather, like a painter who sits below a mountain so as to contemplate, paint and immortalize it, Machiavelli sought to understand the nature of princes. Just as only a prince can understand the people, Machiavelli hoped that Lorenzo would read diligently and discover Machiavelli's enormous desire that he and the house of Medici should achieve greater successes and then he would remember poor Machiavelli who has suffered such bad luck.


         Chapter One

         A taxonomy of states. All states are either republics or principalities. Principalities are either hereditary or new. The new principalities are either new to an old state or entirely new. All new dominions are used to living either under a prince or in freedom and are acquired by force (either the princes' own or another's) or by fortune or by ability.


         Chapter Two

         Machiavelli will not write about republics, rather he will write about how to rule and preserve a principality. Concerning hereditary states, they are far less difficult to hold. A prince simply must not disobey the established customs and then he must just handle circumstances as they come. Even if a usurper were to arise and kick him out, the old prince would easily return when the usurper makes a mistake. A hereditary prince has less reason to offend and is therefore more loved by the people (assuming he is not so depraved as to engender hatred). With fewer changes in the memory of the people, there will be less and less desire for change.


         Chapter Three

         For a prince complications arise in a new principality. First, although some men, hoping to improve their condition, are willing to help change their rulers, they soon find that the new prince cannot satisfy them. Second, the prince, to exercise his authority, necessarily needs to place some burdens on the new subjects. So the prince has hurt some in acquiring the territory and those who helped him cannot all be satisfied. Therefore in securing a new principality, the prince is always required to acquire the good will of the locals.

         New territories added to an existing dominion are of either the same customs and language or they are not. New territories that are of the same customs and language are the easiest to hold (especially if they were a principality). The new prince merely needs to kill the entire royal family and the new prince must not raise taxes or change any laws. The people, being so similar will live peacefully together and soon become one within the new prince's principality.

         New territories that are not of the same language, customs or laws as the prince's principality are much more difficult to hold. One of the new prince's greatest aids in holding a new territory is making his permanent residence there. In this way the prince can spot trouble right away and deal with it when it is small. If the prince does not live there, he will not hear of trouble until it is very large at which time there is less chance of there being a remedy. Additionally, there is less plundering by the officials when the prince is nearby. Further, the new subjects can seek recourse from the new prince, which gives more cause for love and fear in the population.

         Another aid to holding a territory with a different language, customs or laws is to send colonists to one or two places that are strategically essential to holding the territory. Failing to do this, a prince must send soldiers. A large contingent of soldiers is more expensive and tends to cause more problems with the population than it solves. Colonists are low maintenance, relatively cost free, more grateful and less disagreeable to the locals. Those whose land was taken ought to be small in number and crushed completely. The smallness in the number of victims will help keep the rest quiet and fearful. While the victims themselves will be poor and unorganized or dead.

         Men ought to be treated well or entirely crushed. Revenge for harms suffered can be sought by the living; but the dead do not avenge.

         In order to prevent discontented subjects from helping to introduce a competitor, a prince should take upon himself the role of leader and defender of less powerful adjoining states. And then keep them from becoming too powerful or letting a more powerful prince gain a foothold. Then in due course, discontented subjects in these adjacent states will rally to the new prince's state and give opportunity to bring their state over to himself. In this way a prince can gain a new territory with little trouble and very little effort on his part.

         A prince should plan for a troubled future. If he does he may find remedies more easily than if he does not plan for a troubled future. Furthermore, just as in medicine, an early treatment is far easier, more likely to be successful and preferable to a late treatment, a prince who does not foresee troubles will be like a doctor who does not see a disease – perhaps a fatal omission.

         A prince should have enough foresight to see whether action on his part will strength any of his competitors. If some action has that effect the prince should refrain from that action. For most certainly, he who is the cause of a competitor's increase in power, is ruined.


         Chapter Four

         All principalities are governed in one of two different ways. 1) By a prince with servants who act as ministers at his pleasure. 2) Or by a prince and the nobility in which membership is determined by blood or tradition, that is the nobility serve but not by the pleasure of the prince.

         The nobility of the second kind have their own subjects that likely love and/or fear their lord more than the prince. The subjects of the first kind of prince have greater consideration for their prince since there is no one who could be recognized as his superior.

         The first kind of principality is very difficult to conquer because it is hard to divide as no one in a high position is likely to rebel and those who do cannot take the people with them. However once having conquered it, it is easy to hold because once the royal family is destroyed, there is no one to fear and no one with sufficient influence over the people to pose a threat.

         A principality with an established hereditary nobility is relatively easy to conquer because one can always find some discontented nobles who seek to better their positions through change of leadership. Such people can open the way and make the conquest easier. On the other hand, holding such a principality is much more difficult due to difficulties from those who have helped and those who the prince has crushed but not destroyed. Killing off the royal family is not enough because there will always be a new noble to claim the role; and even the possibility of too much killing of the nobility will unite them against the prince.


         Chapter Five

         A new dominion used to living freedom under their own laws can be held in one of three ways: 1) the dominion must be ruined 2) The prince must live there or 3) by establishing an oligarchy dependent on the prince.

         If the prince does not destroy the new dominion he may end up being destroyed by it. For liberty, as a concept, will always engender rebellion and no amount of time will wash that away. Republics always have more vitality, hatred, desire for vengeance and a longer memory. [This is perhaps an attempt to protect republics.]

         the prince may consider letting the inhabitants continue living under their own laws and customs by setting up a friendly government to pay tribute. This oligarchy ought to be completely dependent on the prince, so it is in their interest to support the Prince. The former republic's own citizens will generally be the best way to hold that particular form of dominion.


         Chapter Six

         A wise man should follow and imitate the greatest of men. In a new principality there is more or less difficulty in holding it as there is skill in the prince. Although every prince needs some good fortune, the prince who has relied least on fortune (he who only owes opportunity to fortune) is most strongly established.

         The greatest of men, who by bold-spirited action and with difficulty acquire a new principality, keep it with ease because they have laid a foundation early. In contrast, fortune favored princes who rise quickly and easily find difficulties come from the new rules and methods needed to establish government and security. Because those who prospered in the old system will resist and those who are unsure of the new establishment will not give their whole-hearted support.

         In such an endeavor, it is best to not need anyone or their prayers and to rely on oneself and one's force. This is because the nature of people is changeable. They are easily persuaded in any direction. The prince needs to ensure steadfastness in his chosen faith and laws through force. This is why unarmed prophets fail and armed prophets succeed.


         Chapter Seven

         Good fortune may be of great help in becoming a prince, but those who rise in this way alone find great difficulties in remaining a prince. These are the princes who acquired their dominions though a purchase or as a gift. These princes live on the benevolence and luck of whoever raised them – two most uncertain conditions. Furthermore it is unlikely that such princes are adept at ruling since they have not had any experience nor are they likely to have affable and loyal forces.

         The essential problem of all who rise quickly is that a proper foundation is not built. Building the foundation after becoming prince is a task in which only the most able and intelligent have succeeded. One such prince was Cesare Borgia. He, though great foresight, impeccable timing and self-assured action, was able to build a solid foundation for his principality. This foundation included winning the proper friends, overcoming difficulties though force or fraud, making himself loved and feared by his subjects, being obeyed and admired by his soldiers and exterminating those with motive or desire to hurt him. Cesare Borgia was also able to properly act in changing the old order for a new one, in acting cruelly or mercifully, in destroying a disloyal army and creating a new one. He also maintained diplomatic relations such that other princes were glad to help or cautious to offend.


         Chapter Eight

         A prince may also become a prince though despicable means such as patricide or any other form of parricide. Such actions are not a real talent and will not win any glory even if they may win a dominion.

         There is a lesson if one wonders how it is that some such men could long maintain their principalities yet other, better men, did not last long.

         The answer is in the proper use of cruelty. Cruelty can be forgiven if used to achieve one's security and is used for a short time and not again. However if cruelty is carried on for too long or too often or becomes more onerous a prince will soon find himself dead.

         Therefore a new prince, upon seizing a state, should figure out what evil needs to be done to secure his position, then carry it out quickly. Damages, like bad tasting medicine should be dished out once so that the damages, being tasted less and less offend less and less. Benefits, like good food, should be given out little by little so the good taste may last longer.


         Chapter Nine

         A civil principality has a prince who as a private citizen was raised to that level by the people or by the nobles. The people and the nobles are in continuous opposition. The people want be free of repression and the nobles want to repress the people. This conflict results in one of three possibilities: a principality, self-government or anarchy.

         A principality is created by either the people or the nobles in their attempt to resist the other. He who has becomes prince due to the nobles will have a harder time since he is surrounded by noblemen who think themselves the prince's equals. And therefore they are harder to manage. He who becomes prince due to the people's will has an easier time because there is no one who will be overtly disobedient. And the people are easier to satisfy since all that is required is inaction – that is that the people be not oppressed.

         A prince, who was raised up by the people, has only to worry about being abandoned by them. A prince, who was raised up by the nobles, has to worry about the people and the nobles rising up against him.

         There are two ways in which to categorize nobles: They either tie their fortune to the prince or they do not. Those who do are good and should be well supported.

         Those who do not tie their fortune to the prince can be dealt with in one of two ways: if they are cowards, the prince can make good use of them. A prince could appear to be magnanimous in good times and in bad times they, being cowards, are not to be feared. If they fail to bind their fortune to the prince and are not cowards, the prince should be on guard and be fearful. They should be treated as enemies because they surly will betray their prince in bad times.

         In all cases a prince should seek to get in or stay in the people's good graces. A prince who was raised up by the nobles can achieve this by becoming the people's champion and taking them under his protection. People naturally develop greater bonds of loyalty when they receive kindness from one who was not expected to be kind.

         A prince who displays the princely virtues such as courage, leadership etc. and keeps the people encouraged will have laid his foundation well and will never be misled by the people.

         A principality can be ruled directly by the prince or by magistrates. A principality ruled by magistrates is more feeble and less secure than one ruled directly by the prince. The goodwill of the magistrates is less secure than the princes own. Consequently in times of trouble, the prince will have a harder time to use his authority if people have been habituated to obey the magistrates. Therefore in hard times a prince may find it harder to find trustworthy men. But if a prince runs his principality such that every one always has need of him and his state then during hard times the people will be much more faithful.


         Chapter Ten

         In judging the strength of a principality one must consider whether or not a prince can survive on his own or whether he needs help from others. Machiavelli judges a principality as strong if the prince can raise a large enough army to face and defeat any attacker in the field. A weak principality will need to hide behind its city's walls.

         A prince in a weak principality should fortify and save up provisions in his cities and towns. He should never defend the countryside. A prince with a strong city and a year's provisions will not be attacked easily; and if he should be attacked he will have a great advantage and opportunity.

         The advantage comes from the fact that an attacking army will find it much more difficult to lay siege for a year than the prince will to live in his city. This is especially true if the attacking army has ravaged the countryside.

         The opportunity comes from the fact that men bond and are bound by common perils, losses and benefits. The attacking army will imperil the people and the prince, both may suffer losses in the pillaging of the countryside and both have a common goal: the desire for revenge or to overcome the siege or to expel the invaders. Therefore an invasion is a further opportunity to secure the peoples goodwill.


         Chapter Eleven

         Ecclesiastical principalities are special. They are acquired by competence or good fortune but a prince needs neither competence or good fortune to hold the principality; rather they are held by age old religious customs that are so strong that the actions of the prince will not make any difference. Only such princes have undefended states which no one takes; subjects which they do not rule and who do not care. It seems these principalities are under the protection of God.

         Yet they do have temporal power. How did the spiritual power become temporal? With both money and arms. The popes have found unique ways to make money and so long as a pope does everything to strengthen the Church instead of individuals or factions, the Church's temporal power will only increase.


Added on: 2010-05-29 06:59:07
Text Crawl by: James Jeff McLaren
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