Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAPTER XLIX.: a republic that desires to maintain her liberties needs daily fresh precautions: it was by such merits that fabius obtained the surname of maximus. - The Historical, Political, and Diplomatic Writings, vol. 2 (The Prince, Discourses on the First Ten Books of Titus Livius, Thoughts of a Statesman)
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CHAPTER XLIX.: a republic that desires to maintain her liberties needs daily fresh precautions: it was by such merits that fabius obtained the surname of maximus. - Niccolo Machiavelli, The Historical, Political, and Diplomatic Writings, vol. 2 (The Prince, Discourses on the First Ten Books of Titus Livius, Thoughts of a Statesman) 
The Historical, Political, and Diplomatic Writings of Niccolo Machiavelli, tr. from the Italian, by Christian E. Detmold (Boston, J. R. Osgood and company, 1882). Vol. 2.
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a republic that desires to maintain her liberties needs daily fresh precautions: it was by such merits that fabius obtained the surname of maximus.
We have already said elsewhere, that in a great republic there are constantly evils occurring requiring remedies which must be efficacious in proportion to the importance of the occasion. And if ever any city experienced strange and unforeseen ills, it was Rome. Such, for instance, as the plot which the Roman ladies seem to have formed to kill their husbands, so that many had actually poisoned them, whilst others had prepared the poison for the purpose. Such was also the conspiracy of the Bacchanals, discovered at the time of the Macedonian war, in which many thousands of men and women were implicated. This conspiracy would have proved very dangerous to Rome had it not been discovered in time; and if the Romans had not been accustomed to punish the guilty, even if they were in great numbers. Even if we had not an infinity of other evidences of the greatness of this republic, it would be made manifest by the extent of her executions, and the character of the punishment she inflicted upon the guilty. Rome did not hesitate to have a whole legion put to death according to a judicial decision, or to destroy an entire city, or to send eight or ten thousand men into exile with such extraordinary conditions as could hardly be complied with by one man, much less by so many. It was thus she banished to Sicily the soldiers that had unfortunately allowed themselves to be defeated at Cannæ, imposing upon them the conditions not to live in any cities, and to take their meals standing. But the most terrible of her executions was the system of decimation in her armies, when, by lot, one soldier out of every ten was put to death. It was impossible to devise a more terrible punishment, where a great number were involved, than this. For when any crime is committed by a multitude, where the individual authors cannot be ascertained, it is impossible to punish them all, there being so many. To chastise a part, leaving the others unpunished, would be unjust to the first, whilst the others would feel encouraged to commit fresh crimes. But where all have merited death, and only every tenth man is punished by lot, these will have occasion to complain only of fate; whilst those who escape will be careful not to commit other crimes, for fear that the next time the lot might fall to them. The poisoners and the Bacchanals were punished as the greatness of their crimes merited.
Although the consequences of such evils in a republic are bad, yet they are not mortal, for there is always time to correct them. But it is not the same with such evils as affect the state itself; for unless they are checked and corrected by some wise hand, they will cause the ruin of the state. The liberality with which the Romans used to grant the privileges of citizenship to strangers had attracted a great many new families to Rome. These began to exercise so great an influence in the elections that it sensibly changed the government, and caused it to deviate from the institutions and principles of the men who had been accustomed to direct it. When Quintus Fabius, who was Censor at that time, observed this, he had all the new families that had caused this disorder enrolled into four tribes; so that, being confined to such narrow limits, they should not corrupt all Rome. Fabius had well comprehended the evil, and promptly and without difficulty applied a suitable remedy; which was so well received by the republic, that it earned him the surname of Maximus.
THOUGHTS OF A STATESMAN.
This collection of maxims, extracted from the works of Machiavelli, was made by an eminent Italian jurist and man of letters, who selected and arranged them to show the injustice of the charges against the writings of Machiavelli, resulting from an unfair prejudice and imperfect understanding of his sentiments. The little book was printed in Rome, with the entire approval of the Papal censors, in the year 1771. Subsequently a corrected edition was printed at Lausanne in Switzerland, enriched with a polished dedicatory letter, pretending to have been written by Machiavelli himself to his son. This letter was so exactly in the style of Machiavelli that it deceived the public, and even those best acquainted with his writings. To give it still more a varnish of authenticity, a little note was added to the letter intended to make it appear that it had been found amongst the papers of Francesco del Nero.*
Supposing that it may be interesting to the reader, a translation of this letter is subjoined.
Niccolo Machiavelli to his Son Bernardo.
In these few pages, my son, you have the substance of many volumes, the fruit of many years of labor of mine, and of the immense labor of others during many centuries. Study then, whilst still young yourself, the thoughts of a head blanched by age. I know that some one has poured out his venom against my writings because he has formed his judgment upon each one separately, instead of all together, and has looked more to the words than the spirit; as if one could judge correctly of a work or a science or art from a single part, and not the whole together, or could judge of the colors without regard to the drawing. These sentences, my son, if you are more favored by Heaven than myself, will serve you as a sufficient training for the safe management of affairs and the carrying them to a happy end. Vale!
1. All enterprises to be undertaken should be for the honor of God and the general good of the country.
2. The fear of God facilitates every enterprise undertaken by governments.
3. Wherever there is religion, there every good may be presupposed; and where it is lacking, there all evil may be presupposed.
4. As the observance of Divine worship is the cause of the greatness of states, so the disregard of Divine worship is the cause of their ruin.
5. The non-observance of religion and of laws are vices that are the more detestable as they are caused by those who govern.
6. It is impossible that he who governs should himself be respected by those who disregard the Deity.
7. In well-constituted governments the citizens fear more to break their oaths than the laws; because they esteem the power of God more than that of men.
8. Governments that wish to maintain themselves incorrupt must above all else maintain religious ceremonies uncorrupted, and hold them always in the highest veneration.
9. If in all the governments of the Christian republic religion were maintained as it was instituted by its Divine Founder, the state and the Christian republics would be much more united and happy than what they are now.
10. To show little reverence to God, and still less to the Church, is not the act of a free man, but of one that is dissolute, and more inclined to evil than to good.
11. The disregard of all devotion and of all religion brings with it many troubles and infinite disorders.
12. St. Francis and St. Dominic, by their poverty and the example of the life of Christ, brought back the Christian religion into the minds of men, and restored it to its original principles.
13. The Christian religion, having shown us the truth and the true way, should be interpreted according to virtue, and not according to idleness.
14. It is not proper that men should pass their holidays in idleness and in places of pleasure.
15. Amongst all the qualities that distinguish a citizen in his country is his being above all other men liberal and munificent, especially in the construction of public edifices, such as churches, monasteries, and retreats for the poor, for the infirm, and for pilgrims.
16. The good citizen, although constantly spending money in the building of churches and in charities, yet complains that he has never been able to spend so much in honor of God but what he finds himself His debtor on his books.
17. It is proper to thank God, when in his infinite goodness he deigns to accord to a state or to a citizen some mark of approval, which the one has merited by its greatness, and the other by his rare virtues and wisdom.
peace and war.
1. A good and wise prince should love peace and avoid war.
2. Those who counsel a prince have to fear lest he should have some one near him who in time of peace desires war, because he cannot gain his living without it.
3. Arms should be reserved for the last extremity, when all other means prove insufficient.
4. A prince who has any feelings of humanity cannot altogether rejoice at a victory that spreads sorrow amongst all his subjects.
5. The increase of power and state brings with it an increase of enmity and envy, the invariable sources of war and disaster.
6. That government alone is durable which rests upon the free will of the governed.
7. He who, blinded by ambition, rises to a place from which he cannot rise any higher, necessarily prepares for a most disastrous fall.
8. In a well-constituted government, wars, peace, and alliances are decided upon, not for the satisfaction of the few, but for the general good.
9. That war is just which is necessary.
10. The people will complain of a war made without reason.
11. Not he who first takes to arms is the cause of the mischief, but he who gives the first cause for taking to arms.
12. Princes should remember that wars are begun at the will of others, but are not terminated at the will of others.
13. Whenever victory impoverishes or conquests enfeeble us, we ought to abandon them, or we shall not arrive at the aim for which the war is made.
14. He who is impoverished by war cannot acquire strength, even though he is victorious, for he expends more than what he gains by his conquests.
15. In badly organized governments, victories first empty the treasury; after that they impoverish the people without securing them against the enemy. Thence the victor enjoys his victory but little, and the enemy does not feel the loss.
16. We must guard against the conquest of such cities or provinces as revenge themselves upon the victor without fighting and without blood; but who by corrupting him with their evil habits expose him to be overcome by whoever assails him.
17. The valor of men is pleasing even to the enemy, whilst cowardice and malice are despised.
18. He who makes too much account of the cuirass, and wishes to be honored with it on, incurs no loss that he values so much as that of his reputation.
19. Even in war but little glory is derived from any fraud that involves the breaking of a given pledge and of agreements made.
20. An ally should prefer his pledged faith to advantages or to perils.
21. The greatest and most important care for the commander of an army is to have near him men that are faithful, experienced in war, and prudent, with whom he can constantly counsel and discuss as to his own troops and those of the enemy, from whom he can learn which are the most numerous, which the best armed, the best mounted, and the best drilled, which the most able to bear privations, and on which to rely most, whether on infantry or cavalry.
22. No qualities are calculated to win for a commander the good will of the people so much as examples of chastity and justice.
23. Even in war it is a cruel, inhuman, and impious thing to dishonor the women, to debauch the virgins, and not to spare temples and holy places.
24. An act of humanity and clemency has more influence with men than an act of ferocity and violence; and there are many instances when provinces or cities that would not yield to arms, to engines of war, or to any other human force, have surrendered to an example of humanity, piety, charity, or generosity. History has many proofs of this. The capture of Carthagena in Spain did not give Scipio Africanus so great a reputation as the example of chastity which he gave when he restored a beautiful young wife intact to her husband. The fame of this act won him the friendship of all Spain. We see from this how much the people desire that those who are above them should possess these virtues, and how much they are praised by historians; and by those who write the lives of princes, as well as by those authors who teach them how to bear themselves. Amongst these Xenophon takes the greatest pains to show what honors, what victories, and what glory Cyrus won by being humane and affable, and by not having given any proofs of pride, cruelty, or luxuriousness, or of any other vice that stains the lives of men.
25. It is never wise to drive an enemy to desperation.
26. People readily subject themselves to the empire of him who treats the vanquished as brothers, and not as enemies.
27. Whoever is harsh and cruel in commanding is badly obeyed by his subjects; but whoever is kind and humane meets with ready obedience.
28. To command a multitude it is better to be humane than proud, and merciful rather than cruel.
29. Those Roman commanders who made themselves beloved by their armies, and managed them with condescension, achieved greater advantages than those who made themselves extraordinarily feared by their soldiers.
30. Humanity, affability, and a courteous reception on the part of the commander, have great influence upon the minds of the soldiers; and the giving advice to the one, the promising to another, the taking one by the hand and embracing another, makes them rush with impetuosity to the attack.
31. It is important in armies strictly to distribute rewards and punishments to those who by their good or evil conduct have merited praise or blame. In this way great control is obtained over the troops.
32. The respect for the commander, his habits, and his other great qualities, often cause an immediate suspension of arms.
33. The prince who has plenty of subjects, and lacks soldiers, should not complain of the cowardice of men, but of his own indolence and want of wisdom.
34. An army which disregards justice, and consumes in a reckless manner its means of subsistence, cannot escape want. For the first disorder causes the non-arrival of provisions, and the other useless consumption of those that do arrive.
35. The morals of a soldier should be looked to above all else. He must have honesty and a sense of shame; otherwise he will prove but an instrument of scandal and the first cause of corruption. For it is impossible to believe that either valor or anything praiseworthy can result from a dishonest education, or an impure and immodest mind.
36. If in republics or monarchies it is necessary to have special ordinances for keeping men loyal, peaceful, and in the fear of God, then is it doubly necessary with soldiers. For where should the country look for more devotion than in him who has promised to die for her? Where should she look for greater love of peace than in him who can only be injured by war? And where should there be more fear of God than in him who, being every day exposed to an infinity of dangers, has more need of Divine aid than any one else?
37. The disreputable, the idle, the unbridled, the impious, the fugitives from paternal control, blasphemers, gamblers, and in all respects the badly brought up, should not be accepted as soldiers; for nothing can be more contrary to good discipline than such habits.
38. Women and odious games should be prohibited in armies; soldiers should be so constantly exercised, both individually and collectively, that they have no time left them to think of women, or games, or anything else that renders them seditious and useless.
39. A well-regulated government selects for war men in the flower of their age, when the legs, the hands, and the eye respond to each other; and it waits not until the men come to an age when the forces diminish and wickedness increases.
40. Arms in the hands of national troops, and given them by the laws and regulations, have never done any injury, but have rather always proved useful; and republics maintain themselves longer untainted by means of such arms, than without them.
41. We should imitate the ancients in the boldness and strength of their actions, and not in those that were feeble and effeminate.
42. We should pray God to grant victory to him who brings safety and peace to Christendom.
43. Whoever is content with a moderate victory will always be the better for it; for those who wish to carry it too far often lose.
44. A city that voluntarily surrenders can afford you advantage and security; but to be obliged to hold a city by force causes you weakness and injury in times of adversity; and in peaceful times it causes loss and expense.
45. To conclude an agreement it is necessary to cancel the difficulties that have arisen.
46. An agreement concluded with good intentions is maintained the best.
47. It is the business of a good prince, after the termination of war, to turn his mind to his own greatness and to that of his state.
48. A man proves himself excellent in war and in peace, when in the former he proves himself victorious, and when in the latter he greatly benefits his state and his people.
49. A prince who excels in the conduct of affairs will recover in peace twofold what he has lost in war.
50. The way for a prince to maintain his state is to be armed with troops of his own, to show love and affection to his subjects, and friendship to his neighbors.
the admirable law of nations born with christianity.
1. With the Gentiles the men vanquished in war were either killed, or they remained in perpetual slavery, where they led a most miserable existence. The cities that were taken were either destroyed, or the inhabitants, after having been stripped of their goods and possessions, were expelled and scattered throughout the world, so that the unfortunate in war led the most miserable existence. But the Christian religion has been the cause that but few of the vanquished are killed, and none are kept long in captivity. For they can easily liberate themselves; and the cities, though they have a thousand times rebelled, are not destroyed, and the inhabitants are left in the enjoyment of their possessions.
2. Our Christian princes, in the midst of their conquests, show an equal affection for the cities that have become subject to them; they leave them almost all their ancient institutions, and all their industries; differing in that respect from the barbarous potentates of the East, who are devastators of the countries and destroyers of all civilization amongst men.
vices that have made the great the prey of the small.
1. Those ancient princes deceived themselves when they thought that the art of well governing their states consisted in knowledge, in writings, in making a cautious reply, in inditing a clever letter, in displaying in their words and sayings smartness and quickness, in skilfully contriving a fraud, in adorning themselves with gems and with gold, in sleeping and eating with greater splendor than others, in surrounding themselves with luxuries and indulging in licentiousness, in bearing themselves towards their subjects with avarice and pride, in spoiling in idleness, in bestowing grades in the army by favor, in treating with neglect whoever had distinguished himself by some praiseworthy action, and in requiring that their words should be accepted as the responses of oracles. Unhappy men! they did not perceive that by all this they prepared themselves to fall victims to whoever chose to attack them. Witness Italy, where three of the most powerful states were pillaged and laid waste, because the princes who governed them persisted in similar errors, and lived in the same disorder.
1. We ought to attach little value to living in a city where the laws are less powerful than men. That country only is desirable where you can enjoy your substance and your friends in security, and not that where your property can be easily taken away from you, and where your friends, for fear of their own property, abandon you in your greatest need.
2. A state cannot exist securely unless it has bound itself by many laws, in which the security of all its population is comprised.
3. Whoever is not restrained by the laws commits the same error as an unrestrained mob.
4. The power of the law is capable of overcoming every obstacle, even that of the nature of the territory.
5. As the preservation of good morals needs good laws, so the laws, to maintain themselves, require good morals.
6. To prevent good morals from being corrupted and changed into bad morals, the legislator must restrain the human passions and deprive men of all hope of being able to trespass with impunity.
7. It is the laws that make men good.
8. Good laws give rise to good education.
9. Good education produces good examples.
10. In a well-constituted government the laws are made for the public good, and not to satisfy the ambition of a few.
11. To despoil any one of his goods by new laws, at a time when he claims them with justice before the tribunals, is a wrong that will bring with it the greatest dangers to the legislator.
12. Where a thing works well by itself without the support of the law, there law is not necessary.
13. No law should ever stain the pledged faith of public engagements.
14. No more injurious laws can be made than such as are retroactive to a great extent of time.
15. Laws should not go back upon things of the past, but should thoroughly provide for the future.
16. Nothing does so much honor to a man newly risen to eminence, as to make new laws and new regulations devised by himself. If these, when once established, show that they have grandeur in them, then will they render the man an object of reverence and admiration.
17. It does not suffice for the welfare of a state to have a prince who governs wisely during his life; but it is necessary to have one who regulates matters in such a manner that even after his death the state shall maintain itself.
18. A general rule that never fails is this: make no change where there is no defect, as that produces nothing but disorder. But where there is nothing but disorder, the less you leave of the old, the less will there remain of what is bad.
19. The governments that are best regulated and have most vitality are those which, by means of their institutions, can renew themselves. And the way to renew themselves is, to bring the government back to its original principles; as, for instance, to make the people resume their observances of religion and of justice when these begin to become corrupt.
20. That state may call itself happy which has produced a man so wise that he gives to the state laws so regulated that the people can live under them securely without the necessity of reforming them.
21. The reformer of laws must act with prudence, justice, and integrity, and must manage in such manner that from his reforms shall result the good, the welfare of his people, justice, and the well-regulated life of the citizens.
22. That law can never be praised which conceals many defects under small advantage.
1. A good prince must preserve perfect justice in his states, and in giving audiences he must be affable and gracious.
2. He must watch diligently that justice have its full course.
3. By favoring justice, you show that injustice displeases you.
4. Judges, to have dignity and consideration, should be of an advanced age.
5. It is necessary that the judges should be numerous; for when there are but few, they always act with regard to the convenience of the few.
6. It is the duty and office of every man who claims justice to demand it by legal means, and never to employ force.
7. We must employ all proper means to repress violence and force, and that whoever claims justice shall employ the regular way for obtaining it, and aid no one to employ force or violence.
8. Respecting condemnations, none but such as are for civil offences should be commuted; but no condemnation for criminal offences should ever be commuted.
9. A well-constituted government should prevent the disorders arising from equal condemnations, which impoverish both parties, who will in consequence continue to aggravate each other.
10. In condemnations there should be used humanity, moderation, and mercy.
11. It is proper for relatives to adjust their differences amicably rather than by litigation; to settle them by compromise is laudable.
12. To avoid causing trouble to both parties, the judge, after having heard and thoroughly examined the case, should make every effort to reconcile the parties to each other, which would be a most praiseworthy act.
13. The judge, after having heard both parties and the arguments of each, should in a kindly way, and without compulsion, by the sole force of justice, endeavor to reconcile the parties to each other; which is a laudable act. But if he fails in this effort, then he must administer reason and justice according to the laws.
14. The judge must listen kindly to all parties, and render justice to each with impartiality.
15. The judge must hear and diligently examine the cause, and must render justice to either of the parties, according as reason and honesty demand.
16. In writing or speaking to a judge, asking him to favor your cause, you must not say to him anything else than that, if he can aid you without departing from exact justice, you would esteem it very much.
1. The imposts, to be equal, must be distributed by the law, and not by any one man.
2. Sumptuousness obliges the prince to impose extraordinary charges upon the people, and to see that the public treasury is well supplied.
3. Expenditures engender exactions, and exactions produce complaints.
4. By economy the prince becomes able to show liberality to all those from whom he takes nothing, and these are numberless; but it is regarded as avarice by those to whom he gives nothing, and these are but few.
5. In the exaction of taxes we must above all have pity on the misery and sufferings of the people, so as to preserve them as much as possible to the country.
6. It is eminently proper to feel pity for the poor and wretched. You must therefore show them compassion, for it is cruel to attempt to get anything where there is nothing.
7. The wretchedness of the people demands that, in the exaction of taxes, you should show them mercy and moderation, by bearing with them, and not trying to get from them more than they can possibly pay.
8. By honest and ordinary proceedings, the taxes can be reduced to what is just and reasonable.
9. In public works the officials should bear themselves with humanity and moderation towards the laborers of the country; and they should not exasperate them, especially in disastrous times, when they need compassion more than severity. In fact, the principal object of public works is public health, utility, and the good of the country in propitious times; but not to impoverish the inhabitants and excite their discontent.
10. In the carrying on of public works, the laborers of the country should be treated in so kindly a fashion that they come to work voluntarily rather than by compulsion; in fact, a government should have the happiness of the people more at heart than the construction of its public works.
11. Such public works should be carried on with the most becoming and kindly treatment of the workmen, so as not to drive them to despair.
of agriculture, commerce, population, luxury, and supplies.
1. In moderate and peaceful governments the wealth resulting from agriculture and the arts increases most rapidly; for every one eagerly aims to increase and seeks to acquire those goods which he believes that he can enjoy in security. Whence it comes that all men vie with each other in the production of private and public wealth, both of which thus increase in the most marvellous manner.
2. Public security and the protection of the laws are the sinews of agriculture and of commerce. The prince should therefore encourage his subjects quietly to devote themselves to the pursuits of agriculture and commerce, as well as to all other human industries; so that the one may not abstain from embellishing his possessions for fear of their being taken from him, and that the other may not hesitate to open a new traffic for fear of taxes. But he should reward those who are willing to devote themselves to these occupations, and who in any way contribute to the enlargement of the city or state.
3. Landed possessions are more stable and solid riches than those that are founded on commercial industries.
4. The Romans believed very justly that it was not from the extent of territory, but from good cultivation, that riches are derived.
5. It is impossible to make a large city without an abundant population; and this is obtained by a benign government in keeping the roads open, to induce strangers to come and live there, and so that every one may gladly make that city his dwelling-place.
6. Under mild and moderate governments the population is always more numerous; because marriages there are more free and more desired. For every one will gladly have children, when he is sure of being able to support them, and has no fear of their being despoiled of their patrimony; and when he knows not only that they are born free and not slaves, but that by means of their own merits they may even become great.
7. A state increases by being the asylum for the persons that are expelled and dispersed by other states.
8. Colonies cannot successfully organize themselves without pastures in common, where every one can pasture his cattle; and forests in common, where every one may take his firewood.
9. Banishments deprive cities of their inhabitants, of their wealth, and of their industries.
10. The people are rich when they live as though they were poor, and when no one attaches importance to what he has not, but only to that which he needs.
11. The people are rich when the money does not go out of their country, when they are content with what their country produces, and when money is constantly brought into their country by those who want the products of their industry, which they supply to foreign countries.
12. Well-regulated governments have public magazines, where they keep stores of provisions, drink, and firewood sufficient for at least one year.
13. Well-regulated governments, for the purpose of assuring the subsistence of the people without loss to the treasury, should always keep on hand one year’s supply in common of raw materials, so as to keep the people actively employed in those industries which are the nerve and life of the city, and by means of which the people earn their bread.
14. Those provinces where there is money and order are the nerve and sinews of the state.
the evils of idleness.
1. Idleness engenders many evils destructive of good morals; for young men without occupation and without restraint spend far beyond their means in dressing, feasting, and licentiousness. Being idle, they waste their time and substance with gaming and with women. Their study is to appear dressed in rich garments, to express themselves in cunning and subtle language; and he who can thus most dexterously wound others is most esteemed; and the precepts of the Church are entirely disregarded.
2. A state where the inhabitants pass the greater part of their time in idleness cannot produce men suitable for the conduct of business.
3. Idle people are most frequently used as tools by those who desire a disturbance.
4. If the situation of a city conduces of itself to idleness, then the laws should impose upon the inhabitants those necessities to which nature does not oblige them. And the rulers should imitate those wise people who, living in the most agreeable and fertile countries, where the men were given to idleness and indisposed to every severe exercise, for the purpose of obviating the disadvantages which idleness would have added to the softness of the climate, subjected the inhabitants to the necessity of labor and severe exercise.
ill effects of a corrupt government.
1. In a corrupt government there is neither union nor friendship amongst the citizens, unless it be amongst those who are accomplices in some villany.
2. As in corrupt governments all religion and fear of God are extinct, so an oath and a given pledge have lost all value, except when they can be employed for the purpose of gaining some advantage. Men avail themselves of them, not for the purpose of observing them, but because they serve them as a means for deceiving the more easily; and the more easily and securely the fraud succeeds, the more praise and glory are derived from it. The bad men, therefore, are praised as clever, and the honest men are blamed as imbeciles.
3. In a corrupt government the young men are idle and the old men lascivious, and every age and sex given over to abominable practices; which cannot be remedied even by good laws, as these have become corrupt by common practice.
4. From this corruption arise that rapacity which is noticeable in every citizen, and that thirst, not for real glory, but for those discreditable honors which are the sources of hatred, enmity, disagreements, and plots; these are a cause of affliction to the good, and of triumph to the wicked. For the good, confiding in their innocence, do not, like the wicked, seek some one who will defend and honor them by extraordinary means, so that undefended and unhonored the good are ruined.
5. From this example of corruption arises the love of parties and their power; to these the wicked attach themselves from rapacity and ambition, and the good from necessity. And what is most mischievous is to see how the originators of these parties cover their aims and intentions with some pious name or title.
6. It results from this corruption that the ordinances and laws are not made for the public good, but for personal and individual advantage.
7. This corruption causes wars, peace, and alliances to be concluded, not for the common glory, but for the satisfaction of the few.
8. In a city tainted by such disorders, the laws, the statutes, and the civil ordinances are not made for the public good, but have ever been and ever will be established to satisfy the ambition of the dominant party.
notable precepts and maxims.
1. Great modesty is essential to good manners. You must never do an act or say a word that can cause displeasure. You must be reverent to your superiors, modest with your equals, and affable to your inferiors. These things will make you beloved by the whole city.
2. One of the most important things in this world is to know one’s self, and properly to measure the forces of one’s mind, and one’s condition.
3. Those only deserve to be free who apply themselves to good works, and not to evil ones; for liberty badly employed injures itself and others.
4. To the generous mind, the speaking of the truth gives pleasure, especially when in the presence of wise men.
5. The consideration derived from one’s father or ancestors is fallacious, and is quickly lost when not sustained by one’s own virtue.
6. In judging of the acts of others, we must never cover a dishonest act with an honest reason, nor tarnish a praiseworthy act as having been done for a contrary purpose.
7. Forgiveness springs from a generous spirit.
8. The wise and good man should be content to leave to angry spirits the grave offences resulting from their own violent words.
9. A good citizen should forget his own private wrongs for the love of the public good.
10. Whoever offends wrongfully, gives to others the right to offend him rightfully.
11. The beginning of enmity is injury, and benefits are the beginning of friendship; and he makes a great mistake who, wishing to make another his friend, begins by injuring him.
12. No merciful thought can enter the heart of a dissolute villain.
13. The virtuous man who knows the world is daily less gladdened by good actions, and less saddened by evil ones.
14. A resolute spirit shows that misfortune has no power over it.
15. Superior men retain in all the vicissitudes of fortune the same courage and the same dignity. Weak-minded men become intoxicated in prosperity, attributing all their good fortune to virtues which they never knew, and thus they become insupportable and odious to all those whom they have around them.
16. It is the nature of proud and cowardly men to be insolent in prosperity, and in adversity abject and humble.
17. Fraud is detestable in every action.
18. That man will never be regarded as good, who, for the purpose of always making a profit from an occupation which he carries on, proves himself rapacious, fraudulent, and violent.
19. An evil principle can only produce alike evil results.
20. Evil-disposed men constantly fear that others will do to them what they are conscious of deserving.
21. Of all the insults that can be offered to men, that which touches the honor of their wives is most keenly felt.
22. There is no more certain indication of a man’s character than the company he keeps. A man who frequents honest company acquires deservedly a good name; for it is impossible that he should not somewhat resemble his associates.
23. A man who has been a good friend to others finds good friends in turn.
24. In time of adversity one learns to know the fidelity of one’s friends.
25. There is nothing which a man should not cheerfully spend to serve a friend.
26. It is impossible without tears to recall to memory the loss of one who was gifted with all those qualities that can be desired in a good friend, or in a citizen by his country.
27. When fortune has robbed us of a friend, then there is no other consolation than to try, as far as possible, to enjoy his memory, and to recall all the wise things he has said, and all the good things he has done.
28. There never was and never will be a law that prohibits or censures and condemns mercy, liberality, and benevolence.
29. It is the duty of a virtuous man, who has been prevented by the malignity of fortune from doing good, to teach it to others; so that they, more favored by Heaven than he was, may be able to practise it.
30. The good citizen should be compassionate, and not only give charity to those who ask it, but should frequently supply the wants of the poor without being asked.
31. The good citizen should relieve others in adversity, and sustain them in prosperity.
32. The good citizen should love everybody, praise the good, and have compassion for the bad.
33. There is no gain in benefiting one to offend the many.
34. We must esteem him who is, not him who can be liberal.
35. Nothing makes us meet death with more cheerfulness than to remember that we have never injured any one, but rather benefited everybody.
beautiful example of a good father of a family.
1. Nicomaco was a grave, resolute, and respectable man. He spent his time honorably, rose early in the morning, and, after hearing mass, attended to laying in the provisions for the day. After that, if he had any business in the public square, in the market, or with the magistrates, he attended to it. And when he had nothing to do, he either amused himself in discussing serious matters with some neighbor, or he withdrew at home into his library, where he reviewed his writings and regulated his accounts. After that he dined pleasantly with his family, and during dinner he conversed with his son, gave him good advice, and taught him to know mankind; and by some example drawn from ancient or modern times, he instructed him how to live. After that he went out and employed the remainder of the day in attending to business, or in grave and honest amusements. When evening came the Ave Maria always found him at home, where he remained awhile with his family by the fireside, if it was winter, and then returned to his library to revise the business he had done, and then at the third hour all enjoyed a cheerful supper. This habit of life was an example to all the others in the house, which every one was ashamed not to imitate; and thus everything went its regular and cheerful course.
the good prince.
1. The good prince, by his rare and virtuous example, produces in the government as it were the same effect as the laws and regulations. For the real virtues of a prince have so much influence that the good men desire to imitate him, and the bad ones are ashamed to follow a different course of life.
2. The eminent qualities of the prince make him feared and beloved by his subjects, and most highly esteemed by other princes; and thus he leaves to his descendants authority founded upon a broad basis.
3. It is often seen that, when two princes of great virtue succeed each other, they achieve the greatest results, so that their fame rises to heaven. David doubtless excelled in war, in knowledge, and in judgment; and so great was his valor that, after having vanquished and humbled his neighbors, he left to his son Solomon a tranquil kingdom, which he could preserve and embellish with the arts of peace and war, and thus could enjoy happily the benefits of his father’s virtues.
4. The successive reign of two valorous princes is sufficient, so to say, to conquer the whole world.
5. Nothing causes a prince to be more esteemed than when he renders himself famous by some act or wise saying, consistent with the public good, and which shows the prince to be magnanimous, liberal, and just, and which becomes familiar as a proverb amongst all his subjects.
6. A prince should aim to have the obedience and affection of his subjects. He obtains their obedience by being himself a strict observer of the law, and by having the reputation of being brave. And he wins their affection by affability, humanity, and benevolence.
7. It is much easier for a good and wise prince to be beloved by the good than by the bad, and to obey the laws rather than to wish to control them. And to know how to arrive at this, he need undergo no other trouble than to copy like a mirror the lives of good princes, such as Timoleon of Corinth, Arato of Sicyon, and others like them. In their lives he will find such security and such satisfaction, for him who rules as well as for those who are ruled, that it ought to excite the desire to imitate them, which is easily done. For when men are well governed they neither seek nor wish for any other liberty.
8. To be humane, affable, show no sign of cruelty, pride, sensuality, nor any other vice that taints men’s lives, will bring a prince honors, victories, and renown.
9. A wise and virtuous prince, to preserve his own character, and not to give his sons cause for becoming bad, will never build fortresses; so that his sons may not attempt to found their reliance upon such fortresses, but upon the good will and affection of his subjects.
10. A prince should receive his subjects with so much affability that no one, after having spoken to him, should go away dissatisfied.
11. A prince should occasionally meet his citizens in their assemblies, and give them proof of his affability and magnificence. He should, however, always preserve the majesty of his office, which will not bear to be disregarded even in the slightest degree.
12. In principalities that have proper institutions absolute authority is never given to any one except in the army, for there only is an immediate decision often necessary, requiring absolute authority in one man. In all other matters the wise and good prince can do nothing without his council.
13. A prince should shun flatterers as he does the pest; and to defend himself from them he must choose wise men as counsellors, and give them full power to tell him the truth.
14. A prince should be an extensive questioner, and a patient listener to the truth touching the things he has asked about; and if he finds that any one does not tell him the truth from fear, then he should manifest his displeasure in consequence.
15. Good counsels, no matter whence they come, should be the result of the prudence of the prince, but the prudence of the prince should not spring from good counsels.
16. The counsels of a head blanched with age and full of experience are the wisest and most useful.
17. A prince will derive great glory from having been the founder of his principality; bestowing honor upon it, and strengthening it by good laws, good allies, and good examples.
18. A prince should be agreeable to his allies, feared by his enemies, just towards his subjects, and loyal in his dealings with foreigners.
19. A prince should aim to keep his city abundantly supplied, his people united, and the nobility honored.
20. In bestowing offices and honors the prince should seek for merit wherever it is to be found, regardless of birth.
21. The practices, similar to those of the ancients, which a good prince should introduce in his state are, to honor and reward virtue, not to contemn poverty, to respect the regulations of military discipline, to constrain the citizens to love each other, to live without factions, to respect private interests less than public ones, and other similar things.
22. Every one knows how laudable it is in a prince to keep his pledges, to live with integrity, and not with craft and deceit.
23. The public faith pledged by a prince to his subjects should be inviolably observed.
24. The good prince knows not and never will give occasion for any subject of scandal; for he is a lover of peace and of justice.
25. It is the duty of the prince to turn offenders from the road of sin, and to bring them back to the right road.
26. Calumnies are detestable in every kind of government, and to restrain them the prince should not hesitate to pass any regulations that will effect it.
27. The good and wise prince should be a lover and protector of men of letters.
28. He should open public schools under the direction of the most distinguished men, so that the youth may apply themselves to the study of letters.
29. He should love all those who excel in any one art.
30. The prince must take care that his people never lack the means of subsistence.
31. He must fix honest and just prices for the provisions, and above all he must see that the poor have their due and are not defrauded.
of the ministers.
1. There should be a great distance between the authority of the minister and that of the prince.
2. What excites admiration for a minister is his vigilance, prudence, magnanimity, and in fact the good regulation of the government.
3. A minister who does not counsel useful measures to his prince, regardless of all other considerations, fails in his duty.
4. He who counsels princes must act in all matters with moderation, and must not himself assume the responsibility of anything; he must give his opinion without passion, and defend it with modesty, so that if the prince follows his counsel he may do it voluntarily, and not seem to be carried away by importunity.
5. The minister should defend his opinion with reasons, and not attempt to employ either authority or force.
6. A wise minister should recognize evils from afar, so as to prevent their growth in time; or he should take such precautions that, if these evils do grow, they shall do no harm.
7. A minister should pursue his course with courage and vigilance, regardless of any other considerations.
8. The good minister fears no undertaking which he knows to be for the public good.
9. The minister should never, from fear of a vain reproach, abandon any project which he knows to be for the advantage of the state.
10. Calumnies directed against any one employed in important affairs of state are injuries that may do much harm.
11. The minister should do everything so as not to be obliged to justify himself, for justification presupposes error, or the supposition of error.
12. It behooves the minister, in case he has to reprove any one, not to offer the opportunity of being himself reproved.
13. The object for which ministers are sent into a city is to rule and govern the subjects with affection and justice, and not to dispute and contend with each other. But they should agree together like brothers and citizens appointed by the same prince.
14. The minister who thinks more of himself than of the prince and the state will never be a good minister; for he who has the management of the state in his hands must never think of himself, but only of the prince, and must never bring anything to his notice that does not concern him.
15. The minister must administer his office for the public good, and not for his own advantage.
16. Whoever is a slave to his own passions can never serve another well.
17. It rarely happens that private passions do not prejudice public convenience.
18. The minister must be a stranger to public rapine, and should labor to increase the wealth of the state.
19. In a state corrupted by parties, everything, even the smallest, becomes a subject of contention amongst the ministers. The secrets of the state are made public, the good and the wicked are alike favored or disfavored. The good as well as the bad are equally defamed, and no one attends to his business.
20. A minister should beware of either cunning or audacious parties; for although they may in the beginning seem good, yet they soon become difficult to manage, and end by becoming dangerous.
21. The minister should guard against those errors which, although not known, yet prove the ruin of the state.
22. The idleness of princes and the faithlessness of ministers will ruin an empire, although founded upon the blood of ever so many brave men.
23. A foreign minister should be acceptable to the sovereign to whom he is sent, and should be practical, prudent, zealous, and devoted to his sovereign and his country.
24. A minister should be able to discuss the condition of states, the disposition of the princes and the people, and what may be hoped for from peace and feared in war.
25. The minister must remember that titles do not make men illustrious, but men the titles, and that neither blood nor authority has ever any reputation without virtue.
26. The minister should die richer in good fame and benevolence than in treasure.
the tyrant prince.
1. It is not less useful to observe the cunning and the deceits which tyrannous princes employ to keep up a reputation which they have not merited, than to know and observe virtuous actions. For if the latter incite the liberal spirits to imitate them, the former will prompt the desire to avoid and destroy them.
2. The tyrant prince, happily unknown in our age, had no regard for anything but his personal interests.
3. To carry his evil thoughts into effect, he made pretence of religion and humanity.
4. He broke the laws of the state, and governed it arbitrarily.
5. He violated the laws and the ancient rules and customs under which the people had lived for a long time.
6. He stripped the magistrates of all the emblems of honor, and of all authority, and appropriated them to himself.
7. The taxes which he imposed upon the people were heavy, and his judgments were unjust.
8. The business that used to be transacted publicly to everybody’s satisfaction, he transferred to his own palace, incurring thereby the reproaches and the just hatred of the people.
9. The strict justice and humanity which he feigned at the beginning were soon changed into haughtiness and cruelty.
10. So as not to govern better without than within the city, he appointed rectors throughout the country, who beat and despoiled the country people.
11. He favored the populace so as the better to beat down the great, whom he always regarded with suspicion, although he was supported by them. For he did not believe that the generous spirits that used to be amongst the nobility could live contentedly under his despotism.
12. His favorite maxim, and which cannot be sufficiently detested, was, that men must be caressed or exterminated.
13. By frequent and continuous executions he impoverished and depopulated the cities.
14. Everybody’s hands were tied, and every mouth was closed, and whoever found fault with the tyrant’s government was punished with cruelty.
15. In his government he showed himself avaricious and cruel; in granting audiences, difficult; and in his replies, haughty.
16. He made and unmade men at his pleasure.
17. He wanted the subjection and not the good will of his people, and for that reason he preferred to be feared rather than beloved.
18. He changed all the institutions of the government, and left nothing intact; and he removed the inhabitants from one province to another, like herds of cattle.
19. As such proceedings are most cruel, and opposed, not only to all Christian, but even humane ways of living, every man should avoid them and prefer private life rather than the life of a prince at the expense of so much injury to mankind.
20. It was this conduct that filled his subjects with indignation; for they saw the majesty of the state destroyed, the institutions overthrown, the laws annulled, and every honest way of living corrupted, and all civil modesty extinct.
21. These methods and extraordinary ways rendered the prince himself unhappy and insecure; for the more cruelty he practised, the feebler his government became.
22. In this wise the state of the prince became an example of all the greatest villanies; the slightest ground gave occasion for executions and the grossest rapine, which was due to the wickedness of the ruler, and not to the evil nature of the governed. And as the needs of the tyrant prince were endless, he was obliged to resort to constant rapine, which he practised in many ways.
23. Amongst other dishonest practices of the tyrant was that of enacting laws prohibiting certain acts, which laws he was afterwards himself the first to infringe. This caused a general disregard of these laws; but he never punished the offenders until he saw that a great number had made themselves liable; and then he turned to punish them, not from zeal for the law, but from cupidity, so as to have them ransom themselves from the penalty.
24. Thence arose many inconveniences, and, above all this, that the people became impoverished without being improved.
25. And those who were thus impoverished endeavored to take advantage of those who were less powerful than themselves.
26. Whence it comes that all the crimes committed by the people who are governed by a tyrant arise necessarily from the fact that he himself is stained by similar crimes.
praise and safety of the good prince, and infamy and danger of the tyrant.
1. As the founders of a well-constituted government deserve praise, so those of a tyranny merit infamy.
2. Those who incline to tyranny do not perceive how much fame, honor, security, quiet, and contentment of the soul they lose, incurring instead so much infamy, ignominy, blame, danger, and disquietude.
3. It is impossible that those princes, if they have read history and attached any value to the memory of things of the past, should not have wished rather to have lived like Agesilaus, Timoleon, and Dion, who were good princes, than like Nabis, Phalaris, and Dionysius, who were tyrants. For they would have seen that the latter were covered with infamy, whilst the former were overwhelmed with praise.
4. They would also have seen how Timoleon and the others had no less authority in their countries than what Dionysius and Phalaris had in theirs, and that they enjoyed infinitely more security.
5. We should consider how much more those Emperors deserved praise who lived conformably to the laws, and as good princes, than those whose lives were the opposite.
6. It will be seen that Titus, Nerva, Trajan, Antoninus, and Marcus Aurelius did not need the Prætorian troops nor a multiplicity of laws to defend them; for their own good habits, the affection of the people, and the love of the Senate, protected them.
7. It will be seen how insufficient the eastern and western armies were to protect Caligula, Nero, Vitellius, and many other wicked Emperors, against those enemies which their evil practices and their villanous lives had created.
8. If the history of these Emperors were well considered, it would be a good lesson to those princes who are inclined to become tyrants; for it would teach them the way to glory or to shame, and of security or of fear. For out of twenty-six Emperors that reigned from Cæsar to Maximin, sixteen were assassinated, and only ten died a natural death. And if amongst those that were killed there were some that were good, like Galba and Pertinax, their death resulted from that corruption which their predecessors had allowed to enter the army.
9. If we consider the times when Rome was governed by good Emperors, we shall see a prince secure in the midst of his secure citizens, the whole world enjoying peace and justice, the Senate in all its authority, the magistrates with their honors, the wealthy citizens enjoying their riches, and nobility and virtue exalted. We shall also see all license, corruption, and ambition extinct; in fact, we should see a return of the golden times when everybody could fearlessly hold and defend whatever opinion he chose to entertain. In fine, we should see the world triumph, the prince surrounded with respect and glory, and the people filled with love and a sense of security.
10. Whoever studies the period when Rome was governed by tyrants, will find that she was torn by atrocious wars; full of discord in consequence of seditions; cruel both in peace and in war; many princes killed by the sword, and endless civil and foreign wars; all Italy afflicted and full of fresh disasters, and her cities pillaged and in ruins. He will see Rome herself burned, her Capitol destroyed by her own citizens, the ancient temples desolate, the religious ceremonies corrupted, the city filled with adultery, the sea full of exiles, and the rocky shores stained with blood. He will find endless cruelty in Rome, and nobility, riches, honors, and, above all, virtue, treated as capital crimes. He will see the informers rewarded, the servants corrupted to denounce their masters, the freedmen opposed to their patrons, and those who had no enemies oppressed by their own friends.
11. After this, whoever is of woman born should dread a recurrence of times when the wicked governed, and should be moved with an intense desire to see the good prince imitated.
12. He should desire to possess a corrupt city, not to waste it entirely like Cæsar, but to reform it like Romulus. And truly Heaven could not give men a greater opportunity for glory, nor could men desire any greater. In short, those to whom Heaven vouchsafes such an opportunity should regard it as though two ways were offered them; the one leading to a life of security, and after life a glorious memory; and the other, to a life of perpetual anxiety, and after death eternal infamy.
end of vol. ii.
[* ]Francisci Petri del Nero, An. 1522.