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LETTER II. - Niccolo Machiavelli, The Historical, Political, and Diplomatic Writings, vol. 3 (Diplomatic Missions 1498-1505) 
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. 3.
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Magnificent Signori: —
I wrote to your Lordships yesterday morning from Castrocaro, reporting what I had done in relation to the balls, powder, and saltpetre, and the condition of things generally there. I went afterwards on the same day, at an early hour, to Furli; but finding the illustrious Lady Catharine occupied with some of her own affairs, I did not obtain an audience until about the twenty-second hour. No one was present but her Ladyship and Messer Giovanni da Casale, the Duke of Milan’s Chargé d’Affaires here. Her Ladyship’s son Ottaviano had gone on a pleasure trip to Furlimpiccolo.
After having presented myself to her Excellency, I explained to her your Lordships’ commission, employing the most suitable expressions to convince her in the first instance of your Lordships’ earnest desire that the time might come when you could show effectually how highly you valued those who had loyally served our republic, and who, regardless of everything else, had shared her varying fortunes, as her Excellency had ever done. And that if the refusal to accept her services now seemed contrary to these assurances, and if we had contested with her agents our being bound and held by an annual engagement, her Ladyship might be assured upon this point, as was proved by the several letters of your Lordships which showed that the reason of it was the impossibility of providing the means, because of the heavy charges to which our republic was already subjected. And as to our efforts to explain that we were not bound to a renewed engagement, I pointed out to her Ladyship that it had never been your intention to refuse to do anything that might be agreeable to her, and that the only reason why your Lordships wished to explain that you were not bound was to make her Excellency understand that nothing, not even the necessity of the evil times, induced you to offer her a renewal of the engagement, but that you do it solely from the affection you have for her, because of her great merits. And that for this reason you had sent me to her Excellency to make known to her that, although your Lordships were not bound, yet in recognition of the valuable services which she had rendered to our republic you were willing to accord an engagement to her son; but that, on account of the number of men-at-arms which you had already in your service, you wished such an engagement to be on a peace footing, and the compensation for this year not to exceed ten thousand ducats.
Nor did I fail to demonstrate to her Excellency, with the best arguments that suggested themselves to me, that such an engagement ought to be satisfactory to her; saying that her acceptance of it would be an addition to her many other merits, and that time would prove that she had not served an ungrateful Signoria; and that she would never have occasion to repent having added this to her other services to our republic.Her Excellency replied that your Lordships’ words had always been satisfactory to her, but that your actions had not always pleased her, and that she had never received compensation commensurate with the value of her services. Nevertheless, knowing that gratitude was one of the characteristics of your illustrious republic, she could not believe that you would now begin to show yourselves ungrateful to one who had for a great while back done more for you than perhaps any of your other allies, by exposing her dominions, without any obligations on her part, to the rapacity of the Venetians, her most powerful neighbors. And that therefore she was willing to abide by the hopes which your Lordships held out to her. Nor would she dispute whether your Lordships were bound or not to renew the engagement, but she desired time for replying to the propositions made to her, inasmuch as it seemed but reasonable to her not to decide at a moment’s notice a matter which you had with so much prudence discussed and consulted about for some time. And having replied to this in becoming terms, I begged her Excellency to hasten her decision, and took my leave.
Later in the day, at about the sixteenth hour, Messer Antonio Baldraccani, first secretary of her Excellency the Countess, came to see me, and told me that the illustrious Duke of Milan had written some five or six days ago to her Excellency, asking her to send him for his own use fifty men-at-arms and fifty mounted crossbowmen. That her Excellency had written on Sunday last to your Lordships on the subject, but had as yet received no reply. And he added that on that very day a letter had been received by her Excellency from the aforesaid Duke of Milan, begging her that, inasmuch as she had not come to terms with the Florentine Signoria about a renewal of her engagement for the year, she ought to enter his service on the same terms and conditions as she had last year from your Lordships. The aforesaid secretary also told me that letters had been received the evening before from the curate of Cascina, saying that eight deputies, members of the Council of Eighty, had given him to understand that they wanted to re-engage the Signor Ottaviano on two conditions. The first was the same which I had already explained to her Excellency; and the second was that she should consent to pledge her state, which the said curate demonstrated to the deputies that her Excellency could never agree to. Moreover the said secretary stated that her Excellency was in doubt what course to take, and therefore could not give a prompt reply. The reason of this was that it seemed disgraceful for her and her son to accept the conditions offered by your Lordships, because others, who had not rendered you the same services as herself, had their compensation increased, whilst that of herself and her son was diminished; and she could not believe that your Lordships made so little account of her as never to give her anything but fair words. And in fact she did not know how to excuse herself to the Duke of Milan if she accepted the conditions offered by you, which were so little creditable, and refused his, which were in the highest degree honorable. At the same time it seemed to her that she was under obligations to the Duke of Milan both by blood as well as by the numberless benefits she had received from that prince; and for that reason she was at a loss, and could not decide so promptly upon a reply, but wanted me to write to your Lordships, so that you might in the mean time write back what you thought of the matter.
In answer to the first part, touching the demand by the Duke of Milan for men, and the other propositions, I said, that as your Lordships had received no notice of this before my departure, you could not have given me any instructions on the subject, and therefore I could do nothing but write to your Lordships and await your reply. Respecting what the curate of Cascina had written about pledging her state, etc., I could also say nothing, but wondered much that, if this matter had been decided upon before my departure, no instructions were given me about it, or that I was not afterwards written to on the subject; and therefore I had also nothing to say on this point, but would write the same as in relation to the other matter. To this Messer Baldraccani replied that this latter point was of no importance, for if we were agreed about the other matters this would present no difficulties whatsoever; for her Excellency did not care to give any written obligation upon this point, but that she intended to fulfil her promises without any writings, the same as she had done in the last year. In my reply to this I observed, with regard to the embarrassment in which her Excellency found herself in deeming it discreditable for her to have the terms of her engagement reduced, whilst those of others were increased, as also in reference to the considerations which he thought she ought to have for the Duke of Milan, and the offers made by him, etc., etc., that if her Excellency would carefully weigh the reasons that obliged your Lordships to increase the pay of your other Condottieri who are carrying on the war for our republic, and those which influence them now to offer to re-engage her Excellency, she would find that her acceptance of the proffered engagement, so far from being discreditable, as she alleged, would be in the highest degree honorable. For whilst your Lordships were constrained to the former by the exigencies of the times, you were prompted to the latter by nothing else than the regard and affection which you had for her Excellency, and therefore your propositions to her were the more honorable and worthy of acceptance, as they were entirely voluntary. Moreover, his Excellency the Duke of Milan could not and should not complain if her Ladyship declined his propositions, although somewhat more advantageous, and accepted those of your Lordships, which for the moment seem less brilliant; first because of the friendly relations existing between his Excellency and our republic, which should make him look upon every advantage to your Lordships as for the common benefit; and secondly because in a certain measure the Signor Ottaviano was still in our pay, and the terms offered him now were in no wise in contradiction with his engagement of last year.
After having thus replied to each other, as the subject required, the secretary reiterated the conclusion that the Countess Catharine could not decide so promptly, and therefore it would be well that I should inform your Lordships of all that had been said and done; and that he would in the same way communicate all that I had said to her Excellency the Countess, although I had the privilege of communicating at all times personally with her Excellency. And on leaving me he said that he had forgotten to tell me on the part of the Countess that she desired much to know what compensation your Lordships intended to give her for former services; and that I should, on her part, beg you to send some reply upon these points. For if you came to some favorable conclusion upon that matter, she would regard it as an evidence of your disposition, and could then with greater confidence and security enter your service.
Having been here but so short a time, I shall not presume to say much of the state of things here; but according to what those Florentines who are near the Countess tell me, her Excellency could not be better disposed towards our republic than what she is. There is here a certain Messer Giovanni da Casale, Chargé d’Affaires of the Duke of Milan, of whose character and condition I shall not attempt to say anything, as he was last winter with the ducal troops in the Casentino. It will be enough for you to know that since he is here, which is now two months, he seems to rule everything.
Valeant Dominationes vestræ.
Furli, 17 July, 1499.
P. S. — Yesterday I demanded of her Excellency on the part of your Lordships the balls and saltpetre, under the conditions prescribed by you. Her Excellency replied that she had neither, and was herself greatly in need of them.
Iterum valeant E. E. N. V.