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COMMISSION TO THE ARMY IN THE FIELD AGAINST THE PISANS. * - 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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COMMISSION TO THE ARMY IN THE FIELD AGAINST THE PISANS.*
Magnificent and Illustrious Signori: —
We are now at the fourteenth hour, and have as yet no further news from the Gascons, as M. Samper has not returned from there, although we expect him at every moment. Everything remains in confusion and uncertainty, and things augur badly for us, for at every moment we hear of some fresh attempt or outrage against us; and no sooner is one disposed of than four others occur, — enough to convince any one that they are endless. Moreover, a number of Germans came into my chamber this morning, saying that at the time when the Emperor came to Pisa they were three months in our service, and that one hundred and thirty of their companions under command of a captain called Antonio Buner had never been paid; and with insulting and threatening language they demanded immediate payment from me. I told them that I knew nothing whatever of the matter; but if they would depute two of their number I would give them letters to your Lordships so that you could settle with them. But they refused this, and the only arrangement I could make with them, after much abusive language on their part, was that I should write to your Lordships; and if within forty-eight hours they were paid they would be satisfied; if not, they would pay themselves with my blood. M. Saliente and some other Frenchmen happened to come in at the time; they seemed frightened to death, and were as much alarmed by this crowd as I was myself. They excused themselves, and comforted me with fresh water, and approved the proposition that I should write you. Beaumont seemed utterly disheartened, and manifests great regret at this occurrence; but he sees no remedy for it, and seems really distressed that both his good will and his ability are of no avail. The captain of the Swiss seems full of good intentions, but brings forth nothing. All this, however, may be merely pretended, and may have no other object than the justification of the king at our expense.
As for myself, I augur very ill of the situation, and should deem it well if your Lordships would consider whether, without prejudice to our republic, I might think of my own safety; for what has not yet taken place may occur at any moment. I beg your Lordships, however, not to attribute this suggestion to cowardice on my part, for I am resolved to face any danger that may be deemed for the interest of our republic.
All these proceedings tend only to make us despair of Pisa, and to apprehend even worse, and therefore, as I have several times written to your Lordships, it is well to watch the whole of this game, and amongst many evils to choose the least, and above all promptly to apply the remedies that can be thought of, so as to produce an immediate effect. Weigh all this carefully, and confine yourselves to such measures and dispositions as the times demand; and believe him who tells you in good faith that the eye speaks the truth, rather than the ear.
Your Lordships must understand that I had been notified some days before of the above-mentioned trouble with the Swiss; but not wishing to annoy your Lordships, and believing that I should be able to defend myself against such dishonesty, I did not inform your Lordships of it before; nor should I have said anything on the subject now, but that I recognize the manifest danger.
I recommend myself to your Lordships.
Lucas Antonio degli Albizzi,
From the Camp before Pisa, July 8, 1500,
P. S. — For God’s sake do not forget the provisions, for that would be the completion of our ruin. De Beaumont must also be provided for; he has begun to importune me, and never sees me without worrying me on that point.
Magnificent Signori: —
The commissioner wrote you yesterday evening the condition of things in which we find ourselves here; and to-day at three o’clock there came about one hundred Swiss to his quarters, and demanded pay for the company of Gianotto; saying that they would not leave without being paid. The commissioner could not pacify them with words or promises, so that after much disputing they have carried him off prisoner. Since then I have heard nothing further, for I have remained at the station of San Michele, so as to be able to give your Lordships this information, that you may take measures to prevent one of your citizens, with so many of his people, all your subjects, from being carried off, and by whom! Valete!
From the Camp before Pisa, 9 July, 14th hour.
Magnificent and Illustrious Signori: —
I wrote to your Lordships at the sixteenth hour, and sent it by the same courier that brought me the news of the carrying off of the commissioner by the Swiss, so that he might in his own words relate to you what he has told me; for having nothing else to communicate, I should not have ventured to have written you expressly about this matter. We are now at the twentieth hour, and I have heard nothing positive except that a little while ago Piero Pucci returned with another courier, and told me with his own lips that the commissioner had been liberated, but he could give me no further particulars. He said also that he had been told in camp to stop the provisions here in Cascina, as the camp was to be moved to-morrow to San Giovanni della Vena. Not having any other positive information on this point, I should not have mentioned it to your Lordships were it not for the importance of this place, which is well known to you, and therefore it seemed to me dangerous to leave it badly supplied with everything, as I have already several times written to your Lordships.
Borgo Rinaldi has arrived, but he has only a few men, and these without arms. I have anyhow urged him to make up his company. Believing the Signor Piero in Florence, I have urged him also to the same effect, as your Lordships know. But I fear that unless they act promptly we shall not be in time. We have neither cuirasses, long lances, nor bucklers, nor any ammunition except a few barrels of powder, which I have retained here since yesterday. Everything else is absolutely wanting. I beg your Lordships to provide these things if you think proper, and very promptly.
There is a post here of some eight or ten archers, sent here by M. de Beaumont, at the request of Gio. Battista Ridolfi and Luca degli Albizzi, as before mentioned, for the purpose of protecting the country against the outrages of the brutal camp followers. Up to the present these men have kept good and diligent watch; if I receive some infantry now, so that I can myself protect the country, I do not know whether or not to discharge this post of archers. I believe that the troops which I expect will arrive before I can receive a reply from your Lordships, in which case I will do the best under the circumstances until I shall receive your wiser decision. But I beg you will send me your instructions, and, if received in time, I will conform to them. But above all things I entreat you to send provisions, and that quickly, as otherwise I greatly mistrust the people of the country, particularly in view of the treatment we have experienced at the hands of these troops. Moreover, if the camp is moved to-morrow to San Giovanni, we shall have the Pisans full of courage and confidence after us.
Knowing these things now, I hope your Lordships will weigh them well and provide for them. I recommend myself most humbly to your Lordships, quæ bene valeant.
Cascina, 9 July, 1500.
P. S. At the 20th hour. — Letters from the commissioner inform us that the army will be to-morrow morning at Campi, the other side of the Caprona, whence they are to make their first movement. He directs me to be sure and have a supply of provisions ready. I shall do my utmost in the matter. He moreover charges me to urge Borgo, and the Signor Pietro Guagni and Carlo da Cremona, and Messer Bandino, to have their companies ready and in order; and that your Lordships urge the Signor Piero in Florence to the same effect.
G. B. Bartolini,
Magnificent Signori: —
I know not whether in the last hour of my life (which God grant may be soon!) I shall suffer one fourth of the pain and affliction which I feel at this time; not so much on account of the perils to which I have been, and am still exposed, nor on account of my seizure and detention, but because I see from the letters of your Lordships, and particularly the one of the 8th, written at the fourth hour, that you have not as much faith in me as I had supposed that I deserved; but that I have been abandoned by all, like one forsaken and lost. My sins and ill fortune will it so; but God perhaps will succor him who is so unjustly abandoned! Having fully pointed out to your Lordships the dangers, and you knowing perfectly yourselves the wretched conduct of these men so recently towards the king of France and the Duke of Milan, it was not to be supposed that any expedients would moderate the dishonest demands of these Swiss. But it has pleased your Lordships to have it so, and although for the moment out of prison, yet I continue to be obliged to dispute my life, for at every moment there are fresh menaces and impositions, and new dangers, all on account of our republic, and whether just or unjust, I alone have to suffer without so much as being pitied! May God comfort me by death, if in no other way!
Niccolo Machiavelli has informed you of my capture; after that I was led on foot half a mile or more in the direction of Pisa, and taken before the captain of the Swiss, where after a long altercation, and being threatened with their halberds, I was told that before they would let me get out of their hands they meant that some four or five hundred of their companions who had come from Rome, allured by the prospects held out to them by your Lordships, should be paid, and that I should guarantee it; and if not promptly done, they would not content themselves merely by keeping me prisoner. I recalled to them the honor of the king, the good treatment they had received, and that they would be settled with by your Lordships, and therefore they ought not to maltreat me personally; but neither reason nor the manifest impossibility of my doing anything could move them in the least. So that after much contention and threatening I was told that, if I did not settle with them, not only my person, but our whole republic, would suffer in consequence; and that they had the means of paying themselves with our artillery if they chose to do so. Seeing no help, and being utterly without any means wherewith to satisfy them, I begged their captain to guarantee my promises to them, which he did; but it is evident that he will have to be paid before I can leave him. I will do my utmost to procure the means, and if Pellegrino has nothing left, I must see whether I can have recourse to Lodovico Morelli, and to what little money may remain in the hands of Bernardo Pacini, which, however, would derange everything, unless your Lordships provide otherwise; for I had intended that money for the re-establishment of the garrisons of Cascina and Vico; but I shall do as best I can. Although it was agreed in my arrangement with the captain of the Swiss that the artillery should be brought to me all safe to Cascina, yet I am not certain whether it will be done.
These men intend breaking up in the night and moving towards San Giovanni alla Vena, where they are to remain to-morrow, and then go by the Lucca road to Pietrasanta, to remain until they learn the pleasure of his Majesty the king. I understand that the Gascons are waiting for them on Lucchese territory; and if I am permitted, I shall remain at Vico or Cascina and wait there for my leave from your Lordships. Upon this point I ought reasonably to have no apprehensions, my hope being mainly in your Lordships’ good will; nor do I reply to your third and last letter, for both the times and circumstances favor those at whose discretion we happen to be. I recommend myself to your Lordships.
Although I wrote yesterday at Cascina and Vico urging the completion of the companies, yet I entreat your Lordships to provide for them at once, whilst we are in danger. And so soon as these troops have left here the Lord of Piombino should concentrate all his forces at Cascina; and if you have other troops at your service they should be sent to Vico, so as to establish a reasonable garrison there. And when Cascina shall have been properly provided for, then all the suspected persons whom your Lordships have lately sent away from Florence should be removed from there.
A letter from Niccolo Machiavelli informs us this morning that the Germans have carried off Luca degli Albizzi. Sensible of the discredit and danger which this may cause us, we have deliberated all day as to the means of providing for your safety and of that of the other places near you. Besides remedying these evils as far as we can, we have at once sent the Signori Piero and Borgo Rinaldi in that direction, and have called Messer Criaco and the Count Checco to reorganize their companies, for which the necessary funds will be ready. According to their promises there will be no delay, and we believe that by to-morrow or the day after at furthest troops enough will be ready to suffice for the protection and defence of Cascina. Meantime you must do your utmost to hold the place, and so far as in your power provide also for the necessities of the other places, or at least write and advise them as to what they should do. And inasmuch as the charge of all this may be too heavy a burden for one man, in the midst of all these troubles and disorders, we have to-day sent Piero Vespucci with the authority of a commission with whom yourself and such other of our citizens as may be there will consult as to the best course to pursue.
Of the capture of our commissioner we have but a very brief account from Niccolo Machiavelli, given in a few words, as indeed at the date of his letter he could say no more. He does not tell where they have taken the commissioner to, and whether any other persons have been carried off at the same time; nor what has become of the artillery, or of the four hundred Germans who had gone in the direction of Livorno; nor does he say whether any others left the camp at the same time, or what the men-at-arms intend to do, or what course the captain has decided to take. It would be well for you to give us a full account of all this as soon as possible. We desire also to know what has become of such of our citizens as were in camp at the time, for their relatives are in the extremest degree anxious on the subject.
Magnificent Signori: —
As much as we were grieved yesterday on hearing of your capture, through Machiavelli, and afterwards through Giov. Battista Bartolini, which made us fear that all our other citizens in your neighborhood had probably shared the same fate, just so much are we elated to-day by the news of your liberation, from which we conclude that the others are safe and free. And although the defection of those troops placed us in the most precarious position possible, because of the discredit and dishonor which it has brought us, yet the discomforts, injuries, and danger to which you have been exposed aggravates the matter so much that we regard it as a great change from bad to good to know that you are safe and well.
We could wish to repair all the other misfortunes in the same way, but as that is impossible, we must accommodate ourselves to circumstances, and think for the present only of consolidating our affairs in those parts. For this purpose it seems to us desirable if possible to have all the artillery and munitions which we had sent you brought back here, and to have them withdrawn to Pontedera for greater security. Also, without loss of time, to withdraw all the artillery and the remainder of the munitions that are still in the hands of the French, and to make every effort to provide for the defence of Cascina; which we have so much at heart that we shall not lose an hour in despatching some infantry there. We should have done so already this evening, had it not been that the danger which threatens Pescia is even more pressing. We learn from several sources that the Gascons are marching on that place, together with some other troops to the number of four thousand, and some hundreds of cavalry; which surprises us the more, as up to this hour we had not heard that any men-at-arms had left the camp. You can well imagine how much we regret this, which we are greatly inclined to attribute to some intrigue of the Lucchese. But we should not have attached any credit to this, knowing how fear makes these people exaggerate everything, were it not that we knew that some one from Lucca had told the same thing at Pescia, and under the influence of fear had withdrawn all his effects from there, which only a few days before he had stored there from fear of the French. We have sent some officers there with their companies, and think of nothing else than to provide for the safety of the two places, but first for that which is hardest pressed.
It would be well for you to notify M. de Beaumont of all this, and to try and get a reply from his Lordship as to the matters that have been intrusted to Piero Vespucci, and respecting which we also wrote to you this morning; and more especially with regard to the offer of troops. We should like to have a reply from him in writing, which we charge you by all means to obtain from him if possible; and you will renew to him the same proposition for troops to serve during the siege; so that the engagement of these troops be made with his consent, and that we may avail ourselves of their service to suit our purpose.
So long as the revolted troops remain in your vicinity, which will probably be not more than a few days, it seems to us that it will not do for you to leave, as that would expose our affairs to complete ruin; but whenever they depart you can advise us and have our reply in a few hours.
As we have no particulars from you as to the cause or the manner of your detention, nor as to the means of your release, nor any other details on the subject, we cannot definitely instruct you as to the course to be pursued when those troops leave, and if they should require you to go with them, either for the reasons that prompted your capture, or for any other reason. We must therefore leave this matter entirely to your own judgment; and fully persuaded that you will do nothing without having thoroughly examined all the circumstances and consequences, we can but approve in advance all that you may decide upon doing.
Your determination to call to your aid the Lord of Piombino seems to us in the highest degree commendable. We shall write to him this evening, to mount and proceed with all his men in your direction, and if possible to push on to Cascina; and if that cannot be done, then at least go to Pontedera, and to make every effort to send from there as many men as possible to Cascina, and to conform in all respects to whatever orders you may give him.
We have again written to-day in all directions for provisions, and especially to the Vicars of —, and have given them hopes that these hardships and annoyances will not continue long. It does not seem to us advisable to withdraw any men from Cascina, until there is a sufficient garrison of infantry to enable us to do it more safely and more creditably.
We have forgotten to tell you that, in case Beaumont should leave with the troops, and should wish to have some one of our people accompany him, as you cannot go with him, you must try to send Pellegrino or Francesco della Casa.
We wish very much to know the particulars of your capture and detention, as also the cause and the means of your release, if you can give us this information without danger to yourself or ourselves; but if you think it not safe to communicate it by letter, then send us some confidential person who is fully informed on that subject, as well as on all other matters that we ought to know.*
Louis, King of France, etc., etc.: —
Very dear Friends, —
We have been informed only a few days since of the great disorders that have occurred in the army engaged in the siege of Pisa, in consequence of the mutiny and quarrel of several ill-disciplined bodies of infantry forming part of that camp; and who without any cause have risen and left the camp and the siege without the knowledge or consent of M. de Beaumont, our lieutenant, or that of any of the captains or men of rank who were in the camp; which occurrence has caused us as much regret as anything that could possibly have happened. And inasmuch as, besides the injury which it has caused you, it touches our honor and reputation, we are absolutely determined and resolved to remedy and provide for what has occurred in such manner as fully to maintain our power and authority. And to effect this purpose we have decided to leave nothing undone, as you shall see and know very soon by the result. We have therefore sent our Major-domo Corcou,* whom amongst other things we have directed to make us an exact and true report upon this affair, and how these disorders originated and progressed, so that we may provide against them as becomes our honor and to your satisfaction. For the present we have thought, and have so communicated to your ambassadors here, that for the good of the cause, and for the re-establishment of our army, it would be best that some one else should select some suitable spot on your territory where the army might stop and go into camp, without retreating any further this way. And for this purpose we have written to and especially enjoined upon M. de Beaumont and all his captains, as they value their lives, not to move, nor leave or abandon the army, without having fresh orders from us.
We have equally written and made known to your neighbors, that the matter of Pisa touches us personally, and that their giving aid, comfort, and support to its inhabitants will cause us to regard them as our declared enemies. That we have had them advised of this, so that henceforth they may avoid doing so, otherwise we shall provide such remedies as we may deem proper.
You must conclude anyhow to settle this matter in such manner that it shall be terminated with honor to ourselves, and with advantage to yourselves and your republic. And finally we beg you to show your spirit in a matter that concerns you so closely; and to employ all your forces and power to that effect. And be assured that in acting thus we make no doubt, and apprehend no difficulty, but what you will in a short time oblige the city of Pisa to return to her duty.
All that we have said and declared in this letter we have also caused to be said and declared to your ambassadors, so that they may also communicate it to you, etc., etc.
Addio, dear lords and friends.
[* ]On the refusal of the Pisans to accept the decision given by the Duke of Ferrara as umpire in the peace negotiations between the Venetian and Florentine republics, the Signoria of Florence determined to resume the war with increased vigor, so as to bring these rebellious subjects once for all to submission. They therefore engaged fresh troops, and gave the supreme command of them to Paolo Vitelli, and the principal charges to his brother Vitellozzo and the Count Rinuccio da Marciano. As Vitelli had proposed to begin this enterprise with the capture of Cascina, the Signoria convoked the Council to hear their opinions and then to decide upon the matter. The Council approved the plan proposed by Vitelli, and twelve days after the meeting of the Council Cascina was recovered by the Florentines. This enabled the army to advance and approach the walls of Pisa, after having assaulted and taken the castle of Stampace. But Paolo Vitelli, who commanded the expedition, did not know how to take advantage of the terror of the enemy, and permitted the victory, which he held in his hands, to escape him; for Pisa would undoubtedly have been taken if Paolo had dared to push forward. But by his temporizing he afforded the Pisans the opportunity to recover their courage, so that they obliged him to abandon the castle of Stampace, and to withdraw from before the walls of Pisa; for it was not long before, aided by sickness produced by the malaria, the Pisans had the satisfaction of seeing Vitelli raise the siege of their city. The Signoria suspecting their commander of treason, had him arrested at Cascina, and thence brought to Florence, where after two days he was beheaded. Thus terminated the discreditable campaign of 1499; but it was resolved to resume the war in the following year under better auspices. The Signoria, anxious to secure the help of powerful allies, sent Pietro Soderini as ambassador to Georges d’Amboise, Cardinal of Rouen and governor of Milan for Louis XII., king of France, requesting him to let them have a portion of his troops to aid them in recovering Pisa. D’Amboise yielded to their request, and agreed to send them five thousand Swiss infantry and five hundred lances, the latter to be paid by the king, and the former by the Florentines, who were also to supply the artillery and whatever else might be necessary for a siege. The Seigneur de Beaumont was appointed captain of this force, at the request of the republic, who had on former occasions experienced his friendship. This auxiliary corps lost much precious time on the road to Pisa; and no sooner had they arrived at the Florentine camp than difficulties arose between these troops and the Florentine commissioners, Giovan Battista Ridolfi and Luca degli Albizzi, to whom Machiavelli had been sent as an adjunct in the beginning of June. The Gascons mutinied, and the Swiss insulted Commissioner Luca degli Albizzi, held him prisoner, and under false pretences extorted from him the sum of thirteen hundred ducats; and the whole expedition proved a complete failure.
[* ]Besides the letters which we have given above, there exist a great many others that have reference to these events, and particularly to the measures to which the republic of Florence had to resort, not so much for the purpose of reestablishing their forces before Pisa (for they had decided not to avail themselves any longer of the French army) as for the protection of her own territory against any attempt on the part of the mutinous troops. But we forbear from publishing them, as they do not appertain directly to Machiavelli’s commission.
[* ]Duplessis, Seigneur de Courçon.