Front Page Titles (by Subject) LETTER VI. - The Historical, Political, and Diplomatic Writings, vol. 3 (Diplomatic Missions 1498-1505)
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LETTER VI. - 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: —
Since our departure from Lyons, we have written you twice from different places, and advised your Lordships of the causes that have delayed our joining the court, which we will not now reiterate, partly because we do not wish to weary your Lordships, and partly because we assume that our letters have reached you safely, although we sent them at a venture. Since then we have continued our route in disregard of all the fatigue and fear of sickness which prevails in this country; and with God’s help we have arrived here, where we found his Majesty with a very small court, on account of the limited size of the place. Immediately after dismounting we presented ourselves before his Eminence the Cardinal d’Amboise; and although we had no letters for him from your Lordships, which it would have been well for us to have had, we exposed to him summarily on your behalf and on the part of the ambassadors the cause of our coming, and recommended your interests to him, as your only protector, in whom your Lordships always had and continued to have the most entire confidence.
His Eminence replied briefly, showing by his remarks that there was no great occasion for vindicating your conduct as regards the occurrences in camp, which were already an old affair; but that it was of much greater importance to think of repairing the losses in honor and profit which his Majesty as well as yourselves had experienced in consequence. And then he began immediately to question us as to what we thought of recommencing the enterprise. To this we could make no reply, for we arrived at that very moment at the king’s quarters. His Majesty, having just dined, was taking a little repose; but a few moments afterwards he arose, and, having learnt from the Cardinal d’Amboise the object of our coming, he had us called, and after we had presented our credentials, his Majesty made us enter an adjoining cabinet, where he gave us most graciously a very satisfactory audience; to which none of the French seigneurs were admitted except his Eminence the Cardinal d’Amboise and Robertet. All the other lords of the council being absent, Messer Gianjacopo Trivulzio, the Bishop of Novara, and two others of the Palavicini, were called in, as they happened to be there, and remained throughout the whole audience.
In conformity with your Lordships’ instructions we began by submitting that inasmuch as the enterprise against Pisa and the siege of the city had, to our great prejudice and the great discredit of his Majesty’s army, an entirely different issue from his other most fortunate and successful enterprises, and as we had ourselves been present at all the events that had occurred in camp, we had been sent by your Lordships to explain to his Majesty that the cause of the raising of the siege of Pisa was in no way chargeable to any act or neglect on your part. We then related, according to our instructions, all the details as far as seemed to the purpose, and more particularly all that related to the departure from camp of the Gascons, the outrages of the Swiss, and the carrying off of our commissioner, and to the constant parleying of the French commander with the enemy. We also mentioned the insulting manner in which your Lordships and all the Florentines had been spoken of, and how all this had inspired the Pisans with fresh courage to defend themselves, contrary to the expectations of everybody; and how all this had been the chief cause of the ruin of the enterprise. It did not seem to us advisable, notwithstanding your orders upon this point, specially to accuse any Italians; for the individuals whom we have named being present, we thought that such a public accusation would be likely to make us more enemies, rather than prove of advantage to our cause.
The king and D’Amboise replied that the failure of the enterprise against Pisa was as much due to your shortcomings as to those of the king’s army; and when we answered that we really did not know wherein your Lordships had been wanting, they alleged the lack of provisions, munitions, and of many other things, observing at the same time that it was not worth while to say anything more about the matter, as it would only lead to endless recriminations.
Nevertheless, deeming it our duty to avail of the occasion to vindicate ourselves from such charges, we said that your Lordships had never failed to furnish the most abundant supply of provisions, and that there never had been any deficiency, but that they had been wantonly wasted, and that those who had brought them into camp had been overwhelmed with all sorts of insults and bad treatment; and that if at any time it had seemed to any one that there was not a sufficient abundance, it was solely due to the injudicious distribution and the waste to which we had referred; and when we offered to give some special details upon this point, they cut us short in our statement.
As to the ammunition and the pay, in the furnishing of which we were accused of having been tardy, etc., we replied, as to the first point, that your Lordships had supplied more than what the king’s chief of artillery had called for; and as to the second, that the money had arrived in camp at the proper time, but that the paying of the troops had been deferred some five or six days because the captains of the companies had themselves so ordered it, as they did not care to have the troops paid any sooner. Respecting the Gascons, his Majesty showed several times in the course of his remarks that he was cognizant of their perfidy and treason, and that he should not fail to have them punished. And when we remarked that they had gone off by sea, his Majesty said that he had ordered their arrest and punishment on their arrival in their own country.
In relation to the carrying off of our commissioner, of which we spoke very fully, characterizing the act as brutal and infamous, they only said that the Swiss were in the habit of acting thus, and of practising similar extortions. His Majesty finally cut the discussion short by admitting that his troops had not done their duty, but that there had been equal remissness on our part; adding that Beaumont had not always made himself obeyed as he ought to have done, and that, if there had been another commander who had more thoroughly enforced obedience, the enterprise would not have failed. Having been advised by our ambassador that the Cardinal d’Amboise held Beaumont in great affection, and that the least censure of Beaumont would be displeasing to the Cardinal, we were very careful, whilst admitting on the one hand that there had been great lack of discipline, beyond all reasonable limits, which in fact had been the cause of all the disorders, to say on the other hand that we had always found Beaumont extremely jealous of his Majesty’s honor, and very friendly to our country, and that, if the others had shown an equal good will and disposition with Beaumont, we should doubtless have been victorious. And thus we succeeded in satisfying the Cardinal, to whom we knew that what we had said of Beaumont would be most agreeable, and at the same time not contradicting the king’s conclusions as to want of discipline, etc., etc.
As it seemed to his Majesty that enough had been said on these matters, he turned towards us and said: “Since now this enterprise has ended in a manner so prejudicial to yourselves, and so little creditable to myself, and with a view to prevent my army from ever experiencing a similar check, it is necessary to come to some decision as to what had best be done for the recovery of my honor, and at the same time your interests. Some days ago already I made my views known to your Signoria through their ambassadors, and also through one of my couriers whom I despatched for that purpose to Tuscany. I have thus far done all I possibly can, and wish to do the same for the future, and only ask you to let me have your answer.”
To this we replied that we had no orders from your Lordships upon that point, and that our instructions were confined to the events that had occurred in camp, and at which we had been personally present. But that our opinion was, that the people of Florence, who had been involved for so many years in a continual and most onerous war, seeing the unhappy and unexpected issue of this last enterprise, had become impressed with the idea that, owing either to their ill fortune or to their numerous enemies, both within and without Italy, they had nothing more to hope for; that they had lost all confidence, and consequently the courage and the strength necessary for venturing upon another enterprise. But that if once his Majesty restored Pisa to our hands, so that we could see a certain reward for the expenses which we should have to incur anew, in that case we confidently believed that your Lordships would justly and amply compensate his Majesty for his outlays.
At these words the king, the Cardinal, and the other persons present began all to cry out, saying that it would be very unseemly for the king to make war for our benefit and at his expense. We at once replied that such was in no way our intention, but that we meant that his Majesty should be fully reimbursed for all the expenses incurred after having placed Pisa in our hands. To which it was answered, that the king would always do his duty according to the stipulations of the treaty;* and that, if your Lordships failed in yours, his Majesty would be excused by the whole world. The king himself added, that Pisa and Montepulciano were as much in his power as Pietrasanta and Mutrone, if he wished to keep them for himself; giving us to understand thereby that, if he did not keep them, it was merely from his desire strictly to keep his engagements. Thereupon Messer Gianjacopo Trivulzio turned towards us and said that, if we allowed this opportunity to be lost, which the king’s will and disposition, as well as other circumstances, rendered so favorable, your Lordships would in all probability never be able to recover your losses, and especially not by these means. We made no reply to this except that what we had suggested was our individual opinion, and that we had no instructions upon this point from your Lordships. Whereupon the king and D’Amboise remarked that, inasmuch as we had left Florence before the arrival there of the king’s courier, it was not surprising that we had received no instructions upon that point.
We suggested that we should receive within a very few days a reply from your Lordships to his Majesty’s letter, whereupon the king said, that without such a reply and a definite decision on your part it would be impossible to proceed any further in this matter; and that it was important that your Lordships should decide at once, so that he might know whether or not to disband the infantry, which remained on the ground at your Lordships’ disposal, giving us to understand at the same time that the expense thereof was at your charge; and that whilst awaiting your Lordships’ reply we might go on to Montargis, where he would be himself within three days. And with that conclusion we took our leave.
In our reply touching the matter of Pisa we conformed strictly to your Lordships’ intentions; for although no instructions had been given us upon this point, yet having read at Lyons your Lordships’ last letters to our ambassadors, which, in fact, we had here with us, and which state that a reply upon this point would be expressly sent to his Majesty, we availed ourselves of the occasion respectfully to make such reply to him, being convinced that it could not in any way affect whatever new decision your Lordships may have made. We hope most earnestly that our conduct may be satisfactory to your Lordships.
This is all we have to communicate to your Lordships, up to the present, in relation to the execution of our commission. We should have enlarged more amply upon certain points but for the consideration which we were obliged to have for the Italians who were present, and also because we knew that such discussions could not but be disagreeable to the king and D’Amboise; first, because they regarded this whole matter as a thing of the past, and as it were already digested; and next, because we should have made them hear some particulars little creditable to their honor and government. Nevertheless, we thought that we ought not to leave any important particulars unnoticed, except such as we have referred to above; and these we shall relate to the king and the Cardinal on some other and more suitable occasion. We mean more especially the matter of the Lucchese, respecting which we had given some intercepted letters to Robertet, who advised us to have such portions of them as it was proper to make known translated into French, showing thus that he attached some importance to them. It was from him also that we learnt that the Lucchese ambassadors had been recalled on the day previous, so that they might appear at court.
Your Lordships had also written to our ambassadors to obtain permission from the king for Messer Giovanni Bentivogli to come with his troops to your assistance. Lorenzo Lenzi had also directed us to ask his Majesty to leave two hundred lances for the protection of your interests, but we did not think it advisable to speak of this matter in the presence of the other Italians; but we took General Robertet aside, and made your Lordships’ wishes known to him with regard to Messer Giovanni’s troops, but did not mention anything else to him. He replied, that he hardly thought such a feeble assistance would be needed by us, as the king’s troops were at Pietrasanta, and in condition to make effectual war, and that only quite lately one hundred more lances had been sent there. Nevertheless so soon as his Majesty comes to Montargis we shall speak to him and D’Amboise about this matter; and unless we should receive contrary orders from your Lordships, we shall endeavor to obtain the permission and the number of troops you ask for.
Having arrived only to-day, we are unable to say anything as to what is going on here. The reason why his Majesty has given up his visit to Troyes, and has come here instead, is not clearly known; although we had heard on the road that the Emperor’s ambassadors, who were to have gone there, will not go. We shall endeavor to ascertain the truth more fully, and will inform your Lordships in our next letters.
Francesco della Casa,
Nevers, 7 August, 1500.
P. S. — We have kept this letter until to-day, 10th August, as we had no opportunity of sending it sooner, although we made every effort to do so. We send it now, by some one who is going to Lyons, to Rinieri Dei, who is to forward it by first express. We are now at Montargis, where his Majesty also arrived this morning; but we have as yet no further news to communicate to your Lordships, to whom we again recommend ourselves.
[* ]The treaty with the king of France was concluded at Milan, 12 October, 1499, by Monsignore Cosimo de’ Pazzi, Bishop of Arezzo, and Pietro Soderini, who afterwards became perpetual Gonfalonier. The republic of Florence obligated herself by this treaty to defend the French possessions in Italy, with four hundred men-at-arms and three thousand infantry; also to aid the king of France in the conquest of Naples with five hundred men-at-arms and a subsidy of fifty thousand florins. And the king of France, on his part, bound himself to defend the Florentines, against whoever might attack them, with six hundred lances and four thousand infantry; and to put them in possession of Pisa again, and all the other places which they had lost by the coming of Charles VIII. into Italy, excepting such as were held by the Genoese.