Front Page Titles (by Subject) LETTER XII. - The Historical, Political, and Diplomatic Writings, vol. 3 (Diplomatic Missions 1498-1505)
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LETTER XII. - 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: —
From our preceding letters your Lordships will have seen the condition of our affairs here; and our latest despatch will have informed you that his Majesty is not at all satisfied with your Lordships, particularly upon two points to which he attaches most importance. The first is your having refused to resume the war against Pisa, and the second, your not having paid the Swiss. To these may be added a third, which to some extent is also deemed important, and that is your refusal to receive French troops in garrison. Whenever either of these subjects is discussed, it gives rise to complaints in such manner and terms as we have already made known to your Lordships. And although all these matters could easily be explained, as your Lordships have endeavored to do at Florence with Corcou, and as we in compliance with your orders have striven to do here, yet we are never listened to when opportunity occurs for us to speak on these subjects; nor do we see any chance for bettering this state of things, unless something quite unforeseen should occur. For as to the first point, we do not believe that his Majesty will ever assume the entire burden of a fresh war; the reason for our thinking so is, first, the king’s indisposition to send money; and secondly, his whole conduct hitherto with regard to the affairs of Italy, being ever anxious to draw all he can from this country, but never willing to spend anything there, seeming to attach more importance to immediate profit than to ultimate results. This causes his Majesty to attach little importance to what your Lordships offer him after he shall have taken Pisa; so that when his Majesty was spoken to on that point he treated it as a jest. And there is the more reason to believe that he will not do it, as (you may venture nineteen sous to a lira) peace will either be made with Naples, or the new enterprise will be deferred for a long time to come, which would cause his Majesty to think no more of the fifty thousand florins, etc., etc. And there are several grounds for looking upon such a peace as probable; first, the will of the queen, who is said to be most favorably inclined to it, and, according to report, spares no pains to bring it about; and it is also said that the majority of the council is of the same mind, deeming the conquest difficult, and the maintaining it still more so, referring to the experience of the past, as well as to other reasons which your Lordships will readily find out. It is, moreover, supposed that such an attempt might arouse the Turk, who certainly would oppose it most determinately; and that the apprehension of the loss of Naples would induce the Emperor and the Empire to take measures such as even the conquest of Milan did not cause them to take. For King Frederick constantly keeps ambassadors near his Majesty, who fears the war and earnestly desires peace. These imperial ambassadors have not yet come to Troyes, and when they do come, it is understood that their demands will be so great that they will not be acceded to.
Your Lordships will have heard that the king of Spain has raised troops for the purpose of supporting King Frederick, and that he has created the Archduke a Prince, all of which facts indicate the same purpose. And then comes his Majesty’s aversion to spending money, and his extreme prudence, which makes him move very slowly in all doubtful matters. Moreover, his Majesty has seen lately, in the case of Pisa, that where force is necessary neither chalk* nor reputation will suffice; and that, if he found the enterprise in itself difficult, the help of the Turk or of others would render it next to impossible, and would expose him to the risk of being obliged to withdraw in a manner that would be anything but honorable for him, and expose him to the loss of all his possessions in Italy; being unable to support such heavy expenses for so long a time, or to be disastrously defeated.
But even if all this were not true, or had not been properly understood, or still worse explained, which is quite possible, yet this much is true beyond all question, — that the secretary of Naples is here and labors incessantly to bring about a peace. And if once they listen to any one here who promises and gives, it is difficult not to believe that they will take what is offered. Thus to return to our own matter. Even if such a peace be one of the things that will be, or if the enterprise against Pisa is to be deferred for a long time to come, which we leave to your Lordships’ wisdom to decide, the fifty thousand florins are not likely to influence the king to engage in that enterprise for his own account. If, therefore, your Lordships’ views on this point are not changed, his Majesty of France cannot remain satisfied; and we are rather apprehensive, from some remarks made by the Cardinal d’Amboise and by Robertet, lest his Majesty, for the purpose of repairing the honor of his arms, attempt some measure adverse to your interests and necessities.
As to the payment of the Swiss, which seems to be the thing that irritates his Majesty the most, and the refusal to receive the French troops in garrison, we have made such answer as we have stated in the enclosed, and which has been accepted, as the enclosed will also inform your Lordships. According to our judgment your Lordships ought to satisfy the demands of the Swiss, or you will have to think how you will defend yourselves against the anger which his Majesty will feel against you; and which, in our opinion, will increase of itself, and from being fomented and kept alive by your enemies. Nor must your Lordships imagine that well-digested letters or arguments will be of service in the matter, for they are not even listened to. It is idle to recall to the French here the good faith with which our republic has always acted towards the crown of France, or the services rendered to some of her former sovereigns, or the large sums of money which we have spent and the dangers we have borne on their account, and how many times we have in return been fed by them with vain hopes; or to point to more recent occurrences, and to the ruinous damage which our republic suffered in consequence; or what his Majesty might still count upon from you if you were strong, and what security your power and greatness would give to his Majesty’s possessions in Italy, and how it would insure the good faith of the other Italian states. But it is all useless, for they hold a very different language about all these things from what you do, and view them with another eye altogether from that of persons who are not of this court; for they are blinded by their power and their immediate advantage, and have consideration only for those who are either well armed, or who are prepared to pay. It is this that does your Lordships so much harm, for they imagine you lacking both these qualifications. As regards the first point of being well armed, they see that ordinarily you are without troops. And as to the second, namely, the question of their own advantage, they have given up all hope, for they believe that you consider yourselves as having been badly served by them, and that you have lost all confidence in them in consequence of their conduct in the late affair of Pisa. They call you Ser Nihilo (Signor Nothing), and baptize your inability discord amongst yourselves; and the ill conduct of their troops they ascribe to your bad government. And this opinion is gaining ground, according to our judgment, in consequence of the departure of your ambassadors from here, and the fact that nothing is heard of the coming of new ones, which they charge to our want of union, or to a wish on our part to alienate ourselves from them entirely. We therefore beg your Lordships, with all due respect, to give attention to this, and to think of remedying it seasonably; for our mission here is evidently not agreeable to them, and our rank and quality insufficient to save a sinking cause. But if your Lordships really desire to maintain your relations with this court, then we deem it absolutely indispensable for you to send fresh ambassadors here. At the same time, we beg you to understand distinctly that they will be of little use, unless they come with instructions to pay the Swiss, and with means enough to make friends; for there is no one here that does not understand his own interests, or who has not managed to secure for himself some patron to whom he can resort when occasion requires. In truth, your Lordships are the only ones who have deprived yourselves of such support; and even the king’s friendship for you, as well as that of the Cardinal, needs to be sustained if you desire to preserve it; for it has been shaken in various ways by your many enemies, as well as by the ill fortune of our republic. But under any circumstances, and however they may come, we hold the sending of ambassadors here as indispensable, if you desire to advance your cause here in any way.
Meantime we beg your Lordships to be pleased to instruct us as to the course which we shall pursue, and what attitude we shall assume in relation to that point which seems to us so important and delicate, and which demands a prompt remedy. Valete!
Francesco della Casa,
Melun, 27 August, 1500.
[* ]Alluding to the expression applied to the descent of Charles VIII. into Italy, that he conquered it with a piece of chalk; that is, sending his quartermaster ahead, who merely marked with a piece of chalk the houses where the French troops were to be quartered.