Front Page Titles (by Subject) LETTER XIV. - The Historical, Political, and Diplomatic Writings, vol. 3 (Diplomatic Missions 1498-1505)
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LETTER XIV. - 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: —
To-day is the 2d of September, and we have not yet despatched the enclosed, being unwilling to send them at a venture, and yet unable to despatch them by a special messenger, such is the penury to which our ordinary mode of living has reduced us; and unless your Lordships promptly supply us with means, we shall be compelled to leave here. Our necessary expenses are one scudi and a half per day for each; we have already laid out for clothing, and in establishing ourselves here, more than one hundred scudi each, and are now actually without a single penny, and have in vain attempted to use our credit, public and private. So that your Lordships must excuse us if, in the event of our not receiving funds, we find ourselves obliged to return to Florence; for we prefer being at the discretion of fortune in Italy rather than in France.
Since our writing the enclosed, we hear from all sides, O Magnificent Signori, that his Majesty is greatly dissatisfied with us. The principal reason of this is, that his arms remain dishonored in Italy on your account, and because he finds, according to the answer given by your Lordships to Corcou, that he will not be able to repair this dishonor at your expense; and moreover he has had to pay thirty thousand francs to the Swiss, and for artillery and other things, out of his private purse; whilst according to the terms of the agreement and the convention concluded at Milan between the Cardinal d’Amboise and Pietro Soderini, all these items should have been paid by your Lordships. His Majesty’s irritation on that account has increased to that degree, that it has encouraged a number of your enemies to propose various measures to his Majesty that would be adverse to your interests and necessities. These propositions have all found favor with the king, so that a few days since it was discussed in council, whether it might not be well to accept the proposition made by the Pisans to surrender, on condition that they should not be subjected to the rule of your Lordships. If this negotiation has not been actually concluded, supported as it is by all the Italians here, it is owing rather to a regard for your Lordships’ rights, which has caused it to remain in suspense, than to the interposition of any friend who may have remained true to you here. For amongst the entire court, since his Majesty’s dissatisfaction with you has become manifest, you have scarcely a single friend left, but everybody seeks to injure your cause to the extent of his power to do so.
Although we were of our own knowledge cognizant of this unfriendly disposition, from the several conferences which we have had with the Cardinal d’ Amboise, as mentioned in our several despatches to your Lordships, yet we have become still more sensible of it from the reports that reach us from all sides; so that if your Lordships do not take measures to correct it, you will find yourselves very soon in such a position with regard to the king, that you will have to think more of protecting and defending your possessions, and even your personal liberty, than of recovering the territory you have lost.
This state of things has been made known to us, amongst others, by Robertet, who is the only person that has remained our friend; but we shall lose him too very soon, unless we sustain his friendship with something more substantial than words. The same with some other gentlemen; and even Messer Gianjacopo Trivulzio called us aside one morning whilst at court, and said: “I am sorry to see your republic in such imminent danger, for if you do not promptly apply some remedy, you will be obliged to think how to defend yourselves against the anger of the people here; for it is their nature to take very sudden resolves, and they never forgive those whom they have once offended, but will continue rather in their hostility; so look to your interests, and that promptly.” And he said this with much earnestness, so that from all we have seen and heard we cannot doubt but what he spoke from the heart.
We have been cautioned in the same way by others, on whom we can rely, but who were afraid to speak to us in public, fearing lest they should be remarked as being your friends. These have told us, amongst other things, that it had been reported to his Majesty the king that your Lordships had sent ambassadors to the Emperor and to the king of Naples, with offers of money, for the purpose of stirring them up against his Majesty of France; and that his Eminence the Cardinal d’Amboise had several times said that you had broken your word; and that you would yet be forced, to your shame and damage, to repay his Majesty the amount which he had paid to the Swiss.
All these things seemed to us of great moment, and, unless promptly remedied, as calculated to embroil you with his Majesty beyond the chance of reconciliation. We made great efforts, therefore, to have an audience of the Cardinal d’Amboise, where we should be listened to quietly, and with that attention which the case really deserves. Although we have failed thus far to obtain such an audience as we desired, yet we took occasion to meet and converse with his Eminence; and began by complaining of the malice of your Lordships’ enemies, who were not ashamed to defame you to his Majesty beyond all reason, by telling him that you had sent ambassadors to the Emperor and King Frederick with offers of money for the purpose of turning them against him, a proceeding so incredible that we could not believe that either his Majesty or his Eminence would attach the least credence to it; for the long-continued fidelity of your Lordships to his Majesty, as well as the experience which he had had so lately of your good faith, did not deserve that such a calumny should have been believed; but as such a report had reached our ears, we desired to speak to his Majesty on the subject, more for the purpose of performing our duty than because we believed that you needed such a justification. After that we added, that from the several conversations which we had had with his Eminence, and from what we had heard from various quarters, it appeared that his Majesty the king was dissatisfied with your Lordships, and was engaged in negotiations that did not comport with our friendship and the loyalty which we had always manifested towards the crown of France; that no notice whatever had been given us of these proceedings, at which we were astonished, for we believed that his Majesty ought to have complained in an amicable way of any supposed short-comings on the part of your Lordships, and that he would have spoken his mind openly and freely about it, and would have listened to your Lordships’ explanations; and that if there had really been any remissness of duty on your part, that in such case his Majesty would take every occasion to assert his rights against your Lordships. And therefore we entreated his Eminence to be pleased to tell us what was really going on, and to enlighten us upon those points upon which we had to report to your Lordships.
His Eminence made no answer whatever to the first part of our remarks, as to your having sent ambassadors to the Emperor, etc., but complained at great length that he had been much pained by your Lordships’ conduct, which had deprived him of all means of helping you; for that you had neither been willing to resume the war, nor to receive the French troops in garrison, nor to pay the Swiss; so that his Majesty’s interests as well as his honor had suffered damage in consequence. When we attempted to reply to this, his Eminence added: “We have already heard and know what you would say; we have also seen the answer you have made to Corcou.” And when we urged his Eminence to inform us as to what we ought to write to your Lordships, etc., he said: “Speak to Corcou about it; he happens luckily to be here, and will tell you what is necessary for you to know.”
We therefore went to see Corcou, and he concluded that you must either pay back to his Majesty the thirty-eight thousand francs which he has disbursed on your account, or have him for your enemy forever. And although we said all we could, — that this was unreasonable, and that it would be useless to write this to your Lordships, — yet he remained firm in his decision. And seeing thus how much importance they attach to this matter, we said that we would write to your Lordships on the subject; and Corcou promised to try and induce the Cardinal d’Amboise to await your Lordships’ reply; and thus we left him.
You see thus, O Magnificent Signori, in what condition our affairs are here; and in our judgment it will really depend upon your answer, whether we shall have the king’s friendship or enmity. Do not imagine that reasons and arguments will be of any avail with him, for they would not be listened to, as we have already explained in the accompanying letters. And so important has it seemed to us to preserve his Majesty’s friendship, that if I, Francesco, had not felt so seriously indisposed that I believed I should be obliged to leave the court for the purpose of taking care of my health, one of us two would have come by the diligence to Florence, to tell you by word of mouth, and so to say to make you touch with your fingers, what we cannot make so plain to you by writing.
We must not omit, however, to tell you, that we learn from a good source that there are intrigues on foot to induce his Majesty to take Pisa for himself after having first caused all its territory to be restored; and to form a state out of it by adding Pietrasanta, Livorno, and Piombino, and in course of time also Lucca, and to establish a governor of his own there; which they think can easily be done and maintained, as a portion of the constituent parts are well disposed for such an arrangement, being contiguous to the state of Milan. They see another advantage in the fact that the Pisans have offered an immediate payment of one hundred thousand francs, contributed by your enemies, and afterwards a regular yearly revenue. This project is furthermore regarded as a step towards the taking of the kingdom of Naples, whenever that attempt shall be made. We believe that this project has its origin with and is being urged by your many enemies, and that it may easily be accomplished because of the king’s dissatisfaction with your Lordships, and because of the immediate advantage which he would derive from it. And moreover, amidst the general hatred of your Lordships, it is supposed that his Majesty can only gain in doing what would be a great injury to you.
In accordance with your Lordships’ wishes, we have written without reserve, and very fully, about matters here, as we see and understand them; and if we have expressed ourselves too boldly upon any one point, it was because we preferred rather to harm ourselves by thus erring, than not to write, and thereby risk of failing in our duty to our republic. And we have ventured to do so because of our confidence in the wisdom of your Lordships, who, after careful examination of our communications, can form a more correct judgment upon the points in question, and can thus come to a wiser decision.
We beg most respectfully to remind your Lordships of the importance of promptly sending ambassadors here, so that your next despatches may inform us of their coming, and that they may be in time to achieve some good results; for we ourselves can do no more in the business here than what we have done, and have, indeed, played our last stake. Nor would we like to find ourselves present here at the breaking up of a friendship which we have so earnestly solicited, and nursed at such expense, and maintained with so much hopefulness. And until we receive orders from your Lordships that will permit our presenting ourselves at court, we shall avoid all conversation with them upon other points; for having really nothing to tell them, they might think that we are merely mocking them. We shall simply show ourselves, so that they may know that we are here, and that they may call us if there should be occasion for it.
His Eminence, D’Amboise, leaves to-morrow for Rouen, and will remain there some ten or twelve days. It would be well if on his return we could present to him your Lordships’ answer, which we beg you will send to us; and that we may then also be able to say to him that your ambassadors are on the way here, which is so essential.
Messer Giulio Scurcigliato, a Neapolitan, has had a long conversation with his Eminence, the Cardinal, in relation to your Lordships’ affairs, of which we shall say nothing more, as he will write you himself very fully at Florence. Since then we have heard that the truce between the king and the Emperor has been publicly proclaimed at Milan.
We commend ourselves to your Lordships.
Francesco della Casa,
Melun, 3 September, 1500.
P. S. — Whilst in the act of sealing this letter, Ugolino came to us to say that a friend of his, who had agreed to co-operate with him in the expediting of our despatches, had changed his mind, so that we were obliged to promise him twenty-five sun scudi. We must therefore beg your Lordships promptly to pay that amount to Giovanni di Niccolo Martelli, so that we may be able to command his services on future occasions, and not be obliged to pay him out of our own means. He has promised to have this despatch delivered within seven days.