Front Page Titles (by Subject) LETTER XXI. - The Historical, Political, and Diplomatic Writings, vol. 3 (Diplomatic Missions 1498-1505)
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LETTER XXI. - 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, etc.: —
My last was of the 7th instant, in which I reported to your Lordships all that had occurred of interest up to the day. I had previously sent two other despatches, one of the 26th ultimo, and the other of the 2d instant; which I presume have safely reached your hands. Since then I have received your Lordship’s letters of the 26th ultimo, with report of the state of things in Florence. After carefully reading and examining their contents, and particularly all that relates to the coming of the ambassadors, and to the calumnies circulated about your Lordships, and to the arrangements of the Genoese for seizing Pietrasanta, I called upon his Eminence the Cardinal d’Amboise, as his Majesty had gone to a village some eight leagues from here, where he was going to pass the evening. And although it was hardly worth while to take much trouble to justify your Lordships from the calumnies, having already done so on previous occasions, to the extent that both his Majesty the king and the Cardinal had promised me to await the arrival of your ambassadors to know the truth and come to some decision, and that I could rather have wished to be able to announce the positive departure of the ambassadors from Florence; nevertheless, encouraged by your Lordships’ letters, I made it a point to declare to his Eminence your Lordships’ disposition, intentions, and desires; and demonstrated to him also how utterly without foundation were the calumnies spread about your Lordships, and in what evil disposition they had their origin; and in fact, that it was the calumniators, rather than the calumniated, who ought to be looked after. I furthermore said to his Eminence, that the future would prove the truth of all this, even if the past were insufficient to do so; and that his Majesty the king, as well as his Eminence himself, would be fully satisfied upon all these points, when your Lordships’ ambassadors should arrive here; and that these ambassadors were on the point of starting, and would assuredly be here in the course of this month. I begged his Eminence, at the same time, to keep his Majesty in his present favorable disposition, and to abide the arrival of the ambassadors, and not to listen to evil tongues, nor to come to any decision for the present, as in fact his Eminence had on a former occasion promised.
I then proceeded to speak of the Pietrasanta affair, and related to his Eminence the reports started by the Genoese, of their having a concession, etc.; I told him of the attempt which their commissary had made, and the injuries which your vassals had suffered at his hands. His Eminence listened patiently to all I said, without particularly replying to any one point; but suddenly he entered upon the same subject upon which he had already spoken to me several times, as reported by me to your Lordships; namely, that his Majesty was exceedingly displeased by your having refused to resume the war against Pisa, by your declining his offer of men-at-arms, and by your unwillingness to refund the money which he had paid to the Swiss and for artillery, etc., etc.; and that for that reason no thought could be given to your affairs, nor could anything be said in your favor. I replied, that as to your refusal to resume the war against Pisa, and the non-acceptance of the troops, I had no other excuse to offer than what I had already presented on former occasions; namely, as to the first, the actual impossibility of your doing so; and as to the latter, the bad disposition of those very troops; and I added that these excuses were so well founded, that neither his Majesty the king nor his Eminence himself could or ought to think differently. And as to the third point of complaint, namely, the money, that I had entreated his Majesty to await the arrival of the ambassadors, who were ready to start, and had instructions to satisfy his Majesty; and that if he wished to see your Lordships’ letters on that subject, I was prepared to show them to him. To this his Eminence replied in the precise following words: “Dixisti, verum est; sed erimus mortui antequam oratores veniant; sed conabimur ut alii prius moriantur.”* And when I replied that the time was short, and that there could be no loss by waiting, he said, “Come back here to-day at three o’clock in the afternoon, and you shall then know the king’s intentions, and the course which these things must take.”
The Cardinal left his house whilst talking to me, and continued his remarks on the way to church; and when we reached the chapel we found Messer Giulio Scurcigliati there waiting for the Cardinal, who, so soon as he saw him, called him, and said that he wished him to be present at this last interview between us, and that he would be obliged to him if he would return with me to his house at three o’clock; for knowing his devotion to your Lordships, he wanted him to be present and hear what was said. And thereupon I took my leave, his Eminence being very angry at what I had told him about Pietrasanta; and he immediately directed Robertet to write to Genoa and give orders that no Genoese should be allowed to enter Pietrasanta; and also to write to Beaumont to give strict orders to the commandant of the citadel to be well upon his guard, and under no circumstances to have any dealings with the Genoese. To the first letter he added a paragraph about the restitution of the stolen cattle, and to enjoin upon the people the preservation of good relations with their neighbors, etc. However, I shall endeavor to obtain a special letter upon this subject, and will send it to your Lordships.
In accordance with the Cardinal’s request, I returned to his house at three o’clock, and presented myself before his Eminence, and found Messer Giulio there. His Eminence spoke for more than half an hour, beginning with complaints of your obstinacy before the first treaty was concluded with his Majesty of France; and how badly your Lordships afterwards observed the stipulations of that treaty; and how tardy you had always been in all matters; and blaming us in a measure for the money spent in the recovery of Milan, after the revolt of that city. After that he came to the new treaty made with Pietro Soderini at Milan, and to the army that had been directed against Pisa; and how, from his affection for you, his Majesty’s arms had suffered dishonor in that affair; and how you had always lagged behind on every occasion of danger, although you had shown yourselves very brave in refusing to pay one farthing of the money for the Swiss and the artillery, etc., leaving it all to be paid by his Majesty. And finally he concluded by saying, that he was willing to forget all the other things, but that it was indispensable for your Lordships to decide upon refunding that money to his Majesty; that there was not a day but what the Lucchese, the Genoese, and the Pisans came about his Majesty’s ears with offers of large sums of money, without agreement or obligations of any kind; which his Majesty could not but admire, seeing on the one hand their excellent disposition, and noting on the other hand your obstinacy, first in refusing to pay despite your obligations under the treaty, and your delay now in putting off to do anything under pretence of waiting for the new ambassadors. “But I tell you,” said he, “from the affection which I have for your republic, although of course not equal to that which I have for the king, that these ambassadors of yours can neither negotiate, nor will they be listened to upon any point, unless payment is first made of the amount due to his Majesty; and if it is not understood that such is your intention, write therefore at once to your Signoria, for we do not wish to remain any longer in suspense upon this point, and let them understand that, whether they choose to be friends or enemies, in any event they will have to pay. But if you remain our friends, as you will if you are wise, his Majesty will pass Christmas at Lyons, and Easter at Milan. Up to the present he has sent two thousand lances into Italy, and over six thousand infantry, of those who have already been there; and we shall see whether Pisa will resist him, and whether those who oppose him are stronger than he is. His friends will know then that he is king, and that his promises will be strictly carried out.” And then, turning to Robertet, his Eminence told him to have the accounts got ready, and to give them to me, so that I might forward them to your Lordships.
Your Lordships will judge whether it would have been possible for me to have made a reply to such a proposition, even if I had been able to constrain them to listen to me with patience. Therefore I judged it best to confine my remarks to touching upon the most necessary points; I could not, however, refrain from saying that the fact of his Eminence complaining of all your Lordships’ actions, and particularly of those that really deserved the highest encomiums, encouraged me also to complain of the Pietrasanta business, and that the restitution of that place to your Lordships had not been made according to the terms of the treaty. This stirred and vexed his Eminence, who said that that was another business altogether; but that all this would be arranged provided your Lordships did not fail in the performance of your obligations. I continued the conversation, and said that I would attempt no further justification of your Lordships, nor weary myself by repeating what had been so often discussed and demonstrated, namely, that no default had ever been made by your Lordships in the performance of your engagements; nor would I say anything more respecting the last point, upon which depended his Majesty’s favorable or unfavorable disposition towards us, than what I had always said until now, namely, that the ambassadors were coming, and would give full satisfaction to the king, provided he demanded nothing unreasonable or impossible. For to demand either the one or the other could only be regarded as an attempt to injure our republic, which I could not believe was intended, because it would be injuring the best friends which his Majesty had in all Italy. I begged his Eminence not to give so ready an ear to the promises of the Genoese, the Lucchese, and the Pisans; and said that he ought not to listen to anything but what was to the honor of his Majesty the king, and to such promises as were likely to be fulfilled; and that he ought to consider whether a small present advantage was preferable to a great and continued benefit. But that I would report everything fully to your Lordships; and that the reply would be in the same spirit that had always been manifested by our republic, which by the heavy and fruitless expenditures to which she had been so long subjected ought to have extinguished all jealousy henceforward, and ought to excite compassion instead.
His Eminence replied to the last part of my remarks, that his Majesty the king regretted the sufferings to which our republic had been exposed, but could take no other action than what he had done; nor could it be reasonably expected that he should submit to a loss by paying out his own money. He advised me to write you at once, and that they would await your reply provided it was not delayed too long; that they wanted acts, having no longer any faith in words; and that the king’s friendship could only be preserved by your paying the amount in question, whilst to refuse it would provoke his enmity. And thereupon I took my leave.
Magnificent Signori, the enclosed memorandum will show you the amount that is claimed, and the reasons why you are held responsible for it. You will find that it comprises the amount which you are to pay for account of the Signor Lodovico, and for which you are held responsible the same as for the other items.* I have taken the memorandum just as it was brought to me, not wishing to examine the calculations, nor to make any further objections, as it would have been of no use to have done so, but might rather have made the condition of our case worse in some respects. I could truly wish this letter had wings, so as to enable me to have a prompt reply; but know not how to manage, having never received any instructions as to what to do in case it should become necessary to send a special courier. I shall pray the Almighty to aid me, and if I can find any one who will carry this despatch, I shall devote to it what little money I may yet have.
I have nothing further to say to your Lordships, unless it be to entreat you, with the utmost respect, to let me have your answer promptly, and, if you resolve to pay, then to prove it by deeds; for I doubt whether they will wait much longer, mainly on account of German affairs, which cause them a good deal of apprehension here, as mentioned in a former letter, and which has made them draw nearer to the Venetians and to the Pope. I want to see now how they will behave towards your Lordships, and how they will employ the money which they demand of you, or what they may obtain from others in the event of your refusing to pay; and how, in case you declare yourselves their enemies, they will act so as to render you harmless. But they are not willing at the same time to be in uncertainty as to your intentions, and leave Pisa open for any one to go in who may be disposed to make war upon them. Your Lordships will also remember, from all we have written, and from the conduct of the court since we have been here, that neither the king nor the Cardinal ever descended actually to ask us for the money, or to name their conditions to us as they are doing at present; but that they only complained to us on the subject on every occasion and in every place, and that they have entertained the Lucchese, have had dealings and close relations with the Pisans and the Genoese, and openly threatened your Lordships. It was this that induced me to go to the Cardinal and to express to him my surprise at his pretended dissatisfaction, and at the treaties that were being negotiated without reference or notice to your Lordships. And when I pressed his Eminence warmly as to what I should write to your Lordships, he refused to give me a definite reply, and referred me to Corcou, as I wrote you fully in my letter of the 3d of September. Then came your Lordships’ letters of the 30th of August, which afforded me the opportunity to speak of the coming of your ambassadors; and since then all my efforts have been devoted to urging your Lordships to hasten their departure, and to keeping matters here in suspense until their arrival. And what has occurred since then is reported above in this despatch. I have not deemed it amiss to make this little recapitulation, so that your Lordships may form a better idea of the state of things here, and may thus be enabled to determine what course will be for the greatest advantage to our republic.
I have no further news to communicate, unless it be that two days since there arrived here an ambassador from the Marquis of Mantua, together with one from the Marquis of Ferrara, and likewise an ambassador from the king of Naples. From this your Lordships will not fail in your wisdom to see that they all have more fear of this king than faith in each other; notwithstanding that Mantua is situated in a lake, and that the king of Naples has the Turk for his neighbor and is on good terms with the Emperor of Germany. I must therefore beg your Lordships again, with the utmost respect, to reflect well upon your answer, and to let me have it as quickly as possible. And yet Robertet has intimated to me that his Majesty the king will send some one to settle these matters; but as the Cardinal has not said anything to me on the subject, I cannot affirm the truth of it. Nor should I advise your Lordships to delay your answer on that account, for I am in daily fear lest something be resolved upon here that would make your answer come too late, and that thus you might be obliged to pay the amount in question without deriving any advantage from it, and without preserving the king’s friendship; and in that case our ambassadors would have to come here on wings to be able to ameliorate our situation in any degree, even if that be possible. Above all things, therefore, is it essential to act with the utmost promptitude, and hasten the time of the ambassadors’ departure.
Being unable to find any one willing to share in the expense of sending a special courier, or to pay the whole cost of it myself, I have been obliged to despatch it by the king’s post, and to direct it to Nasi at Lyons, at the cost of one franc; and have written him, for the love which he bears to our republic, promptly to forward it by special messenger, in case no regular courier is despatched from Lyons; and that your Lordships will reimburse him for it, and in case you do not, then to charge the cost of it to me. I pray your Lordships, therefore, to repay Nasi the amount which he has expended, and of which he will inform you; so that he may be willing to render us similar service on future occasions, and so that I may not be afraid to ask it of him, or that I may not have to pay it out of my private means.
I recommend myself to the good graces of your Lordships, quæ bene valeant.
Blois, 11 October, 1500.
[* ]“It is true you say so, but we shall be dead before these ambassadors come; we will endeavor, however, that others shall die before.”
[* ]The Signor Lodovico Sforza, Duke of Milan, and surnamed “Il Moro,” had loaned certain sums of money to the republic of Florence to enable them to carry on the war against Pisa. According to Article 14 of the treaty concluded at Milan in 1499, the Florentines promised to pay to the king of France whatever amount they might owe at the time to the deposed Duke Lodovico.