Front Page Titles (by Subject) LETTER XXVI. * - The Historical, Political, and Diplomatic Writings, vol. 3 (Diplomatic Missions 1498-1505)
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LETTER XXVI. * - 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.: —
On the 4th instant I wrote to our illustrious Signoria in reply to two of their despatches of the 11th and 21st ultimo. His Majesty the king having since then left Nantes for Tours, I resolved not to separate myself from the court (although they went by cross-roads); thinking that your Lordships’ answer to the propositions which Odoardo Bugliotto had gone to submit on the part of his Majesty to our illustrious Signoria might arrive during this time. And this happened just as I had supposed; for just as his Majesty reached Champagne, a small village about ten leagues from Tours, the letters from your Lordships arrived, with the answer given by our illustrious Signoria to Odoardo. But as I arrived on the 18th at about two o’clock in the night, I put off until morning to ask for an audience and to speak in accordance with your Lordships’ instructions. The next morning I went to court, and by chance found his Eminence the Cardinal d’Amboise alone and unoccupied. I deemed it best to seize this opportunity, notwithstanding my intention to speak first to his Majesty the king, and approaching his Eminence I told him that I had received letters from your Lordships, with a copy of the answer given to Odoardo; but that it was hardly worth while to repeat it to him, as his Majesty had been fully informed of it by Odoardo himself. I added that your Lordships felt persuaded that their answer and resolution would not be entirely satisfactory to his Majesty, considering the necessities to which circumstances had exposed him. But considering, on the other hand, the anxieties which your Lordships had experienced, and to which you were still exposed, and the heavy expenses which your Lordships had borne, and were still compelled to bear from not being able to recover your possessions, and from your desire to sustain the name and fame of France in Italy, you could not believe but what his Most Christian Majesty would accept their resolution, and would be satisfied to bear for a short time the delay in the payment of a portion of the amount claimed, in recognition of the services which our republic had rendered to him. And if to this were added the restitution of Pietrasanta, which would be no more than reasonable, and which your Lordships’ fidelity had so well merited, and to which a strict observance of the treaty stipulations and the malevolence of the Lucchese fairly entitled you, it would completely resuscitate our republic, and would encourage the Florentine people to devote their substance and their blood to the service of his Most Christian Majesty; and would so restore their credit and reputation, that neither the Pope nor the Venetians would venture to assail their state or their liberties, as they are now presuming to do. I enlarged upon these points as much as the subject and the patience of the Cardinal would permit. His Eminence replied that it was true that, by your answer to Odoardo, your Lordships confessed your indebtedness to his Majesty, and had ordered an immediate payment of ten thousand ducats at Milan; but that this did not satisfy his Majesty, who had suffered great inconvenience from having disbursed this money for your account; and that it would be of no use to argue in favor of your Lordships, unless the whole amount had actually been paid; and that myself, as well as the ambassador, whenever he should arrive, must expect an unfavorable answer from the king. As his Eminence afforded me the time to do so, I replied by showing him at length that his Majesty’s displeasure, if real, was nevertheless very unreasonable; not because he wanted to have back what belonged to him, but in failing to look at it in the way a father should towards his sons, which would be to accept their acts, not according to his wishes, but according to their ability. I enlarged upon this view of the matter with such arguments as the nature of the case suggested; but could obtain no other conclusion from his Eminence than that this money was required by his Majesty to pay the men-at-arms which he had in Lombardy; still, if your Lordships wanted a little time on a portion of this money, they would have to come to an understanding about it with Monseigneurs d’Aubigny and de Chaumont, governors at Milan; and if they were willing to wait a few months, his Majesty would also be satisfied. I observed that this was not the answer which I had anticipated, and which our republic had confidently counted upon. And as I knew that it would only humiliate and discourage your Lordships, I was not willing to communicate it; for I felt persuaded that your Lordships, deprived of all hope of achieving any good, would give yourselves up to despair; and believing that such an answer would neither be of advantage to his Majesty nor to your Lordships, I was not willing to write it; but would rather wait in the hope of a different response, such as your Lordships merited for your good faith, as well as for the actual services rendered to his Most Christian Majesty. Unable to obtain anything else from his Eminence, I took my leave, and the same morning saw his Majesty the king, and spoke to him in the same spirit; and in the most earnest and effective language that I could command, I pointed out to his Majesty how faithful your Lordships had ever been to him, and how sincere your desire was to satisfy him; and how easy it was for his Majesty to show his affection for your Lordships. I also explained the reasons that made the immediate payment of the amount due to his Majesty quite impossible at this moment, etc. But not to weary your Lordships by repeating the same thing over and over again, I will merely state that I omitted to say nothing that I thought would be of service for his Majesty to hear on this subject. But I could obtain nothing from him except the usual complaints as to the money paid out by him, and the dishonor to his arms by our fault. And although I replied in a becoming manner to all these complaints, yet I failed to convince his Majesty upon any one point, nor did I succeed in gaining any other fruit from this interview.
After that we came on to Tours on the same day, and there had a conversation with a friend from whom I have been in the habit of obtaining secret information about the Pope, and more particularly as to the negotiations now going on between the Pope and the Venetians. He confided to me that the ambassador of his Majesty of France at present at Venice, suborned by the Pope’s ambassador, had stated in the Venetian Senate that he had learned from various sources, all worthy of faith, that the Florentines, the Bolognese, the Duke of Ferrara, and the Marquis of Mantua had formed a close league amongst themselves, under the pretext of mutual defence of their states, but in reality for the purpose of turning their combined arms against his Majesty of France, whenever the Emperor of Germany should make an attack upon Lombardy. And that your illustrious Signoria ought to be very careful to inform his Majesty of this, from a feeling of obligation to him for all the benefits received, etc., etc. My friend told me furthermore, that, when the French ambassador made this statement to the Senate, they replied, that this was very probable, for the parties named were all armed, and pretended to be dissatisfied with the conduct of the French; that the Senate would write to their ambassador, and that he also ought to write to the king about it.
This friend of mine told me, moreover, that the Pope’s ambassador here had express instructions to persuade the king of the truth of this statement, and to suggest that he could easily avert this trouble by putting Piero de’ Medici in power again in Florence, and in that way establish a government there that would be entirely devoted to his Majesty. That by doing this he would deprive Ferrara, Mantua, and Bologna of their head, and thus prevent them from carrying on their machinations against the king. Adding to all this, that inasmuch as the Cardinal de’ Medici was a churchman, it was the duty of his Holiness to act thus, particularly as this Cardinal had supplicated the Pope to aid him in his efforts to re-enter his own country and home; and that his Holiness, moved by just such prayers, had been compelled to consent to grant him such aid. But that his Holiness asked no other help from his Majesty the king than to preserve a strict neutrality; and that by consenting to this, and showing that he had abandoned your friendship, and withdrawn the protection hitherto extended to the other princes, he would add to the Pope’s credit and reputation to that degree, that in a short time he should feel encouraged with his own forces, and such as the Venetians would furnish him, to deprive Giovanni Bentivogli of his state, and to compel your Lordships to re-establish Piero de’ Medici in Florence; and that thus he would make Ferrara and Mantua come to him with the halter around their necks. And by way of giving still more credit to this enterprise and to his desire, the Pope begged his Majesty, besides granting his consent, also to send a few hundred lances to the borders of the Bolognese territory, whilst the Venetians would send theirs where they would be of most use.
My friend tells me, furthermore, that all these things are already done, and that they urge, beg, and importune his Majesty the king to give his sanction to it all; and that it was for no other purpose that they had brought Piero de’ Medici from France to Pisa, but to have him near at hand for the execution of their designs.
Upon hearing all this, which seemed to me a plot worthy of our Most Holy Father the Pope, I resolved to say something to his Eminence of Amboise on the subject; and seizing the first suitable moment, I complained to his Eminence of the malignity of your Lordships’ enemies, but spoke only in general terms, without mentioning either the Pope or the Venetians; saying that they persuaded themselves they could make his Majesty the king believe that your Lordships wanted to alienate themselves from him; that I did not want, for the purpose of opposing these rash and infamous calumnies, to allege either our good faith in the past, nor the present proofs of it, but wished merely to show how unreasonable it was that your Lordships should hope for help from the Emperor, who had not even been able to help or defend Milan, which was regarded as belonging to him; and that knowing this you should be willing to make an enemy of a king whom your Lordships imagined they had laid under obligations to them, by so many perils and expenditures which they had borne and incurred for his sake. Nor could I comprehend how the Bolognese or the Ferrarese could place their hopes on any one else but his Majesty of France, being by the very position of their states obliged, under all circumstances, to follow the fortunes of whoever possessed Milan; the one from fear of the Pope, and the other from dread of the Venetians. But that his Majesty ought to be well on his guard against those who sought the destruction of his friends, for no other purpose than their own aggrandizement, and to enable them the more easily to wrench Italy from his hands. That his Majesty ought to prevent all this by adopting the practice of sovereigns who wish to establish their power in a foreign province; namely, to weaken the powerful, conciliate the subjected, sustain their friends, and to beware of associates, that is to say, of such as want to exercise an equal share of power with them in that province. And if his Majesty would look around and see who were the parties that desired to be his associates and share his power in Italy, he would find that it was not your Lordships, nor Ferrara, nor Bologna, but those who in the past had always sought to dominate the country.
His Eminence heard me patiently, and then replied, that the king was in the highest degree prudent; that his ears were long, but his belief short; that he listened to everything, but put faith only in what he could touch with his hands and prove true. And that besides having written to Rome and Milan some time ago, when I had first spoken to him on the subject, he had only three days since written again, of his own motion, and in the most earnest manner, in commendation of your interests. And that although Monseigneur d’Allegri had been allowed to go with a hundred lances into the Romagna to aid the Duke Valentino, yet it was with the express injunction in every way to favor your interests; and that your Lordships would see, when your ambassador arrived, that his Majesty would not be wanting in his duty, if you did not fail on your part, and offered more acceptable terms as to the payment of the money due him. Since then Robertet has spoken to me in the same spirit, assuring me that his Majesty would not himself do anything wrong towards you, nor would he permit others to do so, if only the Florentines would not harm themselves by their disunion and by harboring within their walls persons who had little love for the liberties of the republic; to which, he said, your Lordships ought to look carefully. In replying to his Eminence I had no difficulty in justifying your Lordships upon this matter of disunion, the idea of which it is above all things important to remove from their minds, for the mere belief of it would produce as bad consequences here as the reality would with you in Florence.
I have nothing further of interest to communicate, for no one speaks of the propositions which the German ambassadors have brought. Those who visit them are observed and noted, as well as those who talk about them with too much curiosity.
Whilst writing I received a letter from Pier Francesco Tosinghi, in answer to several of mine, which I addressed to him at a venture. I learn from this letter that his Magnificence arrived at Lyons on the 2d instant, and was to have left there on the 15th on his way here. I expect him with impatience, and may God grant him better fortune than what those have had who have hitherto been charged with this mission.
I recommend myself to the good graces of your Lordships, quæ bene valeant.
Tours, 21 November, 1500.
[* ]This letter is directed to “The Ten of Liberty and Peace,” who had been re-established, as stated elsewhere.