Front Page Titles (by Subject) LETTER X. - The Historical, Political, and Diplomatic Writings, vol. 3 (Diplomatic Missions 1498-1505)
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LETTER X. - 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: —
Yesterday about the twentieth hour I received by the courier Baccino your Lordships’ letter of the 17th, with copies of the letters sent from Perugia. Immediately after their receipt I presented myself before his Excellency the Duke, and after communicating to him what your Lordships write touching the advices you expect from France, and your expressions of good feeling towards him, as also the object of your sending a special courier to me, I read to him the copies of those letters from Perugia. Having listened to them, his Excellency thanked your Lordships very much for the marks of friendship you give him on every occasion, enlarging upon that point in the most amiable manner, and promising you proof of his gratitude whenever occasion should present itself. After that he said that those six hundred men-at-arms of which his adversaries boasted might on review turn out less in number, and added laughingly: “They do well to write men-at-arms in blank, which means to say none. I do not mean to boast, but I intend the results shall prove what they are, and what we are. The more I know them, the less account I make of them and their troops. And as to this Vitellozzo, to whom they have given so great a reputation, I cannot say that I have ever seen him do a single thing that showed him to be a man of courage. His constant excuse was the French disease. All he is fit for is to devastate a defenceless country, to rob those who dare not face him, and to practise treason. And he has shown this very clearly now in this affair of Pisa, so that no one can any longer doubt it; for he has betrayed me, being in my pay and having accepted my money.” He enlarged very much upon this matter, speaking, however, very calmly and without manifesting any anger. I replied to his Excellency in the way I thought proper, and did not omit in this interview, which did not terminate very speedily, to do my best to confirm him in the opinion that he could not and ought not to trust them any longer; bringing clearly to his attention many instances of the past, when, whilst making show of friendship, they were to the extent of their ability scheming and plotting treason against him. I continue to do my utmost to win his Excellency’s confidence, and to be allowed to talk familiarly with him, in which I am aided by circumstances as well as by the friendly demonstrations which your Lordships have until now made towards him. But up to the present time I have not been able to learn anything more from him.
As his Excellency did not himself broach the subject of the affairs of Urbino, I did not touch upon it lest it might offend him; and besides, I can learn about it in great part by other means.
There is an admirable secrecy observed at this court, and no one speaks of things respecting which silence is to be observed; it is quite possible, therefore, that your Lordships may have heard more accurately at Florence than I have here, that the Orsini, the Vitelli, and their other confederates, have all declared themselves openly, and no longer dissimulate their intentions. His Excellency had already told me of it, and accordingly I mentioned it in my letter of the 17th. Three days ago they routed after a fashion Don Michele, Don Hugo, and Messer Ramiro, and drove them into Fossombrone. Some say that Don Hugo has been taken, Don Michele wounded, and that Messer Ramiro has retreated to Fano with the greater part of the troops. Others say that they have abandoned Fossombrone entirely, and others again assert that they left there some three hundred infantry. Be that as it may, the details are of little importance; enough to know that the Duke’s forces have retreated, after receiving some hard knocks. Since then we hear of no further encounters.
As to the Duke Guido, we got an inkling here a few days ago that he had left Venice to enter into the duchy of Urbino; and for that reason his Excellency has promptly sent a large force to try and bar him the way; it is not known yet at what place he has arrived. Some say he is at Urbino, others in San Leo, and others again maintain that he has not yet passed the frontier. I can only write you what I learn, and can only learn what I hear. No one stirs from the direction of Bologna, and there seems to be no apprehension from that quarter. The measures taken by his Excellency are being urged from all sides, as I have several times mentioned in my letters; and he has spent since I have been here as much money for couriers and special messengers as any one else would have spent in two years. He does not cease day or night to send off messengers, and yesterday evening he sent off two of his gentlemen, and with them Guglielmo di P. di Buonaccorso, who had been in his service at one time, and who speaks French well, to meet the French lances that are on the way, and which, according to what his Excellency tells me, might at this moment be on this side of Modena.
I hope to be able to send you to-day the general safe-conduct for our people. In speaking yesterday with his Excellency on the subject, he was very angry that it had not yet been sent; and in speaking of the matter he said, “Would it not be proper that I should have some security for my people in your territory?” To which I replied, that he might see from the facts that there was no need of it; still, if his Excellency desired to have a safe-conduct for those in his service and for his subjects, it would most assuredly not be refused.
I recommend myself to your Lordships.
Imola, 20 October, 1502.