Front Page Titles (by Subject) LETTER XLI. - The Historical, Political, and Diplomatic Writings, vol. 3 (Diplomatic Missions 1498-1505)
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LETTER XLI. - 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 morning I received your last letter of the 17th by way of Bagno, and fully comprehend your instructions. There seems to me to be no reason for apprehendinginjury to either one or the other place belonging to Florence on account of those who have taken refuge there; for in my opinion it would require causes of greater gravity to warrant an attack on our territory. I should regard it, nevertheless, as an act of prudence that these people should withdraw further into the interior of our dominions, and have written to that effect to the captain. Should anything come to my knowledge that would cause me any doubts upon that point, I shall advise your Lordships, but more than that I do not believe I can do.
I presume your Lordships to have received all the letters I have written since coming to Cesena; the first was of the 14th, sent by the courier Grillo; the other, of the 18th, I sent by a son of Antonio d’ Assetto, who was returning to Florence; and the last, of the 20th, was sent express by one of the shoemakers’ guild. By the first two I wrote to your Lordships what I had learned of the condition of things here; also, the conversation I had with the Duke, chiefly in relation to Pisan affairs. In mine of the 20th, I informed you of the unexpected departure of the French. They left yesterday in the direction of Bologna, halting about three miles from here, and passing the night at Castello Bolognese, so as to reach the Bolognese territory the next evening. There are in all about 450 lances. This sudden and unexpected departure has been the subject of general conversation, and every one forms his own conjectures about it. I have done my best to find out the truth of the matter, but it is impossible to obtain any correct information. I have written you what the Baron de Bierra told me; and since then have conversed with M. de Montison, who told me that the French troops had left out of regard for the country and the Duke, who had no further occasion for them; and that the country was becoming hostile to him on account of being overburdened by so many troops. The principal personages of the court tell me that the Duke could no longer support these troops, and that the further retaining them would cause him more annoyance from his friends than from his enemies; and that even without them the Duke would still have troops enough to enable him to undertake anything he might be disposed to.
Not wishing to leave anything undone to obtain correct information, I went to see that friend of mine, whom I have several times mentioned to your Lordships, so soon as the news of the departure of the French became known. I told him that, having heard of that departure, which seemed to me very sudden, and not knowing whether it was by order of the Duke or contrary to his wishes, I deemed it my duty to let his Excellency understand that I was ready to conform to his desires as to the manner in which he might wish me to present this matter to your Lordships. He replied that he would very cheerfully undertake that commission. When I saw him again, he told me that he had spoken to the Duke about the matter, and that he was much pleased at my having suggested this to him, and that, after a few moments of reflection, his Excellency had said to him: “Tell the secretary we thank him, but that for the present there is no occasion for his doing anything in the matter; but whenever there is, we will send for him.” And thus I lost the desired opportunity of speaking with his Excellency, and learning from him something more positive in relation to this matter. And this is all I am able to tell you. I am sure your Lordships’ wisdom, and the advices you have from other sources of which I am ignorant, will enable you to form a correct judgment of this affair. Those who speak of it here say, that the departure of the French troops is due to one of two causes; namely, either because the king of France has need of them himself in Lombardy, or because his Majesty is dissatisfied with the Pope, as some cloud has arisen between them. Be this as it may, the French troops have gone from here, neither well satisfied nor well disposed towards the Duke; but in view of their character, this is of little consequence.
What the Duke may now intend or be able to do, no one knows; but thus far there is no change in his plans. The artillery has gone in advance, and yesterday there arrived here six hundred infantry from the Val di Lamona, and one thousand Swiss, part of those that have been so long expected, are at Faenza. Previous to this the Duke had already fifteen hundred Swiss, Germans, and Gascons in all.
It is still said that after the holidays he will start for Pisa. On the other hand, he has lost more than half of his forces and two thirds of his reputation; and the opinion prevails that he will not be able to do much of what he at first boasted he would do, and which it was believed he could accomplish. San Leo is in the hands of the Duke Guido, and the other fortresses in the duchy of Urbino are razed to the ground. Camerino, which the Duke said was at his disposal, will change its purpose when it hears this news. A secretary of the Cardinal Farnese, who is Legate of La Marca, and who arrived here yesterday, assured me that Camerino was very obstinate in its opposition to the Duke. Your Lordships will judge now what course matters may take, and will not fail to bear in mind that the straits in which the Duke may be placed may cause him to throw himself into the arms of your natural enemies, against which your Lordships will know how to provide, with your habitual wisdom.
I have not heard since of the Pisan negotiations, which I have mentioned to your Lordships as a matter of great moment. In speaking on the subject with such persons as I have referred to in former letters, one of them evaded my questions and referred me to what the Duke had told me; and the other told me that Lorenzo d’ Acconcio had left for the purpose of arranging the sending here of three Pisan deputies, two from the city and one from the country; and that the Duke is disposed to see whether by way of agreement he might accomplish something particularly agreeable to your Lordships, and that his first effort will be to get Tarlatino out of the hands of the Pisans, and to induce them to break off their friendly relations with Vitellozzo. Next, he hopes to win the confidence of the Pisans by giving money to their soldiers, and by taking them into his pay. And having thus gained their friendship, he will endeavor, through the intervention of the king of France, to bring about some arrangement between them and your Lordships which he will offer to guarantee. He pretends to be able to succeed easily in this; but if he fails, it will be because the Pisans are obstinate, and simply because they have no confidence that the promises made to them will be fulfilled. Now whether all this is true or not, I do not know; I give it to you as I have it from an individual who is in the way of knowing the truth of the matter. I beg your Lordships will on all accounts make careful use of it, which I suggest with all due deference.
Messer Ramiro, one of the Duke’s first officers, returned yesterday from Pesaro, and was immediately confined at the bottom of the tower by order of his Excellency. It is feared that he will be sacrificed to the populace, who are very desirous that he should be.
I beg your Lordships with all my heart to be pleased to send me wherewith to live; for if I have to follow the Duke, I shall not know how to do it without money. I shall remain here or return to Castrocaro until your Lordships shall have decided with regard to myself.
23 December, 1502.
P. S. — It is said for certain that the Duke will leave here on Monday, and will go to Rimini. I shall await your Lordships’ reply, and shall not leave without orders; and beg your Lordships to excuse me, for I can go no further.