Front Page Titles (by Subject) LETTER XVII. - The Historical, Political, and Diplomatic Writings, vol. 3 (Diplomatic Missions 1498-1505)
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LETTER XVII. - 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: —
I reported to you yesterday all that had taken place here up to that time, and sent my letter this morning through the hands of P. del Bene. I must now inform your Lordships “that yesterday and to-day the Pope has conferred with the Cardinals Amboise and Volterra, the Spanish Cardinals, the Cardinal of Ferrara, and the Duke Valentino, in relation to the departure of the last. It was definitely concluded that he is to go in two or three days by water to Porto Venere or to Spezzia, and from there by the Garfagnana to Ferrara; and that his troops, which are said to amount to three hundred light cavalry, one hundred men-at-arms, and four hundred infantry, are to go by land to Romagna through Tuscany. They are to unite at Imola, which place, it is said, still holds for the Duke, and where he will join them; and then the Duke will attempt from there to recover his states by means of his own troops, and those which he counts upon receiving from your Lordships, from the Cardinal d’Amboise, from Ferrara, and from the Pope. And speaking of these auxiliaries, the Cardinal Volterra told me that the Pope supplied the Duke with briefs and patents at discretion, but with nothing more. The Cardinal d’Amboise has promised that Montison shall come to him with at least fifty lances; it is, however, not yet known whether they are of those who have already been in the Duke’s service. The Cardinal of Este says that he believes that the Duke’s father will not fail him.” Volterra says that he would have been glad to have been informed of your views and intentions as regards this matter, and wonders that you have never written to him how he is to bear himself towards the Duke.
Being obliged to say something in the name of your Lordships, he represented that you were ready to do anything in your power to prevent those cities from falling into the hands of the Venetians, and that, if you were of opinion that the way to do so would be to help the Duke, he had not the least doubt that you would lend him every assistance. But that, before coming to that point, it was necessary for them to see whether the aid of your Lordships added to the Duke’s forces would suffice for the desired object; and that therefore it would be well for the Duke to send some one to Florence for the purpose of explaining these things, and to have a full understanding. “What causes the Cardinal Volterra to be in doubt as to the affairs of the Duke, besides not knowing the views of your Lordships, is, that he is not clear himself whether it would be desirable for our republic to have the Duke for a neighbor, and master of those three or four cities. For if we could always be sure of him as a friend, and not have reason to doubt and mistrust him, it might be of the greatest advantage to reinstate him in his possessions. But knowing the Duke’s dangerous character, he doubted much whether you would be able to keep him your friend, which would expose us to the same risk of having the Venetians become masters of those cities. His Eminence, moreover, sees that your Lordships are under some obligations to those who hold those places, and that their populations have declared themselves the enemies of the Duke, so that there is reason to fear lest by supporting the Duke the Venetians may be enabled the sooner to attain the object of their desires. All these things keep the Cardinal Volterra in a state of indecision.” It has seemed to me proper to report the substance of this conversation to your Lordships, so that you may appreciate the merits of the case with your habitual sagacity. “At the conference between the Pope and the Cardinals there was no one to represent the Bentivogli of Bologna; but the Duke confidently expects every assistance from them. The conference separated with the understanding that the Duke should take the route indicated, that the Cardinal Este should write to Ferrara to solicit aid, that the Cardinal d’Amboise should write to Montison in accordance with the above decision, and that the Cardinal Volterra should explain everything to your Lordships. Thus the matter rests, and according to the above understanding the Duke is to leave immediately. But already Volterra begins to doubt whether the Duke will start, for he seems to have perceived a change in him, and seems to think him irresolute, suspicious, and unstable in all his conclusions.” This may be the result of his natural character, or because the blows of fortune, which he is not accustomed to bear, have stunned and confounded him. Two evenings ago, whilst in that part of the palace where the Duke Valentino is lodged, the deputies from Bologna arrived, and with them the Protonotario Bentivogli. They all went into the Duke’s apartment, where they remained more than an hour.
Thinking that they might possibly have formed some agreement together, I went to-day to see the Protonotario Bentivogli under pretence of making him a visit; and having, after some general conversation, broached the subject of the Duke’s affairs, he said to me that they had come to see the Duke at his special request, who had told them that he would relieve them of the obligations they had entered into with him the year before. Having come to that point, and having called a notary to draw up the agreement, the Duke asked in return for the cancelling of these obligations certain specified assistance in his affairs of Romagna. The Bolognese deputies would not agree to this, having no authority to that effect, whereupon the Duke also declined to annul their obligations, and thus the matter remained in suspense.
The Protonotario added, that the Duke had not acted fairly in the matter, and that, instead of standing upon his rights, he should have shown himself liberal in cancelling these obligations, on account of which he would anyhow never receive a single penny from them. He told me furthermore that, having conversed with the Cardinal Herina on the subject, the latter had said to him that the Duke seemed to him to have lost his wits, for he appeared not to know himself what he wanted, and that he was confused and irresolute. To my question whether he would sustain the Duke in any way, the Protonotario answered, that the entrance of the Venetians into Romagna was of such importance, that, if the only way of preventing it was to support the Duke, he believed that his father and his government would give him their support, and do whatever else they could in the matter. More than this I did not learn from him, but I have deemed it not amiss to communicate this conversation to your Lordships.
From the armies we hear that the Spaniards in full force attacked such of the French as had crossed the river, but that the latter under protection of their artillery defended themselves bravely, and that although both sides had lost a good many men, yet the French remained masters of their position and of the entire river; that they were busy constructing two more bridges, so as to pass the river with the bulk of their forces, under God’s favor.
There is nothing else of interest to communicate from here, unless it be that the Pope will assume the tiara next Sunday in St. Peter’s, and on the following Sunday in St. John Lateran, and that it will be a triumphant solemnity.
With all this the plague is on the increase, for the weather and the neglect of all precautions favor its development, so that Rome has become a most melancholy residence.
I recommend myself to God and to your Lordships, quæ bene valeant.
Rome, 14 November, 1503.