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LETTER II. - 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.:* —
Yesterday at about the twenty-second hour, Niccolo Machiavelli arrived here, and having heard from his own lips the reason of his coming, and having read his commission, and it being already late, we thought it well to defer until this morning all attempts to present him to the king. Accordingly we went to court this morning for that purpose, and, having endeavored to obtain an audience, I was told that it would be impossible to see his Majesty that day, as he was suffering somewhat from dysentery; but that, if the matter was pressing, we should speak to the Cardinal d’Amboise. I believe the excuse was true, for the king had refused to see some men sent by the Marquis of Mantua to present him some birds, for which he had asked the Marquis, and which he was very anxious to possess. Being thus precluded from seeing the king, we decided it would be well to see D’Amboise, and accordingly went to his lodgings. When I made known to him the arrival of the Secretary, he withdrew apart, where, after a few customary and suitable words on my part, Machiavelli presented his letters of credence to the Cardinal, and stated to him, so far as the time and the nature of the audience permitted, the object of his mission, which was in fact to point out the dangers by which our republic is threatened on the part of Gonsalvo and on that of the Venetians; as also from your being surrounded by a number of other enemies, some of whom have already declared themselves either for the Spaniards or the Venetians, and others were ready at any moment to do the same; and also because you have lost your troops in the kingdom of Naples, and find yourselves at the same time with the Pisans on your back, who were resorting to all the tricks of the infernal regions to injure you. He then showed that in all these threatening dangers you had but one confident hope, and that was in the assistance and arms of the king; but that inasmuch as the injuries were real, it was necessary that the help should also be real, and that he had been sent expressly to learn what assistance his Majesty intended to render us; and that it was earnestly desired that it should be of such character that our city might confidently rest her hopes upon them. All this Machiavelli said, with that animation which the subject demanded. Afterwards he added, that if his Majesty declined to grant us assistance, and such as the circumstances required, there would be nothing left for you but to make terms with those who were trying in every way to subjugate you.
His Eminence remained to listen to Machiavelli with evident displeasure, and showing himself to be much irritated; in his reply he complained much of these constant lamentations of your Lordships, who, being wise, should not in these times, and in the difficulties in which they are, use such language. He referred again to those points which I have already mentioned to your Lordships; saying that it was expected that the truce between Spain and themselves would be ratified, and that in less than a week they would be fully informed upon that point; and that his Majesty would not fail, in any way or point, to protect his allies or his own states; and that if your Lordships wished to take another course, they could not prevent you, but that you ought to think well before acting. To this I promptly replied, that there was not a man in all Florence who thought that you would have to take such a step, for every one confidently believed that the king would not let us want for help; and that what had been said on the subject was merely to show to what point our city might be driven, in case the support of his Majesty should fail us. Thereupon Machiavelli, with his wonted sagacity and adroitness, added, with the view of soothing his Eminence and to come to something definite, and also to have occasion to speak of Giovanpaolo, that it should be borne in mind, that the way to save Tuscany would be to save her walls; and that these walls on the side towards Gonsalvo were the Pope, Sienna, and Perugia. His Eminence did not let Machiavelli say anything more, but quickly answered that they were sure of the Pope and of Sienna, and that, as Perugia was a city belonging to the Church, she would do whatever the Pope wanted; and thereupon he rose and left us abruptly. I must not omit to tell your Lordships that, in complaining of your lamentations, and in attempting to show us that the king was doing all he could, his Eminence said that those troops that had come from Gaeta into Lombardy, as it were in nothing but their shirts, were not willing to stop south of the Alps, and that a great part of them were no longer there, notwithstanding the orders given to stop them, and the sending of Monseigneur de Guiche to reorganize them, as I have already reported in previous despatches. And when I expressed to the Cardinal my desire that the king should hear from the Secretary himself the same that he had heard, he said that it would have no other result than to cause fresh troubles to his Majesty, if to the difficulties with his troops there were added complaints from his friends. After this, we could not induce his Eminence to remain or to enter upon any other subject.
When the Cardinal had left us, Machiavelli and myself concluded that it would be well to have this matter made known in every possible way; and therefore Machiavelli together with Ugolino went to see Robertet, whom until now I had not visited, nor had he called upon me, as I had understood that he preferred that neither your Lordships’ ambassadors nor those from other states should be on such intimate terms with him, although in public they show him every mark of esteem and affection. When Machiavelli returned, he reported to me that Robertet, so soon as he saw him, said: “Do not talk to me now on any subject, for the Cardinal Legate has told me everything that you could possibly wish to say; and I repeat to you on his behalf that the truce with the Spaniard will, without fail, be ratified; and that whatever the terms may be, your safety will be provided for; and in case the truce should not be ratified, it will be known within a very few days. And I assure you that the king will defend Tuscany the same as Lombardy, for he has the safety of both equally at heart; and we must wait and see what issue the ratification of the truce will have.” The above is the substance of what we have been able to learn from these two personages, and your Lordships can now conjecture what you may have to hope for. Despite of Machiavelli’s tact, we did not succeed in touching upon the subject of Giovanpaolo, and we did not regret to defer it until another day, so as to avoid the appearance that Machiavelli had come here mainly on that account, which seemed to us the received impression here; for the abrupt breaking off of the interview by the Cardinal d’Amboise had apparently no other motive than to avoid a discussion of that matter. For after having told us that they had the best expectations for their cause from Pandolfo, and having briefly said of Perugia what we have above reported, he left us to go over to join Nemours and the other persons who were waiting for him. And notwithstanding that your Lordships had written to me to obtain the consent of the Cardinal to conclude the engagement of Giovanpaolo, the matter was in a measure left in suspense. But we shall do our utmost to bring it to a conclusion satisfactory to your Lordships; and if we fail, it will not be for want of efforts and diligence on our part.
I had written thus far on the 27th; it is now the 28th, and although both yesterday and to-day we endeavored to obtain an audience of the king, yet we did not succeed, owing to his Majesty’s indisposition both of mind and body, of which I have made mention in a previous despatch; for those who have charge of his health strive to keep him from seeing or hearing anything that might cause him displeasure. To-day, almost immediately after dinner, I received a message from his Eminence the Cardinal Legate to come to him; I therefore went at once to his house accompanied by Machiavelli. Being admitted to where he was, we found him in council, where there were present the Grandmaster of Rhodes, Nemours, Robertet, and eight or ten other personages of the long robe. His Eminence then said to me, within hearing of all present, that he had me call because he could not, on the arrival of your secretary two days since, tell me his whole mind, partly because he had not had the opportunity of communicating with the gentlemen of the Council on the subject, and partly for want of time; but he wished now to do his duty, so that I might write to your Lordships, and keep you in good heart. He then added, almost in the same words, what he had said to me on a previous occasion; namely, that there would have to be either peace or war; and whether it would be the one or the other would be definitely known anyhow within the present week. If it be peace, as they believed it would be, then your Lordships, being the king’s allies and confederates, might rest in security; and if it be war, then you would find that your interests and those of his Majesty would be regarded as identical, and that nothing would be left undone to secure your safety. That orders had been given to assemble twelve hundred lances in the duchy of Milan, and that your Lordships ought also to do what you could, and take care, if possible, to prevent any troops from entering into Pisa. Also that they intended, so soon as they received the answer from Spain, to despatch an envoy to your Lordships to reassure you, and to apprise you fully of their plans and intentions. And in the course of his remarks the Cardinal said, that the king well knew that he had not in all Italy more faithful friends than your Lordships and the Duke of Ferrara, and that his Majesty meant to keep you such. His Eminence was so much more cheerful than I had yet seen him, that this very cheerfulness, and the fact of his having sent to have me called for no other purpose than to repeat to me what he had already told me, left me in doubt as to what all this could signify. I replied for the moment, that, seeing his Eminence and the Council in such good spirits, I could but rejoice and augur favorably from it; and that I was quite sure that, in the event of peace or of a truce, your Lordships would have that position and that security which was due to your fidelity; but that in the event of war, your Lordships could do but little or nothing by yourselves; and that the twelve hundred lances would be a partial remedy if they were actually now in Lombardy, or would not have to lose time in getting there. And then I added such further remarks as seemed to me calculated to stimulate them to furnish you the needed help in case peace should not be had. I recalled to them the conduct of the Venetians, and the means and efforts employed by them to disturb and disorganize the duchy of Milan, and the states of the king. All I said was listened to with great attention; and Machiavelli, who was present as I have said, added that he would delay his departure until the decision of Spain should be received, so as to enable him to carry with him the good news of the agreement, or such resolve on the part of his Majesty respecting aid as would permit your Lordships to rely upon it with confidence; — to which D’Amboise replied that this was well. As the Council was more than usually numerous, I drew Machiavelli and Ugolino aside with me, and then reminded the Council, in any composition or agreement that might be arrived at, on no account to disparage our authority over Pisa; for if the Pisans were named by the Spaniards in any treaty of peace or truce, it would be looked upon as an evidence of their independence. Whereupon D’Amboise replied that such a thing would not be thought of, as they had the matter of Pisa much at heart. And referring again to our good faith, he spoke of the Venetians in a detrimental manner rather than otherwise, and spoke of Pandolfo in such terms as made me judge that they were not very sure of him, notwithstanding what he had previously said of Sienna, and which I have mentioned above; of Giovanni Bentivogli he said that he was an adherent of the Sforzas.
Your Lordships will see from all I have written what we have been able to learn, since the arrival of Machiavelli, of the situation of things here; and although his commission comprises, besides pointing out to the king and the Cardinal the dangers, the duty of seeing with his own eyes what assistance they are preparing to render us, and to learn their thoughts and designs, and then to report to you his own conclusions and conjectures as to the state of things here, nevertheless I do not deem it superfluous, or out of place, for my own satisfaction, to repeat to your Lordships what I have already written you on a former occasion. His Majesty the king, and Cardinal d’Amboise, as well as all the gentlemen and nobles here, are, in consequence of the events until now, more disposed for peace than for war. They are carrying on negotiations for such a peace both with Spain and with the Emperor of Germany; the negotiations with Spain are at the same point which I mentioned in a former despatch, and the ratification of the truce is expected to arrive here during this week. Everybody here at court speaks of it and confidently believes it, and the Spanish ambassadors themselves express that opinion, and regard its arrival as certain. As for myself, I cannot judge of this matter differently from what others do; although I think, according to the experience of the past, it may or may not be, and that the earnest affirmations of the ambassadors may merely be intended to lull the king asleep as to measures necessary to be taken. All this we shall know very soon, as the time is fixed for the answer to arrive; and then we shall see the result.
As to the peace which they are trying to bring about with the Emperor of Germany, nothing definite has as yet been done; true, day before yesterday an ambassador of the Emperor’s arrived here, who is the secretary of that sovereign and greatly esteemed by him. They went to meet him outside of the city, and received him with great honors; but it is said that he has no commission other than to establish relations with his Majesty the king, until the arrival of his colleague, who has gone to the Archduke for the purpose of conferring with him before coming here; but no opinion can be formed as yet whether a peace will be concluded or not. We must wait for time to form a judgment upon this matter; but after the arrival of the other ambassador I shall not fail to watch their movements, and to advise you fully; and so for the present I shall say no more about it, as it is not yet of as much importance for your Lordships as the matter of Spain; which, if concluded and the truce ratified, as is hoped here, will render your Lordships safe from Gonsalvo and his troops. The Venetians will then also take care not to wrong or injure you. But if the truce should not be ratified, to which all the French hold so much, then I should not know what to say of their thoughts and intentions, and what provisions will then have to be made other than what I had written to your Lordships before, and what I write now, and of which you will form such judgment as your wisdom will suggest. And if it so turns out that we shall have war, you can more immediately demand assistance through us, and they will no longer be able to take refuge in their hopes of peace, as they do now; for they must then show their hands, or satisfy your Lordships. As yet nothing has been said to me respecting the money due by your Lordships to the king at the time of the next fair; should they say anything to me about it, I shall reply in accordance with the instructions which Niccolo Machiavelli has brought with him.
I have omitted to tell your Lordships that, before leaving the Cardinal d’Amboiseto-day, I asked him whether he thought that I ought to call upon the newly arrived ambassador of the Emperor of Germany, since it was at his suggestion that I called, on my arrival, upon Monseigneur Philibert; I also asked him whether in his opinion I ought to call upon the Spanish ambassadors. He replied that I ought certainly to call upon both the one and the other, and spoke of them in the most amiable and honorable manner on the part of his Majesty of France. And accordingly I shall call upon both of them to-morrow, and should I learn anything of moment I will promptly advise your Lordships, quæ feliciter valeant.
Lyons, 29 January, 1504.
[* ]Nearly all the letters of this Legation were written by Niccolo Valori, who was Florentine Ambassador at the Court of France. It has been supposed, nevertheless, that it would be acceptable to the reader to have them printed, partly because they throw much light upon the state of things at the Court of France at that time, and partly because they were in substance concerted with Machiavelli and written (perhaps?) jointly with him; although in point of style they lack the terseness and lucid compactness of Machiavelli’s despatches.