Front Page Titles (by Subject) LETTER VII. - The Historical, Political, and Diplomatic Writings, vol. 3 (Diplomatic Missions 1498-1505)
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LETTER VII. - 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.: —
I have to-day received your Lordships’ letters of the 26th, 28th, 29th, and 31st ultimo, and of the 1st instant, for which I had been truly anxious, for it had seemed to me a very long time to be without news from Florence. Your Lordships must have received my several letters which I have sent since the arrival of Machiavelli, written on the 27th, 29th, 30th, and 31st ultimo, and from which you will have learned all that we have been able to do since then, and what hopes and conjectures we have formed as to help from here for ourselves and the other allies and states which his Majesty has in Italy. Your Lordships will also have noticed what I wrote more especially in regard to Pisan affairs in my enclosed despatch of the 2d instant, which was not sent sooner because no couriers have been sent to Italy since then. And so as not to fail in anything that could possibly be done to promote your interests, and to arouse their feelings in our favor, we went immediately on receipt of your letters to his Majesty the king, whom I found still in bed, where he has been confined for more than a week. He seemed to me to look better than usual, and, according to what his Majesty himself said, he was in the best way of getting over his ailment. I communicated to him the advices I had from your Lordships, also those from the Romagna, as well as those from Rome which I had received from his Eminence of Volterra, who never fails to keep me fully posted by every courier upon every point which the interests of our republic make it necessary for me to know. I spoke again to his Majesty of the dangers that threaten, first his friends, and then his own states in Italy, and what measures were necessary to avert them. Although our conversation was fragmentary, as seems to be the way in which all business matters are treated here, yet I was careful to touch again upon all the points embraced in your Lordships’ instructions for the advantage of Italy. And as I surmissed that the Venetians are carrying on some secret negotiations with his Majesty, I advised him well to watch their proceedings, as they would certainly deceive him underhandedly; and I demonstrated to him that they had no real intention of making terms with him, but that it was a mere pretext for obtaining better terms in the arrangements they were negotiating with the Emperor of Germany and with Spain. Upon this point his Majesty replied to me to be of good cheer, that he would never make terms with the Venetians, and that the Milanese had offered him one hundred thousand ducats if he would make war upon Venice; and that he would in any event enter into an arrangement with the princes of the Empire and with the Emperor himself, and that conjointly with the Emperor they would beat Venice and Spain together, in case Spain did not consent to peace or to a truce. On the one hand his Majesty seemed to apprehend lest Gonsalvo should disturb the proposed peace, and on the other hand he spoke confidently of concluding an arrangement, unless the king of Spain should demand conditions that were not acceptable to him.
The hostile disposition of the king towards the Venetians manifests itself in many other ways besides his own words; for this very day, after the audience, I met the ambassador from Ferrara, who told me that he had also spoken with the king this morning, and that his Majesty had said to him that he wished that his Duke would, for the love of him, once more put on his armor against the Venetians, and that before dying he wanted anyhow to recover the states which they had taken from him. His Majesty entered fully into the reasons which I suggested to him relative to the affairs of Pisa, showing that he believed that it was from that quarter that your Lordships were more exposed to attack than from any other; and for that reason, he said, he had caused M. de Ravenstein to open certain secret negotiations with the Pisans, so that they might not throw themselves into the arms of Gonsalvo, or of any one else; adding, “that if two or three thousand infantry entered Pisa, they could disturb your Lordships’ state very much, and that in such case it would be very difficult to take the town by force.” His Majesty came back several times to this argument, so that it is evident that he had the matter much at heart, as I have explained to your Lordships at length in the enclosed despatch. And yet it is affirmed here that there is no intention to make any arrangement with Pisa without your consent and participation; it is necessary, therefore, that your Lordships should write me your views upon this point, and how I am to manage this matter if pressed to something definite. Respecting the provisions to be made for his own safety, and for that of his allies, his Majesty held the same views which I have before communicated to your Lordships; and although we have reminded him of the importance of taking Italian troops into his pay, yet it does not appear that he responds in a manner to give any hope for it; and what makes me believe that he is in no way disposed to do it is that the envoy of the Marquis of Mantua told me, that the said Marquis had sent a man expressly to ask the king’s permission to raise fifty Italian men-at-arms in place of the fifty French lances which he has engaged from his Majesty, but his request was not granted, which fact, in every respect, deserves your consideration. We did not omit to urge upon the king again to remember his friends in the agreement which is being negotiated, and to save them, which he has promised to do. After taking my leave of his Majesty, I thought it proper to call with Machiavelli upon the Grand Chancellor, whom, for good reasons, I had not seen since the arrival of Machiavelli. I was more particularly induced to do this, as I had not been able to speak to the Cardinal Legate; and accordingly we went to see the Chancellor, and said to him all we could under the circumstances respecting his Majesty’s affairs, as well as our own and those of the rest of Italy. His Lordship received us very cheerfully, and seemed to listen to my remarks with great interest; he spoke himself of passing events, and what he thought of them, and of his hopes for a favorable issue; and said, in substance, that the king, for his part, had not the least fear, for that whoever should attempt to assail the king in his proper states of France would find out their mistake. And here he gave us an account of the king’s forces, and referred to the example of the past, etc., etc. And as regards the duchy of Milan, they would anyhow within two months have a thousand French lances there, and could send there at any moment six thousand infantry; but that his Majesty did have some fears for his friends who were more open to attack. But looking at it on the other hand, that he held the duchy of Milan, which forms a considerable part of Italy, and that the Pope and all Tuscany were his friends, it seemed to him that he had more than a mere party in Italy, and that if they did their duty, sustained by the power and good will of the king, they would be well able to defend themselves. He came back several times to this point, saying that your Lordships ought to show some vigor and take good care of Livorno, pointing out its importance and its convenience for the French fleet, as well as for your defence.
I remained a long time with the Chancellor, and did not fail to reply to that part of his remarks which seemed most suitable; telling him that it was well for him to say that we ought to take vigorous measures, but that the difficulty was the lack of power to do so, giving him the reasons; and that therefore it was necessary that the king should make such display of vigor, and pointed out to him that there were two ways of his doing so. The one was to bring about a union between the Pope and all Tuscany, Bologna, Ferrara, and Mantua, so that these different members should become one body, and that their united power might act with greater effect; and to bring this about, it was necessary to send some sagacious man, charged with this object, to the several parties. The other way was for the king to take into his pay as many Italian captains as he possibly could, adding that there were not so many military men in Italy but what he could in a very short time engage the greater part of them, provided he was willing to spend his money for that purpose. And as an example we cited our own republic, which in former times, when she was not torn to pieces as now, had many times, with nothing but her money, taken their arms from her enemies. We also cited the example of Gonsalvo, who achieved victory with Italian troops. These arguments satisfied him, and he promised his efforts to bring about either one or the other. Upon the point of employing Italian troops, however, he stated that out of the one thousand lances which they were going to send into Lombardy, as stated above, there would be more than four hundred Italians; and he seemed to wish to infer that, so far as to the taking of Italians into their pay, they had done their part, and that it was for their friends now to do the rest.
Thus, not having been able to see the Cardinal Legate to-day, we have not gathered any further information than what we have above written. Your Lordships will now form such judgment of it as your wisdom will suggest, and see what hopes it will be safe to build upon it. And as there is as yet no solution of the Spanish business, no answer having been received from there, although there is some talk at court that it has come, I have not permitted Machiavelli to leave here, because our intention is to make his departure the occasion for pressing them here a little more, and to see whether we cannot get something more out of them, although I doubt it; and many persons begin to doubt whether this Spanish business has not been protracted on purpose, and that the French have been deceived. It is said that an agreement has been concluded with the Swiss, who promise to serve the king within the duchy of Milan and in France, but nowhere else. If this be true, then it is very opportune. The German ambassadors have to-day received an express from his Imperial Majesty, who is at Olemberg; this messenger made the trip in five days, and after his arrival Robertet passed full two hours or more with the ambassadors, and has written much. It is believed that they are drawing up the articles of agreement. Another envoy of the Archduke is expected here, who is said to hold a high position near that prince. It is evident now that the king mistrusts the treaty with Spain, and has entirely turned towards the Germans; and it is suspected that he is disposed to dissuade the Emperor from his purpose of coming into Italy, and thus save the Italians from seeing every day new faces. There is one indication that I have noticed which makes me believe that these things may well be so, for the Germans no longer exert themselves as much as they did, nor do they see the Spanish ambassadors as often as they used to do, and as I have mentioned in one of my letters. From all these facts your Lordships will form such conjectures as your wisdom will suggest; and if I have the opportunity of speaking with the Cardinal Legate to-morrow, as I think I shall, I will write to your Lordships what I learn from him, and will send it by the first messenger that is despatched for Italy. I have nothing further to say, except to recommend myself humbly to your Lordships, quæ felicissime valeant.
Lyons, 7 February, 1504.