Front Page Titles (by Subject) MISSION TO THE EMPEROR OF GERMANY. * - The Historical, Political, and Diplomatic Writings, vol. 4 (Diplomatic Missions 1506-1527)
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MISSION TO THE EMPEROR OF GERMANY. * - Niccolo Machiavelli, The Historical, Political, and Diplomatic Writings, vol. 4 (Diplomatic Missions 1506-1527) 
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. 4.
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MISSION TO THE EMPEROR OF GERMANY.*
Magnificent Signori, etc.: —
I wrote to your Lordships from Gabella on the 22d instant, and to-day, being the 25th, I am at Geneva, and shall leave to-morrow for Constanz, which is seven days’ journey from here, according to what I am told by Piero da Fossan, who is engaged here in commerce with Florence, and has advised me as to the route, which I shall follow, and recommend myself to your Lordships.
25 December, 1507.
Magnificent Signori, etc.: —
I arrived here on the 11th, having been retarded since my departure from Florence by the great distances, the bad condition of the roads, and the horrible season of the year; and having moreover to contend with worn-out horses, and being very short of money. With all this I could not, even at any other season of the year, have saved more than three days in the journey here from Gabella, where I left the diligence, to this place, a distance of over six hundred miles. I wrote from Gabella and from Geneva to inform you of my whereabouts, which letters, if received, will have saved your Lordships all anxiety on my account.
On my arrival here I found Francesco Vettori enjoying the favor and highest esteem of the whole court. I communicated to him your Lordships’ instructions, and, as you have been already informed of all that has taken place here since my arrival, I shall say nothing further on that subject, but confine myself entirely to such matters as Vettori has not written about; and by this despatch will inform you merely of what I have seen and heard during my journey from Geneva here that may be worthy of your Lordships’ notice, so that you may be able to form a more correct judgment of the state of things here. And to begin with what I have heard, I beg to say that I made four halts on Swiss territory between Geneva and Constanz, and have gathered with greatest care all I could respecting the condition and manners of these people, and upon the point as to what either of the sovereigns of France or Germany might hope for from them. I have learned from various persons, but mainly from a gentleman at Fribourg, a very accurate man, who has commanded one of their companies, and is also familiar with Italian affairs, that the main body of this country consists of twelve communities leagued together, and called Cantons, the names of which are Fribourg, Berne, Zurich, Lucerne, Basle, Soleure, Uri, Unterwalden, Zug, Glarus, Schwytz, and Schaffhausen. These are united in such manner that whatever is resolved upon in their Diet is always observed by all of them, and none of the Cantons will oppose it. It is an error, therefore, on the part of those who say that four of the Cantons will go with France, and eight with the Emperor, as this cannot be unless it had been first resolved upon by their Diet; but were it so decided by the Diet, then the one would be served badly, and the other worse. But what has given rise to this supposition is, that the king of France has for the past eight months kept two agents here, and still keeps two of his confidential men here, Rochalbert and Pierre Louis, and, for the purpose of receiving prompt reports from them, has established a regular mail service from Gabella, or whatever other place his representatives may go to. These men have of late endeavored to unite all the Cantons, and by means of money have both privately and publicly poisoned the whole country. In this way they have prevented and still impede all action of the Diet in favor of the Emperor, so that up to the time of my passing numerous meetings of the Diet have been held, but no resolutions passed. True, there was to have been another Diet held on the day of the Epiphany at Lucerne, where the two French emissaries have gone; but it is not known yet what this Diet may have brought forth. The person at Fribourg, however, whom I have already referred to, told me that the king of France had too much money for the Diet to resolve anything adverse to him; but when the King of the Romans also had money, they would not be able to refuse to serve him, but in that case they would manage to serve him without at the same time being hostile to France. And thus everybody is of the opinion that, when the Emperor is not lacking money, he will also not lack Swiss to serve him; for they fear that, if he paid them without getting their services in return, they would draw upon themselves the hostility of the Empire, and they do not wish to oppose the decision of all Germany; that is the reason why they do not openly declare for France. But the objections they make to the wishes of the Emperor are, that they do not want to be opposed to France, but will serve him everywhere else. The Emperor, on the other hand, demands that they shall either remain neutral, or furnish him a small number of men, of whom he shall be able to dispose as he pleases. The Swiss, however, will not remain neutral, and want to be employed in large numbers, and yet they do not want to fight against France unless the king should give them special cause. These are the difficulties that have been the cause of so many meetings of the Diet and such few conclusions; and it is supposed that the present, like all the previous ones, will bring forth nothing but useless talk.
Besides the above-named twelve Cantons there are two other Swiss communities; viz. the league of the Grisons and that of the Valdenses, both bordering on Italy; and a few days before my passing through Fribourg an ambassador from the Emperor had gone through on his way to the Valdenses to dispose them adversely to France and favorably to himself. These two communities, however, are not so united to the other twelve Cantons but what they can take separate action in opposition to the others; it being, however, fully understood between them that for the defence of their liberties they are always to be well united. Thus, whoever fails to secure the services of the one league may yet secure those of the other. For the common defence each of the twelve Cantons furnishes four thousand good troops; but for any service out of the country they are bound to supply only from one thousand to fifteen hundred. This difference arises from the fact, that for the defence of the country every man who votes for the magistrates is bound to render military service, whilst in the other case the service is purely voluntary; thus, in the one case they are bound by law, and in the other case they are attracted only by the pay. At Schaffhausen I met two gentlemen from Genoa, who were returning to Italy by the same route that I had just come over, and when I asked them about the Emperor and his projected visit to Italy, they said to me, “By this time the Emperor has left Augsburg for Italy, but we don’t believe you will find him until you reach Trent.” They told me further, that the different provinces of the Empire furnished him, besides the troops, a sum of one hundred and fifty thousand scudi; and that he had made a loan of the Fuggers of one hundred thousand scudi, for which he has assigned them some sort of security; and that he was about making an agreement with the Swiss, according to which they were to serve him, but not against France. Since then I tarried half a day at Constanz to gather information; and at church there I conversed with two Milanese, and with Arrigo the composer, whose wife is at Florence. I also talked with an ambassador of the Duke of Savoy, called Monsignore Disviri, to whom I paid a long visit, and afterwards dined with him. From the former I obtained only general information and much exaggerated; but Monsignore Disviri, when I pressed him with questions about the Emperor’s project and the steps which he had taken, etc., said to me in a formal manner: “You want to know in two hours what I have not been able to learn in many months; and the reason is, that one must either know the conclusions resolved upon, or judge of the result by the preparations. The first is very difficult, because this nation is very discreet, and the Emperor observes the greatest secrecy in everything he does; if he but changes his lodgings, he sends his cook only after he has himself been for an hour on the way, so that no one may know where he is going. As for his preparations, they seem very formidable: troops come from various quarters, and are scattered over a great extent of country; but to know the exact truth, one must have a spy in every place. For my part, desirous to err as little as possible, I can only tell you that the Emperor will establish three gathering-places, one at Trent towards Verona, another at Besançon in the direction of Burgundy, and the third at Carabassa in the Friuli. A great many troops were also collected here at Constanz by order of the Diet, and have been promptly distributed through the neighborhood. I assure you the movement is most extensive, and likely to lead to some important result, either of peace or war, between the two sovereigns.”
This is what I heard at Constanz from a man who is sixty years of age, and generally esteemed as a prudent man. I have learned nothing further since my arrival here, unless it be that at Trent and thereabouts there must be some four thousand infantry and a thousand horse fit for service. As to money, I do not hear of the Emperor’s having more than the hundred and twenty thousand scudi promised by the Empire in addition to the troops granted by the Diet at Constanz; and to this must be added the amounts paid by those who are bound to furnish him troops, but who have compounded for it by paying him money; and it is said that where the Empire is bound to furnish three men, they actually send only two, and pay for the third in money. As to the loan which the Emperor has made of the Fuggers, as well as other loans from merchants on pledges of land, neither the amounts nor the conditions are clearly known; nor is anything known as to the sums which he claims from Italy. But the Venetians expect to gain great credit by their show of extensive preparations, and have circulated reports of having to furnish altogether about fifteen thousand mounted men. Since his visit here, this sovereign has summoned a diet of all the communes of Tyrol, and has demanded their aid in his enterprise. I understand that they have resolved to furnish him five hundred infantry, which are to be paid by them for a certain length of time; and if this resolution is carried out, then these troops may be regarded as though they were already at Trent. News came here on Saturday that a contingent of one thousand horse from the king of Bohemia, and paid by him, is within five days’ march from here. With all this, time passes, and where on the one hand there is a gain, there is a loss on the other; for although the fine season is coming, yet the money destined for the troops, and which according to the Diet the Empire is to pay, is being uselessly consumed. This is all I have heard; but what I have seen is, that from Geneva to Memmingen, throughout the many miles I have traversed, I have not seen a single mounted man or foot-soldier. True, in the neighborhood of Constanz, in some of the places off the road I heard some drumming, and was told by some that it came from some remnants of infantry that had stopped there, but others said that it was peasants merrymaking. At Memmingen I found the troops of the Duke of Würtemberg were beginning to arrive; they were said to consist of four hundred horse. It was reported that the Duke wanted his troops to stop here whilst he went to court to learn from the Emperor where he wished him to go. After that I met on the way from Innspruck here all together about one hundred horse belonging to men-at-arms. Last Friday there was a review here of one hundred and twenty infantry, being the contingent sent here by some of the communes. The Emperor is here, but it is not known when he will leave. It is said that he has not been so near to Italy as now since Cardinal d’Amboise was here; and it is supposed that he will soon go to Trent to look after his enterprise.
This is all that occurs to me to write, unless it be to recommend myself to your Lordships, and beg you will instruct me what to do now; for having made known your views and intentions to Francesco Vettori, there remains nothing for me to do, and therefore I hope your Lordships will give me leave to return home. Valete!
Botzen, 17 January, 1508.
Should your Lordships, for some reason or other, desire me to stay here, — which I hardly believe, however, — then I beg you will either send me some money, or write to Francesco to supply me with some on your Lordships’ account, although Francesco has never refused me anything, but this was always on my own account.
Magnificent Signori, etc.: —
My last of the 16th ultimo was sent by my courier Simone from Memmingen; since then I have made in one stretch about five hundred miles, sometimes in the suite of the Emperor and sometimes in that of the Cardinal, so that on the 9th I reached Botzen, where the Emperor had already arrived; and two days after Machiavelli also came, who had travelled by way of Savoy and Switzerland, and who, fearing that he might not be safe in Lombardy, where he had been subjected to a very harsh examination, had destroyed all his letters. But he gave me your instructions verbally, which were to this effect: that you were willing to offer to the king† as high a sum as fifty thousand ducats, beginning with thirty thousand and going finally up to fifty thousand, — endeavoring to make the best terms possible for our republic. Payment to be made in at least three instalments: the first, when the Emperor shall be with his army in a city that is entirely Italian; the second, upon his entering on Tuscan territory; and the third, in three months after, or, better still, on his arrival at Rome, as can best be arranged. In return, you demand of the Emperor the restitution of all your possessions, and the conservation of all your present state and dominion; but if restitution cannot be made, you will yield that point. But you desire to have the Emperor understand that you regard fifty thousand ducats as no small matter, and will not abate one tittle of the other matters. On the contrary, you want that in the drawing up of the treaty it shall be stated in the most ample manner, in words and terms, that you shall be secure against having to pay anything more than the stipulated amount, either to his Majesty directly or indirectly, or to any of his princes or generals, or any one else for his account; and that you are not to be vexed by any further demands, either by him or any of his people who may follow him into Italy, or who may come afterwards; and to the effect that the present state of our republic shall remain unharmed and intact, and that you shall continue to exercise the jurisdiction and full possession of your city, and of all castles, villages, and places, the same as you exercise and possess at the present time; and that your dignity, authority, and pre-eminence shall in no wise be diminished, either by himself or any of his people. Machiavelli said a good deal more upon this point, but all to the same effect. I asked immediately an audience of the king, and the evening after Machiavelli’s arrival I was received by his Majesty, and exposed to him in as few words as possible your Lordships’ views and intentions. At first I offered thirty thousand ducats in three payments, demanding that the Emperor should in return promise restitution and conservation, as communicated to me by Machiavelli. Thereupon Collaun answered, in presence of the Emperor, that this was a less offer than what you had made in 1502, and that our demands were at the same time greater; and that as to restitution, it was not worth while to speak of it. Seeing that the negotiation was likely to be broken off, if I did not give up the question of restitution, and that I should not be listened to any further if I did not increase the sum, I thought it well to go as far as forty thousand ducats, and to make the first payment more considerable, so that the king, in view of the greater immediate payment, to which he attaches great value, might condescend to accept that offer, and that thus your Lordships would save ten thousand ducats. And therefore I said that, knowing how well you were disposed towards his Majesty, I would venture in your Lordships’ name to promise forty thousand ducats, of which sixteen thousand should be paid upon his entrance into the first town wholly Italian, and the remainder in two subsequent payments, according as might be agreed on the conclusion of this arrangement. I added, that although you attached the highest importance to Pisan affairs, and that your rights there were well founded, yet to show to his Majesty that you would leave nothing undone to prove to him your filial devotion, your Lordships would be content to say nothing about Pisa, but asked merely for the conservation and security of your present dominions. His Majesty listened with evident pleasure to what I said, and it seemed to me, so far as I could judge from external indications, that he was inclined to accept this proposition; but at the same time he made Collaun reply to me that he was pleased to have this offer, and would give me an answer the following day.
Before I took my leave he called Pigello* aside and asked him who this Secretary was that had just arrived, and by what route he had come; adding that it seemed to him the Florentines were making a good beginning. It was Wednesday evening, the 12th, when I had this audience, and should have had the answer on the 13th; but it has been put off from day to day, and has not been received up to the present, and for that reason I decided upon writing, so that your Lordships might not remain in uncertainty as to Machiavelli’s mission. This delay may be caused by the absence of Lango† from court, he having gone to Augsburg to obtain money; but he is expected back very shortly, for I have been told that the Emperor was pleased with the offer which I have made, and that his hesitation results from his apprehension that it may prove nothing but words by which you would not hold yourselves bound; and that, even if an actual agreement were made upon that basis, the first payment would have to be raised to twenty thousand ducats. I have been furthermore told, that it was Messer Paolo de Lichtenstein and Serentano, two of the most important men here, as I have written you before, who cause this delay in the answer, for the sake of obtaining better terms; and that it will be necessary to secure their good will and friendship. As I have neither instructions nor orders upon this point, I could do nothing in the matter except with words, which I employed with great warmth, but know not whether that has sufficed them. I wanted to write you this, so that you may understand the whole matter as well as I do myself, and that, in case nothing should be concluded, you may deliberate as to what is to be done, and inform me of your resolve.
Your Lordships see now the course I have taken in this negotiation, and the reasons that have been given me for the Emperor’s not having replied; so that, considering the gracious manner in which I was listened to by his Majesty and his remarks to Pigello, I have reason to believe that what I have been told is true to a great degree. According to your instructions, it remains for me still to offer the fifty thousand ducats; but I do not believe that the difficulty consists in the greater or less sum, but rather in the amount of the first payment, which they would like me to raise as much as possible. For my part, whatever answer may be made, I am not for going as high as fifty thousand ducats, nor for promising twenty thousand as the first payment, without first having your reply, for I judge that the state of things here will afford me time to await your instructions. But should I see the contrary, and that things come to a certain point, which they may reach at any moment, then I shall not hesitate to yield both the one and the other. And as you charge me to make the first payment only when the Emperor with his army shall have arrived at a city wholly upon Italian soil, I am discreetly endeavoring to ascertain the exact position of Trent; and the people of the country tell me that the boundary line between Italy and Germany runs more than a mile this side of Trent. I mention this so that you may be fully informed upon every point; although I do not think that you can withdraw from the offer which I have made under your instructions without incurring obloquy, and exciting great indignation on the part of the Emperor.
I have little to add to what I have before written about affairs here. The Emperor is now within seven leagues of Trent; he has convoked a diet of his own subjects here, to induce them to aid him with some money in this enterprise. They have not yet decided upon anything, but will most probably accord him some men and money. There are but few troops here in the place where we are now, but between here and Trent troops are quartered in every village, and are said to amount altogether to one thousand horse and about four thousand infantry; and within a few days they confidently expect some fifteen hundred horse that have remained behind, also a large force of infantry, although if the Emperor has money he can raise in this country as many infantry as he may want.
As I have written several times before, it is thought that, if his Majesty will pay the Swiss, the majority of them will come to serve him; but he would prefer their remaining neutral, which they refuse, saying that they cannot live without pay from some one; and in the end it will result in the Emperor’s taking them into his pay, provided he has money.
As regards the subject of money I am still of the opinion that his Majesty will have difficulty in providing it, and for that reason it may still be that he will make an arrangement either with France or with the Venetians. But anyhow, to whatever arrangement he may have to resort to enable him to come into Italy, he will do it gladly, if he cannot get the money together in any other way; although he is making every effort to be able to move without any such arrangement or help from Italy. Notwithstanding that there were rumors that the different princes and cities of the Empire had resolved in the Diet to pay the troops furnished to the Emperor for six months only, yet it is now reported that they have extended it for six months more.
The Venetians seem to occupy themselves with providing for the defence of their frontiers. Nevertheless they permit letters and everything else to pass without hindrance; and you have probably heard that, after disarming the infantry as they were leaving the Mantuan territory, upon which they had come, they have nevertheless restored these arms by sending them back.
A marriage is said to have been arranged between the son of the Archduke and a daughter of the king of England, and every one looks upon it as positively fixed. Nothing else occurs to me to write except to recommend myself to your Lordships, quæ bene valeant.
Botzen 17 January, 1508.
Magnificent Signori, etc. —
I wrote to your Lordships on the 17th instant, and sent the letter by Rafaello Rucellai, who was returning in haste to Florence. In that letter I advised you of Machiavelli’s arrival here, and of my having exposed to the Emperor the commission which he brought me from your Lordships; and that, to judge from his Majesty’s manner, I believed that he was pleased with the proposition I had made him. I also mentioned that he had told me that he would give me an answer the next day, that is on the 13th, but that he had not replied up to the date of my writing, and gave you also what I supposed to be the cause of this delay. Of that letter I enclose a copy with the present one. I kept Diavolaccio here for no other reason than to have some one ready to send whenever the Emperor’s answer should be received by me. Since then it has been deferred from day to day; but I did not ask for it lest I should seem too anxious for it, nor did I show myself entirely indifferent about it, so that it might not seem as though you would like me to forget about it.* But, thank God, I was sent for this morning; and in the presence of the Emperor, both Lang and Serentano being there, Lang said to me that his Majesty, having heard the offer which I had made in your name, had carefully examined it, but had come to the conclusion that, considering your demand for the conservation and guaranty of your state and dominion, and in view of the importance of your city, the amount of money offered was entirely too small; and therefore he was not satisfied, and declined its acceptance. But that he had concluded to make a demand of you which you could certainly not refuse; and that was, that you should lend him the sum of twenty-five thousand ducats, to be paid at once in cash; and that upon its receipt his Majesty would address you a letter, written in his own hand, and sealed with his seal, and with all customary formalities, by which he would obligate himself to the conservation and guaranty of your state and dominion. This letter, however, was not to be given to you at once, but would be deposited in the hands of the Fuggers for the purpose hereinafter explained. After having made this payment of twenty-five thousand ducats, you are to appoint ambassadors for the sole purpose of coming to meet him whenever you shall hear of his arrival on the banks of the Po; but these ambassadors to be empowered also to conclude a treaty with him, and after the conclusion of such treaty the Fuggers are to hand over to you the above specified letter. But if no treaty is concluded, then the said letter is to be returned by the Fuggers to the Emperor, who will obligate himself to return you the twenty-five thousand ducats within the year. If, however, a treaty is concluded, then the twenty-five thousand ducats are to be treated as a payment on account of whatever sum shall be provided for by the treaty. Lang endeavored in a long argument to demonstrate to me the honest purpose and reasonableness of this proposition; saying that, if you desired to be esteemed by the Emperor, you ought to give him this proof of your affection, and that on his part his Majesty would pledge you his royal word to treat you as friends. In view of the occasion and the persons in whose presence I was, I answered briefly, that the offer which I had made really exceeded your ability, but that I had made it to show that you were not willing to fall short of your ancestors in recognizing his Majesty as your father and protector; but that as to the proposition made in reply, I could not see how it could be accepted by you, seeing that, whilst the payment was certain, the security was most uncertain; but that in accordance with my duty I would communicate it to your Lordships; and for the purpose of more thoroughly understanding it, I would come and dine with Lang. I did this so as to have an opportunity of telling him more frankly what I thought of the matter, not being able to do so at the moment without risk of wearying the Emperor. In explaining the reply, Lang said, whilst his Majesty was still present, that it would be well for me to write by several routes, and that I should give him a copy of my letter to you, so that he might send it; for as the Emperor was going to Trent, the Venetians might destroy the roads in that direction, and therefore I ought to write you to send your reply to Bologna to an agent of his called Doctor Rabelar, who would always, even in times of greatest difficulty, have the means of forwarding it safely; but your Lordships must not on that account fail to write me by your own couriers. I shall furnish Lang with the desired copy of my letter to you, in which I shall however only write the proposition made by him, without touching upon the other circumstances.
A little while after my leaving the Emperor I had a long conversation with Lang, and told him that I was sure you would not accept his proposition, which required you to pay, and gave nothing in return; that in fact the Florentine people would never consent to such a thing. And as Lang said to me that the Emperor had charged him again to assure me that he would treat your Lordships most graciously, I answered that I did not doubt it, and that every other person that ever had any particular dealings with his Majesty would believe it equally; but that a republic and a people acted very differently from a private person, and that the general belief in Florence would be that they would lose the money without gaining the friendship of the Emperor, and that your Lordships knew as well as he did how sovereigns borrow money, and how they pay it back. And therefore it would be much better, and save time, if the Emperor should accept our proposition, which was in every way proper, and even beyond your ability; but if withal his Majesty thought differently, then let him say what he wanted, so that the matter might at once be arranged. Lang replied in general terms, but finally asked me what your Lordships were willing to do to settle this matter at once; to which I answered that I had already stated it, and that it was now for him to speak. I said this to see whether I could in any way find out what the Emperor really wanted of us; but in the end we reached no other conclusion than that I should communicate to your Lordships the answer made, which I have already done above, and that meantime we should both think the matter over, and discuss it further at another meeting. Lang had stated to me from the first that he was glad he was not the only one interested in your affairs, and assured me again of the same at our last interview, saying that he needed help; which refers to Serentano and Messer Paolo Lichtenstein, as I wrote you in my last. Your Lordships will reflect upon this point, and let me know your decision. I did not deem it advisable to make the offer of fifty thousand ducats, for I apprehend that, were I to do so without any result, it might prejudice any other proposition which you might decide to make through your ambassadors.
In thinking over the reasons that make the Emperor so desirous to adhere to the plan of borrowing, and so unwilling to conclude any definite convention, I can imagine nothing but what I have already written several times; namely, that according to the decision of the Diet he cannot enter into any obligations with any Italian power; and therefore, whilst on the one hand he is very needy, and on the other unable to give any security, he tries the middle course of borrowing. He attempted to act in the same way with Ferrara, but did not succeed; and it was thus he acted with Sienna, where Pandolfo in return for his money received nothing but fair promises. For truly if it were not for this reason, seeing how his Majesty first received your offer, he would either have accepted it, or made a counter proposition not varying very much from yours. It will be necessary, therefore, in your decision of this matter, to keep in mind this plan of borrowing, and, should you conclude to put faith in the promises of this sovereign, a less sum than twenty-five thousand ducats ought to be sufficient for him; but should you determine to decline this proposal, then you must decide what you will do, and inform me accordingly. Nor do I think that it would be amiss if you were to send the ambassadors at once, for, as I have already said above, the Emperor has spoken of it; and it would be well even if they were to come farther north to meet his Majesty than he suggested. It was only to-day that Lang said to me that you had tried to be too prudent, and had never been willing to believe in the Emperor’s coming into Italy; for if you had believed it, the appointed ambassadors would have endeavored to come here. Although I duly met all these remarks, yet it may well be that their coming would greatly facilitate matters; for otherwise I do not think the Emperor will change his mind. It may also be that the Diet has not tied his hands, and that he does not wish to conclude an arrangement, because he has the intention of asking such a sum, which, although you refused it now, yet when you had once begun to pay, and the Emperor should be victorious, you would not allow yourselves to be asked for more than once.*
The preparations for the Emperor’s enterprise are more active than they were at the time of my last writing, 17th instant; infantry and men-at-arms continue to arrive here daily on their way to Trent, and others may be going there by different routes, which we do not see. Three days ago there was a review here of five hundred infantry and some forty gunners; and from the 19th to the 22d of this month some thirty mounted guns, large and small, have passed through the Grisons into the Valtelline, whence they may be taken to Trent; and it is said that an arrangement has been concluded with the league of the Grisons according to which they are to furnish the Emperor eighteen hundred infantry at his cost, and that money has been sent there to prevent any one’s accepting pay from France. Yesterday one hundred mounted men arrived here, being sent by the cities of Augsburg and Ulm, and sixty more are expected to-day from Nuremberg. Another review was held here yesterday of about six hundred infantry; and a proclamation has been published, that all who have no engagement and want money can have both. Every day some three or four men-at-arms pass through here at a time, and likewise large quantities of munitions of war and provisions. The Venetians have sent all the men-at-arms and infantry which they had in the Veronese this side of Chiusi to the forts around Roverdo. Thus matters cannot remain long in their present condition. As I have written before, we may at any moment witness an unexpected movement; and if this conflagration is once lighted and some other arrangement be not made, your Lordships will see how difficult it will be for me to receive news from you, or for me to communicate with you from here. This is confirmed by what Lang said this morning in the Emperor’s presence, and which shows that he has no relations with the Venetians. Perhaps he may not wish it, or it may be that he has no hope of it, notwithstanding that the General of the Order of the Umiliati went a few days ago to Venice; it is not known, however, whether the Emperor sent him there proprio motu, or whether the Venetians have requested his coming, or whether he has gone with the view of ingratiating himself with the Venetians, as this priest derives his revenues from their dominions. I will see what I can learn about this affair, and will inform your Lordships.
It is not known when his Majesty will leave, nor do I believe that it is known by any one but himself; and therefore no one can tell when hostilities will actually begin, or the precise spot where they will break out; the general opinion is that it will not be beyond February, at furthest.
I have heard that the Emperor, unable to conclude anything with the Duke of Ferrara, wanted to dismiss the ambassador of that prince, but that he has been dissuaded from doing so by his ministers, and therefore he is still here.
Botzen, 24 February, 1508.
I have given Diavolaccio three Rhenish florins for his expenses.
P. S. — I have to observe to your Lordships that the Emperor seems to me very obstinate in his opinions, and that he considers himself so strong that I do not believe any arrangement can be made with him without ready money; and that twenty thousand ducats cash down will do more than the promise of fifty thousand hereafter.*
Magnificent Signori, etc.: —
Since Machiavelli’s arrival here I have written four letters to your Lordships, three of which, however, were very much of the same tenor. The first, of the 17th instant, was sent by the hands of Rafaelle Rucellai, and contained an account of the manner in which I communicated to his Majesty my instructions from your Lordships, to which he listened with pleasure and promised to give a reply on the following day, but which he has deferred from day to day since the 13th until now, without my knowing the cause of this delay; although I did not fail adroitly to solicit an answer. In the same letter I gave you some account of the state of things here, and have since then sent you a duplicate of it by Diavolaccio on the 25th, together with my letter of the 24th with his Majesty’s reply, to the effect “that he was not willing to accept the offer of forty thousand ducats, but wanted an immediate loan of twenty-five thousand ducats, in consideration of which he would give a guaranty for the conservation of your possessions, which was to be deposited in the hands of the Fuggers, with the condition that, when he should have arrived on the banks of the Po, you should send ambassadors to him with power to conclude a definite agreement with him upon all points. And upon the conclusion of such an agreement the Fuggers were to give up to your Lordships the letter of guaranty, and the twenty-five thousand ducats loaned by you are to be credited to you on account of whatever sum might then have been agreed upon. But in case no agreement should be arrived at, then the Emperor is to repay you within one year the amount loaned, and is to receive back from the Fuggers the letter of guaranty.
“I wrote you at the same time what reply I had made to this proposition, and the long conversation which I had had on the subject, and that I had been unable to obtain any other terms. I also mentioned that his Majesty’s project was being pushed with increased vigor; but as I assume that that letter reached you safely, I shall not now repeat all I said therein, and shall confine myself merely to touching upon the main points. Nevertheless, I sent you, out of respect to his Majesty’s wishes, a copy of the same through the Emperor’s hands, as he had so commanded me. And as I was told that, in view of the danger of my not receiving your letters in future, because of the destruction of the roads, I should advise you to send your letters to Bologna to the care of Doctor Rabelar, a confidential agent of the Emperor’s who had facilities for forwarding them, I would request you at the same time to send duplicates of them also by your own couriers. In another letter I wrote you that I had learned from a great personage at this court that he believed he would be able to induce his Majesty to give you the guaranty upon your paying him the sum of twenty thousand ducats at once, with a promise of another like sum in four months; but as this personage is not always near the Emperor, it is quite possible that he may deceive himself. I mentioned furthermore, that Lang had said to Pigello that he would take no part in the matter unless at least one hundred thousand ducats were offered. I sent a copy of that letter also by way of Ferrara on the 26th, so that at least one would reach you anyhow, and I added, that the reason why I thought the Emperor would be more difficult in his demands than at first was the return of Lang from Augsburg, where he had collected considerable sums of money. I had understood, moreover, that the twelve Cantons were resolved to remain neutral, so that he would have but little or nothing to spend there.”*
Afterwards, on the 28th, your Lordships’ courier Baccino arrived with letters of the 19th, in which you inform me of your having sent Mancino to me on the 23d ultimo; but he has never made his appearance here. So much time having elapsed since then makes me fear that he has met with some mishap; and you must know that, with the exception of Machiavelli, the last letter or messenger from your Lordships was a letter sent by Simone, dated November 4. Your last by Baccino does not require a reply, for it seems to me that he was sent to me by your Lordships more for the purpose of having some one by whom I could write in return than for any other reason.
There have been rumors here of disturbances in Bologna, but we have heard since that they amounted to nothing.
From your Lordships’ letter it would seem that, according to the reports from Rome and Mantua, the preparations of the Emperor are slacking off; but from my own observations I can tell you that they are being pushed with rather increased energy. I wrote you from Augsburg why the troops that had entered the Mantuan territory had turned back; and that the Venetians had disarmed them on their return, but have since then restored their arms to them. I also wrote about the Diet which the Emperor was to hold here, which was, however, not a general Diet of Germany, but was confined only to the inhabitants of the Tyrol, for the purpose of obtaining money from them; and that this Diet had resolved to furnish now one thousand infantry to be paid by them for three months. But that hereafter, when hostilities had actually commenced, and in case the Emperor should have need of more, they would send him five thousand additional, and organize ten thousand for the protection of the country.
Infantry and cavalry continue to arrive here daily, and since I have been here some six hundred or more horse must have passed. The troops of the Duke of Königsberg, amounting to four hundred, are but a short distance from here. More than two thousand infantry have passed since my arrival here; but the country is so large that it is impossible to see or hear of all; so that a large army might suddenly issue from here, which previously would not have seemed possible. At one time matters had advanced to that point that the Emperor came as far as here; but he left again this morning to visit certain castles in the vicinity, and it is believed that he will proceed to Trent within eight days, where he will find infantry, cavalry, and artillery. Every one can judge of the consequences, and one of three things must necessarily result; either the Emperor will only reap shame and lose his credit even in Austria, or he must attack Italy, or conclude an honorable peace. Certainly he will in no way want to incur shame, and therefore we must suppose that, if he is not able to effect an agreement according to his own views, he will have to decide upon war, and that very promptly.
I cannot judge how the Emperor stands with the Venetians. “Generale da Landriano returned from Venice on the 28th, after having been there for three days. I am ignorant as to what he brings from there; and on asking the Chancellor he told me that he did not know, adding that the General had been to see him, but told him nothing. I do not augur favorably from this, particularly as I learn from your letter that matters are cooling off in the direction of Rome. I apprehend that the Emperor, seeing that he cannot get any money from Rome, of which he is constantly in need, may conclude some arrangement with the Venetians; but I have nothing positive on the subject. It is possible that I may learn something more about it before closing this letter.”
I heard to-day that a herald had returned from Verona, whom his Majesty had sent there to inform the authorities of that city of his intended passage, and to demand quarters for twenty-five thousand men. It is said that the Proveditori of Verona replied to the herald, that if his orders were to engage quarters for that number of unarmed persons he might do so; but in the contrary case he must let it alone, and must inform his Majesty that, if he intended to pass through as his father had done, he would be received with due honors, but if otherwise, he would not be received at all.
“Whether the Pope has furnished any money to the Emperor or not, I cannot say; and although some of the principal personages of the court aver that he has, yet I have not believed it, and presume that they said so merely to induce you to move, etc. I have, indeed, learned that certain moneys recently collected have been deposited with the Fuggers, but it may well be that this was also done with the idea of producing the same effect. But your Lordships have means of learning the truth about this at Rome, which I have not here. I have not heard of his Majesty’s having made any new convention with the king of Aragon, but I learn that the marriage project with England is definitely decided upon. No money has been received from Italy, unless it be from Sienna, which, however, I cannot say for certain, although I have seen such indications that I believe it. According to what I hear, his Majesty has gathered troops in three places: in the Friuli he has the troops of the country; in Burgundy he has many of the nobles and a considerable army; but according to my own observations his best troops are in the direction of Trent. He might make a movement by way of the Valtelline, for the league of the Grisons and the Valdenses, which form no part of the twelve Cantons, furnish three thousand infantry paid by the Emperor.
“Respecting our own matters I have nothing new to say, for I must await your reply; and, as I have always said, the Emperor has marked you for a very high amount, and I do not believe that he can be beaten down unless an immediate payment should make him lower his demands. I have made every effort to find out his Majesty’s intentions as regards giving you the guaranty; but Lang has always avoided the question, saying that it was for us to make an offer; and he added, ‘When I asked you, you had no powers to conclude anything,’ and that it would be proper for your Lordships to send a mandate to enable the arrangement to be concluded. I beg your Lordships to think well of all these points, and above all to send the ambassadors whilst the passes are still open; for the farther they come this way, the more reason shall we have to believe that they will prove of advantage to our city. And to tell you what I think, I do not believe that the Emperor will give you the guaranty of protection unless you pay him cash down unconditionally; for he seems to think more of ten thousand ducats cash than of twenty thousand on time.”
Not a word has been said to me of the letter presented by the Pisans to your commissioner, and which he declined to receive; nor has anything been said to me by the Emperor, or by any one else for him, about Genoese affairs. True, there was a Genoese here who complained to me that your Lordships had caused one of his compatriots to be arrested at San Pietro a Sieve, but that he did not know the cause; adding, that he had obtained letters from the Emperor in the manner which your Lordships write that you have been informed; and that his Majesty would send me some word on the subject, which, however, has not been done, or I should have made it duly known to your Lordships, as I have invariably done with regard to everything else that has been communicated to me by his orders.
The ambassador from Ferrara is informed that the Emperor has at last made known his conclusion, as follows: “If the Duke will give me money in Germany, then we will discuss the subject of the investiture there; but if he delays it until I get into Italy, then we will wait until then to talk on the subject.” And thus the matter remains in suspense.
Botzen, February 1, 1508.
Magnificent Signori, etc.: —
My last letters to your Lordships were of the 1st instant, and were sent to you by the courier Baccino. By way of precaution I repeated in those letters the substance of all I had written from the 24th ultimo up to the 1st instant, touching the Emperor’s reply, and all that I had been able to learn respecting his intentions. I shall not repeat it again now, deeming it unnecessary, but I await your answer with impatience. Your Lordships’ courier Coriolano has since then brought me a letter from your Lordships, but having carried it concealed in his shoe, it had become quite illegible; which, however, I regretted the less, as at the time of his being despatched from Florence Rafaelle Rucellai had not yet arrived there with mine of the 17th of January; I therefore conjectured that letter to be only a copy of your previous one. Two days after, another courier arrived bringing me yours of the 29th in reply to mine of the 17th; and upon carefully reading and examining it, I note two points that cause me great regret. The first is, that, “under the impression probably that matters here were cooling off, you seem to think that I have gone too far with my offers; and the other, that you should instruct me at the same time to go even much further, whenever I should perceive that matters here are pushed so earnestly as to leave no doubt as to the Emperor’s intentions anyhow, and very soon, to descend into Italy. As to the first, it seems to me that I have acted with all prudence, and in conformity with my instructions, whether in consequence of my offer we should have come to terms or not, or whether, in fixing the place for making the payment, it should have been decided to be in a city of Italy subject to some power other than the Emperor; for thus, so far as you are concerned, the terms of the agreement would have been left to the judgment of your own wisdom. Both one and the other of these eventualities were fully discussed between Machiavelli and myself. As to the second point, namely, the enlarging of my instructions by your Lordships, coupled with three conditions which seem to me so difficult, I will not say merely for the wisest and most resolute citizen of all Florence, but for a whole senate, if it were here on the spot, and could see from day to day as I do, and as every one else could see, how things are going on. And although up to my last letter I have always written to your Lordships in such manner that you could form as good a judgment of matters here as I could myself, yet I will discuss them a little more fully even, so that you may see yourselves how matters can be appreciated, and what good luck a man must have to conjecture rightly.
“I shall not attempt to recall the events previous to my arrival in this country, nor how often and in what manner things have given rise to hopes that were as promptly dispelled; but shall confine myself to what has taken place from the time of the Emperor’s coming to Botzen until now. His Majesty arrived here about the 6th of the past month; but whilst it was supposed that his coming here would stimulate matters, it had rather the opposite effect, when it was seen that he began by assembling a Diet of his subjects, and that he was going around begging for money, and that, moreover, he had but few troops at Trent; so that seeing on the one hand that the Emperor had gone so far that he could not turn back without discrediting his enterprise, and that, on the other hand, he had not troops enough to advance any farther, every one became lukewarm. And thence it was that I said in my letter of the 17th, that I believed there was time to await your reply. I added, however, that, owing to the wide extent of the country and the secrecy with which the Emperor manages his affairs, an unexpected movement might suddenly be made. Since then we have seen that from the 20th ultimo until yesterday matters have resumed a fresh vigor; that new levies of infantry have been made which are constantly arriving here, that a large quantity of artillery is being sent forward, and that a great number of horse are daily arriving. And although the infantry which we have seen pass here did not amount to more than three thousand, and the horse to one thousand, and that, so far as I knew, there were not here and at Trent and vicinity more troops than what I had written you in previous letters, nevertheless it was believed for certain that a body of infantry and cavalry proportionate to what we saw pass here was coming by another route, so that the most sceptical had no longer any doubt as to the enterprise being carried through. And that is the reason why, in all my letters since the 24th ultimo to the 1st instant, I wrote that the enterprise was being pushed ahead, and that the Emperor would attack Italy anyhow, unless he desired to remain covered with shame, or should conclude some honorable arrangement.” Subsequently, the Emperor left Botzen, and, passing through the different places between here and Trent, he entered that town at about the twenty-third hour on Thursday last. The following day there was a solemn procession, in which the Emperor personally took part. Being preceded by his Imperial heralds, and bearing a naked sword in his hands, he proceeded to church, where Lang addressed the people and informed them as regards the Emperor’s enterprise against Italy, etc., etc. The whole of Friday guards were stationed at the city gates, who let every one come in, but permitted no one to go out. All men in the city that were used to handling an axe were employed to hew stakes fit for palisades, and in making gabions in their fashion. The authorities, moreover, caused such quantities of bread to be made as would suffice to feed ten thousand persons for four days. A number of rafts charged with every variety of munitions of war were sent down the Adige. In the evening all the men-at-arms received orders to hold themselves in readiness to mount at the first sound of the trumpet; and at about nine o’clock they all started in admirable silence.
The Marquis of Brandenburg with about five hundred horse and two thousand infantry went towards Rovere, and the Emperor with about fifteen hundred horse and some four thousand infantry took the road leading to Vicenza. It was said, moreover, and reason seemed to demand it, that orders had been given on the same day that simultaneously with the two attacks the forces assembled in the Friuli should also move and join those led by the Emperor when the occasion and the success of the movements should warrant it. It was also reported that orders had been given for the three thousand infantry of the league of the Grisons and the Valais should move towards the Valtelline. And thus with these dispositions, that were partly seen and partly heard, great hopes of complete success were excited.
On Saturday evening the Marquis returned with his cavalry to Trent, whereupon it was said that, having presented himself before Rovere, and surrounded the place and demanded admission within, the commander of the place had asked for six days’ time to give a reply, but that only three were accorded him; and that thereupon the Marquis had returned with his cavalry, leaving his infantry at Petra, a place about two miles from Rovere. The Emperor, on the other hand, took possession of a mountain called the Siaga mountain, the spurs of which extend within twelve miles of Vicenza, where between the hills and the plain there is a castle belonging to the Venetians, and called Marostico, which holds a garrison of two thousand men, and can serve the possessor as a point of support for a good army, and from which Vicenza may conveniently be assailed. On the summit of this mountain there are several villages called the “Seven Communes,” on account of their number being seven. These belong to the Venetians, by whom they are well treated; this position is an important one, and is strengthened by some trenches. The Emperor seized this position, and filled the trenches so that artillery could pass, and some pieces have already gone there. Yesterday morning it was reported that he had taken the castle of Marostico, “which gave rise to the expectation that there would be some tumults in Vicenza, as there is with the Emperor a certain Messer Lionardo Trissino, a Vicentine, a man of some influence, who being dissatisfied with the Venetians had withdrawn for a while from his country. In the midst of these hopes it became known yesterday evening that the Emperor, passing under the walls of Trent, had gone to lodge in San Michele, ten miles from here on the way to Botzen, so that every one became discouraged and remained in suspense. This sudden movement of the Emperor’s is variously commented upon; some apprehend that it may have been caused by the Venetians under promise from them to be his friends, but really with the view of observing him, either to discredit or to entrap him. Others believe that it was the result of his fatal facility of being influenced by others, who had held out to him the expectation of a rising in Vicenza, which however came to nothing. And there are not wanting some who, holding to their first opinion, believe in all the dispositions made by the Emperor, and who say that, if he has turned back, it is for some measure of prudence which, according to his habit, he wants to carry through in person, although he might have intrusted it to some one else.
“This is the state of things at present; and I would ask the wisest man in the world what he would do if he were charged with such a commission as your Lordships have devolved upon me. But I confess frankly, that, if I had received your letter three days sooner, I would have promised to make the payment not only at Trent, but even at Innspruck. And if I had done so, and matters had afterwards been pushed with less vigor, or had been deferred, I would like to know what would then have been said at Florence; but I can guess without being told. I do not say this because I lack either faith or courage to execute the commission with which your Lordships have honored me; but to show the difficulties of that commission, in the execution of which no man, unless he be a prophet, can divine the right thing except by chance. For whether it be attempted to judge in detail, according to what is seen from day to day, or on general principles, one cannot arrive at any more definite knowledge than what I have written above. But I do know that, if any one desires to judge according to the rules of reason whether a man will be victorious in such an enterprise, he must take into consideration the number and quality of the troops which such individual has, and his means of keeping them together, and how he governs himself as well as his forces. No one doubts but what the Emperor has plenty of soldiers, and of good quality; but how he will keep them together, there is the doubt. For he can only hold them by means of money; and being on the one hand short of ready cash himself, he can never be sure that it will be supplied by others; and on the other hand, being extremely liberal, he piles difficulty upon difficulty; and although liberality is a virtue in princes, yet it is not enough to satisfy one thousand when there are twenty thousand more who are in need of it; and liberality does not profit except those to whom it is extended. As to the personal conduct of the Emperor, I will only say that it cannot be denied that he is an active and careful man, most skilful in the art of war, laborious, and of great experience; and more reputed than any of his predecessors for the past hundred years. But he is so good and humane a gentleman that he has become too easy and too credulous, whence it comes that some persons have great doubts as to the success of his enterprise, as I have stated above; so that, considering all things, there are grounds for hopes as well as for fears respecting the result. The grounds for hope are mainly two circumstances connected with Italy herself, and which until now have been the cause of the success and renown of all who have assailed her; and these are that she is constantly subject to revolutions and changes, and that she has wretched armies; this accounts for her marvellous conquests and equally marvellous losses. And although the French of the present day have good armies, yet not having the Swiss with them, by whose co-operation they have been accustomed to achieve victory, and moreover not feeling the ground safe under their feet, there is reason for doubts as to their success. All these considerations cause me to remain in doubt, and make me hesitate to take a resolution; for to give effect to your commission, it is necessary that the Emperor should make the attack and be victorious.
“I find myself here at Trent, and know not whether the Emperor will leave San Michele to-day or to-morrow, and am therefore kept in doubt as to what course to take. For the Emperor had ordered me not to leave Botzen; but having received your Lordships’ letter, and learning that the Emperor had already started, I left immediately to come here and make him your offer, fearing I might no longer be in time. But finding, whilst on the way, that his Majesty had turned back, my zeal has abated; and, unless I should hear something that would change my purpose, I am resolved to await your reply. And even if I were to make your new offer to the Emperor I should stipulate that the first payment should be made in an Italian city subject to some other power, provided, as I have said before, that nothing new occurs that would prevent me. For just as everything seems lost at this moment, so to-morrow things may resume a much brighter aspect. And as we have seen that the feeble expedition of one thousand men into the Mantuan territory was followed by a much more vigorous effort, so may the present one be succeeded by another and more energetic one. Nor do I believe, as I have written before, that twenty thousand ducats down and fifty thousand in all, will induce the Emperor to give way, although he might perhaps yield if the payment were made here and now; but for this it would be necessary for him to have the documents in his hands, which, as I have written several times, might influence him more than anything else to give way. But be this as it may, if I should have to decide and be obliged to resolve upon what in a doubtful case might have a seeming certitude, I should certainly take the course which presents least appearance of danger. And in all these manœuvres I believe it to be better, if we have to err, to assume that the Emperor will go down into Italy, rather than believe the contrary. For in the first case the error would not be irremediable, whilst in the other I can see no remedy; or if there be one, it would be very hazardous. But he who wants to gain the greatest advantage must also risk more, and this would not be in accordance with your Lordships’ instructions.
“I have endeavored in this letter to show what conjectures can be formed of the state of things here, and how I should be disposed to act, so that your Lordships, in case you do not approve it, may direct me otherwise. But should you not direct me differently, then you must not be surprised if, after all, events should not justify my decision.
“I have received the letter of exchange, with the accompanying instructions, and shall make use of it when I can do so for the advantage of our republic, according as I may deem necessary. But this will be difficult, as it is three hundred miles from here to Augsburg, and I see no way of making any considerable payment here except through the Fuggers. I believe you will have to address yourselves to them, that is to say, arrange with the Fuggers of Rome to instruct their correspondents here to pay whatever sum may be required. And although I have said that the great distance may cause difficulties, yet the Emperor, if the sum be considerable, will doubtless find means for overcoming the difficulty through the agency of the Fuggers.”
Machiavelli is very short of money, although I have thus far not failed to supply him; but on no account in the world would it do to recall him, and I entreat your Lordships to approve his remaining here until all matters are settled; his presence here is necessary. Nevertheless, if it should happen that the affair of five hundred and fifty-nine florins require his presence in Florence, and the roads be not dangerous, I am sure his love of country would make him brave all possible danger and fatigue.
Trent, 8 February, 1508.
Magnificent Signori, etc.: —
The above is a copy of a letter I sent you on the 8th by the courier Ortolano. On the same day the Emperor, having heard that I had come to Trent and had received letters, sent for me, he being about two leagues from Trent. Lang, on his part, asked me whether I had anything to communicate, as I had received a courier. Having carefully examined your letter, I was not willing to make any other offer; for to promise fifty thousand ducats, the first payment on which to be made in a place in Italy not subject to the Emperor, would have been an offer that would not have been accepted; and to promise the first payment to be made in Trent did not seem to me advisable, seeing that the enterprise was being pushed with diminished rather than increased vigor. To enable your Lordships to understand the matter fully, I wrote on the 17th ultimo, that I had been informed that Trent was in Italy, and that to promise the first payment to be made in a place entirely in Italy might cause the Emperor to cavil and to demand the payment to be made in Trent itself; and therefore I wanted your Lordships to take this matter well into consideration. But I spoke only for myself, as neither the Emperor nor any one else had intimated to me anything on the subject. Now your Lordships instruct me, in case I should see matters were being pushed vigorously ahead, and could not do otherwise, to promise the first payment to be made at Trent. But seeing that their efforts were being rather relaxed, I was not willing to make that offer, and excused my coming to Trent the best way I could; I cannot say, however, whether Lang was satisfied with my explanation. He ordered me on the part of the Emperor to return to Botzen, where his Majesty arrived himself two days after, and directed the Cardinal as well as myself and all the other ambassadors to transfer our residence to Meran, a place about three leagues from here; because, as he said, he wanted Botzen evacuated to receive the men-at-arms that were expected to arrive. The Emperor left here to-day, according to some for Innspruck, according to others for Bruneck towards the Friuli, so as to start a movement from there.
As I stated in my last despatch, of which the above is a copy, I am embarrassed by your letter of the 29th, and would certainly be glad to escape the heavy charge I have on my shoulders, which is enough to frighten any man, no matter what his quality. If I am told that I am on the spot, I reply that I cannot judge of this business any better than your Lordships; for I have written you all I have seen and heard, and you can therefore decide best what course would be the most advantageous for our republic. My last despatch informed you fully as to the state of things here, and since then nothing new has occurred, unless it be that there are continually men-at-arms going on to Trent, notwithstanding that those who went on towards the frontier and towards Rovere have all returned to the vicinity of Trent. It is said, moreover, that there are many troops in the Friuli and in the Emperor’s own territory, and that, so far as one can judge from appearances, the Emperor has need of nothing but money. But it is quite possible that this may be promptly and secretly supplied, and in such manner as to make it impossible to find it out. There is more than one community in Germany sufficiently rich to provide more money than what the Emperor needs. He might also obtain money from the Pope, or the Venetians, or from his Most Christian Majesty of France, or from some other power, by means of special and secret treaties, so that it would not be possible to discover it.
I did not want to promise to make the first payment at Trent, for I did not see things as clearly as you had written me that I ought to see them before making such a promise. On the other hand, I should regret if, whilst I have moved to Meran and am thus separated from the court, the Emperor were to make a sudden movement forward, and that thus I should be no longer in time to make the offer which I am at liberty to make, and that you should then blame me and charge me with being the cause of ruin to the republic by not having made the offer to the Emperor in time. Nevertheless, I am resolved to take that course which reason suggests, believing that, whatever happens, I cannot justly be blamed. I wish very much that your Lordships would reply promptly, especially as I have no answer yet to the despatch I sent by Diavolaccio, and that you would indicate to me distinctly how I am to govern myself in this affair.
And upon this point it is my opinion that to come to terms with the Emperor and obtain from him the desired guaranty, your Lordships will have to adopt one of the two following methods. The first, and in my judgment the safest, would be to authorize the offer to be raised to one hundred thousand ducats, or even more, and to divide the payments in the best way possible; and to stipulate that the first payment shall be made when the Emperor is in Italy, and in a city not subject to him. The magnitude of the sum might possibly influence his acceptance of it. The second plan would be to offer a less amount, but an immediate and unconditional payment. Forty thousand ducats may possibly suffice for this; or say fifty thousand, in two equal payments. This latter offer I believe should be made before the Emperor enters Italy successfully, for after that it would be too late; and by making such offer beforehand it is quite possible that it may not be objected to by others, and that the Emperor, influenced by the immediate advantage, would accept it. In either the one or the other case the guaranty of the Emperor would be obtained; and having thus concluded an arrangement with him upon that point, your Lordships might agree upon another point, namely, to lend to the Emperor ten or fifteen thousand ducats, for which he has asked; and thus secure his good will, leaving the repayment of such loan to his discretion after he shall have been successful, hoping that, like Pandolfo Petrucci, you would be fairly used by his Imperial Majesty.
All these suggestions which I present to your Lordships are not based upon any certainty in the matter, but are mere conjectures of mine, in which I may be entirely mistaken. Your Lordships may have already gathered these views from my preceding despatches. In the present one I wanted to confine myself to these particulars, so that your Lordships might reconsider the subject again, and give me your instructions how to act in this matter. Nor do I write this because I think that you should decide either according to the one or the other suggestion, but so that you may be fully informed upon all points, and not impute any presumption to me; and that you may take it as proof of my earnest efforts to serve your Lordships. I must entreat you again to give me definite instructions, for I cannot think differently of the state of things here from what I have already written you. Were I the only one that is embarrassed I should blame myself, but I see the wisest as well as the most imprudent in the same state of uncertainty; and if when at court one can only form such an unsatisfactory judgment of things, it will be still worse now, being obliged to reside at a distance from the court.
Although your letter of the 29th authorizes me to offer the payment at Trent, I see that I may still have difficulty in making use of this authority, for I should avail myself of it only in the way in which it was given me, and the Emperor might decide upon entering Italy either by the Friuli or the Valtelline, or by way of Burgundy, in which case he might regard the offer of the payment at Trent as a mere mockery. And therefore your Lordships should not hold to the instructions heretofore given me, but send me fresh ones, and as promptly and precisely as possible, and without any conditions whatsoever; which you can well do, having had full reports from me as to the state of things here, and knowing all that I know myself. I regret very much to learn that the passes are closed, and that consequently your communications cannot reach me with that promptness which the present occasion demands. I beg your Lordships therefore to send me your instructions in duplicate by different routes, and both by messengers on foot as well as mounted, so that at least one of them may reach me. I should have sent Machiavelli back to the court, the same as I sent him the other day from here to Trent; but it would give umbrage to the court, and it would not do to disobey the Emperor’s orders, as perhaps neither of us would afterwards be permitted to remain in Germany, and therefore I conform to the customs of the country.
As I leave to-day for Meran I must not omit to tell your Lordships that, in conversing with some of the principal personages of the court, they, no doubt wishing to present the Emperor’s enterprise in a favorable light, assured me that a month would not pass without seeing that the Emperor had acted with consummate prudence and with great advantage to himself. Some others, however, not of the same high position, say that the Emperor has made this move to show to the people of the Empire that he needs larger means for his enterprise, and that it was a matter of honor for them to supply these means. Others, again, who reason upon these matters, say that the Emperor will have much difficulty in succeeding, or that he may be forced, if the Pope will not aid him with money, to make terms with his Most Christian Majesty of France, or with the Venetians; and that he has acted as he has done for the purpose of having an excuse with the Empire for having made terms with either the one or the other of those powers. And, finally, there are some who attribute his conduct to the reasons which I have exposed in the above copy of my previous despatch. Now whichever one of these opinions may be correct, your Lordships will examine them with your habitual prudence, and will form a more correct judgment thereupon than any one else. But you will reflect whether it be well to find yourselves without any arrangement with the Emperor in case he should succeed in one way or another satisfying his desire of making a descent into Italy. For it might well happen that his Most Christian Majesty of France, perhaps dissatisfied with everybody, would leave every one at the Emperor’s discretion.
All these things your Lordships can in your wisdom judge of better than any one else, and then form your determination and give your orders accordingly.
I recommend myself to your Lordships, quæ bene valeant!
Botzen, 14 February, 1508.
P. S. — I must not omit to remind your Lordships, with the utmost respect, that, in case some arrangement has to be concluded, the court here would desire that I should be commissioned to do it.
Whilst I believed that Simone had already passed Bologna, he arrived here yesterday evening, and said that he had turned back because at Pietra the Germans would not allow him to pass, as the Emperor had given strict orders not to permit any one to pass into Italy without a letter from him, so that no one should be able to give any verbal account of his preparations. As I had not been informed of these orders at the time when I despatched Simone, it did not occur to me to provide him with such a permit. However, I will endeavor to obtain an order for him to pass, and will send him back again, and will at the same time write you by him all that has occurred here since the 14th instant.
To-day is the 19th, and nothing of interest worth being reported has occurred during the past five days; particularly as we are here at Meran, away from the main road, and where we neither see nor hear anything. Still, I learn from persons that come from Botzen or Trent, that infantry and cavalry are continually passing through Trent, and that within the last five days more than three thousand infantry have passed Botzen, and more are constantly expected; and from here also some five hundred have gone. It is reported that at Landrech, a place about two days’ journey from here, there are some three thousand men who are to come this way, so that matters are evidently being pushed with increased energy rather than otherwise. The Emperor is still at Brixen, and it is not known whether he will come this way or go by way of the Friuli. On the other hand, I find myself still in the same embarrassment which I have mentioned before, and which is felt by everybody here, for no one can reasonably conjecture, not alone what the end, but what even the beginning, of this enterprise is likely to be; and therefore I could have wished that this despatch could have been sent to you on wings, so as to have your reply the sooner; and that, having thus your definite instructions, I might carry them into execution with the more certainty. But the very reverse has occurred, and what grieves me most is that I have just learned that the courier Diavolaccio, who ought to have brought me your Lordships’ reply to mine of the 29th, has been plundered on the way and is coming back here. Thus difficulty is heaped upon difficulty. And although I am authorized without any further instructions to offer in all fifty thousand ducats, of which twenty thousand to be paid at Trent, as before stated; yet I do not see my way clear for deciding upon this, inasmuch as you had written that I should not make this offer unless I saw that the Emperor’s descent into Italy was certain.
And therefore I wrote to your Lordships not to rely upon your previous instructions, but to send me positive orders, and I now repeat this request. On the other hand, I shall continue to watch things here as carefully as possible whilst awaiting your Lordships’ reply to my despatch of the 24th, or of the 8th, or the present one. But I observe that matters are being pressed, and if this enterprise should be pushed with the usual impetuousness of these Ultramontane movements, we should no longer be in time for any arrangement. Nor do I know whether our offer would now be accepted, and whether it may not prove to our disadvantage to have made it. In short, in the present state of things I have no hope of being able to do anything under the instructions I have from you; and for that reason I am so desirous, before taking another step, to have a reply at least to my despatch of the 24th, if not to the others. And if I do not receive it I shall act as God may inspire me, and as I shall believe to be for the best interests of our country; and in doing so I hope to be justified in the eyes of God and men.
Meran, 19 February, 1508.
It is only to-day, the 23d of February, that I have obtained permission from Messer Paolo to despatch a courier, which I had hoped to do much sooner. He will leave to-morrow, but I do not know even now whether he will be allowed to pass Rovere. Not to miss any opportunity, however, I hazarded two days ago sending another letter by two vagrants who are going to Italy, in which I gave a brief summary of the state of things here, and solicited a reply to my despatch sent by Diavolaccio, reminding your Lordships, as I do again now, that without fresh instructions I shall not be able to execute the commission you sent me by Simone on the 29th, even if it should seem to me that the time for doing so had arrived; for an offer to make a payment at Trent whilst the Emperor is going through the Friuli would seem to him derogatory. And then as the Emperor evidently intends to obtain a large sum of money from you for his guaranty, it is not likely that he would accept your present offer, unless he should feel that he is weak; and in that case it would not be for your interest to make him any offer. But for the reasons given above it is impossible to judge whether he is weak or strong. It might well be, however, that he came down to accept such a sum as you offer, if for a part of it letters of exchange were in hand and the remainder could be offered him as a certainty; as I have already written that, notwithstanding his being above accepting such a sum, he might yet, on finding himself short of money, yield suddenly on seeing the ready money before him; and therefore I say, by every consideration, I ought to have fresh instructions covering every point and every possible contingency, and so drawn up that one communication may suffice, for as the roads are no longer open there can be no multiplicity of communications.
The Emperor has remained until within the past two days at Brixen, a place about two days’ journey from Trent. Thence he went to Bruneck on the road to the Friuli. Here at Meran, where we now are, a thousand infantry have passed, and it is said that three thousand more are to come, who are to move on to Trent, where it is reported that ten thousand infantry and four thousand horse are to assemble; and the opinion prevails that the Emperor will make his attack upon Italy with a large force by way of the Friuli. As to the number of his troops, and where they are, and how they are to unite, it is as impossible for me to say as it would be for your Lordships to know what is going on at Naples, unless you had some one there to inform you. You must not suppose, therefore, that I can form a correct judgment of matters here; all we can do is to recommend ourselves to God in all the resolves we may form.
But what disturbs me very much is to be, as it were, in a lost island, whence I cannot get away myself, nor send any one without permission.
I recommend myself to your Lordships.
Meran, 23 February, 1508.
P. S. — I have ordered the courier Simone to take the post at Bologna, so as to get the sooner to Florence, and for this purpose have given him five ducats gold, which your Lordships will please refund to my brother Paolo.
Magnificent Signori, etc.: —
If I believed that Simone had arrived at Florence with my despatches of the 24th, 19th, and 14th February, I should not take the trouble to answer you; but having reason to doubt it, I will repeat succinctly what has occurred here during the past month up to to-day, and also the opinions which, according to the reports and conjectures one hears, may be formed as to the results of the enterprise in question. After that I will tell you how your matters stand with the Emperor, and what conclusions we may reasonably form from his proceedings. I shall not repeat what I have written before on the 24th, 25th, and 26th of January, and the 1st of February, because I believe that those letters reached you safely, although I am still without any answer to them. I also believe that my despatch of the 8th of February sent by Ortolano has safely arrived, in which I pointed out the difficulty of watching and judging affairs here, and in which I reported how the Emperor caused Rovere to be assaulted on the 5th ultimo by the Marquis of Brandenburg with about two thousand troops, who retreated the same evening to Trent; and how the Emperor in person, with about five thousand men, went on the same day to seize the Communes on Mount Sioch in the direction of Vicenza; and how finally, whilst this was generally regarded as a most energetic movement forward, his Majesty withdrew on the 7th to Botzen, to the astonishment of everybody. After that the Emperor went to Brixen, a place about two days’ journey from Trent in the direction of Innspruck, whence he afterwards moved to Bruneck, and from there took the road to the Friuli, where with about six thousand troops of the country he scoured certain valleys within the Venetian dominions for a distance of more than twenty miles. Letters were received on the 26th of February from Bruneck, of which the following is a verbatim copy. “The Emperor has taken the valley of Cadauro, through which the road leads to Venice by the Trevisan territory; the castle of Bustauro, which formerly belonged to the church of Aquileja, he has left behind him; but has taken the castle of San Martino, and some other places in the vicinity; also the castle of Pieve, which was guarded by a gentleman who took to flight so soon as he heard of the approach of the enemy. He has also taken another valley, called Comoligon, which was guarded by the Counts Saviniani. And after that he ordered the army to advance towards the Trevisan territory,” &c. Beyond this, nothing certain is known of his progress; but I have heard some persons say that the Emperor was to be at Serezino to-day, this being the 1st of March; this would be within two days of Innspruck, where it is supposed he goes to raise money on pledge of certain of his jewels.
From the direction of Trent we have no news since the Emperor’s departure from there, except that some two thousand infantry and two hundred mounted men have gone from there and from Botzen. Your Lordships will see from all this what the condition of the enterprise is at the present, and how it is conducted; but no man can guess what the end of it will be, for we cannot learn clearly whether the Emperor will meet with any support in Italy. All we hear is, that the Venetians have difficulties about money, and that they are considerably alarmed; and as his Majesty two days ago despatched one of his counsellors, who was formerly his ambassador at Naples, in an unknown direction, it is surmised that he was sent on a mission to the Venetian government, at their request, for the purpose of initiating some negotiations. And it is apprehended that, if the Emperor should find means to come to terms with either the Venetians or the French, he will conclude an arrangement with them, notwithstanding that the Cardinal has received information that France has been holding back for some time. It is not known what the Pope’s disposition towards the Emperor may be, but it is believed that he is somewhat irritated against him because the Cardinal has complained, that ever since leaving Memmingen up to the present the Emperor has never communicated anything to him, and that at the departure from Memmingen his Majesty had said to him in an angry manner that he would show to the whole world that he was able to make war without the help of either the Pope or the king of France. In a word, no one here ventures to express a definite opinion; for on the one hand it seems to everybody that it will be very difficult for the Emperor, without the aid of the Pope, to make head against the Venetians and France, more especially since he has begun to make war upon them in a manner so slow as to have given them courage to resist, and time for making the necessary provisions; and on the other hand the power of Germany is so great that, if she wants to do so, she is able to resuscitate an enterprise that is dead, and can more easily yet infuse energy into one that is still alive. And those who venture to guess say that the Emperor has made this movement for no other purpose than to make the Diet of the Empire furnish him fresh subsidies; for the Diet had granted him supplies for a term of six months, and had authorized five princes of the Empire to make him a further allowance for six months more in case the first should not suffice. Now it was precisely for the purpose of proving the insufficiency of the first that the Emperor made this attack.
The Cardinal had a courier from Rome yesterday, and thereupon immediately wrote a great deal, and sent the courier to the court, and on being asked by a person in authority, Quid novi? he replied, that he had a variety of good news which would be made known in good time; and this was all the answer that could be obtained from him.
As regards the relations of the Emperor with the powers outside of Italy, I can tell you what I have learned, having had the opportunity to hear, for we are all at leisure here. According to the ambassador from Aragon, the Emperor has not done well not to come to an understanding with his sovereign, who would have been satisfied merely to have the government of Castile assured to him, and, in case he should die without heirs, to leave all his states to his nephew, to which the Emperor would not consent; and in this the ambassador says that the Emperor did not act wisely, as his sovereign would have aided the Emperor in war and in peace. The ambassador from England has had advices since he has been here, that although the marriage with the son of the Archduke has been agreed upon, yet nothing will come of it unless his king obtains the hand of Donna Marguerita, and that the Emperor seems to put it off, showing thereby his unwillingness to consent, although the ambassador has given him to understand, that if the one is not done, the other will not take place; and that his sovereign will not make the same demonstrations which he would do if he obtained Donna Marguerita. And finally, as to the twelve Cantons, matters remain in the same condition as I have written before, and it is some time since anything has been said in relation to them. It is for your Lordships now to form your own judgment of these matters, for no one here can venture to do so; but you can do it, inasmuch as you can find out whether France is making preparations for war, or whether she is disposed to peace; and upon this point nothing can be learned here. For this reason I have written and now write again to ask your Lordships to be pleased to give me positive instructions, and to decide what course you intend to take. Your affairs here are in precisely the same condition as stated in my despatch which I sent by Diavolaccio, and to which I still await a reply. According to the indications which I notice here, I think it necessary, if you desire the guaranty and to conclude once for all with the Emperor, that you adopt one of two courses. The first is to raise the amount to be offered to one hundred thousand ducats, or even more, with the promise of making the first payment in the first Italian city not subject to the Emperor; this seems to me the most certain way. The other is for you to obligate yourselves to pay forty or fifty thousand ducats, and to pay one half cash down, for which the letters of exchange must be in hand, and to promise the other half unconditionally in three or four months. The first proposition the Emperor may be induced to accept, because of the largeness of the amount; and his necessities together with the advantage of an immediate payment may make him accept the second; but this latter would be less certain, and would involve greater risk. Your Lordships might also adopt a third plan, which would be more in accordance with the Emperor’s demands; namely, to lend him a certain sum without any security, and depending solely upon his good will and discretion; for this ten or fifteen thousand ducats should suffice, although he asks for twenty thousand. One of these three plans your Lordships must adopt, according to my judgment, for the purpose of arriving at a conclusion. I say this, not because I know anything positive about it, but merely by way of conjecture; but it may well be that I deceive myself, and therefore I write you everything, so that, being fully informed, you may come to some definite determination.
I have not made the offer of a payment of twenty thousand ducats at Trent, for if no other consideration had kept me from doing so, it would have been the conviction that the payment of the twenty thousand ducats would be the only thing certain about it; for inasmuch as the Emperor counts upon obtaining a very large sum of money from your Lordships, he certainly would not accept twenty thousand ducats unless he felt himself extremely weak, and in that case there would be no occasion to pay him anything. Moreover, to offer the payment to be made at Trent whilst the Emperor is not there, and has probably no intention of going there, but will go by an entirely different route, would naturally cause him to look upon that offer as a mere mockery. And therefore I repeat to your Lordships that I must have fresh instructions, carefully prepared so as to cover every point and contingency, so that I may not have to ask again for further orders; for, the roads being closed, our correspondence is necessarily restricted; and meanwhile time passes and a month’s delay may be of great importance, for the Emperor must now promptly satisfy his desire to go into Italy, either by means of some agreement, or by a war carried on differently from what has been done hitherto, or he will become the laughing-stock of the whole world.
The whole of this letter, with slight exception, is little more in substance than what I have written you by Simone. I will endeavor to send it off if possible; for amongst my other annoyances there are two that nearly kill me, namely, to be away from the court, and the impossibility of either sending to or receiving letters from your Lordships.
I wonder much that I have no reply to my despatch sent by Diavolaccio, although I heard that he had been plundered on his return; still, as letters have been received here since then from Sienna, and even from Rome, I cannot understand why I have none from your Lordships. And as you have always said that it was the Venetians who wished to usurp the liberties of Italy, and as the Emperor has now made open war upon them, he will think that you intended to pay him with promises when he sees that you are delaying your answer. I therefore repeat again that it is essential you should write and send me fresh powers, with definite instructions as to what I ought to do. And if you still entertain the idea of paying him money, then you must send me letters of exchange, which, as I have written before, can be had through the Fuggers in Rome. Your Lordships must not think that your instructions of the 29th of January can be of the least use; for, as I have written before, they are applicable only at Trent, and in case I should see clearly that the Emperor’s enterprise is being pushed successfully. But in that case the Emperor would certainly not accept that proposition, particularly as it is not accompanied with ready money. And even if I were to offer to pay him at Trent in cash, yet the money would not really be there, and I could only give him bills of exchange, which would require at least a month’s time before the money would be paid on them, and therefore nothing can be done upon the basis of your instructions of the 29th of January.
To-day is the 7th of March, and the Emperor is at Innspruck. Three days ago the Legate received news from the court that the deputies of the Empire had very readily extended the subsidies to the Emperor for another term of six months, at which his Majesty has shown himself much pleased, and was preparing to send off letters to that effect. This is all we hear of him; but it is supposed that he will be here within six or eight days, and then go wherever it may seem good to him. The troops that were at Trent, some nine thousand infantry and cavalry, went two days ago in camp at Castel Barco, a place opposite Rovere, on the other side of the Adige, and on the right in going from here into Italy, Roveredo being on the left. The place surrendered at discretion in three days, whilst the imperial forces were waiting for artillery; the garrison, consisting of forty men, are still prisoners. Nothing has been heard since as to whether the army has moved forward; some say that it will march upon Castel Brettonico, on the same side of the river; others say that it will march upon Roveredo, the garrison of which place is said to consist of fifteen hundred Spaniards. This is all we have heard from that direction, nor have we any news from the army in the Trevisan territory; or from any other direction whatever, except that within the month eighty artillery wagons have gone from Trent in the direction of Roveredo, and two wagons loaded with chains for the construction of bridges. Of the Emperor’s negotiations we hear nothing; I have been told, however, that the Cantons furnish twenty-five hundred men to France, and the individual who told me this said that Lang had not denied it, but had said that the Emperor would also have Swiss troops. Upon these points your Lordships can obtain much more reliable information by way of Lombardy, as also in relation to all other negotiations which the Emperor may be carrying on either with France or the Pope. And thus you will be able to form a better judgment upon all these points than what can be done from here.
Meran, 7 March, 1508.
Magnificent Signori, etc.: —
Your Lordships will find annexed to this a report of all that has taken place here from the 24th of February until the 7th of March; and although there are some things in that statement which I might now have passed over in silence, or curtailed, yet I send it as it was written, so that your Lordships may know step by step how matters have been regarded here, and thus form a better judgment of them. You will also know the changes they have passed through, and will therefore have compassion with those who have had to express an opinion about them. I had written that report on the morning of the 7th, in the expectation of sending it to you by a person from Rome, who afterwards declined to take it. Later on the same day, at the twenty-second hour, the Governor of the Tyrol made known to all the ambassadors that he desired to confer with them, on behalf of the Emperor, at the house of the Aragonese ambassador. Having met him there as appointed, he presented a letter of credence from the Emperor, and then said that the Emperor, having heard that the Swiss had declared in favor of France and had sent some six thousand troops there already, had therefore resolved to declare war against them. But wishing first to confer with the Legate and the other ambassadors upon certain points, he desired that the Legate and ourselves should come to meet him for that purpose at Innspruck by way of Brixen. We replied, that we were disposed to obey the Emperor’s request, and would consult with the Legate about it. We went after that to see the Legate, who was quite perplexed and disinclined to make this trip, and finally begged us to postpone the matter until the next Monday, saying that he would in the mean time send a confidential agent to the Emperor to notify him of the time when he would start with us, and at the same time make our excuses to him. But I believe that he did all this merely to see whether he could not get off from going to Innspruck.
We conformed to the Legate’s request, and on Monday, which was the 13th, we started from Meran. On the road, we heard that that portion of the Emperor’s army which had gone towards Roveredo had made no progress, but had stopped at Petra; whilst the other part, which had gone towards the Trevisan territory, had even done less, and that some thirteen hundred of the infantry, under command of a reckless captain, had been betrayed by some of the people of the country to enter into a certain valley in hopes of plunder, where they were assailed with stones from above, and surrounded by about six thousand Venetian horse and foot; and that only about three hundred had escaped with their lives, but afterwards surrendered, whilst all the rest were killed. This disaster has caused great irritation throughout all Germany against Italy, and more especially against the Venetians. The priest Lucas, whom I have mentioned as having gone to Venice, has returned, having been ordered away from there on the receipt of the news of that victory. It is reported that the only remark the Emperor made when he heard of this loss was, that “it served them right to be killed for going where they ought not to have gone.” But to prevent any further disasters to that portion of his army, he immediately sent the Duke of Brunswick there, who is highly reputed as a military man.
Before our departure from Meran the Legate received a letter informing him that the Emperor had left Innspruck for Suabia, for the purpose of convoking a Diet, and to stir up the Suabians against the Swiss, and that the coadjutor of Brixen would communicate to the Legate the commands of the Emperor. And so we arrived here yesterday together with the Legate; but nothing was communicated to him by the coadjutor, who said that he had received no orders of any kind. On the road, we learned by letters to the Legate, not from the Emperor, but from a Lombard exile, that the report of the Swiss having declared against the Emperor was not true, and that only a few thousand, without authority from the Cantons, had taken service in France; in consequence of which the government of the Cantons had seized the French ambassador, and would not release him until all the Swiss who had taken service in France were first returned to them. This Lombard exile mentioned furthermore, that the Grisons had beheaded certain agents who had distributed money on the part of France amongst the people of the country; and that the Emperor had convoked the Diet in Suabia, not for the purpose of having them declare against the Swiss, but against the Venetians, and to have them vote, besides the regular supplies to the Emperor, certain extraordinary subsidies.
Your Lordships must now form your own judgment as to which of these statements are true. The Legate had a letter this morning from Messer Mariano, Auditor of the Rota, whom he had sent from Meran to the Emperor, informing him that the Emperor was at Cospain, and had called the Diet to meet at Ulm, one of the chief cities of Suabia, four days’ journey from here; that the Diet was to open on Sunday next, and that there would be present ambassadors from the Suabian League, also from Switzerland, and a number of princes, and particularly those who had been charged by the Diet of Constanz to extend the supplies to the Emperor for an additional six months; and that the Emperor desired that the Legate and the other ambassadors should also go there, if it were not too much trouble for them. The Legate has not yet decided what to do, but will do so to-day, and I will inform you of his decision before closing this letter. We hear, as I have already mentioned above, that the disaster inflicted by the Venetians upon the German troops has caused a general irritation in Germany, and that they will promptly decide upon sending help, and that in consequence the demands of the Emperor have been considerably increased. On the road from Botzen here we met several hundred men-at-arms and six hundred infantry, and a number of wagons loaded with lances, swords, provisions, and munitions of war. This is all the information I can give you as to the state of things here up to this day, the 19th; and thus your Lordships know as much about it as I do myself.
The Courier Baccino arrived here on the 7th at two o’clock at night, and brought me a short letter from your Lordships of the 19th ultimo, which however contains no answer to my despatch sent by Diavolaccio, but refers me upon all points to yours of the 29th January, adding merely that I may at my discretion offer to raise the first payment to twenty-five thousand ducats; but that I am to do so only if in my judgment the chances of the Emperor’s descent into Italy are three out of four. I cannot do otherwise in this business than to conform to your Lordships’ will and pleasure, and to bear the burden imposed upon me the best way I can. But as your Lordships say that I shall make the offer only if I believe that the Emperor will carry his project into execution, I say now that I believe the chances are more than ever that he will attempt the passage again, and with a larger force than before; but whether he will be successful or not, remains to be seen; and whether he abandons the attempt or fails in it, that will really be the same to your Lordships after you have once shown your hand. Now to form a judgment as to whether the Emperor will succeed or not is the more difficult for me, as I know nothing of the strength of the Venetians, nor of the preparations of the French, of which your Lordships give me no information in any of your letters. Having to judge of this at a distance, I can but conclude that the Venetians are very strong, for I see that of the Emperor’s two armies, each of which was composed of from six to seven thousand men, the one has been defeated and the other held in check. Thus what force must we suppose the Emperor would need to enable him to beat the Venetians and the French together? Still, if I knew what is being done in the Milanese, and what preparations have been made there; and on which side the French are going to place themselves, what troops the Venetians have, and whether they are able to bear the expense; and finally, if I knew whether the French and Venetians will unite their forces for the defence of Italy, — then I might boldly form an opinion, and with less fear of making a mistake. But as it is, I can only recommend myself to God, and hope that your Lordships will believe that whatever I may do is done with the best intentions, and in the hope that it may prove to be for the best.
It might also be, as I have said in a previous despatch, that without any apparent preparations a peaceable arrangement might suddenly be concluded, of which no one had any previous knowledge. Indeed, I have heard within the past two days that the Emperor, moved by his hatred against the Venetians, shows himself inclined to treat with France, in which he is encouraged both by the Legate and the Aragonese ambassador. And it is even said that the Legate, at the request of the Emperor, has already written to France on the subject, and that there is but one serious difficulty, namely, that France does not know with what sort of a conscience she can abandon the Venetians; and to enable her to do so with some color of pretext, the Legate has suggested that the king of France should call a council at Lyons, at which he should declare to the Venetians that, if they will furnish him an extraordinary subsidy of six hundred thousand ducats, he will not only defend the Milanese, but make war upon and beat all Germany with honor and advantage to his crown. But if they will not furnish him that sum, then he would be obliged to abandon the Venetians and make peace for himself. It is supposed that the two sovereigns would prefer peace at the expense of others, to war at their own cost, even with the hope of some gain; and therefore it seems likely that France will in some way be obliged to abandon the Venetians, and leave them to clamor against her. Your Lordships will learn by way of Lyons whether all this is true or a mere invention; I have written it just as it was told me, and as a secret. Those who pretend to judge of these matters believe that the Emperor would rather satisfy his desire of going to Rome being at peace with France than at war. Should your Lordships hear anything more in relation to these matters, you will know what course to take under the circumstances; as for myself, I must repeat that I shall know nothing certain about it until after the event.
To return now to the offer which your Lordships have authorized me to make, etc., I repeat that I still see the same difficulties which I have explained in the annexed despatch; and which are, first, to have to confer with the Emperor at Trent, where he may not be willing to return, preferring probably some other route; and secondly, because I could not make the first payment promptly, having no bills of exchange in hand, nor even the power definitely to conclude an arrangement; and finally because I can give no certain assurances as to the payment of the remainder. Moreover, as I have already written, I regard this offer as altogether to the Emperor’s advantage, and not at all to yours; for if he feels himself strong he will decline it, for he expects a great deal more from you; and should he feel that he is feeble, then he will accept, to your prejudice. And if you should wait until he is strong, then you will be no longer in time with your offer. But it is impossible correctly to anticipate all this.
The Diet will certainly convene, and I shall take counsel from its conclusions and from what I shall hear and see from day to day. If the Cardinal goes to the Diet, I shall send Machiavelli along with him, as I am prevented from going myself, having been seized with so acute a pain in one of my arms that it prevents my riding on horseback. And therefore I beg your Lordships to grant me leave to return to Florence, so that I may subject myself to a lengthy and regular cure, should it be necessary. If, however, I find myself able to ride in a few days, I shall not fail to go to the court. I have given Machiavelli orders to go, and closely to watch the proceedings of the Diet and to report to me fully, so that I may direct him what to do, and afterwards inform your Lordships of everything. It is understood that the Emperor has three objects in view in convoking this Diet; first, to settle matters once for all with the Swiss if possible; secondly, to have the Empire accord to him the additional six months’ supplies, unless perchance this should already have been done; and finally to obtain from the Suabian League something more than ordinary; all of which we shall know better as we hear from day to day how things are going.
I have kept this letter back until to-day, for I wanted to see what the Cardinal would decide about going to the court, as he had written there the other day to ascertain whether he could be excused from the trouble of going. But as he has not yet received a reply to that letter, I have thought it best no longer to delay despatching Baccino, to whom I have given eleven ducats gold, ten of which are for his return, and one for having sent him from Meran here to find out from Giovanni Rustichi the whereabouts of the Emperor. I have given this money to Baccino because he seems to me to deserve it better than any other of your couriers; for during the past six weeks he is the only one that has come from Italy. Your Lordships will please reimburse this amount to my brother Paolo.
We have news here of the death of the Count Palatine, who leaves four sons. Yesterday evening the Legate told me that three of the Swiss Cantons had accepted a sum of eight thousand ducats as earnest money from the Emperor for eight thousand infantry; and that the Diet will under any circumstances arrange to have the other Cantons recall such of their infantry as have taken service in France. These reports about the Swiss seem to me confused, and no doubt they will appear the same to your Lordships; for I cannot understand how three of the Cantons can send eight thousand infantry out of the country, or how three Cantons can decide one thing, whilst the others want something quite different. Nor can I see how six thousand men could have been raised without permission of the Communes, and that the Communes should not have heard of it in time to have prevented it.
With the exception of my arm, I am well, thank God.
The Marquis of Brandenburg passed through here two days ago on his way to be present at the Diet; he came from Trent, where he commanded the army, and has left his son Casimir to take his place for the time.
Innspruck, 22 March, 1508.
Magnificent Signori, etc.: —
On the 22d I wrote very fully to your Lordships upon various matters, and sent the letter by Baccini. Amongst other things I mentioned our departure from Meran to Innspruck by order of the Emperor, in consequence, it was said, of the Swiss having declared in favor of France; and that before our arrival at Innspruck the Emperor had gone to Suabia to hold a Diet for the purpose of stirring up the Suabian League against the Swiss; but that afterwards it was said to be against the Venetians, because the Swiss had resolved to support the Emperor. I mentioned also several other things in that despatch, of which I send full duplicate to-day by the same German courier by whom your Lordships sent me your last letters of the 4th instant. I write now briefly, and annex another copy of my previous despatch, and send it by Messer Paolo Lichtenstein, who has so requested me. This Messer Paolo is one of the three persons nearest to the Emperor; he sent for me at Innspruck and came to see me here at Botzen, and told me that the Emperor, being occupied with the Diet, had commissioned him to bring matters to a point with you; that he desired not only to satisfy his sovereign, but also to be agreeable to your Lordships; and knowing the position in which you are, namely, that you feared the Emperor, the king of France, and the Venetians, because you were not able alone to defend yourselves against either of these three powers, you could not do better than to make terms with the Emperor, who could defend you with arms in case of war, and in case of peace could secure you by treaties; and therefore he requested me to tell him what it was that you had asked of the Emperor when you made him your late offer.
Having replied to this, he said: “I believe it would be well that the Emperor should accord to you his guaranty, and that in return you should pay him sixty thousand ducats in three payments; the first, cash down upon the conclusion of the agreement; the second, in Italy, in two months after the first; and the third payment also in Italy, in two months after the second. That this seemed to him a reasonable arrangement, to which his sovereign and your Lordships ought to accede; that he would so write to the Emperor, whilst I should write to your Lordships.” I replied that this proposition involved three serious objections; the first, that the sum named was too large; the second, that the payments were too near together; and the third, that no place was fixed for the first cash payment, an objection which I have already explained in previous despatches. Messer Paolo made no further reply, but only asked me to write to you by three or four different routes, and said that he would aid me in sending the letters, the expense of which I was to bear. I insisted nevertheless in objecting to the payments being so near together, as well as to the other points, but could not obtain any modification of the terms except an extension of one month on the last payment. To enable him to report more precisely to the Emperor, as well as to avoid all misunderstandings, Messer Paolo asked me for a written memorandum of what I wanted, which I prepared for him; and I now enclose a copy of the same, in which our respective demands are stated, and to which I added, besides what my instructions called for, that, in case of the Emperor’s concluding a peace with any other power, he was to provide for the safety of our Republic.
In coming back here from Innspruck I met the German courier with your Lordships’ letter of 4th March, from which I see that you enlarge my powers. But although the demands made by Messer Paolo on behalf of the Emperor are perhaps less onerous than what you authorize me to concede, yet as there was a difference as regards the time of making the payments, and as I could not induce him to yield that point, I could not conclude an arrangement with him. Your Lordships will please now to examine the whole subject, and reply to me definitely, for you know the state of things here now as fully as I do. I must also briefly inform you that in the direction of Roveredo there are not less than eight thousand, and not more than ten thousand troops, of which some two thousand are mounted men; and in the direction of Treviso there are not less than four thousand nor more than six thousand. What other troops may yet be expected there I cannot say for certain. A little while ago it was said that a considerable number of horse were expected from Austria, and two thousand infantry from Bohemia, but as yet nothing has been seen of them. Respecting the Swiss, the reports are confused; some say that those who went to Milan to serve the king of France have returned, others deny this report.
Nothing can be known yet as to what will be done by the Diet, which was to open on Sunday last. True, it is reported to have been convoked particularly for three objects: the first, to come to some definite terms with the Swiss, ambassadors from three of the Cantons having already arrived; secondly, to extend the supplies of the Empire for another six months; and thirdly, to induce the Suabian League to concur in this war by extraordinary contributions. I do not think it will be possible to know what the Swiss will do; as to the supplies to the Empire, I do not believe there will be any difficulty; and as to the support of Suabia against the Swiss, that was already had during the eight months of the last war, and for this purpose they keep seven thousand men constantly under arms. What they will now do, and whether they will have more consideration for the Venetians than for the Swiss, on account of their commercial interests, that is not known; and even after the conclusion of the Diet it will be difficult to know the truth about this. As already mentioned, the Count Palatine is dead, and so is the Duke Albert of Bavaria, which is regarded as rather favorable to the Emperor’s enterprise than otherwise.
This much as regards the war. Now as to peace, especially with his Most Christian Majesty of France, that is favored by the kings of both Spain and of England, and perhaps also by the Pope; and the Legate says he has already written about it to the king of France. A few days since there arrived from Lombardy, or perhaps from France, a certain Messer Niccolo Frigio, whom the Legate had sent there for that purpose by order of the Emperor, but it is not known what he brings. It may also well be that some negotiations have been opened with the Venetians; for a certain priest Lucas has been several times in that direction. As to the relations of the other Italian powers with the Emperor, we only know that up to the present the Pope has confined himself merely to good words, and it is not likely that he will do more unless he should see somewhat more progress made by the Emperor. Nor has Ferrara given anything thus far, and for a long time the Duke did not even reply to his ambassador; I suppose that, inasmuch as he has plenty of money, he would rather wait and see a little more progress made, even at the risk of its costing him somewhat more later to make terms with the Emperor, so as to be relieved of apprehensions as to the king of France and the Venetians. I learn from a good source, that the Marquis of Mantua will declare for the Emperor whenever he can do so with safety to himself. So far as is known, the Lucchese have never sent any ambassador to the Emperor. The Siennese alone have given him any money, and the term of the second payment is running on.
Your Lordships can now take all these different speculations as to peace and war into consideration, and then determine what course to adopt, particularly as you are informed with regard to the preparations made by France and Venice, respecting which I am entirely in the dark; for ever since Machiavelli’s arrival here I have heard nothing on the subject, either by letters from your Lordships, or in any other way. You can also ascertain whether it is true that the Swiss who went to Lombardy to serve the king of France have returned from there, as has been reported, which in the event of war would insure the Emperor’s success. You will also bear in mind how easily his Most Christian Majesty and the Venetians may be disposed to peace rather than to war, seeing the unfavorable conditions to which a war with the Emperor would expose them, being constantly obliged to think of defending themselves at the expense of much treasure, without being able in turn to attack him because of the nature of the country and the Emperor’s adherents; so that, even if the Emperor’s affairs were very low, he might still be able to obtain honorable terms of peace from them. After having well weighed all these points, your Lordships will, I trust, reply, and instruct me what to do, whether matters remain in the same condition as at present, or whether they have changed either for better or worse. I beg you will also instruct me whether I am to act in the same way, if I learn that peace is to be made, as when I see them resolved upon war; or whether I am to act differently in either one or the other of these supposed cases. And if your Lordships are decided upon making terms, then I beg that you will not fail to send me promptly and at length the points to be stipulated, and especially those that are for your advantage. This you might communicate to me in cipher, underlining all those words which on no consideration you would have changed. In fact you might send the whole in cipher, with a blank signed by the notary before whom the ciphered communication has been written; and the deciphered despatch could afterwards be written on the blank. Your Lordships will please also think of promptly expediting the money for the first payment, without which nothing can be concluded; in fact, one day’s delay might spoil everything. By adopting the above plan I could easily conceal the cash payment under the agreement, as your Lordships charge me to do in your last letter. No other way of making the payments will be as acceptable to them here as to have them made through the Fuggers, and for this purpose you will have to arrange yourselves with the Fuggers in such manner as may seem best to you.
I must furthermore beg that in your answer to this you will instruct me, in case you deem it best not to conclude an arrangement with the Emperor, what I am to say to keep him satisfied and gain time; for it will not be possible to conceal from him the arrival of your messenger; and as it will be necessary to tell him something, I would like to have your orders upon that point. Please also inform me what you understand by the words “in Italy,” in connection with the proposed terms above mentioned.
Your Lordships will please note that the demands made by Messer Paolo were not made by order of the Emperor, but emanated solely from him, inasmuch as he has power only to negotiate, but not to conclude anything definitely. This results probably from the fact that they imagine here that by gaining time they can shape matters to their own advantage; and that is also your Lordships’ position in the matter.
Botzen, 29 March.
Magnificent Signori, etc.: —
On the 22d of March I wrote to your Lordships by Baccino, reporting at length all that had taken place since the 24th of February up to the day of my writing. I sent a partial copy of it by the German courier Iocoso, who brought me your letter of the 4th of March. By the same despatch I informed you of the demands made by Messer Paolo de Lichtenstein, and sent three copies of it by way of Venice, Milan, and Trieste. Since then, on the 1st instant, I received a despatch from Mirandola by the hands of Simone, together with a copy of your letter of the 4th and your plenary powers. Your Lordships have reason to be well satisfied with this Simone, who has really served you well. I did not give this messenger any letters in return, as he was on his way to the court, whence he has not yet returned. Although I sent copies of my despatch of the 29th ultimo by four different routes, yet I send you still another by way of extra precaution. Yesterday Piero Borgo arrived with your letter of the 17th ultimo, in which you ask to be informed upon two principal points, namely, what progress the Emperor has made with his preparations for war, and what is the state of his peace negotiations. Upon both these points you will have been entirely satisfied if you have received my letter; and in case it should not have reached you, the annexed copy will give you in great part the desired information.
Respecting events here since then I have to report, that the army, which is at Caliano in the direction of Roveredo, attacked a body of some three thousand Venetian infantry who were guarding a mountain called Brettonico, under command of Jacopo Corso, Dionisio di Naldo, and Vitello Vitelli. They had fortified themselves well in their position; still, on arrival of the Germans they fled precipitately to their intrenchments, and after burning a number of houses on the mountain they withdrew the same evening to their camp. After this the Bishop of Trent conceived the idea of attacking Riva, a castle belonging to the Venetians, and situated on the Lago di Garda. He sat down before the place first with about two thousand men under his command, and then so urged the council that they consented to send him artillery and one half of the troops from Caliano. They had been about five days before Riva, and just as orders had been given to establish batteries, two thousand Grisons, who formed a part of this force, began to say that, although they had been promised four and a half . . . . per month, they had not received more than four; and they conducted themselves so badly about the provisions that the siege had to be raised with but little credit. A portion of the troops returned to Caliano, and a portion is here; of the Grisons only about five hundred have remained, the rest have gone home. The army has been greatly enfeebled by this affair, so that I believe there are but little over seven thousand men left.
After the camp before Riva was broken up, the Venetians burnt some villas in the neighborhood; and whilst a body of some three thousand of them were about to attack and burn a villa belonging to the Comte di Agresto on the 13th instant, about three hundred of the country people fell upon the Venetians and put them to flight, having captured and killed more than a hundred of them; being altogether a most discreditable affair for the Venetians. It is reported also that the Duke of Brunswick has killed some three hundred Venetians in the valley of the Cadore towards the Trevisan territory; but the scene of action being at so great a distance I cannot vouch for the truth of this. Moreover, it is said that a large force of Venetians, having gone to attack Fiume, a place on the seacoast belonging to the Emperor, were repulsed by the people of the country and some mounted men who happened to be there, and that over a thousand of the Venetians were slain. Thus much as regards the way in which the war is being carried on; in the annexed copy of my preceding despatch you will find an account of the number of troops engaged. Respecting the negotiations I cannot yet report anything more than what I have already said in my previous letter; for the Diet has not yet closed its labors, and the Emperor is at Ulm. As the course of the Swiss is of great importance in this enterprise, I would observe that you can obtain more reliable information upon that point than I can furnish from here; for you can ascertain whether those who went to Lombardy continue in the service of the king of France, or whether they are leaving there. It is said here that the Communes were greatly dissatisfied on account of this, and that, if these men do not immediately leave the French service, it might happen to his Most Christian Majesty as it did to the Duke of Milan, namely, that they will abandon him at the moment of going into action. But we must wait and see the end, for it is also reported, as I have already written, that three of the Cantons have furnished eight thousand men to the Emperor; and so it might well happen that there are Swiss on both sides, and that both parties may suffer in consequence.
Nothing has as yet been heard as to the league of which your Lordships speak; but I repeat that England, Aragon, and the Legate greatly desire peace with the king of France, but that the Emperor is not much disposed that way, but is inclined rather to make terms with the Venetians. About the beginning of March he sent the priest Lucas to them, who returned on the 12th, and the Emperor then sent him back to Trent with orders to wait there for further instructions, and about a week ago he went again to Venice. It is not known what negotiations are being carried on, but, on leaving, Lucas told me that we should hear some important news within twenty days. Some persons think that, if the Venetians really desire to come to terms with the Emperor, they will find no difficulty in doing so. But it is not known whether the princes who desire peace with the king of France would be satisfied in such event, and whether the Emperor may not find himself weaker after coming to an agreement with the Venetians than before; which has perhaps kept the Venetians back until now, a point which your Lordships will not fail to consider. Nor can anything positive be known respecting the negotiations until the close of the Diet; and even then, to know the truth, it may be necessary to see some beginning of the execution of the resolves of the Diet.
It is said that the Duke of Brunswick, brother to the one who is with the army in the Trevisan territory, is coming here with one thousand horse; and the German courier who brought me yours of the 17th says that he had met about two hundred of them on the road; but everything is magnified here according to people’s opinions and hopes. After all, what we see here is just what I have written, and now repeat to your Lordships; and no one can gainsay the opinion that in reality Germany can do a great deal, and only needs the will to do it, and that will she may exercise at any hour, and therefore no one can safely form an opinion as to what will be done. On the other hand, we see that a considerable time has passed without Germany’s displaying her will, and for that reason no one can say whether she ever will do it; and yet it is evident that her honor demands more than ever that she should. And thus none but the Almighty knows how it will all terminate.
I am here at the request of Messer Paolo de Lichtenstein, and will endeavor if possible to go to the court in a few days. Meantime, I beg your Lordships to be pleased to reply promptly to the demands of Messer Paolo, bearing in mind that these matters cannot be weighed exactly as in a balance, and without a reply from you I cannot act; I also beg to remind you once more, that without the money in hand nothing will ever be concluded here.
Luca da Monte Varchi, who has been commander in your service, has come here from the camp of the Venetians, and reports their infantry as most wretched, and that it will surely prove so if ever put into the field; as in fact we have already seen, for in every encounter they have come off losers. It is reported here to-day, and the news comes direct from the council, that Genoa has revolted, and that the French are shut up in the fortresses. If this be true, it will render the Emperor’s success still more easy and assured, and your republic may possibly find that his views will be materially changed from the propositions of Messer Paolo. But your Lordships ought to know the exact truth of the matter. Valete!
Francesco de Vettori.
Trent, 16 April, 1508.
Magnificent Signori, etc: —
My last of the 16th of April, which I sent by Piero, the son of the German Giovanni, will have informed you of all that has occurred here since the 19th of March to the date of that letter. I shall not reiterate it now, as it really amounted to nothing of importance. Since then the Germans have raised the siege of Riva, about which I wrote you in my last; their infantry are pretty much disbanded, and their cavalry, numbering about twelve hundred, and which really never amounted to more although their number had been greatly exaggerated, have returned here. Thereupon the Venetians attempted on Easter morning to sieze Pietra, a place about six miles from here, thinking they could take it by assault, and having perhaps an understanding with persons within the place. But the Germans came to the rescue with some mounted men and about twenty-five hundred infantry that had remained, and obliged the Venetians to withdraw. The Germans have endeavored to raise fresh infantry since then, and on the 10th instant they had already some six thousand together.
Subsequently the Venetians attacked the castle of Cresta, which commands a most important pass. The Germans went to the assistance of the place, but arrived too late, the lord of the place having already surrendered it. The Germans thereupon moved their camp to Caliano, a burgh about a bowshot’s distance from Pietra; their force consisting of about six to seven thousand infantry, and about one thousand horse; the troops of the Duke of Würtemberg, numbering about two hundred effective horse, having returned home at the beginning of the month. The Venetians, anxious to have Pietra, established their army, consisting of about four thousand effective horse and over sixteen thousand infantry, about a quarter of a mile from the place, and began a siege of the place by planting batteries of sixteen pieces of artillery. This fortress of Pietra is situated at the foot of a mountain on the right in coming from Roveredo here. A very strong wall runs out from the fortress to the length of about a bowshot, to the river Adige; half-way down there is a gate in this wall, through which persons may pass. It is alike difficult and dangerous to attack Trent without having first secured this pass; and therefore the Venetians employed their entire force in the attempt. The armies were about a mile distant from each other, each having the fortress and the wall in front of them, with the Adige on the one hand and the mountain on the other, and in the rear their respective places of retreat. But as the Germans were masters of the fortress, as well as of the wall, the Venetians found themselves in a position where they could not avoid an engagement, if the Germans were disposed to give them battle; which nothing prevented them from doing except their lack of sufficient cavalry; for of the infantry they made but little account. The Venetians opened a heavy fire of artillery upon the Germans, killing a good many; but finally the Germans attacked the guard that was protecting the Venetian artillery, routed them, and captured two of their guns and disabled the others, whereupon the Venetians broke up their camp, and retired to Roveredo, where they are still on this 20th of May.
So soon as the German infantry perceived that the Venetians had retreated, they began themselves to disband, so that persons coming from there report that not more than three thousand infantry were left at Caliano; and that besides the Duke of Brunswick’s cavalry, which had already gone home, that of Saxony, Nuremberg, Ulm, and that of a number of smaller lords having from eight to ten horses each, all went home, so that the Germans have to-day full six hundred mounted men less than what they had before. Such is the result of military operations here; but your Lordships must know that in the Friuli the Venetians have taken Goritz, Pardanone, Trieste, — in a word, all the places in that district belonging to the Emperor, who really never had sufficient troops there to offer any serious resistance to an enemy. In truth, he never had there more than four hundred horse, and some four to five thousand infantry, that had been sent there by Austria and Carinthia, and who after remaining a couple of days went away again for want of money. It is in this wise and with such forces that the war is being carried on here.
Now as to the negotiations, and more particularly the proceedings of the Suabian Diet. The Emperor assembled the chiefs at Ulm on the third or fourth Sunday of Lent, and laid his necessities before them, as already written. These chiefs were to return home and submit the matter to their constituents, and then to come back here and report their decisions on the eighth day after Easter. This day is now past, but it is not known what has been done, nor where the Emperor is at this time; some say that he has gone to Cologne to attend the creation of a new bishop, the old one having died, but I cannot aver this positively. Others say that he has gone to Mayence to settle some differences that have arisen between the Archbishop there and the Landgrave of Hesse respecting their boundaries. Others again say that he has gone to the duchy of Guelders to compose matters there, and some maintain that he has gone to Calais to meet the king of England in relation to the marriage of Madame Marguerite, and to borrow money from that sovereign on a pledge of certain jewels.
I came here at the request of Messer Paolo de Lichtenstein, after he had made the proposition which I communicated to you. Not receiving any answer thereto from your Lordships, I wanted to leave here, or at any rate send Machiavelli home, but was not permitted to do either. This, however, did not prevent my using every effort to find out what was going on at Ulm, and I therefore sent Baccino there. I had previously sent another messenger to a friend of mine at the place where the Cardinal is, and which friend is in the habit of writing to me all that I could learn if I were on the spot myself. I am in hourly expectation of a reply from him, and should it come in time I will communicate it to you. As things are, and being obliged to be either here at Trent or at Ulm, I do not deem it at all unfortunate that I should happen to be here rather than there; for being here I have not been obliged to depend upon others for information respecting certain important matters, having witnessed them myself, whilst, if I had not been here, I should never have heard the truth upon certain points, and upon others I should have heard a thousand lies. I think that I fully understand the resolutions of the Diet, for, seeing the Imperial troops all returning home at the expiration of their six months’ term of service, the natural inference is that the Diet has refused the Emperor an extension of supplies for another six months; a matter which I should have supposed could easily have been obtained, and which nevertheless has not been accomplished. Thus, according to what we see, the burden of this war falls mainly upon the shoulders of the county of Tyrol; for with the exception of the cavalry, all the troops have been raised and supplied by the localities that have sent them. And as the Friuli has not such rich and amiable neighbors, it has remained undefended, for it is said that Austria has never been willing to send a single man there. It is in this feeble way that matters here are conducted thus far; and should any one from inclination or from want of faith in my statements think differently, then let him come himself, or send some one in whom he has faith, and if what he sees seems to him wise and good, then I will take back all I have written too strongly.
The chiefs of the Tyrol assembled about ten days since at Botzen, for the purpose of extending for three months more the supplies for ten thousand infantry for the defence of their country, as was decided in January last, when the Emperor was there. These chiefs are still together. The Swiss also sent an envoy to this council, about ten days ago, to ask for money, saying that they were ready to put eight or ten thousand men into the field, wherever the Emperor might require them. This envoy was sent to Botzen to this Diet, which he was told would not only provide the money for the ten thousand men, but would also pay the Swiss for three months’ service. It was said that the Diet was disposed to do everything that was asked and that the country was able to do; but that before taking any resolutions about it they wanted to know whether the negotiations for a truce with Venice were progressing. You must know, also, that four days ago a secretary from Venice came here to the councillors, and left again the next morning with the Bishop in the direction of Riva, there to confer with a Venetian Proveditore in relation to this truce; and yesterday evening it was reported here that the Venetians asked that the truce should hold for five years, whilst the Emperor wanted it only for four months. The former have taken until next Thursday to make their definite answer. Should I learn anything more about it before sending this off, I will not fail to inform you of it.
On the last day of the past month I received through the hands of Messer Paolo your letter of the 15th, informing me of the receipt of mine of the 29th of March. Seeing that Messer Paolo was displeased because you had not resolved upon anything definite, I made full excuse for your Lordships’ delay. Since then Baccino arrived, on the 6th, bringing me yours of the 12th ultimo, which needs no particular reply, as it contains nothing but information, for which I am much obliged to your Lordships. Yesterday I received at the same moment, through Ortolano and Giovanni della Spada, both your letters of the 19th, but retained until the 26th; and with them the plenary powers, of which a copy had already been forwarded to me by Simone from Mirandola. I have carefully read all you write in reply to Messer Paolo’s proposition, and note that your Lordships desire me to conclude the matter in conformity with the demand, provided I should not be able to obtain better terms, and that in my judgment the Emperor would carry out his intended descent into Italy despite of the will of either of his opponents. As this matter seems now to be left to my judgment, I have thought best not to conclude it; and this decision is based, not so much upon my own opinion as upon that of your Lordships. For when I communicated in my letter of the 29th the demands made by Messer Paolo, I explained to you at the same time fully and in detail the actual condition of things here; and therefore I believe that, if it had seemed to you that under these circumstances an arrangement should be concluded on the basis of those demands, your Lordships would have so instructed me distinctly. And if it did not seem to you then that matters were in a better condition, it certainly does not appear to me so now, since the aspect of things has become rather worse; and I am sure your Lordships will think the same after reading what I have written above of the state of things here. Nor do I think that the Tyrol, which until now has mainly borne the brunt of this war, will be strong enough to carry the Emperor into Italy in opposition to the will of France and Venice; or that Germany will furnish him fresh support, when at this very time she withdraws that which she has furnished hitherto. Should it be observed that Germany is powerful and capable of great things at any time, then I reply that your Lordships know the power of Germany fully as well as I do; and if you had intended to stop at this consideration, you would have given me positive instructions to conclude the arrangement with Messer Paolo. But as you want me in this matter to be governed by things as they are, and not as they possibly might be, I have not been able to come to any other decision than the above.
As to the Emperor’s penetrating into Italy when opposed by the two above-named powers, I say that, to reduce this opposition to only one of these powers, he will have to make peace with the other, and to do this would require negotiations and time. But even if it could be done without loss of time, I could not count with certainty upon anything until the arrangements were actually concluded. And all that has been said about a truce cannot make me think that a peace could be so promptly concluded with the Venetians, for they have wounded the Emperor too deeply to be so easily forgiven by him; nor is it likely that the Venetians will at once disregard the considerations that have influenced them hitherto, namely, that France will not be disposed to ally herself with the Emperor at the very time when she sees that he feels discouraged. And the Emperor, on his part, will also be inclined to hold back, and wait to see what time may develop, of which at this moment nothing is known. As to his making peace with both of these powers, that is still less to be thought of; for as your Lordships say, and according to my judgment say most wisely, that would require a good deal of time.
And here I would observe, with all due respect, that in my opinion the same considerations as to the Emperor’s increase of strength would hold good in the event of his making peace with one of these powers as if he made peace with both. For if Germany were disposed to do her duty towards the Emperor, he would not need to make peace with either power; but were he to make peace with one of them, it would be the interest of Germany not to do her duty to him, so as to keep him feeble and obliged to lean upon her for support. And if Germany abandons the Emperor at a time when he has so many enemies against whom her support would have been most honorable to herself, and most welcome to the Emperor, she would have the more reason for abandoning him when he is supported by a stranger. For to see him become powerful by the aid of a third would arouse the mistrust of Germany, whilst it would have been a small matter for herself to have rendered this aid in a greater or less degree. Thus whichever of the two powers makes peace with him will have to assume the charge of raising and sustaining him; and thus it may well happen that you will have greater need of other protection than that of the Emperor. I shall therefore keep quiet and abide the developments of time; and if Messer Paolo, who is at Botzen, does not come here within the next five or six days I shall go to see him; and I really hardly know what to do to avoid a rupture, for, be it said with the utmost respect, your Lordships have spun this thread so fine that it is impossible to weave it. For the Emperor is always needy, and sometimes even necessitous, and unless you take him when he is in that condition, he will demand much more of you than what he would be willing to accept now. And when in such a state of necessity the chances will be three out of four, as suggested in your instructions, that he will not carry out his descent into Italy. Still it might well be that, whilst on the one hand he finds himself in a state of necessity for the maintenance of his troops until everything is thoroughly prepared, he might very soon afterwards become quite strong; but for the reasons explained before, the preparations for such sudden increase of strength cannot be foreseen from afar. And that is the reason why I have said in previous letters that no one can tell positively beforehand that he will not pass into Italy; for Germany can and has only to exercise her will to enable him to do so. Whilst on the other hand no one can say positively that he will do so, because in reality Germany never was in favor of this enterprise, and up to the present there is no evidence that she has changed her views. Nor is it to be supposed, as I have already said, that the Tyrol alone could do it. And therefore I venture to say, with the utmost respect, that your Lordships must adopt one of two ways; either to settle the matter with the Emperor on the terms which he demands, or in the best way that it can be done, in the expectation that, if he lives, he will come into Italy anyhow, if not this year, then the next, and if not alone, then accompanied by some ally; or you must wait until he is actually in Italy, in the hope that, inasmuch as he is always and under all circumstances in need of money, you will always be in time to make terms with him, even at the risk in such case of its costing you a little more. Thus your Lordships must judge which of these two courses presents the least danger, and then adopt it resolutely, with reliance on the Almighty; for when men attempt in great matters of this kind to measure every step as with a pair of compasses, they are very apt to deceive themselves.
If in speaking thus I transcend my official duty, it is because I feel that I have a burden on my shoulders which any man, even of the highest quality, would find very heavy. At the time when I conferred with Messer Paolo, and he made his demand, there were about eight thousand infantry and twelve hundred cavalry here; and had I then offered him, as I might have done, a sum in cash, and had he accepted it, you would be obliged to pay it now; but seeing now that the state of things here, so far from improving, has rather grown worse, your Lordships would doubtless have deemed my action as very strange. If, on the other hand, the Emperor’s troops had attacked, as they might easily have done, and routed their adversaries, the Emperor would have felt so encouraged thereby that, instead of demanding sixty thousand ducats, he would not have been satisfied except with a very much larger sum. And then I should have been blamed for the ruin of our city, not by your Lordships, but by the mass of the people; and I should have been exposed to much danger without any fault of mine. But I repeat again, that although matters are not pushed here as energetically as before, and the army is as good as disbanded, nevertheless they may at any time recover their former vigor. The army may be reorganized, if only indifferently; still it may attack and even be victorious, and all may turn out so that your Lordships may no longer be in time to effect an arrangement; and this difficulty will be increased by the fact that you will not be able to send letters of exchange in time, so as to have the money ready to be offered on the spot. This would cause a delay of at least twenty days, whilst the Emperor does not need even two days to change his mind. And you may take it for certain, as I have said before, that if the Emperor is once in the position to be able to avail himself of your money, it will encourage him to that degree that he will imagine that he has already in great part achieved the conquest of Italy. Your Lordships must know, furthermore, that my having to make a reply now without concluding a definite arrangement will very likely bring about a rupture of the whole negotiation, and may give rise to the idea that your Lordships have no intention of paying except with good words; and if such an impression once gains ground here, my stay will become entirely superfluous, and perhaps I may not even be permitted to write. As all letters pass through the hands of the Emperor’s agents here, they know that I have received the plenary powers from you; and I shall not be able to persuade them that I am still without definite instructions respecting the demands made by Messer Paolo. They will think that I am not willing to conclude an arrangement, and I apprehend that I may be ordered from here to some out-of-the-way place, where I shall not be able to hear anything of what is going on, and where I may not even be permitted to write. And therefore I beg your Lordships, when you want to send any messenger here to me, to try and find a German familiar with the country, and experienced, who will bring your despatches with greater secrecy and safety; for I do not believe that those whom you have sent until now will be allowed to return.
Your Lordships remark that I have not written anything respecting my offer of forty thousand ducats with sixteen thousand down for the first payment. True I have not written about it, but your Lordships must know that, when Messer Paolo made his demands, he asked me whether I had ever received a reply to the Emperor’s demand for a loan of twenty-five thousand ducats. As I could not deny my not having received a reply upon that point, and matters being in that state that I was anxious to avoid exasperating Messer Paolo, I told him that your Lordships were not disposed to lend any money; but that you might possibly raise your offer to a total of fifty thousand ducats, with twenty thousand cash as the first payment, whenever the Emperor should be in an Italian town belonging at the time to some other power. This I thought was better than what your instructions had authorized me to offer, and I did not write to you about it because the demands of Messer Paolo were so much greater than my offer, both as regards amount of the first payment and the shortness of the terms for the subsequent payments, that I did not think it worth while to mention my offer; and I speak of it now only so that your Lordships may be fully informed of everything.
Machiavelli has met with an accident that may prove serious. He has great difficulty in passing his water, and the physicians here do not know whether it is caused by a stone in the bladder, or whether it is owing to an accumulation of gross humors in the blood. If the roads were open, he would have returned to Florence to subject himself to medical treatment there.
I recommend myself to your Lordships.
Franciscus de Vectorio,
Trent, 30 May, 1508.
Magnificent Signori, etc.: —
To-day, being the 7th of June, we have news that the Venetians have taken possession of Fiume, although this intelligence is not fully confirmed. Only some two hundred horse remain here; all those furnished by the Communes and other parties have returned home, their six months’ service having expired; twenty horse of the Duke of Brandenburg left this morning. Of infantry there remain here about two thousand. The truce is not yet concluded, the discussion of it not being closed, and the final decision postponed from last Thursday to next Sunday. Neither Baccino nor any other messenger has returned from the court, at which I wonder. The priest Lucas arrived here yesterday from the court, and remained over night; he has now gone to Arco to see the parties engaged in the negotiations of the truce. He says that he left the Emperor at Cologne carrying on war against the people of Guelders, and that he is besieging Croy, the Duke of which has sent him a carte blanche. Lucas also stated that the Emperor is indignant against the princes, and refuses to be present at the Diet, but has sent Lang there, which the princes regard as an outrage to which they will not submit; and that they have sent to request the Emperor to come back himself, offering to furnish him all the troops he may want, but the Emperor pretends to be indifferent about it, hoping thus to dispose the princes still more to furnish him aid; and that the Emperor is even displeased that the Venetians have not taken Trent, as that would have stirred up the resentment of all Germany. This priest Lucas says that he has really left no troops at all behind, but that at any moment some might be raised, and that he was now on his way to Arco to see whether a truce could not be concluded for three or four months, and that if this were done the Emperor would during that time make such preparations as would cause all Italy to tremble; and if a truce were not concluded, he would return with all Germany at his back.
Messer Paolo has not come here, and I have not gone to Botzen to see him, for before meeting him I wanted to see the end of these truce negotiations, which I am waiting for, so as to have a better excuse for putting off the conclusion of an arrangement with him; for I believe that, having nothing agreeable to communicate to him, I can only gain by silence. Yesterday Piero arrived with your letter of the 17th, which, being written on parchment and concealed by Piero in a bread, where it had first become wet and then dry, it could only be got out in pieces; and consequently I could not read more than one fourth of it, and that in disconnected sentences. But from the little I have been able to read, I gather that you have again left matters here to my judgment, and that you have been informed that the troops have gone from here merely for a change, and are to be replaced by others, and that from information obtained you apprehend that the Emperor will make terms with the Venetians in conformity with some suggestions of the Pope. In answer to all this, and to begin with this reported arrangement with the Venetians, I can only say that nothing whatever is known of it here; and I really know not what more to say on this matter. As to the troops that have left here to be replaced by others, the priest Lucas reports that he has left none behind him; and it is so long since the troops began to leave here that, if they were intended to be replaced by others, some of these new ones would ere this have arrived here. I believe, however, that all things are possible, and that Germany is able to send both troops and money; but I regard it as a bad sign to see the troops leaving from the time when they were encamped at Pietra, and when they were daily expected here; and that only so few should be remaining here at the time when negotiations are going on for a truce or peace, and when it would have been much more honorable to have had a large force here. In fact, their going home at this time seems to me proof of their having little affection, and still less respect, for the Emperor.
Now, as to forming a judgment upon this state of things, I have in nearly all my previous letters pointed out the difficulty of my doing so, and I have again done so above; and I repeat, that these matters cannot be measured with minute accuracy. I should have gone to the court myself, or should have sent Machiavelli there if I had been free to do so; but if I had gone, I should probably have seen less than what I have been able to observe here. And had I gone and left Machiavelli here, the distance from here to the court being six hundred miles, it would have taken a month to have got a despatch, so that during the interval a thousand changes in the state of things might have occurred. So that, as I have said above, I cannot regard it as a misfortune that I have been obliged to remain here; for a man who, under such circumstances, has to take a definite resolution, can base it with safety only upon what he sees himself; and I shall not act differently, because it is according to the dictates of reason. For even were I told by the most trustworthy persons that at the Diet held at Ulm it had been positively resolved to carry out this enterprise of a descent into Italy with one hundred thousand men, I should nevertheless not have believed it, unless I were to see it actually carried into execution; for I have seen that everybody was deceived last year by the resolution adopted with so much solemnity and general approbation at the Diet of Constanz, and which resulted in there never being as many as four hundred troops got together. For all those that were assembled in Codarno and here were supplied by the adjoining country; whilst the few that had been furnished by the Empire went off and abandoned the Emperor at the very moment of his greatest need; and according to what I see, things at present are likely to take the same course as then. And therefore I reiterate to your Lordships that I shall judge matters here only according to what I see with my own eyes, and shall take counsel only from what I shall have observed personally; for if matters are to be judged of from a distance and at random, then it were better that your Lordships should do it than myself. Nevertheless, I will say that, if matters here were to resume their former vigor, you would no longer be in time to conclude an arrangement with the Emperor at the same price and on the same conditions as now; for you may assume that the Emperor is at this moment very much down, with the water up to his throat, and nearly swamped, and has consequently lowered his pretensions very much, and he has actually forwarded my letters at his own expense; whilst formerly, when he imagined himself very strong, he tried to get tens of thousands out of you without obligating himself to anything. And were he now to get strong again, or imagine himself so, he would quickly resume his former pretensions, and to what height these reached was shown by the demands made by the Cardinal of Brixen, from which he came down step by step as he felt himself becoming weaker. And therefore I say that you ought without further hesitation to adopt one of the two courses which I pointed out in my previous despatch, the original of which I sent you eight days ago by Giovanni della Spada, who has returned to Florence by the same route by which he came.
I have delayed sending off this despatch for a day, to see whether any definite resolution had been arrived at in the truce negotiations; for yesterday it was reported that a truce had been concluded for three years between the Emperor and the Venetians, comprising the respective allies of the contracting parties however only in Italy, and which are to be named within three months; and that the restriction of the allies to Italy was adopted solely for the purpose of excluding the Duke of Guelders. The publication of this was made yesterday in the German camp, but in this publication it was said that the truce was between the Emperor and the Venetians and their respective allies or adherents, without naming France, and without fixing any time for the naming of the adherents. It is said that it will be published here and in Verona on Sunday next.
Thus the truce is at last concluded. I may not be correctly informed as to the details, but these we shall soon know fully, and I will then immediately communicate them to your Lordships; and as the roads and passes will now be open, you will be able to decide conveniently and at your leisure what course to take; or you may send your ambassadors, or do whatever may seem best to you. Machiavelli will return to Florence in two or three days to undergo medical treatment there. I cannot with propriety retain him here. As for myself, I shall join the Emperor and there await my recall, which I crave as a favor at your hands, for I am quite unwell, and my remaining here would not be of the least advantage to your Lordships. For if you really wish to conclude an arrangement with the Emperor, you will be able to effect it with more honor and advantage through the ambassadors you have already selected. And on the other hand, if you do not intend to conclude anything, then the longer I remain here and the more the matter is discussed, the greater will be the loss. And as I could not remain at court unless subject to the control of others, your Lordships would not be able to rely upon the news you would receive from here. Thus, all things considered, I deem my remaining here as entirely superfluous; and so I recommend myself to your Lordships. I have paid the bearer of this six ducats gold and sixteen kreutzers, so as to enable him to take horse and travel with greater speed; and I have assured him that this shall be considered merely as a payment on account, according as he shall have performed this service.
Trent, 8 June, 1508.
Magnificent Signori, etc.: —
Francesco Vettori wrote to your Lordships from Trent on the 8th of June and sent the letter by Pietro, the son of the German Giovanni, who promised to be in Florence yesterday. That despatch will have informed you of the conclusion of the truce, and of various other things that have occurred here up to the date of the despatch. By way of precaution Francesco intrusted a full copy of it to Ortolano, the bearer of the present, whom I send from here to-day, so that your Lordships may learn the sooner what Francesco has charged me to communicate to you orally, being myself detained here by my malady.
I left Trent on Saturday last, the 10th instant; but the evening previous I went to see Serentano to ask him for a passport, and he told me that he wished the ambassador to call on him the next morning. Accordingly I accompanied Francesco the following morning to see Serentano, who informed Francesco that the truce had been concluded, each party to name their respective adherents within three months, and that he wished to know whether your Lordships desired to be named by the Emperor. Francesco replied, that he could not speak for your Lordships upon that point, but would write to you at once and inform him of your reply; and that he thought that your Lordships would feel grateful for all the honors which the Emperor was disposed to show you. In answer to which Serentano said, that he ought to write promptly and obtain a reply as quickly as possible, for he had received information that the Pisans had appealed to France for aid in consequence of the attack upon them by the Florentines; and that in his judgment he thought it would not be well that the French should have begun to send troops to them before your Lordships had decided whether or not you wished to be named as adherents of the Emperor.
I recommend myself to your Lordships.
Since writing the above, I have learned the following in relation to the truce; namely, that it has been concluded for three years between the Emperor and the Venetians nominatively; that it comprises the allies and confederates of the contracting parties respectively, named or to be named within three months. Each party to continue to hold what they possess actually at the time of signing the truce, with the right to build thereon whatever they may deem fit, and to trade in perfect security. And that it is understood that the truce extends to all the imperial towns and places, and to the allies of the Empire, but only to those in Italy, and not elsewhere. Bene valete.
Bologna, 14 June, 1508.
According to the conditions of this truce the Emperor named immediately the Pope and the king of Aragon; and the Venetians on their part named the kings of France and of Aragon.
[* ]The two Reports“On the Affairs of Germany,” and the “Discourse on the Affairs of Germany and on the Emperor,” printed in this volume, are the result of the observations made by Machiavelli during this mission.
[* ]These despatches of Francesco Vettori are given here, because they were in great part written by Machiavelli, and serve to explain this mission.
[† ]“The king” here means the King of the Romans, a title borne by the Emperor Maximilian and other German Emperors.
[* ]Pigello Portinari, a Florentine.
[† ]Matthew Lang was secretary, minister, and favorite of the Emperor Maximilian. He afterwards became successively Bishop of Gurck (a city in Carinthia between Villach and Gratz), and Cardinal. He played an important part in all the affairs of the Emperor.
[* ]From here on to page 97 the letter is in cipher.
[* ]Here ends the cipher.
[* ]This P. S. is written in cipher.
[* ]All within the quotation marks was written in cipher in this, as well as in the subsequent letters.