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LETTER II. - 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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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.