Front Page Titles (by Subject) LETTER IV. - The Historical, Political, and Diplomatic Writings, vol. 4 (Diplomatic Missions 1506-1527)
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LETTER IV. - 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 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.*
[* ]From here on to page 97 the letter is in cipher.
[* ]Here ends the cipher.
[* ]This P. S. is written in cipher.