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LETTER VII. - 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.: —
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.