Front Page Titles (by Subject) LETTER VIII. - The Historical, Political, and Diplomatic Writings, vol. 4 (Diplomatic Missions 1506-1527)
Return to Title Page for The Historical, Political, and Diplomatic Writings, vol. 4 (Diplomatic Missions 1506-1527)
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
Search this Title:
Also in the Library:
LETTER VIII. - 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.
About Liberty Fund:
The text is in the public domain.
Fair use statement:
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.