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LETTER IX. - 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.: —
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.