Front Page Titles (by Subject) LETTER XIII. - The Historical, Political, and Diplomatic Writings, vol. 4 (Diplomatic Missions 1506-1527)
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LETTER XIII. - 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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To-day, being the 7th of June, we have news that the Venetians have taken possession of Fiume, although this intelligence is not fully confirmed. Only some two hundred horse remain here; all those furnished by the Communes and other parties have returned home, their six months’ service having expired; twenty horse of the Duke of Brandenburg left this morning. Of infantry there remain here about two thousand. The truce is not yet concluded, the discussion of it not being closed, and the final decision postponed from last Thursday to next Sunday. Neither Baccino nor any other messenger has returned from the court, at which I wonder. The priest Lucas arrived here yesterday from the court, and remained over night; he has now gone to Arco to see the parties engaged in the negotiations of the truce. He says that he left the Emperor at Cologne carrying on war against the people of Guelders, and that he is besieging Croy, the Duke of which has sent him a carte blanche. Lucas also stated that the Emperor is indignant against the princes, and refuses to be present at the Diet, but has sent Lang there, which the princes regard as an outrage to which they will not submit; and that they have sent to request the Emperor to come back himself, offering to furnish him all the troops he may want, but the Emperor pretends to be indifferent about it, hoping thus to dispose the princes still more to furnish him aid; and that the Emperor is even displeased that the Venetians have not taken Trent, as that would have stirred up the resentment of all Germany. This priest Lucas says that he has really left no troops at all behind, but that at any moment some might be raised, and that he was now on his way to Arco to see whether a truce could not be concluded for three or four months, and that if this were done the Emperor would during that time make such preparations as would cause all Italy to tremble; and if a truce were not concluded, he would return with all Germany at his back.
Messer Paolo has not come here, and I have not gone to Botzen to see him, for before meeting him I wanted to see the end of these truce negotiations, which I am waiting for, so as to have a better excuse for putting off the conclusion of an arrangement with him; for I believe that, having nothing agreeable to communicate to him, I can only gain by silence. Yesterday Piero arrived with your letter of the 17th, which, being written on parchment and concealed by Piero in a bread, where it had first become wet and then dry, it could only be got out in pieces; and consequently I could not read more than one fourth of it, and that in disconnected sentences. But from the little I have been able to read, I gather that you have again left matters here to my judgment, and that you have been informed that the troops have gone from here merely for a change, and are to be replaced by others, and that from information obtained you apprehend that the Emperor will make terms with the Venetians in conformity with some suggestions of the Pope. In answer to all this, and to begin with this reported arrangement with the Venetians, I can only say that nothing whatever is known of it here; and I really know not what more to say on this matter. As to the troops that have left here to be replaced by others, the priest Lucas reports that he has left none behind him; and it is so long since the troops began to leave here that, if they were intended to be replaced by others, some of these new ones would ere this have arrived here. I believe, however, that all things are possible, and that Germany is able to send both troops and money; but I regard it as a bad sign to see the troops leaving from the time when they were encamped at Pietra, and when they were daily expected here; and that only so few should be remaining here at the time when negotiations are going on for a truce or peace, and when it would have been much more honorable to have had a large force here. In fact, their going home at this time seems to me proof of their having little affection, and still less respect, for the Emperor.
Now, as to forming a judgment upon this state of things, I have in nearly all my previous letters pointed out the difficulty of my doing so, and I have again done so above; and I repeat, that these matters cannot be measured with minute accuracy. I should have gone to the court myself, or should have sent Machiavelli there if I had been free to do so; but if I had gone, I should probably have seen less than what I have been able to observe here. And had I gone and left Machiavelli here, the distance from here to the court being six hundred miles, it would have taken a month to have got a despatch, so that during the interval a thousand changes in the state of things might have occurred. So that, as I have said above, I cannot regard it as a misfortune that I have been obliged to remain here; for a man who, under such circumstances, has to take a definite resolution, can base it with safety only upon what he sees himself; and I shall not act differently, because it is according to the dictates of reason. For even were I told by the most trustworthy persons that at the Diet held at Ulm it had been positively resolved to carry out this enterprise of a descent into Italy with one hundred thousand men, I should nevertheless not have believed it, unless I were to see it actually carried into execution; for I have seen that everybody was deceived last year by the resolution adopted with so much solemnity and general approbation at the Diet of Constanz, and which resulted in there never being as many as four hundred troops got together. For all those that were assembled in Codarno and here were supplied by the adjoining country; whilst the few that had been furnished by the Empire went off and abandoned the Emperor at the very moment of his greatest need; and according to what I see, things at present are likely to take the same course as then. And therefore I reiterate to your Lordships that I shall judge matters here only according to what I see with my own eyes, and shall take counsel only from what I shall have observed personally; for if matters are to be judged of from a distance and at random, then it were better that your Lordships should do it than myself. Nevertheless, I will say that, if matters here were to resume their former vigor, you would no longer be in time to conclude an arrangement with the Emperor at the same price and on the same conditions as now; for you may assume that the Emperor is at this moment very much down, with the water up to his throat, and nearly swamped, and has consequently lowered his pretensions very much, and he has actually forwarded my letters at his own expense; whilst formerly, when he imagined himself very strong, he tried to get tens of thousands out of you without obligating himself to anything. And were he now to get strong again, or imagine himself so, he would quickly resume his former pretensions, and to what height these reached was shown by the demands made by the Cardinal of Brixen, from which he came down step by step as he felt himself becoming weaker. And therefore I say that you ought without further hesitation to adopt one of the two courses which I pointed out in my previous despatch, the original of which I sent you eight days ago by Giovanni della Spada, who has returned to Florence by the same route by which he came.
I have delayed sending off this despatch for a day, to see whether any definite resolution had been arrived at in the truce negotiations; for yesterday it was reported that a truce had been concluded for three years between the Emperor and the Venetians, comprising the respective allies of the contracting parties however only in Italy, and which are to be named within three months; and that the restriction of the allies to Italy was adopted solely for the purpose of excluding the Duke of Guelders. The publication of this was made yesterday in the German camp, but in this publication it was said that the truce was between the Emperor and the Venetians and their respective allies or adherents, without naming France, and without fixing any time for the naming of the adherents. It is said that it will be published here and in Verona on Sunday next.
Thus the truce is at last concluded. I may not be correctly informed as to the details, but these we shall soon know fully, and I will then immediately communicate them to your Lordships; and as the roads and passes will now be open, you will be able to decide conveniently and at your leisure what course to take; or you may send your ambassadors, or do whatever may seem best to you. Machiavelli will return to Florence in two or three days to undergo medical treatment there. I cannot with propriety retain him here. As for myself, I shall join the Emperor and there await my recall, which I crave as a favor at your hands, for I am quite unwell, and my remaining here would not be of the least advantage to your Lordships. For if you really wish to conclude an arrangement with the Emperor, you will be able to effect it with more honor and advantage through the ambassadors you have already selected. And on the other hand, if you do not intend to conclude anything, then the longer I remain here and the more the matter is discussed, the greater will be the loss. And as I could not remain at court unless subject to the control of others, your Lordships would not be able to rely upon the news you would receive from here. Thus, all things considered, I deem my remaining here as entirely superfluous; and so I recommend myself to your Lordships. I have paid the bearer of this six ducats gold and sixteen kreutzers, so as to enable him to take horse and travel with greater speed; and I have assured him that this shall be considered merely as a payment on account, according as he shall have performed this service.
Trent, 8 June, 1508.