Front Page Titles (by Subject) LETTER VIII. - The Historical, Political, and Diplomatic Writings, vol. 4 (Diplomatic Missions 1506-1527)
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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.
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Magnificent Signori, etc.: —
Your Lordships are aware, from what I wrote you a few days since, that the Pope had not succeeded in his attempt to overturn the government of Genoa; and that the king of France, on the one hand, had been more frightened than hurt, and that, on the other hand, the Pope, by showing himself the open enemy of the king of France, so far from causing him any serious trouble, had rather strengthened his Majesty’s position, in more securely consolidating his authority in Genoa. His Holiness having thus failed in gaining the advantages which he had promised himself by this movement, it seemed to the good and sensible men of this court that possibly an agreement between the king and the Pope might be hoped for, if a loyal mediator could be found, who would intervene for the good of Christendom in general and Italy in particular. For it would be easy to show to the king in what position he would place himself if he attempted to make war upon the Pope, and what damage he might suffer himself by a proceeding, the cost of which would be certain, but the final result most doubtful. And in the same way the Pope could with like facility be persuaded of the ills which this war might bring not only to himself personally, but also to the temporal and spiritual authority of the Church, as well as to all Christendom.
Matters being in this position, and having several times conversed with the Pope’s ambassador here, who is grieved to the heart by these movements, Robertet one evening sent for Giovanni Girolami, who is the business agent here of his Eminence the Cardinal Volterra, as Alessandro Nasi can tell you; and after having first talked with him about some of his private affairs, Robertet suddenly turned the conversation upon these troubles that are brewing, and complained to him bitterly about these movements, and demonstrated to him that they could not but cause regret and injury both to the victor and the vanquished. And going from one argument to another he concluded by saying that, if the Pope were disposed to make peace, he would be met half-way by the king; and that the Pope ought to do so, unless indeed the Almighty had inspired him with obstinacy for the ruin of the world. But that anyhow he did not see clearly how a peace could be brought about unless some third party intervened, inasmuch as the king would never be the first to yield, and as the Pope would probably take the same ground. And having therefore thought much as to how such an agreement might possibly be brought about, he saw but one way, and that was that your Lordships and the Cardinal Volterra should undertake the mediation, as any others would only spoil the matter by trying to gain advantages for themselves from this enmity. And then he intimated to Giovanni that it would be well that he should go himself for this purpose to Florence. Giovanni, on the one hand, expressed his willingness to go, but on the other hand declared that the negotiation should be managed in such a way that your Lordships should clearly see what sort of business they entered upon, and that you ought to be well assured of the intentions of the king, so as to be sure that neither you nor any one else should be duped; and that he believed, if this were done, you would readily undertake the mediation, knowing how greatly your Lordships desired peace and concord between the two sovereigns, and how much you dreaded discord, from which nothing but enmity and disaster would result. Nothing was concluded that evening, but another meeting was agreed upon.
When Giovanni related all this to me, I thought it best not to discourage this negotiation, but rather to urge it forward as much as possible, and communicated it to the Pope’s ambassador, not as to a party interested, but as to a mediator, who would be useful in such a negotiation. He thought the conversation with Robertet very opportune and to the purpose for those who really aimed at the good of all, and resolved to go and see the king. Having done so, he pointed out to his Majesty the dangers to which he exposed himself, and the frauds that had been practised underhandedly to bring the Pope to the point where he was. He showed his Majesty first the suspicions which the king of Spain had conceived in regard to their alliance; for scarcely two months since the reported treaty between them, the king of Spain, having become suddenly apprehensive that the treaty would operate to his disadvantage, sent a fleet to Sicily, under pretence of another enterprise. Afterwards, when the disputes with Ferrara broke out, the Spanish representative here persuaded the king of France not to abandon Ferrara, whilst the Spanish envoy at Rome demonstrated to the Pope that his Majesty of France had done wrong to defend the Duke of Ferrara; and that it was in this way that they had brought matters to the point where they wanted them. His Majesty ought therefore to think well as to the course he was about to engage in; for if the Pope had tried to do him an injury, he had not succeeded in the attempt, and therefore it would be well to forget it rather than to give him cause to think of attempting another, which might succeed. To all this he added a number of other reasons, which I will not relate lest I should become tedious. The king listened to all this patiently, and then replied: “I admit the truth of all you say, but what would you have me do? I shall never be the first to declare myself. The Pope has struck a blow at me, but I will bear all except the loss of honor and my state. But I promise you faithfully that if the Pope makes any demonstration of affection towards me, be it only the thickness of my fingernail, I will go the length of my arm to meet him; but otherwise I shall not move an inch.”
The ambassador thought that he had sufficiently discovered the king’s disposition in the matter, and took his leave. After that he passed more than an hour with Robertet discussing the best way of proceeding in this business; and in view of what Giovanni Girolami had said, they concluded it would be best to have him go to Florence, and try to persuade your Lordships to undertake the task of acting as mediators between the Pope and his Majesty of France; but that it would be necessary for you to act as though it were spontaneous with you, and that you should send at once one or two ambassadors to Rome for this particular purpose. When informed of their conclusion, I observed to them that, to induce your Lordships the more readily to undertake this office of mediators, it would be necessary that I should be able to write to you that this attempt would be most agreeable to his Majesty and that your undertaking it would be very gratifying to him; and that, if his Majesty was not willing to say this to me himself, it should at least be said to me by his counsellors. And so it was decided that Robertet should communicate the whole project to the king; namely, the sending of Giovanni to Florence, and your proposed intervention, as well as the manner of making it known to your Lordships. Robertet was entirely satisfied with this, and this morning, whilst his Majesty had gone to breakfast, Monseigneur de la Tremouille, who for two weeks has assisted at every council together with Robertet and the Chancellor, called me, and, after some sharp words against the Pope, said to me that, notwithstanding all this, as Giovanni Girolami was going to Florence, he wished to tell me on the part of the king that his Majesty was satisfied and would have great pleasure in your Lordships’ intercession between the Pope and himself, and that you should send ambassadors to Rome for this purpose, and manage the whole affair as you thought best. The business then stands thus. Giovanni, who will bring you this letter, goes per post to Florence, and will tell you orally all I have written, and give you any further particulars that you may wish to know in relation to this affair. And so that your Lordships may know how this affair is to be managed to the satisfaction of France, Robertet said (and doubtless with the full knowledge of the king) that if the Pope would submit his claims upon Ferrara to arbitration, his Majesty would be satisfied, and would not care to whose hands the Pope were to confide this arbitration. This, however, relates rather to the conclusion of the affair, than to the way of initiating it; it would suffice that the Pope should put a stop to the preparations he is making against the king of France, such as the stirring up of the Swiss and the other powers; and that his Holiness should orally express to your ambassadors his wish to be a father to the king, provided that his Majesty would act the part of a good son to him. And that the Pope should write a brief to the king to that effect, who upon receiving it would be prepared to send an envoy to Rome; and that, if the negotiations were begun in this way, he doubted not but what good would result from it.
Your Lordships will now with your habitual prudence take into consideration what I have written, and what Giovanni will communicate to you, and will then decide upon such measures as you may deem most proper; but in all this business the greatest promptness is most necessary.
I have not discouraged these overtures, because I think that the enmity between these two sovereigns would be one of the greatest misfortunes that could befall our city, for the reasons which you have seen and heard from the first origin of the difficulty; and therefore I have regarded all means as good that may be employed to bring about a peace. And I cannot but think that in becoming mediators your Lordships will gain great advantages, whether the negotiation succeeds or not. If it succeeds, then it will bring about the peace we so much hope for and desire, and we shall escape the dangers which the war would bring to our very doors. And the more important the part which you take in the matter, the greater will be the satisfaction and the advantages which you will derive from it. For you will have laid both the king and the Pope under obligations, having labored for their interests no less than for your own. And if it does not succeed, his Majesty of France will remain equally obliged to you for having done that which he approved of, and for having given him, in the face of the whole world, more just grounds than ever for his contentions with the Pope. Nor will the Pontiff be able to complain of you if, after your efforts to persuade him to a peace, which he has rejected, you should take part against him in the war. All these considerations induced me to become so readily mixed in these negotiations, and if your Lordships approve of my course, I should prize it highly; but if not, then I must entreat you to excuse me, for in my position here I could not view the matter differently.
His Majesty is pushing his arrangements and preparations most vigorously. He has ordered a meeting of a general council of all the prelates of his realm for the middle of September, at Orleans. He has taken the Duke of Würtemberg into his pay, so as to have German troops and check the movements of the Swiss, and at the same time he has sent the captain of his Swiss guard amongst them to try and recover, if not all, at least a part of the Cantons. He has ordered all the captains of his infantry to make out their muster-rolls, so as to be ready to start at any moment, and has ordered out the ban and rearban for the protection of his realm, also a supply of horses for a remount if necessary; and has also prescribed new ways of raising money for the expenses of the war, without touching his private treasury.
The arrival of Monseigneur de Gurck is looked for here; he is the most important man of the Emperor. The king intends to propose to Monseigneur de Gurck that the Emperor shall hold himself in readiness to march in the spring with such troops as he may have or may be able to raise. His Majesty is resolved to accompany him in person to Rome with twenty-five hundred lances and thirty thousand infantry; and he has sworn on his soul to achieve two things, at the risk of losing his kingdom, namely, to have the Emperor crowned in Rome, and to make a Pope to his own liking.
The king of Spain has written a letter most favorable to the projects of the king of France, and censuring the Pope’s attempt against Genoa; offering to his Majesty of France twelve of his armed galleys, to be employed for or against whomever his Majesty pleases. These letters are in every way favorable to France, and do not spare the Pope in the least. His Majesty has also ordered a fleet to be fitted out by spring proportionate to his land forces.
Your Lordships can imagine now how great in the sight of God and men will be the merits of him who shall put a stop to all these movements, and who by his wisdom will prove himself the physician to cure all these ills.
The great importance of these matters has almost made me forget to mention the arrival at this court, two days ago, of an ambassador from Lucca; but I will not weary you now with any particulars respecting him, as Giovanni is fully informed, and will tell you all about him.
Blois, 3 August, 1510.
I have given Giovanni Girolami private instructions, in which I mention the Pope’s ambassador, and say that this affair has been conducted thus far entirely in accordance with his counsels, and that he has taken upon himself to manage his Holiness so as to bring him round to this proposition; bearing in mind that the war which he is making against the king of France is founded upon two things: the one, suspicion; and the other, the wrongs he imagines he has received at the hands of the king in the matter of Ferrara. As to the first, namely, the suspicions, he must pretend to share them, but at the same time show the Pope the necessity of adopting some prudent measures to secure himself against the apprehended danger, against which neither his arms nor ours would suffice, and upon those of others we cannot rely. He must also tell the Pope what the king of Spain has written in favor of France, without referring to the Pope; and the same with regard to the messages sent here by the Duke of Savoy. But it might very possibly be arranged that the other princes would guarantee the promises of the king of France, and this would be the safest plan to adopt, without having to upset the whole world. Valete!