Front Page Titles (by Subject) LETTER XIV. - The Historical, Political, and Diplomatic Writings, vol. 4 (Diplomatic Missions 1506-1527)
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LETTER XIV. - 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 last letters I have from your Lordships were of the 11th instant. Since then you will have received mine of the 3d, 9th, 12th, 13th, 18th, and 24th instant, from which if they have reached you safely, you will have seen how matters are progressing here.
Yesterday we had news of the capture of Modena, in consequence of which a council was held yesterday and to-day in relation to that matter; but I do not know as yet what has been decided upon. True, I have seen the ambassador from Ferrara, who was going to the council; he seemed discontented, and repeated to me what I wrote you in my last he had said to me, namely; “that the French had promised him a number of times powerful help, and had actually given the orders for it, but that these were afterwards revoked, as though they thought the Duke could help himself. On the other hand, they boast of their great preparations, without thinking of what may happen in the mean time, or that those who suffer the evils have also to bear the cost. Robertet, as stated in my last letter, has been ill with this cough, and having called to see him a couple of days ago, and being alone with him, we had a long conversation about Italian affairs. Having the time, and the opportunity being favorable, I told him that, if this war between them and the Pope went on, it would be necessary that the king, for his own good as well as yours, should decide as to the manner of availing himself of your Lordships’ assistance; and as this subject was now under consideration, it would be well to review and discuss what you were able to do, how you were situated, and what service you could render the king. The first thing to bear in mind, I said, was the fact that you were poor, and that in consequence of the long wars in which you had been engaged, and the expenditures which you had been obliged to incur and from which you were not yet entirely liberated, you could not be called powerful nor well supplied as regards money. After that the geographical position of our territory must be taken into consideration, being entirely surrounded by the Pope and his allies, which made it easy for his Holiness, with but little expense to himself, to give you much trouble, and subject you to much danger and enormous costs. That the late inconsiderable demonstration of the Venetian fleet had obliged you to send thousands of troops to Pisa, which certainly could not have been done without costing you large sums of money; and therefore it was necessary, after having carefully considered the matter, that the king should bear in mind, when he claimed your assistance against the Pope, that your aid should be efficient and advantageous to him, and not insufficient and hurtful. For if this aid was not to be of great advantage to his Majesty, and only served to saddle you with another war, the king would be obliged, not only to return to your Lordships the aid lent him, but also to add some of his own troops, so that where his Majesty has now to provide for the defence of Ferrara, Genoa, the Friuli, and Savoy, he would then also have to provide for the safety of Florence and Tuscany. Such aid from you would therefore be more injurious than useful to his Majesty; and for that reason I begged him to be very careful and to weigh matters maturely; for if they wanted to act wisely they must regard this much as certain, that, if the war against the Pope went any further, the Florentines would be of greatest assistance to the king if they defended themselves with all the ability they possess, so as not to need any help from his Majesty; particularly considering the situation of their territory, and the facility with which the Pope could attack them on so many sides. When, therefore, the matter came to be discussed in council, and they wanted the Florentines to act and speak, I begged him to see that their purposes respecting the Florentines should be well weighed and digested; for if these were carefully considered, I doubted not that on the whole the resolutions of the council thereupon would also be wise. And that it behooved his Lordship more than any one else to see to this, because he understood Italian affairs better than any of the other members of the council. It seemed to me that Robertet was pleased with my arguments, and he showed me that he had taken notes of them. Nevertheless, I could not rid myself of the idea which I have stated in a previous letter, namely, that they desire anyhow to implicate you openly in this war, in case it should be pushed on; and consequently I do not cease to say the same thing to the others, doing so, however, always in such a manner as not to allow them to imagine that I say all this merely to avoid observing the stipulations of the treaty.” But where the reasons are so palpable and manifest such suspicions ought not to be entertained.
The king will leave here on Sunday or Monday next to go to Tours, where that Council is to be held which was originally convoked to meet at Orleans. He still intends to carry out his project in the spring. “And as I have written before, it will make a brilliant show if England and the Emperor stand by him; but if these should fail him, and the Swiss hold to the Pope, then his Majesty will confine himself exclusively to the protection of his own states; and it is believed that he will not be able to attempt any other enterprise unless he shall first have detached some of these Swiss. All others who may have need of his Majesty must have patience.”
Great hopes are founded here upon the coming of Monseigneur de Gurck. It was said at first that he was to start on the 13th, but nothing further has been heard of him. The imperial ambassadors manifest not the least apprehension as to any discord between the Emperor and the king of France; and they have said that within a few days the Pope would have such a dog at his heels as would make him think of other things than making war upon Ferrara. They report that three thousand Bohemian infantry and two thousand German cavalry are coming through the Friuli to attack the Venetians. Time will show whether this be true or not.
“Since writing the above, I have spoken with the ambassador from Ferrara, who tells me that it has been decided that Chaumont is immediately to send three hundred lances and two thousand infantry to Parma, where they are to join the fourteen hundred infantry which the Duke has at Reggio. Their object will be to go and retake Modena, in the event of the Pope’s army attacking Mirandola; but if the Papal army remains at Modena, then the above-mentioned troops on the one hand, and on the other hand those that are with Monseigneur de Chatillon will attack the Pope’s forces at Modena; and the ambassador has no doubt that, if these orders are not changed or the Pope’s forces not greatly increased, the Pope’s army will be obliged to withdraw, whether he will or not.”
A proclamation by order of the king has been published here to-day, and is to be published throughout the entire realm, that no one shall dare to send to Rome in relation to church benefices or any other clerical object, under penalty of losing life and property; and at the same time the king has released all his subjects from their obedience to the Pope. It is well known here that the Pope boasts of having a treaty of peace with the king of France in his pocket, and this has increased the indignation against him.
I assure your Lordships that it is quite possible that this may be true to-day; but if the king succeeds in effecting a firm alliance with the Emperor, the Pope will find that he has been led into error, so that if any one were to tell him so, he would be telling him the truth. And if his Majesty does not avail himself of this occasion for his own advantage, he may very likely have reason to repent it; for to detach the Emperor from the king of France, he would in all reason have to give and promise him greater advantages than what the king of France can offer and give. And as I have already written in a former letter, his Majesty of France will not refuse any conditions that the Emperor may demand, for every other wound and every other injury will seem to him more honorable and bearable than those inflicted upon him by the Pope. Whether waking or sleeping, the king thinks and dreams of nothing but the wrong which he imagines he has received at the hands of the Pope, and his mind is filled with nothing but thoughts of revenge. I have been told again by a person high in authority, that the Emperor aims at nothing less than to engage the king in a partition of Italy between them.
I have no other news to communicate to your Lordships, to whom I recommend myself.
Blois, 27 August, 1510.