Front Page Titles (by Subject) LETTER XX. - The Historical, Political, and Diplomatic Writings, vol. 4 (Diplomatic Missions 1506-1527)
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LETTER XX. - 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.: —
According to what we hear up to the present hour, which is the fifteenth, the enemy have broken camp and passed the Montone; they are moving by the lower road towards Ravenna and Cesena. Yesterday they remained quiet, and there were various and contradictory reports as to their plans and intentions, all of which I write to your Lordships, not as positive, but as having heard them in the same way as we may hear of the movements of an army that does not know as yet what it is going to do. However, one aim and object they evidently have, and that is to try their fortune in Tuscany. But where, when, and how they are going to do it, they seemingly have not been able to decide themselves. Until to-day the impression prevailed that, before coming there, they wanted to secure a roost here that would serve them as a ladder to cross the mountains. This impression was confirmed by the report and general rumor, that they expected ten cannon from Ferrara wherewith to lay siege to one of the strong places. And although the majority believed that this was merely a report spread by the enemy’s commanders to serve as a pretext for their delay, either for the purpose of further negotiations for the truce, or for gaining time so that their other war material might arrive; yet it was also thought that it might be true, as the report about these cannon came from so many quarters; and it was feared that, if the thing were done, this place might suffer, the greater part of the troops being Swiss, who do not like to be shut up and exposed to the risk of being starved out, as they could not be induced by any other reason to give up the place. Fears were also entertained for Faenza, on the supposition that the enemy might have obtained knowledge of the folly of its inhabitants, who had refused a large garrison, whilst the few troops they had were so badly treated by them that they are disposed at any moment to leave the place. Ravenna is feared for as being a large city, and having at present a garrison of not more than two thousand infantry; although in case of necessity more troops could readily have been sent there.
But all these doubts and fears were dispelled this morning by a new piece of intelligence, brought us by some men just arrived from the camp, and who are men of intelligence and good judgment. They report that the four pieces of cannon which the enemy had with them were sent by them to Luco; and that they had heard the Duc de Bourbon say, in discussing this matter with the other commanders, that the enemy wanted to pass into Tuscany regardless of everything else; and that he would go either by the Marecchia or some other route not far from that, which led also to Borgo a San Sepolcro. Every effort will be made to learn whether it be true that these four cannon are at Luco; for if that be so, then the whole matter would be perfectly clear. Their coming there must make us in part believe in the necessity in which they find themselves of being obliged to do something; and that it does not seem to them that they can make any progress in Romagna. We know, moreover, that the Siennese are urging them every day, and, according to a letter that has been intercepted, offer them provisions for one year if they will come that way. Our troops are all in such position that, with so many roads open to them, they can at any time get into Tuscany before the enemy; and if your Lordships have ordered that the most important places in the Val di Tevere and Val di Chiana shall be well supplied, and the others evacuated, the enemy, once entered upon your territory, will not make any greater progress there than what he has done here, mainly because he has no heavy artillery with him. So that it may be said that so long as he shall not have arrived upon the Siennese territory he will not be able to effect anything of importance; and this will last long enough for us to have the whole frontier guarded by our troops from here. It is said that men ought to make a virtue of necessity; but if to virtue supervenes necessity, then virtue ought to become powerful and invincible. Your Lordships and our city have by your virtue alone defended and saved both Lombardy and Romagna; and it is impossible that now, since necessity has supervened to virtue, you should not be able to save yourselves.
It is now two o’clock of the night, and the enemy are encamped on the river Montone, a little below Strada. The reports multiply that they are going towards Tuscany, and that they have sent their heavy artillery to Luco. The Lord Lieutenant is resolved to wait until they have made another day’s march; and having thus assured himself of the route they are going to take, he will begin by sending the Count Guido, who is at this moment at Imola with a portion of our troops, in the direction of Tuscany; and we shall follow him with the rest, so as to be there before the enemy.* And as all this is an evil that has been foreseen, your Lordships must not take another fright at it, for we have never thought here that we should be able to hold them back if they really wished to come. All that we could do was that they should have greater difficulties to encounter in coming, and that if possible they should gain less credit by it. And this has been accomplished, for they have not taken a single place in this province, and have not, therefore, any place that would, so to say, serve them as a ladder to enable them to reach Florence; and thus they have not the reputation which they would have had, if they had made some honorable captures. Thus they remain for the present like those bands of adventurers which, for one hundred and fifty years, have gone roving through the country, levying tribute, or ravaging it, without ever capturing any places. There is no apprehension that our country is less capable of making resistance than the country here, or that the aid which the enemy has obtained from Sienna would prove more injurious to Tuscany than that which he has received at the hands of the Duke of Ferrara. The Duke of Urbino, as your Lordships will have heard, has sent two thousand men to his duchy; and suspicions have arisen that he has allowed some of his people to supply provisions to the Imperialists, which, if true, would facilitate their passage. We can only report what we hear from day to day; it is for your Lordships to judge whether some steps should not be taken for the protection of Florence through the Venetian ambassador.
I recommend myself to your Lordships, quæ bene valeant.
Furli, 13 April, 1527.
[* ]The Constable Duc de Bourbon actually entered Tuscany; but whether this was a mere ruse to lull the suspicions of the too credulous Pope, or whether it was that he really believed that no advantage could be gained from it, after having been a short time on the Arezzo territory the Constable suddenly turned and rapidly marched upon Rome, where the Pope was wholly unprepared, and when the troops of the League were no longer in time to prevent this movement.