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REPORT ON THE AFFAIRS OF GERMANY. - 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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REPORT ON THE AFFAIRS OF GERMANY.
No one can doubt the power of Germany, for she abounds in population, wealth, and troops. As to riches, there is not a community that has not a considerable amount in the public treasury; it is said that Strasburg alone has several millions of florins so placed. This arises from the fact that they have no expenses for which they draw money from the treasury, except to keep up their munitions, which, when once provided, require very little to keep them up. The order established in these matters is really admirable; for they always keep in the public magazines grain, drink, and fuel enough for one year. They also keep a supply of the raw material for their industries, so that in case of siege they can feed the people, and supply those who live by the labor of their hands with the necessary materials for an entire year without any loss.
They spend nothing for soldiers, for they keep all their men armed and exercised, and on holidays these men, instead of amusing themselves with idle play, exercise themselves, some with the gun, some with the pike, and some with one or another kind of arms; for which exercises they have established prizes of honor and other rewards. These are their only expenses, for in other matters they spend very little; and thus every community is rich in public treasure.
The reason why the private citizens are rich is, that they live as if they were poor; they do not build, and spend nothing on dress or costly furniture in their houses. They are satisfied with having plenty of bread and meat, and a stove where they can take refuge from the cold; and those who have no other things are satisfied to do without them, and do not seek after them. They spend two florins in ten years for clothing to put on their backs; all live in this proportion, according to their rank, caring little for what they have not, but only for that which is strictly necessary; and their necessities are much less than ours. With such habits, it is natural that the money does not go out of the country, the people being content with what their country produces. But money is always being brought into the country by those who come to purchase the products of their industry, with which they supply almost all Italy. And the profit which they make is so much the greater, as the larger part of the money which they receive is for the labor of their hands only, and but little is for the raw material employed. And thus they enjoy their rough life and liberty, and for that reason they will not take service to go to war, unless they are exorbitantly paid; and this alone will not satisfy them, unless they are ordered by their communities. And therefore does the Emperor of Germany require much more money than any other sovereign, for the more prosperous the men are, the more unwillingly do they take service for the wars.
It may happen that the cities unite with the princes to favor the enterprises of the Emperor, or that they desire to do so by themselves, which would be quite sufficient. But neither cities nor princes would like the aggrandizement of the Emperor; for if he ever had any states of his own, or were to become powerful, he would so subdue and abase the princes, and would reduce them to that degree of obedience, that he could avail himself of them at his will, and not when it suited them; as the king of France does nowadays, and as was formerly done by King Louis XI., who by making war upon some of the princes, and killing others, reduced them to the degree of submission in which we see them now. The same would happen to the free cities of Germany, for the Emperor would want to reduce them to such a degree of obedience that he could control them at his pleasure, and obtain from them whatever he might ask, and not what might seem good to them.
The want of union between the free cities and the princes arises from the many contrary dispositions and interests that exist in that country. But reducing these to two principal divisions, it may be said that the Swiss are hostile to all Germany, and the princes to the Emperor. And yet it seems a strange thing to say that the Swiss and the free communities of Germany are inimical to each other, whilst both have one and the same object, namely to save their liberties, and to protect themselves against the princes. But their disunion arises from this, that the Swiss are not only hostile to the princes, the same as the free communities, but they are equally hostile to the gentlemen, for in their country there is no difference of rank; and all, with the exception only of those who sit as magistrates, enjoy without distinction an equal and entire liberty. This example of the Swiss alarms the gentlemen in the free communities, and their whole occupation is to keep up the disunion and enmity between them and the Swiss. These have furthermore for enemies all those men of the communities who make war their trade, owing to a natural jealousy lest these should be more esteemed than themselves. So that you cannot bring ever so few or so many together in one camp without their quarrelling or coming to blows.
As to the enmity of the princes towards the cities and the Swiss, that is so well known as to make any discussion of it unnecessary; the same with regard to the hostility between the Emperor and the princes. It is well to bear in mind that the Emperor, instigated by his hatred of the princes, and unable to lower their pretensions by himself, has sought the support of the free cities; and for the same reasons he has for some time past taken the Swiss into his service, and has to some extent gained their confidence.
Considering now all these differences, and adding those that exist between one prince and another, and one community and another, it will be seen how difficult it is to obtain in the Empire that unanimity which is so necessary for an Emperor to carry out his projects. But what makes the enterprises of Germany vigorous and easy of success is, that there is not in all Germany a prince who would dare to oppose the designs of the Emperor, as used to be the case formerly. And yet it must be borne in mind that it is quite a sufficient impediment for an Emperor not to be aided by the princes in any of his projects; for those who will not make open war upon him will nevertheless dare to refuse him their support, and those who will not dare to refuse him aid and support will yet dare not to fulfil the promises which they may have made to the Emperor, while some who will not even dare this will yet venture to be so slow in the execution of their promises, that their performance will no longer be in time to be of value. All this impedes and deranges the Emperor’s plans.
The truth of this was shown when the Emperor wanted to pass into Italy the first time, contrary to the wishes of the Venetians and the French. At the Diet held at that time in Constanz, the cities of Germany promised the Emperor sixteen thousand infantry and three thousand horse; and yet they could never get enough of them together to make five thousand men. The reason of this was, that, so soon as the contingent of one community arrived, that of another went home because they had completed their term of service. Some cities, for the purpose of exemption from service, gave money, which it was not difficult to induce the Emperor to accept. And for this and other reasons the promised number of troops was never brought together, and the enterprise failed in consequence.
The power of Germany certainly resides more in the cities than in the princes; for the latter are of two kinds, temporal and spiritual. The first have been reduced to great weakness, partly through their own acts, each principality being subdivided amongst several princes, in consequence of the laws of inheritance which they observe; and partly because the Emperor has debased their power, by the aid of the cities, as stated above, so that they have become as it were useless friends. As for the ecclesiastical princes, if not reduced by hereditary divisions, yet have they been brought very low by the ambition of their communities, sustained by the favor of the Emperor; so that the Archbishop Electors, and other dignitaries of this sort, have no power or influence in their own large communities. The consequence is that the division existing between them and their cities prevents their aiding the Emperor’s undertakings, even if they had the wish to do so.
But we come now to the free and imperial cities, which are the real nerve of the Empire, and have money as well as a good organization. For many reasons they enjoy their liberty with indifference, and have no desire to aggrandize their power; and what they do not desire for themselves they care little for others to have. Moreover, as there are a good many of them, and each one governs herself independently, their resolutions, when they wish to decide upon anything, are slow, and have not the desired efficiency. The following is an instance of it. Not many years since, the Swiss assailed the states of the Emperor Maximilian and Suabia. His Majesty agreed with these communities to repel the enemy, and the free cities obligated themselves to put and keep in the field fourteen thousand men; but they never got the half of that number together, for when the troops of one community arrived, those of another went home. So that the Emperor, despairing of success, made terms with the Swiss, leaving them the city of Basle. Now if such was the conduct of these communities where their own interests were involved, think what they would do to aid the enterprises of others. All these considerations taken together diminish the power of these cities considerably, and render them of little advantage to the Emperor.
Owing to the extensive trade which the Venetians have with the merchants of the German cities, they have understood this better than any one else; but in all matters that they have had to do or to negotiate with the Emperor, they have never swerved from a strictly honorable course. For if they had feared the German power, they would have employed some other means, either in the way of money or by the cession of some place; or if they had believed that that power could have been united, they would never have opposed it; but knowing the impossibility of that, they opposed it courageously, and bided their opportunity.
If, therefore, in one of these cities the affairs that concern a great number of citizens are neglected, by how much greater reason will they be even more neglected in so great an empire. Moreover, these cities know very well that every acquisition made in Italy or elsewhere would only be for the benefit of the princes, and not for their own, inasmuch as the princes can enjoy them personally, which a community cannot do; and whenever the reward is unequal, men do not like to spend equally. Thus the power of these cities is great, but it is such that you cannot avail yourself of it. If those who fear Germany had examined the above-explained causes, and the results which this power has achieved for many years past, they would have seen to what extent it can be depended upon.
The German men-at-arms are very well mounted, and those parts that are usually protected are very well covered by armor, but their horses are heavy. And I must say that in a fight with Italians or French they would not be able to resist; not on account of the men, but they use no kind of general armor for the horses; their saddles are small and are without saddlebows, so that the least shock unhorses the men. Another thing that renders them less effective is that the lower part of their bodies, that is to say their thighs and legs, are not protected by any armor; thus they are unable to resist the first shock, in which the value of the men-at-arms and their service consists.
For that reason they cannot use short arms, as they and their horses are so easily wounded in those parts that are not protected by armor. This puts it in the power of every foot soldier to unhorse or run them through the body with his pike; and moreover, when their horses get very much excited, their weight prevents them from being properly controlled. Their infantry is excellent, and the men are of fine stature, — very different from the Swiss, who are small, and neither clean nor good-looking. The greater part of the infantry is armed only with a pike or a short sword, so as to be more active, expeditious, and light. They are in the habit of saying that they do this because they have no other enemy but the artillery, from the effects of which neither breastplate, corselet, nor gorget can protect them. They fear no other weapons, for they say that their discipline is such that it is impossible to penetrate their ranks, or to approach them nearer than the length of a pike.
They are most excellent troops for a battle in the open field, but are not good for a siege, nor for defending a city; and generally speaking, where they cannot preserve their order and their ranks they are not to be depended upon. Experience has proved this; for whenever they have had to do with Italians, and especially when they have had to besiege a town, as was the case at Padua and other places, they gave but poor account of themselves; whilst, on the contrary, wherever they found themselves in the open field, they have always shown to advantage. So at the battle of Ravenna, between the French and the Spaniards, the French would have lost the day if they had not had the German Lansquenets. For whilst the men-at-arms of the opposing armies were engaged hand to hand, the Spaniards had already routed the French and Gascon infantry; and if the Germans, with their well-ordered ranks, had not come to their support, they would have been all killed or taken prisoners. And so it was lately when the Catholic King declared war against France, and made an attack in Guienne; the Spaniards were more afraid of a body of ten thousand German troops which the king of France had, than of all the rest of his infantry, and avoided every occasion of meeting the Germans hand to hand.