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SECOND REPORT ON THE AFFAIRS OF GERMANY. Made 17 June, 1508. - 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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SECOND REPORT ON THE AFFAIRS OF GERMANY.
In June last the Emperor held a Diet at Constanz of all the princes of Germany, to provide for his passage into Italy, for the purpose of being crowned. He had called this Diet of his own accord, and also because he had been urged to it by the Pope’s envoy, who promised him powerful support on the part of the pontiff. The Emperor demanded of the Diet for his enterprise three thousand mounted men and sixteen thousand infantry, and pledged himself to add as many as thirty thousand men of his own. The reasons why he did not ask for more troops for so important an enterprise were, first, that he believed that that number would suffice; persuaded that he would have the support of the Venetians and other powers of Italy, as I will explain hereafter. He could never have believed that the Venetians would fail him, as he had but lately rendered them important services, when they were afraid of France, after her conquest of Genoa; for he had then sent at their request two thousand troops to Trent. He started the report that he intended to assemble all the princes; but, instead, went off into Suabia to threaten the Swiss, if they did not abandon their alliance with France. This caused King Louis to return to Lyons immediately after taking Genoa; so that the Emperor believed that he had saved the Venetians from a war which they feared, and that therefore they ought to be very grateful to him; in fact, he said several times that “he had no better friends in all Italy than the Venetians.”
The other reason why the Emperor had asked for so small a number of troops from the Diet was, that they would much more readily grant him that small number, than if he had asked for more, and would more likely keep their promise. And because the Diet would more readily place them all under his command, without trying to give them commanders in the name of the Empire, who would be his companions rather than his captains. In fact, there were several members of the Diet, and the Archbishop of Mayence amongst them, who wished to push this enterprise with great vigor, and wanted to provide at least forty thousand men, and give them four commanders in the name of the Empire. Whereupon the Emperor became angry, and said, “I can carry this enterprise through by myself, and therefore want the honors of it.” The Diet thereupon voted him the nineteen thousand men, and decided moreover to give him one hundred and twenty thousand florins, to supply the army with necessaries, and to hire five thousand Swiss for six months, as he might think fit. The Emperor proposed that the men should assemble by the day of San Gallo, that seeming to him ample time to get them together, and convenient for their method of carrying on a war. He stated, moreover, that in the mean time he should be able to accomplish three things: the one, to win over the Venetians, whom he never mistrusted until the last moment, although their ambassador had been sent away, as was well known; the second, to make sure of the Swiss; and the third, to draw from the Pope and other states of Italy a goodly sum of money. He went on therefore with his negotiations; the day of San Gallo came, and the men began to collect, but the Emperor had not accomplished any one of the three things just mentioned. But as it seemed to him that he could not start, and not having as yet any doubts as to his final success, he sent some of the troops to Trent and some to other places; and did not stop his manœuvres until January came, and he had consumed one half of the time, and half of the supplies accorded to him by the Empire, without having accomplished anything. Finding himself in this position, he made the utmost efforts to win the Venetians. First he sent Fra Bianco to them, and then the priest Lucas; he sent the despot of the Morea, and at several intervals he sent his own heralds to them. But the more he went after them, the more they discovered his weakness, and the more they withdrew from him; for they found in all his promises not one of the motives that induce states to form alliances, which are either the common defence, or the fear of being attacked, or simply their advantage. But they saw clearly that they would enter into an alliance where all the expense and danger were theirs, whilst the advantage would be all the Emperor’s. The Emperor, however, having no other course open to him, decided to attack them without further loss of time; thinking that perchance this might induce them to change their course. Perhaps this proceeding may have been suggested to him by his envoys; or he may have hoped that such an attack might induce the Empire to keep its engagements, and might possibly even influence them to augment his subsidies, seeing that the first did not suffice. But as he knew that before the arrival of such increased support he could not continue the war, nor abandon the country to the discretion of the enemy, he called a Diet of the people of Tyrol to meet on the 8th of January at the town of Botzen, which is about a day’s march above Trent. This principality, which he had inherited from his uncle, gave him a revenue of more than three hundred thousand florins, without being obliged to lay any taxes. He could levy there over sixteen thousand troops, and the inhabitants there are nearly all wealthy. This Diet remained in session nineteen days, and finally concluded to concede to the Emperor one thousand men for his descent into Italy; and if that number did not suffice, they would give him five thousand for three months, and would even go as far as ten thousand men, if the defence of the country required it.
After this conclusion the Emperor went to Trent, and on the 6th of February he made two attacks, the one upon Roveredo, and the other upon Vicenza, having only five thousand men, or even less, for these two assaults. Thereupon he suddenly left, and with a body of only about fifteen hundred infantry and peasants threw himself into the Val di Codaura in the direction of Treviso, ravaging a valley and taking certain strongholds. But seeing that the Venetians did not budge, he left his troops without notice, and retraced his steps to ascertain the intention of the Empire. The troops which he had left in the Val di Codaura were all killed, in consequence of which he sent the Duke of Brunswick there, but nothing was afterwards heard of him. He convoked the Diet in Suabia for the third Sunday in Lent; but as he had perceived that the members were not well disposed towards him, he went off to Guelders, and sent the priest Lucas to the Venetians to try to bring about the truce, which was concluded on the 6th of the present month of June, after having lost all that he possessed in the Friuli, and being on the point of losing Trent also. But that place was defended by the people of the Tyrol; so far as the Emperor was concerned, however, and the troops of the Empire, Trent would have been lost; for these troops left for home at the most critical moment of the war, when their six months’ service had expired.
I know that people hearing this, and having seen it, will wonder and lose themselves in various conjectures, and cannot imagine why nothing has been seen of those nineteen thousand men which the Empire had promised, and how it is that Germany has not more keenly felt the loss of her honor, or how the Emperor could have deceived himself so completely. And thus every one varies in his ideas as to what is to be feared or hoped for the future, and what course matters may take. But as I was on the spot, and have heard the matter often discussed by many different persons, and having no other business but to observe this, I shall report all the facts that seemed to me worth noting. And if these observations do not explain everything distinctly, all of them taken together may perhaps solve the above questions. Nor do I give them as absolutely true or reasonable, but I report them only as having heard them; it seeming to me the duty of a servant to place before his master all that he learns and that may be of interest to him, so that he may make use of it for his advantage.
All whom I have heard speak on the subject agree that, if the Emperor could have done one of two things, he would certainly have succeeded in his designs upon Italy, considering the condition in which she is at present. And these things are, either that he should have changed his nature, or that Germany should have supported him in good earnest. Examining now the first, they say that, considering his resources, and supposing that he knew how to avail himself of them, he would not be inferior to any other monarch of Christendom. His states are said to give him a revenue of six hundred thousand florins, without any taxes, and his office as Emperor gives him an additional one hundred thousand florins. This income is entirely his own, and obliges him to no expense whatsoever. He does not expend one penny for either of the three items for which other sovereigns are obliged to provide; that is, he keeps no men-at-arms, he pays no garrisons of fortresses, nor any officials of the cities. For the gentlemen of the country owe him military service, the fortresses are guarded by the inhabitants, and the cities have their burgomasters, etc., who administer their affairs.
He might nevertheless, if he were, for instance, like the king of Spain, provide in a little time such means as would insure the success of any enterprise. For with a revenue of eight to nine hundred thousand florins the Empire would not be so small a matter, nor would his country be so niggardly, but what he could easily increase his income; and thus with the convenience of declaring war suddenly, having troops prepared for war in every place, and being provided with money, he could carry the war promptly to every point, and fall unawares upon his enemies. Add to this the credit which it gives him to have the nephew of the king of Castile with him, the Duke of Burgundy, and the Count of Flanders, and his connection with England. All these things would be of such advantage, if well used, that all his designs upon Italy would without a doubt prove successful. But the Emperor, with all this income, never has a penny; and what is worse, no one knows what becomes of all his revenues.
As to the management of other matters, the priest Lucas, who is one of the Emperor’s principal agents, told me this: “The Emperor asks counsel of no one, but all the world advises him; he wants to do everything himself, but does nothing in his own way. And notwithstanding that he never communicates to any one, of his own accord, the secret designs which he has formed, yet, as their execution makes them known, he is dissuaded from them by the persons he has about him, who draw him off from his original plans. And those two qualities which many persons praise in him, the liberality and facility of his character, are the very qualities that ruin him.” This is the very reason why his intended descent into Italy caused such alarm. For his necessities increase with his victories, and it is not reasonable to suppose that he would have immediately changed his ways; and unless he should do so, if all the leaves on all the trees in Italy had become ducats, they would not suffice him. There is nothing that with money in hand he would not have obtained; and therefore were those considered wise by many who hesitated to give him money the first time, so as not to have to hesitate still more about giving it to him a second time. And if he could not by any other means have obtained money from any prince, he would have asked it by way of loan; and if he could not have borrowed it, all the expenditures made until then would have been thrown away. I will give you a strictly true instance of this. When Messer Pagolo,* on the 29th of March, made his demand, Messer Francesco Vettori having been despatched by him, I went to see him with the draft of the treaty, prepared according to your request; and when he came to that part which says, “Non possit Imperator petere aliam summam pecuniarum,” etc., he wanted to have the word “jure” inserted before “petere.” And when I asked him why, he replied that the Emperor wanted it so as to enable him to ask the money of us by way of loan; whereupon I answered him in such manner as was satisfactory to him. It must be observed that the Emperor’s frequent needs of money are the consequences of his frequent irregularities, and these necessities give rise to his frequent demands and the frequent Diets. And the little estimation in which he is held causes his feeble resolutions and their still more feeble execution.
But if the Emperor had come into Italy, you would not have been able to pay him with Diets, as Germany does; and his liberality would have been so much the worse for him, as he requires more money for carrying on a war than any other sovereign; for his people, being free and rich, are not influenced either by necessity or by affection, but serve him only by express orders of their communities, and at their own price; so that if, at the end of thirty days, the money for their pay has not come, they leave at once, and neither prayers nor promises nor threats will prevail upon them to stay, if the money is wanting. And when I say that the Germans are rich, the truth of it is easily proved. They become rich in great part because they live as if they were poor; for they neither build, nor dress, nor furnish their houses expensively. It is enough for them to have plenty of bread and meat, and to have a stove behind which they take refuge from the cold. Those who have no more conveniences do without them, and do not seek after them; they spend about two florins in ten years on their back, and every one lives according to his rank in that proportion. Nobody cares for what he has not, but only for that which is necessary to him, and their necessities are very much less than ours. The result of these habits is that no money leaves their country, as the people are content with what their country produces; and thus they enjoy their rough and free life, and will not enlist to go to war, unless they are overpaid. And even that would not suffice, if the communities do not command their going; for these reasons the Emperor requires much more money than the king of Spain, or any other sovereign, whose people have different habits.
The Emperor’s good and easy nature is the cause why all persons whom he has about him deceive him. One of the men attached to his person has told me that he can be deceived once by everybody and everything, until he has found them out. But there are so many men and so many things, that he is exposed every day to being deceived, even if he were constantly on his guard. He has endless good qualities, and if he could overcome his two qualities of weakness and easy nature, he would be a most perfect man; for he is a good commander, governs his country with great justice, is affable and gracious in his audiences, and has many other qualities of a most excellent prince; and to conclude, if he could modify the two above-mentioned defects, it is judged that he would succeed in everything he undertakes.
The power of Germany cannot be doubted by any one, for she has abundant population, wealth, and armies. As to her wealth, there is not a community that has not a considerable amount in the public treasury; it is generally said that Strasburg has several millions of florins so placed. This arises from the fact that they have no expenses from 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 their 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 for an entire year without loss. They spend nothing for soldiers, for they keep all their men armed and exercised. For salaries and other matters they spend very little, so that every community has its public treasury well filled.
It remains now that these communities unite with the princes to favor the designs of the Emperor, or that they should do so themselves without the princes, which would suffice. Those who occupy themselves with these matters say that the cause of their dissensions is to be found in the many different dispositions that exist in that country. And as to a general want of unity, they say that the Swiss are regarded as enemies by all Germany, the free cities are so regarded by the princes, and in the same way the princes by the Emperor. It may seem strange to say that the Swiss and the free cities are hostile to each other, as they both have one and the same object; namely, that of preserving their liberties and protecting themselves against the princes. But their division arises from this, that the Swiss are not only hostile to the princes, the same as the free cities, but they are also inimical to the gentlemen in the cities, because in their country there are neither princes nor nobles, and everybody enjoys perfect liberty, without any distinction amongst men, excepting only those who are members of the magistracies. This example of the Swiss alarms the nobles who still exist in the free cities, and all their efforts are directed to keeping alive this disunion and hostility. The Swiss have for enemies also all those men of the cities who devote themselves to military pursuits, being instigated by a natural jealousy, for they imagine themselves less esteemed; so that it is impossible to bring together few or many of the two countries in the same camp without their quarrelling and coming to blows.
As to the enmity of the princes towards the communities and the Swiss, it is unnecessary to say anything, as it is a notorious fact; the same as the hostility between the Emperor and the said princes. And you must know that, as the Emperor’s greatest repugnance is towards the princes, not being able by himself to humble them, he has availed himself of the support of the communities; and for the same reasons he has for some time past had negotiations with the Swiss, whose confidence he has of late gained to some degree. So that, taking into consideration all these divisions, and adding thereto those which exist between one prince and another, and one community and another, it seems almost impossible to bring about that union which is so essentially necessary for the Emperor. But what has kept everybody hopeful, and made the affairs of the Emperor for some time past so promising, and his enterprises likely to succeed, is the fact that there is not a prince in all Germany who could venture to oppose the Emperor’s designs, as has already been said above. This has been and still is the truth; and people deceive themselves in supposing that it is only war and sedition in Germany that can defeat the Emperor’s projects, for he can be thwarted as effectually merely by not supporting him. And those who would not dare to declare war against him would not hesitate to refuse him their assistance, whilst those who would not venture to refuse him their support will not fulfil the promises they have made him; and those who would not even risk doing this will yet manage to delay their compliance with their promises until their execution would no longer be of use to the Emperor. All this offends the Emperor and deranges his plans.
The truth of this may be seen in the fact that the Diet had promised him nineteen thousand men, as stated above, but we have never seen as many as five thousand together. This could only have arisen either from the above-explained causes, or because the Emperor accepted money instead of men, and was possibly satisfied to take five instead of ten.
And to explain still further as to the power and union of Germany, I would say that this power resides more in the communities than in the princes; for the princes are of two kinds, namely, temporal and spiritual. The temporal princes are reduced to a condition of great weakness, partly by their own action, each principality being divided between several princes, according to the custom of succession which they observe, and which requires such equal division; and partly because the Emperor, aided by the communities, has diminished their power, so that they have become useless as friends and little to be feared as enemies. As for the ecclesiastical princes, if their power has not been annihilated by hereditary divisions, the ambition of the communities favored by the Emperor has reduced their authority very low; so that the Archbishop Electors, and other similar dignitaries, can effect nothing in their own large communities. The consequence is, that neither themselves nor their cities, being thus divided amongst themselves, can do anything to aid the Emperor’s enterprises, even if they wished to do so.
But we come now to the free and imperial cities, which are the very nerve of the country, and who possess riches and well-regulated organization. These are for many reasons very lukewarm in their disposition to aid the Emperor’s projects; their chief aim is the preservation of their liberty, and not increase of their dominions; and what they do not desire for themselves, they care not that others should acquire. Moreover, there being so many of them, and all accustomed to govern themselves, causes their support to come very slow, even if they are willing to grant it; so that their usefulness is no longer in time. The following is an instance of this. Nine years ago the Swiss assailed the states of Maximilian and of Suabia. The Emperor agreed with the free cities to repel the enemy, and the cities promised to keep fourteen thousand men under arms, at his disposal; but they never had half of that number together, for when the contingent of one city came, the others went away; so that the Emperor, despairing of the enterprise, made terms with the Swiss, and abandoned to them the town of Basle. Now if they act in this way where their own interests are concerned, it is easy to judge as to what they are likely to do to aid the enterprises of others. All these circumstances taken together, therefore, reduce their power very much, and make it of little advantage to the Emperor.
The Venetians, owing to their extensive commercial relations with the merchants of the German cities, have understood this better than any one in Italy, and have therefore more effectually opposed the power of the Empire. But if they had feared that power, they would not have ventured to oppose it; and even if they had opposed it, and had believed that it had been possible for the whole Empire to unite against them, they would never have attacked it.
But as they were satisfied of the impossibility of such union, they did not hesitate to show themselves so bold as has been seen. Nevertheless, all the Italians that are at the Emperor’s court, and whom I have heard discuss all these questions, remain firmly attached to the hope that all Germany is on the point of uniting, and that the Emperor will throw himself into her arms; and that the plans that were discussed last year at the Diet of Constanz as regards the generals and the troops will be carried out; and that the Emperor will now yield from necessity, and the Diet will do so voluntarily, so as to recover the honor of the empire; and that they will care little about the truce, which had been concluded by the Emperor and not by them. To this others reply, that it is well not to put too much faith in things that are yet to happen, because it is seen every day that those matters which interest a great many in a city are often neglected, and that such will be the case to a much greater degree in a whole country. Moreover, the cities know that the conquest of ltaly would not be for their benefit, but for that of the princes, who can personally enjoy that country, which they could not do. And where the benefit is unequal, people are not willing to bear equal expenses; and thus opinions remain undecided, without being able to determine the events that are yet in the future.
This all that I have learned respecting Germany. As to other matters that may influence peace or war between the different princes of that country, I have heard a good deal said, but as it was all based upon mere conjectures, of which you may have more correct information and certainly better judgment, I leave them without saying anything more about them. Valete!
[* ]This is Paolo de Lichtenstein, confidential agent of the Emperor Maximilian, mentioned by F. Vettori in his despatches to the Signoria of Florence. See Letter X. of the Mission to the Emperor, ante, page 132.