MACHIAVELLI: The Prince CH. VIII-XIX

MACHIAVELLI: The Prince CH. VIII-XIX

  • A prince can rise from a private station by nefarious means or by the good will of his fellow citizens.
  • A prince who rises by nefarious means will never be honored because it does not require talent to slay fellow citizens, to deceive friends, to be without mercy, without faith, without religion.
  • Evils can be properly used if they are applied in one blow and are necessary to a prince’s security. The evils must not, however, persist afterwards unless they can be turned to the advantage of the subjects. Evils are improperly used when they multiply with time rather than decrease. Princes who apply evils improperly will not maintain their power, while princes who apply evils properly will maintain their power.
  • A prince must foresee the necessary injuries he must inflict upon the people, so that he can perform all those evils at one time. The evils, being tasted less, will offend less. Benefits, on the other hand, should be given little by little, so that the flavor of them last longer.
  • There are two distinct parties in all states: the people and the nobles. The people do not wish to be oppressed by the nobility, and the nobility wish to oppress the people. These two conflicting desires result in a principality, self-government, or anarchy.
  • A principality arises when either the nobility or the people establish a prince from their own respective parties. The prince established by nobility will find it difficult to maintain power because the nobles consider themselves the equals of the prince, and the prince will not be capable of managing or ruling the nobles to his liking. The prince established by the people will find relatively few people unwilling to obey him.
  • A prince cannot satisfy the nobles without injuring others because the desire of the nobility is to oppress the people. A prince can satisfy the people by fair dealing, and without resort to cruelty, because they only desire not to be oppressed.
  • Those nobles, who bind themselves entirely to the fortunes of the prince, should be loved and honored. Those nobles who do not should be guarded against, and considered open enemies to the prince.
  • A prince, established by nobles, should endear himself to the people by protecting them. This will strengthen the people’ loyalty to the prince because when men, expecting to receive injury, receive good instead, they are bound more closely to their benefactor.
  • A prince must adopt a course by which the people will always have need of him and the state, so that they will always remain loyal to him.

Evils may be called properly used, if of evil it is possible to speak well, that are applied at one blow and are necessary to one’s security, and that are not persisted in afterwards unless they can be turned to the advantage of the subjects. The badly employed are those which, notwithstanding they may be few in the commencement, multiply with time rather than decrease. Those who practice the first system are able, by aid of God or man, to mitigate in some degree their rule, as Agathocles did. It is impossible for those who follow the other to maintain themselves.

Injuries ought to be done all at one time, so that, being tasted less, they offend less; benefits ought to be given little by little, so that the flavour of them may last longer.

Men, when they receive good from him of whom they were expecting evil, are bound more closely to their benefactor.

In chapter 9, Machiavelli justifies the use of evil in certain situations, and restrained within certain limits. He asserts that a prince can use evil properly if he inflicts all necessary injuries at once, and if he does not allow the cruelty to persist afterwards. He supports his argument by examining human nature, and discerning that injuries inflicted at once will offend less because they are tasted less. Similarly, a prince who wishes to confer benefits upon the citizens should dole those benefits out little by little so that the savor of them will last longer in the hearts and minds of the citizens.

  • A prince either has sufficient resources to raise an army to oppose attackers, or has insufficient resources for such an enterprise, and therefore must engage in fortifying and defending one town rather than the whole country.
  • The prince who must defend a city because of the dearth of resources must convince the citizens that the besieging army will soon depart, and that the besieging army is cruel and will inflict great suffering upon the citizens if the city surrenders. The prince must also silence any bold citizens who might incite a revolt.
  • A prince that must resort to fortifying a town is capable of maintaining the citizens loyalty so long as he defends and protects them; for men are bound by the benefits they confer as much as those they receive.
  • Ecclesiastical principalities are obtained through capacity or fortune, but require neither capacity nor fortune to maintain them because the principalities are sustained by the ancient ordinances of religion, which are considered omnipotent and infallible. A prince can behave in whatever manner he so chooses, he will never lose the state because he does not actually rule the citizens. Such principalities only are secure and happy.

It is the nature of men to be bound by the benefits they confer as much as by those they receive.

In chapter 10, Machiavelli bolsters his argument that all actions must be performed for the maintenance of power. For example, Machiavelli states that the prince must convince the citizens of a besieged town that the difficulty and hardships will soon pass. The purpose of this reassurance is not to provide the citizens with a sense of well-being and hope for the future, but rather to preserve the defenses of the city and prevent a revolt among the citizens.

Machiavelli discusses ecclesiastical principalities in chapter 11. Although he states in the opening paragraph that ecclesiastical principalities are a distinct category of states, immune to the dangers of war, insurrection, and strife that other states must face, Machiavelli examines the way the Catholic Church aggrandized their temporal power through force, accretion of wealth, and political acumen, the very same means by which prince’s aggrandize their power in non-ecclesiastical states.

  • The chief foundations of all states are good laws and good arms. There cannot be good laws without good arms.
  • The arms which defend a state can be the Prince’s own, or mercenaries, or auxiliary armies (armies led by the prince of an ally state), or a mixture of the three types. A prince must not rely on mercenaries because they are not loyal, and are not willing to die for the state.
  • Auxiliaries should also be avoided because if one loses by those arms, then the state is ruined. Furthermore, if a prince wins with auxiliary troops, then he will be forced to submit to those troops and their prince.
  • A wise prince would rather lose with his own forces than win with another’s. Winning a battle with another’s forces is not a true victory.
  • David offered to fight Goliath for Saul. To encourage David, Saul offered David weapons of his army. David rejected the weapons because he could not wield them; he was skilled in his own weaponry. Thus, the arms of others either fall from your back, weigh you down, or bind you.
  • A prince ought only to study war. War is the art which allows princes to gain and maintain power. War also enables private citizens to rise to power.
  • The first cause of losing power is the failure to study the art of war.
  • A prince ought to keep his soldiers well organized and drilled. He ought to survey the landscape of his own country – the hills, mountains, rivers, valleys, etc. – so that he can discern the potential advantages and disadvantages involved in attacking or defending in certain areas.
  • The prince ought to study the actions of illustrious men, and emulate those actions.

A prince ought to have no other aim or thought, nor select anything else for his study, than war and its rules and discipline.

In chapters 12-14 of The Prince, Machiavelli discusses the different types of forces a prince can employ to maintain power, and also discusses the necessity for a prince to study the art of war incessantly, even in times of peace. Machiavelli ultimately rejects auxiliary and mercenary troops as forces that a prince can utilize to maintain power. He argues that mercenary troops are dastardly, and inclined to disobey orders. Auxiliary troops, or armed forces of another state, are more dangerous than mercenary troops to the health of a state because regardless of whether a prince wins or loses a battle with auxiliary troops, the outcome is injurious to the state. If a prince loses a battle, then his state is ruined. If a prince wins a battle, then the auxiliary troops likely will betray the prince, and maintain power in the newly acquired state for themselves.

Machiavelli also reinforces his opinion that the sole task with which a prince should be concerned, it the diligent study of war. A prince ought to inure his body to hardships, examine terrain and discern the various advantages and disadvantages stemming from particular locales, and study the acts of illustrious men so that he can imitate the deeds that result in victory, and avoid the paths to defeat.

  • Machiavelli asserts that he is writing pragmatically rather than previous writers, who wrote ideally. The manner in which people live is wholly contrary to how people ought to live. Previous political theorists wrote about imaginary states, and how princes should behave in those ideal states. This is not useful. Machiavelli argues that princes who strive to act according to their professed virtues will soon meet destruction among the many evils of the world.
  • A prince must know how to do wrong, and make use of it.
  • The human condition does not allow a man to possess all of the admirable virtues concurrently, and it is often proved that adhering strictly to virtue can result in ruin, and adhering to vice can result in security and prosperity.
  • To be reputed liberal is desirable, but liberality exercise in a way that does not bring a prince the reputation of it will injure the prince. If a prince is truly liberal, then he will be compelled to tax his subjects, which will engender hostility and resentment toward the prince.
  • Being stingy and unwilling to spend money is a vice that will serve a prince well in times of war because he can rely on his monetary reserves to fund the war rather than unduly taxing and infuriating the subjects.
  • A prince should guard, above all things, against being despised and hated. Liberality leads to both. The reputation of stinginess causes reproach without hatred, but through seeking the reputation of liberality, a prince incurs the reputation of rapacity, which begets reproach with hatred.
  • A prince ought to desire to be considered merciful rather than cruel, but he must take heed not to misuse mercy. Being too merciful will allow riot and disorders to arise, from which the majority of the people will suffer injury. Being cruel in a few instances can prevent this type of injurious result. Only the people punished will undergo harm.
  • It is impossible for a new prince to avoid the imputation of cruelty because of the myriad evils present in such a state.
  • Is it better to be feared than loved, or loved than feared? Ideally, a prince should be both, but it is difficult to unite both in one prince; therefore, it is better to be feared than loved when one of the two must be dispensed.
  • Men are ungrateful, fickle, false, cowardly, and covetous. They will offer their blood, children, and
    property when the need is far distant, but when it approaches they betray their promise.
  • Friendships obtained by payment, and not greatness or nobility of mind, are not secure and cannot be relied upon in times of danger; therefore, a prince must utilize fear to preserve the bond of allegiance. Men, because of the baseness of their natures, have less hesitation about offending one who is beloved than one who is feared. Love is preserved by a link of obligation, which is broken at every opportunity for their advantage. Fear begets a dread of punishment that will always persuade a person to remain obedient.
  • A prince must take care to inspire fear but not hatred. To avoid hatred, a prince must keep his hands from the property and women of his citizens. A man sooner forgets the loss of his father than the loss of his patrimony.
  • Men love according to their own will, but fear according to the will of the prince or person of authority. Therefore, a prince must establish himself on that which is in his control, and continually endeavor not to be hated.

How one lives is so far distant from how one ought to live. He who neglects what is done for what ought to be done, sooner effects his ruin than his preservation; for a man who wishes to act entirely up to his professions of virtue soon meets with what destroys him among so much that is evil.

This is to be asserted in general of men, that they are ungrateful, fickle, false, cowardly, covetous, and as long as you succeed they are yours entirely; they will offer you their blood, property, life, and children, as is said above, when the need is far distant; but when it approaches they turn against you. And that prince who, relying entirely on their promises, has neglected other precautions, is ruined; because friendships that are obtained by payments, and not by greatness or nobility of mind, may indeed be earned, but they are not secured, and in time of need cannot be relied upon; and men have less scruple in offending one who is beloved than one who is feared, for love is preserved by the link of obligation which, owing to the baseness of men, is broken at every opportunity for their advantage; but fear preserves you by a dread of punishment which never fails.

Men more quickly forget the death of their father than the loss of their patrimony.

Machiavelli does not present a favorable opinion of man’s nature in these chapters. He asserts that men are ungrateful, fickle, false, cowardly, and motivated purely by self-interest. Considering world history, I do not believe that humanity has done much to refute his argument. I grant that there are many men in history who have risen above purely self-interested motives, and nobly strived to produce or attain a thing that would benefit something or someone other than themselves. However, the vast majority of mankind seems bent on gratifying their own personal desires. We have been given this divine gift of rationality, and we unfortunately use it to obtain the means by which we can buy shoes with lights on them and chocolate candy bars.

  • Princes who have performed great things have known how to circumvent men’s intellect by craft, and overcome those who relied on his word.
  • There are two ways to gain mastery over men, one by law, and the other by force. The first method is proper to men, the second to beasts. However, because the first method is not always sufficient, princes must resort to force. A prince must utilize the natures of both the beasts and men.
  • A prince ought to adopt the nature of the fox and lion because the lion cannot defend himself against snares, and the fox cannot defend himself against the wolves. A fox can discover the snares, and a lion can terrify the wolves.
  • Because men are naturally bad, they will not keep their faith with a prince, and therefore a prince need not keep his faith with them when it is to his disadvantage.
  • A prince which possesses and observes the good qualities of compassion, generosity, devotion, etc. will be ruined. A prince ought to only aim to be esteemed of these virtues. Everyone perceives what others seem to be, few really know the true nature of other individuals. Furthermore, those few, who know the real nature of an evil prince esteemed virtuous by the common herd, dare not challenge the judgment of the masses lest they be punished or killed.
  • A prince must guard against being hated. People hate a prince who is fickle, frivolous, effeminate, mean-spirited, and irresolute.
  • A prince must endeavor to show in his actions greatness, courage, gravity, and fortitude. He must obtain a reputation that no one can hope to deceive or get around him. His judgments must be regarded as irrevocable.
  • Conspirators will not have the courage to revolt against a prince who is loved by the people. A conspirator cannot act alone, and must make companions of malcontents. But if there are few malcontents, the conspirators will be compelled to abandon their plans of insurrection.
  • Conspirators also worry about the sequel of their rebellion. For example, if a prince is beloved, the people may seek to avenge his murder on the conspirators.
  • A prince ought to leave the affairs of reproach in the hands of others, and maintain those of grace in their own hands. He can accomplish this by establishing an arbiter, or parliament, which will protect the prince from the contempt of nobles for favoring the people and the contempt of the people for favoring the nobles.
  • A prince cannot help being hated by someone, and therefore they ought to endeavor to be hated by the weakest of a state rather than the strongest.
  • Roman emperors were presented with the dilemma of appeasing two contrary desires: the soldiers’ desire for a rapacious and bellicose emperor and the citizens’ desire for a benign, generous, and just emperor. The emperors who maintained power did well to avoid the hatred of the stronger faction, the soldiers.
  • Now it is more necessary to appease the people rather than the soldiers because they are the stronger party.

He who seeks to deceive will always find someone who will allow himself to be deceived.

Everyone sees what you appear to be, few really know what you are, and those few dare not oppose themselves to the opinion of the many, who have the majesty of the state to defend them; and in the actions of all men, and especially of princes, which it is not prudent to challenge, one judges by the result.

Hatred is acquired as much by good works as by bad ones.

The most important observation about human nature that Machiavelli makes in these chapters is the value men give appearance in comparison to reality. Men seldom know the true nature of another individual, and therefore must resort to judging another person based on that person’s superficial aspects and behaviors. I agree with this argument. As Hamlet too well knows, “A man may smile and smile and be a villain.” Each man is an island, isolated from the real feelings and beliefs of other people. Descartes struggled with this problem in his meditations. He wonders if we are capable of knowing that other people exist besides ourselves. Other people might be automatons without the same feelings and sensations that we experience. If we are incapable of knowing whether other people even have thoughts and feelings, how can we possibly determine with certainty the moral character of another individual?

The Prince

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