The Historical, Political, and Diplomatic Writings of Machiavelli (In Four Volumes)by Niccolo Machiavelli, Christian E. Detmold
An excerpt from the Translator's Preface:
The great experience in public affairs which Machiavelli had acquired during his many years’ employment in the service of the state at home and in his various missions abroad, coupled with his natural gifts of quick perception and keen penetration, soon taught him that the constant resort to dissembling and… See more details below
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An excerpt from the Translator's Preface:
The great experience in public affairs which Machiavelli had acquired during his many years’ employment in the service of the state at home and in his various missions abroad, coupled with his natural gifts of quick perception and keen penetration, soon taught him that the constant resort to dissembling and treachery by the rulers and governments of the different states of Italy in their dealings with each other, as well as with their more powerful neighbors north of the Alps, was the consequence of their own weakness and fear. This weakness was the natural result of the subdivision of Italy into so many small principalities, forever warring against each other by means of mercenary soldiers of fortune.
Several of the more important of these principalities had in turn invoked the aid of their powerful Transalpine neighbors, France, Germany, and Spain, who in their turn had invaded, pillaged, and devastated Italy from one end to the other. The woes inflicted upon Italy by these foreign invasions were the cause of intense grief and mortification to Machiavelli; who, enthusiastic admirer of the ancient Romans that he was, could never forget the power wielded by Rome of old, when, exercising the concentrated sovereignty of all Italy, and with armies of her own, she had made herself the mistress of the world. He witnessed with shame and humiliation the degeneracy and helplessness of his country, and clearly saw the causes of it. It was this that made him the unceasing advocate of the union of all Italy, of the establishment of national armies, instead of the uncertain employment of the venal Condottieri, and of the expulsion of the detested foreigners from the soil of Italy. Machiavelli was a sincere republican and a true lover of liberty; but for the sake of a united Italy, with well-trained national armies, strong enough to protect her against the periodical inundations of Northern barbarians, he was willing to give up his cherished republican form of government, and accept the one man power of a prince, though he was a Medici. Thence that passionately eloquent appeal to Lorenzo de’ Medici, to play the part of the long hoped for deliverer, with which Machiavelli thus closes his much debated treatise of “The Prince”: —
“You must not, then, allow this opportunity to pass, so that Italy, after waiting so long, may at last see her deliverer appear. Nor can I possibly express with what affection he would be received in all those provinces that have suffered so long from this inundation of foreign foes! — with what thirst for vengeance, with what persistent faith, with what devotion, and with what tears! What door would be closed to him? Who would refuse him obedience? What envy would dare oppose him? What Italian would refuse him homage? This barbarous dominion of the foreigner offends the very nostrils of everybody.
“Let your illustrious house, then, assume this task with that courage and hopefulness which every just enterprise inspires; so that under your banner our country may recover its ancient fame, and under your auspices may be verified the words of Petrarca: —
“‘Virtù contro al furore
Prenderà l’ arme, e fia il combatter corto;
Chè l’ antico valore
Negli Italici cuor non è ancor morto.’”
In fact, Machiavelli felt with regard to the union of Italy very much as President Lincoln did during the Secession war, when he said, with reference to the United States, “My paramount object is to save the Union, and not either to save or to destroy slavery.”
During his several missions to France Machiavelli had clearly observed that the power of France was the result of the unity of territory and of the government. This had been the work of Louis XI., who was indeed the recognized founder of the French monarchy. And the means which he had employed for the attainment of that end were precisely those which Machiavelli recommends for a similar purpose in his treatise of “The Prince”; namely, disregard of pledges, dissembling, perfidy, and violence. In fact, Louis XI. had anticipated these precepts, even to the extermination of a number of the great houses of France which, by their claims to sovereignty over any portion of the soil, could imperil in the slightest degree the absolute control of the king over the entire kingdom.
None of the states of Italy had at that time any regular armies of their own; thus their wars against each other were carried on, as already said, by hired soldiers of fortune, who, for stipulated sums of money, and for a fixed period of time, furnished a certain number of men, generally mounted. These captains, by an understanding amongst themselves, avoided killing or wounding each other’s men...
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