Machiavelli : The Prince


In every princely rule there is potential for the achievement of honor, praise and glory. In order to attain it, the machiavellian prince must possess a multitude of qualities, including the art of dealing with his subjects. I shall inspect the dependence relation between his magnificence and his subjects, considering it in all forms of machievellian princely rule, after having considered characteristics of the prince and people relevant to the present endeavor. Finally, I will discuss what the nature of the prince's army should be.

Some characteristics of the prince and of the people

In chapter 19 of The Prince, we are told that the prince should have two fears concerning his principality, one internal to it and one external. The source of the former is his subjects, and of the latter it is foreign powers. How is the prince to defend himself against these?

The prince's main concern is to remain in power, in order to have the opportunity to achieve honor, praise and glory. To acquire these he should not worry about doing good or bad, that is, ethics are separate from politics, but it is imperative that he be the lord of illusions, appearing to be "all mercy, all faithfulness, all integrity, all kindness, all religion".

1 In other words, anything you please provided it results in the prince being revered by the most. Because most are pragmatic. The prince must also avoid being hated or despised. To accomplish the former he must revoke from depriving people of their property or honor. Despised he is when virtu departs from him, that is when he becomes irresolute, cowardly, frivolous.

2 External stability brings about internal one, and it is secured by possessing a good army and good friends. Since fear is a most common motivation, good arms imply good friends. The internal danger that remains is the one of conspiracy. But if the prince avoids being hated by the masses, he also avoids conspiracies, because subjects do not possess either the courage or the means to stand up to the masses.

3 There are two kinds of people in a principality: nobles and commoners. The distinguishing characteristic of the nobles is their will to dominate others, while for the commoners it is not to be dominated.

4 The prince must constantly be aware of these distinct natures. He should take care to appropriately restrain the nobles in their natural appetite. As for the commoners, he should keep them contented, for they demand solely to be left alone and to see to their business in quietude. How does he perform these tasks ? It depends on the kind of principality which is honored by his rule. It is important to keep in mind that the way in which he must satisfy the people (nobles and commoners) is strongly tied to the manner in which the prince depends on them, because when the people become dissatisfied, the prince's rule is in fatal jeopardy.

The prince's dependence in different principalities

Hereditary principalities do not require much show of virtu on the prince's part, for the only deeds demanded of the prince are the ones which maintain ancient customs, as well as exercising the virtue of adaptability when contingent situations arise.

5 So it is because order is already imposed, customs rule, consequently the prince is not required to appeal to his virtu to impose form to a social system.

New principalities

There are two types of new principalities : completely new ones (as when a republic becomes a principality), or in the case where one is incorporated into an empire or kingdom. Incorporated principalities are either former hereditary ones or are former republics.

6 So there are three other cases to be considered. It is first to be mentioned that in new principalities, the new prince must not disarm the people, for it offends them all, because to do so is a clear manifestation of lack of trust in the new subjects, and whatever maybe the reason for acting in such a way, it generates hatred. Since they cannot be unarmed and the best troops are the prince's own, as will be shown below, the prince must institute an army in the new principality.

7 About acquisitions that were previously under the rule of a different monarch, one must first know that they can only be acquired with the support of the populace. That is because people, commoners and nobles alike, take up arms against their prince hoping to better them. But it is possible that the new prince does not live up to their expectations, and a crucial factor in their satisfaction is, similarly as in the hereditary principalities, that their customs be respected and their laws and taxes be unchanged, on a short and medium term basis.

8 So that foreign princes speaking a different language have less chance of succeeding in holding to their acquisition, if they are to impose alien ways to the inhabitants. However, if the prince still is to do so, he better send colonies than soldiers, since colonies are inexpensive and cause harm only to the few who lose their homes in the process, while soldiers cost a lot and their presence creates undesired tension.

9 The last thing that masses require is to be hurt. We now consider acquisitions which are used to living free, that is, self- governing and free from external rule. Since these are quite singular, the machiavellian prince must consider three possibilities: to destroy the principalities previous traditions (laws, institutions), to go live there or to designate a few citizens to govern it on the prince' behalf and to his favor, in accordance with the old laws and institutions and paying a tribute to his magnificence.

10 This last form of ruling, although it preserves the traditions of the new principality, is doomed to failure, because the vigor of mind and the memory of ancient liberty of the republican citizens won't allow them to submit in such a manner. The only possible courses of action in acquiring principalities of this sort are to destroy them or for the prince to make the principality his new home, since if the people can see the prince they can better fear him, and fear is a great deterrent, as was seen when speaking of conspiracies.

11 Left to consideration is the completely new principality, such as when a private citizen, as Machiavelli calls it, becomes prince. One is assigned to such a stature either with the support of the commoners or of the nobility. In any instance, the motivation is the self-interest of one of the classes. The nobility, seeing their natural appetites discontented, designate one of the commoners , so that under his protection, since they believe he will be in debt to them, they can eat all they want. Analogously in the instance of the commoners, they seek refuge behind the prince. But his magnificence maintains his status with less difficulty when he is brought up by the commoners, because their social counterpart differ from them in the fact that they, for the most part, consider the prince as their equal, so that he must constantly face the nobles' ambition. Also, being in their debt, it is harder to resist to their demands, and they also obey the prince reluctantly.

12 Moreover, satisfying the nobles hardly can be done without harming the commoners, not so being in the case of the commoners. Keep in mind that his magnificence must harm the least people possible, always choosing the "least bad as good".

13 Doing so in this instance because the danger grows with the number. Considering that the nobles have more resources, but that they are dependent on the prince as to their individual prestige and can be replaced anytime, not so being for the commoners, the prince should see two kinds of nobles : those who appear to be fully committed to the prince's cause and those who do not. The former should be honored and cherished. The latter are of two sorts : either they lack virtu ; of these the prince should extract the best of advisers, since they are of no danger to him. The other sort are enemies: they look forward to the prince's downfall.16 Furthermore, if one is to become prince without the commoners' approval, with the aid of the nobility, that one must dispose of his virtu in order to gain the commoners' support in the most diligent manner.

14 Because a prince is most dependent on the commoners, and he must ensure to have them on his side, otherwise he is guaranteed to fall in times of adversity, for the reasons discussed previously. Further, the commoners are in a way the reflection of the prince's virtu : through the commoners achievements you see the prince's virtu, since it can be inferred that happy citizens possess more inspiration for grandeur. This is a most powerful form of dependence.

The prince's army

The most praised of princes acts with his own army.17 Reasons for this are that such an army is of his own resort, it is an actualization of his virtu. Marching with another prince's troops is using this last prince's resources, and princes should avoid to be in debt to anyone, especially foreigners. Added to the fact that mercenaries are an external resource, they are disunited and disloyal. Masses wish their city to be safe, and they make loyal and united troops. Since acting with his own army is virtuous for the prince, in this other way he depends on the populace.

The relevant characteristics of the prince and people, the dependence of the prince on the people in different kinds of principalities, and the most virtuous of armies, are now known. The strongest dependence of the prince on the populace is at the level of his virtu, because the people great achievements are always associated with the prince in rule a the time of their accomplishments, down through the ages. The way in which the prince can provide for the people's virtu to be optimized is by satisfying them, for the less people have to worry about politics, the more they can concentrate on their art.