Renaissance in Italy, Volume 1 (of 7)
by John Addington Symonds
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[1] 'It passed, I say, from the condition of a corrupt and ill-conducted commonwealth to tyranny, rather than from a healthy and well-tempered republic to principality.'

[2] See Arch. Stor. vol. i. p. xxxv.

It would be beyond the purpose of this chapter to enter into the details of the history of Florence between 1527 and 1531—those years of her last struggle for freedom, which have been so admirably depicted by her great political annalists. It is rather my object to illustrate the intellectual qualities of philosophical analysis and acute observation for which her citizens were eminent. Yet a sketch of the situation is necessary in order to bring into relief the different points of view maintained by Segni, Nardi, Varchi, Pitti, and Nerli respectively.

At the period in question Florence was, according to the universal testimony of these authors, too corrupt for real liberty and too turbulent for the tranquil acceptance of a despotism. The yoke of the Medici had destroyed the sense of honor and the pride of the old noble families; while the policy pursued by Lorenzo and the Popes had created a class of greedy professional politicians. The city was not content with slavery; but the burghers, eminent for wealth or ability, were egotistical, vain, and mutually jealous. Each man sought advantage for himself. Common action seemed impossible. The Medicean party, or Palleschi, were either extreme in their devotion to the ruling house, and desirous of establishing a tyranny; or else they were moderate and anxious to retain the Medici as the chiefs of a dominant oligarchy. The point of union between these two divisions of the party was a prejudice in favor of class rule, a hope to get power and wealth for themselves through the elevation of the princely family The popular faction on the other hand agreed in wishing to place the government of the city upon a broad republican basis. But the leaders of this section of the citizens favored the plebeian cause from different motives. Some sought only a way to riches and authority, which they could never have opened for them under the oligarchy contemplated by the Palleschi. Others, styled Frateschi or Piagnoni, clung to the ideas of liberty which were associated with the high morality and impassioned creed of Savonarola. These were really the backbone of the nation, the class which might have saved the state if salvation had been possible. Another section, steeped in the study of ancient authors and imbued with memories of Roman patriotism, thought it still possible to secure the freedom of the state by liberal institutions. These men we may call the Doctrinaires. Their panacea was the establishment of a mixed form of government, such as that which Giannotti so learnedly illustrated. To these parties must be added the red republicans, or Arrabbiati—a name originally reserved for the worst adherents of the Medici, but now applied to fanatics of Jacobin complexion—and the Libertines, who only cared for such a form of government as should permit them to indulge their passions.

Amid this medley of interests there resulted, as a matter of fact, two policies at the moment when the affairs of Florence, threatened by Pope and Emperor in combination, and deserted by France and the rest of Italy, grew desperate. One was that of the Gonfalonier Capponi, who advocated moderate counsels and an accommodation with Clement VII. The other was that of the Gonfalonier Carducci, who pushed things to extremities and used the enthusiasm of the Frateschi for sustaining the spirit of the people in the siege.[1] The latter policy triumphed over the former. Its principles were an obstinate belief in Francis, though he had clearly turned a deaf ear to Florence; confidence in the generals, Baglioni and Colonna, who were privately traitors to the cause they professed to defend; and reliance on the prophecies of Savonarola, supported by the preaching of the Friars Foiano, Bartolommeo, and Zaccaria. Ill-founded as it was in fact, the policy of Carducci had on its side all that was left of nobility, patriotism, and the fire of liberty among the Florentines. In spite of the hopelessness of the attempt, we cannot now read without emotion how bravely and desperately those last champions of freedom fought, to maintain the independence of their city at any cost, and in the teeth of overwhelming opposition. The memory of Savonarola was the inspiration of this policy. Ferrucci was its hero. It failed. It was in vain that the Florentines had laid waste Valdarno, destroyed their beautiful suburbs, and leveled their crown of towers. It was in vain that they had poured forth their treasures to the uttermost farthing, had borne plague and famine without a murmur, and had turned themselves at the call of their country into a nation of soldiers, Charles, Clement, the Palleschi, and Malatesta Baglioni—enemies without the city walls and traitors within its gates—were too powerful for the resistance of burghers who had learned but yesterday to handle arms and to conduct a war on their own account.[2] Florence had to capitulate. The venomous Palleschi, Francesco Guicciardini and Baccio Valori, by proscription, exile, and taxation, drained the strength and broke the spirit of the state. Caesar and Christ's Vicar, a new Herod and a new Pilate, embraced and made friends over the prostrate corpse of sold and slaughtered liberty. Florence was paid as compensation for the insult offered to the Pontiff in the sack of Rome.

[1] Guicciardini, writing his Ricordi during the first months of the siege, remarks upon the power of faith (Op. Ined. vol. i. p. 83. Compare p. 134): 'Esemplo a' di nostri ne e grandissimo questa ostinazione de' Fiorentini, che essendosi contro a ogni ragione del mondo messi a aspettare la guerra del papa e imperadore, senza speranza di alcuno soccorso di altri, disuniti e con mille difficulta, hanno sostenuto in quelle mura gia sette mesi gli e serciti, e quali non si sarebbe creduto che avessino sostenuti sette di; e condotto le cose in luogo che se vincessino, nessuno piu se ne maraviglierebbe, dove prima da tutti erano giudicati perduti; e questa ostinazione ha causata in gran parte la fede di non potere perire, secondo le predicazioni di Fra Jeronimo da Ferrara.'

[2] See above, p. 238, for what Giannotti says of the heroic Ferrucci.

The part played by Filippo Strozzi in this last drama of the liberties of Florence is feeble and discreditable, but at the same time historically instructive, since it shows to what a point the noblest of the Florentines had fallen. All Pitti's invectives against the Ottimati, bitter as they may be, are justified by the unvarnished narrative we read upon the pages of Varchi and Segni concerning this most vicious, selfish, vain, and brilliant hero of historical romance. Married to Clarice de' Medici, by whom he had a splendid family of handsome and vigorous sons, he was more than the rival of his wife's princely relatives by his wealth. Yet though he made a profession of patriotism, Filippo failed to use this great influence consistently as a counterpoise to the Medicean authority. It was he, for instance, who advised Lorenzo the younger to make himself Duke of Florence. Distinguished, as he was, above all men of his time for wit, urbanity, accomplishments, and splendid living, his want of character neutralized these radiant gifts of nature. His private morals were infamous. He encouraged by precept and example the worst vices of his age and nation, consorting with young men whom he instructed in the arts of dissolute living, and to whom he communicated his own selfish Epicureanism. To him in a great measure may be attributed the corruption of the Florentine aristocracy in the sixteenth century. In his public action he was no less vacillating than unprincipled in private life. After prevailing upon Ippolito and Alessandro de' Medici to leave Florence in 1527, he failed to execute his trust of getting Pisa from their grasp (moved, it is said, by a guilty fondness for the young and handsome Ippolito), nor did he afterwards share any of the hardships and responsibilities of the siege. Indeed, he then found it necessary to retire into exile in France, on the excuse of superintending his vast commercial affairs at Lyons. After the restoration of the Medici he returned to Florence as the courtier of Duke Alessandro, whom he aided and abetted in his juvenile debaucheries. Quarreling with Alessandro on the occasion of an insult offered to his daughter Luisa, and the accusation of murder brought against his son Piero, he went into opposition and exile, less for political than for private reasons. After the murder of Alessandro, he received Lorenzo de' Medici, the fratricide, with the title of 'Second Brutus' at Venice. Meanwhile it was he who paid the dowry of Catherine de' Medici to the Duke of Orleans, helping thus to strengthen the house of princes against whom he was plotting, by that splendid foreign alliance which placed a descendant of the Florentine bill-brokers on the throne of France. After all these vicissitudes Filippo Strozzi headed an armed attack upon the dominions of Duke Cosimo, was taken in the battle of Montemurlo, and finally was murdered in that very fortress, outside the Porto a Faenza, which he had counseled Alessandro to construct for the intimidation of the Florentines.[1] The historians with the exception of Nerli agree in describing him as a pleasure-loving and self-seeking man, whose many changes of policy were due, not to conviction, but to the desire of gaining the utmost license of disorderly living. At the same time we cannot deny him the fame of brilliant mental qualities, a princely bearing, and great courage.

[1] See Varchi, vol. iii. p. 61, for the first stone laid of this castle. It should be said that accounts disagree about Filippo's death. Nerli very distinctly asserts that he committed suicide. Segni inclines to the belief that he was murdered by the creatures of Duke Cosimo.

The moral and political debility which proved the real source of the ruin of Florence is accounted for in different ways by the historians of the siege. Pitti, whose insight into the situation is perhaps the keenest, and who is by far the most outspoken, does not refer the failure of the Florentines to the cowardice or stupidity of the popular party, but to the malignity of the Palleschi, the double-dealing and egotism of the wealthy nobles, who to suit their own interests favored now one and now another of the parties. These Ottimati—as he calls them, by a title borrowed from classical phraseology—whether they professed the Medicean or the popular cause, were always bent on self-aggrandizement at the expense of the people or their princes.[1] The sympathies of Pitti were on the side of the plebeians, whose policy during the siege was carried out by the Gonfalonier Carducci. At the same time he admitted the feebleness and insufficiency of many of these men, called from a low rank of life and from mechanical trades to the administration of the commonwealth. The state of Florence under Piero Soderini—that 'non mai abbastanza lodato cavaliere,' as he calls him—was the ideal to which he reverted with longing eyes. Segni, on the other hand, condemns the ambition of the plebeian leaders, and declares his opinion that the State could only have been saved by the more moderate among the influential citizens. He belonged in fact to that section of the Medicean party which Varchi styles the Neutrals. He had strong aristocratic leanings, and preferred a government of nobles to the popular democracy which flourished under Francesco Carducci. While he desired the liberty of Florence, Segni saw that the republic could not hold its own against both Pope and Emperor, at a crisis when the King of France, who ought to have rendered assistance in the hour of need, was bound by the treaty of Cambray, and by the pledges he had given to Charles in the persons of his two sons. The policy of which Segni approved was that which Niccolo Capponi had prepared before his fall—a reconciliation with Clement through the intervention of the Emperor, according to the terms of which the Medici should have been restored as citizens of paramount authority, but not as sovereigns. Varchi, while no less alive to the insecurity of Carducci's policy, was animated with a more democratic spirit. He had none of Segni's Whig leanings, but shared the patriotic enthusiasm which at that supreme moment made the whole state splendidly audacious in the face of insurmountable difficulties. Both Segni and Varchi discerned the exaggerated and therefore baneful influence of Savonarola's prophecies over the populace of Florence. In spite of continued failure, the people kept trusting to the monk's prediction that, after her chastisement, Florence would bloom forth with double luster, and that angels in the last resort would man her walls and repel the invaders. There is something pathetic in this delusion of a great city, trusting with infantine pertinacity to the promises of the man whom they had seen burned as an impostor, when all the while their statesmen and their generals were striking bargains with the foe. Nardi is more sincerely Piagnone than either Segni or Varchi. Yet, writing after the events of the siege, his faith is shaken; and while he records his conviction that Savonarola was an excellent Nomothetes, he questions his prophetic mission, and deplores the effect produced by his vain promises. Nerli, as might have been expected from a noble married to Caterina Salviati, the niece of Leo and the aunt of Cosimo, who had himself been courtier to Clement and privy councilor to Alessandro, sustains the Medicean note throughout his commentaries.

[1] He goes so far as to assert that Leo X. and Clement VII. wished to give a liberal constitution to Florence, but that their plans were frustrated by the avarice and jealousy of the would-be oligarchs. See Arch. Stor. vol. i. pp. 121,131. The passages quoted from his 'Apologia de' Cappucci,' relative to Machiavelli, Filippo Strozzi, and Francesco Guicciardini (Arch. Stor. vol. i. pp. xxxix. xxxviii.), are very instructive; with such greedy self-seeking oligarchs, it was impossible for the Medicean Popes to establish any government but a tyranny in Florence.

Thus from these five authors, writing from different points of view, we gain a complete insight into the complicated politics of Florence, at a period when her vitality was still vigorous, but when she had lost all faculty for centralized or concerted action. In sagacity, in the power of analysis with which they pierce below the surface, trace effects to causes, discern character, and regard the facts of history as the proper subject-matter of philosophical reflection, they have much in common. He who has seen Rembrandt's painting of the dissecting-room might construct for himself another picture, in which the five grave faces of these patient observers should be bent above the dead and diseased body of their native city. Life is extinct. Nothing is left for science but, scalpel in hand, to lay bare the secret causes of dissolution. Each anatomist has his own opinion to deliver upon the nature of the malady. Each records the facts revealed by the autopsy according to his own impressions.

The literary qualities of these historians are very different, and seem to be derived from essential differences in their characters. Pitti is by far the most brilliant in style, concentrated in expression to the point of epigram, and weighty in judgment. Nardi, though deficient in some of the most attractive characteristics of the historian, is invaluable for sincerity of intention and painstaking accuracy. The philosophical, rhetorical, and dramatic passages which add so much splendor to the works of Guicciardini are absent from the pages of Nardi. He is anxious to present a clear picture of what happened; but he cannot make it animated, and he never reflects at length upon the matter of his history. At the same time he lacks the naiivete which makes Corio, Allegretti, Infessura, and Matarazzo so amusing. He gossips as little as Machiavelli, and has no profundity to make up for the want of piquancy. The interest of his chronicle is greatest in the part which concerns Savonarola, though even here the peculiarly reticent and dubitative nature of the man is obvious. While he sympathizes with Savonarola's political and moral reforms, he raises a doubt about his inner sincerity, and does not approve of the attitude of the Piagnoni.[1] In his estimation of men Nardi was remarkably cautious, preferring always to give an external relation of events, instead of analyzing motives or criticising character.[2] He is in especial silent about bad men and criminal actions. Therefore, when he passes an adverse judgment (as, for instance, upon Cesare Borgia), or notes a dark act (as the stuprum committed upon Astorre Manfredi), his corroboration of historians more addicted to scandal is important. Segni is far more lively than Nardi, while he is not less painstaking to be accurate. He shows a partisan feeling, especially in his admiration for Niccolo Capponi and his prejudice against Francesco Carducci, which gives the relish of personality that Nardi's cautiously dry chronicle lacks. Rarely have the entangled events of a specially dramatic period been set forth more lucidly, more succinctly, and with greater elegance of style. Segni is deficient, when compared with Varchi, only perhaps in volume, minuteness, and that wonderful mixture of candor, enthusiasm, and zeal for truth which makes Varchi incomparable. His sketches of men, critiques, and digressions upon statistical details are far less copious than Varchi's. But in idiomatic purity of language he is superior. Varchi had been spoiled by academic habits of composition. His language is diffuse and lumbering. He lacks the vivacity of epigram, selection, and pointed phrase. But his Storia Fiorentina remains the most valuable repertory of information we possess about the later vicissitudes of the republic, and the charm of detail compensates for the lack of style. Nerli is altogether a less interesting writer than those that have been mentioned; yet some of the particulars which he relates, about Savonarola's reform of manners, for example, and the literary gatherings in the Rucellai gardens, are such as we find nowhere else.

[1] Book ii. cap. 16.

[2] See lib. ii. cap. 34: 'Nel nostro scrivere non intendiamo far giudizio delle cose incerte, e massimamente della intenzione e animo segreto degli uomini, che non apparisce chiara se non per congettura e riscontro delle cose esteriori. E pero stando termo il primo proposito, vogliamo raccontare quanto piu possibile ci sia, la verita delle cose fatte, piu tosto che delle pensate o immaginate.' This is dignified and noble language in an age which admired the brilliant falsehoods of Giovio.

Many of my readers will doubtless feel that too much time has been spent in the discussion of these annalists of the siege of Florence. Yet for the student of history they have a value almost unique. They suggest the possibilities of a true science of comparative history, and reveal a vivacity of the historic consciousness which can be paralleled by no other nation. How different might be our conception of the vicissitudes of Athens between 404 and 338 B.C. if we possessed a similar Pleiad of contemporary Greek authors!

Having traced the development of historical research and political philosophy in Florence from the year 1300 to the fall of the Republic, it remains to speak of the two greatest masters of practical and theoretical statecraft—Francesco Guicciardini and Niccolo Machiavelli. These two writers combine all the distinctive qualities of the Florentine historiographers in the most eminent perfection. At the same time they are, not merely as authors but also as men, mirrors of the times in which they both played prominent parts. In their biographies and in their works we trace the spirit of an age devoid of moral sensibility, penetrative in analysis, but deficient in faith, hope, enthusiasm, and stability of character. The dry light of the intellect determined their judgment of men, as well as their theories of government. On the other hand, the sordid conditions of existence to which they were subjected as the servants of corrupt states, or the instruments of wily princes—as diplomatists intent upon the plans of kings like Ferdinand or adventurers like Cesare Borgia, privy councilors of such Popes as Clement VII. and such tyrants as Duke Alessandro de' Medici—distorted their philosophy and blunted their instincts. For the student of the sixteenth century they remain riddles, the solution of which is difficult, because by no strain of the imagination is it easy to place ourselves in their position. One half of their written utterances seem to be at variance with the other half. Their actions often contradict their most brilliant and emphatic precepts; while contemporaries disagree about their private character and public conduct. All this confusion, through which it is now perhaps impossible to discern what either Guicciardini or Machiavelli really was, and what they really felt and thought, is due to the anomaly of consummate ability and unrivaled knowledge of the world existing without religious or political faith, in an age of the utmost depravity of public and private morals. No criticism could be more stringent upon the contemporary disorganization of society in Italy than is the silent witness of these men, sublimely great in all mental qualities, but helplessly adrift upon a sea of contradictions and of doubts, ignorant of the real nature of mankind in spite of all their science, because they leave both goodness and beauty out of their calculations.

Francesco Guicciardini was born in 1482. In 1505, at the age of twenty-three, he had already so distinguished himself as a student of law that he was appointed by the Signoria of Florence to read the Institutes in public. However, as he preferred active to professorial work, he began at this time to practice at the bar, where he soon ranked as an able advocate and eloquent speaker. This reputation, together with his character for gravity and insight, determined the Signoria to send him on an embassy to the Court of Ferdinand of Aragon in 1512. Thus Guicciardini entered on the real work of his life as a diplomatist and statesman. We may also conclude with safety that it was at the court of that crowned hypocrite and traitor to all loyalty of soul that he learned his first lessons in political cynicism. The court of Spain under Ferdinand the Catholic was a perfect school of perfidy, where even an Italian might discern deeper reaches of human depravity and formulate for his own guidance a philosophy of despair. It was whispered by his enemies that here, upon the threshold of his public life, Guicciardini sold his honor by accepting a bribe from Ferdinand.[1] Certain it is that avarice was one of his besetting sins, and that from this time forward he preferred expediency to justice, and believed in the policy of supporting force by clever dissimulation.[2] Returning to Florence, Guicciardini was, in 1515, deputed to meet Leo X. on the part of the Republic at Cortona. Leo, who had the faculty of discerning able men and making use of them, took him into favor, and three years later appointed him Governor of Reggio and Modena. In 1521 Parma was added to his rule. Clement VII. made him Viceroy of Romagna in 1523, and in 1526 elevated him to the rank of Lieutenant-General of the Papal army. In consequence of this high commission, Guicciardini shared in the humiliation attaching to all the officers of the League who, with the Duke of Urbino at their head suffered Rome to be sacked and the Pope to be imprisoned in 1527. The blame of this contemptible display of cowardice or private spite cannot, however, be ascribed to him: for he attended the armies of the League not as general, but as counselor and chief reporter. It was his business not to control the movements of the army so much as to act as referee in the Pope's interest, and to keep the Vatican informed of what was stirring in the camp. In 1531 Guicciardini was advanced to the governorship of Bologna, the most important of all the Papal lord-lieutenancies. This post he resigned in 1534 on the election of Paul III., preferring to follow the fortunes of the Medicean princes at Florence. In this sketch of his career I must not omit to mention that Guicciardini was declared a rebel in 1527 by the popular government on account of his well-known Medicean prejudices, and that in 1530 he had been appointed by Clement VII. to punish the rebellious citizens. On the latter occasion he revenged himself for the insults offered him in 1527 by the cruelty with which he pushed proscription to the utmost limits, relegating his enemies to unhealthy places of exile, burdening them with intolerable fines, and using all the indirect means which his ingenuity could devise for forcing them into outlawry and contumacy.[3] Therefore when he returned to inhabit Florence, he did so as the creature of the Medici, sworn to maintain the bastard Alessandro in his power. He was elected a member of the Senate of eighty; and so thoroughly did he espouse the cause of his new master, that he had the face to undertake the Duke's defense before Charles V. at Naples in 1535. On this occasion Alessandro, who had rendered himself unbearable by his despotic habits, and in particular by the insults which he offered to women of all ranks and conditions in Florence, was arraigned by the exiles before the bar of Caesar. Guicciardini won the cause of his client, and restored Alessandro with an Imperial confirmation of his despotism to Florence. This period of his political career deserves particular attention, since it displays a glaring contradiction between some of his unpublished compositions and his actions, and confirms the accusations of his enemies.[4] That he should have preferred a government of Ottimati, or wealthy nobles, to a more popular constitution, and that he should have adhered with fidelity to the Medicean faction in Florence, is no ground for censure.[5] But when we find him in private unmasking the artifices of the despots by the most relentless use of frigid criticism, and advocating a mixed government upon the type of the Venetian Constitution, we are constrained to admit with Varchi and Pitti that his support of Alessandro was prompted less by loyalty than by a desire to gratify his own ambition and avarice under the protective shadow of the Medicean tyranny.[6] He belonged in fact to those selfish citizens whom Pitti denounces, diplomatists and men of the world, whose thirst for power induced them to play into the hands of the Medici, wishing to suck the state[7] themselves, and to hold the prince in the leading-strings of vice and pleasure for their own advantage.[8] After the murder of Alessandro, it was principally through Guicciardini's influence that Cosimo was placed at the head of the Florentine Republic with the title of Duke. Cosimo was but a boy, and much addicted to field sports. Guicciardini therefore reckoned that, with an assured income of 12,000 ducats, the youth would be contented to amuse himself, while he left the government of Florence in the hands of his Vizier.[9] But here the wily politician overreached himself. Cosimo wore an old head on his young shoulders. With decent modesty and a becoming show of deference, he used Guicciardini as his ladder to mount the throne by, and then kicked the ladder away. The first days of his administration showed that he intended to be sole master in Florence. Guicciardini, perceiving that his game was spoiled, retired to his villa in 1537 and spent the last years of his life in composing his histories. The famous Istoria d' Italia was the work of one year of this enforced retirement. The question irresistibly rises to our mind, whether some of the severe criticisms passed upon the Medici in his unpublished compositions were the fruit of these same bitter leisure hours.[10] Guicciardini died in 1540 at the age of fifty-eight, without male heirs.

[1] See the 'Apologia de' Cappucci,' Arch. Stor. vol. iv. part 2, p. 318.

[2] For the avarice of Guicciardini, see Varchi, vol. i. p. 318. His Ricordi Politici amply justify the second, though not the first, clause of this sentence.

[3] See Varchi, book xii. (and especially cap. xxv.), for these arts; he says, 'Nel che messer Francesco Guicciardini si scoperse piu crudele e piu appassionato degli altri.'

[4] Knowing what sort of tyrant Alessandro was, and remembering 'hat Guicciardini had written (Ricordi, No. ccxlii.): 'La calcina con che si murano gli stati de' tiranni e il sangue de' cittadini: pero doverebbe sforzarsi ognuno che nella citta sua non s'avessino a murare tali palazzi,' it is very difficult to approve of his advocacy of the Duke.

[5] Though even here the selfish ambition of the man was apparent to contemporaries: 'egli arebbe voluto uno stato col nome d' Ottimati, ma in fatti de' Pochi, nel quale larghissima parte, per le sue molte e rarissime qualita, meritissimamente gli si venia.'—Varchi, vol. i. p. 318.

[6] Guicciardini's Storia Fiorentina and Reggimento di Firenze (Op. Ined. vols. i, and iii.) may be consulted for his private critique of the Medici. What was the judgment passed upon him by contemporaries may be gathered from Varchi, vols. i. pp. 238, 318; ii. 410; iii. 204. Segni, pp. 219, 332. Nardi, vol. ii. p. 287. Pitti, quoted in Arch. Stor. vol. i. p. xxxviii., and the 'Apologia de' Cappucci' (Arch. Stor. vol. iv. pt. 2). It is, however, only fair to Guicciardini to record here his opinion, expressed in Ricordi, Nos. ccxx. and cccxxx., that it was the duty of good citizens to seek to guide the tyrant: 'Credo sia uficio di buoni cittadini, quando la patria viene in mano di tiranni, cercare d'avere luogo con loro per potere persuadere il bene, e detestare il male; e certo e interesse della citta che in qualunque tempo gli uomini da bene abbino autorita; e ancora che gli ignoranti e passionati di Firenze l' abbino sempre intesa altrimenti, si accorgerebbono quanta pestifero sarebbe il governo de' Medici, se non avessi intorno altri che pazzi e cattivi.'

[7] See Varchi, vol. iii. p. 204. 'Che Cosimo ... succiarsi lo stato.'

[8] Pitti dips his pen in gall when he describes these citizens: 'Cotesti vogliosi Ottimati; i quali non hanno saputo mai ritrovare luogo che piaccia loro, sottomendosi ora al Medici per l'ingorda avarizia; ora gittandosi al popolo, per non potere a modo loro tiraneggiare; ora rivendendolo a' Medici, vedutisi scoperti e raffrenati da lui; e sempre mai con danno della Repubblica, e di ciascuna parte, inquieti, insaziabili e fraudolenti.'—'Apologia de' Cappucci,' Arch. Stor. xv. pt. ii. p. 215.

[9] Here is a graphic touch in Varchi's History, vol. iii. p. 202. Guicciardini is discussing the appointment of Cosimo de' Medici: 'Gli dovessero esser pagati per suo piatto ogn' anno 12,000 fiorini d' oro, e non piu, avendo il Guicciardino, abbassando il viso e alzando gli occhi, detto: "Un 12,000 fiorini d' oro e—un bello spendere."'

[10] Pitti seems to have taken this view: see 'Apologia de' Cappucci' (Arch. Stor. vol. iv. part ii. p. 329): 'Tosto che 'l duca Cosimo lo pose a sedere insieme con certi altri suoi colleghi, si adiro malamente; e se la disputa della provvisione non l' avesse ritenuto, sarebbe ito a servire papa Pagolo terzo. Onde, restato confuso e disperato, si tratteneva alla sua villa di Santa Margarita a Montici; dove transportato dalla stizza ritocco in molte parti la sua Istoria, per mostrare di non essere stato della setta Pallesca; e dove potette, accatto l' occasione di parere istrumento della Repubblica.' Guicciardini's own apology for his treatment of the Medici, in the proemio to the treatise Del Reggimento di Firenze, deserves also to be read.

Turning now from the statesman to the man of letters, we find in Guicciardini one of the most consummate historians of any nation or of any age. The work by which he is best known, the Istoria d' Italia, is one that can scarcely be surpassed for masterly control of a very intricate period, for subordination of the parts to the whole, for calmness of judgment and for philosophic depth of thought. Considering that Guicciardini in this great work was writing the annals of his own times, and that he had to disentangle the raveled skein of Italian politics in the sixteenth century, these qualities are most remarkable. The whole movement of the history recalls the pomp and dignity of Livy, while a series of portraits sketched from life with the unerring hand of an anatomist and artist add something of the vivid force of Tacitus. Yet Guicciardini in this work deserves less commendation as a writer than as a thinker. There is a manifest straining to secure style, by manipulation and rehandling, which contrasts unfavorably with the unaffected ease, the pregnant spontaneity, of his unpublished writings. His periods are almost interminable, and his rhetoric is prolix and monotonous. We can trace the effort to emulate the authors of antiquity without the ease which is acquired by practice or the taste that comes with nature.

The transcendent merit of the history is this—that it presents us with a scientific picture of politics and of society during the first half of the sixteenth century. The picture is set forth with a clairvoyance and a candor that are almost terrible. The author never feels enthusiasm for a moment: no character, however great for good or evil, rouses him from the attitude of tranquil disillusioned criticism. He utters but few exclamations of horror or of applause. Faith, religion, conscience, self-subordination to the public good, have no place in his list of human motives; interest, ambition, calculation, envy, are the forces which, according to his experience, move the world. That the strong should trample on the weak, that the wily should circumvent the innocent, that hypocrisy and fraud and dissimulation should triumph, seems to him but natural. His whole theory of humanity is tinged with the sad gray colors of a stolid, cold-eyed, ill-contented, egotistical indifference. He is not angry, desperate, indignant, but phlegmatically prudent, face to face with the ruin of his country. For him the world was a game of intrigue, in which his friends, his enemies, and himself played parts, equally sordid, with grave faces and hearts bent only on the gratification of mean desires. Accordingly, though his mastery of detail, his comprehension of personal motives, and his analysis of craft are alike incomparable, we find him incapable of forming general views with the breadth of philosophic insight or the sagacity of a frank and independent nature. The movements of the eagle and the lion must be unintelligible to the spider or the fox. It was impossible for Guicciardini to feel the real greatness of the century, or to foresee the new forces to which it was giving birth. He could not divine the momentous issues of the Lutheran schism; and though he perceived the immediate effect upon Italian politics of the invasion of the French, he failed to comprehend the revolution marked out for the future in the shock of the modern nations. While criticising the papacy, he discerned the pernicious results of nepotism and secular ambition: but he had no instinct for the necessity of a spiritual and religious regeneration. His judgment of the political situation led him to believe that the several units of the Italian system might be turned to profit and account by the application of superficial remedies,—by the development of despotism, for example, or of oligarchy, when in reality the decay of the nation was already past all cure.

Two other masterpieces from Guicciardini's pen, the Dialogo del Reggimento di Firenze and the Storia Fiorentina, have been given to the world during the last twenty years. To have published them immediately after their author's death would have been inexpedient, since they are far too candid and outspoken to have been acceptable to the Medicean dynasty. Yet in these writings we find Guicciardini at his best. Here he has not yet assumed the mantle of the rhetorician, which in the Istoria d' Italia sits upon him somewhat cumbrously. His style is more spontaneous; his utterances are less guarded. Writing for himself alone, he dares to say more plainly what he thinks and feels. At the same time the political sagacity of the statesman is revealed in all its vigor. I have so frequently used both of these treatises that I need not enter into a minute analysis of their contents. It will be enough to indicate some of the passages which display the literary style and the scientific acumen of Guicciardini at their best. The Reggimento di Firenze is an essay upon the form of government for which Florence was best suited. Starting with a discussion of Savonarola's constitution, in which ample justice is done to the sagacity and promptitude by means of which he saved the commonwealth at a critical juncture (pp. 27-30), the interlocutors pass to an examination of the Medicean tyranny (pp. 34-49). This is one of the masterpieces of Guicciardini's analysis. He shows how the administration of justice, the distribution of public honors, and the foreign policy of the republic were perverted by this family. He condemns Cosimo's tyrannical application of fines and imposts (p. 68), Piero the younger's insolence (p. 46), and Lorenzo's appropriation of the public moneys to his private use (p. 43). Yet while setting forth the vices of this tyranny in language which even Sismondi would have been contented to translate and sign, Guicciardini shows no passion. The Medici were only acting as befitted princes eager for power, although they crushed the spirit of the people, discouraged political ardor, extinguished military zeal, and did all that in them lay to enervate the nation they governed. The scientific statist acknowledges no reciprocal rights and duties between the governor and the governed. It is a trial of strength. If the tyrant gets the upper hand, the people must expect to be oppressed. If, on the other side, the people triumph, they must take good care to exterminate the despotic brood: 'The one true remedy would be to destroy and extinguish them so utterly that not a vestige should remain, and to employ for this purpose the poignard or poison, as may be most convenient; otherwise the least surviving spark is certain to cause trouble and annoyance for the future'(p. 215). The same precise criticism lays bare the weakness of democracy. Men, says Guicciardini, always really desire their own power more than the freedom of the state (p. 50), and the motives even of tyrannicides are very rarely pure (pp. 53-54). The governments established by the liberals are full of defects. The Consiglio Grande, for example, of the Florentines is ignorant in its choice of magistrates, unjust in its apportionment of taxes, scarcely less prejudiced against individuals than a tyrant would be, and incapable of diplomatic foreign policy (pp. 58-69). Then follows a discussion of the relative merits of the three chief forms of government—the Governo dell' Uno, the Governo degli Ottimati, and the Governo del Popolo (p. 129). Guicciardini has already criticised the first and the third.[1] He now expresses a strong opinion that the second is the worst which could be applied to the actual conditions of the Florentine Republic (p. 130). His panegyric of the Venetian constitution (pp. 139-41) illustrates his plan for combining the advantages of the three species and obviating their respective evils. In fact he declares for that Utopia of the sixteenth century—the Governo Misto—a political invention which fascinated the imagination of Italian statesmen much in the same way as the theory of perpetual motion attracted scientific minds in the last century.[2] What follows is an elaborate scheme for applying the principles of the Governo Misto to the existing state of things in Florence. This lucid and learned disquisition is wound up (p. 188) with a mournful expression of the doubt which hung like a thick cloud over all the political speculations of both Guicciardini and Machiavelli: 'I hold it very doubtful, and I think it much depends on chance whether this disorganized constitution will ever take new shape or not ... and as I said yesterday, I should have more hope if the city were but young; seeing that not only does a state at the commencement take form with greater facility than one that has grown old under evil governments, but things always turn out more prosperously and more easily while fortune is yet fresh and has not run its course,' etc.[3] In reading the Dialogue on the Constitution of Florence it must finally be remembered that Guicciardini has thrown it back into the year 1494, and that he speaks through the mouths of four interlocutors. Therefore we may presume that he intended his readers to regard it as a work of speculative science rather than of practical political philosophy. Yet it is not difficult to gather the drift of his own meaning.

[1] Cf. Ricordi, cxl.: 'Chi disse uno popolo, disse veramente uno animale pazzo, pieno ni mille errori, di mille confusioni, sanza gusto, sanza diletto, sanza stabilita.' It should be noted that Guicciardini here and elsewhere uses the term Popolo in its fuller democratic sense. The successive enlargements of the burgher class in Florence, together with the study of Greek and Latin political philosophy, had introduced the modern connotation of the term.

[2] A lucid criticism of the three forms of government is contained in Guicciardini's Comment on the second chapter of the first book of Machiavelli's Discorsi (Op. Ined. vol. i. p. 6): 'E non e dubio che il governo misto delle tre spezie, principi, ottimati e popolo, e migliore e piu stabile che uno governo semplice di qualunque delle tre spezie, e massime quando e misto in modo che di qualunque spezie e tolto il buono e lasciato indietro il cattivo.' Machiavelli had himself, in the passage criticised, examined the three simple governments and declared in favor of the mixed as that which gave stability to Sparta, Rome, and Venice. The same line of thought may be traced in the political speculations of both Plato and Aristotle. The Athenians and Florentines felt the superior stability of the Spartan and Venetian forms of government, just as a French theorist might idealize the English constitution. The essential element of the Governo Misto, which Florence had lost beyond the possibility of regaining it, was a body of hereditary and patriotic patricians. This gave its strength to Venice; and this is that which hitherto has distinguished the English nation.

[3] Compare Ricordi Politici e Civili, No. clxxxix., for a lament of this kind over the decrepitude of kingdoms, almost sublime in its stoicism.

The Istoria Fiorentina is a succinct narrative of the events of Italian History, especially as they concerned Florence, between the years 1378 and 1509. In other words it relates the vicissitudes of the Republic under the Medici, and the administration of the Gonfalonier Soderini. This masterpiece of historical narration sets forth with brevity and frankness the whole series of events which are rhetorically and cautiously unfolded in the Istoria d' Italia. Most noticeable are the characters of Lorenzo de' Medici (cap. ix.), of Savonarola (cap. xvii.), and of Alexander VI. (cap. xxvii.). The immediate consequences of the French invasion have never been more ably treated than in Chapter xi., while the whole progress of Cesare Borgia in his career of villany is analyzed with exquisite distinctness in Chapter xxvi. The wisdom of Guicciardini nowhere appears more ripe, or his intellect more elastic, than in the Istoria Fiorentina. Students who desire to gain a still closer insight into the working of Guicciardini's mind should consult the 403 Ricordi Politici e Civili collected in the first volume of his Opere Inedite. These have all the charm which belongs to occasional utterances, and are fit, like proverbs, to be worn for jewels on the finger of time.

The biography of Niccolo Machiavelli consists for the most part of a record of his public services to the State of Florence. He was born on May 3, 1469, of parents who belonged to the prosperous middle class of Florentine citizens. His ancestry was noble; for the old tradition which connected his descent with the feudal house of Montespertoli has been confirmed by documentary evidence.[1] His forefathers held offices of high distinction in the Commonwealth; and though their wealth and station had decreased, Machiavelli inherited a small landed estate. His family, who were originally settled in the Val di Pesa, owned farms at San Casciano and in other villages of the Florentine dominion, a list of which may be seen in the return presented by his father Bernardo to the revenue office in 1498.[2] Their wealth was no doubt trivial in comparison with that which citizens amassed by trade in Florence; for it was not the usage of those times to draw more than the necessaries of life from the Villa: all superfluities were provided by the Bottega in the town.[3] Yet there can be no question, after a comparison of Bernardo Machiavelli's return of his landed property with Niccolo Machiavelli's will,[4] that the illustrious war secretary at all periods of his life owned just sufficient property to maintain his family in a decent, if not a dignified, style. About his education we know next to nothing. Giovio[5] asserts that he possessed but little Latin, and that he owed the show of learning in his works to quotations furnished by Marcellus Virgilius. This accusation, which, whether it be true or not, was intended to be injurious, has lost its force in an age that, like ours, values erudition less than native genius. It is certain that Machiavelli knew quite enough of Latin and Greek literature to serve his turn; and his familiarity with some of the classical historians and philosophers is intimate. There is even too much parade in his works of illustrations borrowed from Polybius, Livy, and Plutarch: the only question is whether Machiavelli relied upon translations rather than originals. On this point, it is also worthy of remark that his culture was rather Roman than Hellenic. Had he at any period of his life made as profound a study of Plato's political dialogues as he made of Livy's histories, we cannot but feel that his theories both of government and statecraft might have been more concordant with a sane and normal humanity.

[1] See Villani's Machiavelli, vol. i. p. 303. Ed. Le Monnier.

[2] See vol. i. of the edition of Machiavelli, by Mess. Fanfani and Passerini, Florence, 1873; p. lv. Villani's Machiavelli, ib. p. 306. The income is estimated at about 180l.

[3] See Pandolfini, Trattato del Governo della Famiglia.

[4] Fanfani and Passerini's edition, vol. i. p. xcii.

[5] Elogia, cap. 87.

In 1494, the date of the expulsion of the Medici, Machiavelli was admitted to the Chancery of the Commune as a clerk; and in 1498 he was appointed to the post of chancellor and secretary to the Dieci di liberta e pace. This place he held for the better half of fifteen years, that is to say, during the whole period of Florentine freedom. His diplomatic missions undertaken at the instance of the Republic were very numerous. Omitting those of less importance, we find him at the camp of Cesare Borgia in 1502, in France in 1504, with Julius II. in 1506, with the Emperor Maximilian in 1507, and again at the French Court in 1510.[1] To this department of his public life belong the dispatches and Relazioni which he sent home to the Signory of Florence, his Monograph upon the Massacre of Sinigaglia, his treatises upon the method of dealing with Pisa, Pistoja, and Valdichiana, and those two remarkable studies of foreign nations which are entitled Ritratti delle Cose dell' Alemagna and Ritratti delle Cose di Francia. It was also in the year 1500 that he laid the first foundations of his improved military system. The political sagacity and the patriotism for which Machiavelli has been admired are nowhere more conspicuous than in the discernment which suggested this measure, and in the indefatigable zeal with which he strove to carry it into effect. Pondering upon the causes of Italian weakness when confronted with nations like the French, and comparing contemporary with ancient history, Machiavelli came to the conclusion that the universal employment of mercenary troops was the chief secret of the insecurity of Italy. He therefore conceived a plan for establishing a national militia, and for placing the whole male population at the service of the state in times of war. He had to begin cautiously in bringing this scheme before the public; for the stronghold of the mercenary system was the sloth and luxury of the burghers. At first he induced the Dieci di liberta e pace, or war office, to require the service of one man per house throughout the Florentine dominion; but at the same time he caused a census to be taken of all men capable of bearing arms. His next step was to carry a law by which the permanent militia of the state was fixed at 10,000. Then in 1503, having prepared the way by these preliminary measures, he addressed the Council of the Burghers in a set oration, unfolding the principles of his proposed reform, and appealing not only to their patriotism but also to their sense of self-preservation. It was his aim to prove that mercenary arms must be exchanged for a national militia, if freedom and independence were to be maintained. The Florentines allowed themselves to be convinced, and, on the recommendation of Machiavelli, they voted in 1506 a new magistracy, called the Nove dell' Ordinanza e Milizia, for the formation of companies, the discipline of soldiers, and the maintenance of the militia in a state of readiness for active service.[2] Machiavelli became the secretary of this board; and much of his time was spent thenceforth in the levying of troops and the practical development of his system. It requires an intimate familiarity with the Italian military system of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries to understand the importance of this reform. We are so accustomed to the systems of Militia, Conscription, and Landwehr, by means of which military service has been nationalized among the modern races, that we need to tax our imagination before we can place ourselves at the point of view of men to whom Machiavelli's measure was a novelty of genius.[3]

[1] Machiavelli never bore the title of Ambassador on these missions. He went as Secretary. His pay was miserable. We find him receiving one ducat a day for maintenance.

[2] Documents relating to the institution of the Nove dell' Ordinanza e Milizia, and to its operations between December 6, 1506, and August 6, 1512, from the pen of Machiavelli, will be found printed by Signor Canestrini in Arch. Stor. vol. xv. pp. 377 to 453. Machiavelli's treatise De re militari, or I libri sull' arte della guerra, was the work of his later life; it was published in 1521 at Florence.

[3] Though Machiavelli deserves the credit of this military system, the part of Antonio Giacomini in carrying it into effect must not be forgotten. Pitti, in his 'Life of Giacomini' (Arch. Stor. vol. iv. pt. ii. p. 241), says: 'Avendo per dieci anni continovi fatto prova nelle fazioni e nelle battaglie de' fanti del dominio e delli esterni, aveva troppo bene conosciuto con quanta piu sicurezza si potesse la repubblica servire de' suoi propri che delli istranieri.' Machiavelli had gone as Commissary to the camp of Giacomini before Pisa in August 1505; there the man of action and the man of theory came to an agreement: both found in the Gonfalonier Soderini a chief of the republic capable of entering into their views.

It must be admitted that the new militia proved ineffectual in the hour of need. To revive the martial spirit of a nation, enervated by tyranny and given over to commerce, merely by a stroke of genius, was beyond the force of even Machiavelli. When Prato had been sacked in 1512, the Florentines, destitute of troops, divided among themselves and headed by the excellent but hesitating Piero Soderini, threw their gates open to the Medici. Giuliano, the brother of Pope Leo, and Lorenzo, his nephew, whose statues sit throned in the immortality of Michael Angelo's marble upon their tombs in San Lorenzo, disposed of the republic at their pleasure. Machiavelli, as War Secretary of the anti-Medicean government, was of course disgraced and deprived of his appointments. In 1513 he was suspected of complicity in the conjuration of Pietropaolo Boscoli and Agostino Capponi, was imprisoned in the Bargello, and tortured to the extent of four turns of the rack. It seems that he was innocent. Leo X. released him by the act of amnesty passed upon the event of his assuming the tiara; and Machiavelli immediately retired to his farm near San Casciano.

Since we are now approaching the most critical passage of Machiavelli's biography, it may be well to draw from his private letters a picture of the life to which this statesman of the restless brain was condemned in the solitude of the country.[1] Writing on December 10 to his friend Francesco Vettori, he says, 'I am at my farm; and, since my last misfortunes, have not been in Florence twenty days. I rise with the sun, and go into a wood of mine that is being cut, where I remain two hours inspecting the work of the previous day and conversing with the woodcutters, who have always some trouble on hand among themselves or with their neighbors. When I leave the wood, I proceed to a well, and thence to the place which I use for snaring birds, with a book under my arm—Dante, or Petrarch, or one of the minor poets, like Tibullus or Ovid. I read the story of their passions, and let their loves remind me of my own, which is a pleasant pastime for a while. Next I take the road, enter the inn door, talk with the passers-by, inquire the news of the neighborhood, listen to a variety of matters, and make note of the different tastes and humors of men. This brings me to dinner-time, when I join my family and eat the poor produce of my farm. After dinner I go back to the inn, where I generally find the host and a butcher, a miller, and a pair of bakers. With these companions I play the fool all day at cards or backgammon: a thousand squabbles, a thousand insults and abusive dialogues take place, while we haggle over a farthing, and shout loud enough to be heard from San Casciano. But when evening falls I go home and enter my writing-room. On the threshold I put off my country habit, filthy with mud and mire, and array myself in royal courtly garments; thus worthily attired, I make my entrance into the ancient courts of the men of old, where they receive me with love, and where I feed upon that food which only is my own and for which I was born. I feel no shame in conversing with them and asking them the reason of their actions. They, moved by their humanity, make answer; for four hours' space I feel no annoyance, forget all care; poverty cannot frighten, nor death appall me. I am carried away to their society. And since Dante says "that there is no science unless we retain what we have learned," I have set down what I have gained from their discourse, and composed a treatise, De Principatibus, in which I enter as deeply as I can into the science of the subject, with reasonings on the nature of principality, its several species, and how they are acquired, how maintained, how lost. If you ever liked any of my scribblings, this ought to suit your taste. To a prince, and especially to a new prince, it ought to prove acceptable. Therefore I am dedicating it to the Magnificence of Giuliano.'

[1] This letter may be compared with others of about the same date. In one (Aug. 3, 1514) he says: 'Ho lasciato dunque i pensieri delle cose grandi e gravi, non mi diletta piu leggere le cose antiche, ne ragionare delle moderne; tutte si son converse in ragionamenti dolci,' etc. Again he writes (Dec. 4, 1514): 'Quod autem ad me pertinet, si quid agam scire cupis, omnem meae vitae rationem ab eodem Tafano intelliges, quam sordidam ingloriamque, non sine indignatione, si me ut soles amas, cognosces.' Later on, we may notice the same language. Thus (Feb. 5, 1515), 'Sono diventato inutile a me, a' parenti ed agli amici,' and (June 8, 1517) 'Essendomi io ridotto a stare in villa per le avversita che io ho avuto ed ho, sto qualche volta un mese che non mi ricordo di me.'

Further on in the same letter he writes: 'I have talked with Filippo Casavecchia about this little work of mine, whether I ought to present it or not; and if so, whether I ought to send or take it myself to him. I was induced to doubt about presenting it at all by the fear lest Giuliano should not even read it, and that this Ardinghelli should profit by my latest labors. On the other hand, I am prompted to present it by the necessity which pursues me, seeing that I am consuming myself in idleness, and I cannot continue long in this way without becoming contemptible through poverty. I wish these Signori Medici would begin to make some use of me, if it were only to set me to the work of rolling a stone.[1] If I did not win them over to me afterwards, I should only complain of myself. As for my book, if they read it, they would perceive that the fifteen years I have spent in studying statecraft have not been wasted in sleep or play; and everybody ought to be glad to make use of a man who has so filled himself with experience at the expense of others. About my fidelity they ought not to doubt. Having always kept faith, I am not going to learn to break it now. A man who has been loyal and good for forty-three years, like me, is not likely to change his nature; and of my loyalty and goodness my poverty is sufficient witness to them.'

[1] Compare the letter, dated June 10, 1514, to Fr. Vettori: 'Starommi dunque cosi tra i miei cenci, senza trovare uomo che della mia servitu si ricordi, o che creda che io possa esser buono a nulla. Ma egli e impossibile che io possa star molto cosi, perche io mi logoro,' etc. Again, Dec. 20, 1514: 'E se la fortuna avesse voluto che i Medici, o in cosa di Firenze o di fuora, o in cose loro particolari o in pubbliche, mi avessino una volta comandato, io sarei contento.'

This letter, invaluable to the student of Machiavelli's works, is prejudicial to his reputation. It was written only ten months after he had been imprisoned and tortured by the Medici, just thirteen months after the republic he had served so long had been enslaved by the princes before whom he was now cringing. It is true that Machiavelli was not wealthy; his habits of prodigality made his fortune insufficient for his needs.[1] It is true that he could ill bear the enforced idleness of country life, after being engaged for fifteen years in the most important concerns of the Florentine Republic. But neither his poverty, which, after all, was but comparative, nor his inactivity, for which he found relief in study, justifies the tone of the conclusion to this letter. When we read it, we cannot help remembering the language of another exile, who while he tells us—

Come sa di sale Lo pane altrui, e com' e duro calle Lo scendere e 'l salir per l' altrui scale

—can yet refuse the advances of his factious city thus: 'If Florence cannot be entered honorably, I will never set foot within her walls. And what? Shall I not be able from any angle whatsoever of the earth to gaze upon the sun and stars? shall I not beneath whatever region of the heavens have power to meditate the sweetest truths, unless I make myself ignoble first, nay ignominious, in the face of Florence and her people? Nor will bread, I warrant, fail me!' If Machiavelli, who in this very letter to Vettori quoted Dante, had remembered these words, they ought to have fallen like drops of molten lead upon his soul. But such was the debasement of the century that probably he would have only shrugged his shoulders and sighed, 'Tempora mutantur, nos et mutamur in illis.'

[1] See familiar letter, June 10, 1514.

In some respects Dante, Machiavelli, and Michael Angelo Buonarroti may be said to have been the three greatest intellects produced by Florence. Dante in exile and in opposition, would hold no sort of traffic with her citizens. Michael Angelo, after the siege, worked at the Medici tombs for Pope Clement, as a makepeace offering for the fortification of Samminiato; while Machiavelli entreats to be put to roll a stone by these Signori Medici, if only he may so escape from poverty and dullness. Michael Angelo, we must remember, owed a debt of gratitude as an artist to the Medici for his education in the gardens of Lorenzo. Moreover, the quatrain which he wrote for his statue of the Night justifies us in regarding that chapel as the cenotaph designed by him for murdered Liberty. Machiavelli owed nothing to the Medici, who had disgraced and tortured him, and whom he had opposed in all his public action during fifteen years. Yet what was the gift with which he came before them as a suppliant, crawling to the footstool of their throne? A treatise De Principatibus; in other words, the celebrated Principe; which, misread it as Machiavelli's apologists may choose to do, or explain it as the rational historian is bound to do, yet carries venom in its pages. Remembering the circumstances under which it was composed, we are in a condition to estimate the proud humility and prostrate pride of the dedication. 'Niccolo Machiavelli to the Magnificent Lorenzo, son of Piero de' Medici:' so runs the title. 'Desiring to present myself to your Magnificence with some proof of my devotion, I have not found among my various furniture aught that I prize more than the knowledge of the actions of great men acquired by me through a long experience of modern affairs and a continual study of ancient. These I have long and diligently revolved and examined in my mind, and have now compressed into a little book which I send to your Magnificence. And though I judge this work unworthy of your presence, yet I am confident that your humanity will cause you to value it when you consider that I could not make you a greater gift than this of enabling you in a few hours to understand what I have learned through perils and discomforts in a lengthy course of years.' 'If your Magnificence will deign, from the summit of your height, some time to turn your eyes to my low place, you will know how unjustly I am forced to endure the great and continued malice of fortune.' The work so dedicated was sent in MS. for the Magnificent's private perusal. It was not published until 1532, by order of Clement VII., after the death of Machiavelli.

I intend to reserve the Principe, considered as the supreme expression of Italian political science, for a separate study; and after the introduction to Macaulay's Essay on Machiavelli, I need hardly enter in detail into a discussion of the various theories respecting the intention of this treatise.[1] Yet this is the proper place for explaining my view about Machiavelli's writings in relation to his biography, and for attempting to connect them into such unity as a mind so strictly logical as his may have designed.

[1] Macaulay's essay is, of course, brilliant and comprehensive. I do not agree with his theory of the Italian despot, as I have explained on p. 127 of this volume. Sometimes, too, he indulges in rhetoric that is merely sentimental, as when he says about the dedication of the Florentine History to Clement: 'The miseries and humiliations of dependence, the bread which is more bitter than every other food, the stairs which are more painful than every other ascent, had not broken the spirit of Machiavelli. The most corrupting post in a corrupting profession had not depraved the generous heart of Clement.' The sentence I have printed in italics may perhaps tell the truth about the Church and Popes in general; but the panegyric of Clement is preposterous. Macaulay must have been laughing in his sleeve.

With regard to the circumstances under which the Prince was composed, enough has been already said. Machiavelli's selfish purpose in putting it forth seems to my mind apparent. He wanted employment: he despaired of the republic: he strove to furnish the princes in power with a convincing proof of his capacity for great affairs. Yet it must not on this account be concluded that the Principe was merely a cheap bid for office. On the contrary, it contained the most mature and the most splendid of Machiavelli's thoughts, accumulated through his long years of public service; and, strange as it may seem, it embodied the dream of a philosophical patriot for the restitution of liberty to Italy. Florence, indeed, was lost. 'These Signori Medici' were in power. But could not even they be employed to purge the sacred soil of Italy from the Barbarians?

If we can pretend to sound the depths of Machiavelli's mind at this distance of time, we may conjecture that he had come to believe the free cities too corrupt for independence. The only chance Italy had of holding her own against the great powers of Europe was by union under a prince. At the same time the Utopia of this union, with which he closes the Principe, could only be realized by such a combination as would either neutralize the power of the Church, or else gain the Pope for an ally by motives of interest. Now at the period of the dedication of the Principe to Lorenzo de' Medici, Leo X. was striving to found a principality in the states of the Church.[1] In 1516 he created his nephew Duke of Urbino, and it was thought that this was but a prelude to still further greatness. Florence in combination with Rome might do much for Italy. Leo meanwhile was still young, and his participation in the most ambitious schemes was to be expected. Thus the moment was propitious for suggesting to Lorenzo that he should put himself at the head of an Italian kingdom, which, by its union beneath the strong will of a single prince, might suffice to cope with nations more potent in numbers and in arms.[2] The Principe was therefore dedicated in good faith to the Medici, and the note on which it closes was not false. Machiavelli hoped that what Cesare Borgia had but just failed in accomplishing, Lorenzo de' Medici, with the assistance of a younger Pope than Alexander, a firmer basis to his princedom in Florence, and a grasp upon the states of the Church made sure by the policy of Julius II., might effect. Whether so good a judge of character as Machiavelli expected really much from Lorenzo may be doubted.

[1] We are, however, bound to remember that Leo was only made Pope in March 1513, and that the Principe was nearly finished in the following December. Machiavelli cannot therefore be credited with knowing as well as we do now to what length the ambition of the Medici was about to run when he composed his work. He wrote in the hope that it might induce them to employ him.

[2] The two long letters to Fr. Vettori (Aug. 26, 1513) and to Piero Soderini (no date) should be studied side by side with the Principe for the light they throw on Machiavelli's opinions there expressed.

These circumstances make the morality of the book the more remarkable. To teach political science denuded of commonplace hypocrisies was a worthy object. But while seeking to lay bare the springs of action, and to separate statecraft from morals, Machiavelli found himself impelled to recognize a system of inverted ethics. The abrupt division of the two realms, ethical and political, which he attempted, was monstrous; and he ended by substituting inhumanity for human nature. Unable to escape the logic which links morality of some sort with conduct, he gave his adhesion to the false code of contemporary practice. He believed that the right way to attain a result so splendid as the liberation of Italy was to proceed by force, craft, bad faith, and all the petty arts of a political adventurer. The public ethics of his day had sunk to this low level. Success by means of plain dealing was impossible. The game of statecraft could only be carried on by guile and violence. Even the clear genius of Machiavelli had been obscured by the muddy medium of intrigue in which he had been working all his life. Even his keen insight was dazzled by the false splendor of the adventurer Cesare Borgia.

To have formulated the ethics of the Principe is not diabolical. There is no inventive superfluity of naughtiness in the treatise. It is simply a handbook of princecraft, as that art was commonly received in Italy, where the principles of public morality had been translated into terms of material aggrandizement, glory, gain, and greatness. No one thought of judging men by their motives but by their practice; they were not regarded as moral but as political beings, responsible, that is to say, to no law but the obligation of success. Crimes which we regard as horrible were then commended as magnanimous, if it could be shown that they were prompted by a firm will and had for their object a deliberate end. Machiavelli and Paolo Giovio, for example, both praise the massacre at Sinigaglia as a masterstroke of art, without uttering a word in condemnation of its perfidy. Machiavelli sneers at Gianpaolo Baglioni because he had not the courage to strangle his guest Julius II. and to crown his other crimes with this signal act of magnanimity. What virtue had come to mean in the Italian language we have seen already. The one quality which every one despised was simplicity, however this might be combined with lofty genius and noble aims. It was because Soderini was simple and had a good heart that Machiavelli wrote the famous epigram—

La notte che mori Pier Soderini L' alma n' ando dell' inferno alla bocca; E Pluto le grido: Anima sciocca, Che inferno? va nel limbo de' bambini.

The night that Peter Soderini died, His soul flew down unto the mouth of hell: 'What? Hell for you? You silly spirit!' cried The fiend: 'your place is where the babies dwell.'

As of old in Corcyra, so now in Italy, 'guilelessness, which is the principal ingredient of genuine nobleness, was laughed down, and disappeared.'[1] What men feared was not the moral verdict of society, pronouncing them degraded by vicious or violent acts, but the intellectual estimate of incapacity and the stigma of dullness. They were afraid of being reckoned among feebler personalities; and to escape from this contempt, by the commission even of atrocities, had come to be accounted manly. The truth, missed almost universally, was that the supreme wisdom, the paramount virility, is law-abiding honesty, the doing of right because right is right, in scorn of consequence. Nothing appears more clearly in the memoirs of Cellini than this point, while the Italian novels are full of matter bearing on the same topic. It is therefore ridiculous to assume that an Italian judged of men or conduct in any sense according to our standards. Pinturicchio and Perugino thought it no shame to work for princes like the Baglioni and for Popes like Alexander VI. Lionardo da Vinci placed his talents as an engineer at the service of Cesare Borgia, and employed his genius as a musician and a painter for the amusement of the Milanese Court, which must have been, according to Corio's account, flagrantly and shamelessly corrupt. Leo Battista Alberti, one of the most charming and the gentlest spirits of the earlier Renaissance, in like manner lent his architectural ability to the vanity of the iniquitous Sigismondo Malatesta. No: the Principe was not inconsistent with the general tone of Italian morality; and Machiavelli cannot be fairly taxed with the discovery of a new infernal method. The conception of politics as a bare art of means to ends had grown up in his mind by the study of Italian history and social customs. His idealization of Cesare Borgia and his romance of Castruccio were the first products of the theory he had formed by observation of the world he lived in. The Principe revealed it fully organized. But to have presented such an essay in good faith to the despots of his native city, at that particular moment in his own career, and under the pressure of trivial distress, is a real blot upon his memory.

[1] Thuc. iii. 83. The whole of the passage about Corcyra in the third book of Thucydides (chs. 82 and 83) applies literally to the moral condition of Italy at this period.

We learn from Varchi that Machiavelli was execrated in Florence for his Principe, the poor thinking it would teach the Medici to take away their honor, the rich regarding it as an attack upon their wealth, and both discerning in it a death-blow to freedom.[1] Machiavelli can scarcely have calculated upon this evil opinion, which followed him to the grave: for though he showed some hesitation in his letter to Vettori about the propriety of presenting the essay to the Medici, this was only grounded on the fear lest a rival should get the credit of his labors. Again, he uttered no syllable about its being intended for a trap to catch the Medici, and commit them to unpardonable crimes. We may therefore conclude that this explanation of the purpose of the Principe (which, strange to say, has approved itself to even recent critics) was promulgated either by himself or by his friends, as an after-thought, when he saw that the work had missed its mark, and at the time when he was trying to suppress the MS.[2] Bernardo Giunti in the dedication of the edition of 1532, and Reginald Pole in 1535, were, I believe, the first to put forth this fanciful theory in print. Machiavelli could not before 1520 have boasted of the patriotic treachery with which he was afterwards accredited, so far, at any rate, as to lose the confidence of the Medicean family; for in that year the Cardinal Giulio de' Medici commissioned him to write the history of Florence.

[1] Storia Fior. lib. iv. cap. 15.

[2] See Varchi, loc. cit. The letter written by Machiavelli to Fr. Guicciardini from Carpi, May 17, 1521, should be studied in this connection. It is unfortunately too mutilated to be wholly intelligible. After explaining his desire to be of use to Florence, but not after the manner most approved of by the Florentines themselves, he says: 'io credo che questo sarebbe il vero modo di andare in Paradiso, imparare la via dell' Inferno per fuggirla.'

The Principe, after its dedication to Lorenzo, remained in MS., and Machiavelli was not employed in spite of the continual solicitations of his friend Vettori.[1] Nothing remained for him but to seek other patrons, and to employ his leisure in new literary work. Between 1516 and 1519, therefore, we find him taking part in the literary and philosophical discussions of the Florentine Academy, which assembled at that period in the Rucellai Gardens.[2] It was here that he read his Discourses on the First Decade of Livy—a series of profound essays upon the administration of the state, to which the sentences of the Roman historian serve as texts. Having set forth in the Principe the method of gaining or maintaining sovereign power, he shows in the Discorsi what institutions are necessary to preserve the body politic in a condition of vigorous activity. We may therefore regard the Discorsi as in some sense a continuation of the Principe. But the wisdom of the scientific politician is no longer placed at the disposal of a sovereign. He addresses himself to all the members of a state who are concerned in its prosperity. Machiavelli's enemies have therefore been able to insinuate that, after teaching tyranny in one pamphlet, he expounded the principles of opposition to a tyrant in the other, shifting his sails as the wind veered.[3] The truth here also lies in the critical and scientific quality of Machiavelli's method. He was content to lecture either to princes or to burghers upon politics, as an art which he had taken great pains to study, while his interest in the demonstration of principles rendered him in a measure indifferent to their application.[4] In fact, to use the pithy words of Macaulay, 'the Prince traces the progress of an ambitious man, the Discourses the progress of an ambitious people. The same principles on which, in the former work, the elevation of an individual is explained, are applied in the latter to the longer duration and more complex interest of a society.'

[1] The political letters addressed to Francesco Vettori, at Rome, and intended probably for the eye of Leo X., were written in 1514. The discourse addressed to Leo, sulla riforma dello stato di Firenze, may be referred perhaps to 1519.

[2] Of these meetings Filippo de' Nerli writes in the Seventh Book of his Commentaries, p. 138: 'Avendo convenuto assai tempo nell' orto de' Rucellai una certa scuola di giovani letterati e d' elevato ingegno, infra quali praticava continuamente Niccolo Machiavelli (ed io ero di Niccolo e di tutti loro amicissimo, e molto spesso con loro convirsavo), s' esercitavano costoro assai, mediante le lettere, nelle lezioni dell' istorie, e sopra di esse, ed a loro istanza compose il Machiavello quel suo libro de' discorsi sopra Tito Livio, e anco il libro di que' trattati e ragionamenti sopra la milizia.'

[3] See Pitti, 'Apologia de' Cappucci,' Arch. Stor. vol. iv. pt. ii. p. 294.

[4] The dedication of the Discorsi contains a phrase which recalls Machiavelli's words about the Principe: 'Perche in quello io ho espresso quanto io so, e quanto io ho imparato per una lunga pratica e continua lezione delle cose del mondo.'

The Seven Books on the Art of War may be referred with certainty to the same period of Machiavelli's life. They were probably composed in 1520. If we may venture to connect the works of the historian's leisure, according to the plan above suggested, this treatise forms a supplement to the Principe and the Discorsi. Both in his analysis of the successful tyrant and in his description of the powerful commonwealth he had insisted on the prime necessity of warfare, conducted by the people and their rulers in person. The military organization of a great kingdom is here developed in a separate Essay, and Machiavelli's favorite scheme for nationalizing the militia of Italy is systematically expounded. Giovio's flippant objection, that the philosopher could not in practice maneuver a single company, is no real criticism on the merit of his theory.

By this time the Medici had determined to take Machiavelli into favor; and since he had expressed a wish to be set at least to rolling stones, they found for him a trivial piece of work. The Franciscans at Carpi had to be requested to organize a separate Province of their Order in the Florentine dominion; and the conduct of this weighty matter was intrusted to the former secretary at the Courts of Maximilian and Louis. Several other missions during the last years of his life devolved upon Machiavelli; but none of them were of much importance: nor, when the popular government was instituted in 1527, had he so far regained the confidence of the Florentines as to resume his old office of war secretary. This post, considering his recent alliance with the Medicean party, he could hardly have expected to receive; and therefore it is improbable that the news of Gianotti's election at all contributed to cause his death.[1] Disappointment he may indeed have felt: for his moral force had been squandered during fifteen years in the attempt to gain the favor of princes who were now once more regarded as the enemies of their country. When the republic was at last restored, he found himself in neither camp. The overtures which he had made to the Medici had been but coldly received; yet they were sufficiently notorious to bring upon him the suspicion of the patriots. He had not sincerely acted up to the precept of Polonius: 'This above all,—to thine own self be true.' His intellectual ability, untempered by sufficient political consistency or moral elevation, had placed him among the outcasts:—

che non furon ribelli, Ne fur fedeli a Dio, ma per se foro.

The great achievement of these years was the composition of the Istorie Fiorentine. The commission for this work he received from Giulio de' Medici through the Officiali dello Studio in 1520, with an annual allowance of 100 florins. In 1527, the year of his death, he dedicated the finished History to Pope Clement VII. This masterpiece of literary art, though it may be open to the charges of inaccuracy and superficiality,[2] marks an epoch in the development of modern historiography. It must be remembered that it preceded the great work of Guicciardini by some years, and that before the date of its appearance the annalists of Italy had been content with records of events, personal impressions, and critiques of particular periods. Machiavelli was the first to contemplate the life of a nation in its continuity, to trace the operation of political forces through successive generations, to contrast the action of individuals with the evolution of causes over which they had but little control, and to bring the salient features of the national biography into relief by the suppression of comparatively unimportant details. By thus applying the philosophical method to history, Machiavelli enriched the science of humanity with a new department. There is something in his view of national existence beyond the reach of even the profoundest of the classical historians. His style is adequate to the matter of his work. Never were clear and definite thoughts expressed with greater precision in language of more masculine vigor. We are irresistibly compelled, while characterizing this style, to think of the spare sinews of a trained gladiator. Though Machiavelli was a poet, he indulges in no ornaments of rhetoric.[3] His images, rare and carefully chosen, seem necessary to the thoughts they illustrate. Though a philosopher, he never wanders into speculation. Facts and experience are so thoroughly compacted with reflection in his mind, that his widest generalizations have the substance of realities. The element of unreality, if such there be, is due to a misconception of human nature. Machiavelli seems to have only studied men in masses, or as political instruments, never as feeling and thinking personalities.

[1] See Varchi, loc. cit.

[2] See the criticisms of Ammirato and Romagnosi, quoted by Cantu, Letteratura Italiana, p. 187.

[3] I shall have to speak elsewhere of Machiavelli's comedies, occasional poems, novel of 'Belphegor,' etc.

Machiavelli, according to the letter addressed by his son Pietro to Francesco Nelli, died of a dose of medicine taken at the wrong time. He was attended on his deathbed by a friar, who received his confession. His private morality was but indifferent. His contempt for weakness and simplicity was undisguised. His knowledge of the world and men had turned to cynicism. The frigid philosophy expressed in his political Essays, and the sarcastic speeches in which he gave a vent to his soured humors, made him unpopular. It was supposed that he had died with blasphemy upon his lips, after turning all the sanctities of human nature into ridicule. Through these myths, as through a mist, we may discern the bitterness of that great, disenchanted, disappointed soul. The desert in which spirits of the stamp of Machiavelli wander is too arid and too aerial for the gross substantial bugbears of the vulgar conscience to inhabit. Moreover, as Varchi says, 'In his conversation Machiavelli was pleasant, serviceable to his friends, a friend of virtuous men, and, in a word, worthy of having received from nature either less genius or a better mind.'



The Sincerity of Machiavelli in this Essay—Machiavellism—His deliberate Formulation of a cynical political Theory—Analysis of the Prince—Nine Conditions of Principalities—The Interest of the Conqueror acknowledged as the sole Motive of his Policy—Critique of Louis XII.—Feudal Monarchy and Oriental Despotism—Three Ways of subduing a free City—Example of Pisa—Principalities founded by Adventurers—Moses, Romulus, Cyrus, Theseus—Savonarola—Francesco Sforza—Cesare Borgia—Machiavelli's personal Relation to him—Machiavelli's Admiration of Cesare's Genius—A Sketch of Cesare's Career—Concerning those who have attained to Sovereignty by Crimes—Oliverotto da Fermo—The Uses of Cruelty—Messer Ramiro d' Orco—The pessimistic Morality of Machiavelli—On the Faith of Princes—Alexander VI.—The Policy of seeming virtuous and honest—Absence of chivalrous Feeling in Italy—The Military System of a powerful Prince—Criticism of Mercenaries and Auxiliaries—Necessity of National Militia—The Art of War—Patriotic Conclusion of the Treatise—Machiavelli and Savonarola.

After what has been already said about the circumstances under which Machiavelli composed the Principe, we are justified in regarding it as a sincere expression of his political philosophy. The intellect of its author was eminently analytical and positive; he knew well how to confine himself within the strictest limits of the subject he had chosen. In the Principe it was not his purpose to write a treatise of morality, but to set forth with scientific accuracy the arts which he considered necessary to the success of an absolute ruler. We may therefore accept this essay as the most profound and lucid exposition of the principles by which Italian statesmen were guided in the sixteenth century. That Machiavellism existed before Machiavelli has now become a truism. Gian Galeazzo Visconti, Louis XI. of France, Ferdinand the Catholic, the Papal Curia, and the Venetian Council had systematically pursued the policy laid down in the chapters of the Prince. But it is no less true that Machiavelli was the first in modern times to formulate a theory of government in which the interests of the ruler are alone regarded, which assumes a separation between statecraft and morality, which recognizes force and fraud among the legitimate means of attaining high political ends, which makes success alone the test of conduct, and which presupposes the corruption, venality, and baseness of mankind at large. It was this which aroused the animosity of Europe against Machiavelli, as soon as the Prince attained wide circulation. Nations accustomed to the Monarchical rather than the Despotic form of government resented the systematic exposition of an art of tyranny which had long been practiced among the Italians. The people of the North, whose moral fiber was still vigorous, and who retained their respect for established religion, could not tolerate the cynicism with which Machiavelli analyzed his subject from the merely intellectual point of view. His name became a byword. 'Am I Machiavel?' says the host in the Merry Wives of Windsor. Marlowe makes the ghost of the great Florentine speak prologue to the Jew of Malta thus—

I count religion but a childish toy, And hold there is no sin but ignorance.

When the Counter-reformation had begun in Italy, and desperate efforts were being made to check the speculative freedom of the Renaissance, the Principe was condemned by the Inquisition. Meanwhile it was whispered that the Spanish princes, and the sons of Catherine de' Medici upon the throne of France, conned its pages just as a manual of toxicology might be studied by a Marquise de Brinvilliers. Machiavelli became the scapegoat of great political crimes; and during the religious wars of the sixteenth century there were not wanting fanatics who ascribed such acts of atrocity as the Massacre of S. Bartholomew to his venomous influence. Yet this book was really nothing more or less than a critical compendium of facts respecting Italy, a highly condensed abstract of political experience. In it as in a mirror we may study the lineaments of the Italian despot who by adventure or by heritage succeeded to the conduct of a kingdom. At the same time the political principles here established are those which guided the deliberations of the Venetian Council and the Papal Court, no less than the actions of a Sforza or a Borgia upon the path to power. It is therefore a document of the very highest value for the illustration of the Italian conscience in relation to political morality.

The Principe opens with the statement that all forms of government may be classified as republics or as principalities. Of the latter some are hereditary, others acquired. Of the principalities acquired in the lifetime of the ruler some are wholly new, like Milan under Francesco Sforza; others are added of hereditary kingdoms, like Naples to Spain. Again, such acquired states have been previously accustomed either to the rule of a single man or to self-government. Finally they are won either with the conqueror's own or with borrowed armies, either by fortune or by ability.[1] Thus nine conditions under which principalities may be considered are established at the outset.

[1] The word Virtu, which I have translated ability, is almost equivalent to the Greek [Greek: arete], before it had received a moral definition, or to the Roman Virtus. It is very far, as will be gathered from the sequel of the Principe, from denoting what we mean by Virtue.

The short chapter devoted by Machiavelli to hereditary principalities may be passed over as comparatively unimportant. It is characteristic of Italian politics that the only instance he adduces of this form of government in Italy is the Duchy of Ferrara. States and cities were so frequently shifting owners in the sixteenth century that the scientific politician was justified in confining his attention to the method of establishing and preserving principalities acquired by force. When he passes to the consideration of this class, Machiavelli enters upon the real subject of his essay. The first instance he discusses is that of a prince who has conquered a dominion which he wishes to unite as firmly as possible to his hereditary states. The new territory may either belong to the same nationality and language as the old possession, or may not. In the former case it will be enough to extinguish the whole line of the ancient rulers, and to take care that neither the laws nor the imposts of the province be materially altered. It will then in course of time become by natural coalition part of the old kingdom. But if the acquired dominion be separate in language, customs, and traditions from the old, then arises a real difficulty for the conqueror. In order to consolidate his empire and to accustom his new subjects to his rule, Machiavelli recommends that he should either take up his residence in the subjugated province, or else plant colonies throughout it, but that he should by no means trust merely to garrisons. 'Colonies,' he remarks, 'are not costly to the prince, are more faithful, and cause less offense to the subject states; those whom they may injure, being poor and scattered, are prevented from doing mischief. For it should be observed that men ought either to be caressed or trampled out, seeing that small injuries may be avenged, whereas great ones destroy the possibility of retaliation; and so the damage that has to be inflicted ought to be such that it need involve no fear of vengeance.' I quote this passage as a specimen of Machiavelli's direct and scientific handling of the most inhuman necessities of statecraft, as conceived by him.[1] He uses no hypocritical palliation to disguise the egotism of the conqueror. He does not even pretend to take into consideration any interests but those of the ambitious prince. He treats humanity as though it were the marble out of which the political artist should hew the form that pleased his fancy best. He calculates the exact amount of oppression which will render a nation incapable of resistance, and relieve the conqueror of trouble in his work of building up a puissant kingdom for his own aggrandizement.

[1] It is fair to call attention to the strong expressions used by Machiavelli in the Discorsi, lib. i. cap. 18 and cap. 26, on the infamies and inhumanities to which the aspirant after tyranny is condemned.

What Machiavelli says about mixed principalities is pointed by a searching critique of the Italian policy of Louis XII. The French king had well-known claims upon the Duchy of Milan, which the Venetians urged him to make good. They proposed to unite forces and to divide the conquered province of Lombardy. Machiavelli does not blame Louis for accepting this offer and acting in concert with the Republic. His mistakes began the moment after he had gained possession of Milan, Genoa, and the majority of the North Italian cities. It was then his true policy to balance Venice against Rome, to assume the protectorate of the minor states, and to keep all dangerous rivals out of Italy. Instead of acting thus, he put Romagna into the hands of the Pope and divided Naples with the King of Spain. 'Louis indeed,' concludes Machiavelli, 'was guilty of five capital errors: he destroyed the hopes of his numerous and weak allies; he increased the power, already too great, of the Papacy; he introduced a foreign potentate; he neglected to reside in Italy; he founded no colonies for the maintenance of his authority. If I am told that Louis acted thus imprudently toward Alexander and Ferdinand in order to avoid a war, I answer that in each case the mistake was as bad as any war could be in its results. If I am reminded of his promise to the Pope, I reply that princes ought to know how and when to break their faith, as I intend to prove. When I was at Nantes, the Cardinal of Rouen told me that the Italians did not know how to conduct a war: I retorted that the French did not understand statecraft, or they would not have allowed the Church to gain so much power in Italy. Experience showed that I was right; for the French wrought their own ruin by aggrandizing the Papacy and introducing Spain into the realm of Naples.'

This criticism contains the very essence of political sagacity. It lays bare the secret of the failure of the French under Charles, under Louis, and under Francis, to establish themselves in Italy. Expeditions of parade, however brilliant, temporary conquests, cross alliances, and bloody victories do not consolidate a kingdom. They upset states and cause misery to nations: but their effects pass and leave the so-called conquerors worse off than they were before. It was the doom of Italy to be ravaged by these inconsequent marauders, who never attempted by internal organization to found a substantial empire, until the mortmain of the Spanish rule was laid upon the peninsula, and Austria gained by marriages what France had failed to win by force of arms.

The fourth chapter of the Principe is devoted to a parallel between Monarchies and Despotisms which is chiefly interesting as showing that Machiavelli appreciated the stability of kingdoms based upon feudal foundations. France is chosen as the best example of the one and Turkey of the other. 'The whole empire of the Turk is governed by one Lord; the others are his servants; he divides his kingdom into satrapies, to which he appoints different administrators, whom he changes about at pleasure. But the King of France is placed in the center of a time-honored company of lords, acknowledged as such by their subjects and loved by them; they have their own prerogatives, nor can the king deprive them of these without peril.' Hence it follows that the prince who has once dispossessed a despot finds ready to his hand a machinery of government and a band of subservient ministers; while he who may dethrone a monarch has immediately to cope with a multitude of independent rulers, too numerous to extinguish and too proud to conciliate.

Machiavelli now proceeds to discuss the best method of subjugating free cities which have been acquired by a prince. There are three ways of doing it, he says. 'The first is to destroy them utterly; the second, to rule them in your own person; the third, to leave them their constitution under the conduct of an oligarchy chosen by yourself, and to be content with tribute. But, to speak the truth, the only safe way is to ruin them.' This sounds very much like the advice which an old spider might give to a young one: When you have caught a big fly, suck him at once; suck out at any rate so much of his blood as may make him powerless to break your web, and feed on him afterwards at leisure. Then he goes on to give his reasons. 'He who becomes the master of a city used to liberty, and does not destroy it, should be prepared to be undone by it himself, because that name of Liberty, those ancient usages of Freedom, which no length of years and no benefits can extinguish in the nation's mind, which cannot be uprooted by any forethought or by any pains, unless the citizens themselves be broken or dispersed, will always be a rallying-point for revolution when an opportunity occurs.' This terrific moral—through which, let it be said in justice to Machiavelli, the enthusiasm of a patriot transpires—is pointed by the example of Pisa. Pisa, held for a century beneath the heel of Florence—her ports shut up, her fields abandoned to marsh fever, her civic life extinguished, her arts and sciences crushed out—had yet not been utterly ruined in the true sense of depopulation or dismemberment. Therefore when Charles VIII. in 1494 entered Pisa, and Orlandi, the orator, caught him by the royal mantle, and besought him to restore her liberty, that word, the only word the crowd could catch in his petition, inflamed a nation: the lions and lilies of Florence were erased from the public buildings; the Marzocco was dashed from its column on the quay into the Arno; and in a moment the dead republic awoke to life. Therefore, argues Machiavelli, so tenacious is the vitality of a free state that a prudent conqueror will extinguish it entirely or will rule it in person with a rod of iron. This, be it remembered, is the advice of Machiavelli, the the Florentine patriot, to Lorenzo de' Medici, the Florentine tyrant, who has recently resumed his seat upon the neck of that irrepressible republic.

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