View Full Version : Machiavelli: 'The Prince' and Other Strategic Books

Wednesday, April 14th, 2004, 06:12 PM
Some on line sources for Machiavelli's 'The Prince';




Wednesday, April 14th, 2004, 06:46 PM
'The Prince' and 'The Discourses' are required reading for anyone with a serious interest in politics. I'd recommend Aristotle's 'Politics' as well.

Taras Bulba
Wednesday, April 14th, 2004, 06:49 PM
"Discourses on Livy" gives a better outline of Machiavelli's political views. Also his "Art of War" sets out his views on the relationship between politics and warfare.

Thursday, April 15th, 2004, 03:31 PM
Instead of just giving sources, how bout those of us who have read the Prince, discuss it...perhaps our opinions on Machiavelli's ideas on a ruler's treatment/dealing with masses? A ruler must be both man and beast? ;)

Taras Bulba
Thursday, April 15th, 2004, 04:28 PM
Instead of just giving sources, how bout those of us who have read the Prince, discuss it...perhaps our opinions on Machiavelli's ideas on a ruler's treatment/dealing with masses? A ruler must be both man and beast? ;)
Contrary to the popular myth, Machiavelli was not some power-hungry brute who just thought a ruler should do as he pleases. Machiavelli did say the ends justify the means, but its hardly ever mentioned in what context he meant that. Only if the end is good does it justify the means, and an end is good if it's for the public good and not for pure self-interest.

Machiavelli was a fervent supporter of the Republican form of government, as one can clearly read in both his "Discourse on Livy" and "Art of War". Yet even in "the Prince", we see clear evidence of his republican attitudes in his advice for how a Prince should rule his domain. For one thing, Machiavelli always seems to encourage his Prince to rule on a populist agenda, so as to earn the love and respect of his people.

He believed in a government that served the people and its needs. He often distrusted the aristocracy, which he saw a greedy bunch of thieves at times. He believed in a society where ones record of public duty meant more than ones wealth. Indeed he foretold doom for any society that blindly worshiped money and accumilation of wealth(a fact thats lost on many of Machiavelli's so-called corporate "admirers").

I could go on and on about this topic. Although one interesting thing is certain, Machiavelli was not a "Machiavellian" in the sense of how the word is used today. Power had and must be used for good ends(ie the public good), never personal interest. A Prince's ultimate duty to defend and protect the citizenry of his state, not his own personal power.

For more info on Machiavelli and many of his works http://www.ipl.org/div/litcrit/bin/litcrit.out.pl?au=mac-286

Thursday, April 15th, 2004, 04:36 PM
I for one would enjoy hearing a discussion of Machiavelli's political beleifs and strategies. I'm attempting to read the prince and it's obvious to me that I have a lot to learn about being a man and a beast. I for one am tired of getting the short end of teh stick and then having neo-liberal assholes tell me i'm privileged.

If i'm so damn privileged then why am I walking to campus everyday while you're driving a BMW to campus you stupid minority with the victim mindset!

Sorry, just blowin off a little steam.


Taras Bulba
Thursday, April 15th, 2004, 04:45 PM
I for one would enjoy hearing a discussion of Machiavelli's political beleifs and strategies. I'm attempting to read the prince and it's obvious to me that I have a lot to learn about being a man and a beast. I for one am tired of getting the short end of teh stick and then having neo-liberal assholes tell me i'm privileged.

If i'm so damn privileged then why am I walking to campus everyday while you're driving a BMW to campus you stupid minority with the victim mindset!

Sorry, just blowin off a little steam.


You're reading Machiavelli for the wrong reasons! As I said, Machiavelli said his theories applied to bettering the common good, not better ourselves individually. He foretold doom to anyone who tried using his strategies for purely personal gain.

Thursday, April 15th, 2004, 04:52 PM
Actually, Machiavelli's "The Prince" is one of the texts that the neo-conservative Bush administration 'new' Republican part bases its policies/ideology upon. The Straussian school of the U. of Chicago was tied to the Trotskyite movement, and to Machiavelli. Most interesting: this is the original roots of the Republican party. They have gone full circle, as Machiavelli was part of the philosophy of the founders of the Republican party, as was Marx (see Abraham Lincoln, Carl Schurz, etc.)

Taras Bulba
Thursday, April 15th, 2004, 05:02 PM
Actually, Machiavelli's "The Prince" is one of the texts that the neo-conservative Bush administration 'new' Republican part bases its policies/ideology upon. The Straussian school of the U. of Chicago was tied to the Trotskyite movement, and to Machiavelli. Most interesting: this is the original roots of the Republican party. They have gone full circle, as Machiavelli was part of the philosophy of the founders of the Republican party, as was Marx (see Abraham Lincoln, Carl Schurz, etc.)

More like the misuse of Machiavelli. For one thing, I doubt Machiavelli would've supported the war in Iraq. Especially since the war was not necessary for America's national security, and plus that the geo-political fallout(which was predicted in advance) has happened and has left Bush vulnerable. So Bush clearly misread Machiavelli and misused his theories.

As far as Trotskyists go, I never heard of any kind of admiration for Machiavelli among them. The only major Communist I know who admired his theories was Antonino Gramsci, who while in prison wrote a 500 page encyclopedia on the man and his ideas. Much of what Gramsci wrote was a critique of traditional Marxism(which Trotskyism), namely that while Communists call for a communist society, they know dittly about to actually a communist state. Thus Gramsci incorporated Machiavelli's advice into how to lead and organize a modern communist state, thus his theories of "the People as Prince". Although again this was a critique of traditional Marxism. Traditional Marxism declares that Communism must come to power by violent revolution, wheras Gramsci decided that it wasnt how communism cam to power that mattered by how communist ideals would be accepted by the people. I can consult my sources to give more information on this.

Thursday, April 15th, 2004, 05:20 PM
You're reading Machiavelli for the wrong reasons! As I said, Machiavelli said his theories applied to bettering the common good, not better ourselves individually. He foretold doom to anyone who tried using his strategies for purely personal gain.
I told you I was ignorant about Machiavelli. You seem to know a hell of a lot more about it than I do so I'm glad to hear your veiwpoints.


Thursday, April 15th, 2004, 07:08 PM
In 'The Prince' in particular, Machiavelli was writing in response to various books (e.g. Cicero's 'On Moral Obligation') that suggested a good ruler was one who embodied the qualities of private moral virtue (honesty, etc.). One of the basic themes of 'The Prince' is that from the ruler's standpoint, private morality and public morality cannot be the same thing. For example, actions that would be reprehensible if they occurred between private individuals (e.g. taking a human life, committing fraud) may be necessary in order to preserve the security of the state (the concept of necessity).

The 'man and beast' issue is related to the concept of necessity. It is not that it is 'good' for a man to act as a beast in the sense of private morality (to the contrary), but that it is sometimes necessary for a ruler (prince, or implicitly a republican state) to act ruthlessly in the public interest, because the consequences to the political community of not doing so are even more unpalatable. Machiavelli offers several explanations of this point in 'The Prince' as follows:

"[A] prince, so long as he keeps his subjects united and loyal, ought not to mind the reproach of cruelty; because with a few examples [executions of offenders] he will be more merciful than those who, through too much mercy, allow disorders to arise, from which follow murders or robberies; for these are wont to injure the whole people, whilst those executions which originate in a prince offend the individual only." (The Prince, Everyman's Library, New York, 1992, at p. 75)

"Among the wonderful deeds of Hannibal this one is enumerated: that having led an enormous army, composed of many various races of men, to fight in foreign lands, no dissensions arose either among them or against the prince, whether in his bad or in his good fortune. This arose from nothing else than his inhuman cruelty, which, with his boundless valour, made him revered and terrible in the sight of his soldiers, but without that cruelty, his other virtues were not sufficient to produce this effect." (p.77)

And the famous 'man and beast' quote:

"Every one admits how praiseworthy it is in a prince to keep faith, and to live with integrity and not with craft. Nevertheless out experience has been that those princes who have done great things have held good faith of little account, and have known how to circumvent the intellect of men by craft, and in the end have overcome those who have relied on their word. You must know there are two ways of contesting, the one by the law, the other by force; the first method is proper to men, the second to beasts; but because the first is frequently not sufficient, it is necessary to have recourse to the second. Therefore it is necessary for a prince to understand how to avail himself of the beast and the man. This has been figuratively taught to princes by ancient writers, who describes how Achilles and many other princes of old were given to the Centaur Chiron to nurse, who brought them up in his discipline; which means solely that, as they had for a teacher one who was half beast and half man, so it is necessary for a prince to know how to make use of both natures, and that the one without the other is not durable. A prince, therefore, being compelled knowingly to adopt the beast, ought to choose the fox and the lion; because the lion cannot defend himself against snares and the fox cannot defend himself against wolves. Therefore, it is necessary to be a fox to discover the snares and a lion to terrify the wolves. Those who rely simply on the lion do not understand what they are about. Therefore a wise lord cannot, nor ought he to, keep faith when such observance may be turned against him, and when the reasons that caused him to pledge it exist no longer. If men were entirely good this precept would not hold, but because they are bad, and will not keep faith with you, you too are not bound to observe it with them. Nor will there ever be wanting to a prince legitimate reasons to excuse this non-observance...he who has known best how to employ the fox has succeeded best." (pp.79-80)

In addition, he offers some contemporary examples:

"[Pope] Alexander VI did nothing else but deceive men, nor ever thought of doing otherwise, and he always found victims; for there never was a man who had greater power in asserting, or who with greater oaths would affirm a thing, yet would observe it less; nevertheless his deceits always succeeded according to his wishes, because he well understood this side of mankind." (p.80)

"One prince of the present time, whom it is not well to name [actually King Ferdinand of Castille] never preaches anything else but peace and good faith, and to both he is most hostile, and either, if he had kept it, would have deprived him of reputation and kingdom many a time." (p.82)

More generally, in 'The Prince', but more explicitly in 'The Discourses', Machiavelli espouses a concept of public or civic moral virtue, oriented toward the welfare of the state as a political community, and advances the view that the 'right' form of political organization is in large measure a function of the degree to which this sort of public political morality or civic virtue is present or absent in a political community. Where civic virtue is strong, a republic is a viable form of government, and it indeed it is the preferable form of government where possible, as it is best suited both to preserving the liberty of citizens and to strengthening the power and glory of the state/political community, particularly in war (since motivated citizen-soldiers were in his view the best sort). However, where civic virtue is weak, a dictatorship (rule by a 'prince') may be necessary to preserve order and protect the state from hostile foreign powers, although a virtuous Prince will also seek to promote the public morality that would serve as the foundations for a new republic in the future. He has some interesting comments on the institutional dictatorship that was a constitutional feature of the ancient Roman Republic in times of crisis (and Republican Rome in its prime was, in Machiavelli's view, the model state).

An interesting implication of his ideas for our own time is the way in which he accommodates the concepts of individual liberty, private morality, and public morality or civic virtue, as well as the flexibility with which he views the issue of republican versus dictatorial rule. Many subsequent political thinkers have tended to have inflexible ideas on this topic, e.g. that democracy is always good and dictatorship always bad (or vice versa), since they seem to be so bound up in abstract conceptual frameworks or ideologies that they lack the element of political pragmatism. My favorite Machiavelli quote on the topic of pragmatism is this one:

"[I]t being my intention to write a thing which shall be useful to him who apprehends it, it appears to me more appropriate to follow up the real truth of a matter than the imagination of it; for many have pictured republics and principalities which in fact have never been known or seen, [yet] because how one lives is so far distant from how one ought to live...he who neglects what is done for what ought to be done, sooner effects his ruin than his preservation; for a man who wishes to act entirely up to his professions of virtue soon meets with what destroys him among[st] so much that is evil... " (p.70)

It is also worth noting that Machiavelli does not create a false dichotomy between individual liberty and civic duty, i.e. between rights and responsibilities, rather recognizing that both are necessary characteristics of a healthy republic (a point that it lost on many people today, who claim private rights without any thought of civic duty). And, in my view, his ideas about civic virtue pose interesting questions for our own time, when such virtue (as he understood it) is practically absent in Western countries, obsessed as they are with the pursuit of individual status and material gain without regard to the public interest of the political community.

There are many other interesting aspects of Machiavelli's work, but those are some of the most salient.

Slå ring om Norge
Wednesday, March 8th, 2006, 04:26 PM
The Prince
by Nicolò Machiavelli


Written c. 1505, published 1515
Translated by W. K. Marriott

Thursday, November 16th, 2006, 11:00 AM
Machiavelli wrote: [from http://www.constitution.org/mac/prince03.htm]

"But when states are acquired in a country differing in language, customs, or laws, there are difficulties, and good fortune and great energy are needed to hold them, and one of the greatest and most real helps would be that he who has acquired them should go and reside there. This would make his position more secure and durable, as it has made that of the Turk in Greece, who, notwithstanding all the other measures taken by him for holding that state, if he had not settled there, would not have been able to keep it. Because, if one is on the spot, disorders are seen as they spring up, and one can quickly remedy them; but if one is not at hand, they heard of only when they are one can no longer remedy them. Besides this, the country is not pillaged by your officials; the subjects are satisfied by prompt recourse to the prince; thus, wishing to be good, they have more cause to love him, and wishing to be otherwise, to fear him. He who would attack that state from the outside must have the utmost caution; as long as the prince resides there it can only be wrested from him with the greatest difficulty.
The other and better course is to send colonies to one or two places, which may be as keys to that state, for it necessary either to do this or else to keep there a great number of cavalry and infantry. A prince does not spend much on colonies, for with little or no expense he can send them out and keep them there, and he offends a minority only of the citizens from whom he takes lands and houses to give them to the new inhabitants; and those whom he offends, remaining poor and scattered, are never able to injure him; whilst the rest being uninjured are easily kept quiet, and at the same time are anxious not to err for fear it should happen to them as it has to those who have been despoiled. In conclusion, I say that these colonies are not costly, they are more faithful, they injure less, and the injured, as has been said, being poor and scattered, cannot hurt. Upon this, one has to remark that men ought either to be well treated or crushed, because they can avenge themselves of lighter injuries, of more serious ones they cannot; therefore the injury that is to be done to a man ought to be of such a kind that one does not stand in fear of revenge.
But in maintaining armed men there in place of colonies one spends much more, having to consume on the garrison all income from the state, so that the acquisition turns into a loss, and many more are exasperated, because the whole state is injured; through the shifting of the garrison up and down all become acquainted with hardship, and all become hostile, and they are enemies who, whilst beaten on their own ground, are yet able to do hurt. For every reason, therefore, such guards are as useless as a colony is useful.
Again, the prince who holds a country differing in the above respects ought to make himself the head and defender of his powerful neighbours, and to weaken the more powerful amongst them, taking care that no foreigner as powerful as himself shall, by any accident, get a footing there; for it will always happen that such a one will be introduced by those who are discontented, either through excess of ambition or through fear, as one has seen already. The Romans were brought into Greece by the Aetolians; and in every other country where they obtained a footing they were brought in by the inhabitants. And the usual course of affairs is that, as soon as a powerful foreigner enters a country, all the subject states are drawn to him, moved by the hatred which they feel against the ruling power. So that in respect to these subject states he has not to take any trouble to gain them over to himself, for the whole of them quickly rally to the state which he has acquired there. He has only to take care that they do not get hold of too much power and too much authority, and then with his own forces, and with their goodwill, he can easily keep down the more powerful of them, so as to remain entirely master in the country. And he who does not properly manage this business will soon lose what he has acquired, and whilst he does hold it he will have endless difficulties and troubles.
The Romans, in the countries which they annexed, observed closely these measures; they sent colonies and maintained friendly relations with the minor powers, without increasing their strength; they kept down the greater, and did not allow any strong foreign powers to gain authority. Greece appears to me sufficient for an example. The Achaeans and Aetolians were kept friendly by them, the kingdom of Macedonia was humbled, Antiochus was driven out; yet the merits of the Achaeans and Aetolians never secured for them permission to increase their power, nor did the persuasions of Philip ever induce the Romans to be his friends without first humbling him, nor did the influence of Antiochus make them agree that he should retain any lordship over the country. Because the Romans did in these instances what all prudent princes ought to do, who have to regard not only present troubles, but also future ones, for which they must prepare with every energy, because, when foreseen, it is easy to remedy them; but if you wait until they approach, the medicine is no longer in time because the malady has become incurable; for it happens in this, as the physicians say it happens in hectic fever, that in the beginning of the malady it is easy to cure but difficult to detect, but in the course of time, not having been either detected or treated in the beginning, it becomes easy to detect but difficult to cure. Thus it happens in affairs of state, for when the evils that arise have been foreseen (which it is only given to a wise man to see), they can be quickly redressed, but when, through not having been foreseen, they have been permitted to grow in a way that every one can see them. there is no longer a remedy. Therefore, the Romans, foreseeing troubles, dealt with them at once, and, even to avoid a war, would not let them come to a head, for they knew that war is not to be avoided, but is only put off to the advantage of others; moreover they wished to fight with Philip and Antiochus in Greece so as not to have to do it in Italy; they could have avoided both, but this they did not wish; nor did that ever please them which is for ever in the mouths of the wise ones of our time:— Let us enjoy the benefits of the time — but rather the benefits of their own valour and prudence, for time drives everything before it, and is able to bring with it good as well as evil, and evil as well as good."

from http://marxists.org/reference/archive/machiavelli/works/discourses/ch01.htm#s18

"How in a corrupt state a free government may be maintained, assuming that one exists there already; and how it could be introduced, if none had previously existed."

I believe it will not be amiss to consider whether in a state that has become corrupt a free government that has existed there can be maintained; or if there has been none before, whether one could be established there. Upon this subject I must say that either one of them would be exceedingly difficult. And although it is impossible to give any definite rules for such a case, (as it will be necessary to proceed according to the different degrees of corruption,) yet, as it is well to reason upon all subjects, I will not leave this problem without discussing it. I will suppose a state to be corrupt to the last degree, so as to present the subject in its most difficult aspect, there being no laws nor institutions that suffice to check a general corruption. For as good habits of the people require good laws to support them, so laws, to be observed, need good habits on the part of the people. Besides, the constitution and laws established in a republic at its very origin, when men were still pure, no longer suit when men have become corrupt and bad. And although the laws may be changed according to circumstances and events, yet it is seldom or never that the constitution itself is changed; and for this reason the new laws do not suffice, for they are not in harmony with the constitution, that has remained intact. To make this matter better understood, I will explain how the government of Rome was constituted and what the nature of the laws was, which together with the magistrates restrained the citizens. The constitution of the state reposed upon the authority of the people, the Senate, the Tribunes, and the Consuls, and upon the manner of choosing and creating the magistrates, and of making the laws. These institutions were rarely or never varied by events; but the laws that restrained the citizens were often altered, such as the law relating to adultery, the sumptuary laws, that in relation to ambition, and many others, which were changed according as the citizens from one day to another became more and more corrupt. Now the constitution remaining unchanged, although no longer suitable to the corrupt people, the laws that had been changed became powerless for restraint; yet they would have answered very well if the constitution had also been modified at the same time with the laws.
And the truth that the original institutions were no longer suitable to a corrupt state is clearly seen in these two main points, – the creation of the magistrates, and the forms used in making the laws. As regards the first, the Roman people bestowed the consulate and the other principal offices only on such as asked for them. This system was very good in the beginning, because only such citizens asked for these places as deemed themselves worthy of them, and a refusal was regarded as ignominious; so that every one strove to make himself esteemed worthy of the honor. But when the city had become corrupt, this system became most pernicious; for it was no longer the most virtuous and deserving, but the most powerful, that asked for the magistratures; and the less powerful, often the most meritorious, abstained from being candidates from fear. This state of things did not come all at once, but by degrees, as is generally the case with other vices. For after the Romans had subjugated Africa and Asia, and had reduced nearly all Greece to their obedience, they felt assured of their liberty, and saw no enemies that could cause them any apprehension. This security and the weakness of the conquered nations caused the Roman people no longer to bestow the consulate according to the merits of the candidates, but according to favor; giving that dignity to those who best knew how to entertain the people, and not to those who best knew how to conquer their enemies. After that they descended from those who were most favored to such as had most wealth and power, so that the really meritorious became wholly excluded from that dignity. Now as to the mode of making the laws. At first a Tribune or any other citizen had the right to propose any law, and every citizen could speak in favor or against it before its final adoption. This system was very good so long as the citizens were uncorrupted, for it is always well in a state that every one may propose what he deems for the public good; and it was equally well that every one should be allowed to express his opinion in relation to it, so that the people, having heard both sides, may decide in favor of the best. But when the citizens had become corrupt, this system became the worst possible, for then only the powerful proposed laws, not for the common good and the liberty of all, but for the increase of their own power, and fear restrained all the others from speaking against such laws; and thus the people were by force and fraud made to resolve upon their own ruin.
It was necessary therefore, if Rome wished to preserve her liberty in the midst of this corruption, that she should have modified her constitution, in like manner as in the progress of her existence she had made new laws; for institutions and forms should be adapted to the subject, whether it be good or evil, inasmuch as the same form cannot suit two subjects that are essentially different. But as the constitution of a state, when once it has been discovered to be no longer suitable, should be amended, either all at once, or by degrees as each defect becomes known, I say that both of these courses are equally impossible. For a gradual modification requires to be the work of some wise man, who has seen the evil from afar in its very beginning; but it is very likely that such a man may never rise up in the state, and even if he did he will hardly be able to persuade the others to what he proposes; for men accustomed to live after one fashion do not like to change, and the less so as they do not see the evil staring them in the face, but presented to them as a mere conjecture.
As to reforming these institutions all at once, when their defects have become manifest to everybody, that also is most difficult; for to do this ordinary means will not suffice; they may even be injurious under such circumstances, and therefore it becomes necessary to resort to extraordinary measures, such as violence and arms, and above all things to make one’s self absolute master of the state, so as to be able to dispose of it at will. And as the reformation of the political condition of a state presupposes a good man, whilst the making of himself prince of a republic by violence naturally presupposes a bad one, it will consequently be exceedingly rare that a good man should be found willing to employ wicked means to become prince, even though his final object be good; or that a bad man, after having become prince, should be willing to labor for good ends, and that it should enter his mind to use for good purposes that authority which he has acquired by evil means. From these combined causes arises the difficulty or impossibility of maintaining liberty in a republic that has become corrupt, or to establish it there anew. And if it has to be introduced and maintained, then it will be necessary to reduce the state to a monarchical, rather than a republican form of government; for men whose turbulence could not be controlled by the simple force of law can be controlled in a measure only by an almost regal power. And to attempt to restore men to good conduct by any other means would be either a most cruel or an impossible undertaking. This, as I have related above, was done by Cleomenes, who for the sake of being alone in the government had all the Ephores massacred; and if Romulus for the same object killed his brother and the Sabine Titus Tatius, and if both he and Cleomenes afterwards employed their power well, we must nevertheless bear in mind that neither of them had to deal with a people so tainted with corruption as that we have considered in this chapter, and therefore they could desire the good and conform their measures accordingly to achieve it.
Chapter XIX.

"The importance of giving religion a prominent influence in a state, and how Italy was ruined because she failed in this respect through the conduct of the Church of Rome."

Princes and republics who wish to maintain themselves free from corruption must above all things preserve the purity of all religious observances, and treat them with proper reverence; for there is no greater indication of the ruin of a country than to see religion contemned. And this is easily understood, when we know upon what the religion of a country is founded; for the essence of every religion is based upon some one main principle. The religion of the Gentiles had for its foundation the responses of the oracles, and the tenets of the augurs and aruspices; upon these alone depended all their ceremonies, rites, and sacrifices. For they readily believed that the Deity which could predict their future good or ill was also able to bestow it upon them. Thence arose their temples, their sacrifices, their supplications, and all the other ceremonies; for the oracle of Delphos, the temple of Jupiter Ammon, and other celebrated oracles, kept the world in admiration and devoutness. But when these afterwards began to speak only in accordance with the wishes of the princes, and their falsity was discovered by the people, then men became incredulous, and disposed to disturb all good institutions. It is therefore the duty of princes and heads of republics to uphold the foundations of the religion of their countries, for then it is easy to keep their people religious, and consequently well conducted and united. And therefore everything that tends to favor religion (even though it were believed to be false) should be received and availed of to strengthen it; and this should be done the more, the wiser the rulers are, and the better they understand the natural course of things. Such was, in fact, the practice observed by sagacious men; which has given rise to the belief in the miracles that are celebrated in religions, however false they may be. For the sagacious rulers have given these miracles increased importance, no matter whence or how they originated; and their authority afterwards gave them credence with the people. Rome had many such miracles; and one of the most remarkable was that which occurred when the Roman soldiers sacked the city of Veii; some of them entered the temple of Juno, and, placing themselves in front of her statue, said to her, “Will you come to Rome?” Some imagined that they observed the statue make a sign of assent, and others pretended to have heard her reply, “Yes.” Now these men, being very religious, as reported by Titus Livius, and having entered the temple quietly, they were filled with devotion and reverence, and might really have believed that they had heard a reply to their question, such as perhaps they could have presupposed. But this opinion and belief was favored and magnified by Camillus and the other Roman chiefs.
And certainly, if the Christian religion had from the beginning been maintained according to the principles of its founder, the Christian states and republics would have been much more united and happy than what they are. Nor can there be a greater proof of its decadence than to witness the fact that the nearer people are to the Church of Rome, which is the head of our religion, the less religious are they. And whoever examines the principles upon which that religion is founded, and sees how widely different from those principles its present practice and application are, will judge that her ruin or chastisement is near at hand. But as there are some of the opinion that the well-being of Italian affairs depends upon the Church of Rome, I will present such arguments against that opinion as occur to me; two of which are most important, and cannot according to my judgment be controverted. The first is, that the evil example of the court of Rome has destroyed all piety and religion in Italy, which brings in its train infinite improprieties and disorders; for as we may presuppose all good where religion prevails, so where it is wanting we have the right to suppose the very opposite. We Italians then owe to the Church of Rome and to her priests our having become irreligious and bad; but we owe her a still greater debt, and one that will be the cause of our ruin, namely, that the Church has kept and still keeps our country divided. And certainly a country can never be united and happy, except when it obeys wholly one government, whether a republic or a monarchy, as is the case in France and in Spain; and the sole cause why Italy is not in the same condition, and is not governed by either one republic or one sovereign, is the Church; for having acquired and holding a temporal dominion, yet she has never had sufficient power or courage to enable her to seize the rest of the country and make herself sole sovereign of all Italy. And on the other hand she has not been so feeble that the fear of losing her temporal power prevented her from calling in the aid of a foreign power to defend her against such others as had become too powerful in Italy; as was seen in former days by many sad experiences, when through the intervention of Charlemagne she drove out the Lombards, who were masters of nearly all Italy; and when in our times she crushed the power of the Venetians by the aid of France, and afterwards with the assistance of the Swiss drove out in turn the French. The Church, then, not having been powerful enough to be able to master all Italy, nor having permitted any other power to do so, has been the cause why Italy has never been able to unite under one head, but has always remained under a number of princes and lords, which occasioned her so many dissensions and so much weakness that she became a prey not only to the powerful barbarians, but of whoever chose to assail her. This we other Italians owe to the Church of Rome, and to none other. And any one, to be promptly convinced by experiment of the truth of all this, should have the power to transport the court of Rome to reside, with all the power it has in Italy, in the midst of the Swiss, who of all peoples nowadays live most according to their ancient customs so far as religion and their military system are concerned; and he would see in a very little while that the evil habits of that court would create more confusion in that country than anything else that could ever happen there.
Chapter XIII.
How the Romans availed of religion to preserve order in their city, and to carry out their enterprises and suppress disturbances.
It does not seem to me from my purpose to adduce here some examples to show how the Romans employed religion for the purpose of reorganizing their city, and to further their enterprises. And although there are many instances to be found in the writings of Titus Livius, yet I will content myself with the following. The Romans having created the Tribunes with consular powers, and selected all but one from the plebeian order, and a pestilence and famine having occurred in that year accompanied by some extraordinary phenomena, the nobles availed of this occasion of the new creation of the Tribunes, saying that the gods were angry because Rome had been wanting in respect to the majesty of her empire; and that there was no other way of placating the gods but by restoring the election of the Tribunes to its original plan. The result was, that the people, under the influence of religious fear, selected the Tribunes altogether from amongst the patricians.
It was also seen at the siege of the city of Veii, that the captains of the Roman army used religion to keep their soldiers disposed to any enterprise; for when the Lake Albano rose in that year in a very extraordinary manner, and the soldiers, tired of the long siege, wished to return to Rome, the leaders invented the story that Apollo and certain other oracles had predicted that the city of the Veienti would be taken in the year when Lake Albano should overflow its banks. The soldiers, having taken new hope from these predictions as to the capture of the city, bore the fatigues of the war and the siege cheerfully, and pushed the siege with so much energy that Camillus, who had been made Dictator, succeeded in taking that city after a siege of ten years’ duration. And thus religion judiciously used promoted the capture of Veii, and the restitution of the tribunate to the patricians, either of which, without that means, would have been with difficulty accomplished.
I will not omit to cite another example much to the purpose. The Tribune Terentillus occasioned great disturbances by promulgating a certain law, for reasons which we shall explain further on; and one of the first means to which the patricians resorted for the suppression of these tumults was religion, which they employed in two different ways. The first was the exhibition of the Sibylline Books, which predicted that, in consequence of domestic dissensions, the liberties of Rome would be seriously imperilled in that year; the fraud, although discovered by the Tribunes, yet so filled the minds of the people with terror that they were no longer disposed to follow them. The second mode was when one Appius Erdonius, with a number of bandits and four thousand slaves, seized the Capitol at night, which caused general apprehension for the safety of the city itself, in case the Equeans and Volscians, eternal enemies of Rome, should attack her at that moment. The Tribunes nevertheless persisted with great obstinacy in the promulgation of the Terentillan law, saying that the capture of the Capitol was merely fictitious; whereupon Publius Rubetius, a grave citizen of great authority, left the Senate, and with alternate entreaties and menaces harangued the people, pointing out to them the unreasonableness of their demands, and constrained them to swear that they would not refuse obedience to the Consul. The people, thus forced to obedience, recovered the Capitol; but in the taking of it the Consul Publius Valerius lost his life, and in his stead Titus Quintius was immediately chosen Consul. He, not wishing to afford the people any repose or opportunity of thinking again of the Terentillan law, ordered them to leave Rome and to march against the Volscians; saying that they were bound to follow him, because of the oath they had taken to obey the Consul. To this the Tribunes objected, saying that the oath referred to the Consul that had been killed, and not to Titus Quintius. The people, however, according to Titus Livius, preferred to obey the Consul rather than believe the Tribunes, and he speaks as follows in favor of their ancient religion: “They had not yet come to that neglect of the reverence for the gods which prevails nowadays, nor to interpreting their oaths or the laws to suit themselves.” And the Tribunes, fearing to lose all their authority, agreed with the Consul to submit to him, and that for one year nothing more should be said about the Terentillan law, and, on the other hand, that for one year the Consuls should not lead the people from Rome to war. And thus religion enabled the Senate to overcome that difficulty which without it they could never have done.

Thursday, November 16th, 2006, 12:47 PM
We can learn alot from Machiavelli since he suffered the same; he had to see his country, the Italy of the renaissance era, being overthrown by culturally much lower countries and nearly lost his mind about the stupidy and phlegmatic behavior of his people, the common and the leading people. Machiavelli was a genius which had the chance of gettin a lot of experience in politics - and against all accusions he was a straight republican; as the leaders changed he went to a political exile instead of "changing his flag to the wind".

He wrote two books:
"Il principe (http://www.constitution.org/mac/prince00.htm)" (The Prince) for countries so corrupt that only a prince could save the country:

and the discorsi (http://marxists.org/reference/archive/machiavelli/works/discourses/index.htm), politics in general.

Thursday, November 16th, 2006, 02:25 PM
These books are essential. Highly recommended. As Strauss pointed out, Machiavelli discovered a new continent, Realpolitik, with his Principe.

Tuesday, November 21st, 2006, 05:51 PM
More from Machiavelli: http://oll.libertyfund.org/Home3/Author.php?recordID=0156