your online library and language lab
Contents > Author > Niccolo Machiavelli > The Prince 20 1469- 1527
Previous Next

Niccolo Machiavelli
The Prince 20
printer friendly version


1. Some princes, so as to hold securely the state, have disarmed
their subjects; others have kept their subject towns distracted by
factions; others have fostered enmities against themselves; others
have laid themselves out to gain over those whom they distrusted in
the beginning of their governments; some have built fortresses; some
have overthrown and destroyed them. And although one cannot give a
final judgment on all of these things unless one possesses the
particulars of those states in which a decision has to be made,
nevertheless I will speak as comprehensively as the matter of itself
will admit.

2. There never was a new prince who has disarmed his subjects; rather
when he has found them disarmed he has always armed them, because, by
arming them, those arms become yours, those men who were distrusted
become faithful, and those who were faithful are kept so, and your
subjects become your adherents. And whereas all subjects cannot be
armed, yet when those whom you do arm are benefited, the others can be
handled more freely, and this difference in their treatment, which
they quite understand, makes the former your dependents, and the
latter, considering it to be necessary that those who have the most
danger and service should have the most reward, excuse you. But when
you disarm them, you at once offend them by showing that you distrust
them, either for cowardice or for want of loyalty, and either of these
opinions breeds hatred against you. And because you cannot remain
unarmed, it follows that you turn to mercenaries, which are of the
character already shown; even if they should be good they would not be
sufficient to defend you against powerful enemies and distrusted
subjects. Therefore, as I have said, a new prince in a new
principality has always distributed arms. Histories are full of
examples. But when a prince acquires a new state, which he adds as a
province to his old one, then it is necessary to disarm the men of
that state, except those who have been his adherents in acquiring it;
and these again, with time and opportunity, should be rendered soft
and effeminate; and matters should be managed in such a way that all
the armed men in the state shall be your own soldiers who in your old
state were living near you.

3. Our forefathers, and those who were reckoned wise, were accustomed
to say that it was necessary to hold Pistoia by factions and Pisa by
fortresses; and with this idea they fostered quarrels in some of their
tributary towns so as to keep possession of them the more easily. This
may have been well enough in those times when Italy was in a way
balanced, but I do not believe that it can be accepted as a precept
for to-day, because I do not believe that factions can ever be of use;
rather it is certain that when the enemy comes upon you in divided
cities you are quickly lost, because the weakest party will always
assist the outside forces and the other will not be able to resist.
The Venetians, moved, as I believe, by the above reasons, fostered the
Guelph and Ghibelline factions in their tributary cities; and although
they never allowed them to come to bloodshed, yet they nursed these
disputes amongst them, so that the citizens, distracted by their
differences, should not unite against them. Which, as we saw, did not
afterwards turn out as expected, because, after the rout at Vaila, one
party at once took courage and seized the state. Such methods argue,
therefore, weakness in the prince, because these factions will never
be permitted in a vigorous principality; such methods for enabling one
the more easily to manage subjects are only useful in times of peace,
but if war comes this policy proves fallacious.

4. Without doubt princes become great when they overcome the
difficulties and obstacles by which they are confronted, and therefore
fortune, especially when she desires to make a new prince great, who
has a greater necessity to earn renown than an hereditary one, causes
enemies to arise and form designs against him, in order that he may
have the opportunity of overcoming them, and by them to mount higher,
as by a ladder which his enemies have raised. For this reason many
consider that a wise prince, when he has the opportunity, ought with
craft to foster some animosity against himself, so that, having
crushed it, his renown may rise higher.

5. Princes, especially new ones, have found more fidelity and
assistance in those men who in the beginning of their rule were
distrusted than among those who in the beginning were trusted.
Pandolfo Petrucci, Prince of Siena, ruled his state more by those who
had been distrusted than by others. But on this question one cannot
speak generally, for it varies so much with the individual; I will
only say this, that those men who at the commencement of a princedom
have been hostile, if they are of a description to need assistance to
support themselves, can always be gained over with the greatest ease,
and they will be tightly held to serve the prince with fidelity,
inasmuch as they know it to be very necessary for them to cancel by
deeds the bad impression which he had formed of them; and thus the
prince always extracts more profit from them than from those who,
serving him in too much security, may neglect his affairs. And since
the matter demands it, I must not fail to warn a prince, who by means
of secret favours has acquired a new state, that he must well consider
the reasons which induced those to favour him who did so; and if it be
not a natural affection towards him, but only discontent with their
government, then he will only keep them friendly with great trouble
and difficulty, for it will be impossible to satisfy them. And
weighing well the reasons for this in those examples which can be
taken from ancient and modern affairs, we shall find that it is easier
for the prince to make friends of those men who were contented under
the former government, and are therefore his enemies, than of those
who, being discontented with it, were favourable to him and encouraged
him to seize it.

6. It has been a custom with princes, in order to hold their states
more securely, to build fortresses that may serve as a bridle and bit
to those who might design to work against them, and as a place of
refuge from a first attack. I praise this system because it has been
made use of formerly. Notwithstanding that, Messer Nicolo Vitelli in
our times has been seen to demolish two fortresses in Citta di
Castello so that he might keep that state; Guido Ubaldo, Duke of
Urbino, on returning to his dominion, whence he had been driven by
Cesare Borgia, razed to the foundations all the fortresses in that
province, and considered that without them it would be more difficult
to lose it; the Bentivogli returning to Bologna came to a similar
decision. Fortresses, therefore, are useful or not according to
circumstances; if they do you good in one way they injure you in
another. And this question can be reasoned thus: the prince who has
more to fear from the people than from foreigners ought to build
fortresses, but he who has more to fear from foreigners than from the
people ought to leave them alone. The castle of Milan, built by
Francesco Sforza, has made, and will make, more trouble for the house
of Sforza than any other disorder in the state. For this reason the
best possible fortress is--not to be hated by the people, because,
although you may hold the fortresses, yet they will not save you if
the people hate you, for there will never be wanting foreigners to
assist a people who have taken arms against you. It has not been seen
in our times that such fortresses have been of use to any prince,
unless to the Countess of Forli,[*] when the Count Girolamo, her
consort, was killed; for by that means she was able to withstand the
popular attack and wait for assistance from Milan, and thus recover
her state; and the posture of affairs was such at that time that the
foreigners could not assist the people. But fortresses were of little
value to her afterwards when Cesare Borgia attacked her, and when the
people, her enemy, were allied with foreigners. Therefore, it would
have been safer for her, both then and before, not to have been hated
by the people than to have had the fortresses. All these things
considered then, I shall praise him who builds fortresses as well as
him who does not, and I shall blame whoever, trusting in them, cares
little about being hated by the people.

[*] Catherine Sforza, a daughter of Galeazzo Sforza and Lucrezia
Landriani, born 1463, died 1509. It was to the Countess of Forli
that Machiavelli was sent as envy on 1499. A letter from Fortunati
to the countess announces the appointment: "I have been with the
signori," wrote Fortunati, "to learn whom they would send and
when. They tell me that Nicolo Machiavelli, a learned young
Florentine noble, secretary to my Lords of the Ten, is to leave
with me at once." Cf. "Catherine Sforza," by Count Pasolini,
translated by P. Sylvester, 1898.


Previous Next

13008509 visitors
· 8908 texts · 2350 recordings · 957 authors · 194 readers

· Home · Index · Audio Clips · Links · Feedback · About Us · Contact Us ·

Copyright © All Rights Reserved.