The Prince eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 149 pages of information about The Prince.
news; for if God grant life to you, and to me, I hope to make a good man of you if you are willing to do your share.”  Then, writing of a new patron, he continues:  “This will turn out well for you, but it is necessary for you to study; since, then, you have no longer the excuse of illness, take pains to study letters and music, for you see what honour is done to me for the little skill I have.  Therefore, my son, if you wish to please me, and to bring success and honour to yourself, do right and study, because others will help you if you help yourself.”

OFFICE —­ Aet. 25-43—­1494-1512

The second period of Machiavelli’s life was spent in the service of the free Republic of Florence, which flourished, as stated above, from the expulsion of the Medici in 1494 until their return in 1512.  After serving four years in one of the public offices he was appointed Chancellor and Secretary to the Second Chancery, the Ten of Liberty and Peace.  Here we are on firm ground when dealing with the events of Machiavelli’s life, for during this time he took a leading part in the affairs of the Republic, and we have its decrees, records, and dispatches to guide us, as well as his own writings.  A mere recapitulation of a few of his transactions with the statesmen and soldiers of his time gives a fair indication of his activities, and supplies the sources from which he drew the experiences and characters which illustrate “The Prince.”

His first mission was in 1499 to Catherina Sforza, “my lady of Forli” of “The Prince,” from whose conduct and fate he drew the moral that it is far better to earn the confidence of the people than to rely on fortresses.  This is a very noticeable principle in Machiavelli, and is urged by him in many ways as a matter of vital importance to princes.

In 1500 he was sent to France to obtain terms from Louis XII for continuing the war against Pisa:  this king it was who, in his conduct of affairs in Italy, committed the five capital errors in statecraft summarized in “The Prince,” and was consequently driven out.  He, also, it was who made the dissolution of his marriage a condition of support to Pope Alexander VI; which leads Machiavelli to refer those who urge that such promises should be kept to what he has written concerning the faith of princes.

Machiavelli’s public life was largely occupied with events arising out of the ambitions of Pope Alexander VI and his son, Cesare Borgia, the Duke Valentino, and these characters fill a large space of “The Prince.”  Machiavelli never hesitates to cite the actions of the duke for the benefit of usurpers who wish to keep the states they have seized; he can, indeed, find no precepts to offer so good as the pattern of Cesare Borgia’s conduct, insomuch that Cesare is acclaimed by some critics as the “hero” of “The Prince.”  Yet in “The Prince” the duke is in point of fact cited as a type of the man who rises on the fortune of others, and falls with them; who takes every course that might be expected from a prudent man but the course which will save him; who is prepared for all eventualities but the one which happens; and who, when all his abilities fail to carry him through, exclaims that it was not his fault, but an extraordinary and unforeseen fatality.

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The Prince from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.