The Prince eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 149 pages of information about The Prince.
how to avail himself of the beast and the man.  This has been figuratively taught to princes by ancient writers, who describe 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 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.  Of this endless modern examples could be given, showing how many treaties and engagements have been made void and of no effect through the faithlessness of princes; and he who has known best how to employ the fox has succeeded best.

(*) “Contesting,” i.e. “striving for mastery.”  Mr Burd points out that this passage is imitated directly from Cicero’s “De Officiis”:  “Nam cum sint duo genera decertandi, unum per disceptationem, alterum per vim; cumque illud proprium sit hominis, hoc beluarum; confugiendum est ad posterius, si uti non licet superiore.”

But it is necessary to know well how to disguise this characteristic, and to be a great pretender and dissembler; and men are so simple, and so subject to present necessities, that he who seeks to deceive will always find someone who will allow himself to be deceived.  One recent example I cannot pass over in silence.  Alexander the Sixth 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.

     (*) “Nondimanco sempre gli succederono gli inganni (ad
     votum).”  The words “ad votum” are omitted in the Testina
     addition, 1550.

     Alexander never did what he said,
     Cesare never said what he did.

     Italian Proverb.

Therefore it is unnecessary for a prince to have all the good qualities I have enumerated, but it is very necessary to appear to have them.  And I shall dare to say this also, that to have them and always to observe them is injurious, and that to appear to have them is useful; to appear merciful, faithful, humane, religious, upright, and to be so, but with a mind so framed that should you require not to be so, you may be able and know how to change to the opposite.

Copyrights
Project Gutenberg
The Prince from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.