Machiavelli, Volume I eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 456 pages of information about Machiavelli, Volume I.
In the sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth Chap, our Author descends to particulars, perswading his Prince in his sixteenth to such a suppleness of disposition, as that upon occasion he can make use either of liberality or miserableness, as need shall require.  But that of liberality is to last no longer than while he is in the way to some designe:  which if he well weigh, is not really a reward of vertue, how ere it seems; but a bait and lure to bring birds to the net.  In the seventeenth Chap, he treats of clemency and cruelty, neither of which are to be exercis’d by him as acts of mercy or justice; but as they may serve to advantage his further purposes.  And lest the Prince should incline too much to clemency, our Author allows rather the restraint by fear, than by love.  The contrary to which all stories shew us.  I will say this only, cruelty may cut of the power of some, but causes the hatred of all, and gives a will to most to take the first occasion offerd for revenge.  In the eighteenth Chap, our Author discourses how Princes ought to govern themselves in keeping their promises made:  whereof he sayes they ought to make such small reckoning, as that rather they should know by their craft how to turne and wind men about, whereby to take advantage of all winds and fortunes.  To this I would oppose that in the fifteenth Psal. v. 5.  He that sweareth to his neighbor, and disappointeth him not, though it were to his own hindrance.  It was a King that writ it, and me thinks the rule he gave, should well befit both King and Subject:  and surely this perswades against all taking of advantages.  A man may reduce all the causes of faith-breaking to three heads.  One may be, because he that promised, had no intention to keep his word; and this is a wicked and malitious way of dealing.  A second may bee, because hee that promisd, repents of his promise made; and that is grounded on unconstancy, and lightness in that he would not be well resolved before he entred into covenant.  The third may be, when it so falls out, that it lyes not in his power that made the promise to performe it.  In which case a man ought to imitate the good debter, who having not wherewithall to pay, hides not himself, but presents his person to his creditor, willingly suffering imprisonment.  The first and second are very vitious and unworthy of a Prince:  in the third, men might well be directed by the examples of those two famous Romans, Regulus and Posthumius.  I shall close this with the answer of Charles the fifth, when he was pressed to break his word with Luther for his safe return from Wormes; Fides rerum promissarum etsi toto mundo exulet, tamen apud imperatorem cam consistere oportet.  Though truth be banisht out of the whole world, yet should it alwaies find harbour in an Emperors breast.

[Sidenote:  Gulielmus Xenocarus in vit.  Car.  Quinti.]


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Machiavelli, Volume I from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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