The Prince Chapter 9
Concerning the civil principality
Another way that a private citizen may become a prince without ability or fortune is through the support of either the common people or the nobles. From the conflicting desires of the common people (not wanting to be oppressed) and the nobles (wanting to oppress), there are three possible scenarios or forms of government: principality, liberty or license (in political terms: monarchy, democracy, or anarchy). A civil principality results when the nobles anoint one from their ranks to rule over the people, or when the people select one of their own to protect themselves against the nobles. He who comes to power through the nobles is less secure than one who comes to power through the people because the other nobles consider themselves equal to the prince, while the people seek only to be protected from oppression. A prince must group nobles according to whether they support him or not. In dealing with nobles who are not supportive, the prince should judge whether it is because of their inherent lack of strong character, or because they are ambitious and care more about their own interests. Those of the former character, especially the competent, can be used because they are not a threat. But the ambitious and cunning nobles should be looked upon as enemies to be carefully watched.
Whether a prince comes to power through the people or the nobles, he must win the support of the people, which is easily accomplished by not harming them. Machiavelli stresses the importance of keeping the good will of the people because they are crucial in times of trouble. He qualifies this statement by saying that a prince should not expect the people to bail him out of trouble. If a prince is a man of courage and ability, the people will inevitably stand behind him even in times of adversity. A prince must therefore, be closely associated with his people. He must not rely too heavily on his magistrates to lead them, lest they become too dependent on his advisors, rather than on him. If the people are dependent upon the prince in times of peace, they will be loyal to him in times of danger as well.