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Chapter 19 Notes from The Prince

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The Prince Chapter 19

How to avoid contempt and hatred

Most men are content as long as they are not deprived of their property and women. A prince should command respect through his conduct because a prince that is highly esteemed by his people is unlikely to face internal opposition. A prince who does not provoke the contempt of nobles and keeps the people satisfied does not have to fear conspirators.

Machiavelli praises the structure of the French government in implementing a governing body, the parliament, to intercede for the king in matters pertaining to the relationships between the nobles and the common people. This arrangement allows the king to govern the people without ever directly opposing the nobles. Machiavelli writes,

"From it a noteworthy lesson may be drawn: princes should delegate unpopular duties to others while dispensing all favors directly themselves. I say again that a prince must respect the nobility, but avoid the hatred of the common people." Chapter 19, pg. 67

Machiavelli addresses those who refer to the lives of Roman emperors as evidence disproving his previous arguments-mainly that those who rule with force keep power while those who rule with kindness lose it. He gives a comparatively detailed account of why the Roman emperors lost their power, although some ruled with justice and some with cruelty. One main reason is that at the time, there was a third party-the soldiers, whom the emperors feared more than they did the people. Many emperors fell because they sided with their soldiers instead of the people. On the other hand, the emperors who did not side with the army, with the exception of Marcus Aurelius, fell from power because of it. Among cruel emperors, only Septimus Severus, who was extraordinarily gifted, was able to rule successfully. Septimus is an embodiment of a ruler who is like both the fox and the lion.

Machiavelli notes that current leaders do not have to worry about the army because the people are now more influential. The only exceptions are Turkey and Egypt where the standing army is still closely interwoven with the sultan's rule. The wise ruler should borrow the actions of Septimus in coming to power. Once power is established, he should borrow the actions of Marcus Aurelius in ruling with justice and moderation.

Topic Tracking: Power Politics 12

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