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The Best Works of Niccolo Machiavelli Discourses on the First Decade of Titus LiviusHistory of Florence and ItalyMachiavelli, Volume IThe Prince
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The Best Collection of Niccolo Machiavelli
Discourses on the First Decade of Titus Livius
History of Florence and Italy
Machiavelli, Volume I
Discourses on the First Decade of Titus Livius
DISCOURSES ON THE FIRST DECADE OF
CITIZEN AND SECRETARY OF FLORENCE
I. Of the beginnings of Cities in general, and in particular of that of Rome
II. Of the various kinds of Government; and to which of them the Roman Commonwealth belonged
III. Of the accidents which led in Rome to the creation of Tribunes of the People, whereby the Republic was made more perfect
IV. That the dissensions between the Senate and Commons of Rome made Rome free and powerful
V. Whether the guardianship of public freedom is safer in the hands of the Commons or of the Nobles; and whether those who seek to acquire power, or they who seek to maintain it, are the greater cause of commotions
VI. Whether it was possible in Rome to contrive such a Government as would have composed the differences between the Commons and the Senate
VII. That to preserve liberty in a State, there must exist the right to accuse
VIII. That calumny is as hurtful in a Commonwealth as the power to accuse is useful
IX. That to give new institutions to a Commonwealth, or to reconstruct old institutions on an entirely new basis, must be the work of one Man
X. That in proportion as the founder of a Kingdom or Commonwealth merits praise, he who founds a Tyranny deserves blame
XI. Of the Religion of the Romans
XII. That it is of much moment to make account of Religion; and that Italy, through the Roman Church, being wanting therein, has been ruined
XIII. Of the use the Romans made of Religion in giving institutions to their City; in carrying out their enterprises; and in quelling tumults
XIV. That the Romans interpreted the auspices to meet the occasion; and made a prudent show of observing the rites of Religion even when forced to disregard them; and any who rashly slighted Religion they punished
XV. How the Samnites, as a last resource in their broken fortunes, had recourse to Religion
XVI. That a People accustomed to live under a Prince, if by any accident it become free, can hardly preserve that freedom
XVII. That a corrupt People obtaining freedom can hardly preserve it
XVIII. How a free Government existing in a corrupt City may be preserved, or not existing may be created
XIX. After a strong Prince a weak Prince may maintain himself: but after one weak Prince no Kingdom can stand a second
XX. That the consecutive reigns of two valiant Princes produce great results: and that well-ordered Commonwealths are assured of a succession of valiant Rulers by whom their power and growth are rapidly extended
XXI. That it is a great reproach to a Prince or to a Commonwealth to be without a National Army
XXII. What is to be noted in the combat of the three Roman Horatii and the three Alban Curiatii
XXIII. That we should never hazard our whole fortunes, where we put not forth our entire strength; for which reason to guard a defile is often hurtful
XXIV. That well-ordered States always provide rewards and punishments for their Citizens; and never set off deserts against misdeeds
XXV. That he who would reform the institutions of a free State, must retain at least the semblance of old ways
XXVI. That a new Prince in a city or province of which he has taken possession, ought to make everything new
XXVII. That Men seldom know how to be wholly good or wholly bad
XXVIII. Whence it came that the Romans were less ungrateful to their citizens than were the Athenians
XXIX. Whether a People or a Prince is the more ungrateful
XXX. How Princes and Commonwealths may avoid the vice of ingratitude; and how a Captain or Citizen may escape being undone by it
XXXI. That the Roman Captains were never punished with extreme severity for misconduct; and where loss resulted to the Republic merely through their ignorance or want of judgment, were not punished at all
XXXII. That a Prince or Commonwealth should not defer benefits until they are forced to yield them
XXXIII. When a mischief has grown up in, or against a State, it is safer to temporize with it than to meet it with violence
XXXIV. That the authority of the Dictator did good and not harm to the Roman Republic; and that it is, not those powers which are given by the free suffrages of the People, but those which ambitious Citizens usurp for themselves that are pernicious to a State
XXXV. Why the creation of the Decemvirate in Rome, although brought about by the free and open suffrage of the Citizens, was hurtful to the liberties of that Republic
XXXVI. That Citizens who have held the higher offices of a Commonwealth should not disdain the lower
XXXVII. Of the mischief bred in Rome by the Agrarian Law: and how it is a great source of disorder in a Commonwealth to pass a law opposed to ancient usage with stringent retrospective effect
XXXVIII. That weak Republics are irresolute and undecided; and that the course they may take depends more on Necessity than Choice
XXXIX. That often the same accidents are seen to befall different Nations
XL. Of the creation of the Decemvirate in Rome, and what therein is to be noted. Wherein among other matters it is shown how the same causes may lead to the safety or to the ruin of a Commonwealth
XLI. That it is unwise to pass at a bound from leniency to severity, or to a haughty bearing from a humble
XLII. How easily men become corrupted
XLIII. That men fighting in their own cause make good and resolute Soldiers
XLIV. That the Multitude is helpless without a head: and that we should not with the same breath threaten and ask leave
XLV. That it is of evil example, especially in the maker of a law, not to observe the law when made: and that daily to renew acts of severity in a City is most hurtful to the Governor
XLVI. That men climb from one step of ambition to another, seeking at first to escape injury, and then to injure others
XLVII. That though men deceive themselves in generalities, in particulars they judge truly
XLVIII. He who would not have an office bestowed on some worthless or wicked person, should contrive that it be solicited by one who is utterly worthless and wicked, or else by one who is in the highest degree noble and good
XLIX. That if Cities which, like Rome, had their beginning in freedom, have had difficulty in framing such laws as would preserve their freedom, Cities which at the first have been in subjection will find this almost impossible
L. That neither any Council nor any Magistrate should have power to bring the Government of a City to a stay
LI. What a Prince or Republic does of necessity, should seem to be done by choice
LII. That to check the arrogance of a Citizen who is growing too powerful in a State, there is no safer method, nor less open to objection, than to forestall him in those ways whereby he seeks to advance himself
LIII. That the People, deceived by a false show of advantage, often desire what would be their ruin; and that large hopes and brave promises easily move them
LIV. Of the boundless authority which a great man may use to restrain an excited Multitude
LV. That the Government is easily carried on in a City wherein the body of the People is not corrupted: and that a Princedom is impossible where equality prevails, and a Republic where it does not
LVI. That when great calamities are about to befall a City or Country, signs are seen to presage, and seers arise who foretell them
LVII. That the People are strong collectively, but individually weak
LVIII. That a People is wiser and more constant than a Prince
LIX. To what Leagues or Alliances we may most trust, whether those we make with Commonwealths or those we make with Princes
LX. That the Consulship and all the other Magistracies in Rome were given without respect to Age
I. Whether the Empire acquired by the Romans was more due to Valour or to Fortune
II. With what Nations the Romans had to contend, and how stubborn these were in defending their Freedom
III. That Rome became great by destroying the Cities which lay round about her, and by readily admitting Strangers to the rights of Citizenship
IV. That Commonwealths have followed three methods for extending their power
V. That changes in Sects and Tongues, and the happening of Floods and Pestilences, obliterate the memory of the past
VI. Of the methods followed by the Romans in making War
VII. Of the quantity of land assigned by the Romans to each colonist
VIII. Why certain Nations leave their ancestral seats and overflow the Countries of others
IX. Of the Causes which commonly give rise to wars between States
X. That contrary to the vulgar opinion, Money is not the sinews of War
XI. That it were unwise to ally yourself with a Prince who has reputation rather than strength
XII. Whether when Invasion is imminent it is better to anticipate or to await it
XIII. That Men rise from humble to high fortunes rather by Fraud than by Force
XIV. That Men often err in thinking they can subdue Pride by Humility
XV. That weak States are always dubious in their resolves; and that tardy resolves are always hurtful
XVI. That the Soldiers of our days depart widely from the methods of ancient Warfare
XVII. What importance the Armies of the present day should allow to Artillery; and whether the commonly received opinion concerning it be just
XVIII. That the authority of the Romans and the example of ancient warfare should make us hold Foot Soldiers of more account than Horse
XIX. That conquests made by ill governed States and such as follow not the valiant methods of the Romans, lend rather to their ruin than to their aggrandizement
XX. Of the dangers incurred by Princes or Republics who resort to Auxiliary or Mercenary Arms
XXI. That Capua was the first City to which the Romans sent a Prætor; nor there, until four hundred years after they began to make war
XXII. That in matters of moment Men often judge amiss
XXIII. That in chastising then Subjects when circumstances required it the Romans always avoided half measures
XXIV. That, commonly, Fortresses do much more harm than good
XXV. That he who attacks a City divided against itself, must not think to get possession of it through its divisions
XXVI. That Taunts and Abuse breed hatred against him who uses them, without yielding him any advantage
XXVII. That prudent Princes and Republics should be content to have obtained a victory; for, commonly, when they are not, their victory turns to defeat
XXVIII. That to neglect the redress of Grievances, whether public or private, is dangerous for a Prince or Commonwealth
XXIX. That Fortune obscures the minds of Men when she would not have them hinder her designs
XXX. That really powerful Princes and Commonwealths do not buy Friendships with money, but with their valour and the fame of then prowess
XXXI. Of the danger of trusting banished men
XXXII. In how many ways the Romans gained possession of Towns
XXXIII. That the Romans entrusted the Captains of their Armies with the fullest Powers
I. For a Sect or Commonwealth to last long, it must often be brought back to its beginnings
II. That on occasion it is wise to feign folly
III. That to preserve a newly acquired freedom we must slay the Sons of Brutus
IV. That an Usurper is never safe in his Princedom while those live whom he has deprived of it
V. How an Hereditary King may come to lose his Kingdom
VI. Of Conspiracies
VII. Why it is that changes from Freedom to Servitude, and from Servitude to Freedom, are sometimes made without bloodshed, but at other times reek with blood
VIII. That he who would effect changes in a Commonwealth, must give heed to its character and condition
IX. That to enjoy constant good fortune we must change with the times
X. That a Captain cannot escape battle when his Enemy forces it on him at all hazards
XI. That one who has to contend with many, though he be weaker than they, will prevail if he can withstand their first onset
XII. A prudent Captain will do what he can to make it necessary for his own Soldiers to fight, and to relieve his Enemy from that necessity
XIII. Whether we may trust more to a valiant Captain with a weak Army, or to a valiant Army with a weak Captain
XIV. Of the effect produced in Battle by strange and unexpected Sights or Sounds
XV. That one and not many should head an Army; and why it is disadvantageous to have more leaders than one
XVI. That in times of difficulty true Worth is sought after whereas in quiet times it is not the most deserving but those who are recommended by wealth or connection who are most in favour
XVII. That we are not to offend a Man, and then send him to fill an important Office or Command
XVIII. That it is the highest quality of a Captain to be able to forestall the designs of his adversary
XIX. Whether indulgence or severity be more necessary for controlling a Multitude
XX. How one humane act availed more with the men of Falerii than all the might of the Roman Arms
XXI. How it happened that Hannibal pursuing a course contrary to that taken by Scipio, wrought the same results in Italy which the other achieved in Spain
XXII. That the severity of Manlius Torquatus and the gentleness of Valerius Corvinus won for both the same Glory
XXIII. Why Camillus was banished from Rome
XXIV. That prolonged Commands brought Rome to Servitude
XXV. Of the Poverty of Cincinnatus and of many other Roman Citizens
XXVI. How women are a cause of the ruin of States
XXVII. How a divided City may be reunited; and how it is a false opinion that to hold Cities in subjection they must be kept divided
XXVIII. That a Republic must keep an eye on what its Citizens are about; since often the seeds of a Tyranny lie hidden under a semblance of generous deeds
XXIX. That the faults of a People are due to its Prince
XXX. That a Citizen who seeks by his personal influence to render signal service to his Country, must first stand clear of Envy. How a City should prepare for its defence on the approach of an Enemy
XXXI That strong Republics and valiant Men preserve through every change the same spirit and bearing
XXXII. Of the methods which some have used to make Peace impossible
XXXIII. That to insure victory in battle, you must inspire your soldiers with confidence in one another and in you
XXXIV. By what reports, rumours, or surmises the Citizens of a Republic are led to favour a fellow-citizen: and whether the Magistracies are bestowed with better judgment by a People or by a Prince
XXXV. Of the danger incurred in being the first to recommend new measures; and that the more unusual the measures, the greater the danger
XXXVI. Why it has been and still may be affirmed of the Gauls, that at the beginning of a fray they are more than Men, but afterwards less than Women
XXXVII. Whether a general engagement should be preceded by skirmishes; and how, avoiding these, we may get knowledge of a new Enemy
XXXVIII. Of the Qualities of a Captain in whom his Soldiers can confide
XXXIX. That a Captain should have good knowledge of Places
XL. That Fraud is fair in War
XLI. That our Country is to be defended by Honour or by Dishonour, and in either way is well defended
XLII. That Promises made on compulsion are not to be observed
XLIII. That Men born in the same Province retain through all times nearly the same character
XLIV. That where ordinary methods fail, Hardihood and Daring often succeed
XLV. Whether in battle it is better to await and repel the enemy's attack, or to anticipate it by an impetuous onset
XLVI. How the Characteristics of Families come to be perpetuated
XLVII. That love of his Country should lead a good Citizen to forget private wrongs
XLVIII. That on finding an Enemy make what seems a grave blunder we should suspect some fraud to lurk behind
XLIX. That a Commonwealth to preserve its Freedom has constant need of new Ordinances. Of the services in respect of which Quintius Fabius received the surname of Maximus
ZANOBI BUONDELMONTI AND COSIMO RUCELLAI
I send you a gift, which if it answers ill the obligations I owe you, is at any rate the greatest which Niccolò Machiavelli has it in his power to offer. For in it I have expressed whatever I have learned, or have observed for myself during a long experience and constant study of human affairs. And since neither you nor any other can expect more at my hands, you cannot complain if I have not given you more.
You may indeed lament the poverty of my wit, since what I have to say is but poorly said; and tax the weakness of my judgment, which on many points may have erred in its conclusions. But granting all this, I know not which of us is less beholden to the other: I to you, who have forced me to write what of myself I never should have written; or you to me, who have written what can give you no content.
Take this, however, in the spirit in which all that comes from a friend should be taken, in respect whereof we always look more to the intention of the giver than to the quality of the gift. And, believe me, that in one thing only I find satisfaction, namely, in knowing that while in many matters I may have made mistakes, at least I have not been mistaken in choosing you before all others as the persons to whom I dedicate these Discourses; both because I seem to myself, in doing so, to have shown a little gratitude for kindness received, and at the same time to have departed from the hackneyed custom which leads many authors to inscribe their works to some Prince, and blinded by hopes of favour or reward, to praise him as possessed of every virtue; whereas with more reason they might reproach him as contaminated with every shameful vice.
To avoid which error I have chosen, not those who are but those who from their infinite merits deserve to be Princes; not such persons as have it in their power to load me with honours, wealth, and preferment, but such as though they lack the power, have all the will to do so. For men, if they would judge justly, should esteem those who are, and not those whose means enable them to be generous; and in like manner those who know how to govern kingdoms, rather than those who possess the government without such knowledge. For Historians award higher praise to Hiero of Syracuse when in a private station than to Perseus the Macedonian when a King affirming that while the former lacked nothing that a Prince should have save the name, the latter had nothing of the King but the kingdom.
Make the most, therefore, of this good or this evil, as you may esteem it, which you have brought upon yourselves; and should you persist in the mistake of thinking my opinions worthy your attention, I shall not fail to proceed with the rest of the History in the manner promised in my Preface. Farewell.
ON THE FIRST DECADE OF
* * * * *
Albeit the jealous temper of mankind, ever more disposed to censure than to praise the work of others, has constantly made the pursuit of new methods and systems no less perilous than the search after unknown lands and seas; nevertheless, prompted by that desire which nature has implanted in me, fearlessly to undertake whatsoever I think offers a common benefit to all, I enter on a path which, being hitherto untrodden by any, though it involve me in trouble and fatigue, may yet win me thanks from those who judge my efforts in a friendly spirit. And although my feeble discernment, my slender experience of current affairs, and imperfect knowledge of ancient events, render these efforts of mine defective and of no great utility, they may at least open the way to some other, who, with better parts and sounder reasoning and judgment, shall carry out my design; whereby, if I gain no credit, at all events I ought to incur no blame.
When I see antiquity held in such reverence, that to omit other instances, the mere fragment of some ancient statue is often bought at a great price, in order that the purchaser may keep it by him to adorn his house, or to have it copied by those who take delight in this art; and how these, again, strive with all their skill to imitate it in their various works; and when, on the other hand, I find those noble labours which history shows to have been wrought on behalf of the monarchies and republics of old times, by kings, captains, citizens, lawgivers, and others who have toiled for the good of their country, rather admired than followed, nay, so absolutely renounced by every one that not a trace of that antique worth is now left among us, I cannot but at once marvel and grieve; at this inconsistency; and all the more because I perceive that, in civil disputes between citizens, and in the bodily disorders into which men fall, recourse is always had to the decisions and remedies, pronounced or prescribed by the ancients.
For the civil law is no more than the opinions delivered by the ancient jurisconsults, which, being reduced to a system, teach the jurisconsults of our own times how to determine; while the healing art is simply the recorded experience of the old physicians, on which our modern physicians found their practice. And yet, in giving laws to a commonwealth, in maintaining States and governing kingdoms, in organizing armies and conducting wars, in dealing with subject nations, and in extending a State's dominions, we find no prince, no republic, no captain, and no citizen who resorts to the example of the ancients.
This I persuade myself is due, not so much to the feebleness to which the present methods of education have brought the world, or to the injury which a pervading apathy has wrought in many provinces and cities of Christendom, as to the want of a right intelligence of History, which renders men incapable in reading it to extract its true meaning or to relish its flavour. Whence it happens that by far the greater number of those who read History, take pleasure in following the variety of incidents which it presents, without a thought to imitate them; judging such imitation to be not only difficult but impossible; as though the heavens, the sun, the elements, and man himself were no longer the same as they formerly were as regards motion, order, and power.
Desiring to rescue men from this error, I have thought fit to note down with respect to all those books of Titus Livius which have escaped the malignity of Time, whatever seems to me essential to a right understanding of ancient and modern affairs; so that any who shall read these remarks of mine, may reap from them that profit for the sake of which a knowledge of History is to be sought. And although the task be arduous, still, with the help of those at whose instance I assumed the burthen, I hope to carry it forward so far, that another shall have no long way to go to bring it to its destination.
.--_Of the Beginnings of Cities in general, and in particular of that of Rome._
No one who reads how the city of Rome had its beginning, who were its founders, and what its ordinances and laws, will marvel that so much excellence was maintained in it through many ages, or that it grew afterwards to be so great an Empire.
And, first, as touching its origin, I say, that all cities have been founded either by the people of the country in which they stand, or by strangers. Cities have their origins in the former of these two ways when the inhabitants of a country find that they cannot live securely if they live dispersed in many and small societies, each of them unable, whether from its situation or its slender numbers, to stand alone against the attacks of its enemies; on whose approach there is no time left to unite for defence without abandoning many strongholds, and thus becoming an easy prey to the invader. To escape which dangers, whether of their own motion or at the instance of some of greater authority among them, they restrict themselves to dwell together in certain places, which they think will be more convenient to live in and easier to defend.
Among many cities taking their origin in this way were Athens and Venice; the former of which, for reasons like those just now mentioned, was built by a scattered population under the direction of Theseus. To escape the wars which, on the decay of the Roman Empire daily renewed in Italy by the arrival of fresh hordes of Barbarians, numerous refugees, sheltering in certain little islands in a corner of the Adriatic Sea, gave beginning to Venice; where, without any recognized leader to direct them, they agreed to live together under such laws as they thought best suited to maintain them. And by reason of the prolonged tranquility which their position secured, they being protected by the narrow sea and by the circumstance that the tribes who then harassed Italy had no ships wherewith to molest them, they were able from very small beginnings to attain to that greatness they now enjoy.
In the second case, namely of a city being founded by strangers, the settlers are either wholly independent, or they are controlled by others, as where colonies are sent forth either by a prince or by a republic, to relieve their countries of an excessive population, or to defend newly acquired territories which it is sought to secure at small cost. Of this sort many cities were settled by the Romans, and in all parts of their dominions. It may also happen that such cities are founded by a prince merely to add to his renown, without any intention on his part to dwell there, as Alexandria was built by Alexander the Great. Cities like these, not having had their beginning in freedom, seldom make such progress as to rank among the chief towns of kingdoms.
The city of Florence belongs to that class of towns which has not been independent from the first; for whether we ascribe its origin to the soldiers of Sylla, or, as some have conjectured, to the mountaineers of Fiesole (who, emboldened by the long peace which prevailed throughout the world during the reign of Octavianus, came down to occupy the plain on the banks of the Arno), in either case, it was founded under the auspices of Rome nor could, at first, make other progress than was permitted by the grace of the sovereign State.
The origin of cities may be said to be independent when a people, either by themselves or under some prince, are constrained by famine, pestilence, or war to leave their native land and seek a new habitation. Settlers of this sort either establish themselves in cities which they find ready to their hand in the countries of which they take possession, as did Moses; or they build new ones, as did Æneas. It is in this last case that the merits of a founder and the good fortune of the city founded are best seen; and this good fortune will be more or less remarkable according to the greater or less capacity of him who gives the city its beginning.
The capacity of a founder is known in two ways: by his choice of a site, or by the laws which he frames. And since men act either of necessity or from choice, and merit may seem greater where choice is more restricted, we have to consider whether it may not be well to choose a sterile district as the site of a new city, in order that the inhabitants, being constrained to industry, and less corrupted by ease, may live in closer union, finding less cause for division in the poverty of their land; as was the case in Ragusa, and in many other cities built in similar situations. Such a choice were certainly the wisest and the most advantageous, could men be content to enjoy what is their own without seeking to lord it over others. But since to be safe they must be strong, they are compelled avoid these barren districts, and to plant themselves in more fertile regions; where, the fruitfulness of the soil enabling them to increase and multiply, they may defend themselves against any who attack them, and overthrow any who would withstand their power.
And as for that languor which the situation might breed, care must be had that hardships which the site does not enforce, shall be enforced by the laws; and that the example of those wise nations be imitated, who, inhabiting most fruitful and delightful countries, and such as were likely to rear a listless and effeminate race, unfit for all manly exercises, in order to obviate the mischief wrought by the amenity and relaxing influence of the soil and climate, subjected all who were to serve as soldiers to the severest training; whence it came that better soldiers were raised in these countries than in others by nature rugged and barren. Such, of old, was the kingdom of the Egyptians, which, though of all lands the most bountiful, yet, by the severe training which its laws enforced, produced most valiant soldiers, who, had their names not been lost in antiquity, might be thought to deserve more praise than Alexander the Great and many besides, whose memory is still fresh in men's minds. And even in recent times, any one contemplating the kingdom of the Soldan, and the military order of the Mamelukes before they were destroyed by Selim the Grand Turk, must have seen how carefully they trained their soldiers in every kind of warlike exercise; showing thereby how much they dreaded that indolence to which their genial soil and climate might have disposed them, unless neutralized by strenuous laws. I say, then, that it is a prudent choice to found your city in a fertile region when the effects of that fertility are duly balanced by the restraint of the laws.
When Alexander the Great thought to add to his renown by founding a city, Dinocrates the architect came and showed him how he might build it on Mount Athos, which not only offered a strong position, but could be handled that the city built there might present a semblance of the human form, which would be a thing strange and striking, and worthy of so great a monarch. But on Alexander asking how the inhabitants were to live, Dinocrates answered that he had not thought of that. Whereupon, Alexander laughed, and leaving Mount Athos as it stood, built Alexandria; where, the fruitfulness of the soil, and the vicinity of the Nile and the sea, might attract many to take up their abode.
To him, therefore, who inquires into the origin of Rome, if he assign its beginning to Æneas, it will seem to be of those cities which were founded by strangers if to Romulus, then of those founded by the natives of the country. But in whichever class we place it, it will be seen to have had its beginning in freedom, and not in subjection to another State. It will be seen, too, as hereafter shall be noted, how strict was the discipline which the laws instituted by Romulus, Numa, and its other founders made compulsory upon it; so that neither its fertility, the proximity of the sea, the number of its victories, nor the extent of its dominion, could for many centuries corrupt it, but, on the contrary, maintained it replete with such virtues as were never matched in any other commonwealth.
And because the things done by Rome, and which Titus Livius has celebrated, were effected at home or abroad by public or by private wisdom, I shall begin by treating, and noting the consequences of those things done at home in accordance with the public voice, which seem most to merit attention; and to this object the whole of this first Book or first Part of my Discourses, shall be directed.
.--Of the various kinds of Government; and to which of them the Roman Commonwealth belonged.
I forego all discussion concerning those cities which at the outset have been dependent upon others, and shall speak only of those which from their earliest beginnings have stood entirely clear of all foreign control, being governed from the first as pleased themselves, whether as republics or as princedoms.
These as they have had different origins, so likewise have had different laws and institutions. For to some at their very first commencement, or not long after, laws have been given by a single legislator, and all at one time; like those given by Lycurgus to the Spartans; while to others they have been given at different times, as need rose or accident determined; as in the case of Rome. That republic, indeed, may be called happy, whose lot has been to have a founder so prudent as to provide for it laws under which it can continue to live securely, without need to amend them; as we find Sparta preserving hers for eight hundred years, without deterioration and without any dangerous disturbance. On the other hand, some measure of unhappiness attaches to the State which, not having yielded itself once for all into the hands of a single wise legislator, is obliged to recast its institutions for itself; and of such States, by far the most unhappy is that which is furthest removed from a sound system of government, by which I mean that its institutions lie wholly outside the path which might lead it to a true and perfect end. For it is scarcely possible that a State in this position can ever, by any chance, set itself to rights, whereas another whose institutions are imperfect, if it have made a good beginning and such as admits of its amendment, may in the course of events arrive at perfection. It is certain, however, that such States can never be reformed without great risk; for, as a rule, men will accept no new law altering the institutions of their State, unless the necessity for such a change be demonstrated; and since this necessity cannot arise without danger, the State may easily be overthrown before the new order of things is established. In proof whereof we may instance the republic of Florence, which was reformed in the year 1502, in consequence of the affair of Arezzo, but was ruined in 1512, in consequence of the affair of Prato.
Desiring, therefore, to discuss the nature of the government of Rome, and to ascertain the accidental circumstances which brought it to its perfection, I say, as has been said before by many who have written of Governments, that of these there are three forms, known by the names Monarchy, Aristocracy, and Democracy, and that those who give its institutions to a State have recourse to one or other of these three, according as it suits their purpose. Other, and, as many have thought, wiser teachers, will have it, that there are altogether six forms of government, three of them utterly bad, the other three good in themselves, but so readily corrupted that they too are apt to become hurtful. The good are the three above named; the bad, three others dependent upon these, and each so like that to which it is related, that it is easy to pass imperceptibly from the one to the other. For a Monarchy readily becomes a Tyranny, an Aristocracy an Oligarchy, while a Democracy tends to degenerate into Anarchy. So that if the founder of a State should establish any one of these three forms of Government, he establishes it for a short time only, since no precaution he may take can prevent it from sliding into its contrary, by reason of the close resemblance which, in this case, the virtue bears to the vice.
These diversities in the form of Government spring up among men by chance. For in the beginning of the world, its inhabitants, being few in number, for a time lived scattered after the fashion of beasts; but afterwards, as they increased and multiplied, gathered themselves into societies, and, the better to protect themselves, began to seek who among them was the strongest and of the highest courage, to whom, making him their head, they tendered obedience. Next arose the knowledge of such things as are honourable and good, as opposed to those which are bad and shameful. For observing that when a man wronged his benefactor, hatred was universally felt for the one and sympathy for the other, and that the ungrateful were blamed, while those who showed gratitude were honoured, and reflecting that the wrongs they saw done to others might be done to themselves, to escape these they resorted to making laws and fixing punishments against any who should transgress them; and in this way grew the recognition of Justice. Whence it came that afterwards, in choosing their rulers, men no longer looked about for the strongest, but for him who was the most prudent and the most just.
But, presently, when sovereignty grew to be hereditary and no longer elective, hereditary sovereigns began to degenerate from their ancestors, and, quitting worthy courses, took up the notion that princes had nothing to do but to surpass the rest of the world in sumptuous display and wantonness, and whatever else ministers to pleasure so that the prince coming to be hated, and therefore to feel fear, and passing from fear to infliction of injuries, a tyranny soon sprang up. Forthwith there began movements to overthrow the prince, and plots and conspiracies against him undertaken not by those who were weak, or afraid for themselves, but by such as being conspicuous for their birth, courage, wealth, and station, could not tolerate the shameful life of the tyrant. The multitude, following the lead of these powerful men, took up arms against the prince and, he being got rid of, obeyed these others as their liberators; who, on their part, holding in hatred the name of sole ruler, formed themselves into a government and at first, while the recollection of past tyranny was still fresh, observed the laws they themselves made, and postponing personal advantage to the common welfare, administered affairs both publicly and privately with the utmost diligence and zeal. But this government passing, afterwards, to their descendants who, never having been taught in the school of Adversity, knew nothing of the vicissitudes of Fortune, these not choosing to rest content with mere civil equality, but abandoning themselves to avarice, ambition, and lust, converted, without respect to civil rights what had been a government of the best into a government of the few; and so very soon met with the same fate as the tyrant.
For the multitude loathing its rulers, lent itself to any who ventured, in whatever way, to attack them; when some one man speedily arose who with the aid of the people overthrew them. But the recollection of the tyrant and of the wrongs suffered at his hands being still fresh in the minds of the people, who therefore felt no desire to restore the monarchy, they had recourse to a popular government, which they established on such a footing that neither king nor nobles had any place in it. And because all governments inspire respect at the first, this government also lasted for a while, but not for long, and seldom after the generation which brought it into existence had died out. For, suddenly, liberty passed into license, wherein neither private worth nor public authority was respected, but, every one living as he liked, a thousand wrongs were done daily. Whereupon, whether driven by necessity, or on the suggestion of some wiser man among them and to escape anarchy, the people reverted to a monarchy, from which, step by step, in the manner and for the causes already assigned, they came round once more to license. For this is the circle revolving within which all States are and have been governed; although in the same State the same forms of Government rarely repeat themselves, because hardly any State can have such vitality as to pass through such a cycle more than once, and still together. For it may be expected that in some sea of disaster, when a State must always be wanting prudent counsels and in strength, it will become subject to some neighbouring and better-governed State; though assuming this not to happen, it might well pass for an indefinite period from one of these forms of government to another.
I say, then, that all these six forms of government are pernicious--the three good kinds, from their brief duration the three bad, from their inherent badness. Wise legislators therefore, knowing these defects, and avoiding each of these forms in its simplicity, have made choice of a form which shares in the qualities of all the first three, and which they judge to be more stable and lasting than any of these separately. For where we have a monarchy, an aristocracy, and a democracy existing together in the same city, each of the three serves as a check upon the other.
Among those who have earned special praise by devising a constitution of this nature, was Lycurgus, who so framed the laws of Sparta as to assign their proper functions to kings, nobles, and commons; and in this way established a government, which, to his great glory and to the peace and tranquility of his country, lasted for more than eight hundred years. The contrary, however, happened in the case of Solon; who by the turn he gave to the institutions of Athens, created there a purely democratic government, of such brief duration, that I himself lived to witness the beginning of the despotism of Pisistratus. And although, forty years later, the heirs of Pisistratus were driven out, and Athens recovered her freedom, nevertheless because she reverted to the same form government as had been established by Solon, she could maintain it for only a hundred years more; for though to preserve it, many ordinances were passed for repressing the ambition of the great and the turbulence of the people, against which Solon had not provided, still, since neither the monarchic nor the aristocratic element was given a place in her constitution, Athens, as compared with Sparta, had but a short life.
But let us now turn to Rome, which city, although she had no Lycurgus to give her from the first such a constitution as would preserve her long in freedom, through a series of accidents, caused by the contests between the commons and the senate, obtained by chance what the foresight of her founders failed to provide. So that Fortune, if she bestowed not her first favours on Rome, bestowed her second; because, although the original institutions of this city were defective, still they lay not outside the true path which could bring them to perfection. For Romulus and the other kings made many and good laws, and such as were not incompatible with freedom; but because they sought to found a kingdom and not a commonwealth, when the city became free many things were found wanting which in the interest of liberty it was necessary to supply, since these kings had not supplied them. And although the kings of Rome lost their sovereignty, in the manner and for the causes mentioned above, nevertheless those who drove them out, by at once creating two consuls to take their place, preserved in Rome the regal authority while banishing from it the regal throne, so that as both senate and consuls were included in that republic, it in fact possessed two of the elements above enumerated, to wit, the monarchic and the aristocratic.
It then only remained to assign its place to the popular element, and the Roman nobles growing insolent from causes which shall be noticed hereafter, the commons against them, when, not to lose the whole of their power, they were forced to concede a share to the people; while with the share which remained, the senate and consuls retained so much authority that they still held their own place in the republic. In this way the tribunes of the people came to be created, after whose creation the stability of the State was much augmented, since each the three forms of government had now its due influence allowed it. And such was the good fortune of Rome that although her government passed from the kings to the nobles, and from these to the people, by the steps and for the reasons noticed above, still the entire authority of the kingly element was not sacrificed to strengthen the authority of the nobles, nor were the nobles divested of their authority to bestow it on the commons; but three, blending together, made up a perfect State; which perfection, as shall be fully shown in the next two
, was reached through the dissensions of the commons and the senate.
.--Of the Accidents which led in Rome to the creation of Tribunes of the People; whereby the Republic was made more perfect.
They who lay the foundations of a State and furnish it with laws must, as is shown by all who have treated of civil government, and by examples of which history is full, assume that 'all men are bad, and will always, when they have free field, give loose to their evil inclinations; and that if these for a while remain hidden, it is owing to some secret cause, which, from our having no contrary experience, we do not recognize at once, but which is afterwards revealed by Time, of whom we speak as the father of all truth.
In Rome, after the expulsion of the Tarquins, it seemed as though the closest union prevailed between the senate and the commons, and that the nobles, laying aside their natural arrogance, had learned so to sympathize with the people as to have become supportable by all, even of the humblest rank. This dissimulation remained undetected, and its causes concealed, while the Tarquins lived; for the nobles dreading the Tarquins, and fearing that the people, if they used them ill, might take part against them, treated them with kindness. But no sooner were the Tarquins got rid of, and the nobles thus relieved of their fears, when they began to spit forth against the commons all the venom which before they had kept in their breasts, offending and insulting them in every way they could; confirming what I have observed already, that men never behave well unless compelled, and that whenever they are free to act as they please, and are under no restraint everything falls at once into confusion and disorder. Wherefore it has been said that as poverty and hunger are needed to make men industrious, so laws are needed to make them good. When we do well without laws, laws are not needed; but when good customs are absent, laws are at once required.
On the extinction of the Tarquins, therefore, the dread of whom had kept the nobles in check, some new safeguard had to be contrived, which should effect the same result as had been effected by the Tarquins while they lived. Accordingly, after much uproar and confusion, and much danger of violence ensuing between the commons and the nobles, to insure the safety of the former, tribunes were created, and were invested with such station and authority as always afterwards enabled them to stand between the people and the senate, and to resist the insolence of the nobles.
.--That the Dissensions between the Senate and Commons of Rome, made Rome free and powerful.
Touching those tumults which prevailed in Rome from the extinction of the Tarquins to the creation of the tribunes the discussion of which I have no wish to avoid, and as to certain other matters of a like nature, I desire to say something in opposition to the opinion of many who assert that Rome was a turbulent city, and had fallen into utter disorder, that had not her good fortune and military prowess made amends for other defects, she would have been inferior to every other republic.
I cannot indeed deny that the good fortune and the armies of Rome were the causes of her empire; yet it certainly seems to me that those holding this opinion fail to perceive, that in a State where there are good soldiers there must be good order, and, generally speaking, good fortune. And looking to the other circumstances of this city, I affirm that those who condemn these dissensions between the nobles and the commons, condemn what was the prime cause of Rome becoming free; and give more heed to the tumult and uproar wherewith these dissensions were attended, than to the good results which followed from them; not reflecting that while in every republic there are two conflicting factions, that of the people and that of the nobles, it is in this conflict that all laws favourable to freedom have their origin, as may readily be seen to have been the case in Rome. For from the time of the Tarquins to that of the Gracchi, a period of over three hundred years, the tumults in Rome seldom gave occasion to punishment by exile, and very seldom to bloodshed. So that we cannot truly declare those tumults to have been disastrous, or that republic to have been disorderly, which during all that time, on account of her internal broils, banished no more than eight or ten of her citizens, put very few to death, and rarely inflicted money penalties. Nor can we reasonably pronounce that city ill-governed wherein we find so many instances of virtue; for virtuous actions have their origin in right training, right training in wise laws, and wise laws in these very tumults which many would thoughtlessly condemn. For he who looks well to the results of these tumults will find that they did not lead to banishments, nor to violence hurtful to the common good, but to laws and ordinances beneficial to the public liberty. And should any object that the behaviour of the Romans was extravagant and outrageous; that for the assembled people to be heard shouting against the senate, the senate against the people; for the whole commons to be seen rushing wildly through the streets, closing their shops, and quitting the town, were things which might well affright him even who only reads of them; it may be answered, that the inhabitants of all cities, more especially of cities which seek to make use of the people in matters of importance, have their own ways of giving expression to their wishes; among which the city of Rome had the custom, that when its people sought to have a law passed they followed one or another of those courses mentioned above, or else refused to be enrolled as soldiers when, to pacify them, something of their demands had to be conceded. But the demands of a free people are hurtful to freedom, since they originate either in being oppressed, or in the fear that they are about to be so. When this fear is groundless, it finds its remedy in public meetings, wherein some worthy person may come forward and show the people by argument that they are deceiving themselves. For though they be ignorant, the people are not therefore, as Cicero says, incapable of being taught the truth, but are readily convinced when it is told them by one in whose honesty they can trust.
We should, therefore, be careful how we censure the government of Rome, and should reflect that all the great results effected by that republic, could not have come about without good cause. And if the popular tumults led the creation of the tribunes, they merit all praise; since these magistrates not only gave its due influence to the popular voice in the government, but also acted as the guardians of Roman freedom, as shall be clearly shown in the following Chapter.
.--_Whether the Guardianship of public Freedom is safer in the hands of the Commons or of the Nobles; and whether those who seek to acquire Power or they who seek to maintain it are the greater cause of Commotions._
Of the provisions made by wise founders of republics, one of the most necessary is for the creation of a guardianship of liberty; for according as this is placed in good or bad hands, the freedom of the State will be more or less lasting. And because in every republic we find the two parties of nobles and commons, the question arises, to which of these two this guardianship can most safely be entrusted. Among the Lacedæmonians of old, as now with the Venetians, it was placed in the hands of the nobles, but with the Romans it was vested in the commons. We have, therefore, to determine which of these States made the wiser choice. If we look to reasons, something is to be said on both sides of the question; though were we to look to results, we should have to pronounce in favour of the nobles, inasmuch as the liberty of Sparta and Venice has had a longer life than that of Rome.
As touching reasons, it may be pleaded for the Roman method, that they are most fit to have charge of a thing, who least desire to pervert it to their own ends. And, doubtless, if we examine the aims which the nobles and the commons respectively set before them, we shall find in the former a great desire to dominate, in the latter merely a desire not to be dominated over, and hence a greater attachment to freedom, since they have less to gain than the others by destroying it. Wherefore, when the commons are put forward as the defenders of liberty, they may be expected to take better care of it, and, as they have no desire to tamper with it themselves, to be less apt to suffer others to do so.
On the other hand, he who defends the method followed by the Spartans and Venetians, may urge, that by confiding this guardianship to the nobles, two desirable ends are served: first, that from being allowed to retain in their own hands a weapon which makes them the stronger party in the State, the ambition of this class is more fully satisfied; and, second, that an authority is withdrawn from the unstable multitude which as used by them is likely to lead to endless disputes and tumults, and to drive the nobles into dangerous and desperate courses. In instance whereof might be cited the case of Rome itself, wherein the tribunes of the people being vested with this authority, not content to have one consul a plebeian, insisted on having both; and afterwards laid claim to the censorship, the prætorship and all the other magistracies in the city. Nor was this enough for them, but, carried away by the same factious spirit, they began after a time to pay court to such men as they thought able to attack the nobility, and so gave occasion to the rise of Marius and the overthrow of Rome.
Wherefore one who weighs both sides of the question well, might hesitate which party he should choose as the guardian of public liberty, being uncertain which class is more mischievous in a commonwealth, that which would acquire what it has not, or that which would keep the authority which it has already. But, on the whole, on a careful balance of arguments we may sum up thus:--Either we have to deal with a republic eager like Rome to extend its power, or with one content merely to maintain itself; in the former case it is necessary to do in all things as Rome did; in the latter, for the reasons and in the manner to be shown in the following Chapter, we may imitate Venice and Sparta.
But reverting to the question which class of citizens is more mischievous in a republic, those who seek to acquire or those who fear to lose what they have acquired already, I note that when Marcus Menenius and Marcus Fulvius, both of them men of plebeian birth, were made the one dictator, the other master of the knights, that they might inquire into certain plots against Rome contrived in Capua, they had at the same time authority given them by the people to investigate whether, in Rome itself, irregular and corrupt practices had been used to obtain the consulship and other honours of the city. The nobles suspecting that the powers thus conferred were to be turned against them, everywhere gave out that if honours had been sought by any by irregular and unworthy means, it was not by them, but by the plebeians, who, with neither birth nor merit to recommend them, had need to resort to corruption. And more particularly they accused the dictator himself. And so telling was the effect of these charges, that Menenius, after haranguing the people and complaining to them of the calumnies circulated against him, laid down his dictatorship, and submitted himself to whatever judgment might be passed upon him. When his cause came to be tried he was acquitted; but at the hearing it was much debated, whether he who would retain power or he who would acquire it, is the more dangerous citizen; the desires of both being likely to lead to the greatest disorders.
Nevertheless, I believe that, as a rule, disorders are more commonly occasioned by those seeking to preserve power, because in them the fear of loss breeds the same passions as are felt by those seeking to acquire; since men never think they hold what they have securely, unless when they are gaining something new from others. It is also to be said that their position enables them to operate changes with less effort and greater efficacy. Further, it may be added, that their corrupt and insolent behaviour inflames the minds of those who have nothing, with the desire to have; either for the sake of punishing their adversaries by despoiling them, or to obtain for themselves a share of those riches and honours which they see the others abuse.
.--_Whether it was possible in Rome to contrive such a Government as would have composed the Differences between the Commons and the Senate._
I have spoken above of the effects produced in Rome by the controversies between the commons and the senate. Now, as these lasted down to the time of the Gracchi, when they brought about the overthrow of freedom, some may think it matter for regret that Rome should not have achieved the great things she did, without being torn by such disputes. Wherefore, it seems to me worth while to consider whether the government of Rome could ever have been constituted in such a way as to prevent like controversies.
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