The Prince

From the Valley to the Peak

July 29, 2019 by Essay Writer

Within his work The Prince, Machiavelli presents a double perspective on rulership that works to focus the direction of outlook beyond the habitual leader to leader approach we have previously seen. Breaking from tradition, Machiavelli’s idea that “in order to properly understand the behavior of rulers one needs to be a member of the lower classes” introduces a whole new set of problems for the reader that introduce the dynamic between the people and the prince. (p.6). This relationship creates a type of double-layered viewpoint, as neither the people nor the prince have a complete perspective. Thus the people are not predictable, and it is this assertion that really individualizes Machiavelli’s political theory. Bringing in the peoples’ viewpoint breaks with traditional political theory in that it allows for a type of real-world analysis and contextual accuracy that is not possible within theoretical and ideological discussions of rulership – relevant historical examples and personal experience supercede moral arguments about goodness in Machiavelli’s realistic doctrine.One of the major effects of such a populist vantage point is its concentration on the people’s actual realistic relationship with the ruler. Rather than “constructed imaginary republics and principalities that have never existed in practice and never could” Machiavelli chooses to acknowledge that “the gap between how people actually behave and how they ought to behave is so great that anyone who ignores everyday reality in order to live up to an ideal will soon discover he has been taught how to destroy himself” (p. 48). Through the prism of this wisdom Machiavelli illustrates many significant aspects of the actualities of ruling a population. The most prominent of these features are the omnipresent ideas of fear and the fragile and fallible nature of control. Machiavelli looks at the conditions around him to illustrate these tenets of leadership – talking about the King of Spain, Machiavelli remarks that the King “is always plotting and carrying out great enterprises, which have always kept his subjects bewildered and astonished, waiting to see what their outcome will beŠhe has never left space between one [enterprise] and the next for people to plot uninterruptedly against him” (p.68). Thus the populace can be governed without fear of uprising. “As far as bring fearedŠis concerned, since men decide for themselves who they love, and rulers decide whom they fear, a wise ruler should rely on the emotion he can control” (p.53). This idea breaks radically from the previous ideas of social control we have seen, because its illustration is based both in reality and in the opinion of the populace of the ruler, rather than the ruler of the populace.Machiavelli also utilizes the analysis of the populace when instructing what to do about mixed principalities. He puts forward that “one of the best policiesŠis for the new ruler to go and live in his new territories. This will make his grasp on them more secure and more lasting. As a consequence [the subjects] have more reason to love you, if they behave themselves, and, if they do not, more reason to fear you” (p.9). The acknowledgement of such realities as region-specific cultural institutions and traditions is a conception achieved from the view of the populace, one that is overlooked in previous political philosophies with their much more vague and malleable citizens. Machiavelli asserts with his every instruction the individualized and highly personified character of the populace, reinforcing the reality that people are ruled, rather than figurative sheep.The simple fact that it is people that are being ruled creates the fundamental notion of a dynamic between the ruler and the citizens. Human nature is unpredictable, and Machiavelli acknowledges this by working so hard to explore the outlines of this dynamic. He does this through persistent examples of how the people must be dealt with while understanding this dynamic, with everything from violence to cultural appreciation defining the necessary qualities of a good ruler. “Fear restrains men because they are afraid of punishment, and this fear never leaves them” (p.52). The idea of founding violence is also a large part of the relationship to the populace. “In order to get a secure hold on [territories] one need merely eliminate the surviving members of the family of their previous rulers. In other respects one should keep things as they were, respecting established traditions” (p.8). Machiavelli very logically instructs to concentrate the bad and disperse the good, thus creating a stable and satisfied popular impression of the ruler. Machiavelli asserts once again the importance of human nature in the dynamic between ruler and people: human memory makes men “quicker to forget the death of their father than the loss of their inheritance” (p.52).The vantage point of the people also enables Machiavelli to address seemingly quotidian issues, such as “subjects’Š exactions” that actually deeply affect the power of the ruler because ignoring them could create popular hostility. Such an unseen before bottom-up method allows a level of thoroughness that Machiavelli exemplifies in his appraisal of local politics at the time. His explanations of the political strategy of everyone from the King of France to Caesar lets the reader see for himself the significant breadth of the lower-class viewpoint. Yet at the same time the ultimate fallibility of a reliance on either viewpoint is shown – human nature can not be predicted from either the mountain or the valley, and perhaps that is Machiavelli’s ultimate goal, to illustrate the complex dynamic between populace and ruler without relaxing into the traditional comfort of aristocratic idealism.

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Machiavelli’s Limitations

July 12, 2019 by Essay Writer

Machiavelli’s The Prince is an ambitious attempt to outline the steps necessary to ensuring success in leadership. The work dissects the elements of power; it identifies the sources from which it springs and the tactics required for its maintenance. His position rests on the claim that power is “acquired either through the arms of others or with one’s own, either by fortune or virtue” (Ch. 1, pg. 6), and he asserts that success in politics cannot exist outside of this basic framework. Centuries later, the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. would rise from the masses as a leader, armed only with the candor of his objectives and their means. King is generally accepted by those who are familiar with his career in politics as a successful leader – one who’s ends were steadily achieved through the perserverence of his spirit and the support of his people. Yet Machiavelli states plainly that “all the armed prophets conquered, and the unarmed ones were ruined” (Ch.6, pg. 24). Machiavelli’s failure to account for the success of a leader as antithetical to his beliefs as King betrays a fundamental flaw in the former’s reasoning. Machiavelli’s understanding of true leadership and success is limited; he is short-sighted in assuming that all power must be absolute power, and fails to acknowledge that the oppressed and the great can ofttimes converge to strive toward an end greater than mere material acquistion.King manifests none of the qualities Machiavelli identifies as virtuous. Rather than relying on cunning and ingenuity to manipulate or eliminate his adversaries and constituents, King achieves his goals “openly, lovingly…with a willingness to accept the penalty” (pg.294). Machiavelli would then assert that his rise would necessarily have to be precipitated by fortune. As he states, “the result of becoming a prince from private individual presupposes either virtue or fortune” (Ch. 6, pg. 22). Yet again, King neither relies on his own wealth, nor is he funded by any outside party throughout the entire duration of his career. And he certainly does not invoke the use of arms. King’s basic guideline for response is “non-violent direct action.” King emerges from the people as a leader, which at once distinguishes him from any of Machiavelli’s princes. According to Machiavelli, the interests of the governed are only important insofar as they affect the governor’s ability to lead. King however, rather than using the backs of the people as stepping stones, takes their burden on his shoulders and brings then to the forefront of public attention. Thus he is loved by the people he leades. Machiavelli warns leaders against this supposed danger. According to him, love can only be maintained through the continous expenditure of the leader on his people, their affections are bought. Yet, as he states,” friendships that are acquired at a price…are bought, but they are not owned and when the time comes cannot be spent…Love is held by a chain of obligation, which, because men are wicked, is broken at every opportunity for their own utility”(Ch. 17, pg. 66-67). However, the esteem King’s followers hold him in is different from that which Machiavelli warns leaders of; its perpetuation is not dependant on generosity and the doling out of material goods. King inspires a sort of love that is unconditionlal because it is based on intangibles. It is a genuine appreciation for the efforts and leadership provided by one of their own. When a leader such as King undertakes the struggle for such intangible conditions as justice and freedom, and for the exclusive benefit of the poplulace, he becomes endeared to the people, and thus gains a fortune that Machiavelli fails to identify: the undying, unconditional support of the masses.As these two types of leaders originate from two opposite ends of the social spectrum, their views on fundamental elements of politics also differ drastically. Machiavelli and King differ almost antithetically in their views on positive law. To the prince, laws are but tools used to control the masses, not codes by which leaders must themselves abide. Furthermore, the existence of laws allows a means by which the Prince can both impress and terrify the populace through the callous breaking of them. The ability to transcend law makes the prince an awesome and powerful image to the people. King, on the other hand, holds laws in the highest possible respect: “In no sense do I advocate evading or defying the law…an individual who breaks a law his conscience tells him is unjust, and willingly accepts the penalty…is in reality expressing the very highest respect for the law” (pg.294). King endeavors only to break unjust laws after carefully examining whether they truly ought to be broken. He operates within the bouds of the law, establishing himself further as a man of the people.The most fundamental difference however, lies in each man’s definition of success, their ultimate end. To Machiavelli, the prince himself is his own end. Machiavelli’s ultimate goal is to find the means of securing stability throught the entire region of italy, and ensure its security. He believes this is only accomplished through the establishment of a powerful absolute sovereign. Thus, he guides his prince to use fortune and virtue to look out for himself at all costs, so as to rise above all obstacles to achieve total power. This definition of success is measured largely in material acquisition; the prince is to acquire and maintain control over a body of land, and it is the essence of his nature to do so: “…it is a very natural and ordinary thing to acquire, and always, when men do it who can, they will be praised or not blamed” (Ch.3, pg. 14). In such a political atmosphere, the prince operates alone: all others with any ambition toward leadership are but competitors after the same set of acquireable goods, and any objectors to his methods are obstacles to his goals. Thus rivals are eliminated and the people are terrified or manipulated into silence. To King, however, the people are an end in themself. According to him, “law and order exist for the purpose of establishing justice” (pg. 295), so that the people may enjoy the highest degree of happiness in a society that treats all men as equal. He fights to bring justice and equality to the most oppressed sector of the population, and his success is measured by intangibles: the exposure of injustice, and the establishment of a “substance-filled positive peace” in which his people are recognized as equal members of society; in other words: justice. King’s end is entirely outside of himself, he is but an agent of and for the people; any ideas of personal gain are subjugated to the benefit of the greater good. By this definition, and through the knowledge of all that he did accomplish, Martin Luther King Jr. was indeed successful.Machiavelli’s problem lies in that he identifies but two humors: “the people desire neither to be commanded nor oppressed by the great, and the great desire to command and oppress the people”(Ch.9, pg.39). From this conflict of interests stems the constant state of distrust between leaders and their people.However, Machiavelli does not presuppose any condition in which the people might wish to work in harmony with a leader; namely, that instance in which a leader promises to rescue the oppressed from further injustice at the hands of the great. In such a case, the people do in fact desire to be commanded by a leader who does not ultimately wish to oppress them. King is the prime example of such a case. His end was genuine, just, and for the people, and the willing masses provided enough reinforcement even in the absence of fortune and Machiavellian virtue, that as an unarmed prophet he was able to succeed.

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The Nation State: How Machiavelli Gave Birth To the Modern Conception of Rule

July 4, 2019 by Essay Writer

The ideal of a complex nation state, one that possesses a central power and does not operate in a feudal manner or under the control of the Church, came into being during a rather turbulent period of political transition. The political realities of this era provided the gateway for thinkers to advocate change in how states act, how rulers rule, and the overall significance of the centralized Œnation state’. During 1100 to 1600, the Western World experienced a plethora of challenges to the existing order of how political structures operate. These innumerable events, all of which ignited furious philosophical, social, moral, and political though, eventually gave way to the paramount thinking of Niccolo Machiavelli. Machiavelli’s The Prince, clearly outlines the problems with the religious and feudal rule that was all to commonplace in Western societies, and offers a tangible guidebook for leaders to look to for assistance in ruling. The Prince, which is essentially a realist doctrine, discusses how a ruler should acquire principalities, should act in times of war, should treat his subjects, and most importantly‹how an ideal ruler can maximize his power and effectively rule a lasting and successful state. Machiavelli’s fluctuating political life and his vocational experiences largely contributed to his thinking and intellectual basis for the ideals presented in The Prince. He had been consiglieri of Florence, yet witnessed the Medici’s subvert Florence’s government for their own dynastic needs. Prior to unification, Italy was a spread out territory, consisting of feudal City- States, perpetually engaged in conflict and often being subjugated to attacks from outside powers. In 1494 the Milanese had invited the much more powerful French to intervene in Italian rivalries as Milan’s ally. This eventually led to the Medici’s surrendering Florence to their enemies without a fight, which then led to a popular uprising against the Medici regime. Florence’s republic was briefly restored, and it is these issues of power that frame Machiavelli’s The Prince.The organization of the nation state was a foreign concept to Italy. The size of Italian political organization was on a much smaller scale‹that of the city- state, regardless if the form of government was a republic, aristocracy, or oligarchy. Machiavelli is primarily concerned with how a state can maintain it’s independence, and how the ruler must act in order to remain in power. Italy became the pawn of larger nation states, the site of almost a century of war between the French and Spanish Habsburgs, lasting until the Treaty of Cateau Cambresis in 1559. Machiavelli’s The Prince, discusses the different types of principalities, classifying all of them as hereditary, new, mixed, or ecclesiastical. After establishing his definitions for each, he devotes much time to the ideal prince and the qualities he must posses. In doing so, Machiavelli consistently uses historical examples to substantiate his arguments. He looks to Greek and Roman political events, and also to the political instability of his day‹both within Italy and abroad, to strengthen his arguments and to provide tangible reference points for the reader to draw upon. The following passage regarding how a ruler maintains a colony, clearly displays Machiavelli’s use of furthering his ideas with the assistance of a then contemporary example:If the old territories and the new have similar customs, the newSubjects will live quietly. Thus, Burgandy, Brittany, Gascony, And Normandy have for long quietly submitted to France. Although they do not all speak exactly the same language,Nevertheless their customs are similar, and they can easily put Up with each other (Machiavelli 8).One of Machiavelli’s main focuses within The Prince is his construction of the ideal ruler. He delves into the specific characteristics that will enable a leader to flourish. Machiavelli begins writing specifically about the ideal ruler in chapter 15. His prince must posses the qualities that will secure the success of the state. Chapter 16 is devoted to the qualities and overall generosity that the prince should posses. Pope Julius II, King Louis XII, and King Ferdinand of Spain are all then evaluated on the basis of their generosity. Additionally, an example from ancient Rome is utilized to validate Machiavelli’s statements on the topic. Chapter 16 concludes briefly:So it is wiser to accept a reputation as miserly, which people despise But do not hate, than to aspire to a reputation as generous, and as aConsequence, be obliged to face criticism for rapacity, which people Both despise and hate (Machiavelli 50-51).Each chapter follows this pattern of logical reasoning, and as previously noted, each statement is presented and then scrutinized in a historical context. Of those chapters describing the desirable qualities of a prince, the most striking deal with aspects of cruelty. Machiavelli’s theory is that cruelty as an abstract quality is fundamentally undesirable, yet in practice can have its own virtues. He asserts that while cruelty for its own sake is not admirable, cruelty employed by a wise ruler for the preservation of the state is warranted. This reasoning reinforces Machiavelli’s overall notion that the well being of the state always supersedes any other concerns the ruler may be dealing with. Similar statements are made through out The Prince concerning the deceit and duplicity a ruler must resort to if he plans on maintaining a functional state. Through out The Prince, any actions that facilitate the preservation of the state are looked upon favorably, while any conduct that jeopardizes it, however well grounded in principle, must be avoided at all cost. Machiavelli’s intended ideal ruler can easily be contrasted with the ideal ruler, or philosopher king, that is presented within Plato’s Republic. Both Plato and Machiavelli have a set vision of the ideal leader. In both Plato’s kallipolis and Machiavelli’s ideal principality, the supreme goal is some form of the common good. Plato’s common good is maximizing the good for all citizens, while Machiavelli’s is simply the conservation of the state institution, which in turn acts to protect the rights of the citizens. While these ideas are similar, Machiavelli and Plato offer radically different notions of the ideal leader within a given political structure. Machiavelli manifests such differences by stating:I am concerned it may be thought presumptuous for me to write on this asWell, especially since what I have to say, as regards this question inParticular, will differ greatly from the recommendations of others. ButMy hope is to write a book that will be useful, at least to those who read itIntelligently, and so I thought it sensible to go straight to a discussion of How things are in real life and not waste time with a discussion of animaginary world. For many authors have constructed imaginary Republics and principalities that have never existed in practice and never Could, for the gab between how people actually behave and how they oughtTo behave is so great that anyone who ignores everyday reality in order to To live up to an ideal will soon discover he has been taught how to destroyHimself, not how to preserve himself (Machiavelli 48-49). Many political trends that we have witnessed throughout both the present and the past can be seen within The Prince. Machiavelli’s attitudes towards colonization and imperialism can be applied to a multitude of events in recent time. The establishment of puppet states in conquered territories, as described in The Prince, can be easily related to the emergence of Cold War satellite states. The conception of Œwell-used cruelty’ to further the goals of the state can be related to perhaps the most notorious tyrants in modern history. From Stalin’s purges, to Mao’s Cultural Revolution, Machiavelli’s almost prophesied words are so far reaching, universal, and easily identifiable. In addition to Machiavelli’s The Prince, other texts were born out of similar settings, circumstances, and attitudes towards the existing system of rule. Outside of Italy, many similar socio-political events, and the responses to them were slowly bringing in a set of renewed ideas that led to the intellectual basis for the conception of a strong nation state. During this period, France witnessed significant religious strife between the Catholic’s and the Protestant Huguenots. In effect, the existing French monarchy was nearly torn apart by civil war between these two factions of competing noble families. These events led French philosopher and lawyer Jean Bodin to address the destructive nature of the Huguenot wars in his defining work, Six Books of the Commonweal (1576). Bodin wrote that in order for a state to survive, a sovereign monarchy was imperative. Bodin advocates that the monarch must posses a monopoly on power to defend and maintain the state, while still respecting the individual rights of his subjects. Even though France had begun as one of the early nation states, it was not until the monarch could prevent unruly nobles from fighting against each other and the interests of the central government could nation states really be considered developed. Bodin’s conception of sovereignty, the definitive authority as a means to rule within a given political system, furthered the overall strengthening of the nation state. Machiavelli’s The Prince was born out of an era of widespread political turmoil. His ideas presented within draw heavily from the failures of the past and his present, yet in turn led to a hauntingly real vision of the future role of political structures. Machiavelli’s thought provided the blueprint for the modern day nation state. Subsequent thinkers, such a Jean Bodin, added to Machiavelli’s model of change from existing reliance on feudal, religious, and local governments‹to that of a strong nation state.

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The Christian Ethics of Machiavelli

June 3, 2019 by Essay Writer

In The Prince, Niccolò Machiavelli, the author, generally lays forth a system of ethics for rulers. Given the strength of Christianity at the time that he wrote this work, Machiavelli’s instructions to aspiring rulers are surprising. His definition of “goodness,” or “virtue,” seems to stray far from traditional Christian teachings. In his Summa Theologica II, for instance, Thomas Aquinas directly contradicts some of Machiavelli’s claims. Interestingly, however, Saint Augustine, author of The City of God, agrees with some of Machiavelli’s code of ethics.First, what is Machiavelli’s code of ethics for rulers? He speaks for the most part on three personality characteristics: generosity, compassion, and integrity. On all three he takes what seems at first glance to be a non-Christian stance.With regard to generosity, Machiavelli claims that it is best to be considered generous, but that it is dangerous to actually be generous. His case is simple:…a ruler who pursues a reputation for generosity will always end up wasting all his resources; and he will be obliged in the end, if he wants to preserve his reputation, to impose crushing taxes upon the people, to pursue every possible source of income, and to be preoccupied with maximizing his revenues. This will begin to make him hateful to his subjects, and will ensure no one thinks well of him, for no one admires poverty (The Prince, 49).When a ruler commits himself to spending income generously, Machiavelli argues, he also commits himself to creating new or enforcing old forms of revenue collecting. Machiavelli also argues that any positive reaction to the generosity will be far outweighed by the overwhelming negative response to harsh revenue collection. Hidden in this explanation of the dangers of generosity is a strangely perverted Christian idea: that of doing the greatest good to the greatest number of people, or utilitarianism. When a ruler is parsimonious instead of generous, Machiavelli states, “he will be thought to be generous towards all those whose income he does not tax, which is almost everybody, and stingy towards those who miss out on handouts, who are only a few” (The Prince, 49).Machiavelli has a similar opinion on rulers being compassionate. He argues that compassion is also a danger to a ruler and that “it is much safer to be feared than loved” (The Prince, 51). In regard to this characteristic, it is only good to be viewed as cruel rather than compassionate in one instance: when a ruler is addressing an army:When a ruler is at the head of his army and has a vast number of soldiers under his command, then it is absolutely essential to be prepared to be thought cruel; for it is impossible to keep an army united and ready for action without acquiring a reputation for cruelty (The Prince, 52).Troops will only stay committed to the causes of the ruler if they fear him and he appears cruel to them. In that case alone, it is best to be perceived as not compassionate; to the rest of society, though, an outward façade of compassion is necessary. Once again, Machiavelli uses the basic principle of utilitarianism to support his argument. It is best to be viewed as compassionate and actually act cruelly, “for it is more compassionate to impose harsh punishments on a few than, out of excessive compassion, to allow disorder to spread, which leads to murders or looting” (The Prince, 51).Finally, and more briefly, Machiavelli discusses integrity and honesty. He makes a similar argument, contending that it is best to appear honest while actually keeping one’s word only when absolutely necessary. A ruler should not “keep his word when doing so is to his disadvantage, and when the reasons that led him to promise to do so no longer apply” (The Prince, 54). In this, though, there is no pretense of utilitarianism‹Machiavelli makes a purely selfish argument for dishonesty.Thomas Aquinas, in his Summa Theologica II, makes no direct contradictions to Machiavelli’s assumptions on honesty or compassion, but instead attacks all three through a study of the Christian principle of charity. Charity, defined as “man’s love of God and his neighbor” (Oxford English Dictionary, “charity”), is a theological and divine virtue, according to Aquinas, and should therefore be practiced above all else. Charity, in a Christian sense, means less formally to treat others with respect, love, and kindness at all times. Therefore, Aquinas condemns Machiavelli’s conceptions of generosity, compassion, and honesty with one fell swoop. Because charity is to be practiced above all else, one should not be cruel or dishonest to one’s neighbor. Also, Aquinas contends, generosity is a virtue, not something to be despised the way Machiavelli declares‹man was commanded by God to perform charity, and thus, generosity, before anything else.Saint Augustine, however, disagrees with Aquinas’ argument. Through convoluted language, Augustine explains that charity, more than anything else, is treating one’s neighbor as one’s self. Because of this, charity cannot ever really be practiced‹it is both selfish and altruistic at the same time:…they do not perform charitable actions even when they think they are doing so. For if they gave bread to a hungering Christian because he is a Christian, assuredly they would not deny to themselves the bread of righteousness, that is, Christ Himself; for God considers not the person to whom the gift is made, but the spirit in which it is made (The City of God, 806).As a result, if a truly selfless act of charity can never be performed, perhaps Machiavelli is simply performing another patently Christian act: treating others as he would have them treat him.The Machiavellian ruler, therefore, may actually be Christian in his moral beliefs. For the ruler never commits any act which he would not have performed on him; when he lies to the public, he would expect another ruler to lie to him as a member of that public. Maybe the Machiavellian ruler simply loves his neighbor as himself. Despite all appearances, Machiavelli’s principles, as laid out in The Prince may be Christian.

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Ins and Outs: The Social Identity Theory Applied to the Prince by Machiavelli and Christopher Columbus’ Journal

May 24, 2019 by Essay Writer

In social psychology, there is a well-known theory that explains why individuals show hatred for those of different races, religions, sexualities, sports teams, political parties, and other groupings. This is called the “social identity theory”. Those who share a common category, the ingroup, are more likely to bond, whereas people of the opposite or different category, the outgroup, are portrayed negatively and often stereotyped by the ingroup. In early human times, social identity theory protected humans from unknown threats. The human would see something in the woods and need to make a decision as to whether it was a friend or foe. In modern humans, social identity theory encourages unity by establishing an enemy. Peoples feel more connected to one another when there is a common outgroup. The Prince and Christopher Columbus: Extracts from Journal are excellent examples of how humans have retained their primal instincts and how such instincts can be used to benefit the nation or community. This paper will argue that having a mutual enemy, or outgroup, strengthens bonds among dissimilar peoples and helps a ruler consolidate power over his people.

In The Prince, Machiavelli argues that in order to unite people, the prince should declare and publicly condemn an enemy. Machiavelli explains that a successful prince will exaggerate the harm an enemy has inflicted upon the people and afterwards give “hope to his subjects that the ills they are enduring will not last long”. Machiavelli emphasizes the need for an outgroup, in this case the enemy. Not only is the prince supposed to create an outgroup, but he should also be encouraging “fear of the enemy’s cruelty”. Giving the people an enemy will unite them in both in spirit and in battle. Here, the prince is supposed to establish an outgroup so that the the prince himself will not become the enemy. Machiavelli warns that if the prince neglects this critical step, the people will revolt against him or simply not take arms when ordered unless he stops them, he should take “effective measures against those who are too outspoken”. Such individuals are known in the social identity theory as outgroup sympathizers. In some situations, the sympathizers can aid the nation, but here, Machiavelli argues that they can limit a nation’s growth and a prince’s power. Further, this behavior will make the prince more favorable to his people because it appears that he has the key to defeating the enemy. Once an enemy is established and the people are incited, the people are equally enraged and as a result more likely to fight as a group.

In addition to uniting as a nation, Machiavelli argues that an enemy also unites the people to and under the prince. This is a major benefit to the prince as it makes the people more willing to fight for the prince and no one else. When the enemy “of course burn and pillage” the people’s homes and cities, “so the prince has the less reason to worry”. The reason for the prince’s action is because once the people’s “enthusiasm has died down”, they may assume more power than they had before. The prince needs to keeps them focused on the people’s hatred of the outgroup. Now fighting for a common goal, the people “will identify themselves even more with their prince”. The leader of the ingroup, in Machiavelli’s opinion, not only has the right to incite the ingroup against the outgroup, but has the duty to do. He claims that once the prince gains the trust of the people, the people will be more willing to act as a group. This will make them easier to rule and more likely to blindly follow the prince. In this chapter of The Prince, Machiavelli emphasizes the need to have a common enemy by showing the reader how creating an outgroup can positively affect an ingroup. More importantly, creating a common enemy can help solidify a prince’s authority and control over his people.

To further his own assertions, Machiavelli also provides an example of when a prince does not successfully establish an enemy and how it divides the people. Machiavelli examines why Italy is not powerful and how the princes of Italy have let down their people. The first mistake the Italian princes made was dividing the nation “into several states” due to the war between the nobility, “each of these states became so small many citizens became a prince, but the townsmen had no experience in military matters” and could not establish or defeat a common enemy. Also, the nobility who were in control of the citizens were only concerned with fighting one another instead of actual external threats. This “led Italy into slavery and ignominy”. The ingroup, the Italians, became poor due to too many princes, each with their own agenda, lack of control over the citizens, and the lack of an outgroup. Machiavelli also condemns princes who incite the people against one another. He attributes the fall of the Italian empire to the “Church in order to increase its temporal authority, supported these revolts” who take the place of a prince. The Church had an ulterior motive to divide the people of Italy against one another and succeeded. However, as mentioned earlier, the citizens were not soldiers and so the Church hired foreign mercenaries to fight for them, who then created their own nations within Italy. The Church’s decision to fund rebellion within Italy led to the Church becoming less powerful and contributed to the decline of Italy’s reputation and power. Without a strong prince to lead them, the ingroup will suffer as they consume precious energy and resources fighting each other rather than a mutual, external enemy. A legitimate, foreign threat will see Italy as a collection of broken city-states that would be easily conquered by a strong enemy. The only way to reverse such intricate disorder is to choose a prince who represents all of the nations within a divided Italy. Machiavelli permits this prince to incite the people against a certain outgroup in order to protect the entirety of the nation. If a prince fails to pit the ingroup against a particular outgroup, the ingroup will suffer.

Christopher Columbus’ journal clearly shows that disparate people can be united under a banner of hatred for an outgroup, in this situation the Native American peoples. Traveling to the Americas for the first time, Columbus kept a travel log and frequently wrote about the people living on the “newly discovered” islands. His goal was to convince Ferdinand, the Spanish king, to finance and support another another expedition to America. To convince him, Columbus claimed that the native peoples “have no religion” and as a result “would very readily become Christian.” Columbus created an outgroup of godless heathens, clearly the opposite of the fervently Roman Catholic Spanish monarch. After Columbus establishes the enemy, he appeals to the king by stating his plan, “I could conquer the whole of them with fifty men, and govern them as I pleased.” Conquering an outgroup, especially one from new lands, would not just benefit the nation financially, but also socially. Financially, Colombus’ people were at an advantage as they saw the gold and wealth the natives carried, “there is much gold, the inhabitants wearing it in bracelets upon their arms, legs, and necks, as well as in their ears and at their noses.” Columbus believes that once he returns to Spain with his ships full of gold and other treasure, the king will want to send more ships to the Americas, thereby accomplishing Columbus’ financial goal. Socially, once the land in America is conquered, the Spanish inhabitants will feel more united because they have defeated the outgroup. Columbus was well aware that having a common enemy would strengthen the group as a whole due to the wealth they carry and willingness to convert to a new religion. Columbus uses social identity theory to convince the king to send more aid and money to Columbus and his men.

The social identity theory is the basis of most disputes. It is something that we, as intelligent beings, cannot remove from our instincts. The key to overcoming it is to embrace it and understand the impact it has on our lives. Machiavelli explains how the people can be manipulated into believing an outgroup is more harmful than it truly is. Machiavelli shows that the people need an enemy in order to unite against and that having an enemy makes it easier to for a leader to govern and control his own people. Columbus argues a similar point that sometimes in order to get what you want, you need to convince the audience that you are a part of their ingroup. Columbus successfully does this when he writes the king to ask him for more aid in order to explore more of the Americas. He does this by mentioning the gold in the new land and establishing a new enemy: the native peoples. In both of the texts, the outgroup is used as a means to empower the ingroup, the result being that the ingroup will be more more willing to support their leader and fight against the enemy. The social identity theory is the key to unifying a nation.

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Virtù e Fortuna

May 3, 2019 by Essay Writer

Niccolò Machiavelli, an influential Italian politician, writer, and historian, wrote his political treatise The Prince during a politically unstable time in Italy. When the previously exiled Medici family returned to power in 1512, Machiavelli lost his position in Florentine politics. Although he was innocent, he was implicated in a conspiracy against Medici rule, so he was imprisoned, tortured, then confined to his home. In an attempt to regain a political position, Machiavelli wrote The Prince and dedicated it to the ruling Lorenzo II de’ Medici in hopes that Lorenzo would read it and give him employment. Although Machiavelli presented his work as a “mirror of princes,” a book meant to instruct and advise a ruler, there are some who see Machiavelli’s work as a satire, criticizing the principality as a form of government in favor of the republic. However, as he wrote The Prince intending for a prince to read it, any elements of satire or criticism would have to be cleverly concealed. Machiavelli uses the structure of his book to alter his arguments in order to subtly mock the principality.

Generally, Machiavelli structures the chapters of The Prince by presenting an initial argument about the nature of a prince’s power or the way a prince should rule, or by introducing and defining a concept. After this, he gives lengthy and detailed examples that prove or add to his initial argument. At times, these examples change his initial arguments or add new, unstated definitions of previously defined concepts. Two of the first concepts he discusses, which he later redefines using a deceptive example, are “virtue” and “fortune.” Machiavelli uses “virtue” in the same sense as the phrase “by virtue of…” or by one’s own means. He described the Romans as virtuous, saying they “did… what all wise princes should do” (Machiavelli 47), because when they “saw problems at a distance [the Romans] always remedied them” (47). This allowed them to “enjoy the benefit of their own virtue and prudence” (47). Using the Romans, he describes virtue as good leadership qualities. It involves being observant and careful to fix problems before they become threats. Here, and in other places, he uses the words “wisdom” and “prudence” together with virtue, showing that a strong and virtuous leader is wise and cautious. One who becomes a prince through virtue does so using his own arms rather than relying on others. While it is difficult to become a prince virtuously, it is easy to maintain the position. Machiavelli proves this point with the example of Hiero the Syracusan who “endured much labor in acquiring and little in maintaining [his principality]” (57). Hiero was elected as captain and used that power to become the ruler by eliminating and reforming the military, abandoning old alliances and forming new ones, and using his soldiers to create a foundation on which to build his rule. With this example, virtuous leaders are presented as strong and self reliant. Using Hiero, as well as the examples of Moses, Cyrus, Romulus, and Theseus, virtuous rulers are shown as men who came to their positions through their own means and arms, and got nothing from “fortune” other than the opportunity to exercise their virtue.

Machiavelli defines fortune as chances or opportunities, things that can lead an man to a position of power that are out of his control. This complicates virtue’s definition. It is useless without fortune, because without the proper opportunity a virtuous man will not be able to exercise his virtue in a way that will gain him power. Cyrus’ fortune was finding “the Persians discontented under the empire of the Medes, and the Medes soft and effeminate because of their long peace” (56). Theseus’ fortune was that he “found the Athenians dispersed” (56). Without these opportune conditions, these men would not have been able to use their virtue to gain power. But Machiavelli also makes it clear that fortune is useless without accompanying virtue. Were Cyrus and Theseus not virtuous leaders, they would not have been able to do anything with the opportunities they were presented with.

Machiavelli starts chapter seven of The Prince by arguing that those who become princes through fortune alone come into the position easily but face difficulty when trying to maintain their position. In this situation, he explicitly defines fortune as “when a state is granted to someone for money, or by the grace of whoever concedes it” (58). If a man came to power through fortune, he may not have had the virtue required to gain the position on his own. Once in power, the prince will have to “lay… the foundations that others lay in advance of becoming princes” (58) which, if the prince is not virtuous, will not be possible. However, if the prince does have virtue, he will be able to do this and maintain his position. After this argument, considering what was emphasized the most, readers would expect to see examples of men who became princes through fortune and either lost power due to lack of virtue or kept power because of virtue. However, his example of Cesare Borgia, which takes up the rest of the chapter, opposes his original argument. Borgia was a man who gained his position through fortune, yet was very virtuous as a leader, and still lost his position. By providing this example that at first seems in line with his original argument but actually opposes it, he is able to subtly change his argument and give new unstated definitions to the concepts of virtue and fortune. It is possible that Machiavelli does this to criticize the concept of a principality, as well as the Medici family who rule over him.

The initial argument itself warns against the failures princes who take advantage of fortune without having any virtue, and says that princes who take advantage of fortune but have virtue as leaders can be successful. However, the example presents a third argument: No matter how virtuous a prince is, if he relied on fortune to become a prince, a change in fortune can take his position away. Cesare Borgia was fortunate in that his father was Pope Alexander VI, and that his father raised him to a position of power. Though he became a prince through fortune, he “took every care, and did all those things that ought to have been done by a prudent and virtuous man to put down roots in those states that [fortune] had granted him” (59). Machiavelli presents a long list of the things Borgia did while in power, which all agree with his previous definitions and examples of the traits and actions of a virtuous leader. After deciding not to rely on his father anymore, he went about weakening and eliminating political factions and gaining favor for himself. To subjugate an unruly region, he gave power to Remirro de Orco, described as “cruel and expeditious” (61). After the region was made peaceful and he saw that de Orco’s cruelty may have caused feelings of hate toward Borgia, he had de Orco publicly executed. Machiavelli described Borgia as “very powerful and… secure against present dangers, since he was armed in his own way and had eliminated those arms which… might have harmed him” (62) showing him as a prudent leader who was careful to solidify his power. Borgia is cunning, able to use deceit when necessary to destroy factions. Borgia is also presented as cunning when he has a man killed, whom he had previously appointed, to improve his citizens’ opinions of him. Cunning and prudence are both attributes that Machiavelli had defined as virtuous. Above all, these are things that Borgia did by his own arms, showing Borgia to be a virtuous leader. At first, this seems to be in line with Machiavelli’s argument that “those who, through fortune alone, pass from being private persons to being princes do so with little labor, but they maintain themselves with a great deal of labor” (58) in that Borgia rose to power because his father gave him that position, but was able to maintain it by working to solidify his power and avoid having his people hate him. Machiavelli argues that new states such as these fall apart quickly unless the men “who have unexpectedly become princes, are of such virtue that they know right away how to prepare themselves to keep what fortune has placed in their laps” (58) and lay foundations for the continuation of their power. This is what he shows Borgia to have done. Considering this, the reader would expect Machiavelli to be making the argument that virtuous leaders will be able to maintain positions they gained through fortune. It is not until the last part of his example that Machiavelli presents the idea that fortune can harm a ruler as well. Borgia only became a prince because he was give the position by his powerful father. When Pope Alexander VI died and a new pope was appointed, Borgia was unable to maintain his position, despite his great virtue.

This example gives a second definition of fortune that Machiavelli does not directly state. While fortune was previously seen as something good, as opportunities or chances that can lead to power, it is now seen as something unpredictable and potentially harmful. Virtue can now be seen from a new perspective. Virtue and fortune were previously seen as meaningless without the other; virtue does not matter without the opportunity to express it, and fortune does not matter without the virtue to properly take advantage of it. Chapter seven’s argument said that a leader who gained power through fortune would not be able to keep it without virtue. But this example gives a new definition to the interplay of virtue and fortune: fortune can change regardless of virtue, so if a prince gains power through fortune alone, fortune’s changes can actually make virtue meaningless. This alters Machiavelli’s argument presented at the beginning of this chapter. While he seems to be arguing that a man who becomes a prince through fortune can keep his position through virtue, all he truly states is that a man who becomes a prince through fortune can lay the foundation for his continued rule through virtue. That does not necessarily mean that he will be able to maintain his position. In reality, Machiavelli is arguing that if a man becomes a prince through fortune, a change in fortune can just as easily take him out of power. Though he can lay the foundations of his power through virtue, a change in fortune may dethrone the prince regardless of whether he had laid foundations to solidify his power or not.

When it is considered that the prince who Machiavelli dedicated this book to was part of a hereditary principality, appointed to his position because of his family, it can be said that Lorenzo II de’ Medici came to his position through fortune, not through virtue. In this way, Lorenzo II is similar to Cesare Borgia. When considering his initial argument in chapter seven, it could be argued that Machiavelli is warning Lorenzo, as a man who became a prince through fortune alone, to be sure to act wisely and prudently. Earlier in The Prince, Machiavelli argues that hereditary principalities are easier to govern than new ones, so he is not threatening Lorenzo with the idea of imminent loss of power. But by presenting the idea that no matter how virtuous a prince in his situation is, he may lose his position through a simple change in his fortune, he appears to be mocking Lorenzo, the Medici family, and the idea of principalities. Also, the way he emphasizes new principalities and the positive qualities of men who go from being private citizens to princes through their own virtue, in a book directed toward a hereditary prince who did nothing at all to get to his position, he may be mocking Lorenzo and hinting that he is not a legitimate or adequate leader. Machiavelli is also the author of Discourses on Livy, a political treatise about republics, which many believe he favors over principalities. The way he changes his arguments and conceptual definitions using deceptive examples, such as that of Borgia, make him seem to be mocking the idea of principalities, which would confirm the idea that he favors a republican form of government.

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From Aquinas to Machiavelli – a continuum of political thought

April 26, 2019 by Essay Writer

Ernst Cassirer states in his book The Myth of the State that “The Prince is neither a moral nor an immoral book: it is simply a technical book. In a technical book we do not seek for rules of ethical conduct, of good and evil. It is enough if we are told what is useful and useless”[1] Machiavelli’s treatise The Prince certainly seems to follow a more technical path rather than a moralistic one. This can be seen from the language and tone that is used throughout the book, but also when compared with Christian writers such as Thomas Aquinas. This essay will try to survey how Machiavelli’s principles align with Aquinas’ in regards to the ultimate political good but also, how they deviate and take a different shape when considering human nature in a comprehensive form and when God is taken out of the equation and given a lesser importance. We will use as a contrast the different attributes that a king should have in each author’s point of view and the implications of different concepts such as war and peace.

Machiavelli’s technical approach can be seen through the fact that he is merely presenting existent notions and not endorsing them through a personal lens. He begins his first chapter by laying out the facts: “All the states and Governments […] are either Republics or Princedoms. Princedoms are hereditary, […] or they are new.”[2] He is approaching all of the aspects of a princedom from an objective point of view, while stating both the advantages and the disadvantages of each example, “[…] hereditary States, […] are maintained with far less difficulty than new States, since all that is required is that the Prince shall not depart from the usage of his ancestors.”[3] More than that, even though Machiavelli is taking a secular stance in regards to Princedoms, he does acknowledge the existence of “Ecclesiastical Princedoms,”[4] and comments briefly on them “they are acquired by merit or good fortune, but are maintained without either; being upheld by the venerable ordinances of Religion.”[5] But while Machiavelli gives an all-rounded view of Princedoms and rulers, Thomas Aquinas takes a moralistic, non-secular stance, commenting only on the “Ecclesiastical Princedom ,”[6] which in his view is the only valid type of princedom. “But if the government is in the rule of one man alone, it is appropriate to call him king. So, the Lord said in [the book of] Ezekiel, ‘My servant David will be king all over, and there will be one shepherd over them all’”[7] Thus, Aquinas’ concept of king derives its meaning and authority from God. More than that he clearly states that a king is a representation of God “This kind of rule belongs to the king, who is both God and man.” This contrast between the two writers allows us to categorize Machiavelli as leaning towards a technical side and Aquinas as endorsing a moralistic, God-driven point of view.

Religion, the core difference notable in the works of Aquinas and Machiavelli, gives rise to another conflict present in their ideologies concerning the absolute political good – namely the contrast between peace and war. Aquinas states that “The welfare of any organized group is based on the preservation of its unity in what we call peace.”[8] Thus, it is the task of the king to ensure that there is peace in his kingdom. Furthermore, he suggests that the sole purpose of a king is to maintain the peace within his realm “there is no reason for a ruler to question whether he should maintain the peace of the community under him.”[9] It is clear for Aquinas that as an agent of God, the king must strive to achieve a “common good”[10] for his people. Aquinas is also concerned more with the means rather than the end. Thus, we could say that he is valuing the Aristotelian intermediary[11] rather than the final result, “No one should debate about the end of an action but the appropriate means.”[12] In his view, there is a direct correlation between the means and the end, as reflected in “Thus the more effective a government in promoting unity in peace, the more useful it will be. We say more useful, because it leads more directly to its end.”[13] The intermediary and the end should be the same so that it maximizes the chances of success, the case at hand being of peace.

Machiavelli, on the other hand, states that a government should have “good laws and good arms.”[14] He places a great emphasis on war “A Prince, therefore, should have no care or thought but for war.”[15] Here we can note that there is no morality ascribed to war, instead it is simply regarded as a necessity.[16] Machiavelli gives a different account of the “common good,”[17] his version being concerned more with the result rather than the intermediary state.[18] His explanation is very logical in that it suggests that even if one kingdom were to be interested solely in peace, and in keeping peace, there would always be neighboring kingdoms that do not have the same intentions. Thus, one can remain unarmed and preach peace, while the enemy is armed and ready to conquer.[19] “Between an armed and an unarmed man no proportion holds.”[20] This suggests that Machiavelli has a very practical approach that is not concerned with the good or the bad, rather with the survival of the state. His perspective takes into consideration the intricacies of human nature and applies them to different instances, one of them being war.[21] Machiavelli’s model would be better suited in a real-life situation, simply because while like Aquinas, one may want peace to be both the means and the result, but at the same time one would not be able to anticipate the direction of the thoughts of the other person, or in this hand the other kingdoms. Aquinas himself states that “it is natural for man to live in association with his fellows,”[22] an association that does not always entail peaceful thoughts. Humans’ social nature and interactions demand a larger perspective and the “common good”[23] could depend on it. Furthermore, when judging a ruler, Machiavelli is more concerned with the result, stating that “in the actions of all men, and most of all of Princes, where there is no tribunal to which we can appeal, we look at results.”[24] Thus, a ruler can have very strict measures, but as long as the common good is the result, then the ruler would be deemed as good.[25] It is very interesting to note that while both writers are concerned with the common good, they have extremely different ways in which it can be achieved.

While the addition of religion in Aquinas’ arguments seems to bear a lot of weight when comparing them to Machiavelli’s, there is also a point on which they agree – the ability of the ruler. Aquinas states that “he has been given the use of his reason to secure all these things by the work of his hands,”[26] which suggests that even though a ruler has the favor of God, he has to have “reason”[27] in order to obtain his position and eventually keep it. This is strikingly similar to Machiavelli’s own position, as he writes that “the difficulty of maintaining possession varies with the greater or less ability of him who acquires possession.”[28] More than that, Aquinas’ God takes the form of Fortune[29] in Machiavelli’s argument. But while Machiavelli does not attribute too much importance to Fortune or God[30] he does state that “Fortune is mistress of one half of our actions, and yet leaves the control of the other half, or a little less, to ourselves.”[31] Thus, ability plays a very big role in both the arguments of Aquinas and Machiavelli and seems to be the pathway to the absolute political good.

While both Thomas Aquinas and Niccolo Machiavelli seem to be arguing for political good, the difference in their perspectives comes down to one question. What motivates them? For Thomas Aquinas, the driving force is God, and this can be seen from the fact that he takes on a very moralistic perspective which is implied from the fact that the means and the end have to be the same – the common good; and that the means help fortify the end. This illustrates the limit of reconciling religion with empiricism, as the premises of religion denounce human observation in favor of the absolute knowledge that is God. On the other hand, since Machiavelli is not very concerned with the importance of God, or even Fortune, his perspective takes on a more realistic and technical front, thus giving more weight to human nature and its inherent implications. But even though the two ideologies stem from different inclinations, they seem to reconcile in terms of meritocracy, giving political thought a form of continuity.

[1] Cassirer, The Myth of the State [2] Machiavelli, The Prince, Ch.1 pg.1 [3] Machiavelli, The Prince, Ch.1 pg.1 [4] Machiavelli, The Prince, Ch.11 pg.28 [5] Machiavelli, The Prince, Ch.11 pg.28 [6] Machiavelli, The Prince, Ch.11 pg.28 [7] Aquinas, On Kingship, pg. 16 [8] Aquinas, On Kingship, pg. 17 [9] Aquinas, On Kingship, pg. 17 [10] Aquinas, On Kingship, pg. 16 [11] Aristotle, The Nicomachean Ethics, Bk. 5, page 84 [12] Aquinas, On Kingship, pg. 17 [13] Aquinas, On Kingship, pg. 17 [14] Machiavelli, The Prince, Ch.12 pg.31 [15] Machiavelli, The Prince, Ch.14 pg.37 [16] Machiavelli, The Prince, Ch.15 pg.38 [17] Aquinas, On Kingship, pg. 16 [18] Machiavelli, The Prince, Ch.15 pg.38 [19] Machiavelli, The Prince, Ch.15 pg.38 [20] Machiavelli, The Prince, Ch.15 pg.38 [21] Machiavelli, The Prince, Ch.15 pg.38 [22] Aquinas, On Kingship, pg. 14 [23] Aquinas, On Kingship, pg. 16 [24] Machiavelli, The Prince, Ch.18 pg.47 [25] Machiavelli, The Prince, Ch.18 pg.45 [26] Aquinas, On Kingship, pg. 14 [27] Aquinas, On Kingship, pg. 14 [28] Machiavelli, The Prince, Ch.6 pg.12 [29] Machiavelli, The Prince, Ch.25 pg.66 [30] Machiavelli, The Prince, Ch.25 pg.66 [31] Machiavelli, The Prince, Ch.25 pg.66

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Hamlet, the Machiavellian Prince: An Exploration of Shakespeare’s Use of Machiavellian Politics

April 8, 2019 by Essay Writer

Shakespeare’s Hamlet is not simply a morality play surrounding a grief-mad prince; it is a complex study of political maneuvers as described by Machiavelli. “The rules of this politics, Machiavelli’s political science, then, are the choreographed moves, countermoves, and tricks that bring to life the actions of the successful new prince and others.”(Tarlton, 8) Many literary critics approach Machiavelli from the perspective of good versus evil. Machiavelli was neither; he was a realist. Machiavelli recorded his analysis of events that he studied or observed, and thus derived his principles of political science. In this paper, the reader will explore Shakespeare’s use of Machiavellian politics (as described in The Prince) within the script of Hamlet. Hamlet’s world involves jealousy, murder, familial relationships (and their internal struggles), and political scheming. “All the world’s a stage,” wrote Shakespeare; what we see in the theatre is simply a truer reflection of our lives. “Being within the field of action and never above it, there is only so much an actor seeking lo stato [the state, referring to the creation of a state by the prince] can ever discover. The fiction of il principe nuovo [the new prince] is a device to project one’s own position as actor into political situations.” (Breiner, 3, 30) We shall observe the following Machiavellian principles in Hamlet:1)the political scheming that fuels the tension in the play2)the new prince’s enemy, created by the prince’s own actions3)the realization of hidden conspiracies and the deceptions used both to create and to unveil them4)the role of the characters in the play as actors within their own sub-plots5)the hidden personal motivations that drive the individual charactersAlthough Hamlet begins the play as a somewhat nave prince, he soon gains political astuteness and thespian skill that rivals even the actor who plays the part of Hamlet. Hamlet must walk a razor-thin line between deceit and truth, action and inaction, and love and hate. His agonizing journey along the edge of this razor crystallizes his purpose: to avenge the death of his father. Shakespeare sets the stage with a classic example from Machiavelli’s political philosophy. In Act I, Scene 2, we learn of the death of the King of Denmark and the subsequent marriage of the queen to his brother, Claudius (1638:1-15). The old king, who came to power by right of succession, is replaced by Claudius. Claudius moves quickly to consolidate power by marrying the queen. “Because men are won over by the present more than the past,” it is logical for him to do so. (Tarlton, 3) The wedding takes place within two months of the King’s death, “But two months dead! Nay, not so much, not two,” says Hamlet (1641: 138). Claudius continues the Danish tradition of a wedding feast followed by a night of drunken revelry (1641:125). The political moves of the new king serve to highlight the Machiavellian aspects of the play: “Machiavelli becomes truly interested when the hereditary prince is overthrown, the new prince is born, and the new political world, full of danger, comes to life.” (Tarlton, 2)Claudius, as the new king, has already created a fearsome enemy for himself Prince Hamlet. The quick remarriage of Hamlet’s mother, the queen, is a moral outrage to Hamlet, and violates Machiavelli’s stricture in chapter 17 of The Prince, “He [the prince] can endure very well being feared, whilst he is not hated, which will always be as long as he abstains from the property of his citizens and subjects and from their women.” (1494) By taking his brother’s wife as his own, Claudius has given Hamlet a potent reason to hate him, on top of Hamlet’s all-consuming grief (1640:85). “The very situation that gives him [Claudius] the occasion to act also provides his opponents with a new occasion to take his stato [state] away.” (Breiner, 2) In Act I, Scene 5, Hamlet learns from his father’s ghost, “The serpent that did sting thy father’s life now wears his crown.” The ghost reveals what Hamlet already felt to be true: the murder of the former king by his brother, Claudius (1651:38). Hamlet, seeing the truth of the “wrongness” he has felt, is convinced that he should avenge his father’s death. “Haste me to know it, that I, with wings as swift as meditation or the thoughts of love, may sweep to my revenge…O my prophetic soul! My uncle!” (1651:30-40)The reader is now drawn into a complex Machiavellian conspiracy, in which Shakespeare makes extensive use of Machiavelli’s precept, “He who seeks to deceive will always find someone who will allow himself to be deceived. ” (1496) Hamlet’s realization of the deception employed by his uncle jades him, however, to the ghost’s message. Hamlet no longer trusts appearances; knowing that his uncle is playing out a large deception, he is unsure if the ghost is honest or not. In fact, Hamlet no longer trusts anyone even Polonius, the chief advisor. Hamlet tells Polonius, “to be honest, as this world goes, is to be one man picked out of ten thousand.” (1662:174) Hamlet distrusts his friends as well, “My two schoolfellows, whom I will trust as I will adders fanged…” (1692:203) In the Danish court, Claudius managed to deceive his brother, concealing his lust for power (and his lust for the queen) behind a smiling face and lying lips. Claudius also manages to deceive the entire court concerning the death of his brother; Hamlet is the only courtier that senses something wrong: “I doubt [perceive] some foul play; I would the night would come! Foul deeds will rise, though all the earth overwhelm them, to men’s eyes.” (1644:260)”The third phase of princely action requires the prince to feint; a moving or invisible target is hardest to hit.” (Tarlton, 7) The importance of this skill to Hamlet is found in chapter 18 of The Prince, where Machiavelli writes, “everyone sees what you appear to be; few experience what you really are.” (1497) The art of the successful feint must be taught to nobles, especially within the realm of fencing. Fencing was a required skill for nobility in the pre-firearm era; those who wished to avoid the assassin’s blade were as skilled in the salle as they were in the council chamber. Hamlet elects to use his own deceptive ploy to discover the truth about his father’s death. Additionally, he plans to use his affected insanity as an excuse for his eventual revenge upon Claudius. (1647:170) Hamlet knows “the actions of friends and enemies alike will be based on what they take the prince to be.” (Tarlton, 7) What better defense for his actions than that the grief-stricken prince lost his mind and, in a fit of rage, murdered his uncle?Hamlet expands and intensifies his deception with the arrival of the theatre troupe he creates a play within his own play, within the overall play. “The play’s the thing, wherein I’ll catch the conscience of the king,” said Hamlet (1671:552). The action within Hamlet’s play reflects the actual events of the former king’s death; the words he wrote to accompany the action scene are designed to provoke a response from Claudius’ guilty conscience. “For murder, though it have no tongue, will speak…I’ll have the players play something like the murder of my father before mine uncle; I’ll observe his looks; if he but blench, I know my course,” (1671:540-552) says Hamlet. Hamlet and the other characters in this tragedy are all actors within the context of the play, in the physical world of the theatre, and within the schemes that the characters develop to further their own interests. “The prince as literary fiction becomes the prince as exemplary actor, teaching us how to discover the various entries for action…in the field of political conflict.” (Breiner, 35)Even the casual reader of Hamlet will notice the various motivations and hidden machinations that absorb the main characters. The king, Claudius, is busy trying to figure out Hamlet’s behavior at the start of the play; later, after Polonius is killed, he plots Hamlet’s death with Laertes, Polonius’ son. Claudius even hopes that Hamlet will commit some offense that results in his death while he is gone to England. Hamlet of course, is focused on his vengeful plot and the play-acting that is making everyone at court think he has really gone mad with grief over his father’s death. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern play their part in trying to draw Hamlet out of his “madness,” but Hamlet discerns their intent as well as their purpose in coming to Denmark in the beginning of the play. He knows that the king and queen have sent for his friends; he dismisses their efforts as insincere and motivated by reward rather than by friendship. Hamlet tells them later, “Though you can fret me, yet you cannot play upon me.” (1684:335) Polonius, until his death, is pushing his daughter forward as a possible match for Hamlet, while trying his best not to seem to be involved in their romance. “The brilliance of this strategy is that there is no strategy at all in the eyes of anyone watching.” (Corum, 4)The interplay of competing interests and the undercurrent of punnery that is rampant throughout the play are the driving forces behind Hamlet’s popularity throughout the world. Hamlet, in one sense or another, is acted out in each of our lives every day. We all use Machiavelli’s principles to accomplish our goals and to protect our achievements. People in the business world engage in “honest” deception in order to protect their interests. Academics and smart-alecks alike use their knowledge of the English language to make fun of and to criticize other people. We learn the art of deceit at a young age; how many times did you trick your friends or siblings into giving up that coveted toy so that you could have a turn with it? We learn this art from the examples that are set before us. In Machiavelli’s view, the good of the state was the driving moral code. Machiavelli observed that an effective leader should not be limited by a religious or moral code, as good governance sometimes requires the use of religiously or morally unacceptable behavior. The key to effective leadership for Machiavelli was that the prince appears to have all the positive qualities — while quietly reserving the negative qualities for use as needed. Shakespeare’s plays, especially Hamlet, include situations and characters that seem to be torn directly from Machiavelli’s manuscript. The literary union of these two authors gives us a potent demonstration of the power of language within the political world, and yields a script for our leaders (both political and literary) to follow.Works CitedBreiner, Peter. “Machiavelli’s “New Prince”: Exemplary Actor or Literary Fiction or Both?” Midwest Political Science Association Conference, August 3-6, 2003. 18 November 2004 .Corum, Richard. “Understanding Hamlet: a Student Casebook to Issues, Sources, and Historical Documents.” CT: Praeger, 1998. netLibrary. Wayne G. Basler Lib., Blountville, TN. 18 November 2004 .Mack, Maynard. “The Norton Anthology of World Masterpieces (Expanded Edition).” 1997. NY: W.W. Norton [parenthetical citations]Tarlton, Charles. “The deeds of great men”: Thoughts on the Literary Motives and Imaginary Actions of Machiavelli’s New Prince. CLIO 29.4 p417- . Gale Group Databases. Wayne G. Basler Lib., Blountville, TN. 18 November 2004.

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The Truth Behind Machiavelli: An Ethical Politician at Heart

March 20, 2019 by Essay Writer

In the Oxford English Dictionary there exists an irony: a definition of a term, which originated from the Italian politician Niccolò di Bernardo dei Machiavelli, implies the exact opposite of what its originator argued. This irony is simultaneously a cause and a result of the common misinterpretation of Machiavelli’s writings: that he favored, as the Oxford dictionary puts it, one “who practices expediency in preference to morality; an intriguer or schemer.” (Oxford, 1989). But in truth, Machiavelli argued for the prosperity of ethics through a fundamentally selfless leader. In this way he favored morality over all else, and attempted to convey a set of guidelines that would preserve it throughout time.

To begin, the specific state that allows for the voluntary exercise of ethics requires protection because humans are naturally self-driven. As self-driven motivation frequently leads men to behave Unchristian-like, a particular construct is required to prevent men from practicing unethical behavior. In The Prince, Machiavelli writes, “The wish to acquire is in truth the very natural and common, and men always do so when they can…” (Prince, 3). Due to this, men often resort to immoral behavior such as deceit, ignorance, disloyalty and more, in attempts to satisfy their desires. Consequently, a constitution is necessary in civic life to protect against this type of behavior in order to sustain a unified state. Yet in addition to outlining wrongdoings, the constitution must also oblige allegiance. A beneficial parallel are the 10 Commandments in Christian religious life. These commandments, ordained by God, guide men to create symbiotic relationships and live in a community. But arguably most importantly, they demand exclusive submission to the one and only Christian God, written in the very first commandment.

Similarly, Machiavelli thought the perfect constitution would seize the loyalties of the people and incentivize ethical behavior so that the subjects would voluntarily exhibit it. But he acknowledged the difficulty in constructing such a set of laws, and so accounted for a margin of error. In Discourses, it states, “Those others which do not have a perfect constitution, but had made a good beginning, are capable of becoming better, and can become perfect through the occurrence of events.” (Discourses, 1.2). Yet he advised for caution in reform because men often required experience to believe in new rules, and the “innovator has for enemies all those who have done well under the old conditions” (Prince, 6). Additionally, he knew a constitution, by itself, was vulnerable to selfish manipulation and/or destruction and so saw the need to protect it. Therefore, Machiavelli made it the responsibility of the sovereign to create (if not already in place) a just constitution, implement it, and defend it. Granted that this is no easy job for any ruling entity, Machiavelli concluded unchristian virtues were a necessary means.

One of the most difficult aspects of ruling is obtaining the people’s compliance to the sovereign. As a group of people are never in total agreement nor synchrony, never do a set of laws and/or commands go completely undisputed nor unbroken. Additionally, Machiavelli thinks of humans as complex beings, consisting not only of morals, but of a multitude of things that vary from individual to individual such as desires, aversions, experiences, and beliefs. Out of this complexity comes the difficulty in predicting and consequently protecting the state from individual threat. Therefore Machiavelli argues that “one of the greatest and most real helps would be that he who has acquired [the state(s)] should go and reside there” (Prince, 2). Then the ruler can keep close watch over his subjects and assimilate their customs. By best knowing his people, the ruler will be best prepared for times of rebellion, in which some of his people become his enemy. Yet just as the ruler is empowered by knowledge, the people can also gain power by knowing the ruler. With this power, they can acquire the ability to overthrow and/or destroy him. Thus it becomes clear that a very specific relationship between the sovereign and the subjects must be sculpted in order to give security to the ruler and the people.

For Machiavelli, it is the responsibility of the ruler to reign in the correct manner that creates this relationship. Although he acknowledges a virtuous people is just as vital in maintaining the state as the correct type of ruler, it is the ruler actively dictating the characteristics of the relationship. One may argue that love should characterize this relationship because it demands loyalty and disarms threats, but Machiavelli believed that men often broke the bonds of love for self-interest. Consequently, his writings argue that fear better secures the loyalties of the people because fear, as a motivator, wins out over self-interest. But it is also notable that, “…men injure either from fear or hatred,” so fear must always be checked by love to prevent potential violence (Prince, 7). Inevitably, the perfect relationship consists of a balance between love and fear. Love can be maintained through ethical laws that treat the subjects well but fear, according to Machiavelli, requires something else.

Accordingly, Machiavelli deems violence as a necessary means in acquiring fear. Out of context, his argument can seem immoral or evil, but one must realize his reasoning and goals to see that it is quite the opposite. Machiavelli only advocates for violence because it is the surest way of instilling fear, not because he is fulfilling selfish needs. This fear must be the fear of death as humans are not only born with survival instincts, but are often willing to sacrifice all else in order to avoid death. Consequently, the ruler needs the ability to inflict violence and threaten the lives of the citizens to maintain this fear. So, the ruler must have armed forces to not only protect against foreign forces, but to make the citizens aware of the power of the ruler. Awareness requires constant rejuvenation and so active examples of violence inflicted upon the disloyal serve to also maintain the fear. Therefore, Machiavelli argues the ruler must “…make himself beloved and feared by the people,” (Prince, 7). Along with a delicate balance of fear and love, there must also be a balance between security and individual freedom due to the inverse relationship they share. This balance must ensure that the subjects continue to make the necessary sacrifices of freedom to live in the sovereign state as they are safer in it then in nature, although not totally secure.

Additionally the subjects must feel that within the state, their safety is only compromised when they have broken the laws and ultimately the ethical code. Consequently, the ruler must not punish those who obey unless utmost necessary and if then, the ruler must also take measures to eliminate all possible forces who may seek to avenge the death. This is vital because not only must the ruler crush the present, obvious threats, but must also extinguish the seeds of rebellion that exist in the memories of men. Machiavelli writes, “…men ought either to be well treated or crushed, because they can avenge themselves of lighter injuries, of more serious ones they cannot.” (Prince, 3). Because ‘serious injuries’ demand violence, the ruler has no choice but to inflict it upon those who threaten the state. Generally this follows that the ruler only exhibits violence towards those who break the laws but occasional occurrences require constitutionally unjust killing. In this regard, the citizens will understand the violence as opposed to feeling it is driven by the self-interest of the ruler. Consequently, they are able to predict its targets and gain a feeling of security through knowing how to better avoid punishment.

In summation, Machiavelli acknowledges the immorality of violence like all Christians, but believes it is a necessary evil in sustaining the ethical system in the long run. This is why he writes, “For injuries ought to be done all at one time, so that being tasted less, they offend less…” (Prince, 8). Timing is of the essence for violence is most effective in the early stages of a rebellion, when it can be simply and fully eradicated. Similarly, a disease is easy to remedy when foreseen, but not when it comes about in surprise, as Machiavelli continues, “if you wait until [it] approach[s], the medicine is no longer in time because the malady has become incurable” (Prince, 3). By the time a rebellion has reached a certain threshold of strength, violence no longer “cures” the state. Instead, it likely perpetuates the resistance, giving reason to the people to take arms against the sovereign who can no longer contain the violence and offense.

Therefore, in the Machiavellian state, the people can choose the manner in how they live ethically, but are forced through fear tactics and violence to be ethical nonetheless. Still, the greater purpose for the army, (or at least it must appear so for the citizens), is to protect against foreign forces, as a body must secure itself in the external world before it can refine its interior. Additionally, the citizens and the army would not agree to empowering the sovereign if only for the purpose of repressing and punishing them. So it must be that they agree to this with the benefit of a sufficient amount of protection that renders the deal worth making. Machiavelli also believes that simply the existence of foreign entities, demands a guardianship of the state. This is because peace is only an illusion in the context of sovereign states as “war is not to be avoided, but is only to be put off to the advantage of others” (Prince, 3). Additionally “…time drives everything before it, and is able to bring with it good as well as evil…” meaning the safest way to handle the mystery of what time brings is to always maintain dominance among neighboring states (Prince, 3). This must be attempted peacefully at first, making allies to regulate the power of their states, and only resorting to violence if necessary. Therefore he ensures that any violence used prioritizes the benefit of the citizens because if not used, the state guarantees its own end and that of the medium for the ethical system.

Consequently, it is not Machiavelli himself who demands unethical Christian ways, but factors which he cannot control that require them in order for an ethical state to exist. These factors include chance which Machiavelli refers to as fortune, and the effects of time. Fortune with its infinite possibilities and utter randomness, can only be handled with the reciprocal ability to react in infinite manners at any time for “…more or less difficulty is found in keeping [the principalities]… as there is more or less ability in [the ruler]” (Prince, 6). Therefore ethics must not limit a ruler’s actions because this would make the state vulnerable to fortune, virtually leaving its fate to a gamble. In summation, Machiavelli has constructed an intricate methodology in maintaining the ethical state from each and every opposing force in existence. By dealing the responsibility of protection of the state to the sovereign, which requires unethical Christian means, the rest of the state can preserve its morality, live in peace and never have to sacrifice their Christian principles. In this way, the ruler is also ethical at a different level. At first he must be ethically Christian in order to check his self-interest, but even more difficult, must also love the people more than himself. Then he can see that his own morality means less than that of the common, and will be able to sacrifice it when required to save the common morality.

A great figure, who practiced Machiavellianism and legitimized its claims was Catherine the Great. Known as one of the most successful rulers in history, she both empowered and modernized Russia in the 19th century, bringing it into a period of prosperity later labeled the Golden Age of Russia. With her guardianship, she maintained the state for 34 years retaining the loyalty of her subjects and expanding its dominion (HISTORY 2014). To begin, Catherine ruled in the interest of the people. Although often criticized for practicing unethical principles, her primary concern was the good of the common and like Machiavelli, she prioritized her people over all else. In an attempt to design an ethical constitution, she elected a group of delegates to draft laws based on principles of justice and the wishes of the people. Yet, this turned out to be too liberal and was never fully enacted due to the dangers of giving the people too much freedom. Like Machiavelli, Catherine knew excessive freedom quickly gave way to a state in which “…neither private men or public men were feared” and consequently ethics deteriorated (Discourses 1.2). With this in mind, she crafted other laws which cunningly imposed ethical behavior upon the lords and serfs who made up most of the Russian population.

For example, in regards to getting the Lords to treat their serfs more fairly she wrote, “It is highly necessary that the Law should prescribe a Rule to the Lords, for a more judicious Method of raising their Revenues; and oblige them to levy such a Tax, as tends least to separate the Peasant from his House and Family…” (Catherine II. 1767). By using a tax as the means to prescribe justice to the serfs, Catherine cleverly incentivized the Lords to act morally as opposed to forcing them. This preservation of choice gave the Lords feelings of security and control over their lives. Accordingly, this strengthened the people’s loyalties to Catherine as they knew Russia could not survive without her and as Machiavelli puts it, “he who keeps a city accustomed to freedom will hold it more easily by the means of its own citizens than in any other way” (Prince, 5). Provided that, Catherine also maintained a strong military, instilling fear in her people and defending them from foreign enemies just as Machiavelli advised.

From the start, Catherine strategically utilized her military exemplified by her domination of Ukraine, the Crimea, and the Black Sea. Victories continued throughout her rule allowing for expansion of land and resources which benefited both her reputation and her people (Moss, 1997). Yet she also sustained fear in the people through heavy military presence which Machiavelli argued was vital. This was mainly how she acquired the obedience of the serfs who were the majority at the time and concentrated acts of violence kept rebellions in check. For example, when Lieutenant Vasiliy Mirovich led an attempt to free Ivan VI, the previously proclaimed emperor of Russia, Catherine made sure to extinguish the totality of the rebellion. Because Ivan was already killed during the attempt, she only had to deal with Mirovich, who she had executed without a trial (Moss, 1997). This way, the disobedience was terminated, the spread of the rebellion was impeded, and she demonstrated the suicidal risk of challenging her sovereignty. By killing Mirovich quickly without a trial, the people had little chance to entertain the rebellion or strengthen their memory of a possible injustice that occurred. Therefore Catherine displayed her Machiavellian ability to perceive the necessary course of action based on the variables of time, environment, and people.

Additionally, she proves Machiavelli’s statement, “he who relied least on fortune is established the strongest” as she consistently maintained her rule with and without the aid of chance (Prince, 6). Consequently Catherine simultaneously embodies Machiavelli’s famous ‘fox’ and ‘lion’. As the fox, she deceptively imposed her will, gained support, and limited any resistance against her. As the lion, she fueled a large army, secured dominance among foreign powers, and inspired fearsome admiration in her homeland. But arguably her most important quality was her morality despite her ability to set it aside when necessary. This was recognized by the French Diplomat Baron de Breteuil who wrote, “She will endeavor to reform the administration of justice and to invigorate the laws; but her policies will be based on Machiavellianism… She will adopt the prejudices of her entourage regarding the superiority of her power and will endeavor to win respect not by the sincerity and probity of her actions but also by an ostentatious display of her strength… Cunning and falsity appear to be vices in her character; woe to him who puts too much trust in her. (Baron de Breteuil. 1787) Consequently her vices were simply a means for bettering Russia, which reflected her ethical values, even though she could have easily abused her power for self-interest.

Furthermore, it was evident that she prioritized the condition of the monarch as she believed, “The Intention and the End of Monarchy, is the Glory of the Citizens, of the State, and of the Sovereign…From this Glory, a Sense of Liberty arises in a People governed by a Monarch; which may produce in these States as much Energy in transacting the most important Affairs, and may contribute as much to the Happiness of the Subjects…” (Catherine II. 1767). In this quote, it is also obvious she hoped to make her people happy but knew happiness was fundamentally the choice of the individual. So, she enabled her subjects by freeing them from their self-driven nature and constructing an ethical system. But, it was her preservation of their free will that ultimately allowed for their cultivation of happiness. On the other hand, Catherine arguably sacrificed her own happiness for the greater good. She enslaved herself to doing always what was in the interest of Russia regardless of her individuality which made her a true Machiavellian ruler. Consequently, it was her inner morality that led to her devotion of the preservation of ethics. Therefore, it is evident that the contemporary interpretation of Machiavelli favoring expediency over morality is incorrect. In fact, Machiavelli always favors ethicality, no matter the means, no matter the fortune, and no matter the time.


1. Baron de Breteuil. 1787. Letter of Baron de Breteuil A Source Book for Russian History, G. Vernadsky, trans. (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1972), Vol. 2.

2. Catherine II. 1767. Documents of Catherine the Great: The Correspondence with Voltaire and the Instruction of l767 in the English Text of l768, W. F. Reddaway, trans. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1931)

3. HISTORY. “Catherine the Great Biography.” History of Russia. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 Nov. 2014.

4. Machiavelli, Niccolò, and Bernard Crick. The Discourses. Harmondsworth, Eng.: Penguin, 1970. Print.

5. Machiavelli, Niccolò, Edward Dacres, and William Edward Colston Baynes.The Prince. London: A. Moring, 1929. Print.

6. Moss, Walter. 1997. “Volume 1.” A History of Russia. New York: McGraw-Hill. N. pag. Print.

7. Oxford English Dictionary. 2nd ed. 20 vols. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1989.

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Contradiction in The Prince

March 6, 2019 by Essay Writer

Throughout The Prince, Niccoló Machiavelli explores human nature in the context of ruling and being ruled. In the letter to Lorenzo dé Medici that prefaces the text, Machiavelli explains that he has greatly studied “the deeds of great men” and is well acquainted with “contemporary affairs and a continuous study of the ancient world” (Machiavelli 3). From these studies of history and the nature of both the common man and the princes, Machiavelli has concluded that the surest way to hold on to a city or territory is to raze it to the ground, and that men sooner forget the loss of their father than the loss of their patrimony. Both of these claims are concerned with the seizing of wealth and resources; however, they contradict each other in the aspect that destroying an entire city is the same as taking a person’s wealth, which is something men do not quickly forget. As a result, and although scattered and lacking resources, the refugees from the demolished city will become bitter toward the prince and will seek revenge.In chapter seventeen, Machiavelli states “above all, a prince must abstain from the property of others; because men sooner forget the death of their father than the loss of their patrimony” (55). The reason for this is that a man whose father has been killed is less often reminded of his loss than a man whose whole fortune has been taken from him. For the impoverished man, every day he lives in poverty serves as a bitter reminder of the wrong done to him by the prince. A man who has lost all of his possessions is a dangerous adversary because he has nothing left to lose. What can be taken away from someone who has already lost everything that he has worked for his whole life. Given the context of The Prince, the people that Machiavelli is most likely talking about are the aristocracy and not the common man. These upper-class men have had their wealth and land in their family for generations. It may seem as though Machiavelli is exaggerating the brutish and self-centered nature of man by saying that men care more about money than their own flesh and blood, but the truth is that more blame can be placed on a ruler who confiscates possessions than one who executes individuals. For this reason, the one who has lost his possessions will be more likely to seek revenge, as a greater number of problems can be pinned back to the prince who robbed him of his wealth.Similar to these ideas on the seizure of property, chapter five is concerned with the management of resources. After a city has been conquered, the best way to hold it securely is, according to Machiavelli, by devastating it. If the buildings are allowed to stand, they will serve as a constant reminder of the freedom once enjoyed by the residents of the land. The buildings become a symbol of past happiness and freedom, especially in republics. Justification for the razing of the city then, lies in the nature of the inhabitants, for “when there is a rebellion, such a city justifies itself by calling on the name of liberty and its ancient institutions, never forgotten despite the passing of time and the benefits received from the new ruler” (Machiavelli 18). Machiavelli gives the historical examples of the Spartans and the Romans. The Spartans attempted to rule Athens and Thebes through the existing oligarchic structure, yet they lost the cities in the end. The Romans, on the other hand, destroyed Capua, Carthage, and Numantia after conquering them and therefore never lost possession of them.While it is relatively obvious that these two claims are related insomuch as they both deal with how the prince should handle property, they are actually much more related than is apparent at first glance. Machiavelli argues that it is unwise for a prince to take property, yet he encourages the taking of heritage. It is indeed true that men seek greater revenge for the loss of their fortune than for the loss of those close to them, but the acceptance of this idea naturally leads to the rejection of Machiavelli’s other idea regarding the destruction of conquered cities. Machiavelli says that the standing buildings will remind the people of their former freedom, and “the memory of their ancient liberty does not and cannot let them rest” (19). If this is true, then how much more so would seeing the charred and ruined skeletons of demolished buildings incite rebellion? Each husk of a library, a legislative building, or a museum would serve as a stark reminder of the cruelty of their current leader. Therefore, one of Machiavelli’s claims must be false. Since Machiavelli’s ideas about razing conquered lands builds upon his more basic claims on the nature of man, it must be the secondary claim that is false.The majority of wealth in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries was held by what today would be considered “old money,” or riches that have been passed down from generation to generation, usually in the form of land or established businesses. For this reason, when one has his possessions and land taken from him, he not only loses his money, but also his way of life and his heritage. The countless tapestries, pieces of furniture, and estates that were held by his father and his father’s father now belong to the prince and the state. Everything that the offended man associated with his day-to-day life was stripped from him in one instant, one royal decree. His old life now gone, this man has a new goal: revenge. The same can be said about the destruction of cities. When a city is razed, the residents of the city lose everything. They lose their whole way of life and their heritage. Every memory they have will now be relegated to reminders of the lives they once had, lives that were torn asunder by the will of a tyrant. The idea that the surest way to keep something is to destroy it may be true, but only so far as one cannot truly possess something that doesn’t exist. However, news of the destruction will spread, along with sympathy for the disposed people. Nations will rise up with arms in order to stop the opposing army that is carving a burning path through the land, leaving destruction and sorrow in its wake. Machiavelli states, “in republics, there is more life, more hatred, a greater desire for revenge… in their case, the surest way is to wipe them out,” as if destroying a whole republic will somehow assuage their anger (19). It is apparent then, that Machiavelli deeply contradicts himself in his advice to the prince. He urges the prince to “make himself feared in such a way, that if he is not loved, at least he escapes being hated” (54). While destroying entire cities is a good way to become feared, it leads to hatred as well. Machiavelli failed to recognize that just as taking a man’s wealth is a guaranteed way to become his enemy for the rest of his life, so is destroying an entire city an excellent way to stir up revolution among the people who used to call that city their home.

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