Imagens das páginas

Dum alii quoquo modo audita pro compertis habent, alii vera in contrarium vertunt, et gliscit utrumque posteritate.


The name of Machiavelism has become the proverbial reproach against profligate policy. It is thus that fame seems to avenge itself on reputation. If those whom posterity admires, have sometimes lived in obscurity, the objects of applause often descend with their honours reversed, censured perhaps for imaginary offences, or stigmatized as criminals for what had gained them distinction. Of remote events and characters our information is indeed lamentably imperfect. But the world is always willing to supply by faith the deficiencies of knowledge. It is so much easier to believe than to doubt, so much more pleasant to reproach than to admire, that we rather acquiesce in some easy common conviction, than perplex ourselves with inquiry. At last the cool indifference of ignorance is called the impartiality of time, and fame is only the credulity of indolence. Thus has it happened, that the venal slave of power is extolled as the champion of a nation's freedom, nor is it the least wild vibration of opinion, that the crimes of tyrants are forever associated with the favorite and the ornament of a free republic. The cause of so strange a revolution is a fair

object of curiosity, and if we cannot justify or excuse the offences of Macchiavelli, we shall at least be pardoned an attempt to retrieve the fallen character of a scholar and a statesman.

Niccolo Macchiavelli owes the obloquy which attends his memory, to a political work called The Prince, a small treatise, addressed to Lo renzo de Medici, the object of which may be defined, the means employed by a Prince to acquire or secure his authority. Now the artifices of government are not always to be reconciled with morality; and the world has visited on Macchiavelli himself, the reproaches, which are justly due to the vitious maxims he enumerates. The Prince, say its enemies, has taught how to usurp and to maintain power; it attempts to prove that everything is justifiable which tends to ones own aggrandizement; and that, for this purpose, the duties of religion may be violated, and deceit, and treachery, and perjury, and bloodshed, employed with impunity. The man, they add, who can support such principles, is a monster of iniquity, the common enemy of heaven and of mankind. We do not mean to defend the obnoxious maxims of the Prince; were it even possible, it would still be superfluous, to vindicate what the author himself did not intend to justify. But we may calmly attempt to prove, that the objects of Macchiavelli have been strangely misinterpreted; that in developing the secrets of despotic policy, he meant, not to teach, but to warn; and that by revealing the

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arts which tyrants have used, and will forever use, he has left an honourable monument of his genius, and a useful lesson to the world. The reasons which lead to this opinion, may be chiefly drawn from the work itself; from the character of the man; the situation of the times; the uniform tenor of his other writings; and the opinions entertained by his cotemporaries, as well as many of the most distinguished scholars since his time.

That Macchiavelli did not intend to paint from fancy a model for Princes, may be safely inferred from many parts of “ The Prince" itself. When, for instance, he speaks of securing a newly acquired province, by extinguishing the blood of its former Princes;* when he says, the only way of safely possessing a free statę, added to your empire, is to ruin it;t it is difficult to believe, that he meant gravely to inculcate maxims so revolting. There is indeed strong evidence for asserting, that the treatise was actually presented to Clement VII, under the title of The Tyrant. But exclusive of this, after dividing principalities into hereditary, and new,the adds,s that the first are the easier to be preserved, since a natural Prince has less reason, and less necessity to offend; but“ in new Principalities," he says, " is the difficulty.|| Of Ecclesiastical governments, he has not the rashness and presumption to speak.** So that all the exceptionable maxims apply to new princes, those who in different ways have risen to power, which they are anxious to secure. That he considered new Princes as synonimous with Tyrants, would also appear, because, when, in another work,tt he is describing the arts of a government absolutely arbitrary and unjust, he only makes a compendium of the Prince. It is of such conduct, that he declarest{ "these are means most cruel and hostile, not only to every Christian, but every human mode of living, which every man should shun, and rather live a private man than be a king at the expense of such destruction.” “ A new Prince,” adds he, “ in a city or province, which he has taken, should make everything new,” the very course which he had already called, in contradistinction to moderate and just government, tyrannical, for “he who would wish to acquire absolute authority, which by authors is called tyranny, should make everything new."$$ From the Prince may be selected passages which sufficiently show the author's opinions of the very doctrines he is accused of propagating. “I say that every prince should desire to be consilered mild, and not cruel, though he should guard against the abuse of mildness;"||“every one knows how laudable it is for a Prince,

• Ch. 3. + Ch. 5. Ch. 1.
tt Discourses, Lib. 1. ch. 26, and 27.
|| Prince ch. 17.

Ch. 2. | Ch. 3.
# Disc. ch. 26.

** Ch. 11. SF Disc. ch. 25

to preserve good faith, and live with integrity, and not with cunning,"* though many have succeeded by perfidy; " it cannot be called virtue to murder one's citizens, betray one's friends, be without faith, pity, or religion; by these means empire may be obtained, but not glory.”+ But above all should be cited, that declaration, which introduces the most obnoxious part of the book, where he sayst that many have written from fancy, and made imaginary republics, but as he intended to write what should be useful, he thought best to represent the real truth of things, rather than anything fictitious. A remark which sufficiently protests against the purity of principles, which he professes only to describe.

But the whole mass of his writings vindicate him from any share in the guilt of the principles. The literary works of a man, whose engagements do not often allow the quiet years of revisal, must be judged with delicacy; his fixed opinions are not to be collected from detached sentences or essays; but when the moral principles of a writer are assailed, sound criticism, as well as the urbanity of scholars will reject a partial conclusion from insulated portions, and decide by the general tenor, the uniform character of his writings. Without this forbearance, which does not aspire to the name of liberality, the fame of no writer is secure, since who has not lived to regret what want or vanity or ardor has obtruded on the world. Let Macchiavelli then be judged by the spirit of all his productions, and if the maxims of The Prince directly contradict the deliberate sentiments of all his works, both before and after its composition, we may safely conclude, that they are not his own. Let all his works then defend him.

His reverence for religious governments, which, he says, “are the most secure and happy," The Prince itself attests. In his Discourses,ll he declares, that religion is the fundamental basis of every well-governed state, and ascribes to the corruption and contempt of Christian worship, the deplorable condition of Italy: “ There can be no greater sign,” says he “ of the ruin of a province than the contempt of Divine Worship.” · And again, “were this religion maintained by the Princes of the Christian republic, as it was ordained by the giver of it, the Christian states and republics would be much more united and happy, than they now are.” In speaking of Italy, “ this country” says he, “has lost all devotion, all religion, and infinite disorders are the consequence, for as where there is religion, we presume there is every blessing; so where it is wanting, we presume every evil.” It would be difficult to select passages more explicit, from the writings of any moralist. Elsewhere, he ascribes to Christianity, the introduction of the law of nations, the mild treatment

• Ch. 18.

† Ch. 8.

Prince, ch. 15.

Sch. 11.

|| Lib. 1. ch. 12. of prisoners, and the diminution of the distresses of war. The great Cosmo is applauded for declaring, that, though he had built many temples, and done many acts of charity, yet he never could spend enough in honour of God, to acquit himself of his obligations to him. * When he asserts, that a soldier should above all things prize the fear of God, since in none is it more natural, than in one, who, surrounded by dangers, has constant need of his protection;t when he piously commemorates the kindness of Providence, in saving Tuscany from the ruin, which menaced it;t when he deplores the indecent violation of religious institutions, by the Duke of Milan's Court, while visiting Florence;s these constant uniform declarations should absolve him from the imputation of impiety. Nor do his writings less completely defend him from the charge of propagating immorality. If in the Prince, where he is describing a profligate government, immoral doctrines appear, his own opinions are shown in other productions, where the mention of such doctrines was not necessary to the description. When in The Prince he explains the arts of treachery and deception, he does not fail, elsewhere, to render homage to truth, and to civil as well as political integrity.“ Although”|| says he, “the use of fraud is in every action detestable, yet in war it is laudable and glorious, and he who conquers his enemy by fraud is as praiseworthy, as he who subdues him by force,” and then adds, “I do not mean that the fraud which makes you violate faith when it is pledged, or treaties made, is glorious, because this although it may sometimes acquire you states and kingdoms can never render you glorious.” Indeed it seems to be the object of The Prince to explain, not what is laudable and glorious, but the means by which states and kingdoms are in fact acquired, or preserved. If in The Prince he says,** it is better to be feared than loved, if you cannot be both, yet in his history ft after examining the methods in which power should be exercised in republics and monarchies; he concludes, that in a republic, the liberty of the people requires that public officers should be severe, but that a prince should prefer affability and mildness, and humanity, and inspire both soldiers and people with obedience and love. If some parts of The Prince seem to incite or excuse bad monarchs, his praise of virtuous characters, and the detestation he expresses against tyrants, are much fairer expressions of his feelings. In the first class may be placed, his eulogium on the great Theodoric, ft whose conduct offers nothing to reproach, but the death of Betheus and Simmachus, and this he is very far from justifying or excusing by any reasons of state policy, such as the world has

* Hist. Book. 7. + Preface to Art of War. $ Hist. B. 6. | Disc. B. 3. ch. 40. • Ch. 17. #1 Hist. B. 1.

Hist. B. 6. # Ch. 19, 20,-1,-2.


imputed to Macchiavelli. So too, the pleasure with which he dwells on the characters of John, and Cosmo de Medici,* distinguished for their greatness of mind, and their virtuous attachment to their country. On the other hand, may be seen the just indignation which he exhibits against the tyranny of the Duke of Athens,f the violence and corruption of the Florentine government, the revenge of Orlandini, the treachery of the king of Naples,|| with many other examples. His praise of Cæsar Borgia has been fiercely objected to him. It is true that in The Prince he has mentioned the successful deceptions of Alexander VI;** and he has proposed Borgia as the freshest example for one who among other objects desires to make friends, or secure himself from enemies; conquer by force or fraud, destroy those who can or ought to offend him; and innovate on the old Yet if this be praise it is abundantly qualified by the emphatic language, in which both are condemned in the 1st Decennale, where Alexander is represented with his three attendants:

Lussuria, Simonia, e Crudeltate. And the misfortunes of Borgia described as,

......... la soma, Che meritava un ribellante a Cristo. But that part of his writings which seems most conclusive in his favour, is the 10th chapter of the Discourses, a passage which were it found in any writer less obnoxious than Macchiavelli, would be admired as a concise and elegant defence of honest policy. The title of the chapter is, that“ in proportion as the founders of a kingdom, or a republic, are praiseworthy, so are those of a tyranny reproachable.” After enumerating the foundation and the degrees of merit among mankind; “ on the other hand,” he adds, “ are infamous and detestable, those who destroy religion, who dissipate kingdoms and republics, the enemies of virtue, of letters, and of every other art, useful or honourable to the human race; such as, the impious, the ignorant, the violent, the idle, the vile, &c. There is indeed no one, who if the choice of the two qualities of men were offered to him, would not praise what is laudable, and blame what is unworthy. Yet almost all, deceived by a false good, or a false glory, suffer themselves to fall, either through intention, or ignorance, into the ranks of those, who deserve rather censure than praise. Thus while, to their immortal honour, they might have formed a republic, or a kingdom, they turn towards a tyranny, and deserting the path of fame, of glory, of

* Hist. B. 4 and 5.
| Ib. B. 7. * Ch. 18.

Ib. B. 2. # Ib. B. 3.

tt Ch. 7.

$ Ib. B. 5 and 6.

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