The Prince

Born in Florence on May 3, 1469, Machiavelli entered government service as a clerk and rose to prominence when the Florentine Republic was proclaimed in 1498. Machiavelli was an upright man, a good citizen, and a good father. He was not by any means a faithful husband but lived in affectionate harmony with his wife, Marietta Corsini (whom he had married in the latter part of 1501), and had five children by her. He loved his native city “more than his own soul,” and he was generous, ardent, and basically religious. He was secretary of the ten-man council that conducted the diplomatic negotiations and supervised the military operations of the republic, and his duties included missions to the French king (1504, 1510-11), the Holy See (1506), and the German emperor (1507-8). In the course of his diplomatic missions within Italy he became acquainted with many of the Italian rulers and was able to study their political tactics, particularly those of the ecclesiastic and soldier Cesare Borgia, who was at that time engaged in enlarging his holdings in central Italy. From 1503 to 1506 Machiavelli reorganized the military defense of the republic of Florence. Although mercenary armies were common during this period, he preferred to rely on the conscription of native troops to ensure a permanent and patriotic defense of the commonwealth. In 1512, when the Medici, a Florentine family, regained power in Florence and the republic was dissolved, he was deprived of office and briefly imprisoned for alleged conspiracy against them.
After his release he retired to his estate near Florence, where he wrote his most important works. Despite his attempts to gain favor with the Medici rulers, he was never restored to his prominent government position. When the republic was temporarily reinstated in 1527, he was suspected by many republicans of pro-Medici leanings. Machiavelli’s methodology involved the empirical observation of human nature and behaviour, which he believed to be changeless. His deep feelings about the degradation and corruption of Italy at his time led him to put his hope into the daring and the violence of a great man who would exercise power ruthlessly but with prudence. Power, Machiavelli apparently believed, legitimized the state, if rationally applied, by a man able to manipulate the people and use the army for his own purposes. In his quest for a “new prince” and a new principle of policy he knew that he was opening “a road as yet untrodden by man.” The road led to the absolute sovereign state. Machiavellianism, as a term, has been used to describe the principles of power politics, and the type of person who uses those principles in political or personal life is frequently described as a Machiavellian.


Out of a desire to shock his contemporaries, Machiavelli liked to appear more wicked than he was. This, together with certain blunt maxims in his works, gave him a reputation for immorality. The maxims became a target for attacks by the Catholic Counter-Reformation; and the word “Machiavellianism” was coined as a term of opprobrium by the French, out of hatred for all things Italian. He “was a scapegoat because he was a great man and because he was unfortunate.” Machiavelli’s term umanita (“humanity”) means more than kindness; it is a direct translation of the Latin humanitas. Machiavelli implies that he shared with the ancients a sovereign wisdom of human affairs. He also describes that theory of reading as an active and even aggressive pursuit that was common among humanists. Possessing a text and understanding its words were not enough; analytic ability and a questioning attitude were necessary before a reader could truly enter the councils of the great. These councils, moreover, were not merely serious and ennobling; they held secrets available only to the astute, secrets the knowledge of which could transform life from a chaotic miscellany into a crucially heroic experience. Classical thought offered insight into the heart of things. In addition, the classics suggested methods by which, once known, human reality could be transformed from an accident of history into an artifact of will. Antiquity was rich in examples, actual or poetic, of epic action, victorious eloquence, and applied understanding. Carefully studied and well employed, classical rhetoric

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The Prince

The Prince is a political piece of writing by Niccolo Machiavelli, an Italian political theorist. In this treatise, Machiavelli expounds political views tackling how a prince might access and maintain power. Some critics and analysts alike have branded this work ‘extreme’; however, Machiavelli insists that a prince should maintain a firm principality for its preservation lies in it. He lays down strategies that an aspiring prince can use to gain power or a serving prince to maintain power.

He makes it clear that, as long as a state is stable, the means of maintaining this stability should not be questioned even if they are cruel. This treatise examines attainment, protraction, and application of political power that was prominent in the western world in the sixteenth century. Machiavelli does not advocate for law, rather he calls for use of power to rule. This paper tackles mixed monarchies as exposited in The Prince.

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Machiavelli on Mixed Monarchies

Machiavelli notes that, governance problems are prevalent amongst new and mixed monarchies. Naturally, men would wish to change rulers or overthrow them for their own benefits. Unfortunately, Machiavelli notes that, this shallow thinking works against the perpetrators because they lack experience.

To princes, Machiavelli cautions that, after overpowering their rebellious juniors, they cannot afford to remain friends with those who helped them in the battle because sooner than later the princes will not meet these people’s expectation. Therefore, to ensure that a prince has absolute control over his juniors, he requires the “favor of the inhabitants to take possession over a province” (Machiavelli 5). This ensures a prince gets allegiance from grassroots.

Actually, Louis XII of France lost his possession in Italy to Ludovico because the inhabitants preferred Ludovico to Louis XII. Machiavelli notes that losing a territory the first time is not difficult; however, after regaining it, to lose it a second time becomes insurmountable because a prince can now punish rebels, strengthen weaknesses, and probe any insurgence before things get out of hand.

This explains why after Ludovico regained possession of Milan, Louis XII could not overthrow him a second time. This is what princes should take into consideration if they are to conquer and rule. Nevertheless, Machiavelli notes there are ways a prince may lose a territory a second time under some conditions as exposited next.

One of the greatest threats of a kingdom is annexation. Machiavelli observes that, if different states are annexed to an existing one, chances of survival depends on two factors viz. common nationality and language. If these states are of different nationality and language, then chances of survival are slim. Nevertheless, there is a way out. The fact that there is a problem is a confirmation of existence of an answer.

For the annexed state to stand firm, two conditions should prevail; “the blood of their old rulers is extinct and make no alteration either in their laws or in their taxes” (Machiavelli 7). With former rulers silenced and unaltered tax regulations, subjects would remain calm. Moreover, a prince may decide to reside amongst these new states to assure them security, just as Turkey did in Greece.

This ensures that any discontentment is noticed early and addressed before it becomes a crisis. Additionally, this strategy excludes malicious officials who may spoil Prince’s reputation and good governance. Alternatively, if living amongst his subjects proves tricky, a prince may consider keeping armed men across his empire or establish several colonies in different places of his empire. However, Machiavelli prefers establishment of colonies to deploying armed men.

Colonies would cost a prince nothing. For one, in the process of making colonies, some people will be disposed of their houses, which will be given to new habitants.

Therefore, the disposed remain hapless and scattered and people in this state can never think of rebelling against the prince for lack of resources and strength. On the other side, those given new homes will not rebel for fear of being dispossessed too. Therefore, colonies, “cost nothing, are more faithful, and give less offence…men must either be caressed or else annihilated.” (Machiavelli 8).

Offering some colonies houses at the expense of others amounts to caressing the former while annihilating the latter. Men will always retaliate if slightly injured; however, they will remain silent if greatly injured. A prince can gain power over a territory through more diverse ways.

Machiavelli notes that a powerful prince can expand his territories by entering less powerful territories. When a powerful prince enters a new province, all inhabitants want to associate with him. Man is wired in a way that he wants to associate with power. As aforementioned, juniors in a territory are always jealous of their masters; therefore, when a powerful prince approaches less powerful territories, he would gain popularity and accrue following because these people are ever displeased by their rulers.

For the new prince to overcome the same fate befalling him, Machiavelli notes that, “he has merely to be careful that they do not assume too much power and authority” (9). This creates a balance. By allowing inhabitants to have some power, they remain one’s adherents; by checking this power, prevents tyranny amongst them.

Machiavelli warns princes to rule with integrity for any form of misdemeanor risks losing adherents to enemies. The bottom line here is to flatter the less powerful in a colony without necessarily increasing their powers and overthrow rebel inhabitants who do not want to cooperate. Romans used this strategy in Macedonia and it worked for them. Finally, Machiavelli compares leadership to treatment of diseases.

As the common adage goes, prevention is better than cure, Machiavelli insinuates that this adage applies in governance just as in medicine. The secret of strong governance is to recognize all evils that may be brewing and prevent them before they spread across a territory.

Therefore, a wise prince would invest more in ‘spying’ to ensure that every matter is settled before it causes divisions in a territory. Due to this strategy, Romans would remotely recognize a brewing evil, and come up with a remedy to counter it. Machiavelli concurs that wars are inevitable; however, a prince may choose to defer war or initiate one to his advantage.

For instance, by noticing potential enemies, a prince may decide to initiate war in enemy’s backyard to prevent meeting the enemy at an advanced stage and in important occasions. For instance, because Romans did not want to face Greece in Italy, they initiated war in Greece’s backyard to silence them beforehand.

To cap it all, Machiavelli advises princes to be wary of engaging church in state affairs. The only mistake that prince Charles of France did in Italy was to allow church infiltrate into state affairs. Church knows very little about state affairs; moreover, the principles applied by wise princes to maintain power are not popular amongst believers.

Conclusion

By writing The Prince, Machiavelli sought to enlighten princes on how to seize and maintain power. In mixed monarchies, Machiavelli makes it so obvious that a prince can conquer and rule over new provinces provided he adhere to laid down procedures. One of the greatest challenges of conquering and ruling mixed monarchies is if annexations are made from different nationalities and languages.

However, Machiavelli advises princes to ensure that they silence rulers of these monarchies and not to change taxes of the people. In gaining access to new territories, a prince may consider befriending the inhabitants for without their support, it would be hard to rule. He also talks of establishing different colonies across one’s territories for better administration.

Works Cited

Machiavelli, Niccolo. “The Prince.” Ricci, Luigi. (Ed.) Texas; RDMc Publishing, 2008.

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