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Article :: Supporting Evidence

Machiavailli Reconsidered


The Prince

by Nicolo Machiavelli


CHAPTER X

Concerning The Way In Which The Strength Of All Principalities Ought To Be Measured

IT IS necessary to consider another point in examining the character of these principalities: that is, whether a prince has such power that, in case of need, he can support himself with his own resources, or whether he has always need of the assistance of others. And to make this quite clear I say that I consider those are able to support themselves by their own resources who can, either by abundance of men or money, raise a sufficient army to join battle against any one who comes to attack them; and I consider those always to have need of others who cannot show themselves against the enemy in the field, but are forced to defend themselves by sheltering behind walls. The first case has been discussed, but we will speak of it again should it recur. In the second case one can say nothing except to encourage such princes to provision and fortify their towns, and not on any account to defend the country. And whoever shall fortify his town well, and shall have managed the other concerns of his subjects in the way stated above, and to be often repeated, will never be attacked without great caution, for men are always adverse to enterprises where difficulties can be seen, and it will be seen not to be an easy thing to attack one who has his town well fortified, and is not hated by his people.

The cities of Germany are absolutely free, they own but little country around them, and they yield obedience to the emperor when it suits them, nor do they fear this or any other power they may have near them, because they are fortified in such a way that every one thinks the taking of them by assault would be tedious and difficult, seeing they have proper ditches and walls, they have sufficient artillery, and they always keep in public depots enough for one year's eating, drinking, and firing. And beyond this, to keep the people quiet and without loss to the state, they always have the means of giving work to the community in those labours that are the life and strength of the city, and on the pursuit of which the people are supported; they also hold military exercises in repute, and moreover have many ordinances to uphold them.

Therefore, a prince who has a strong city, and had not made himself odious, will not be attacked, or if any one should attack he will only be driven off with disgrace; again, because that affairs of this world are so changeable, it is almost impossible to keep an army a whole year in the field without being interfered with. And whoever should reply: If the people have property outside the city, and see it burnt, they will not remain patient, and the long siege and self-interest will make them forget their prince; to this I answer that a powerful and courageous prince will overcome all such difficulties by giving at one time hope to his subjects that the evil will not be for long, at another time fear of the cruelty of the enemy, then preserving himself adroitly from those subjects who seem to him to be too bold.[1]

Further, the enemy would naturally on his arrival at once burn and ruin the country at the time when the spirits of the people are still hot and ready for the defence; and, therefore, so much the less ought the prince to hesitate; because after a time, when spirits have cooled, the damage is already done, the ills are incurred, and there is no longer any remedy; and therefore they are so much the more ready to unite with their prince, he appearing to be under obligations to them now that their houses have been burnt and their possessions ruined in his defence. For it is the nature of men to be bound by the benefits they confer as much as by those they receive. Therefore, if everything is well considered, it wilt not be difficult for a wise prince to keep the minds of his citizens steadfast from first to last, when he does not fail to support and defend them.[2]


    Synopsis:
  • The power of a prince is determined by offensive and defensive capabilities, differentiated by whether resources available allow self-sufficiency or, whether others must be depended upon, in times of adversity: [C10, P1]
    • A prince whom has sufficient resources to field an army has both offensive and defensive capabilities, capable of defending both fortresses and countryside. [C10, P1]
    • A prince lacking resources to field an army must rely on well provisioned fortresses and, under no conditions, attempt to defend the countryside. [C10, P1]
    • Resources above means: financial, manpower and support or at least non-hatred of the people. [C10, P1,3]
  • Men are always adverse to enterprises where difficulties or risks are perceived. [C10, P1,3]
  • A strong city or fortress has the following attributes, sufficient to keep it free of external rule, not fearing conquest: [C10, P2]
    • Proper ditches and walls, making conquest difficult. [C10, P2]
    • One year's supply of weopons and ammunition. [C10, P2]
    • One year's supply of food, drink and consumables. [C10, P2]
    • Regulated military exercises, always prepared for defense. [C10, P2]
    • Ability to keep the people engaged in productive activity, from which the people earn their sustenance, resources for fortress survival and support for the prince comes (keep the people quiet). [C10, P2]
  • If an enemy still attacks, provisions will prevent them from pervailing for a year, far beyond the time that an offensive army is able to manage loss and frustration while maintaining focus. [C10, P3]
  • People are self-interested. Those whose property outside the fortress has been destroyed will tend to lose patience with the long siege and the prince. [C10, P3]
  • The defending prince can control the people using alternating combinations of the following methods: [C10, P3]
    • Encouraging hope to his subjects that the evil will not be for long.
    • Encouraging fear of the cruelty of the enemy.
    • Dealing adroitly with those subjects who become bold and dissent.
  • Passions of the people are highest after the initial attack, when memeory of loss is greatest. As time passes, passions and memories fade. Best to immediately harness the passions of the people at the initial attack and keep them passionate, rather than waiting. [C10, P4]
  • People whom have suffered damage by usurpers are ready to unite with the prince, whom they feel are under obligation to make amends. [C10, P4]
  • It is the nature of man to seek honest, reciprocal trade. They feel obligated for benefits received as well as entitled to reciprocation for benefits given. [C10, P4]


[1] Machiavailli differentiates between active and passive defense in measuring the power of principalities.

  • Active defense is available to rulers whom have sufficient resources to pay for and therefore command the allegiance of armies. Consent of the governed (to tolerate the ruler, pay tribute, provide soldiers) is a key resource. Rulers with sufficient resources can defend a region and smite any transgressors. It is still prudent to have fortified areas, as in passive defence below to fall back to, should the unexpected happen.
  • Passive defence is the method that must be used by rulers with insufficient resources to field an army. Their cities must be defensible, heavily fortified and stocked with weopons and provisions sufficient to last a year. Outlying regions cannot and should not be defended. According to Machiavailli, the short term "smash and grab", plunder, share the spoils mentality of armies will make them lose patience and leave in frustration (seeking easier prey) well before the year is up. Consent of the governed still required.

[2] Machiavialli states that people are basically honest, seeking trade to mutual benefit. They feel beholden for favors received as well as expecting return for favors conferred. They expect and demand "quid quo pro".



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