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Article :: Supporting Evidence

Machiavailli Reconsidered

The Prince

by Nicolo Machiavelli


Concerning Mixed Principalities

BUT the difficulties occur in a new principality. And firstly, if it be not entirely new, but is, as it were, a member of a state which, taken collectively, may be called composite, the changes arise chiefly from an inherent difficulty which there is in all new principalities; for men change their rulers willingly, hoping to better themselves, and this hope induces them to take up arms against him who rules: wherein they are deceived, because they afterwards find by experience they have gone from bad to worse. This follows also on another natural and common necessity, which always causes a new prince to burden those who have submitted to him with his soldiery and with infinite other hardships which he must put upon his new acquisition.

In this way you have enemies in all those whom you have injured in seizing that principality, and you are not able to keep those friends who put you there because of your not being able to satisfy them in the way they expected, and you cannot take strong measures against them, feeling bound to them. For, although one may be very strong in armed forces, yet in entering a province one has always need of the goodwill of the natives.[1]

For these reasons Louis XII, King of France, quickly occupied Milan, and as quickly lost it; and to turn him out the first time it only needed Lodovico's own forces; because those who had opened the gates to him, finding themselves deceived in their hopes of future benefit, would not endure the ill-treatment of the new prince. It is very true that, after acquiring rebellious provinces a second time, they are not so lightly lost afterwards, because the prince, with little reluctance, takes the opportunity of the rebellion to punish the delinquents, to clear out the suspects, and to strengthen himself in the weakest places[2]. Thus to cause France to lose Milan the first time it was enough for the Duke Lodovico to raise insurrections on the borders; but to cause him to lose it a second time it was necessary to bring the whole world against him, and that his armies should be defeated and driven out of Italy; which followed from the causes above mentioned.

Nevertheless Milan was taken from France both the first and the second time. The general reasons for the first have been discussed; it remains to name those for the second, and to see what resources he had, and what any one in his situation would have had for maintaining himself more securely in his acquisition than did the King of France.

Now I say that those dominions which, when acquired, are added to an ancient state by him who acquires them, are either of the same country and language, or they are not. When they are, it is easier to hold them, especially when they have not been accustomed to self-government; and to hold them securely it is enough to have destroyed the family of the prince who was ruling them; because the two peoples, preserving in other things the old conditions, and not being unlike in customs, will live quietly together, as one has seen in Brittany, Burgundy, Gascony, and Normandy, which have been bound to France for so long a time: and, although there may be some difference in language, nevertheless the customs are alike, and the people will easily be able to get on amongst themselves. He who has annexed them, if he wishes to hold them, has only to bear in mind two considerations: the one, that the family of their former lord is extinguished; the other, that neither their laws nor their taxes are altered, so that in a very short time they will become entirely one body with the old principality.[3]

But when states are acquired in a country differing in language, customs, or laws, there are difficulties, and good fortune and great energy are needed to hold them, and one of the greatest and most real helps would be that he who has acquired them should go and reside there. This would make his position more secure and durable, as it has made that of the Turk in Greece, who, notwithstanding all the other measures taken by him for holding that state, if he had not settled there, would not have been able to keep it. Because, if one is on the spot, disorders are seen as they spring up, and one can quickly remedy them; but if one is not at hand, they heard of only when they are one can no longer remedy them. Besides this, the country is not pillaged by your officials; the subjects are satisfied by prompt recourse to the prince; thus, wishing to be good, they have more cause to love him, and wishing to be otherwise, to fear him. He who would attack that state from the outside must have the utmost caution; as long as the prince resides there it can only be wrested from him with the greatest difficulty.[4]

The other and better course is to send colonies to one or two places, which may be as keys to that state, for it necessary either to do this or else to keep there a great number of cavalry and infantry. A prince does not spend much on colonies, for with little or no expense he can send them out and keep them there, and he offends a minority only of the citizens from whom he takes lands and houses to give them to the new inhabitants; and those whom he offends, remaining poor and scattered, are never able to injure him; whilst the rest being uninjured are easily kept quiet, and at the same time are anxious not to err for fear it should happen to them as it has to those who have been despoiled. In conclusion, I say that these colonies are not costly, they are more faithful, they injure less, and the injured, as has been said, being poor and scattered, cannot hurt. Upon this, one has to remark that men ought either to be well treated or crushed, because they can avenge themselves of lighter injuries, of more serious ones they cannot; therefore the injury that is to be done to a man ought to be of such a kind that one does not stand in fear of revenge.[5].

But in maintaining armed men there in place of colonies one spends much more, having to consume on the garrison all income from the state, so that the acquisition turns into a loss, and many more are exasperated, because the whole state is injured; through the shifting of the garrison up and down all become acquainted with hardship, and all become hostile, and they are enemies who, whilst beaten on their own ground, are yet able to do hurt. For every reason, therefore, such guards are as useless as a colony is useful.[6]

Again, the prince who holds a country differing in the above respects ought to make himself the head and defender of his powerful neighbours, and to weaken the more powerful amongst them, taking care that no foreigner as powerful as himself shall, by any accident, get a footing there; for it will always happen that such a one will be introduced by those who are discontented, either through excess of ambition or through fear, as one has seen already. The Romans were brought into Greece by the Aetolians; and in every other country where they obtained a footing they were brought in by the inhabitants. And the usual course of affairs is that, as soon as a powerful foreigner enters a country, all the subject states are drawn to him, moved by the hatred which they feel against the ruling power. So that in respect to these subject states he has not to take any trouble to gain them over to himself, for the whole of them quickly rally to the state which he has acquired there. He has only to take care that they do not get hold of too much power and too much authority, and then with his own forces, and with their goodwill, he can easily keep down the more powerful of them, so as to remain entirely master in the country. And he who does not properly manage this business will soon lose what he has acquired, and whilst he does hold it he will have endless difficulties and troubles.

The Romans, in the countries which they annexed, observed closely these measures; they sent colonies and maintained friendly relations with the minor powers, without increasing their strength; they kept down the greater, and did not allow any strong foreign powers to gain authority. Greece appears to me sufficient for an example. The Achaeans and Aetolians were kept friendly by them, the kingdom of Macedonia was humbled, Antiochus was driven out; yet the merits of the Achaeans and Aetolians never secured for them permission to increase their power, nor did the persuasions of Philip ever induce the Romans to be his friends without first humbling him, nor did the influence of Antiochus make them agree that he should retain any lordship over the country. Because the Romans did in these instances what all prudent princes ought to do, who have to regard not only present troubles, but also future ones, for which they must prepare with every energy, because, when foreseen, it is easy to remedy them; but if you wait until they approach, the medicine is no longer in time because the malady has become incurable; for it happens in this, as the physicians say it happens in hectic fever, that in the beginning of the malady it is easy to cure but difficult to detect, but in the course of time, not having been either detected or treated in the beginning, it becomes easy to detect but difficult to cure. Thus it happens in affairs of state, for when the evils that arise have been foreseen (which it is only given to a wise man to see), they can be quickly redressed, but when, through not having been foreseen, they have been permitted to grow in a way that every one can see them. there is no longer a remedy. Therefore, the Romans, foreseeing troubles, dealt with them at once, and, even to avoid a war, would not let them come to a head, for they knew that war is not to be avoided, but is only put off to the advantage of others; moreover they wished to fight with Philip and Antiochus in Greece so as not to have to do it in Italy; they could have avoided both, but this they did not wish; nor did that ever please them which is for ever in the mouths of the wise ones of our time:— Let us enjoy the benefits of the time — but rather the benefits of their own valour and prudence, for time drives everything before it, and is able to bring with it good as well as evil, and evil as well as good.[7]

But let us turn to France and inquire whether she has done any of the things mentioned. I will speak of Louis [XII] (and not of Charles [VIII]) as the one whose conduct is the better to be observed, he having held possession of Italy for the longest period; and you will see that he has done the opposite to those things which ought to be done to retain a state composed of divers elements.

King Louis was brought into Italy by the ambition of the Venetians, who desired to obtain half the state of Lombardy by his intervention. I will not blame the course taken by the king, because, wishing to get a foothold in Italy, and having no friends there — seeing rather that every door was shut to him owing to the conduct of Charles — he was forced to accept those friendships which he could get, and he would have succeeded very quickly in his design if in other matters he had not made some mistakes. The king, however, having acquired Lombardy, regained at once the authority which Charles had lost: Genoa yielded; the Florentines became his friends; the Marquess of Mantua, the Duke of Ferrara, the Bentivoglio, my lady of Forli, the Lords of Faenza, of Pesaro, of Rimini, of Camerino, of Piombino, the Lucchesi, the Pisans, the Sienese — everybody made advances to him to become his friend. Then could the Venetians realize the rashness of the course taken by them, which, in order that they might secure two towns in Lombardy, had made the king master of two-thirds of Italy.

Let any one now consider with what little difficulty the king could have maintained his position in Italy had he observed the rules above laid down, and kept all his friends secure and protected; for although they were numerous they were both weak and timid, some afraid of the Church, some of the Venetians, and thus they would always have been forced to stand in with him, and by their means he could easily have made himself secure against those who remained powerful. But he was no sooner in Milan than he did the contrary by assisting Pope Alexander to occupy the Romagna. It never occurred to him that by this action he was weakening himself, depriving himself of friends and those who had thrown themselves into his lap, whilst he aggrandized the Church by adding much temporal power to the spiritual, thus giving it great authority. And having committed this prime error, he was obliged to follow it up, so much so that, to put an end to the ambition of Alexander, and to prevent his becoming the master of Tuscany, he was himself forced to come into Italy.

And as if it were not enough to have aggrandized the Church, and deprived himself friends, he, wishing to have the kingdom of Naples, divides it with the King of Spain, and where he was the prime arbiter of Italy he takes an associate, so that the ambitious of that country and the malcontents of his own should have where to shelter; and whereas he could have left in the kingdom his own pensioner as king, he drove him out, to put one there who was able to drive him, Louis, out in turn.

The wish to acquire is in truth very natural and common, and men always do so when they can, and for this they will be praised not blamed; but when they cannot do so, yet wish to do so by any means, then there is folly and blame. Therefore, if France could have attacked Naples with her own forces she ought to have done so; if she could not, then she ought not to have divided it. And if the partition which she made with the Venetians in Lombardy was justified by the excuse that by it she got a foothold in Italy, this other partition merited blame, for it had not the excuse of that necessity.

Therefore Louis made these five errors: he destroyed the minor powers, he increased the strength of one of the greater powers in Italy, he brought in a foreign power, he did not settle in the country, he did not send colonies. Which errors, if he had lived, were not enough to injure him had he not made a sixth by taking away their dominions from the Venetians; because, had he not aggrandized the Church, nor brought Spain into Italy, it would have been very reasonable and necessary to humble them; but having first taken these steps, he ought never to have consented to their ruin, for they, being powerful, would always have kept off others from designs on Lombardy, to which the Venetians would never have consented except to become masters themselves there; also because the others would not wish to take Lombardy from France in order to give it to the Venetians, and to run counter to both they would not have had the courage.[8]

And if any one should say: King Louis yielded the Romagna to Alexander and the kingdom to Spain to avoid war, I answer for the reasons given above that a blunder ought never be perpetrated to avoid war, because it is not to be avoided, but is only deferred to your disadvantage. And if another should allege the pledge which the king had given to the Pope that he would assist him in the enterprise, in exchange for the dissolution of his marriage and for the hat to Rouen, to that I reply what I shall write later on concerning the faith of princes, and how it ought to be kept.

Thus King Louis lost Lombardy by not having followed any of the conditions observed by those who have taken possession of countries and wished to retain them. Nor is there any miracle in this, but much that is reasonable and quite natural. And on these matters I spoke at Nantes with Rouen, when Valentino, 1 as Cesare Borgia, the son of Pope Alexander, was usually called, occupied the Romagna, and on Cardinal Rouen observing to me that the Italians did not understand war, I replied to him that the French did not understand statecraft, meaning that otherwise they would not have allowed the Church to reach such greatness. And in fact it has been seen that the greatness of the Church and of Spain in Italy has been caused by France, and her ruin may be attributed to them. From this a general rule is drawn which never or rarely fails: that he who is the cause of another becoming powerful is ruined; because that predominancy has been brought about either by astuteness or else by force, and both are distrusted by him who has been raised to power.[9]

1. So called — in Italian — from the duchy of Valentinois, conferred on him by Louis XII.

  • A mixed principality as a principality that adds on a new piece of land acquired through acquisition.
  • Assuming discontent, people willingly take up arms against the current ruler, in support of a new ruler in hopes of bettering themselves.
  • Those whom support the new ruler are inevitably deceived by promises (lies) the new ruler cannot possibly keep, going from bad to worse. This is because the new ruler is burdened with the costs of conquest and consolidation of power, meaning that supporters cannot be rewarded, rather must pay these extra costs by increased servitude.
  • In siezing control of a new principality a ruler offends the people he has conquored and he offends friends who supported him because he cannot keep his promises which secured their support.
  • Cannot take strong measures against previous supporters who resist your rule and tribute because of your debt to them.
  • Independent of how strong you are in arms, you always need goodwill of the natives.
  • After losing a new province to rebellion, it is easir to re-acquire and hold the second time due to experience (failure is the mother of success) and the rebellion offers an excuse to deal harshly with dissenters, delinquints and suspects and to strengthen known weak points.
  • It is easier to rule a new acquisition if it has the same language and culture, especially if they are not accustomed to self-rule (freedom) than not. In such an acquisition, it is sufficient to exterminate the ruling class, and not make major changes to laws and taxes, since the rest of the people are already adapted to servitude.
  • Subduing and holding territories with different cultures, language and laws is fraught with peril. It is best if the ruler moves to the territory to better become aware of and manage difficulties as they arise. Further, this allows controlling the pillaging of officials and the serfs, having direct access to the prince for grievences can be under the perception, true or not that they matter, reducing discontent.
  • Another option is to send colonies to key control regions of the state. If you do not do this, the only alternative is a large standing army
  • Colonies are very economically efficient. Land and property can be siezed from local power holders and distributed to colonists. Only this minor percentage of the population is offended and they are made poor, scattered and powerless. The remainder of the population, being unharmed are easily controlled and remain in fear that, should they dissent, they too will be impoverished.
  • In the treatment of subjects there are only two options: pamper them and make them dependent or, crush them such that they are unable to rise again and seek revenge.
  • If you opt for standing armies to subdue a state, you face very expensive ongoing costs. which must be borne by the entire state, vexing everyone. Also, rotation of the garrison causes further hardship and hate in the state. Even though your enemies are beaten on their own ground, hate will inflame them to do what harm they can. Standing armies are worse than useless.
  • A ruler controlling a state differing in language, culture and laws also need to see to external threats, by becoming the head and defender of neighbors whom are turned into subject states. No neighboring state should be tolerated to be as powerful as his, the stronger ones should be weakened. Discontented powers will attempt to invite foreign powers, to relieve themselves of you. Care should be taken that no power capable of challenging you gains a foothold. If such a power gains a foothold, all subject states will rally to it, to relieve themselves of you. It is a waste of time to attempt to win them over, they will abandon you. Weakening the stronger of the subject states will meet with approval since the stronger prey on the weaker. This will allow you to be master in the region. Fail at this and either lose rule or face endless difficulties and woes.
  • Princes should be prudent, not only dealing with present problems, but paying careful attention to detect future problems while they are still small and manageable, lest they grow unseen to unmanageable, costly or incurable proportions.
  • The desire to acquire is natural to man. When they wish to do so by any means, but cannot, there is folly and blame
  • A blunder should never be committed to avoid war, since war is inevitable and, once the time is ripe for war, any delay is to your disadvantage, allowing the enemy to prepare
  • He who is the cause of another becoming powerful is ruined; because that predominancy has been brought about either by astuteness or else by force, and both are distrusted by him who has been raised to power.

[1]Becoming a new ruler is fraught with peril. The armies and supporters that assisted you did not do so out of the goodness of their hearts. They expect you to keep your promises and reward them. If you promised them "freedom", it will inevitably come to mean "from you and your predations". Invariably, as a ruler, your power will diminish if the costs demanded by your promises are paid out of personal resources, somebody ELSE must pay. Thus begins the perilous balancing act of exactly how much you can reneg on the promises made to supporters and, how much tribute can be extracted from restive populations before they perceive that their survival and self-interests are best served by a "ruler transplant".

[2]A ruler cannot pussyfoot about with risk. He must be ruthlessly paranoid in eliminating all real, suspected and potential opposition, independent of any past allegences and feelings. If he can find them, he must reinforce the ability and will of any allies to assist in ruthless suppression of dissent. Rulers MUST be tyrants and, even that may not be sufficient. Note that Machiavailli is speaking from a time in history before it was unambiguously proven that without "consent of the governed", all is lost to rulers. Today's rulers err in equating "terror of the governed" to "consent of the governed".

[3]This goes back to the fact that people are creatures of habit and, once a "comfort zone", no matter how bad is established, people will fight to maintain it and, if opportunity presents itself, to return to it. It was under this specific advice of Machiavialli that the Bolsheviks in Russia murdered the Tsar, his entire family and as much of the former regieme as could be captured. The communists wanted "no possibility of going back". The communists ignored the "comfort zone" advice of not significantly altering laws nor taxes, to avoid fast, radical change. The resulting "evil empire" USSR followed Machiavailli's tyranny advice, but, this was insufficient. Even if the people are beaten to a pulp, willing slaves, the grim reaper of Mathematics of Rule collapses tyrannies, even when sane survival imperatives of crushed populations is insufficient or lacking.

[4]By recommending that the ruler live among conquored peoples, Machiavailli is speaking of mitigating the "command and control" impossibilities of power hiarchies, the only possible way that the few can attempt to control the many. Real limitations of accurate information transmission between hiarchical boundaries of organizations and unsupervised corruption of those whom exercise delegated power precludes effective choices, at least from the perspective of the ruler. Machiavailli, by advocating the ruler live among conquored peoples is really stating that success is only possible if they whom make the choices are as close to "boots on the ground" (the real situation), as possible. Apparently, Machiavailli intuitively knew the impossibility of distant (physically and/or envirionmentrally) "command and control" as proven by Intelligent Choice. He then proceeds to discuss the only two command / control alternatives to local ruler presence; colonies or garrisons.

There is some speculation, in historical circles that Machiavailli (as a closet Republican, perhaps the first libertarion) intentionally omitted the downside to this advice which is: the ruler, by leaving his main power base, makes his power base and himself vulnerable to enemies and defeat, which, a close reading of "The Prince" reveals, to Machiavailli was a "good thing", one less ruler. In the circle of strategic thinkers, which Machiavailli undoubtedly was, this is known as the strategic blunder of "dividing your forces", especially when you have different enemies on each front.

[5]Machiavailli recommends colonies as the cheaper (self-sufficient, cost is paid for by plunder of locals) and more effective option for rulers to insert a command / control structure into a conquored region. Inserting a colony involves depriving local elites of their land and property and giving it to a power hiarchy of colonists. This has the effects of destroying locals deprived of wealth and property (power to coerce), keeping the allegiance of colonists and locals not deprived of property lest the ruler change his mind and give their decreed property to other, more willing serfs. An unstated, but key effect of inserting colonists whom acquire local power structures from the dispossessed is that the locals must compromise and trade with the foreign colonists, slowly adapting the indigenious to accept cultural differences and foreign control. Machiavailli recommends those whom are dispossessed be "scattered and crushed", lest they be left with resources and a support base for revenge.

Machiavailli states that there are only two REAL options for the stable rule of men; treat them well (generate dependency and therefore allegence), or, crush them completely (preclude dissent). Unstated is that in the middle ground lies uncertainty and risk of dissent and loss of power.

[6]Garrissons are a dead economic loss. Machiavailli correctly states the costs must be distributed over the entire state, harming and therefore alienating everyone. He further claims that even the garrision is a source of enemies, as it is "shifted up and down" and members of the garrison and the armanents industries lose power during downsizing. In contemporary terms, this is why the Military Industrial Complex (MIC) was not downsized with the implosion of the USSR, yielding the expected peace dividend. Rather, a new, intentionally vague and non-solvable threat, the "war of terror" sprang up, fully formed, to make the MIC appear "of use", dealing with problems the MIC has itself created (blowback from their victims), where victim self-defense is falsely framed as "offense" and "bought" by a very gullable public. Further unstated is the EXACT reason that colonies are more effective than garrisions. Colonies at least offer the possibility of productivity as colonists trade with locals. Garrisons, on the other hand only have force and the threat of force as tools to compel resources from the locals and produces nothing (like states, in general). This garrison imposed servitude destroys the motivational economics and thus possibility of productivity, eventually causing failure of the whole occupation, according to the REAL rules of economics proven by the grim reaper of Mathematics of Rule.

[7]Machiavailli then proceeds to consider the environment and neighbors of conquored regions. He states the ruler, in terms of regional power must be and remain "king of the hill" and not tolerate any other power to rival his. Unstated is the reason for this. If a power is allowed to rival his, an environmental shift occurs where ambitious rival powers see an opportunity, by fortunes of war to move from status of subservience (prey) to predator, occupying the ruler's "king of the hill" position. The advice is to tolerate weaker regional powers (provides mutually beneficial trade opportunities), but do not tolerate them to increase power or cooperate with other powers, risking a dissenting alliance. Any potential competing regional power must be immediately dealt with and deprived of power, since it is just a matter of time before war (equally matched opponents, each, by the predatory nature of rulers, seeking to be "king of the hill") occurs. Time favors the quick and brave and allows rivals to fortify themselves, making pursuit of the inevitable war far more expensive and risky. Unstated also is that these power principles apply for all of mankind, from the micro to macro, leading the the "neccessity" of "rule by divide and conquor" domestically and internationally. Note that "rule by divide and conquor" (unequal treatment, by law) explicitly REQUIRES the Rule of Law to exist in perception (pretext), but NOT to exist in reality. The Prince was written prior to "Rule of Law", by an anarchist, for anarchists "in control" and intending to remain so.

[8]King Louis [XII] of France was greedy, stupid and broke all of the REAL rules above which determines outcome by behaving in a manner that alienated the indifferent and his supporters while strengthening his rivals whom were also enemies of his supporters. It has a reasonable chance of success to enter into a power sharing arrangement to gain a toe-hold in a region where you have no power, an increase in power. You can always reneg and betray said allies, taking their power. It is a fatal strategic error to empower and ally with those those of sufficient power who can, must and therefore will reneg on any agreement, as you can and must also. Such alliances are unstable and costly in the long run. Among anarchistic powers, it is "every man for himself", any peace is just the "calm before the storm" and risk of a significant loss of power when the inevitable reneg happens.

[9]Basic truth: "he who is the cause of another becoming powerful is ruined". Is confirmed by basic Rule of Law fact: Can only achieve any real goal by some combination of force, fraud and mutually agreed trade. Those whom become powerful really means "superior in force", so, of course they are "master predator" and all others, including you are "prey", to be ruined. This is the reason that distrust and safeguards against "arbitrary power" is inherent in the US Constitution, now rationalized away to "just a goddamn piece of paper" by the US executive, legislative and judicial branches which have slipped the leash of control by honest and objective law. Now, control is according to "natural law" which is slowly but surely smiteing the hubris of arbitrary power which follows Machiavailli's sage advice when it suits them and, ignores it when it does not suit their short term "smash and grab" perspective. The REAL consequences of these crimes to humanity and civilization is incalculable but is dwarfing the effects of all previous "crimes against humanity" by many orders of magnitude.


Darwin Reconsidered


Rule of Law


Mathematics of Rule

Thinking 101:

Intelligent Choice

Bill Ross is an electronic design engineer in Oakland, Ontario, Canada. The above article is either an excerpt from, supporting evidence for or logical implication of HumanNature, an evolving objective study of humanity and civilization and dissection of the lies of those who incorrectly believe they are in control from the factual, provable perspective. Feedback is welcome. Email Author

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