The Book that Defined the Man.Presley Ashley.
European History to 1715.November 17, 2014Niccolo di Bernardo dei Marchiavelli is considered the father of modern political theory.1 The term Machiavellianism was derived from his name and according to the Oxford Dictionary means: “The principles and practice of Machiavelli or of Machiavellians; cunning, unscrupulousness, or duplicity in behavior (esp. in politics); an instance of this.” In other words, Machiavellianism describes a person who would do anything to gain and keep power.2 Marchiavelli was a statesman in Florence during the Renaissance and traveled throughout Europe on diplomatic missions. During his life, the Italian peninsula endured many political conflicts. Each city – state in the peninsula attempted to protect itself by playing larger powers against each other, which resulted in massive political scheming, blackmail, and violence.
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3 Due to this turmoil, Marchiavelli lost his statesman position and was banished to his estate. During this period, he wrote The Prince.4 In The Prince Machiavelli discussed war and how princes should be prepared for war. He said in order for a prince to insure his power he must be able to defend himself. Therefore, in times of peace, a prince must study the art of war and hone his military prowess. Machiavelli felt this would help princes become better prepared for when war occurred.5 He preached neutrality whenever two other nations went to war against each other thereby not making enemies of neither side.
The only reason you should get involved in another’s war was if it was dishonorable not to do so. Machiavelli said the trouble in the Italian peninsula was due to the way the Italian princes’ fought.6 The princes’ used mercenaries or quickly recruited armies to fight. The problem with mercenary armies was they worked for whom ever paid the most; therefore, they could change sides in the middle of a war.
Quickly recruited armies were not much better. While they might not leave half way through the war, they were poorly prepared for battle and could easily be defeated by a properly trained army.7He emphasized the importance of the people to the success of the prince’s rule.
In chapter six, Machiavelli laid out the point that a prince must be able to hold power over the minds of the people to survive. He referenced Savaronola, the Dominican friar, who practically ruled Florence through his preaching. When the people stopped listening to Savaronola, he lost all of his power and was burned.
8 To protect his lands a prince must have good fortifications and the support of the people. It is hard for an outside force to conquer a “Prince whose town is strongly fortified and who is not hated by his subjects.”9 This point was illustrated well when he said, “A Prince, therefore, who has a strong city, and who does not make himself hated, cannot be attacked.”10 Therefore, the nobility was important, because they led the defense of the fortifications.
However, the people were more important because their support was paramount to the defense of the lands.11 Machiavelli laid out two types of principalities: hereditary and new principalities. Hereditary was the easiest to hold on to because the prince’s family was already well established. New principalities were harder to hold on to because the prince had to establish his power. When a person took over a new principality, he had to make changes.
12 Those who do not like the changes will be much more vocal than those who like the changes. Therefore, the prince must use force to quell the discontent. His references were “Moses, Cyrus, Romulus, (and) Theseus.”13 He cited these individuals as examples of men who ruled new principalities and used force to hold on to their power.14Cruelty was mentioned regularly in his book.
Machiavelli said a prince should refrain from cruelty except when it was necessary, and the prince must not be cruel without a good reason. He then described two types of cruelty: justified and unjustified cruelty. Justified cruelty was used for a defined period as a way to achieve a goal that was for the good of the nation.
15 In “The Prince” he defined it as: cruelty “employed, if it be permitted to speak well of things evil, which are done once for all under the necessity of self-preservation, and are not afterwards persisted in, but so far as possible modified to the advantage of the governed.”16 Unjustified cruelty was cruelty, which did not lead to the betterment of the nation and was used regularly without good reason. He defined it as cruelty “which from small beginnings increase rather than diminish with time.”17