Read an Excerpt
How Many Are the Kinds of Principalities and in What Modes They Are Acquired
All states, all dominions that have held and do hold empire over men have been and are either republics or principalities. The principalities are either hereditary, in which the bloodline of their lord has been their prince for a long time, or they are new. The new ones are either altogether new, as was Milan to Francesco Sforza, or they are like members added to the hereditary state of the prince who acquires them, as is the kingdom of Naples to the king of Spain. Dominions so acquired are either accustomed to living under a prince or used to being free; and they are acquired either with the arms of others or with one's own, either by fortune or by virtue.
Of Hereditary Principalities
I shall leave out reasoning on republics because I have reasoned on them at length another time. I shall address myself only to the principality, and shall proceed by weaving together the threads mentioned above; and I shall debate how these principalities may be governed and maintained.
I say, then, that in hereditary states accustomed to the bloodline of their prince the difficulties in maintaining them are much less than in new states because it is enough only not to depart from the order of his ancestors, and then to temporize in the face of accidents. In this way, if such a prince is of ordinary industry, he will always maintain himself in his state unless there is an extraordinary and excessive force which deprives him of it; and should he be deprived of it, if any mishap whatever befalls the occupier, he reacquires it.
We have in Italy, for example, the duke of Ferrara, who, for no other cause than that his line was ancient in that dominion, did not succumb to the attacks of the Venetians in '84, nor to those of Pope Julius in '10. For the natural prince has less cause and less necessity to offend; hence it is fitting that he be more loved. And if extraordinary vices do not make him hated, it is reasonable that he will naturally have the good will of his own. In the antiquity and continuity of the dominion the memories and causes of innovations are eliminated; for one change always leaves a dentation for the building of another.
Of Mixed Principalities
But the difficulties reside in the new principality First, if it is not altogether new but like an added member (so that taken as a whole it can be called almost mixed), its instability arises in the first place from a natural difficulty that exists in all new principalities. This is that men willingly change their lords in the belief that they will fare better: this belief makes them take up arms against him, in which they are deceived because they see later by experience that they have done worse. That follows from another natural and ordinary necessity which requires that one must always offend those over whom he becomes a new prince, both with men-at-arms and with infinite other injuries that the new acquisition brings in its wake. So you have as enemies all those whom you have offended in seizing that principality, and you cannot keep as friends those who have put you there because you cannot satisfy them in the mode they had presumed and because you cannot use strong medicines against them, since you are obligated to them. For even though one may have the strongest of armies, he always needs the support of the inhabitants of a province in order to enter it. Through these causes Louis XII of France quickly occupied Milan, and quickly lost it; and Ludovico's own forces were enough to take it from him the first time. For those people which had opened the gates to him, finding themselves deceived in their opinion and in that future good they had presumed for themselves, were unable to tolerate the vexations of the new prince.
It is indeed true that when countries that have rebelled are later acquired for the second time, they are lost with more difficulty, because the lord, seizing the opportunity offered by the rebellion, is less hesitant to secure himself by punishing offenders, exposing suspects, and providing for himself in the weakest spots. So it was that, if one Duke Ludovico stirring up a commotion at the borders was enough to make France lose Milan the first time, to make him then lose it the second time, the whole world had to be against him, and his armies eliminated or chased from Italy: this arises from the causes given above. Nonetheless, both the first and the second times it was taken from him.
The universal causes of the first have been discussed; it remains now to say what were the causes of the second, and to see what remedies there were to him, which someone in his situation could use so as to maintain himself better in his acquisition than France did. Now I say, that such states which, when acquired, are added to an ancient state of him who acquires them, are either of the same province and same language, or not. When they are, they may be held with great ease, especially if they are not used to living free; and to possess them securely it is enough to have eliminated the line of the prince whose dominions they were. For when their old conditions are maintained for them in other things and there is no disparity of customs, men live quietly — as it may be seen that Burgundy, Brittany, Gascony, and Normandy, which have been with France for so long a time, have done; and although there may be some disparity of language, nonetheless the customs are similar, and they can easily bear with one another. And whoever acquires them, if he wants to hold them, must have two concerns: one, that the bloodline of their ancient prince be eliminated; the other, not to alter either their laws or their taxes: so that in a very short time it becomes one whole body with their ancient principality.
But when one acquires states in a province disparate in language, customs, and orders, here are the difficulties, and here one needs to have great fortune and great industry to hold them; and one of the greatest and quickest remedies would be for whoever acquires it to go there to live in person. This would make that possession more secure and more lasting, as the Turk has done in Greece. Despite all the other orders observed by him so as to hold that state, if he had not gone there to live, it would not have been possible for him to hold it. For if you stay there, disorders may be seen as they arise, and you can soon remedy them; if you are not there, disorders become understood when they are great and there is no longer a remedy. Besides this, the province is not despoiled by your officials; the subjects are satisfied with ready access to the prince, so that they have more cause to love him if they want to be good and, if they want to be otherwise, more cause to fear him. Whatever outsider might want to attack that state has more hesitation in doing so; hence, when one lives in it, one can lose it with the greatest difficulty.
The other, better remedy is to send colonies that are, as it were, fetters of that state, to one or two places, because it is necessary either to do this or to hold them with many men-at-arms and infantry. One does not spend much on colonies, and without expense of one's own, or with little, one may send them and hold them; and one offends only those from whom one takes fields and houses in order to give them to new inhabitants — who are a very small part of that state. And those whom he offends, since they remain dispersed and poor, can never harm him, while all the others remain on the one hand unhurt, and for this they should be quiet; on the other, they are afraid to err from fear that what happened to the despoiled might happen to them. I conclude that such colonies are not costly, are more faithful, and less offensive; and those who are offended can do no harm, since they are poor and dispersed as was said. For this has to be noted: that men should either be caressed or eliminated, because they avenge themselves for slight offenses but cannot do so for grave ones; so the offense one does to a man should be such that one does not fear revenge for it. But when one holds a state with men-at-arms in place of colonies, one spends much more since one has to consume all the income of that state in guarding it. So the acquisition turns to loss, and one offends much more because one harms the whole state as one's army moves around for lodgings. Everyone feels this hardship, and each becomes one's enemy: and these are enemies that can harm one since they remain, though defeated, in their homes. From every side, therefore, keeping guard in this way is as useless as keeping guard by means of colonies is useful.
Whoever is in a province that is disparate, as was said, should also make himself head and defender of the neighboring lesser powers, and contrive to weaken the powerful in that province and to take care that through some accident a foreigner as powerful as he does not enter there. And it will always turn out that a foreigner will be brought in by those in the province who are malcontent either because of too much ambition or out of fear, as once the Aetolians were seen to bring the Romans into Greece; and in every other province they entered, they were brought in by its inhabitants. And the order of things is such that as soon as a powerful foreigner enters a province, all those in it who are less powerful adhere to him, moved by the envy they have against whoever has held power over them. So with respect to these lesser powers, he has no trouble in gaining them, because all together they quickly and willingly make one mass with the state that he has acquired there. He has only to worry that these lesser powers may get too much force and too much authority; and with his forces and their support he can easily put down those who are powerful, so as to remain arbiter of that province in everything. And whoever does not conduct this policy well will soon lose what he has acquired, and while he holds it, will have infinite difficulties and vexations within it.
The Romans observed these policies well in the provinces they took. They sent out colonies, indulged the lesser powers without increasing their power, put down the powerful, and did not allow foreign powers to gain reputation there. And I want the province of Greece alone to suffice as an example. The Achaeans and the Aetolians were indulged by the Romans; the kingdom of the Macedonians was brought down and Antiochus was chased out. Nor did the merits of the Achaeans or those of the Aetolians make the Romans permit them to increase any state of theirs; nor did the persuasions of Philip ever induce them to be his friends without putting him down; nor could the power of Antiochus make them consent to his holding any state in that province. For the Romans did in these cases what all wise princes should do: they not only have to have regard for present troubles but also for future ones, and they have to avoid these with all their industry because, when one foresees from afar, one can easily find a remedy for them but when you wait until they come close to you, the medicine is not in time because the disease has become incurable. And it happens with this as the physicians say of consumption, that in the beginning of the illness it is easy to cure and difficult to recognize, but in the progress of time, when it has not been recognized and treated in the beginning, it becomes easy to recognize and difficult to cure. So it happens in affairs of state, because when one recognizes from afar the evils that arise in a state (which is not given but to one who is prudent), they are soon healed; but when they are left to grow because they were not recognized, to the point that everyone recognizes them, there is no longer any remedy for them.
Thus, the Romans, seeing inconveniences from afar, always found remedies for them and never allowed them to continue so as to escape a war, because they knew that war may not be avoided but is deferred to the advantage of others. So they decided to make war with Philip and Antiochus in Greece in order not to have to do so in Italy; and they could have avoided both one and the other for a time, but they did not want to. Nor did that saying ever please them which is every day in the mouths of the wise men of our times — to enjoy the benefit of time — but rather, they enjoyed the benefit of their virtue and prudence. For time sweeps everything before it and can bring with it good as well as evil and evil as well as good.
But let us return to France and examine whether he has done any of the things spoken of. I will speak of Louis and not of Charles, as the steps of the former, because he held his possession in Italy longer, may be seen better. And you will see that he did the contrary of the things that should be done to hold a state in a disparate province.
King Louis was brought into Italy by the ambition of the Venetians, who wanted to gain half the state of Lombardy for themselves by his coming. I do not want to blame the course adopted by the king; for since he wanted to begin by gaining a foothold in Italy, and having no friends in this province, indeed, having all doors closed to him because of the conduct of King Charles, he was forced to take whatever friendships he could get. And having firmly adopted this course he would have succeeded if in managing other things he had not made some error. Thus, when he had acquired Lombardy, the king regained quickly the reputation that Charles had taken from him: Genoa yielded, and the Florentines became his friends; the marquis of Mantua, duke of Ferrara, Bentivoglio, Madonna of Forlì, the lords of Faenza, of Pesaro, of Rimini, of Camerino, of Piombino, the Luccans, Pisans, and Sienese — everyone came to meet him so as to become his friend. And then the Venetians could consider the temerity of the course they had adopted: to acquire two lands in Lombardy they made the king lord of two-thirds of Italy.
One may now consider with how little difficulty the king could have maintained his reputation in Italy if he had observed the rules written above and had held secure and defended all those friends of his, who, because they were a great number, weak, and fearful — some of the Church, some of the Venetians — were always under a necessity to stay with him; and by their means he could always have secured himself easily against whoever remained great among us. But no sooner was he in Milan than he did the contrary by giving aid to Pope Alexander so that the pope might seize the Romagna. Nor did he notice that with this decision he was weakening himself, stripping himself of his friends and those who had jumped into his lap, while making the Church great by adding so much temporal greatness to the spiritual one that gives it so much authority. And having made the first error, he was compelled to continue, so that to put an end to the ambition of Alexander, and to prevent his becoming lord of Tuscany, he was compelled to come into Italy. It was not enough for him to have made the Church great and to have stripped himself of his friends, but because he wanted the kingdom of Naples, he divided it with the king of Spain. Whereas at first he was the arbiter of Italy, he brought in a companion so that the ambitious ones in that province and those malcontent with him had somewhere to turn; and whereas he could have left in that kingdom a king who was his pensioner, he threw him out so as to bring in one who could expel him.
And truly it is a very natural and ordinary thing to desire to acquire, and always, when men do it who can, they will be praised or not blamed; but when they cannot, and wish to do it anyway, here lie the error and the blame. Thus, if France could have attacked Naples with his own forces, he should have done so; if he could not, he should not have divided Naples. And if the division of Lombardy he made with the Venetians deserves excuse because with it France gained a foothold in Italy, this other one deserves blame because it was not excused by that necessity.
Excerpted from "The Prince"
Copyright © 1998 The University of Chicago.
Excerpted by permission of The University of Chicago Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.