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The Prince Essay, Research Paper

Niccol Machiavelli’s The Prince is a blunt political pamphlet concerning the various kinds of principalities, military affairs, the qualities of a Prince, and Machiavelli’s views on Italy’s political status during the Renaissance. Machiavelli uses many specific examples throughout the text both ancient and current to Renaissance era.

To understand the book more completely and Machiavelli’s reasons for writing The Prince, it is necessary to understand Machiavelli’s life and the times he lived in. When Niccolo Machiavelli was born in the spring of 1469, Italy had attained a high spot in the European community, but it would not last. By the time Machiavelli had reached the age of twenty-five, King Charles VIII of France had driven the ruling Medici family out of the city of Florence, the last resisting Italian principality. The Florentines would not stand for this; they ousted the new ruler out of the city and founded the Florentine republic. Machiavelli soon started work as clerk under Adriani, head of the Second Chancery. Four years past by and in 1498, Machiavelli became Chief Secretary of the Florentine Republic, and then later that year, he succeeded Adriani as head of the Second Chancery.

While in this position as Chief Secretary, he went on many diplomatic missions and observed many foreign governments in action. From these experiences, Machiavelli would later draw the conclusions, he writes about in The Prince. He was entrusted with numerous missions to France, ally of the Florentine republic, to meet with King Louis XII in the years 1500, 1504, and 1510. In 1502, Niccol Machiavelli married Marietta Corsini and traveled to Romagna, where he observed the incidents that led to the murder of Cesare Borgia. Machiavelli’s study of Cesare Borgia, his actions and the events leading to his death greatly influenced his political beliefs. Machiavelli returned to Florence in January of 1503, later that year he witnessed the election of Pope Julius II. In December of 1506, Machiavelli submitted his plan to organize a Florentine militia to Pierre Soderini, leader of the Florentine republic. Soderini accepted his request and created the Nove di Miliz. After organizing the Florentine infantry, Machiavelli envoyed in 1507 to meet with Emperor Maximilian II, who was preparing his invasion of Italy. The Florentine militia fought at the capture of Pisa in 1509. Machiavelli went on his last mission to France in 1510. Pope Julius II allied himself with Spain and Venice, together they conquered France, the Florentine’s ally. Then in 1512, the Spanish army invaded Florence and defeated the Florentine militia. The Medici family returned to power and deponed Machiavelli from his station. The Medici family accused Machiavelli of participation in a conspiracy against them; they imprisoned him for a small time. After the election of Giovanni de Medici to the papacy as Leo X, they released Machiavelli.

Machiavelli retired to a small farm in San Casciano, where he would write his arguments on politics. He began writing The Prince and his other lesser known work The Discourses in 1513. In 1515, he wrote a comedy, La Mandragola, a satire on seduction. The Medici family consulted Machiavelli in 1519 on a new Florentine constitution. In 1520, he wrote The Life of Castruccio Castracani, a narrative essay on the life of man, who founded the state of Lucca in Tuscany, in the fourteenth century. Machiavelli published seven books in 1521 entitled The Art of War. The seven books contain Machiavelli’s ideas on war tactics and the superiority of national troops over mercenaries. The Medici family used Machiavelli’s services again in 1525; they commissioned him to write The History of Florence. A year later in 1526, Pope Clement VII, a Medici, contracted Machiavelli to survey the defenses at Florence and then sent him to meet with historian Francesco Guicciardini. In 1527, the imperial army invaded and defiled Rome. Following this desecration of Rome, the Florentines removed the Medici from power and established a second republic. Machiavelli did not return to office, for he was a suspected ally of the Medici. He became very ill and died June 20, 1527. Niccolo Machiavelli is honorably buried at Santa Croce, the church of Florence.

The first several chapters of The Prince explicate the four types of princedoms and the methods in which they are acquired. Chapter I states that all governments are either republics or princedoms. From there, all princedoms are hereditary, mixed, new, or ecclesiastical. Then, Machiavelli goes on to say that hereditary princedoms are easily maintained, granted that the prince not diverge from his ancestors policies. Mixed princedoms arise when hereditary princedoms acquire new territories. These princedoms are not as easily kept, for two reasons. The first is that the people will replace their leader if they feel it would better conditions. Machiavelli gives five defenses for this situation. The first and best is to reside in the new province. Secondly, a prince should set up colonies to serve as connections to the mother country. A prince should then become the chief defender of the less puissant adjacent territories. Then, he should weaken his more powerful neighbors. For no reason, should a prince allow any foreign power to enter the province. The second reason mixed princedoms are hard to maintain is a prince cannot satisfy the anticipations of those who helped him take over, and he does not want to use excessive actions because he requires the backing of the people.

Chapter IV is entitled Why the Kingdom of Darius, Conquered by Alexander, Did Not, On Alexander’s Death, Rebel Against His Successors, the answer to the question lies in the different style in which the state was governed. The Kingdom of Darius was ruled in an autocratic style common to Asia during Alexander the Great’s time unlike the feudal system common to Europe. This autocratic style was present in the Kingdom of Turkey during Machiavelli’s time, where in Turkey the prince is the master of everyone and everything. Everyone is his slave; he transfers his governors around at a whim. This form of government is difficult to conquer because everyone who assists the king is dependent upon him, but is easily maintain after the prince’s family is subjugated. The precise inverse is the feudal system in the Kingdom of France where the nobles are loved by their own people and the king would only depone a noble at his own risk. Conquering a feudal government like this is easily done, when the nobles are turned against the king.

There are three methods to retaining a newly acquired territory. The first and most definite, is to destroy it. The second is for the prince to go and reside there. Thirdly, the prince may elect to allow the territory to live under its own laws. This method is not the surest way, although it keeps the people happy. The only way to be sure is to first, destroy it, and second, reside in it.

Chapter VI – IX clarify the four types of new princedoms, grouped by how they are acquired. When a prince acquires a new princedom by his own arms, the difficulty of maintaining his station depends solely upon his ability. Although good fortune may be involved, fortune is worthless without virtue. Princes who acquire their princedoms by the aid of others and good fortune, do not maintain power easily. The best of example of this is Cesare Borgia, whose father, Alexander VI, aided Cesare in conquering Romagna. However, when his father died and Julius II became pope, Borgia was ruined. Princedoms that are acquired through wickedness bring only disrepute to their princes not honors. Civic princedoms can be attained in two manners, by the support of the people or by the assistance of the nobles. Those princes, who come to power by the assistance of the nobles, are less powerful than those who come to power by the love of the people are. For the nobles think they are equal with the prince, but the people are his loving subjects, ready at his command.

Chapter X introduces military affairs, especially military might as the measure of the strength of the state. Princes need to have strong armies and those who do not need strong defenses and abundant supplies. Machiavelli asserts that military power alone is not adequate, a prince must have the love of his people. For a prince loved by his people and that has strong fortifications can outlast any siege attempt.

Ecclesiastical princedoms are governed by religious ordinances. These religious states often have immense secular power. They are troublesome to take over, but easily maintain thereafter, for they prince derives his power from a higher being in the eyes of his followers. The pope, during Machiavelli’s time, was not only a religious leader, but also an enterprising secular prince. The papacy lost some of its secular power after the reformation in the early 1500’s.

Chapters XII – XIV deal with the types of soldiers, Machiavelli’s distrust towards mercenaries, and the obligations of prince involving the military. The four types of soldiers mentioned by Machiavelli are mercenaries, auxiliary, native, and mixed. Machiavelli considers mercenary and auxiliary troops to be useless and dangerous. He maintains that mercenaries will give way in the moment of trial on the battlefield. Auxiliary troops should not be relied on either, due to the fact they not under the direct rule of the prince. Native troops, whether they are the citizens of a republic or the subjects of a princedom, make the best choice. They fight for national causes not a meager wage or an ally. Mixed troops result from blending mercenary and national troops. Mixed troops are better than mercenaries or auxiliary troops, but native troops are incomparable. Machiavelli blames the foreign domination of Italy on the use of mercenaries that were hired to stop Charles VIII in 1494. War is the great equalizer, it can allow a prince to maintain his princedom, and can raise an average man to a seat of power. A prince should study the history of war, imitate the actions of victors, and examine the reasons for defeat.

Chapter XV begins the section of the book dealing with the qualities of a prince. Princes are people; they have good and bad qualities. Machiavelli points this out, he understands their will never be an ideal person. Machiavelli suggests that princes should strive to show those qualities, which would help him maintain his state, and curtail those qualities that would deprive him of his state.

A prince should not be liberal because it requires heavy taxation of the people to maintain the reputation of being liberal. The people will slowly start to dislike the prince, as he requires more taxes. On the other hand, if a prince is miserly, as his princedom grows, he will require less and less taxation on the people. He will present himself, as increasingly liberal and gain favor with is people.

The quality of mercifulness is not an adverse quality for a prince, but he should be alert as not let anyone abuse his mercy. Cruelty can be used for good, like when Cesare Borgia unified Romagna. Cesare Borgia’s cruelty restored Romagna to peace and order, while on the contrary the Florentine’s mercy allowed Pistoia to be destroyed. Princes in the company of soldier should not avoid the reputation of being cruel, because clement generals often lose control of their armies. When a prince uses cruelty, he should do so in a way that he incites fear, but not hatred.

Machiavelli declares that princes are above the moral code for the good of state. Princes must keep a good exterior; they should appear religious and honorable. They must avoid hatred, for a prince who is hated is destined for ruin. A prince should not take property of his subjects or disrespect their women. Princes should maintain a good strong military and good allies to defend from external foes. To protect against conspiracies, he should gain favor with subjects and avoid hatred and disrepute. Machiavelli exhorts the best method to maintain respect for the nobles and to satisfy the people is to create a parliament.

A prince of a new princedom should never disarm his subjects and if he discovers them disarmed, he should arm them. The only instance, in which a prince should disarm his subjects, is just after he has annexed a newly acquired territory. In this instance, he should disarm only his newer subjects to avoid rebellion. A prince should never build a fortress to protect himself from his own subjects. Rather, he should befriend them and avoid hatred.

Chapter XXII presents techniques for a prince to attain admiration and esteem. The first technique is to have an unfaltering foreign policy; an example is Ferdinand of Aragon who unified Spain under the name of Catholicism. A prince can gain a reputation by domestic policy, exemplified by Messer Bernab of Milan, whose domestic policies of rewarding and penalizing attained him a far-reaching reputation. Princes should avoid declaring neutrality; they should be either true ally or true foe. However, a prince should never ally himself with a powerful leader, to avoid becoming his prisoner. A prince should be a patron of the arts and sciences, and encourage his subjects who prosper and add to the greatness of his princedom.

Princes should be very discriminating when they select their secretaries. He should select people who are wise and prudent, who will freely speak their mind, and not flatter him. A prince’s counselors should give advice only when asked, and should tell the truth at all times. Once a prince has heard the advice of his counselors, he should make a decision and carry it out. A prince’s secretaries are significant choices because princes are judged by the people surrounding them. This chapter concerning the choice of secretaries concludes the section of The Prince pertaining to the qualities of a prince.

The last several chapters of the book discuss Machiavelli’s views on Italy’s political situation and his reasons for writing the book. In chapter XXIV, Machiavelli examines the reasons the princes of Italy have lost their princedoms. The first reason given, they all lacked native troops. They hired mercenaries and used auxiliary troops. Their faults have already been stated. The second, the princes did not pacify and befriend their people or they did not limit the power and protect themselves from the nobles. Chapter XXV explains how princes can control their fortune by comparing fortune to a woman. Chapter XXVI, the last chapter, is an essay on how a prince should unite Italy and liberate the Italians from foreign rule

The dedication and last chapter of book define Machiavelli’s motivations for The Prince. Machiavelli dedicated the book to Lorenzo di Piero de’ Medici the Magnificent. He did this to gain favor with Medici family and return the public life in Florence. His second motivation lies in the last chapter, where Machiavelli elucidates his hope that a prince will unite Italy, under one sovereign ruler, as Machiavelli observed on his missions to France. Machiavelli believed that redeemer would come from the Medici family and urges the Medici to use the knowledge from his book to redeem and unite Italy.

Niccol Machiavelli was an intelligent politician who defined the science of politics. His book, The Prince, was the first of its kind. It explores not only the obtaining of power, but also maintaining power, which defines a strong leader from the rest. Machiavelli clearly writes about present human conditions not some ideal utopia. He uses logically arguments, is realistic in his approach, and reveals his deep understanding of the autonomy of politics. Many of his ideas still hold true today, and have proven themselves true in the 20th century.

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