Born: 1469. Died: 1527.
- Wisdom in the ways of the world can be achieved by careful observation of how people act an a study of history.
- Human nature is such that individuals will seek gratification of their listing for power, pleasures, and profit.
- The essential feture of all society struggle and intense competitiveness.
- The wise prince ought to do whatever is expedient to achieve and maintain power.
- Consideration of the dictates of traditional morality and religion are not relevant unless they aid in the enhancement of the goods of a well-ordered society.
- Human excellence is measured in terms of virtu, the capacity of intellect and will to act with dynamic vitality.
- The most vital states are those republics whose citizens enjoy the maximum freedom to be masters of their own destiny.
Machiavelli was born in Florence on 3rd May 1469. He was the second son of Bernardo di Niccolo Machiavelli, a lawyer of some repute, and of Bartolommea di Stefano Nelli, his wife. Both parents were members of the old Florentine nobility.
From 1494 to 1512 he held an official post at Florence which included diplomatic missions to various European courts. Machiavelli was briefly imprisoned in Florence in 1512, was later exiled and returned to San Casciano.
His youth was concurrent with the greatness of Florence as an Italian power under the guidance of Lorenzo de' Medici, Il Magnifico. The downfall of the Medici in Florence occurred in 1494, in which year Machiavelli entered the public service. During his official career Florence was free under the government of a Republic, which lasted until 1512, when the Medici returned to power, and Machiavelli lost his office. The Medici again ruled Florence from 1512 until 1527, when they were once more driven out. This was the period of Machiavelli's literary activity and increasing influence; but he died, within a few weeks of the expulsion of the Medici, on 22nd June 1527, in his fifty-eighth year, without having regained office.
Although there is little recorded of the youth of Machiavelli, the Florence of those days is so well known that the early environment of this representative citizen may be easily imagined. Florence has been described as a city with two opposite currents of life, one directed by the fervent and austere Savonarola, the other by the splendor-loving Lorenzo. Savonarola's influence upon the young Machiavelli must have been slight, for although at one time he wielded immense power over the fortunes of Florence, he only furnished Machiavelli with a subject of a gibe in The Prince, where he is cited as an example of an unarmed prophet who came to a bad end. Whereas the magnificence of the Medicean rule during the life of Lorenzo appeared to have impressed Machiavelli strongly, for he frequently refers to it in his writings, and it is to Lorenzo's grandson that he dedicates ''The Prince''.
Machiavelli, in his History of Florence, gives us a picture of the young men among whom his youth was passed. He writes: "They were freer than their forefathers in dress and living, and spent more in other kinds of excesses, consuming their time and money in idleness, gaming, and women; their chief aim was to appear well dressed and to speak with wit and acuteness, whilst he who could wound others the most cleverly was thought the wisest." In a letter to his son Guido, Machiavelli shows why youth should avail itself of its opportunities for study, and leads us to infer that his own youth had been so occupied. He writes: "I have received your letter, which has given me the greatest pleasure, especially because you tell me you are quite restored in health, than which I could have no better news; for if God grant life to you, and to me, I hope to make a good man of you if you are willing to do your share." Then, writing of a new patron, he continues: "This will turn out well for you, but it is necessary for you to study; since, then, you have no longer the excuse of illness, take pains to study letters and music, for you see what honor is done to me for the little skill I have. Therefore, my son, if you wish to please me, and to bring success and honor to yourself, do right and study, because others will help you if you help yourself."
The second period of Machiavelli's life was spent in the service of the free Republic of Florence, which flourished, as stated above, from the expulsion of the Medici in 1494 until their return in 1512. After serving four years in one of the public offices he was appointed Chancellor and Secretary to the Second Chancery, the Ten of Liberty and Peace. Here we are on firm ground when dealing with the events of Machiavelli's life, for during this time he took a leading part in the affairs of the Republic, and we have its decrees, records, and dispatches to guide us, as well as his own writings. A mere recapitulation of a few of his transactions with the statesmen and soldiers of his time gives a fair indication of his activities, and supplies the sources from which he drew the experiences and characters which illustrate The Prince.
His first mission was in 1499 to Catherina Sforza, "my lady of Forli" of The Prince, from whose conduct and fate he drew the moral that it is far better to earn the confidence of the people than to rely on fortresses. This is a very noticeable principle in Machiavelli, and is urged by him in many ways as a matter of vital importance to princes.
In 1500 he was sent to France to obtain terms from Louis XII for continuing the war against Pisa: this king it was who, in his conduct of affairs in Italy, committed the five capital errors in statecraft summarized in The Prince, and was consequently driven out. He, also, it was who made the dissolution of his marriage a condition of support to Pope Alexander VI; which leads Machiavelli to refer those who urge that such promises should be kept to what he has written concerning the faith of princes.
Machiavelli's public life was largely occupied with events arising out of the ambitions of Pope Alexander VI and his son, Cesare Borgia, the Duke Valentino, and these characters fill a large space of ''The Prince''. Machiavelli never hesitates to cite the actions of the duke for the benefit of usurpers who wish to keep the states they have seized; he can, indeed, find no precepts to offer so good as the pattern of Cesare Borgia's conduct, insomuch that Cesare is acclaimed by some critics as the "hero" of The Prince. Yet in The Prince the duke is in point of fact cited as a type of the man who rises on the fortune of others, and falls with them; who takes every course that might be expected from a prudent man but the course which will save him; who is prepared for all eventualities but the one which happens; and who, when all his abilities fail to carry him through, exclaims that it was not his fault, but an extraordinary and unforeseen fatality.
On the death of Pope Pius III, in 1503, Machiavelli was sent to Rome to watch the election of his successor, and there he saw Cesare Borgia cheated into allowing the choice of the College to fall on Giuliano delle Rovere (Pope Julius II), who was one of the cardinals that had most reason to fear the duke. Machiavelli, when commenting on this election, says that he who thinks new favors will cause great personages to forget old injuries deceives himself. Julius did not rest until he had ruined Cesare.
It was to Julius II that Machiavelli was sent in 1506, when that pontiff was commencing his enterprise against Bologna; which he brought to a successful issue, as he did many of his other adventures, owing chiefly to his impetuous character. It is in reference to Pope Julius that Machiavelli moralizes on the resemblance between Fortune and women, and concludes that it is the bold rather than the cautious man that will win and hold them both.
It is impossible to follow here the varying fortunes of the Italian states, which in 1507 were controlled by France, Spain, and Germany, with results that have lasted to our day; we are concerned with those events, and with the three great actors in them, so far only as they impinge on the personality of Machiavelli. He had several meetings with Louis XII of France, and his estimate of that monarch's character has already been alluded to. Machiavelli has painted Ferdinand II of Aragon as the man who accomplished great things under the cloak of religion, but who in reality had no mercy, faith, humanity, or integrity; and who, had he allowed himself to be influenced by such motives, would have been ruined. The Emperor Maximilian was one of the most interesting men of the age, and his character has been drawn by many hands; but Machiavelli, who was an envoy at his court in 1507-8, reveals the secret of his many failures when he describes him as a secretive man, without force of character - ignoring the human agencies necessary to carry his schemes into effect, and never insisting on the fulfilment of his wishes.
The remaining years of Machiavelli's official career were filled with events arising out of the League of Cambrai, made in 1508 between the three great European powers already mentioned and the pope, with the object of crushing the Venetian Republic. This result was attained in the Battle of Vaila (now usually known as the Battle of Agnadello), when Venice lost in one day all that she had won in eight hundred years. Florence had a difficult part to play during these events, complicated as they were by the feud which broke out between the pope and the French, because friendship with France had dictated the entire policy of the Republic. When, in 1511, Julius II finally formed the Holy League against France, and with the assistance of the Swiss drove the French out of Italy, Florence lay at the mercy of the Pope, and had to submit to his terms, one of which was that the Medici should be restored. The return of the Medici to Florence on September 1, 1512, and the consequent fall of the Republic, was the signal for the dismissal of Machiavelli and his friends, and thus put an end to his public career, for, as we have seen, he died without regaining office.
On the return of the Medici, Machiavelli, who for a few weeks had vainly hoped to retain his office under the new masters of Florence, was dismissed by decree dated November 7, 1512. Shortly after this he was accused of complicity in an abortive conspiracy against the Medici, imprisoned, and put to the question by torture. The new Medicean people, Pope Leo X, procured his release, and he retired to his small property at San Casciano, near Florence, where he devoted himself to literature. In a letter to Francesco Vettori, dated December 13, 1513, he has left a very interesting description of his life at this period, which elucidates his methods and his motives in writing The Prince. After describing his daily occupations with his family and neighbours, he writes: "The evening being come, I return home and go to my study; at the entrance I pull off my peasant- clothes, covered with dust and dirt, and put on my noble court dress, and thus becomingly re-clothed I pass into the ancient courts of the men of old, where, being lovingly received by them, I am fed with that food which is mine alone; where I do not hesitate to speak with them, and to ask for the reason of their actions, and they in their benignity answer me; and for four hours I feel no weariness, I forget every trouble, poverty does not dismay, death does not terrify me; I am possessed entirely by those great men. And because Dante says:
Knowledge doth come of learning well retained,
I have noted down what I have gained from their conversation, and have composed a small work on 'Principalities,' where I pour myself out as fully as I can in meditation on the subject, discussing what a principality is, what kinds there are, how they can be acquired, how they can be kept, why they are lost: and if any of my fancies ever pleased you, this ought not to displease you: and to a prince, especially to a new one, it should be welcome: therefore I dedicate it to his Magnificence Giuliano. Filippo Casavecchio has seen it; he will be able to tell you what is in it, and of the discourses I have had with him; nevertheless, I am still enriching and polishing it."
The "little book" suffered many vicissitudes before attaining the form in which it has reached us. Various mental influences were at work during its composition; its title and patron were changed; and for some unknown reason it was finally dedicated to Lorenzo II de' Medici. Although Machiavelli discussed with Casavecchio whether it should be sent or presented in person to the patron, there is no evidence that Lorenzo ever received or even read it: he certainly never gave Machiavelli any employment. Although it was plagiarized during Machiavelli's lifetime, The Prince was never published by him, and its text is still disputable.
Machiavelli concludes his letter to Vettori thus: "And as to this little thing (his book), when it has been read it will be seen that during the fifteen years I have given to the study of statecraft I have neither slept nor idled; and men ought ever to desire to be served by one who has reaped experience at the expense of others. And of my loyalty none could doubt, because having always kept faith I could not now learn how to break it; for he who has been faithful and honest, as I have, cannot change his nature; and my poverty is a witness to my honesty."
Before Machiavelli had got The Prince off his hands he commenced his Discourse on the First Decade of Titus Livius, which should be read concurrently with The Prince. These and several minor works occupied him until the year 1518, when he accepted a small commission to look after the affairs of some Florentine merchants at Genoa. In 1519 the Medicean rulers of Florence granted a few political concessions to her citizens, and Machiavelli with others was consulted upon a new constitution under which the Great Council was to be restored; but on one pretext or another it was not promulgated.
In 1520 the Florentine merchants again had recourse to Machiavelli to settle their difficulties with Lucca, but this year was chiefly remarkable for his re-entry into Florentine literary society, where he was much sought after, and also for the production of his Art of War. It was in the same year that he received a commission at the instance of Cardinal de' Medici to write the History of Florence, a task which occupied him until 1525. His return to popular favour may have determined the Medici to give him this employment, for an old writer observes that "an able statesman out of work, like a huge whale, will endeavor to overturn the ship unless he has an empty cask to play with."
When the History of Florence was finished, Machiavelli took it to Rome for presentation to his patron, Giulio de' Medici, who had in the meanwhile become Pope Clement VII. It is somewhat remarkable that, as, in 1513, Machiavelli had written The Prince for the instruction of the Medici after they had just regained power in Florence, so, in 1525, he dedicated the History of Florence to the head of the family when its ruin was now at hand. In that year the battle of Pavia destroyed the French rule in Italy, and left Francis I of France a prisoner in the hands of his great rival, Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor. This was followed by the sack of Rome, upon the news of which the popular party at Florence threw off the yoke of the Medici, who were once more banished.
Machiavelli was absent from Florence at this time, but hastened his return, hoping to secure his former office of secretary to the "Ten of Liberty and Peace." Unhappily he was taken ill soon after he reached Florence, where he died on 22nd June 1527.
Machiavelli is the key figure in the realistic political theory of the Renaissance and crucial to later political philosophy and political science.
He was the author of The Prince, supposed to be an instruction book for rulers. In it, he advocated the theory that whatever was expedient was necessary - an early example of utilitarianism and realpolitik as these theories were elaborated later on, especially in the 20th century.
He is also the author of many "Discourses" on political life in the Roman Repu`lic, Flkrence, and other states, in which he demonstrated mastery of other 6hews. It ir simply unfair that the adjective "machiavelhian&qunt; has come to refer to narrow se,f-inperested behavior pursued for and by interest groups. This is not the point of The Prince nor anyof the Discourses.
Thus, like Macbeth or Karl Marx, the view one takes of the man tends to depend on whose history one reads. This article focuses on his known motives and the differences between the man and how he is stereotyped by his own works. Some works were so influential that they are each covered in their own articles. However, he was the author of much poetry, comedy, and commentary on current events of his day that any such stereotype is simply inadequate.
Along with Leonardo da Vinci, Niccolo Machiavelli is considered the ideal prototype of the Renaissance man.
- "When the evening comes, I return to the house and go into my study; and at the door I take off my country clothes, all caked with mud and slime, and put on court dress; and, when I am thus decently reclad I enter into the ancient mansions of the men of ancient days. And there I am received by my hosts with all lov-ing kindness, and I feast myself on that food which alone is my true nourishment, and which I was born for. And here I am not abashed to speak with these Ancients and to question them on the reasons for their actions. And they, in their humanity, deign to answer me. And so, for four hours long, I feel no gene, I forget every worry, I have no fear of poverty, I am not appalled by the thought of death: I sink my identity in that of my Ancient mentors. And since Dante says that there can be no science without some retention of that which Thought has once comprehended, I have made notes of the mental capital that I have acquired from their conversation, and have composed an essay De Principatibus." (from a letter to Francesco Vettori, 1513)
- "A man who wishes to make a profession of goodness in everything must necessarily come to grief among so many who are not good. Therefore it is necessary for a prince, who wishes to maintain himself, to learn how not to be good, and to use this knowledge and not use it, according to the necessity of the case." (from "The Prince", 1513)
- "A prince ... must imitate the fox and the lion, for the lion cannot protect himself from traps, and the fox cannot defend himself from wolves. One must therefore be a fox to recognize traps, and a lion to frighten wolves." (from "The Prince", 1513)
- "A prince ... ought to be a great asker and a patient listener of the truth about those things of which he has inquired; indeed, if he finds that anyone has scruples in telling him the truth he should be angry." (from "The Prince", 1513)
- "A prince is further esteemed when he is a true friend or a true enemy, when, that is, he declares himself without reserve in favor of some one or against another. This policy is always more useful than remaining neutral." (from "The Prince", 1513)
- "A prince need trouble little about conspiracies when the people are well disposed, but when they are hostile and hold him in hatred, then he must fear everything and everybody." (from "The Prince", 1513)
- "A prudent ruler ought not to keep faith when by doing so would be against his interest, and when the reasons which made him bind himself no longer exist. If men were all good, this precept would not be a good one; but as they are bad, and would not [keep] faith with you, so you are not bound to keep faith with them." (from "The Prince", 1513)
- "A wise prince will seek means by which his subjects will always and in every possible condition of things have need of his government, and then they will always be faithful to him." (from "The Prince", 1513)
- "Above all [the prince] must abstain from taking people's property, for men forget more easily the death of their father than the loss of their patrimony." (from "The Prince", 1513)
- "Among other evils caused by being disarmed, it renders you contemptible." (from "The Prince", 1513)
- "Even though the prince has no originality, if he can recognize the bad and good works of his ministers and correct the one and encourage the other, then his ministers, knowing they cannot hope to deceive him, will remain good." (from "The Prince", 1513)
- "The first impression that one gets of a ruler and of his brains is from seeing the men that he has about him." (from "The Prince", 1513)
- "Fortune ... shows her power where no measures have been taken to resist her." (from "The Prince", 1513)
- "Fortune is the ruler in half our actions, but ... she allows the other half or thereabouts to be governed by us." (from "The Prince", 1513)
- "God will not do everything, in order not to deprive us of free will and the portion of the glory that falls to our lot." (from "The Prince", 1513)
- "Hatred is gained as much by good works as by evil." (from "The Prince", 1513)
- "He will always have good friends if he has good arms." (from "The Prince", 1513)
- "In the actions of men ... the end justifies the means." (from "The Prince", 1513)
- "It is an infallible rule that a prince who is not wise himself cannot be well-advised." (from "The Prince", 1513)
- "It is easy to persuade [the people] of a thing, but difficult to keep them in that persuasion. And so it is necessary to order things so that when they no longer believe, they can be made to believe by force." (from "The Prince", 1513)
- "It is well to seem merciful, faithful, humane, sincere, religious, and also to be so; but you must have the mind so disposed that when it is needful to be otherwise you may be able to change to the opposite qualities. ... He must have a mind disposed to adapt itself according to the wind, and as the variations of fortune dictate, and, as I have said before, not deviate from what is good, if possible, but be able to do evil if [necessary]." (from "The Prince", 1513)
- "Men are so simple and so ready to obey present necessities, that one who deceives will always find those who allow themselves to be deceived." (from "The Prince", 1513)
- "Men must either be caressed or annihilated; they will revenge themselves for small injuries, but cannot do so for great ones; the injury therefore that we do to a man must be such that we need not fear his vengeance." (from "The Prince", 1513)
- "One ought to be both feared and loved, but as it is difficult for the two to go together, it is much safer to be feared than loved, if one of the two has to be wanting. ... Love is held by a chain of obligation, which men being selfish, is broken whenever it serves their purpose; but fear is maintained by a dread of punishment which never fails." (from "The Prince", 1513)
- "Prudence consists in being able to know the nature of the difficulties, and taking the least harmful as good." (from "The Prince", 1513)
- "There are three different kinds of brains: the one understands things unassisted, the other understands things when shown by others, the third understands neither alone nor with the explanations of others. The first kind is most excellent, the second also excellent, but the third useless." (from "The Prince", 1513)
- "There is no other way of guarding one's self against flattery than by letting men understand that they will not offend you by speaking the truth; but when everyone can tell you the truth, you lose their respect. A prudent prince must therefore take a third course, by choosing for his council wise men, and giving these alone full liberty to speak the truth to him, but only of those things that he asks and of nothing else; but he must ask them about everything and hear their opinion, and afterwards deliberate by himself in his own way." (from "The Prince", 1513)
- "There is nothing more difficult to carry out, nor more doubtful of success, nor more dangerous to handle, than to initiate a new order of things. For the reformer has enemies in all those who profit by the old order, and only lukewarm defenders in all those who would profit by the new order, this lukewarmness arising partly from fear of their adversaries, who have the laws in their favor; and partly from the incredulity of mankind, who do not truly believe in anything new until they have actual experience of it. ... Thus it comes about that all the armed prophets have conquered and unarmed ones failed." (from "The Prince", 1513)
- "When princes think more of luxury than of arms, they lose their state." (from "The Prince", 1513)
- "A prince ... who wishes to guard against conspiracies should fear those on whom he has heaped benefits quite as much, and even more, than those whom he has wronged; for the latter lack the convenient opportunities which the former have in abundance. The intention of both is the same for the thirst of dominion is as great as that of revenge, and even greater. A prince, therefore, should never bestow so much authority upon his friends but that there should always be a certain distance between them and himself, and that there should always be something left for them to desire." (from "Discourses on Livy", 1517)
- "A prince who fails to punish [evil-doers] so that they shall not be able to do any more harm will be regarded as either ignorant or cowardly." (from "Discourses on Livy", 1517)
- "A return to first principles in a republic is sometimes caused by the simple virtues of one man. ... [H]is good example has such an influence that the good men strive to imitate him, and the wicked are ashamed to lead a life so contrary to his example." (from "Discourses on Livy", 1517)
- "A truly great man is ever the same under all circumstances; and if his fortune varies, exalting him at one moment and oppressing him at another, he himself never varies, but always preserves a firm courage, which is so closely interwoven with his character that everyone can readily see that the fickleness of fortune has no power over him." (from "Discourses on Livy", 1517)
- "All rulers remember never to esteem a man so lightly as to believe that, having heaped injuries and insults upon him, he will not seek to revenge himself, even at the risk of his own life." (from "Discourses on Livy", 1517)
- "An evil-disposed citizen cannot affect any changes for the worse in a republic, unless it be already corrupt." (from "Discourses on Livy", 1517)
- "Any manifest error on the part of an enemy should make us suspect some stratagem." (from "Discourses on Livy", 1517)
- "Bad rulers ... are in constant fear lest others are conspiring to inflict upon them the punishment which they are conscious of deserving." (from "Discourses on Livy", 1517)
- "The envious nature of men, so prompt to blame and so slow to praise, makes the discovery and introduction of any new principles and systems as dangerous almost as the exploration of unknown seas and continents." (from "Discourses on Livy", 1517)
- "Glory ... is acquired by having been one against many in counseling an enterprise which success has justified." (from "Discourses on Livy", 1517)
- "Government consists mainly in so keeping your subjects that they shall be neither able nor disposed to injure you; and this is done by depriving them of all means of injuring you, or by bestowing such benefits upon them that it would not be reasonable for them to desire any change of fortune." (from "Discourses on Livy", 1517)
- "The great majority of mankind are satisfied with appearances, as though they were realities, and are often even more influenced by the things drat seem than by those that are." (from "Discourses on Livy", 1517)
- "Hatreds generally spring from fear or envy." (from "Discourses on Livy", 1517)
- "Human affairs [are] in a state of perpetual movement, always either ascending or declining." (from "Discourses on Livy", 1517)
- "It is as difficult to make a people free that is resolved to live in servitude as it is to subject a people to servitude that is determined to remain free." (from "Discourses on Livy", 1517)
- "It is not titles that honor men, but men honor the titles." (from "Discourses on Livy", 1517)
- "It is not well to threaten before having the power to act." (from "Discourses on Livy", 1517)
- "It is not wise to form an alliance with a prince that has more reputation than power." (from "Discourses on Livy", 1517)
- "It is the nature of the nobility to desire to dominate." (from "Discourses on Livy", 1517)
- "Mankind [is] more prone to evil than to good." (from "Discourses on Livy", 1517)
- "Men may second Fortune but cannot oppose her; they may develop her designs but cannot defeat them. But men should never despair on that account; for, not knowing the aims of Fortune, which she pursues by dark and devious ways, men should always be hopeful and never yield to despair, whatever troubles or ill fortune may befall them." (from "Discourses on Livy", 1517)
- "Men only judge of matters by the result." (from "Discourses on Livy", 1517)
- "Men rise from one ambition to another: First, they seek to secure themselves against attack, and then they attack others." (from "Discourses on Livy", 1517)
- "Men [seldom] rise from low condition to high rank without employing either force or fraud, unless that rank should be attained either by gift or inheritance." (from "Discourses on Livy", 1517)
- "Necessity may force you to do unto the prince that which you see the prince about to do to you." (from "Discourses on Livy", 1517)
- "The nobility, to save a portion of their power, were forced to yield a share of it to the people." (from "Discourses on Livy", 1517)
- "Nothing is so apt to restrain an excited multitude as the reverence inspired by some grave and dignified man of authority who opposes them." (from "Discourses on Livy", 1517)
- "Poverty never was allowed to stand in the way of the achievement of any rank or honor: ... virtue and merit were sought for under whatever roof they dwelt. ... [In 458 B.C. under siege by the Equeans, the Romans] resorted to the creation of a Dictator, their last remedy in times of difficulty. They appointed L. Quintius Cincinnatus, who at the time was on his little farm, which he cultivated with his own hands." (from "Discourses on Livy", 1517)
- "Previous victories ... are all canceled by present defeats." (from "Discourses on Livy", 1517)
- "Prudent men make the best of circumstances in their actions, and, although constrained by necessity to a certain course, make it appear as if done from their own liberality." (from "Discourses on Livy", 1517)
- "Scipio, from the moment he entered Spain, gained the affection and respect of the people of that province by his humanity and benevolence. Hannibal, on the contrary, conducted himself in Italy with violence, cruelty, rapine, and every kind of perfidy. Yet he obtained the same success that Scipio had in Spain. ...
It matters little whether a general adopts the one or the other course, provided he be possessed of ... high ability." (from "Discourses on Livy", 1517)
- "[States are ruined] because they do not modify their institutions to suit the changes of the times." (from "Discourses on Livy", 1517)
- "Tardy measures are most dangerous when the occasion requires prompt action." (from "Discourses on Livy", 1517)
- "There is no better indication of a man's character than the company which he keeps." (from "Discourses on Livy", 1517)
- "To insure a long existence to religious sects or republics, it is necessary frequently to bring them back to their original principles." (from "Discourses on Livy", 1517)
- "To usurp supreme and absolute authority ... in a free state and subject it to tyranny, the people must have already become corrupt by gradual steps from generation to generation." (from "Discourses on Livy", 1517)
- "Want of firmness in the execution arises either from respect [for one's opponents] or from the innate cowardice of him who is to commit the act." (from "Discourses on Livy", 1517)
- "When the act accuses him, the result should excuse him." (from "Discourses on Livy", 1517)
- "Where the very safety of the country depends upon the resolution to be taken, no considerations of justice or injustice, humanity or cruelty, nor of glory or of shame, should be allowed to prevail. But putting all other considerations aside, the only question should be, "What course will save the life and liberty of the country?"" (from "Discourses on Livy", 1517)
- "Whoever desires constant success must change his conduct with the times." (from "Discourses on Livy", 1517)
- "Whoever desires to found a state and give it laws must start with assuming that all men are bad and ever ready to display their vicious nature, whenever they may find occasion for it." (from "Discourses on Livy", 1517)
- "Few men are brave by nature, but good discipline and experience make many so." (from "The Art of War", 1521)
- "For a long time I have not said what I believed nor do I ever believe what I say, and if indeed sometimes I do happen to tell the truth, I hide it among so many lies that it is hard to find." (from a letter to Francesco Vettori)
- "The evils of popular government appear greater than they are; there is compensation for them in the spirit and energy it awakens." (from the journal of Ralph Waldo Emerson)
- "The state is force." (from "Notes on Politics and History: A University Address" by John Morley)