Machiavelli: The Prince
The Prince by Machiavelli has a notorious reputation for, that is concentrated on how a prince or leader should rule and is ultimately a manual on how one can attain power and how it should be maintained. The multiple methods that are stated within the text have been the reasons behind various debates stemming from its’ initial publication. When The Prince was penned by Machiavelli, his peers were astounded by the ideas and themes presented. This piece introduced a whole new way of thinking that was almost completely contrary to present beliefs. His work was so controversial that it was considered dangerous and subsequently banned by the Catholic Church in the year, 1564. The ideas presented in this book, such as “the end justifies the means” made it so controversial. This quote ultimately means that, the results from some actions taken is more vital than the other repercussions of said actions. It ultimately equates to citizens justifying committing sins, if their motive is pure enough. Machiavelli’s work not only influenced those around him but also various others, as it is often displayed throughout history and works of literature. Due to his great impact, Machiavelli acquired the word Machiavellian, which means anyone characterized by the political principles and methods that Machiavelli recommended in The Prince. There are many examples of Machiavellian leaders, who include Joseph Stalin, and Adolf Hitler. Machiavelli’s The Prince makes an easy guide for any dictator or leader to rule and sustain power.
Niccolo Machiavelli was born on May 3rd, 1469 in Florence, Italy. As a child, Machiavellia received an excellent education considering he was taught by a renowned Latin teacher by the name of, Paolo da Ronciglione, He later attended the University of Florence and also received an excellent education there. Machiavelli later pursued a career within the government; first becoming a clerk, and then an ambassador. Not too longer after, Machiavelli became Chancellor of Florence and engaged in various of diplomatic activity. This position placed him in charge of Florentine military, making him responsible for the protection of the city. At the beginning of Machiavelli’s career, Florence was a republic; however, soon after that, the Medici family rose to power. In the process of them attaining power, the family imprisoned and tortured Machiavelli for several weeks for supposedly conspiring against them. However, they eventually released him after his innocence was proven; Machiavelli then retired to his estate in Sant’Andrea, Percussina. This is ultimately where his writing of The Prince commence, he believed that he possessed a unique understanding of the government considering he had lived through a highly chaotic time with popes leading armies, mighty city-states collapsing, and changing governments. Therefore, he firmly believed that he could provide knowledge about leading. Machiavelli wanted to provide a straight forward, easily understood, and practical guide that any leader or person who craved power, could follow. However, he possessed a greater personal goal, or an ulterior motive, in writing The Prince. He dedicated the book to Lorenzo De’Medici, the new ruler, in hopes of restoring his past position in the new Italian government. Unfortunately, Machiavelli never accomplished that goal. Nevertheless, Machiavelli composed an excellent guide for any leader to use.
Many people today argue and debate about whether or not the Prince provided a positive or negative affect on history and society. However both sides of the debate can agree that this piece influenced many leaders ever since its publication, but they disagree about its’ influence. Machiavelli’s The Prince has had a negative influence of history and society for three reasons, Machiavelli’s teachings and beliefs, past examples of Machiavellianism, and modern examples of Machiavellianism.
The Prince transpires negative influence as a result of the teachings and beliefs that Machiavelli infused into the text. First, Machiavelli argues in The Prince that there are only two kinds of states, republics and principalities. Machiavelli does not speak about republics but instead he dedicated the Prince to principalities. He divides principalities into two categories: hereditary and new. Hereditary principalities are the current state in which the leader rules. Machiavelli states that, hereditary nations are easier to dominate and sustain due to the citizens being accustomed to the leader’s rule. “…, if the prince is reasonably assiduous he will always maintain his rule, unless some extraordinary and inordinate force deprives him of it; and if so deprived, whenever the usurper suffers a setback he will reconquer.” 1 Through this quote, Machiavelli voices that the natural prince will have the peoples support as long as his aspirations are average and modest. Machiavelli also states that the natural prince will have less reason to cause the people to hate, when he states, “The fact is that the natural prince has less reason and less need to give offence; and so it follows that he should be more loved;” 1. Machiavelli then shifts his focus onto new states and their principalities. He reveals that the new nations are often more grueling and strenuous to maintain than hereditary ones for a variety of reasons. In unstable new states the people will be more accepting of a new ruler due to them being unsatisfied with their current one. However, if actions of improvement aren’t taken almost immediately, the citizens of the current state will rise up and rebel. Therefore showing that if the proper actions aren’t taken, the prince could lose power just as easily as he received it. Machiavelli states that if a revolt rises it must be suppressed quickly and harshly to avoid any future revolts. Actions as these will force the people to fear the prince. Additionally, a prince should move to the newly acquired state because new states tend to be very unstable. Machiavelli said “One of the best, most effective expedients would be for the conqueror to go the live there in person.” Doing so would allow the prince to receive news concerning the new state more quickly; therefore, actions can be taken faster. For instance, if a rebellion broke out and the prince lived in the old state by the time the news gets to him the problem would likely have grown out of control, but if the prince lives in the new state then any problem such as rebellion can be addressed immediately. In The Prince Machiavelli also focuses on how to govern and maintain principalities. First, Machiavelli describes how to maintain new principalities. In the Prince, it states “If the ruler wants to keep hold of his new possessions, he must bear two things in mind. First, that the family of the old prince must be destroyed; next, that he must change neither their laws nor their taxes.” Machiavelli also believes that a ruler should crush any opposition to the will of the ruler; for that reason, he stated “And here it has to be noted that men must be either pampered or crushed, because they can get revenge for small injuries but not for grievous ones.” Machiavelli believes that a ruler must eliminate any opposition to retain dominance; he also gives an example on how Rome destroyed Carthage by similar methods.
The Prince states that it would be ideal for a state to contain one leader with absolute power. Therefore, an ideal leader would control every aspect of the state. Such a leader would put in effect policies that would benefit his self-interests such as, gaining, maintaining, and expanding his political power. Also, it states that a leader should not allow morality and virtues to get in the way of leading. Machiavelli believes that moral and virtue are merely products of the imagination and should be discarded. It even states that a man who desires to act virtuously in every way will come to grief among those who are not virtuous. Additionally, The Prince states that secular forms of government are more realistic than pious ones because a pious government would be bound by morals. In the Prince, Machiavelli tries to convey that the end justifies the means, which means anything goes. He claims that it would be ideal for a prince to possess all the qualities that are deemed well by other men, but states that no leader can accomplish that. He also states that the security of the state should be the prince’s first priority and it must be protected by any means necessary. Although, this can be true in certain cases, Machiavelli uses it as an excuse to use evil and cruel tactics. Machiavelli also teaches that a leader should be ready to change character at any given moment. Therefore, a leader does not have to keep his word, but can change it depending on the circumstances. This can be seen in the quote Prince “If all men were good, this precept would not be good; but because men are wretched creatures who would not keep their word to you, you need not keep your word to them.” The Prince p.56 “But one must know how to color one’s actions and to be a great liar and deceiver.” The Prince p.57 Clearly Machiavelli believes that a leader does not have to keep his word but can change it at any moment. He also believes that a leader should only appear to be a man of integrity and of compassion; therefore the people are given a false representation of their leader.
In a Machiavellian society most if not all freedoms would be lost and instead would be controlled and monitored by the state. Unsurprisingly, Machiavelli affirms that a leader should not trust his own citizens because men are wretched creatures as he stated in The Prince “For love is secured by a bond of gratitude which men, wretched creatures that they are, break when it is to their advantage to do so; but fear is strengthened by a dread of punishment which is always effective.” Machiavelli believes that citizens should live in fear to prevent any up risings. However, these tactics don’t work all the time; this year, 2011, proved this theory again. On January, 25, millions of peaceful protesters in Egypt rose up against the corrupt government that they have been under for over forty year. They demanded President Mubarak to step down, and after weeks of determination the protesters obtained what they always desired, freedom and liberty. Over 400 protesters were killed and 6,000 were injured from the Egyptian revolution. As it can be seen, People will do whatever it takes to gain freedom even if it means death. Fear only works for a limited time, but when people get pushed too far they will put fear aside and rebel. Therefore, Machiavelli’s theory is flawed because fear will actually sometimes result in rebellion. Ever since the publication of Machiavelli’s The Prince, there have been many examples of, what Machiavelli would call, “the ideal prince”. To be considered a Machiavellian prince, one must have the desire to seek, attain and sustain power at all costs. One great example of a Machiavellian leader would be Joseph Stalin.
Machiavelli: The Prince