The Prince

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The modern reputation of Niccolò Machiavelli rests mainly on his political treatise Il Principe (The Prince), written around 1513, but not published until 1532, five years after his death.

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  • ...however strong your armies may be, you will always need the favour of the inhabitants to the possesion of a province."
    • Chapter III: Of Mixed Princedoms


  • And here we must observe that men must either be flattered or crushed; for they will revenge themselves for slight wrongs, whilst for grave ones they cannot. The injury therefore that you do to a man should be such that you need not fear his revenge.
    • Chapter III: Of Mixed Princedoms


  • And so it is with State affairs. For the distempers of a State being discovered while yet inchoate, which can only be done by a sagacious ruler, may easily be dealt with; but when, from not being observed, they are suffered to grow until they are obvious to every one, there is no longer any remedy.
    • Chapter III: Of Mixed Princedoms


  • […]you ought never to suffer your designs to be crossed in order to avoid war, since war is not so to be avoided, but is only deferred to your disadvantage.
    • Chapter III: Of Mixed Princedoms


  • All courses of action are risky, so prudence is not in avoiding danger (it's impossible), but calculating risk and acting decisively. Make mistakes of ambition and not mistakes of sloth. Develop the strength to do bold things, not the strength to suffer.
    • Chapter III: Of Mixed Princedoms


  • A prudent man should always follow in the path trodden by great men and imitate those who are most excellent.


  • For, besides what has been said, it should be borne in mind that the temper of the multitude is fickle, and that while it is easy to persuade them of a thing, it is hard to fix them in that persuasion. Wherefore, matters should be so ordered that when men no longer believe of their own accord, they may be compelled to believe by force.
    • Chapter VI: Of New Princedoms Which a Prince Acquires With His Own Arms and by Merit


  • And let it be noted that there is no more delicate matter to take in hand, nor more dangerous to conduct, nor more doubtful in its success, than to set up as a leader in the introduction of changes. For he who innovates will have for his enemies all those who are well off under the existing order of things, and only lukewarm supporters in those who might be better off under the new. This lukewarm temper arises partly from the fear of adversaries who have the laws on their side, and partly from the incredulity of mankind, who will never admit the merit of anything new, until they have seen it proved by the event.
    • Chapter VI: Of New Princedoms Which a Prince Acquires With His Own Arms and by Merit


  • Those cruelties we may say are well 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. Ill-employed cruelties, on the other hand, are those which from small beginnings increase rather than diminish with time. They who follow the first of these methods, may, by the grace of God and man, find, as did Agathocles, that their condition is not desperate; but by no possibility can the others maintain themselves.
    • Chapter VIII: Of Those Who By Their Crimes Come to Be Princes


  • But since it is my object to write what shall be useful to whosoever understands it, it seems to me better to follow the real truth of things than an imaginary view of them. For many Republics and Princedoms have been imagined that were never seen or known to exist in reality. And the manner in which we live, and that in which we ought to live, are things so wide asunder, that he who quits the one to betake himself to the other is more likely to destroy than to save himself; since any one who would act up to a perfect standard of goodness in everything, must be ruined among so many who are not good.It is essential therefore for a prince to have learnt how to be other than good and to use, or not to use, his goodness as necessity requires.
    • Chapter XV: Of the Qualities In Respect of Which Men, and Most of all Princes, Are Praised or Blamed


  • And here comes in the question whether it is better to be loved rather than feared, or feared rather than loved. It might perhaps be answered that we should wish to be both; but since love and fear can hardly exist together, if we must choose between them, it is far safer to be feared than loved.
    • Chapter XVII: Of Cruelty and Clemency, and Whether It Is Better To Be Loved or Feared


  • A Prince, therefore, if he is enabled thereby to forbear from plundering his subjects, to defend himself, to escape poverty and contempt, and the necessity of becoming rapacious, ought to care little though he incur the reproach of miserliness, for this is one of those vices which enable him to reign.
    • Chapter XVII: Of Cruelty and Clemency, and Whether It Is Better To Be Loved or Feared


  • And when he is obliged to take the life of any one, to do so when there is a proper justification and manifest reason for it; but above all he must abstain from taking the property of others, for men forget more easily the death of their father than the loss of their patrimony.
    • Chapter XVII: Of Cruelty and Clemency, and Whether It Is Better To Be Loved or Feared


  • For of men it may generally be affirmed, that they are thankless, fickle, false studious to avoid danger, greedy of gain, devoted to you while you are able to confer benefits upon them, and ready, as I said before, while danger is distant, to shed their blood, and sacrifice their property, their lives, and their children for you; but in the hour of need they turn against you.
    • Chapter XVII: Of Cruelty and Clemency, and Whether It Is Better To Be Loved or Feared


  • Be it known, then, that there are two ways of contending, one in accordance with the laws, the other by force; the first of which is proper to men, the second to beasts. But since the first method is often ineffectual, it becomes necessary to resort to the second.
    • Chapter XVIII: How Princes Should Keep Faith


  • ...and in the actions of all men, and especially of princes, which it is not prudent to challenge, one judges by the result.
    • Chapter XVIII: How Princes Should Keep Faith


  • And here it is to be noted that hatred is incurred as well on account of good actions as of bad; or which reason, as I have already said, a Prince who would maintain his authority is often compelled to be other than good. For when the class, be it the people, the soldiers, or the nobles, on whom you judge it necessary to rely for your support, is corrupt, you must needs adapt yourself to its humours, and satisfy these, in which case virtuous conduct will only prejudice you.
    • Chapter XIX: That a Prince Should Seek to Escape Contempt and Hatred


  • For a Prince is exposed to two dangers, from within in respect of his subjects, from without in respect of foreign powers. Against the latter he will defend himself with good arms and good allies, and if he have good arms he will always have good allies;
    • Chapter XIX: That a Prince Should Seek to Escape Contempt and Hatred


  • And it will always happen that he who is not your friend will invite you to neutrality, while he who is your friend will call on you to declare yourself openly in arms. Irresolute Princes, to escape immediate danger, commonly follow the neutral path, in most instances to their destruction.
    • Chapter XXI: How a Prince Should Bear Himself So As to Acquire Reputation

Attributed[edit]

  • And that prince who bases his power entirely on...words, finding himself completely without other preparations, comes to ruin.

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