Discourses on Livy - Niccolo Machiavelli - E-Book

Discourses on Livy E-Book

Machiavelli Niccolò

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Discourses on Livy by Niccolo Machiavelli - is a work of political history and philosophy written in the early 16th century (c. 1517) by the Italian writer and political theorist Niccolò Machiavelli, best known as the author of The Prince. The Discourses were published posthumously with papal privilege in 1531. The title identifies the work's subject as the first ten books of Livy's Ab urbe condita,[1] which relate the expansion of Rome through the end of the Third Samnite War in 293 BC, although Machiavelli discusses what can be learned from many other eras including contemporary politics. Machiavelli saw history in general as a way to learn useful lessons from the past for the present, and also as a type of analysis which could be built upon, as long as each generation did not forget the works of the past. Discourses on Livy comprises a dedication letter and three books with 142 numbered chapters. The first two books (but not the third) are introduced by unnumbered prefaces. A good deal has been made of the coincidence that Livy's history also contained 142 books in addition to its introduction and other numerological curiosities that turn up in Machiavelli's writings.

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Niccolo Machiavelli To Zanobi Buondelmonti And To Cosimo Rucellai


I send you a present which if it is not equal to the obligations that I have toward you, it is one which without doubt the best that Niccolo Machiavelli has been able to offer you. Because in it I have expressed what I know and what I have learned through a long experience and a continuing study of the things of the world. And neither you nor others being able to desire more of me, I have not offered you more. You may well complain of the poverty of my endeavor since these narrations of mine are poor, and of the fallacy of [my] judgement when I deceive myself in many parts of my discussion. Which being so, I do not know which of us should be less obligated to the other, either I to you who have forced me to write that which by myself I would not have written, or you to me that having written I have not satisfied you. Accept this, therefore, in that manner that all things are taken from friends, where always the intention of the sender is more than the quality of the thing that is sent. And believe me I obtain satisfaction from this when I think that even if I should have been deceived on many occasions, I know I have not erred on this one in having selected you, to whom above all other of my friends I address [dedicate] these Discourses; as much because in doing this it appears to me I have shown some gratitude for the benefits I have received, as well because it appears to me I have departed from the common usage of those writers, who usually [always] address [dedicate] their works to some Prince, and blinded by ambition and avarice laud him for all his virtuous qualities when they should be censuring him for all his shameful parts. Whence I, so as not to incur this error, have selected, not those who are Princes, but those who by their infinite good qualities would merit to be such; [and] not to those who could load me with rank, honors, and riches, but to those who although unable to would want to do so. For men, when they want to judge rightly, should esteem those who are generous, not those who are able to be so; and likewise those who govern a Kingdom, not those who can but have not the knowledge. And writers lauded more Hiero of Syracuse when he was a private citizen than Perseus the Macedonian when he was King, for to Hiero nothing was lacking to be a Prince than the Principality, and the other did not possess any part of the King than the Kingdom. Enjoy this, therefore, whether good or bad, that you yourselves have wanted; and if you should continue in this error that these thoughts of mine are acceptable, I shall not fail to continue the rest of the history according as I promised you in the beginning. Farewell.



When I consider how much honor is attributed to antiquity, and how many times, not to mention many other examples, a fragment of an antique statue has been bought at a great price in order to have it near to one, honoring his house, being able to have it imitated by those who delight in those arts, and how they then strive with all industry to present them in all their work: and when I see, on the other hand, the works of greatest virtu which Historians indicate have been accomplished by ancient Kingdoms and Republics, by Kings, Captains, Citizens, Lawgivers, and others who have worked themselves hard for their country, to be more readily admired than imitated, or rather so much neglected by everyone in every respect that no sign of that ancient virtu remains, I cannot otherwise than wonder and at the same time be sad: and so much more when I see in the civil differences that arise between Citizens, or in the maladies which men incur, they always have recourses to those judgments or to those remedies that have been judged or instituted by the ancients. For the civil laws are nothing else but the decisions given by the ancient Jurisconsults, which reduced to a system presently teach our Jurisconsults to judge and also what is medicine if not the experience had by the ancient Doctors, [and] on which the present Doctors base their judgments? None the less in the instituting of Republics, in maintaining of States, in the governing of Kingdoms, in organizing an army and conducting a war, in [giving] judgment for Subjects, in expanding the Empire, there will not be found either Prince, or Republic, or Captain, or Citizen, who has recourse to the examples of the ancients. Which I am persuaded arises not so much from the weakness to which the present education has brought the world, or from that evil which an ambitious indolence has created in many Christian Provinces and Cities, than from not having a real understanding of history, and from not drawing that [real] sense from its reading, or benefiting from the spirit which is contained in it. whence it arises that they who read take infinitely more pleasure in knowing the variety of incidents that are contained in them, without ever thinking of imitating them, believing the imitation not only difficult, but impossible: as if heaven, the sun, the elements, and men should have changed the order of their motions and power, from what they were anciently. Wanting, therefore, to draw men from this error, I have judged it necessary to write upon all those books of Titus Livy which, because of the malignity of the times, have been prevented [from coming to us], in order that I might judge by comparing ancient and modern events what is necessary for their better understanding, so that those who may read these Discourses of mine may be able to derive that usefulness for which the understanding of History ought to be sought. And although this enterprise may be difficult, none the less, aided by those who have advised me to begin carrying this load, I believe I can carry it so that there will remain for others a short way to bring it to its destined place [end].

Chapter 1. What Have Generally Been The Beginnings Of Some Cities, And What Was That Of Rome

Those who read what the beginning of the City of Rome was, and of her Law-givers and how it was organized, do not wonder that so much virtu had been maintained for so many centuries in that City, and that afterward there should have been born that Empire to which that Republic was joined. And wanting first to discuss its birth, I say that all Cities are built either by men born in the place where they build it or by foreigners. The first case occurs when it appears to the inhabitants that they do not live securely when dispersed into many and small parties, each unable by himself both because of the location and the small number to resist attacks of those who should assault them, and they are not in time (the enemy coming) in waiting for their defense: or if they should be, they must abandon many of their refuges, and thus they would quickly become the prey of their enemies: so much that in order to avoid these dangers, moved either by themselves or by some one among them of greater authority, they restrict themselves to live together in a place selected by them, more convenient to live in and more easy to defend. Of these, among others, have been Athens and Venice: the first under the authority of Theseus was built by the dispersed inhabitants for like reasons: the other built by many people [who] had come to certain small islands situated at the head of the Adriatic Sea, in order to escape those wars which every day were arising in Italy because of the coming of new barbarians after the decline of that Roman Empire, began among themselves, without any particular Prince who should organize them, to live under those laws which appeared to them best suited in maintaining it [their new state]. In this they succeeded happily because of the long peace which the site gave to them [for] that sea not having issue, where those people who were afflicting Italy, not having ships with which they could invest them; so that from a small beginning they were enabled to come to that greatness which they now have.

The second case, when a city is built by foreign forces, is caused by free men and by men who depend on others, such as the Colonies sent either by a Republic or by a Prince to relieve their towns of [excessive] inhabitants or for the defense of that country which they have newly acquired [and] want to maintain securely and without expense; [thy Roman people built many cities, throughout all their Empire] or they are built by a Prince, not to live there but for his own glory, as was the City of Alexandria built by Alexander. And because these cities at their origin do not have their freedom, it rarely happens that they make great progress and are able to be numbered among the chief Kingdoms. Such was the building of Florence, for [it was built either by the soldiers of Sulla, or perhaps by the inhabitants of the Mountains of Fiesole, who trusting in that long peace which prevailed in the world under Octavian were led to live in the plain along the Arno] it was built under the Roman Empire, and could not in its beginning have any other growth that those which were conceded to her through the courtesy of the Prince.

The builders of Cities are free when any people either under a Prince or by themselves are constrained either by pestilence or by famine or by war to abandon their native country, and seek new homes: These either inhabit the cities that they find in the countries they acquire, as Moses did, or they build new ones, as Eneas did. This is a case where the virtu and fortune of the builder of the edifice is recognized, which is of greater or less wonder according as that man who was the beginner was of greater or less virtu. The virtu of whom is recognized in two ways: the first is in the selection of the site, the other in the establishment of the laws. And because men work either from necessity or from choice: and because it is seen here that virtu is greater where choice has less authority [results from necessity], it is [something] to be considered whether it would be better for the building of a city to select sterile places, so that men constrained to be industrious and less occupied with idleness, should live more united, where, because of the poverty of the site, they should have less cause for discord, as happened at Ragusa and in many other cities built in similar places; which selection would without doubt be more wise and more useful if men would be content to live of their own [possessions], and not want to seek to command that of others.

However, as men are not able to make themselves secure except through power, it is necessary to avoid this sterility of country and locate it in very fertile places, where because of the fertility of the site, it can grow, can defend itself from whoever should assault it, and suppress whoever should oppose its aggrandizement. And as to that idleness which the site should encourage, it ought to be arranged that in that necessity the laws should constrain them [to work] where the site does not constrain them [does not do so], and to imitate those who have been wise and have lived in most amenable and most fertile countries, which are apt to making men idle and unable to exercise any virtu: that to obviate those which the amenity of the country may cause through idleness, they imposed the necessity of exercise on those who were to be soldiers: of a kind that, because of such orders, they became better soldiers than [men] in those countries where nature has been harsh and sterile: among which was the Kingdom of Egypt, which notwithstanding that the country was most amenable, that necessity ordained by the laws was so great, that most excellent men resulted therefrom: and if their names had not been extinguished by antiquity, it would be seen that they would have merited more praise than Alexander the Great, and many others of whom memory is still fresh. And whoever had considered the Kingdom of Soldan and the order of the Mamelukes, and of their military [organization] before it was destroyed by Selim the Grand Turk, would have seen there how much the soldiers exercised, and in fact would have known how much they feared that idleness to which the benignity of the country could lead them if they had not obviated it by the strongest laws. I say therefore that the selection of a fertile location in establishing [a city] is more prudent when [the results] of that fertility can be restricted within given limits by laws.

Alexander the Great, wishing to build a city for his glory, Dinocrates, the Architect came to him and showed him how he could do so upon the mountain Athos, which place in addition to being strong, could be arranged in a way that the City would be given human form, which would be a marvelous and rare thing and worthy of his greatness: and Alexander asking him on what the inhabitants would live, he replied that he had not thought of it: at which he laughed, and leaving that mountain as it was, he built Alexandria, where the inhabitants would stay willingly because of the richness of the country and the convenience to the sea and of the Nile.

Whoever should examine, therefore, the building of Rome if he should take Eneas for its first ancestor, will know that that City was built by foreigners: [but] if Romulus, it would have been built by men native to the place, and in any case it would be seen to have been free from the beginning without depending on anyone: it will also be seen [as it will be said below] to what necessity the laws made by Romulus, Numa, and the others had constrained them; so much so that the fertility of the site, the convenience of the sea, the frequent victories, the greatness of the Empire, could not corrupt her for many centuries, and they maintained her full of so much virtu than any other republic has ever been adorned. And because the things achieved by them and that are made notable by Titus Livius, have taken place either through public Councils or private [individuals] either inside or outside the City, I shall begin to discourse upon those things which occured inside; and as for the public Council, which is worthy of greater annotation, I shall judge, adding all that is dependent on them; with which discourses this fast book, or rather this fast part will be ended.

Chapter 2. Of The Kinds Of Republics There Are, And Of Which Was The Roman Republic


I want to place aside the discussion of those cities that had their beginning subject to others, and I will talk of those which have had their beginning far removed from any external servitude, but which [were] initially governed themselves through their own will, either as Republics or as Principalities; which have had [as diverse origins] diverse laws and institutions. For to some, at the beginning or very soon after, their laws were given to them by one [man] and all at one time, as those which were given to the Spartans by Lycurgus: Some have received them by chance, and at several times, according to events, as Rome did. So that a Republic can be called fortunate which by chance has a man so prudent, who gives her laws so ordered that without having need of correcting them, she can live securely under them. And it is seen that Sparta observed hers [laws] for more than eight hundred years without changing them and without any dangerous disturbance: and on the contrary that City has some degree of unhappiness which [not having fallen to a prudent lawmaker] is compelled to reorganize her laws by herself. And she also is more unhappy which has diverged more from her institutions; and that [Republic] is even further from them whose laws lead her away from perfect and true ends entirely outside of the right path; for to those who are in that condition it is almost impossible that by some incident they be set aright. Those others which do not have a perfect constitution, but had made a good beginning, are capable of becoming better, and can become perfect through the occurrence of events. It is very true, however, that they have never been reformed without danger, for the greater number of men never agree to a new law which contemplates a new order for the City, unless the necessity that needs be accomplished is shown to them: and as this necessity cannot arise without some peril, it is an easy thing for the Republic to be ruined before it can be brought to a more perfect constitution. The Republic of Florence gives a proof of this, which because of the incident of Arezzo in [the year] one thousand five hundred and two 1502 was reorganized, [and] it was disorganized by that of Prato in [the year] one thousand five hundred and twelve 1512.

Wanting therefore to discourse on what were the institutions of the City of Rome and what events brought her to her perfection, I say, that some who have written of Republics say there are [one of] three States [governments] in them called by them Principality [Monarchy], of the Best [Aristocracy], and Popular [Democracy], and that those men who institute [laws] in a City ought to turn to one of these, according as it seems fit to them. Some others [and wiser according to the opinion of many] believe there are six kinds of Governments, of which those are very bad, and those are good in themselves, but may be so easily corrupted that they also become pernicious. Those that are good are three mentioned above: those that are bad, are three others which derive from those [first three], and each is so similar to them that they easily jump from one to the other, for the Principality easily becomes a tyranny, autocracy easily become State of the Few [oligarchies], and the Popular [Democracy] without difficulty is converted into a licentious one [anarchy]. So much so that an organizer of a Republic institutes one of those three States [governments] in a City, he institutes it for only a short time, because there is no remedy which can prevent them from degenerating into their opposite kind, because of the resemblance that virtu and vice have in this instance.

These variations in government among men are born by chance, for at the beginning of the world the inhabitants were few, [and] lived for a time dispersed and like beasts: later as the generations multiplied they gathered together, and in order to be able better to defend themselves they began to seek among themselves the one who was most robust and of greater courage, and made him their head and obeyed him. From this there arose the knowledge of honest and good things; differentiating them from the pernicious and evil; for seeing one man harm his benefactor there arose hate and compassion between men, censuring the ingrates and honoring those who were grateful, and believing also that these same injuries could be done to them, to avoid like evils they were led to make laws, and institute punishments for those who should contravene them; whence came the cognition of justice. Which thing later caused them to select a Prince, not seeking the most stalwart but he who was more prudent and more just. But afterwards when they began to make the Prince by succession and not by election, the heirs quickly degenerated from their fathers, and leaving off from works of virtu they believed that Princes should have nothing else to do than surpass others in sumptuousness and lasciviousness and in every other kind of delight. So that the Prince began to be hated, and because of this hate he began to fear, and passing therefore from fear to injury, a tyranny quickly arose. From this there arose the beginnings of the ruin and conspiracies; and these conspiracies against the Prince were not made by weak and timid men, but by those who because of their generosity, greatness of spirit, riches, and nobility above the others, could not endure the dishonest life of that prince.

The multitude therefore following the authority of these powerful ones armed itself against the Prince, and having destroyed him, they obeyed them as their liberators. And these holding the name of chief in hatred, constituted a government by themselves, and in the beginning [having in mind the past tyranny] governed themselves according to the laws instituted by them, preferring every common usefulness to their conveniences, and governed and preserved private and public affairs with the greatest diligence. This administration later was handed down to their children, who not knowing the changeability of fortune [for] never having experienced bad [fortune], and not wanting to remain content with civil equality, they turned to avarice, ambition, violation of women, caused that aristocratic government [of the Best] to become an oligarchic government [of the Few] regardless of all civil rights: so that in a short time the same thing happened to them as it did to the Tyrant, for the multitude disgusted with their government, placed itself under the orders of whoever would in any way plan to attack those Governors, and thus there arose some one who, with the aid of the multitude, destroyed them. And the memory of the Prince and the injuries received from him being yet fresh [and] having destroyed the oligarchic state [of the Few], and not wanting to restore that of the Prince, the [people] turned to the Popular state [Democracy] and they organized that in such a way, that neither the powerful Few nor a Prince should have any authority. And because all States in the beginning receive some reverence, this Popular State maintained itself for a short time, but not for long, especially when that generation that had organized it was extinguished, for they quickly came to that license where neither private men or public men were feared: this was such that every one living in his own way, a thousand injuries were inflicted every day: so that constrained by necessity either through the suggestion of some good man, or to escape from such license, they once again turn to a Principality; and from this step by step they return to that license both in the manner and for the causes mentioned [previously].

And this is the circle in which all the Republics are governed and will eventually be governed; but rarely do they return to the same [original] governments: for almost no Republic can have so long a life as to be able often to pass through these changes and remain on its feet. But it may well happen that in the troubles besetting a Republic always lacking counsel and strength, it will become subject to a neighboring state which may be better organized than itself: but assuming this does not happen, a Republic would be apt to revolve indefinitely among these governments. I say therefore that all the [previously] mentioned forms are inferior because of the brevity of the existence of those three that are good, and of the malignity of those three that are bad. So that those who make laws prudently having recognized the defects of each, [and] avoiding every one of these forms by itself alone, they selected one [form] that should partake of all, they judging it to be more firm and stable, because when there is in the same City [government] a Principality, an Aristocracy, and a Popular Government [Democracy], one watches the other.1

Among those who have merited more praise for having similar constitutions is Lycurgus, who so established his laws in Sparta, that in giving parts to the King, the Aristocracy, and the People, made a state that endured more than eight hundred years, with great praise to himself and tranquillity to that City. The contrary happened to Solon who established the laws in Athens, [and] who by establishing only the Popular [Democratic] state, he gave it such a brief existence that before he died he saw arise the tyranny of Pisistratus: and although after forty years his [the tyrants] heirs were driven out and liberty returned to Athens, for the Popular state was restored according to the ordinances of Solon, it did not last more than a hundred years, yet in order that it be maintained many conventions were made by which the insolence of the nobles and the general licentiousness were suppressed, which had not been considered by Solon: none the less because he did not mix it [Popular state] with the power of the Principate and with that of the Aristocracy, Athens lived a very short time as compared to Sparta.

But let us come to Rome, which, notwithstanding that it did not have a Lycurgus who so established it in the beginning that she was not able to exist free for a long time, none the less so many were the incidents that arose in that City because of the disunion that existed between the Plebs and the Senate, so that what the legislator did not do, chance did. For, if Rome did not attain top fortune, it attained the second; if the first institutions were defective, none the less they did not deviate from the straight path which would lead them to perfection, for Romulus and all the other Kings made many and good laws, all conforming to a free existence. But because their objective was to found a Kingdom and not a Republic, when that City became free she lacked many things that were necessary to be established in favor of liberty, which had not been established by those Kings. And although those Kings lost their Empire for the reasons and in the manner discussed, none the less those who drove them out quickly instituted two Consuls who should be in the place of the King, [and] so it happened that while the name [of King] was driven from Rome, the royal power was not; so that the Consuls and the Senate existed in forms mentioned above, that is the Principate and the Aristocracy. There remained only to make a place for Popular government for the reasons to be mentioned below, the people rose against them: so that in order not to lose everything, [the Nobility] was constrained to concede a part of its power to them, and on the other hand the Senate and the Consuls remained with so much authority that they were able to keep their rank in that Republic. And thus was born [the creation] of the Tribunes of the plebs,2 after which creation the government of that Republic came to be more stable, having a part of all those forms of government. And so favorable was fortune to them that although they passed from a Monarchial government and from an Aristocracy to one of the People [Democracy], by those same degrees and for the same reasons that were discussed above, none the less the Royal form was never entirely taken away to give authority to the Aristocracy, nor was all the authority of the Aristocrats diminished in order to give it to the People, but it remained shared [between the three] it made the Republic perfect: which perfection resulted from the disunion of the Plebs and the Senate, as we shall discuss at length in the next following chapters.





Chapter 3. What Events Caused The Creation Of The Tribunes Of The Plebs In Rome, Which Made The Republic More Perfect

As all those have shown who have discussed civil institutions, and as every history is full of examples, it is necessary to whoever arranges to found a Republic and establish laws in it, to presuppose that all men are bad and that they will use their malignity of mind every time they have the opportunity; and if such malignity is hidden for a time, it proceeds from the unknown reason that would not be known because the experience of the contrary had not been seen, but time, which is said to be the father of every truth, will cause it to be discovered. It seemed that in Rome there was a very great harmony between the Plebs and the Senate [the Tarquins having been driven out], and that the nobles had laid aside their haughtiness and had become of a popular spirit, and supportable to everyone even to the lowest. This deception was hidden, nor was the cause seen while the Tarquins lived, whom the nobility feared, and having fear that the maltreated plebs might not side with them [the nobles] they behaved themselves humanely toward them: but as soon as the Tarquins were dead, and that fear left the Nobles, they begun to vent upon the plebs that poison which they had kept within their breasts, and in every way they could they offended them: which thing gives testimony to that which was said above that men never act well except through necessity: but where choice abounds and where license may be used, everything is quickly filled with confusion and disorder. It is said therefore that Hunger and Poverty make men industrious, and Laws make them good. And where something by itself works well without law, the law is not necessary: but when that good custom is lacking, the law immediately becomes necessary. Thus the Tarquins being dead through fear of whom the Nobles were kept in restraint, it behooved them [the Nobles] to think of a new order, which would cause the same effect which the Tarquins had caused when they were alive. And therefore after many confusions, tumults, and dangers of troubles, which arose between the Plebs and the Nobility, they came for the security of the Plebs to the creation of the Tribunes, and they were given so much preeminence and so much reputation, that they then should always be able to be in the middle between the Plebs and the Senate, and obviate the insolence of the Nobles.

Chapter 4. That Disunion Of The Plebs And The Roman Senate Made That Republic Free And Powerful

I do not want to miss discoursing on these tumults that occurred in Rome from the death of the Tarquins to the creation of the Tribunes; and afterwards I will discourse on some things contrary to the opinions of many who say that Rome was a tumultuous Republic and full of so much confusion, that if good fortune and military virtu had not supplied her defects, she would have been inferior to every other Republic.

I cannot deny that fortune and the military were the causes of the Roman Empire; but it indeed seems to me that this would not happen except when military discipline is good, it happens that where order is good, [and] only rarely there may not be good fortune accompanying. But let us come to the other particulars of that City. I say that those who condemn the tumults between the nobles and the plebs, appear to me to blame those things that were the chief causes for keeping Rome free, and that they paid more attention to the noises and shouts that arose in those tumults than to the good effects they brought forth, and that they did not consider that in every Republic there are two different viewpoints, that of the People and that of the Nobles; and that all the laws that are made in favor of liberty result from their disunion, as may easily be seen to have happened in Rome, for from Tarquin to the Gracchi which was more than three hundred years, the tumults of Rome rarely brought forth exiles, and more rarely blood. Nor is it possible therefore to judge these tumults harmful, nor divisive to a Republic, which in so great a time sent into exile no more than eight or ten of its citizens because of its differences, and put to death only a few, and condemned in money [fined] not very many: nor can a Republic in any way with reason be called disordered where there are so many examples of virtu, for good examples result from good education, good education from good laws, and good laws from those tumults which many inconsiderately condemn; for he who examines well the result of these, will not find that they have brought forth any exile or violence prejudicial to the common good, but laws and institutions in benefit of public liberty. And if anyone should say the means were extraordinary and almost savage, he will see the People together shouting against the Senate, The Senate against the People, running tumultuously throughout the streets, locking their stores, all the Plebs departing from Rome, all of which [things] alarm only those who read of them; I say, that every City ought to have their own means with which its People can give vent to their ambitions, and especially those Cities which in important matters, want to avail themselves of the People; among which the City of Rome had this method, that when those people wanted to obtain a law, either they did some of the things mentioned before or they would not enroll their names to go to war, so that to placate them it was necessary [for the Senate] in some part to satisfy them: and the desires of a free people rarely are pernicious to liberty, because they arise either from being oppressed or from the suspicion of going to be oppressed. And it these opinions should be false, there is the remedy of haranguing [public assembly], where some upright man springs up who through oratory shows them that they deceive themselves; and the people [as Tullius Cicero says] although they are ignorant, are capable of [appreciating] the truth, and easily give in when the truth is given to them by a trustworthy man.

One ought therefore to be more sparing in blaming the Roman government, and to consider that so many good effects which came from that Republic, were not caused except for the best of reasons: And if the tumults were the cause of creation of Tribunes, they merit the highest praise, for in addition to giving the people a part in administration, they were established for guarding Roman liberty, as will be shown in the next chapter.

Chapter 5. Where The Guarding Of Liberty Is More Securely Placed, Either In The People Or In The Nobles; And Which Have The Greater Reason To Become Tumultuous Either He Who Wants To Acquire Or He Who Wants To Maintain

Among the more necessary things instituted by those who have prudently established a Republic, was to establish a guard to liberty, and according as this was well or badly place, that freedom endured a greater or less [period of time]. And because in every Republic there exists the Nobles and the Populace, it may be a matter of doubt in whose hands the guard is better placed. And the Lacedemonians, and in our times the Venetians, placed it in the hands of the Nobles, but that of Rome was placed in the hands of the Plebs. It is necessary therefore to examine which of the Republics had made the better selection. And if we go past the causes and examine every part, and if their results should be examined, the side of the Nobles would be preferred since the liberty of Sparta and Venice had a much longer life than that of Rome: And to come to the reasons, I say [taking up first the part of the Romans] that thing [liberty] which is to be guarded ought to be done by those who have the least desire of usurping it. And without doubt, if the object of the Nobles and of the Ignobles [populace] is considered, it will be seen that the former have a great desire to dominate, and the latter a desire not to be dominated and consequently a greater desire to live free, being less hopeful of usurping it [liberty] than are the Nobles: so that the People placed in charge to guard the liberty of anyone, reasonably will take better care of it; for not being able to take it away themselves, they do not permit others to take it away.

On the other hand, he who defends the Spartan and Venetian arrangement, says that those who placed that guardianship in the hands of the Powerful [Nobles], made two good points: The one, that they satisfy more the ambitions of those who playing a greater part in the Republic, [and] having this club in their hands, have more reason to be content; the other, that they take away a kind of authority from the restless spirit of the People which is the cause of infinite discussions and troubles in a Republic, and apt to bring the Nobility to some [act of] desperation which in times may result in some bad effects. And they give for an example this selfsame Rome, where the Tribunes of the Plebs having this authority in their hands, [and] the having of one Consul from the Plebs was not enough for them [the People], but that they wanted to have both [the Consuls from the Plebs]. From this they afterward wanted the Censure, the Praetorship, and all the other ranks of the Empire [Government] of the Republic. Nor was this enough for them, but urged on by the same fury they began in time to idolize those men whom they saw adept at beating down the Nobility: whence arose the power of Marius and the ruin of Rome.

And truly whoever should discuss well both of these things could be in doubt as to what kind of men may be more harmful to the Republic, either those who desire to acquire that which they do not have, or those who desire to maintain the honors already acquired. And in the end whoever examines everything skillfully will come to this conclusion: The discussion is either of a Republic which wants to create an Empire, as Rome, or of one which is satisfied to maintain itself. In the first case it is necessary for it to do everything as Rome did; in the second, it can imitate Venice and Sparta, for those reasons why and how as will be described in the succeeding chapter.

But to return to the discussion as to which men are more harmful in a Republic, either those who desire to acquire, or those who fear to lose that which they have acquired, I say that when Marcus Menenius had been made Dictator, and Marcus Fulvius Master of the cavalry, both plebeians, in order to investigate certain conspiracies that had been formed in Capua against Rome, they were also given authority by the people to be able to search out who in Rome from ambition and by extraordinary means should endeavor to attain the Consulate and other houses [offices] of the City. And it appearing to the Nobility that such authority given to the Dictator was directed against them, they spread the word throughout Rome that it was not the Nobles who were seeking the honors for ambition, or by extraordinary means, but the Ignobles [Plebeians] who, trusting neither to their blood [birth] nor in their own virtu, sought to attain those dignities, and they particularly accused the Dictator: And so powerful was this accusation, that Menenius having made a harangue [speech] and complaining of the calumnies spread against him by the Nobles, he deposed the Dictatorship, and submitted himself to that judgement [of himself] which should be made by the People: And then the cause having been pleaded, he was absolved; at which time there was much discussion as to who was the more ambitious, he who wanted to maintain [his power] or he who wanted to acquire it, since the desires of either the one or the other could be the cause of the greatest tumults. But none the less more frequently they are caused by those who possess [power], for the fear of losing it generates in them the same desires that are in those who want to acquire it, because it does not seem to men to possess securely that which they have, unless they acquire more from others. And, moreover, those who possess much, can make changes with greater power and facility. And what is yet worse, is that their breaking out and ambitious conduct arouses in the breasts of those who do not possess [power] the desire to possess it, either to avenge themselves against them [the former] by despoiling them, or in order to make it possible also for them to partake of those riches and honors which they see are so badly used by the others.

Chapter 6. Whether It Was Possible To Establish A Government In Rome Which Could Eliminate The Enmity Between The Populace And The Senate

We have discussed above the effects which were caused by the controversies between the People and the Senate. Now these having continued up to the time of the Gracchi, where they were the cause of the loss of liberty, some might wish that Rome had done the great things that she did without there being that enmity within her. It seems to me therefore a thing worthy of consideration to see whether in Rome there could have been a government [state] established that could have eliminated the aforementioned controversies. And to desire to examine this it is necessary to have recourse to those Republics which have had their liberty for a long time without such enmities and tumults, and to see what [form] of government theirs was, and if it could have been introduced in Rome.

For example, there is Sparta among the ancients, Venice among the modern, [both] having been previously mentioned by me. Sparta created a King with a small Senate which should govern her. Venice did not divide its government by these distinctions, but gave all those who could have a part in the administration [of its government] the name of Gentlemen: In this manner, chance more than prudence gave them [the Venetians] the laws [form of Government], for having taken refuge on those rocks where the City now is, for the reasons mentioned above many of the inhabitants, as they had increased to so great a number, with the desire to live together, so that needing to make laws for themselves, they established a government, [and] came together often in councils to discuss the affairs of the City; when it appeared to them that they had become numerous enough for existing as a commonwealth, they closed the path to all the others who should newly come to live there to take part in their government: And in time finding in that place many inhabitants outside the government, in order to give reputation to those who were governing, they called them Gentlemen, and the others Popolari. This form [of Government] could establish and maintain itself without tumult, because when it was born, whoever then lived in Venice participated in that government, with which no one could complain: Those who came to live there later, finding the State firm and established did not have cause or opportunity to create a tumult. The cause was not there because nothing had been taken from them. The opportunity was not there because those who ruled kept them in check and did not employ them in affairs where they could pick up authority. In addition to this, those who came to inhabit Venice later were not very many, or of such a great number that these would be a disproportion between those who governed and those who were governed, for the number of Gentlemen were either equal to or greater than the others: so that for these reasons Venice could establish that State and maintain it united.

Sparta, as I have said, being governed by a King and limited Senate could thus maintain itself for a long time because there being few inhabitants in Sparta, and the path having been closed to those who should want to live there, and the laws of Lycurgus having acquired such reputation that their observance removed all the causes for tumults. They were able to live united for a long time, for Lycurgus had established in Sparta more equality of substance and less equality in rank, because equal poverty existed here and the Plebs were lacking ambitious men, as the offices of the City were extended to few Citizens, and were kept distant from the Plebs, nor did the Nobles by not treating them badly ever create in them the desire to want them. This resulted from the Spartan Kings, who, being placed in that Principate and living in the midst of that Nobility, did not have may better means of maintaining their office, than to keep the Plebs defended from every injury: which caused the Plebs neither to fear nor to desire authority, and not having the dominion, nor fear of it, there was eliminated the competition which they might have had with the Nobility, and the cause of tumults, and thus they could live united for a long time. But two things principally caused this union: The one, the inhabitants of Sparta were few, and because of this were able to be governed by a few: The other, that not accepting outsiders in their Republic, they did not have the opportunity either of becoming corrupt or of increasing so much that they should become unsupportable to those few who governed her.

Considering all these things, therefore, it is seen that it was necessary that the legislators of Rome do one of two things in desiring that Rome be as quiet as the above mentioned Republic, either not to employ the Plebs in war like the Venetians, or not to open the door to outsiders like the Spartans, But they did the one and the other, which gave the Plebs strength and increased power and infinite opportunities for tumults. And if the Roman State had come to be more tranquil, it would have resulted that she would have become even more feeble, because there would have been cut off from her the means of being able to attain that greatness which she achieved. So that Rome wanting to remove the causes for tumults, would also take away the causes for expansion. And as in all human affairs, those who examine them will indeed see that it is never possible to avoid one inconvenience but that another one will spring up. If therefore, you want to make a people numerous and armed in order to create a great Empire, you will make it of a kind that you are not able afterward to manage it in your own way: if you keep them either small or disarmed in order to be able to manage them, [and], if you acquire other dominion, you will not be able to hold them, or you will become so mean that you will become prey to whoever assaults you. And therefore, in every one of our decisions, there ought to be considered where the inconveniences are less, and then take up the better proceeding, for there will never be formed anything entirely clear of suspicion. Rome could therefore, like Sparta, have created a Prince for life, and established a limited Senate; but desiring to build a great Empire, she could not, like Sparta, limit the number of her Citizens: which, in creating a King for life and a small number in the Senate, would have been of little benefit in connection with her unity. If anyone therefore should want to establish a new Republic, he should have to consider if he should want it to expand in dominion and power as did Rome, or whether it should remain within narrow limits. In the first case, it is necessary to establish it as Rome, and to give place to tumults and general dissensions as best he can; for without a great number of men, and [those] well armed, no Republic can ever increase, or if it did increase, to maintain itself. In thy second case he may establish her as Sparta and Venice: but because expansion is the poison of such Republics, he ought in every way he can prevent her from making acquisitions, for such acquisitions, based on a weak Republic, are entirely their ruin, as happened to Sparta and Venice, the first of which having subjected almost all of Greece, showed the weakness of its foundation with the slightest accident; for when there ensued the rebellion of Thebes caused by Pelopidas, the other cities also rebelling, ruined that Republic entirely.

Similarly Venice having occupied a great part of Italy, and the greater part [obtained] not by war but by money and astuteness, when it came to make a test of her strength everything was lost in one engagement. I believe then that to create a Republic which should endure a long time, the better way would be to organize internally like Sparta, or like Venice locate it in a strong place, and of such power that no one should believe he could quickly oppress her: and on the other hand, it should not be so powerful that she should be formidable to her neighbors, and thus she could enjoy its state [independence] for a long time. For there are two reasons why war is made against a Republic: The one, to become lord over her: the other, the fear of being occupied by her. These two means in the above mentioned manner almost entirely removed [the reasons for war], for it is difficult to destroy her, being well organized for her defense, as I presuppose, it will rarely or never happen that one can design to conquer her. If she remains within her limits, and from experience it is seen that there is no ambition in her, it will never happen that someone for fear of her will make war against her: and this would be so much more so if there should be in her constitution or laws [restrictions] that should prohibit her expansion. And without doubt I believe that things could be kept balanced in this way, that there would be the best political existence, and real tranquillity to a City. But all affairs of men being [continually] in motion and never being able to remain stable, it happens that [States] either remain stable or decline: and necessity leads you to do many things which reason will not lead you to do; so that having established a Republic adept at maintaining itself without expanding, and necessity should induce her to expand, her foundations would be taken away and her ruin accomplished more readily. Thus, on the other hand, if Heaven should be so kind that she would never have to make war, the languidness that should arise would make her either effeminate or divided: which two together, or each one by itself, would be cause of her ruin. Not being able, therefore, [as I believe] to balance these things, and to maintain this middle course, it is necessary in organizing a Republic to think of the more honorable side, and organize her in a way that if necessity should induce her to expand, she may be able to preserve that which she should have acquired. And to return to the first discussion, I believe it is necessary to follow the Roman order and not that of any other Republic [because I do not believe it is possible to find a middle way between one and the other] and to tolerate that enmity that should arise between the People and the Senate, accepting it as an inconvenient necessity in attaining the Roman greatness. Because in addition to the other reasons alleged, where the authority of the Tribunes is shown to be necessary for the guarding of liberty, it is easy to consider the benefit that will come to the Republic from this authority of accusing [judiciary], which among others was committed to the Tribunes, as will be discussed in the following chapter.

Chapter 7. How Much The Faculty Of Accusing [Judiciary] Is Necessary For A Republic For The Maintenance Of Liberty

No more useful and necessary authority can be given to those who are appointed in a City to guard its liberty, as is that of being able to accuse the citizen to the People or to any Magistrate or Council, if he should in any way transgress against the free state. This arrangement makes for two most useful effects for a Republic. The first is, that for fear of being accused, the citizens do not attempt anything against the state, and if they should [make an] attempt they are punished immediately and without regard [to person]. The other is, that it provides a way for giving vent to those moods which in whatever way and against whatever citizens may arise in the City. And when these moods do not provide a means by which they may be vented, they ordinarily have recourse to extra ordinary means that cause the complete ruin of a Republic. And there is nothing which makes a Republic so stable and firm, as organizing it in such a way that changes in the moods which may agitate it have a way prescribed by law for venting themselves. This can be demonstrated by many examples, and especially by that of Coriolanus, which Titus Livius refers to, where he says that the Roman Nobility being irritated against the Plebs, because it seemed to them the Plebs had too much authority concerning the creation of the Tribunes who defended them, and Rome [as happened] experiencing a great scarcity of provisions, and the Senate having sent to Sicily for grain, Coriolanus, enemy of the popular faction, counselled that the time had come [to be able] to castigate the Plebs and take away authority which they had acquired and assumed to the prejudice of the Nobility, by keeping them famished and not distributing the grain: which proposition coming to the ears of the people, caused so great an indignation against Coriolanus, that on coming out of the Senate he would have been killed in a tumultuary way if the Tribunes had not summoned him to appear and defend his cause. From this incident there is to be noted that which was mentioned above, that it is useful and necessary for a Republic with its laws to provide a means of venting that ire which is generally conceived against a citizen, for if these ordinary means do not exist, they will have recourse to extraordinary ones, and without doubt these produce much worse effects that do the others. For ordinarily when a citizen is oppressed, even if he has received an injustice, little or no disorder ensues in the Republic, because its execution is done by neither private nor foreign forces which are those that ruin public liberty, but is done by public force and arrangement which have their own particular limits, and do not transcend to things that ruin the Republic.

And to corroborate this opinion with examples, among the ancient ones I want this one of Coriolanus to be enough, on which anyone should consider how much evil would have resulted to the Roman Republic if he had been killed in the tumults, for there would have arisen an offense by a private [citizen] against a private [citizen]; which offense generates fear, fear seeks defense, for this defense partisans are procured, from the partisans factions arise in the City, [and] the factions cause their ruin. But the matter being controlled by those who had authority, all those evils which could arise if it were governed by private authority were avoided. We have seen in our time that troubles happened to the Republic of Florence because the multitude was able to give vent to their spirit in an ordinary way against one of her citizens, as befell in the time of Francesco Valori, who was as a Prince in that City [and] who being judged ambitious by many, and a man who wanted by his audacity and animosity to transcend the civil authority, and there being no way in the Republic of being able to resist him except by a faction contrary to his, there resulted that he [Valori] having no fear except from some extraordinary happening, began to enlist supporters who should defend him: On the other hand, those who opposed him not having any regular way or repressing him, thought of extraordinary ways, so that it came to arms. And where [if it were possible to oppose him, Valori, by regular means] his authority would have been extinguished with injury to himself only, but having to extinguish it by extraordinary means, there ensued harm not only to himself, but to many other noble citizens. We could also city in support of the above mentioned conclusion the incident which ensued in Florence in connection with Piero Soderini, which resulted entirely because there was not in that Republic [means of making] accusations against the ambitions of powerful citizens: for the accusing of a powerful one before eight judges in a Republic is not enough; it is necessary that the judges be many because the few always judge in favor of the few. So that if such a means had been in existence, they would have accused him [Soderini] of evil while yet alive, and through such means without having the Spanish army [called] to come in, they would have given vent to their feelings; or if he had not done evil they would not have had the audacity to move against him, for fear that they would be accused by him: and thus both sides would have ceased having that desire which was the cause of the trouble.