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The Prince
By Machiavelli In "The Prince", Niccolo Machiavelli presents a view of governing a state that is drastically different from that of humanists of his time. Machiavelli believes the ruling Prince should be the sole authority determining every aspect of the state and put in effect a policy which would serve his best interests. These interests were gaining, maintaining, and expanding his political power. His understanding of human nature was a complete contradiction of what humanists believed and taught. Machiavelli strongly promoted a secular society and felt morality was not necessary but in fact stood in the way of an effectively governed principality. Though in some cases Machiavelli's suggestions seem harsh and immoral, one must remember that these views were derived out of concern about Italy's unstable political condition. Although humanists of Machiavelli's time believed that an individual had much to offer to the well being of the state, Machiavelli was quick to mock human nature. Humanists at that time believed that an individual will only grow to maturity through participation in the governing of the state. Machiavelli generally distrusted citizens and said that in the time when they were needed most, they weren't around to help. Machiavelli further goes on to question the loyalty of the citizens and advises the Prince that "...since [men] are a sad lot, and keep no faith with you, you in your turn are under no obligation to keep it with them."(48) However, Machiavelli did not feel that a Prince should mistreat the citizens. Machiavelli suggested that if a prince can not be both feared and loved, it would be better for him to be feared by the citizens within his own principality. He makes the generalization that men are, "...ungrateful, fickle, liars, and deceivers, fearful of danger and greedy for gain."(46) He characterizes men as being self centered and not willing to act in the best interest of the state and, "...when the danger is close at hand, they turn against you."(46) Machiavelli reinforces the prince's need to be feared by stating, "People are less concerned with offending a man who makes himself loved than one who makes himself feared: the reason is that love is a link of obligation which men, because they are rotten, will break any time they think doing so serves their advantage; but fear involves dread of punishment, from which they can never escape."(46) Although feared, the prince should not be hated "...and this will be the result if only the prince will keep his hands off the property of his subjects or citizens, and off their women."(46) In order to win honor, Machiavelli suggests that a prince must be readily willing to deceive the citizens. One way is to "...encourage his citizens to ply their callings in peace, whether in commerce, agriculture, or in any other business"(63) By encouraging citizens to excel at their professions he would also be encouraging them to "...enrich the city or state in some special way."(63) These measures, though carried out in deception, would bring the prince honor and trust amongst the citizens, especially those who were in the best positions to oppose him. Machiavelli postulates that a prince must also deceive those who attempt to flatter him. Flattery generally causes the prince to make mistakes and "Courts are always full of flatterers; men take such pleasure in their own concerns, and are so easily deceived about them, that this plague of flattery is hard to escape."(64) The easiest way to avoid flattery is "by letting men know that you will not be offended at being told the truth."(64) However, if any person can tell the prince the truth, he will not be respected. Instead, a third mode of action should be taken "...bringing wise men into his council and giving them alone free license to speak the truth-and only on those points where the prince asks for it, not on others."(64) Since each person will only advise the prince in accord to his own interests, the prince must act on his own behalf. The prince should only be given advice if the advice is requested and at that the same time "...he should also be a liberal questioner..."(65) "...he should ask them about everything, hear his advisers out, and make his decision after thinking things over, according to his own style."(64) Machiavelli actively promoted a secular form of politics. He believed a secular form of government to be a more realistic type. His views were to the benefit of the prince, in helping him maintain power rather than to serve to the well being of the citizens. Therefore, if a prince wants to maintain his rule he must learn not to be so virtuous, and to make use of this or not according to need. He can "appear merciful, truthful, humane, sincere, and religious...But you must keep in your mind so disposed can turn to the contrary."(48) Machiavelli said that, "God will not do everything, lest he deprive us of our free will and a part of that glory which belongs to us."(71) Having studied and experienced Italy's political situation, Machiavelli derived these views. He felt that his suggestions would provide a frame work for a future prince of Italy to bring about political stability. Machiavelli writes: "Thus Italy, left almost lifeless, waits for a leader who will heal her wounds, stop the ravaging of Lombardy, end the looting of the Kingdom and of Tuscany, and minister to those sores of hers that have been festering so long. Behold how she implores God to send someone to free her from the cruel insolence of the barbarians; see how ready and eager she is to follow a banner joyously, if only someone will raise it up."(70) Although Italy had become the center of intellectual, artistic and cultural development, Machiavelli did not feel these qualities would help in securing Italy's political future. His opinion was that Italy required a leader who could have complete control over Italy's citizens and institutions. One way of maintaining control of was to institute a secular form of government. This would allow the prince to govern without being morally bound. Machiavelli's view of human nature was not in accord to that of humanists who felt that an individual could greatly contribute to the well being of the society. Machiavelli, however felt that people generally tended to work for their own best interests and gave little obligation to the well being of the state. Although Machiavelli doubted that this form of government could ever be established it did appear several years after he wrote The Prince. Machiavelli has become to be regarded as "the founder of modern day, secular politics."

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