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Chapters 19 and 20

Chapter XIX: That We Must Avoid Being Despised and Hated

A prince should above all avoid being hated, Machiavelli repeats. He can guard himself against the hatred of his citizens by never seeming frivolous, changeable, or shallow, and instead seeming to follow certain unwavering principles of upright morality (exactly what Machiavelli warned the prince not to do in the previous chapter!). By behaving in this way, a prince will avoid the greatest political danger: revolt from within. Machiavelli argues that conspiracy and internal unrest is much more dangerous to a prince than attacks from external enemies. If a prince does not take care to avoid the hatred of his citizens, then, he will live in a state of constant fear. In contrast, if a prince manages not to be hated, he can count on the goodwill of the citizens and ensure political stability.

Machiavelli offers the example of France, where the parliament acts as a buffer between the king and the people, as well as a buffer between the king and the nobles. By placing a certain amount of power in the parliament, and by making the parliament take over many of the most unpopular duties of rule, the king of France ensures that he never earns the hatred of the nobles or the people himself. He then moves on to discuss the examples of various Roman emperors -- all of whom, he claims, prove his point: that rulers are most in danger when they are hated by the people. Machiavelli reiterates that avoiding hatred should be a ruler's main goal. This means, as we have seen, avoiding the reputation for doing evil deeds (even though the prince will need, in actuality, to do such deeds). Here, he adds another tricky point: that sometimes doing good deeds can also result in being hated by the people (for example, being nice to a cruel army leader who is popularly loathed). Typically, Machiavelli has moved from what appears to be a stable, simple "rule" - avoid being hated the people - and then qualifies and redefines that rule so that it becomes almost impossible to understand without reference to particular circumstances.

Chapter XX: Whether Fortresses and other Things Which Princes Often Contrive are Useful or Injurious

Is it a good idea for a prince who comes into power in a state to take arms away from the citizens there? Surprisingly, Machiavelli says no. By taking arms away from the people, he reasons, a prince will make himself look cruel and harsh, encouraging discontent among his subject. By doing the opposite - giving arms to the people - the prince will actually make himself safer, since the people will be grateful and more loyal. However, as usual, there are some exceptions to this rule. When a prince adds a new territory to his old state, he must disarm all the citizens in that annexed territory, except those who helped him to gain power - and he must also make sure that his own soldiers are more powerfully armed than any of his new subjects.

Machiavelli offers some additional advice about governing a newly-annexed territory. A prince in such a position, as we remember, can never be entirely safe. There are, however, some ways in which he can make himself more secure. For instance, he might try to provoke an enemy attack intentionally - that way, by defeating the "enemy," he can make himself look like a great leader. He might also try to earn the friendship of those who were his greatest opponents when he came into power (friends who used to be enemies, he argues, are often more trustworthy than others, because they wish to compensate for their earlier hostility). The flip side of this, of course, is that the prince must always suspect those men who rebelled against their previous ruler to help him gain power, since they are usually the kind of men who will always be dissatisfied with their prince.

What about fortresses? Should a prince build them around his state? Machiavelli begins by saying "yes," since many rulers in history have become strong by building strong fortresses. However, he also points out that some rulers have actually become more powerful after destroying their fortresses. Once again, the best strategy is to do what works best in a particular circumstance. But as a general rule, Machiavelli argues that princes who fear foreigners most should not have fortresses, while princes who fear their own people most need fortresses. Doesn't that seem backward? What does he mean? Well, he argues that if a prince has the support of the people, he will have no need of fortresses against the enemy, since the people will help him fight. If the prince does not have loyal subjects, he must then use fortresses to protect himself against attack, since he cannot rely on the people's help.

Browse all Studyworld Studynotes

Historical Context
Important Persons
Points to Ponder
Did You Know
Summary of the Argument
Prefatory Letter
Chapters 1 and 2
Chapter 3
Chapters 4 and 5
Chapter 6
Chapter 7
Chapter 8
Chapters 9 and 10
Chapters 11 and 12
Chapters 13 and 14
Chapters 15 and 16
Chapters 17 and 18
Chapters 19 and 20
Chapters 21, 22, and 23
Chapters 24, 25, and 26



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