Week 2 discussion

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Instructions:

Students are required to write a 250-300 word reflection on this question:

Questions:

With a focus on main thinkers who developed thoughts on human nature and its constraints, reflect on the centrality of human nature to (classical) realist theory of IR.

Only Book Source ( Political Theories of International Relations: From Thucydides to the Present

David Boucher-CHAPTERS 5-7) 

Also, I attached pdfs of other thinkers to help you out

5

The modern European state and
system of states

By the middle of the seventeenth century monarchs had consolidated their powers
at the expense of other princes and the church. The modern territorial state was on
its way to displacing the complicated feudal, urban, and ecclesiastical
arrangements of medieval Europe. Advances in military technology and
administrative machinery provided territorial sovereigns with instruments of
power to reinforce their claims to authority, and the resulting concentration of
power and authority generated an identifiable system of states ordered by its own
imperatives and practices. These changes invited efforts to define the rights of
sovereigns in their dealings with one another and to articulate principles of
statecraft, prudential as well as moral, appropriate to the new international system.

In this chapter, we focus on the theories of sovereignty and reason of state that
accompanied the emergence of the modern European state from its medieval
antecedents, and on the new conceptions of diplomacy and statecraft to which these
theories gave rise. The former are best illustrated in the sixteenth-century writings
of Machiavelli and Bodin; the latter in writings of the statesmen and scholars who
theorized the new, decentralized, system of states during its “classical” period, the
eighteenth century. We leave to chapters 6 and 7 the writings of more philosophical
writers, like Hobbes, Rousseau, and Kant, who, in criticizing the presuppositions
of this system, pointed the way toward its transformation.

Acquiring and maintaining power
Early modern thought about the emerging entities called states, though springing
from debates between would-be rulers, is not limited to considering claims to
legal authority. Rulers had long been accumulating power as well as authority at
the expense of lesser nobles, and a literature concerned with the proper use of this
power gradually emerged. But around 1500 this literature took a marked turn:
instead of preaching the virtuous use of power, it purported to offer practical
advice regarding the effective use of power. This change occurred first in Italy.

The Italian cities, which revived and flourished long before the Renaissance,
provided opportunities for an increasing diversity of human activities. A new
interest in temporal affairs displaced religious concerns. And there emerged a new
ideal of individuality, based on the idea that human beings, being inherently free to
make their own choices, ought to cultivate that freedom. In politics these changes
are expressed in the movement we call civic humanism – “civic” because it
translated the humanist ideal of individual expression and self-development from
the realm of literature and art to that of government. Taking ancient Athens and the
Roman republic as models, the humanists saw politics as an arena for asserting
individuality, enacting virtue, and winning glory. Civic humanism strengthened the
liberties of citizens by nurturing a politics of “popular” (as opposed to
monarchical) government.

Civic humanism also strengthened the freedom of the Italian cities from outside
rule. In alliance with the papacy, the cities gradually made themselves independent
of the German emperors (the medieval Holy Roman Empire, though centered in
Germany, included the Italian north). Then, as the empire in Italy declined, the
larger cities were able to free themselves from papal rule. While asserting their
own autonomy, Florence, Venice, Genoa, and Milan expanded at the expense of
their lesser neighbors. By the fifteenth century power in northern and central Italy
had been consolidated in a dozen or so independent city-states comprising a
miniature international system.

New practices of international relations emerged within this Italian system. One
of these was what a later age called the balance of power, the continual making and
remaking of alliances to resist the dominant power of the day, thereby preventing
weak states from being conquered by the powerful. Another was the practice of
exchanging resident ambassadors authorized to negotiate on behalf of their
governments and, equally important, instructed to provide the intelligence their
governments needed. And there were certain “rules of the game” that constrained
the diplomacy, the alliances, and the wars of these states in their struggle for
power. Such rules provided the germ of an emerging system of international law.
Although the Italian system disappeared in the French conquests of the early
sixteenth century, its practices were adopted by the rest of Europe and eventually
by all the world.

Most of the Italian city-states were either republics or, more often,
principalities ruled by nobles, like the Medicis in Florence, who could pretend no
convincing title to rule and who relied on arts of coercion like those investigated
by Machiavelli in The Prince to stay in power. The absence of legitimate authority
in these states, as elsewhere in Europe, made their governments insecure. Their

rulers were constantly alert to internal and external threats and often engaged in
adventures designed to unite their restive subjects against a common enemy. As a
result, the Italian cities were perpetually at war with one another, the stronger
expanding their territories at the expense of the weaker. Enterprising rulers
recruited professional soldiers from other parts of Italy and beyond (the Vatican’s
Swiss guards are a vestige of this practice), turning war into an expensive, though
not especially bloody, game fought by mercenaries. This continual warfare
militarized the Italian states and corrupted their internal politics.

Of the contributors to the literature of practical statecraft that flourished in this
environment, Niccolò Machiavelli (1469–1527) is undoubtedly the most
influential. But he is also a curiously opaque thinker: playful, ironic, multifaceted,
and seemingly inconsistent. On a host of contested issues, his works have invited
diverse interpretations. At one extreme, Machiavelli is a teacher of evil, the
originator of “Machiavellism,” an ethic of unscrupulous egoism in individual
conduct. At the other, he is a moralist who satirizes this ethic from an essentially
Christian standpoint. Between these extremes we find readings of Machiavelli as a
theorist of the principles of practical wisdom required to establish, maintain, and
strengthen a state. It is this last Machiavelli whose writings inspired both the
tradition of reason of state connected with the rise of absolutism in Italy, France,
and Germany (Meinecke, 1957) and the anti-absolutist civic republican tradition in
England and America (Pocock, 1975). It is also this Machiavelli who, along with
Hobbes, helped to generate the tradition of political realism in foreign policy.
According to the realists, because each state must defend its own interests, there
can be no moral limits on the competition of states for power. Reason of state,
here, means that international relations is a realm in which the rules of civil society
do not apply: rules guiding personal conduct or domestic politics are irrelevant to
foreign policy.

Although Machiavelli is often seen as an advocate for reason of state, the
expression does not appear in his writings. One must therefore be careful to avoid
anachronism in reading later understandings of the concept back into his work.
Nevertheless, something like reason of state as a prudential ethic of the common
good is present in The Discourses, if not in The Prince, which considers how a
ruler can increase his personal power.

Machiavelli does not analyze the moral and legal concepts he uses in
articulating this ethic, perhaps because he does not find them problematic. He is
concerned with the practical means by which a desirable or justifiable order can
be established and maintained. To understand the conditions for successful princely
rule, or for preserving or expanding republics, requires a new method of political

argument, one that is historical and prudential rather than philosophical or moral.
One learns how to succeed in ruling, Machiavelli argues, not from precept but from
experience. But this can include the vicarious experience made available by
historians. And because they were the most gloriously successful, one can learn
most of all from the ancient Romans. Machiavelli presents his Discourses on the
First Ten Books of Titus Livy (to give the book its full title) as his reflections on
that historian’s account of the founding of Rome. Through Livy we can learn to
imitate the early Romans, who succeeded, as none of Machiavelli’s
contemporaries have been able to do, in establishing a great and lasting republic.

Rome was founded, the story goes, when Romulus killed his brother and made
himself sole ruler of the city. Machiavelli defends this crime, arguing that
undivided authority is indispensable in a state, and that good effects excuse
reprehensible actions. Implicit in Machiavelli’s discussion of the origins of Rome
is a distinction between ruling and founding: acts that would be unlawful under an
existing constitution may be necessary to establish a new one. But “founding” is not
limited to starting a new community where there was none before; it usually means
establishing a new regime to replace the old. And the chief method by which a new
regime is established – revolution – is, by definition, unlawful. Machiavelli is not,
however, an uncritical partisan of revolutionary change. Only the founders of a
republic or a well-governed principality, like Romulus, deserve praise; those, like
Caesar, who institute a tyranny must be condemned. In these and many other
passages throughout his works, Machiavelli invokes moral standards in a way that
undercuts the effort to read him as a consistent immoralist.

Machiavelli insists, then, that extraordinary measures, praiseworthy or not, are
sometimes necessary to establish and preserve a regime. Actual or would-be rulers
may have no alternative but to override the laws, even the laws of morality, to
restore good government or ensure stability. Such methods are especially useful to
the new ruler of a state, who, to secure his rule, should

organize everything in that state afresh … as did David when he became king, “who filled the hungry with good
things and the rich sent empty away”; as well as to build new cities, to destroy those already built, and to move
the inhabitants from one place to another far distant from it; in short, to leave nothing of that province intact, and
nothing in it, neither rank, nor institution, nor form of government, nor wealth, except as it be held by such as
recognize that it comes from you.

He should imitate Philip of Macedon, the father of Alexander the Great, who
“moved men from province to province as shepherds move their sheep” (p. 268).
As Mansfield points out, this passage contains the only quotation from the New
Testament in Machiavelli’s writings, and in the original it is said of God, not of
David. Machiavelli seems to imply here that “the new prince must imitate God

rather than obey him” (Mansfield, 1979: 99). If you are squeamish about taking and
holding power, you should live as a private citizen and not seek to rule. In
Discourse 41 of Book 3, Machiavelli tells the story of how the general, Lucius
Lentulus, advised a Roman army that had been defeated by the Samnites, to “pass
under the yoke,” thereby symbolically acknowledging their subservience – good
advice, since the army survived to fight again. Where the security of ones country
is at stake, one should set aside all considerations of honor, justice, and humanity,
and do whatever is expedient.

Such arguments can be found in many Roman writers. Cicero and Tacitus, for
example, argue that the laws may be violated if the public welfare requires it. In
the middle ages, the label ratio status, which might be translated as “reason of
state,” was applied to the argument that the laws could be set aside for the good of
a realm (Gilbert, 1973: 116–26). But the medieval argument differs in at least one
significant respect from that offered by Machiavelli and his successors. In the
medieval version, human laws can be set aside to protect the civil order, but only
because that order is necessary for peace and justice. Human laws are instruments
of, and therefore subordinate to, natural and divine law, and can be set aside only
in obedience to that higher law. Machiavelli helped to convert this medieval idea
into the modern realist doctrine that, in pursuing the national interest, governments
are excused from the obligations of morality as well as those of positive law.

Sovereignty
Machiavelli uses the word “state” in The Prince to mean the status and power of a
ruler. A prince must concern himself with maintaining his estate, his position, his
possessions – just as we maintain our jobs, homes, bank accounts, and reputations,
which are the sources of our status and power in the world. The modern idea of the
state is quite different. The ruler of a modern state is neither the proprietor of a
landed estate nor the master of its inhabitants. A modern state is a legal person
distinct from the natural person of its ruler or rulers: “an apparatus of power
whose existence remains independent of those who may happen to control it at any
given time” (Skinner, 1989: 102).

Long before Machiavelli, royal authority was being slowly depersonalized in
the habit of distinguishing between the royal office, “the crown,” and the person
holding that office and wearing the crown (Black, 1993: 190). But this distinction,
important as it was in distinguishing rulers of a realm from lords of a manor, could
not solve the problem of how conflicting claims to ruling authority should be
reconciled. The idea of sovereignty emerged as a way of solving this problem.

The idea of sovereignty is implicit in the thirteenth-century French formula, “the
king is emperor in his own realm” – in other words, that the law of the king of
France overrides that of any other lord, baron, or noble in France. It is a way of
saying that a king is superior in authority to all other lords within the same realm.
The idea of sovereignty, which is based on the principle of Roman law that the
emperor has supreme authority, came to play a key role in the debate over the
power of kings. But the effort to articulate the idea of supreme or sovereign power
is more than a stage in the emergence of the idea of royal absolutism in early
modern Europe. It is also a stage in the emergence of the idea of a modern state.

In the sixteenth century, the question of where authority in a community is to be
located gained urgency in the face of intractable religious disagreements. In the
states of early modern Europe, racked by religious disputes and civil wars, the
only plausible basis for peace was shared recognition within each state of the
authority of its ruler. But who, among the various competitors, truly possessed the
authority to rule? Where there are competing authorities, some criterion by which
to delimit their respective claims is required. The ruling authority in a state must
possess some identifying characteristic by which it can be distinguished from
competitors. In early modern Europe the distinguishing characteristic of this ruling
authority was its “sovereignty,” that is, its superiority to any other title or office
within the state. A state is a territorial association of subjects ruled by a single
sovereign.

These ideas are illustrated in Bodin’s Six Books of the Commonwealth (1576).
Jean Bodin (1530–96) was educated as a humanist and civil lawyer and worked as
a barrister and administrator, but he was above all a scholar. Bodin’s interest in the
idea of sovereignty was in part a response to the wars of late sixteenth-century
France, in which religious differences fueled competing claims to authority. Civil
order and peace could not be established, Bodin thought, until these disputes over
authority were settled. And to settle them requires a criterion for distinguishing the
authority of a prince from other kinds of authority. For Bodin, it is the possession
of “sovereignty” that distinguishes the ruler of a state from other authorities both
inside and outside the state.

Unlike many of his contemporaries, Bodin is concerned with the criteria of
sovereignty in general, not in one particular state. His inquiry therefore transcends
the parochial concern to defend the claims of this or that claimant to power and
becomes a philosophical analysis of the concept of sovereignty.

Sovereign authority (Bodin often says “power”) is “absolute,” that is, “not
limited either in power, or in function, or in length of time” (Bodin, 1992: 3). This
definition implies that the authority to rule is perpetual. A person given such

authority for a determinate period is not the sovereign; sovereignty remains with
those who conferred the authority, while those that hold it temporarily are merely
its trustees or custodians. The definition of sovereignty as absolute authority also
implies that those who hold sovereign authority are not subject to the commands of
any person. A sovereign prince is not bound by the laws of his predecessors, for he
can alter these laws. Nor is a sovereign bound by his own laws because he can
rescind any law that he prescribes. But he is bound by his treaties with other
sovereigns, because he cannot unilaterally terminate an agreement. A prince is as
much bound by his contracts and promises as any private individual. Finally, a
sovereign is bound by divine and natural laws because he also cannot alter these
laws: “Even Dionysius, the tyrant of Sicily, told his mother that he could readily
exempt her from the laws and customs of Syracuse, but not from the laws of nature”
(Bodin, 1992: 32).

The sovereign, then, is the person (individual or collective) who gives laws to
others. Furthermore, only a sovereign can make and repeal laws. The right to enact
laws is, therefore, one of the defining “marks” of supreme or sovereign authority,
one of the criteria by which it can be distinguished from other kinds of authority.
Working out amore detailed typology of such marks, Bodin suggests that only a
sovereign has the authority to appoint lower officials, to define their duties, to
enact and repeal laws, to declare war, to decide judicial appeals, and to pardon
persons who have been condemned to death. Bodin articulates a formula which
was to become famous in legal theory when he says that law is “nothing but the
command of a sovereign” (Bodin, 1992: 38).

Sovereignty, as Bodin understands it, is more clearly defined in a monarchy than
in a mixed regime – one in which authority is shared between, say, a prince and a
legislature. For Bodin, in other words, the difficulty with a mixed constitution is
conceptual and not merely practical. He cannot imagine that authority could be
shared or distributed between different branches of government. Therefore, he
concludes, erroneously, that the sovereign authority in a state cannot be divided
(Bodin, 1992: xvii). It is true that in any single legal system there must ultimately
be one and only one way of settling legal disputes. There must be a single ultimate
criterion by which the question “what is the law?” is decided. But it does not
follow that the authority to enact and apply laws cannot be shared among different
branches of government.

Bodin’s confusion on this point is not the only one to which the word
“sovereignty” has given rise. Sovereign or supreme authority is often confused
with unlimited authority. But there is, in fact, no such thing: because the authority to
govern is always conferred by laws, it is necessarily limited by law. And just as

authority (which is the right to govern) is often confused with power (the ability to
govern effectively), sovereignty is easily confused with unlimited power. But there
is no such thing as unlimited power, either: because its effective use always
depends on circumstances, power can never be total. “Totalitarian” regimes may
seek unlimited power, but they cannot achieve it. Defining sovereignty as a kind of
power suggests, moreover, that a government’s right to rule is dependent on its
power. But just as the authority of a law is independent of a government’s ability to
enforce it effectively, so a government’s ability to enforce its laws, though one of
the conditions of its existence, is not the criterion of its authority. It took several
centuries for theorists to unravel the tangle of confusions spun by careless use of
the word “sovereignty.”

The state as a territorial association ruled by a single sovereign must deny
authority to external as well as internal competitors. Like internal sovereignty,
external sovereignty – the notion that a state is independent of the legal authority of
any other state – has deep roots in medieval thought and practice. The thirteenth-
century metaphor of a king as emperor in his own realm implies, for example, that
a king is independent of any ruler outside the realm, including even the Holy See.
The assertion of the independence of kings from imperial authority received papal
support early in the fourteenth century when the pope intervened in a dispute
between the emperor and his vassal, the king of Sicily. The dispute raised the
question of whether a king could be summoned to appear in the court of the
emperor. The pope’s decision that one king could not be made to appear before
another, even if the summoning king were the emperor, strengthened the idea of
territorial sovereignty by denying that a king had authority outside his own realm.
And by denying that imperial rule was universal, it demoted the emperor to the
status of king with jurisdiction over a limited territory (Ullmann, 1975: 198). More
than three hundred years later, the Peace of Westphalia recognized the right of the
princes, bishops, and cities of the empire to conduct their foreign affairs as
independent states, thereby reinforcing the principle of sovereignty as the
cornerstone of the international order. By the seventeenth century, the idea that the
world was divided among a number of independent states whose sovereigns held
supreme authority within their own territories but no authority in the realms of
other sovereigns was firmly entrenched in European political thought and practice.

Diplomacy and the balance of power
It is hard to distinguish between the international and the internal in medieval
Europe because of the way authority was divided and shared. Instead of clearly

demarcated territorial communities, we find “a tangle of overlapping feudal
jurisdictions, plural allegiances and asymmetrical suzerainties” (Holzgrefe, 1989:
11). Not only kings, lords, vassals, and church officials but also towns,
parliaments, guilds, and universities exchanged diplomatic missions, settled their
disputes by negotiation and arbitration, and concluded formal treaties. As Garrett
Mattingly observes, “kings made treaties with their own vassals and with the
vassals of their neighbors. They received embassies from their own subjects and
from the subjects of other princes … Subject cities negotiated with one another
without reference to their respective sovereigns” (1955: 26). In modern
international society, by contrast, only states are “international legal persons”
capable of sending and receiving ambassadors, signing treaties, or appearing
before international tribunals.

The idea of exclusive territorial sovereignty implies a new basis for the ancient
practice of diplomatic immunity, which excludes an ambassador from the
jurisdiction of all laws except those of his own country. Because no sovereign is
under the authority of any other, and because an ambassador is no mere envoy but a
permanent representative of one sovereign residing in the territory of another,
ambassadors are subject only to the laws of their own state. The lengths to which a
theorist of territorial sovereignty might go to preserve its assumptions is illustrated
in the fiction of extraterritoriality, according to which the citizens of one state
located in another, but immune from the application of its laws, are imagined to
remain in the territory of their own state.

The practice of treaty-making also illustrates the differences between medieval
and modern international relations. Medieval “treaties” were more like private
contracts than like modern international agreements, in part because they were
made under the law common to all peoples (ius gentium), not under a distinct body
of international law. Medieval practice did not always distinguish between a
public office and the person occupying that office. This blurred the distinction
between personal agreements binding rulers and official agreements binding the
communities they ruled. Often, a treaty made by a prince had to be reaffirmed by
his successor to remain in force. This is an echo of the feudal relationship between
vassal and lord: the vassal’s oath to serve the lord is personal and therefore not
binding on his heirs. But with the decline of feudalism, the law began to distinguish
between the office of the prince and the person, between the crown and the person
wearing it. Once this distinction was in place, treaties could be understood as
contracts between states rather than between persons, and therefore as imposing
obligations on successive princes or governments. Grotius observes that a feudal
oath binds the person, but a treaty binds the heir as well (Grotius, 1925: 419). Only

sovereign states can be party to treaties, understood as agreements between rulers
on behalf of their respective communities.

The early modern literature of diplomacy mixes discussion of the maxims of
effective diplomacy with discussion of the rights and duties of diplomats. A
practicing diplomat like Francois de Callières (1645–1717) emphasized the
pragmatic requirements of skillful diplomacy, a lawyer like Cornelius van
Bynkershoek (1673–1743) the “right of legation” in civil and international law.
Both, however, describe a complicated practice in which matters of expediency
and principle are intertwined. And both contrast existing practices with the ideal
standards those practices intimate and yet rarely meet.

Callières wrote De la manière de négocier avec les Souverains, a handbook
whose title might be freely translated as “How to Deal with Foreign
Governments,” in 1716 for the regent of the infant king of France, Louis XV. In it,
he summarizes the fruits of his long experience as an ambassador (and secret
agent) in the regime of Louis XIV. He discusses the aims and value of diplomacy,
praising the contributions of Cardinal Richelieu, who established in the court of
Louis XIII a centralized foreign office and professional diplomatic corps. He
examines the education, knowledge, and personal qualities needed for successful
diplomacy. And he discusses the rules governing the practice of diplomacy,
including those defining the different ranks of diplomatic office and the scope of
diplomatic immunity.

Bynkershoek, a lawyer who served as a member and eventually as president of
the Supreme Court of Holland, is perhaps best known for his treatise on the law of
the sea, a topic of particular concern to the Dutch of the seventeenth and eighteenth
centuries. But he wrote on many other branches of law. His Quaestionum Juris
Publici (1737) contains several chapters concerned with diplomacy and one
concerning the fundamental principle of the law of treaties: the obligation to
respect treaties in good faith. Although Bynkershoek rejects the arguments
commonly used to justify the unilateral abrogation of treaties, he acknowledges that
a state cannot be required to perform a promised act if circumstances have made
its performance impossible.

The tension between realism and good faith underlying Bynkershoek’s
discussion of treaties is dramatically illustrated in the debates provoked by French
foreign policy after the revolution of 1789. The revolution unsettled European
politics as its democratic and egalitarian principles spread beyond France and
anti-revolutionary emigrés worked to turn Austria and Prussia into enemiés of the
new regime. By 1793, France was at war with most of her neighbors, to whom she
posed an ideological as well as a military threat.

One of these debates concerned the American policy of neutrality adopted
during the first years of independence. At this time, the United States was not only
a new nation but a weak one. Alexander Hamilton (1757–1804), like many other
Americans, feared that Britain would soon try to regain its American possessions.
These fears are evident in the controversy over whether the United States should
provide assistance to revolutionary France after she went to war with Britain in
February 1793. American public opinion favored France, reflecting a sympathy
based on shared republican ideals as well as on residual hostility to Britain. In
April 1793 President Washington, in an extremely unpopular act, declared the
country neutral in the war between Britain and France.

In Letters of Pacificus, Hamilton (whose own sympathies were with Britain)
defends Washington’s policy of neutrality. He argues that there is no way the United
States can assist France. Furthermore, France has no navy capable of protecting its
overseas trade. Were the United States to side with France, Britain would simply
destroy the American trade as well. Siding with France would therefore cost the
United States a great deal while doing little for France. Worse, the country would
expose itself to invasion by Britain and her ally Spain, another formidable power.
Gratitude toward France for her help in the war of independence and sympathy for
the French cause are minor considerations in view of the dangers the United States
would run in siding with France. Hamilton generalizes this argument in the
“Farewell Address” which he drafted for President Washington: the United States
must avoid the “entangling alliances” through which the country would be drawn
into the dangerous game of European power politics. This policy, which became
part of a myth of national virtue, was in fact a prudent isolationism adopted by a
weak state for its own security.

While the neutrality debate was going on in America, Britain was debating its
own policy toward France. Britain’s Tory prime minister, William Pitt, advocated
intervention to protect the Dutch, from whose ports the French might launch an
invasion of Britain. He argued that by invading its neighbors and installing
revolutionary regimes, France was creating a new empire. Britain must therefore
prepare to fight France on the Continent to preserve the states system of Europe
and even Britain herself. Charles James Fox, leader of the opposition Whigs,
challenged this policy, arguing that the decrees of the French government offering
aid to any nation choosing to overthrow its monarch were mere propaganda and
that Britain should avoid associating herself with the cause of counterrevolution.
For Fox, the question is one to be settled according to the principles of popular
sovereignty and nonintervention, not those of power politics.

Though a Whig, Edmund Burke (1729–97) supported Pitt’s policy of
intervention, but he did so on different grounds. For Burke, the threat to Britain
comes not from France but from Jacobinism, the egalitarian, antimonarchical
ideology of the French revolution. If the revolutionaries in France are permitted to
get away with overturning property rights and the rights of monarchs, England too
will succumb to revolution. Britain must defeat the French to teach its own citizens
that revolution does not pay. Burke develops these arguments, which he formulated
as early as 1789, in his Letters on a Regicide Peace (1796–7). The revolutionary
regime, he argues here, has turned France into an outlaw state. The French have
repudiated not only their treaty obligations but “the law of nations,” not only
international law but the laws and traditions of Christian Europe. By executing
their king, encouraging children to spy on their parents, and establishing a new
“Cult of Reason” to replace the Christian faith, they violate and destroy civilized
morality. Citing reports of ceremonies in which revolutionaries would drink the
blood of their executed captives, Burke even accuses them of cannibalism.

Europe, for Burke, is not a mere system of states; it is a commonwealth resting
on a foundation of shared beliefs and practices: “virtually one great state having
the same basis of general law, with some diversity of provincial customs and local
establishments” (p. 297). International cooperation depends not only on formal
treaties but on similarities of culture and custom. One of the basic principles of
European society is the “law of neighborhood” or “civil vicinity,” which
prescribes that no member of this society may innovate in ways that offend its
neighbors. When it does, those neighbors are free to judge whether the innovation
is tolerable. And if they deem it dangerous, they can act to suppress it, by force if
necessary.

In pressing for British intervention in French affairs, Burke invokes law,
custom, and moral principle, as does Fox in opposing it. Pitt, in contrast, rests his
case for action against France on the necessity of preserving equilibrium within the
European system by resisting the dominant power of the day. This policy of
balance derives from the idea of reason of state, according to which a government,
as the custodian of the public welfare, the salus populi, must be allowed to do
whatever is necessary to protect that welfare. And because a states independence
is the presupposition of its welfare, the first imperative of foreign policy is to
maintain that independence. The idea underlying the balance of power is that each
state can maintain its own independence by combining with others to prevent the
concentration of overwhelming power in the hands of any state seeking to dominate
its neighbors. All may act to preserve the multiplicity of states in the face of

hegemonic threats, as the states of the day did against the Habsburgs in the
sixteenth century and against France under Louis XIV and again under Napoleon.

Many writers helped to articulate the balance of power as the central organizing
idea of European foreign policy. One of the earliest is François de Salignac de la
Mothe Fénelon (1651–1715), an archbishop during the reign of Louis XIV, when
France was the dominant power in Europe. Fénelon’s essay on the balance of
power, written about 1700, illustrates how easy it is to run prudential and moral
considerations together in discussing foreign policy. Starting from the Hobbesian
premise that states are engaged in a constant struggle for power, Fénelon argues
that each must be continually alert to changes in the power of the others and
prepared to resist any augmentation of a neighbor’s power that threatens its own.
Given the nature of power, states will seek to dominate if they can, and those that
cannot will be driven to combine to resist being dominated. But Europe (which
Fénelon calls “Christendom”) is not a mere aggregate of competing states; it is also
a society, “a sort of general republic” defined by common concerns and principles.
Its members not only have an interest in combining against any state that threatens
to grow too powerful but a duty to combine.

Fénelon is attempting to reconcile the balance of power with natural law: what
is conducive to the interests of the European community as a whole must also be
morally obligatory. The view that any policy that is truly expedient or useful must
be morally right goes back to Cicero and is part of the Stoic or Ciceronian
vocabulary of early modern political thought. Later on this identification of the
useful and the right turns into the doctrine of utility: the utilitarians define moral
right as that which is useful (for those whose interests are being considered). It
may be contrasted with the Tacitean or realist language of Machiavelli and others
who emphasize the distinction between expediency and morality.

Friedrich von Gentz (1764–1832), a Prussian diplomat in the period of the
Napoleonic wars, provides a statement of the balance-of-power concept that more
clearly distinguishes utility and rights. Though not a matter of right and wrong, the
balance of power serves to protect the rights as well as the interests of states. The
essential right of a state is to exist as the equal of other states, regardless of
differences in power. Europe is an international society (whose members have
rights) as well as an international system (whose members affect one another’s
interests). This idea that states are equal members of international society has
come to be known as “the equality of states.”

If the European system is a kind of great republic, its members must be formal
equals with equal rights under international law, regardless of discrepancies in
wealth and power. There can be no privileges (literally, “private laws”) for rich

and powerful states – or else the system is not a true republic. These principles
are, in effect, the constitution of international society. “The true character of an
international community (such as is being formed in modern Europe) … will be
that a certain number of states at very different levels of power and wealth, under
the protection of a common bond, shall each remain unassailed within its own
secure borders” (p. 308). The balance of power, for Gentz, preserves this common
bond under which states have their rights as members of international society. It is
the mechanism that enforces international law, a kind of “approximation” to the
judicial and executive power within a state.

FURTHER READING

Standard general works on early modern political thought include Skinner (1978)
and Burns with Goldie (1991). From the vast literature on Machiavelli, the student
of international relations might begin with Skinner (1981) and Hulliung (1983).
Among many works dealing with classical European diplomacy and the balance of
power, one might single out Mattingly (1955), Gulick (1955), Wright (1975), and,
for the nineteenth century, Holbraad (1970). Winston Churchill provides a classic
statement of the balance of power as British foreign policy in chapter 12 of
Churchill (1948). For Burke, see Welsh (1995).

SOURCES

Niccolò Machiavelli, from The Prince (1532), ed. Quentin Skinner and Russell
Price (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988), chs. 1, 2, 3 (parts),
and 15, pp. 5–10 and 54–5. The editors’ notes have been omitted.

Niccolò Machiavelli, from The Discourses, translated Leslie J. Walker (London:
Routledge, 1950), Book 1, Chapters 6, 9, 26 and Book 3, Chapter 41
[reprinted in The Discourses, ed. Bernard Crick, with revisions by Brian
Richardson (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1970) pp. 118–24, 131–4, 176–7 and
514–15]. Reprinted by permission of Routledge.

Jean Bodin, from Six Books of the Commonwealth (1576), in Jean Bodin, On
Sovereignty, ed. Julian H. Franklin (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press,
1992), Book 1, ch. 8 (parts), pp. 1–2, 4–5, 7–8, 11, 13–14, and 15. Most of
the editor’s notes have been omitted.

Fr. Françis de Callières, from On the Manner of Negotiating with Princes (1716),
trans. A. F. Whyte (Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 1963),
pp. 11–19.

Cornelius van Bynkershoek, from On Questions of Public Law (1737), trans.
Tenney Frank (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1930), Book 2, ch. 10 (parts), pp.
190–4.

Alexander Hamilton, from Letters of Pacificus (1793), in Letters of Pacificus and
Helvidius (Washington, DC: Gideon, 1845), Letters 3 and 4, pp.24–32.

Edmund Burke, from Letters on a Regicide Peace (1796), in Burke, Works, vol. V
(London: Bell, 1906), pp. 152–3, 206–9, 213–19, and 223. Author’s
footnotes omitted.

François de Salignac de la Mothe Fénelon, from “Examen de conscience sur les
devoirs de la royauté” (1700), in Oeuvres complètes de Fénelon, vol. VII
(Paris, 1850), pp. 98–101. Translated for this anthology by Susan Rosa.

Friedrich von Gentz, “The True Concept of a Balance of Power” (1806), trans.
Patricia M. Sherwood, in Theory and Practice of the Balance of Power, ed.
Moorhead Wright (London: Dent, 1975), pp. 94–8.

community of resource and effort each individual be safeguarded in the possession
of what belongs to him.


6. It is not, then, contrary to the nature of society to look out for oneself and
advance one’s own interests, provided the rights of others are not infringed; and
consequently the use of force which does not violate the rights of others is not
unjust.

THOMAS HOBBES

Thomas HOBBES (1588–1679), English philosopher and author of Leviathan
(1651), a work acknowledged to be a masterpiece of political theorizing even by
those who abominate its conclusions. Central to its argument is a metaphor, the
state of nature, to which Hobbes contrasts the civil state. Unlike the state of nature,
the civil state is a condition in which human beings are associated on the basis of a
common body of laws. Law, Hobbes argued, can only exist where there are agreed
procedures for enacting rules and resolving disputes about their proper
interpretation. Sovereigns, being outside civil society, must be regarded as being in
a state of nature with respect to one another. And the state of nature is a state of
war. It is not easy to refute this Skepticism regarding the claims of international
law, and for that reason Hobbes’ writings continue to provoke thought about the
character and conditions of justice in international relations.

From Leviathan

Chapter 13
Of the natural condition of mankind, as concerning their felicity, and

misery

Nature has made men so equal, in the faculties of body, and mind; as that though
there be found one man sometimes manifestly stronger in body, or of quicker mind
then another; yet when all is reckoned together, the difference between man, and
man, is not so considerable, as that one man can thereupon claim to himself any
benefit, to which another may not pretend, as well as he. For as to the strength of
body, the weakest has strength enough to kill the strongest, either by secret

machination, or by confederacy with others, that are in the same danger with
himself.

And as to the faculties of the mind, (setting aside the arts grounded upon words,
and especially that skill of proceeding upon general, and infallible rules, called
science; which very few have, and but in few things; as being not a native faculty,
born with us; nor attained, (as prudence,) while we look after somewhat else,) I
find yet a greater equality amongst men, than that of strength. For prudence, is but
experience; which equal time, equally bestows on all men, in those things they
equally apply themselves unto. That which may perhaps make such equality
incredible, is but a vain conceit of one’s own wisdom, which almost all men think
they have in a greater degree, than the vulgar; that is, than all men but themselves,
and a few others, whom by fame, or for concurring with themselves, they approve.
For such is the nature of men, that howsoever they may acknowledge many others
to be more witty, or more eloquent, or more learned; yet they will hardly believe
there be many so wise as themselves: for they see their own wit at hand, and other
men’s at a distance. But this proves rather that men are in that point equal, than
unequal. For there is not ordinarily a greater sign of the equal distribution of any
thing, than that every man is contented with his share.

From this equality of ability, arises equality of hope in the attaining of our ends.
And therefore if any two men desire the same thing, which nevertheless they cannot
both enjoy, they become enemies; and in the way to their end, (which is principally
their own conservation, and sometimes their delectation only,) endeavor to destroy,
or subdue one an other. And from hence it comes to pass, that where an invader has
no more to fear, than another man’s single power; if one plant, sow, build, or
possess a convenient seat, others may probably be expected to come prepared with
forces united, to dispossess, and deprive him, not only of the fruit of his labour, but
also of his life, or liberty. And the invader again is in the like danger of another.

And from this diffidence of one another, there is no way for any man to secure
himself, so reasonable, as anticipation; that is, by force, or wiles, to master the
persons of all men he can, so long, till he see no other power great enough to
endanger him: And this is no more than his own conservation requires, and is
generally allowed. Also because there be some, that taking pleasure in
contemplating their own power in the acts of conquest, which they pursue farther
than their security requires; if others, that otherwise would be glad to be at ease
within modest bounds, should not by invasion increase their power, they would not
be able, long time, by standing only on their defence, to subsist. And by
consequence, such augmentation of dominion over men, being necessary to a man’s
conservation, it ought to be allowed him.

Again, men have no pleasure, (but on the contrary a great deal of grief) in
keeping company, where there is no power able to overawe them all. For every
man looks that his companion should value him, at the same rate he sets upon
himself: Andupon all signs of contempt, or undervaluing, naturally endeavours, as
far as he dares (which among them that have no common power to keep them in
quiet, is far enough to make them destroy each other,) to extort a greater value from
his condemners, by damage; and from others, by the example.

So that in the nature of man, we find three principal causes of quarrel. First,
competition; secondly, diffidence; thirdly, glory.

The first, makes men invade for gain; the second, for safety; and the third, for
reputation. The first use violence, to make themselves masters of other men’s
persons, wives, children, and cattle; the second, to defend them; the third, for
trifles, as a word, a smile, a different opinion, and any other sign of undervalue,
either direct in their persons, or by reflection in their kindred, their kriends, their
nation, their profession, or their name.

Hereby it is manifest, that during the time men live without a common power to
keep them all in awe, they are in that condition which is called war; and such a
war, as is of every man, against every man. For WAR, consists not in battle only, or
the act of fighting; but in a tract of time, wherein the will to contend by battle is
sufficiently known: and therefore the notion of time, is to be considered in the
nature of war; as it is in the nature of weather. For as the nature of foul weather,
lies not in a shower or two of rain; but in an inclination thereto of many days
together: So the nature of war, consists not in actual fighting; but in the known
disposition thereto, during all the time there is no assurance to the contrary. All
other time is PEACE.

Whatsoever therefore is consequent to a time of war, where every man is enemy
to every man; the same is consequent to the time, wherein men live without other
security, than what their own strength, and their own invention shall furnish them
withal. In such condition, there is no place for industry; because the fruit thereof is
uncertain: and consequently no culture of the earth; no navigation, nor use of the
commodities that may be imported by sea; no commodious building; no instruments
of moving, and removing such things as require much force; no knowledge of the
face of the earth; no account of time; no arts; no letters; no society; and which is
worst of all, continual fear, and danger of violent death; and the life of man,
solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.

It may seem strange to some man, that has not well weighed these things; that
nature should thus dissociate, and render men apt to invade, and destroy one
another: and he may therefore, not trusting to this inference, made from the

passions, desire perhaps to have the same confirmed by experience. Let him
therefore consider with himself, when taking a journey, he arms himselfe, and
seeks to go well accompanied; when going to sleep, he locks his doors; when even
in his house he locks his chests; and this when he knows there be laws, and public
officers, armed, to revenge all injuries shall be done him; what opinion he has of
his fellow subjects, when he rides armed; of his fellow citizens, when he locks his
doors; and of his children, and servants, when he locks his chests. Does he not
there as much accuse mankind by his actions, as I do by my words? But neither of
us accuse man’s nature in it. The desires, and other passions of man, are in
themselves no sin. No more are the actions, that proceed from those passions, till
they know a law that forbids them: which till laws be made they cannot know: nor
can any law be made, till they have agreed upon the person that shall make it.

It may peradventure be thought, there was never such a time, nor condition of
war as this; and I believe it was never generally so, over all the world: but there
are many places, where they live so now. For the savage people in many places of
America, except the government of small families, the concord whereof depends on
natural lust, have no government at all; and live at this day in that brutish manner,
as I said before. Howsoever, it may be perceived what manner of life there would
be, where there were no common power to fear; by the manner of life, which men
that have formerly lived under a peaceful government, use to degenerate into, in a
civil war.

But though there had never been any time, wherein particular men were in a
condition of war one against another; yet in all times, kings, and persons of
sovereign authority, because of their independency, are in continual jealousies, and
in the state and posture of gladiators; having their weapons pointing, and their eyes
fixed on one another; that is, their forts, garrisons, and guns upon the frontiers of
their kingdoms; and continual spies upon their neighbours, which is a posture of
war. But because they uphold thereby, the industry of their subjects; there does not
follow from it, that misery, which accompanies the liberty of particular men.

To this war of every man against every man, this also is consequent; that nothing
can be unjust. The notions of right and wrong, justice and injustice have there no
place. Where there is no common Power, there is no law: where no law, no
injustice. Force, and fraud, are in war the two cardinal virtues. Justice, and
injustice are none of the faculties neither of the body, nor mind. If they were, they
might be in a man that were alone in the world, as well as his senses, and passions.
They are qualities, that relate to men in society, not in solitude. It is consequent
also to the same condition, that there be no propriety, no dominion, no mine and
thine distinct; but only that to be every mans, that he can get; and for so long, as he

can keep it. And thus much for the ill condition, which man by mere nature is
actually placed in; though with a possibility to come out of it, consisting partly in
the passions, partly in his reason.

The passions that incline men to peace, are fear of death; desire of such things
as are necessary to commodious living; and a hope by their industry to obtain,
them. And reason suggests convenient articles of peace, upon which men may be
drawn to agreement. These articles, are they, which otherwise are called the Laws
of Nature: whereof I shall speak more particularly, in the two following chapters.
[Only the first part of the first of these chapters is reprinted here.]

Chapter 14
Of the first and second natural laws, and of contracts

The RIGHT OF NATURE, which Writers commonly call jus naturale, is the liberty
each man hath, to use his own power, as he will himself, for the preservation of his
own nature; that is to say, of his own life; and consequently, of doing any thing,
which in his own judgement, and reason, he shall conceive to be the aptest means
thereunto.

By LIBERTY, is understood, according to the proper signification of the word, the
absence of external impediments: which impediments, may oft take away part of a
man’s power to do what he would; but cannot hinder him from using the power left
him, according as his judgement, and reason shall dictate to him.

A LAW OF NATURE, (lex naturalis), is a precept, or general rule, found out by
reason, by which a man is forbidden to do, that, which is destructive of his life, or
taketh away the means of preserving the same; and to omit, that, by which he thinks
it may be best preserved. For though they that speak of this subject, use to confound
jus, and lex, right and law; yet they ought to be distinguished; because RIGHT,
consists in liberty to do, or to forbear; whereas LAW, determines, and binds to one
of them: so that law, and right, differ as much, as obligation, and liberty; which in
one and the same matter are inconsistent.

And because the condition of man,(as has been declared in the precedent
chapter) is a condition of war of every one against every one; in which case every
one is governed by his own reason; and there is nothing he can make use of, that
may not be a help unto him, in preserving his life against his enemies; it follows,
that in such a condition, every man has a right to every thing; even to one another’s
body. And therefore, as long as this natural right of every man to every thing
endures, there can be no security to any man, (how strong or wise soever he be,) of
living out the time, which nature ordinarily allows men to live. And consequently it

is a precept, or general rule of reason, That every man ought to endeavor peace,
as far as he has hope of obtaining it; and when he cannot obtain it, that he may
seek, and use, all helps, and advantages of war. The first branch of which rule,
contains the first, and fundamental law of nature; which is, to seek peace, and
follow it. The second, the sum of the right of nature; which is, By all means we
can, to defend our selves.

From this fundamental law of nature, by which men are commanded to
endeavour peace, is derived this second law; That a man be willing, when others
are so too, as far forth, as for peace, and defence of himself he shall think it
necessary, to lay down this right to all things; and be contented with so much
liberty against other men, as he would allow other men against himself. For as
long as every man holds this right, of doing any thing he likes; so long are all men
in the condition of war. But if other men will not lay down their right, as well as
he; then there is no reason for any one, to divest himself of his: for that were to
expose himself to prey, (which no man is bound to) rather than to dispose himself
to peace. This is that law of the gospel; Whatsoever you require that others
should do to you, that do ye to them. And that law of all men, Quod tibi fieri non
vis, alteri ne feceris [What you would not have done unto you, do not do unto
others].

JEAN BODIN

JEAN BODIN (1530–96), French humanist, lawyer, administrator, and scholar.
Bodin was one of the first to attribute rising prices in sixteenth-century Europe to
the influx of gold from America and he also wrote a book on the detection and
punishment of witches. He is one of several thinkers of the period who were
concerned to explore the question of how competing claims to rule within the
emerging territorial states of Europe might be resolved. For Bodin, it is the
possession of “sovereignty” that distinguishes the ruler of a state from other
authorities. Despite his erroneous conclusion that sovereign authority cannot be
divided between different branches of government, his discussion of the concept
constitutes an innovative and enduring contribution to the legal theory, one with
momentous consequences for international relations.

From Six Books of the Commonwealth

Book 1, chapter 8
On sovereignty

Sovereignty is the absolute and perpetual power of a commonwealth, which the
Latins call maiestas; the Greeks akra exousia, kurion arche, and kurion
politeuma; and the Italians segnioria, a word they use for private persons as well
as for those who have full control of the state, while the Hebrews call it tomech
shévet – that is, the highest power of command. We must now formulate a
definition of sovereignty because no jurist or political philosopher has defined it,
even though it is the chief point, and the one that needs most to be explained, in a
treatise on the commonwealth. Inasmuch as we have said that a commonwealth is a
just government, with sovereign power, of several households and of that which
they have in common, we need to clarify the meaning of sovereign power.

I have said that this power is perpetual, because it can happen that one or more
people have absolute power given to them for some certain period of time, upon
the expiration of which they are no more than private subjects. And even while
they are in power, they cannot call themselves sovereign princes. They are but
trustees and custodians of that power until such time as it pleases the people or the
prince to take it back, for the latter always remains in lawful possession (qui en

demeure tousiours saisi). For just as those who lend someone else their goods
always remain its owners and possessors, so also those who give power and
authority to judge or to command, either for some limited and definite period of
time or for as much and as long a time as it shall please them. They still remain
lawfully possessed of power and jurisdiction, which the others exercise in the
manner of a loan or grant on sufferance (précaire). That is why the [Roman civil]
law holds that the governor of a region, or the lieutenant of a prince, being a trustee
and guardian of someone else’s power, returns it when his term has expired. And in
this respect, it makes no difference whether the officer is high or petty.

If it were otherwise, and the absolute power conceded to a lieutenant of the
prince were called sovereignty, he would be able to use it against his prince, who
would then be no more than a cipher, and the subject would then command his lord,
and the servant his master, which would be absurd. The person of the sovereign,
according to the law, is always excepted no matter how much power and authority
he grants to someone else; and he never gives so much that he does not hold back
even more. He is never prevented from commanding, or from assuming cognizance
– by substitution, concurrence, removal, or any way he pleases – of any cause that
he left to the jurisdiction of a subject. Nor does it matter whether the subject is a
commissioner or an officer. In either case the sovereign can take away the power
with which he was endowed by virtue of the commission or the statute of his
office, or he can retain him on sufferance in so far and for as long as it pleases him.


But let us suppose that a people chooses one or several citizens, to whom it gives
absolute power to manage the state and to govern freely, without having to submit
to vetoes or appeals of any sort, and that this measure is reenacted every year.
Shall we not say that they have sovereignty? For he is absolutely sovereign who
recognizes nothing, after God, that is greater than himself. I say, however, that they
do not have sovereignty, since they are nothing but trustees of a power that was
confided to them for a definite period of time. Hence the people did not divest
itself of sovereignty when it established one or more lieutenants with absolute
power for a definite time, even though that is more generous than if the power was
subject to recall at the people’s pleasure without a pre-established time limit. In
either case the lieutenant has nothing of his own and remains answerable for his
charge to the person of whom he holds the power to command, unlike a sovereign
prince who is answerable only to God.

But what would we say if absolute power were conceded for nine or ten years,
as it was in the early days of Athens when the people made one of the citizens
sovereign and called him archon? I still maintain that he was not a prince and did

not have sovereignty, but was rather a sovereign magistrate who was accountable
to the people for his actions after his time in office had expired. One might still
object that absolute power can be given to a citizen as I have indicated, yet without
requiring him to answer to the people. Thus the Cnidians annually chose sixty
citizens whom they called “amnemones” – that is to say, beyond reproach – and
granted them sovereign power with no appeal from them, either during their term in
office or after it, for anything that they had done. Yet I say that they did not have
sovereignty in view of the fact that, as custodians, they were obliged to give it back
when their year was up. Sovereignty thus remained in the people, and only its
exercise was in the amnemones, whom one could call sovereign magistrates, but
not sovereigns pure and simple. For the first is a prince, the other is a subject; the
first is a lord, the other is a servant; the first is a proprietor and in lawful
possession of the sovereignty (et saisi de la souveraineté), the other is neither its
owner nor possessor, but merely holds in trust.

The same applies to regents established during the absence or minority of
sovereign princes, no matter whether edicts, orders, and letters patent are signed
and sealed with the regents’ signature and seal and are issued in their name, which
was the practice in this kingdom prior to the ordinance of King Charles V of
France, or whether it is all done in the king’s name and orders are sealed with his
seal. For in either case it is quite clear that, according to the law, the master is
taken to have done whatever a deputy (procureur) did on his authority. But the
regent is properly the deputy of the king and the kingdom, so that the good Count
Thibaut called himself procurator regni Francorum (deputy of the French
kingdom). Hence when the prince, either present or absent, gives absolute power
to a regent or perhaps to the senate, to govern in his name, it is always the king
who speaks and who commands even if the title of regent is used on edicts and
letters of command.


So whether it is by commission, nomination to office, or delegation that one
exercises someone else’s power, and whether it is for a definite time or in
perpetuity, he who exercises this power is not sovereign even if he is not described
as an agent or lieutenant in his letters patent. This applies even if the power is
conferred by the law of the land, which is an even stronger basis than appointment
(election). The ancient law of Scotland thus gave the entire government of the
kingdom to the closest relative of a king who was in tutelage or under age, with the
requirement that all business be carried on in the king’s name. But the rule was
suppressed because of the inconveniences that went with it.

We now turn to the other part of our definition and to what is meant by the
words “absolute power.” For the people or the aristocracy (seigneurs) of a
commonwealth can purely and simply give someone absolute and perpetual power
to dispose of all possessions, persons, and the entire state at his pleasure, and then
to leave it to anyone he pleases, just as a proprietor can make a pure and simple
gift of his goods for no other reason than his generosity. This is a true gift because
it carries no further conditions, being complete and accomplished all at once,
whereas gifts that carry obligations and conditions are not authentic gifts. And so
sovereignty given to a prince subject to obligations and conditions is properly not
sovereignty or absolute power.

This does not apply if the conditions attached at the creation of a prince are of
the law of God or nature (la loy de Dieu ou de nature), as was done after the death
of a Great King of Tartary. The prince and the people, to whom the right of election
belongs, choose any relative of the deceased they please, provided that he is a son
or nephew, and after seating him on a golden throne, they pronounce these words,
“We beg you, and also wish and bid you, to reign over us.” The king then says, “If
that is what you want of me, you must be ready to do as I command, and whom I
order killed must be killed forthwith and without delay, and the whole kingdom
must be entrusted to me and put into my hands.” The people answers, “So be it.”
Then the king, continuing, says, “The word that I speak shall be my sword,” and all
the people applaud him. After that he is taken hold of, removed from his throne,
and set on the ground seated on a bench, and the princes address him in these
words: “Look up and acknowledge God, and then look at this lowly bench on
which you sit. If you govern well, you will have your every wish; otherwise you
will be put down so low and so completely stripped, that even this bench on which
you sit will not be left to you.” This said, he is lifted on high, and acclaimed king
of the Tartars. This power is absolute and sovereign, for it has no other condition
than what is commanded by the law of God and of nature.


[A] subject who is exempted from the force of the laws always remains in
subjection and obedience to those who have the sovereignty. But persons who are
sovereign must not be subject in any way to the commands of someone else and
must be able to give the law to subjects, and to suppress or repeal disadvantageous
laws and replace them with others – which cannot be done by someone who is
subject to the laws or to persons having power of command over him.

This is why the law says that the prince is not subject to the law; and in fact the
very word “law” in Latin implies the command of him who has the sovereignty.


But as for divine and natural laws, every prince on earth is subject to them, and it
is not in their power to contravene them unless they wish to be guilty of treason
against God, and to war against Him beneath whose grandeur all the monarchs of
this world should bear the yoke and bow the head in abject fear and reverence. The
absolute power of princes and of other sovereign lordships (seigneuries
souverains), therefore, does not in any way extend to the laws of God and of
nature. Indeed he (Innocent IV) who best understood what absolute power is, and
made [Christian] kings and emperors bow to him, said that it is nothing but the
power of overriding ordinary law. He did not say the laws of God and of nature.

But is the prince not subject to those laws of the land that he has sworn to keep?
Here we must distinguish. If the prince swears to himself that he will keep his own
law, he is not bound by that law any more than by an oath made to himself. For
even subjects are in no way bound by the oath they take in making contracts of a
sort that the law permits them to ignore even when the terms are honest and
reasonable. And if a sovereign prince promises another prince to keep laws that he
or his predecessors have made, he is obligated to keep them if the prince to whom
he gave his word has an interest in his so doing – and even if he did not take an
oath. But if the prince to whom the promise was made does not have an interest,
neither the promise nor the oath can obligate the prince who made the promise. The
same may be said of a promise given to a subject by the prince either when he is
sovereign or before he is elected, for in this [latter] respect his status makes no
difference, despite what many think.

It is not that the prince is bound by his own or his predecessors’ laws, but rather
by the just contracts and promises that he has made, whether with or without an
oath, as is any private individual. And just as a private individual can be relieved
of a promise that is unjust or unreasonable, or burdens him too much, or was put
upon him to his substantial loss through trickery, fraud, error, force, or reasonable
fear, so for the same reasons can a prince, if he is sovereign, be relieved of
anything that involves a diminution of his majesty. And so our maxim stands. The
prince is not subject to his own laws or to the laws of his predecessors, but only to
his just and reasonable contracts in the observation of which his subjects in general
or particular subjects have an interest.

Here many commentators mistakenly confuse the prince’s laws with his
contracts, which they call laws, and mistaken also is he [Pedro Belluga] who takes
what are called compacted laws (loix pactionees) in the Estates of Aragon to be
contracts of the prince. When the king makes an ordinance at the request of the
Estates and receives money for it, or a subsidy, they say that the king is bound by it,

and as for other laws that he is not bound. Nevertheless they admit that the prince
can override it if the reason for the law should cease. This is true enough, and well
founded in reason and authority. But there is no need for money and an oath to
oblige a sovereign ruler if the subjects to whom he has given his promise have an
interest in the law being kept. For the word of the prince should be like an oracle,
and his dignity suffers when one has so low an opinion of him that he is not
believed unless he swears, or is not [expected to be] faithful to his promises unless
one gives him money. Nevertheless the force of the legal maxim still remains. A
sovereign prince can override a law that he has promised and sworn to keep if it
ceases to be just without the consent of his subjects, although it is true that in this
case a general derogation does not suffice unless a special derogation goes along
with it. But if there is no just cause to set aside a law that he has promised to
maintain, the prince ought not and cannot [justly] contravene it.


It is essential, therefore, not to confuse a law and a contract. Law depends on him
who has the sovereignty and he can obligate all his subjects by a law but cannot
obligate himself. A contract between a prince and his subjects is mutual; it
obligates the two parties reciprocally and one party cannot contravene it to the
prejudice of the other and without the others consent. In this case the prince has no
advantage over the subject except that, if the justice of a law that he has sworn to
keep ceases, he is no longer bound by his promise, as we have said, which is a
liberty that subjects cannot exercise with respect to each other unless they are
relieved [of their obligations] by the prince.

NICCOLÒ MACHIAVELLI

NICCOLÒ MACHIAVELLI (1469–1527), a minor Florentine official and
diplomat, posthumously infamous for the advice to tyrants on how to seize or
maintain power contained in his little book The Prince (1532). Machiavelli’s
political career came to an end in 1512 when he was imprisoned and tortured by
the recently restored Medici regime, after which he retired to his farm near San
Casciano outside Florence to study the works of the ancient Romans, whose
wisdom he revered. Neither The Prince nor his longer and, arguably, more
substantial Discourses on the First Ten Books of Livy (1531) was published
during his lifetime. Rightly or wrongly, both books have been read as articulating a
doctrine of reason of state, and for that reason are considered classics of political
realism.

From The Prince

Chapter 1
The different kinds of principality and how they are acquired

All the states, all the dominions that have held sway over men, have been either
republics or principalities. Principalities are either hereditary (their rulers having
been for a long time from the same family) or they are new. The new ones are
either completely new (as was Milan to Francesco Sforza) or they are like limbs
joined to the hereditary state of the ruler who annexes them (as is the Kingdom of
Naples to the King of Spain). States thus acquired are either used to living under a
prince or used to being free; and they are acquired either with the arms of others or
with one’s own, either through luck or favour or else through ability.

Chapter 2
Hereditary principalities

I shall not discuss republics, because I have previously treated them at length. I
shall consider only principalities, and shall weave together the warps mentioned
above, examining how principalities can be governed and maintained.

I say, then, that states which are hereditary, and accustomed to the rule of those
belonging to the present ruler’s family, are very much less difficult to hold than
new states, because it is sufficient not to change the established order, and to deal
with any untoward events that may occur; so that, if such a ruler is no more than
ordinarily diligent and competent, his government will always be secure, unless
some unusually strong force should remove him. And even if that happens,
whenever the conqueror encounters difficulties, the former ruler can re-establish
himself.

Chapter 3
Mixed principalities

However, it is in new principalities that there are real difficulties. First, if the
principality is not completely new but is like a limb that is joined to another
principality (which taken together may almost be called a mixed principality), its
mutability arises first from a very natural problem, which is to be found in all new
principalities. This is that men are very ready to change their ruler when they
believe that they can better their condition, and this belief leads them to take up
arms against him. But they are mistaken, because they later realise through hard
experience that they have made their condition worse. This arises from another
natural and normal constraint, which is that anyone who becomes a new ruler is
always forced to injure his new subjects, both through his troops and countless
other injuries that are involved in conquering a state. The outcome is that you make
enemies of all those whom you have injured in annexing a principality, yet you
cannot retain the friendship of those who have helped you to become ruler, because
you cannot satisfy them in the ways that they expect. Nor can you use strong
medicine against them, since you have obligations to them. For even if one
possesses very strong armies, the goodwill of the inhabitants is always necessary
in the early stages of annexing a country.

These were the reasons why Louis XII of France quickly annexed Milan, and
just as quickly lost it; and Ludovico’s own troops were sufficiently powerful to
deprive him of it the first time. For when the people who had opened the gates to
Louis found that they did not receive the benefits they had expected, they could not
endure the oppressive rule of the new master.

It is certainly true that, after a country that has rebelled has been reconquered a
second time, it is less likely to be lost, since the ruler, because of the rebellion,
will be more ruthless in consolidating his power, in punishing the guilty, unmasking

suspects, and remedying weaknesses in his government. Thus, a Duke Ludovico
creating a disturbance on the borders was enough to cause the King of France to
lose Milan the first time. But to lose it a second time, it was necessary to have all
the powers acting against him, and for his armies to be defeated or driven out of
Italy. This happened for the reasons mentioned above.

Nevertheless, he did lose Milan twice. The general reasons for the first loss
have been discussed; it remains now to discuss the reasons for the second, and to
consider what solutions were available to him, and what someone in his position
might do, in order to maintain better than the King of France did the territory
annexed.

I say, then, that the territories a conqueror annexes and joins to his own well-
established state are either in the same country, with the same language, or they are
not. If they are, it is extremely easy to hold them, especially if they are not used to
governing themselves. To hold them securely, it is enough to wipe out the family of
the ruler who held sway over them, because as far as other things are concerned,
the inhabitants will continue to live quietly, provided their old way of life is
maintained and there is no difference in customs. This has happened with
Burgundy, Brittany, Gascony and Normandy, which have been joined to France for
a long time. Although there are some linguistic differences, nevertheless their way
of life is similar, so no difficulties have arisen. Anyone who annexes such
countries, and is determined to hold them, must follow two policies: the first is to
wipe out their old ruling families; the second is not to change their laws or impose
new taxes. Then the old principality and the new territory will very soon become a
single body politic.

But considerable problems arise if territories are annexed in a country that
differs in language, customs and institutions, and great good luck and great ability
are needed to hold them. One of the best and most effective solutions is for the
conqueror to go and live there. This makes the possession more secure and more
permanent. This is what the Turks did in Greece: all the other measures taken by
them to hold that country would not have sufficed, if they had not instituted direct
rule. For if one does do that, troubles can be detected when they are just beginning
and effective measures can be taken quickly. But if one does not, the troubles are
encountered when they have grown, and nothing can be done about them.
Moreover, under direct rule, the country will not be exploited by your officials; the
subjects will be content if they have direct access to the ruler. Consequently, they
will have more reason to be devoted to him if they intend to behave well, and to
fear him if they do not. Any foreigners with designs on that state will proceed very
carefully. Hence, if the state is ruled directly, it is very unlikely indeed to be lost.

The other very good solution is to establish colonies in a few places, which
become, as it were, off shoots of the conquering state. If this is not done, it will be
necessary to hold it by means of large military forces. Colonies involve little
expense; and so at little or no cost, one establishes and maintains them. The only
people injured are those who lose their fields and homes, which are given to the
new settlers; but only a few inhabitants are affected in this way. Moreover, those
whom he injures can never harm him, because they are poor and scattered. All the
other inhabitants remain unharmed, and should therefore be reassured, and will be
afraid of causing trouble, for fear that they will be dispossessed, like the others. I
conclude that these colonies are not expensive, are more loyal, and harm fewer
people; and those that are harmed cannot injure you because, as I said, they are
scattered and poor.

It should be observed here that men should either be caressed or crushed;
because they can avenge slight injuries, but not those that are very severe. Hence,
any injury done to a man must be such that there is no need to fear his revenge.

However, if military forces are sent instead of colonists, this is much more
expensive, because all the revenue of the region will be consumed for its security.
The outcome is that the territory gained results in loss to him; and it is much more
injurious, because it harms the whole of that region when his troops move round
the country. Everyone suffers this nuisance, and becomes hostile to the ruler. And
they are dangerous enemies because, although defeated, they remain in their own
homes. From every point of view, then, this military solution is misguided,
whereas establishing colonies is extremely effective.

Again, as I have said, anyone who rules a foreign country should take the
initiative in becoming a protector of the neighbouring minor powers and contrive
to weaken those who are powerful within the country itself. He should also take
precautions against the possibility that some foreign ruler as powerful as himself
may seek to invade the country when circumstances are favourable. Such invaders
are always helped by malcontents within the country, who are moved either by
their own overweening ambition or by fear, as happened in Greece, where the
Aetolians were responsible for the invasion by the Romans. And in every country
that the Romans attacked, some of the inhabitants aided their invasion. What
usually happens is that, as soon as a strong invader attacks a country, all the less
powerful men rally to him, because they are enviously hostile to the ruler who has
held sway over them. The invader has no trouble in winning over these less
powerful men, since they will all be disposed to support the new power he has
acquired. He needs only to be careful that they do not acquire too much military
power and influence. And using his own forces, and with their consent, he can

easily put down those who are powerful, thus gaining complete control of that
country. A ruler who does not act in this way will soon lose what he has gained
and, even while he does hold it, he will be beset by countless difficulties and
troubles.

Chapter 15
The things for which men, and especially rulers, are praised or

blamed

It remains now to consider in what ways a ruler should act with regard to his
subjects and allies. And since I am well aware that many people have written
about this subject I fear that I may be thought presumptuous, for what I have to say
differs from the precepts offered by others, especially on this matter. But because I
want to write what will be useful to anyone who understands, it seems to me better
to concentrate on what really happens rather than on theories or speculations. For
many have imagined republics and principalities that have never been seen or
known to exist. However, how men live is so different from how they should live
that a ruler who does not do what is generally done, but persists in doing what
ought to be done, will undermine his power rather than maintain it. If a ruler who
wants always to act honourably is surrounded by many unscrupulous men his
downfall is inevitable. Therefore, a ruler who wishes to maintain his power must
be prepared to act immorally when this becomes necessary.

I shall set aside fantasies about rulers, then, and consider what happens in fact. I
say that whenever men are discussed, and especially rulers (because they occupy
more exalted positions), they are praised or blamed for possessing some of the
following qualities. Thus, one man is considered generous, another miserly (I use
this Tuscan term because avaro in our tongue also signifies someone who is
rapacious, whereas we call misero someone who is very reluctant to use his own
possessions); one is considered a free giver, another rapacious; one cruel, another
merciful; one treacherous, another loyal; one effeminate and weak, another
indomitable and spirited; one affable, another haughty; one lascivious, another
moderate; one upright, another cunning; one inflexible, another easy-going; one
serious, another frivolous; one devout, another unbelieving, and so on.

I know that everyone will acknowledge that it would be most praiseworthy for a
ruler to have all the above-mentioned qualities that are held to be good. But
because it is not possible to have all of them, and because circumstances do not

permit living a completely virtuous life, one must be sufficiently prudent to know
how to avoid becoming not orious for those vices that would destroy one’s power
and seek to avoid those vices that are not politically dangerous; but if one cannot
bring oneself to do this, they can be indulged in with fewer misgivings. Yet one
should not be troubled about becoming notorious for those vices without which it
is difficult to preserve ones power, because if one considers everything carefully,
doing some things that seem virtuous may result in ones ruin, whereas doing other
things that seem vicious may strengthen ones position and cause one to flourish.

From The Discourses

Book 1
6. Whether in Rome such a Form of Government could have been set
up as would have removed the Hostility between the Populace and

the Senate

We have just been discussing the effects produced by the controversies between the
populace and the senate. Now, since these controversies went on until the time of
the Gracchi when they became the causes which led to the destruction of liberty, it
may occur to some to ask whether Rome could have done the great things she did
without the existence of such animosities. Hence it seems to me worth while to
inquire whether it would have been possible to set up in Rome a form of
government which would have prevented these controversies. In order to discuss
this question it is necessary to consider those republics which have been free from
such animosities and tumults and yet have enjoyed a long spell of liberty, to look at
their governments, and to ask whether they could have been introduced into Rome.

Among ancient states Sparta is a case in point, and among modern states Venice,
as I have already pointed out. Sparta set up a king and a small senate to govern it.
Venice did not distinguish by different names those who took part in its
government, but all who were eligible for administrative posts were classed under
one head and called gentry. This was due to chance rather than to the prudence of
its legislators; for many people having retired to those sandbanks on which the city
now stands and taken up their abode there for the reasons already assigned, when
their numbers grew to such an extent that it became necessary for them to make
laws if they were to live together, they devised a form of government. They had
frequently met together to discuss the city’s affairs, so, when it seemed to them that
the population was sufficient to form a body politic, they decided that all

newcomers who meant to reside there, should not take part in the government.
Then, when in course of time they found that there were quite a number of
inhabitants in the place who were disbarred from government, with an eye to the
reputation of those who governed they called them gentlefolk and the rest
commoners.

Such a form of government could arise and be maintained without tumult
because, when it came into being, whoever then dwelt in Venice was admitted to
the government, so that no one could complain. Nor had those who came to dwell
there later on and found the form of government firmly established, either cause or
opportunity to make a commotion. They had no cause because they had been
deprived of nothing. They had no opportunity because the government had the
whip-hand and did not employ them in matters which would enable them to acquire
authority. Besides, there were not many who came later to dwell in Venice, nor
were they so numerous as to upset the balance between rulers and ruled; for the
number of gentlefolk was either equal to, or greater than, that of the newcomers.
These, then, were the causes which enabled Venice to set up this form of
government and to maintain it without disruption.

Sparta, as I have said, was governed by a king and by a small senate. It was
able to maintain itself in this way for a long time, because in Sparta there were few
inhabitants and access to outsiders desirous of coming to dwell there was
forbidden. Moreover, it had adopted the laws of Lycurgus and shared in his repute,
and, as these laws were observed, they removed all occasion for tumult, so that the
Spartans were able to live united for a long time. The reason was that the laws of
Lycurgus prescribed equality of property and insisted less on equality of rank.
Poverty was shared by all alike, and the plebeians had less ambition, since offices
in the city were open but to few citizens and from them the plebs were kept out; nor
did it desire to have them since the nobles never ill-treated the plebs. This was due
to the position assigned to the Spartan kings, for, since in this principality they
were surrounded by nobles, the best way of maintaining their position was to
protect the plebs from injustice. It thus came about that the plebs neither feared
authority nor desired to have it, and, since they neither feared it nor desired it,
there was no chance of rivalry between them and the nobility, nor any ground for
disturbances, and they could live united for a long time. It was, however, mainly
two things which brought this union about: (i) the smallness of Sparta’s population,
which made it possible for a few to rule, and (ii) the exclusion of foreigners from
the state, which gave it no chance either to become corrupt or to become so
unwieldy that it could no longer be managed by the few who governed it.

All things considered, therefore, it is clear that it was necessary for Rome’s
legislators to do one of two things if Rome was to remain tranquil like the
aforesaid states: either to emulate the Venetians and not employ its plebs in wars,
or, like the Spartans, not to admit foreigners. Rome did both these things, and, by
doing so, gave to its plebs alike strength, increase and endless opportunities for
commotion. On the other hand, had the government of Rome been such as to bring
greater tranquillity, there would have ensued this inconvenience, that it would have
been weaker, owing to its having cut off the source of supply which enabled it to
acquire the greatness at which it arrived, so that, in seeking to remove the causes of
tumults, Rome would have removed also the causes of expansion.

So in all human affairs one notices, if one examines them closely, that it is
impossible to remove one inconvenience without another emerging. If, then, you
want to have a large population and to provide it with arms so as to establish a
great empire, you will have made your population such that you cannot now handle
it as you please. While, if you keep it either small or unarmed so as to be able to
manage it, and then acquire dominions, either you will lose your hold on it or it
will become so debased that you will be at the mercy of anyone who attacks you.
Hence in all discussions one should consider which alternative involves fewer
inconveniences and should adopt this as the better course; for one never finds any
issue that is clear cut and not open to question. Rome might indeed have emulated
Sparta, have appointed a prince for life, and have made its senate small; but it
would not in that case have been able to avoid increasing its population with a
view to establishing a great empire; nor would the appointment of a king for life
and of a small number of senators have been of much help in the matter of unity.

Should, then, anyone be about to set up a republic, he should first inquire
whether it is to expand, as Rome did, both in dominion and in power, or is to be
confined to narrow limits. In the first case it is essential to constitute it as Rome
was constituted and to expect commotions and disputes of all kinds which must be
dealt with as best they can, because without a large population, and this well
armed, such a republic will never be able to grow, or to hold its own should it
grow. In the second case it might be constituted as Sparta and Venice were, but,
since expansion is poison to republics of this type, it should use every endeavour
to prevent it from expanding, for expansion, when based on a weak republic,
simply means ruin. This happened both in Sparta’s case and in that of Venice. For
of these republics the first, after having subjugated almost the whole of Greece,
revealed, on an occasion of slight importance in itself, how weak its foundation
was, since, when Thebes revolted at the instigation of Pelopidas and other cities
followed suit, this republic entirely collapsed. In like manner Venice, having

occupied a large part of Italy, most of it not by dint of arms, but of money and
astute diplomacy, when its strength was put to the test, lost everything in a single
battle.

I am firmly convinced, therefore, that to set up a republic which is to last a long
time, the way to set about it is to constitute it as Sparta and Venice were
constituted; to place it in a strong position, and so to fortify it that no one will
dream of taking it by a sudden assault; and, on the other hand, not to make it so
large as to appear formidable to its neighbours. It should in this way be able to
enjoy its form of government for a long time. For war is made on a commonwealth
for two reasons: (i) to subjugate it, and (ii) for fear of being subjugated by it. Both
these reasons are almost entirely removed by the aforesaid precautions; for, if it be
difficult to take by assault owing to its being well organized for defence, as I am
presupposing, rarely or never will it occur to anyone to seize it. And, if it be
content with its own territory, and it becomes clear by experience that it has no
ambitions, it will never occur that someone may make war through fear for himself,
especially if by its constitution or by its laws expansion is prohibited. Nor have I
the least doubt that, if this balance could be maintained, there would be genuine
political life and real tranquillity in such a city.

Since, however, all human affairs are ever in a state of flux and cannot stand
still, either there will be improvement or decline, and necessity will lead you to do
many things which reason does not recommend. Hence if a commonwealth be
constituted with a view to its maintaining the status quo, but not with a view to
expansion, and by necessity it be led to expand, its basic principles will be
subverted and it will soon be faced with ruin. So, too, should heaven, on the other
hand, be so kind to it that it has no need to go to war, it will then come about that
idleness will either render it effeminate or give rise to factions; and these two
things, either in conjunction or separately, will bring about its downfall.

Wherefore, since it is impossible, so I hold, to adjust the balance so nicely as to
keep things exactly to this middle course, one ought, in constituting a republic, to
consider the possibility of its playing a more honourable role, and so to constitute
it that, should necessity actually force it to expand, it may be able to retain
possession of what it has acquired. Coming back, then, to the first point we raised,
I am convinced that the Roman type of constitution should be adopted, not that of
any other republic, for to find a middle way between the two extremes I do not
think possible. Squabbles between the populace and the senate should, therefore,
be looked upon as an inconvenience which it is necessary to put up with in order to
arrive at the greatness of Rome. For, besides the reasons already adduced to show
that the authority of the tribunes was essential to the preservation of liberty, it is

easy to see what benefit a republic derives when there is an authority that can bring
charges in court, which was among the powers vested in the tribunes, as will be
shown in the following chapter.

9. That it is necessary to be the Sole Authority if one would constitute
a Republic afresh or would reform it thoroughly regardless of its

Ancient Institutions

To some it will appear strange that I have got so far in my discussion of Roman
history without having made any mention of the founders of that republic or of
either its religious or its military institutions. Hence, that I may not keep the minds
of those who are anxious to hear about such things any longer in suspense, let me
say that many perchance will think it a bad precedent that the founder of a civic
state, such as Romulus, should first have killed his brother, and then have
acquiesced in the death of Titus Tatius, the Sabine, whom he had chosen as his
colleague in the kingdom. They will urge that, if such actions be justifiable,
ambitious citizens who are eager to govern, will follow the example of their prince
and use violence against those who are opposed to their authority. A view that will
hold good provided we leave out of consideration the end which Romulus had in
committing these murders.

One should take it as a general rule that rarely, if ever, does it happen that a
state, whether it be a republic or a kingdom, is either well-ordered at the outset or
radically transformed vis-à-vis its old institutions unless this be done by one
person. It is likewise essential that there should be but one person upon whose
mind and method depends any similar process of organization. Wherefore the
prudent organizer of a state whose intention it is to govern not in his own interests
but for the common good, and not in the interest of his successors but for the sake
of that fatherland which is common to all, should contrive to be alone in his
authority. Nor will any reasonable man blame him for taking any action, however
extraordinary, which may be of service in the organizing of a kingdom or the
constituting of a republic. It is a sound maxim that reprehensible actions may be
justified by their effects, and that when the effect is good, as it was in the case of
Romulus, it always justifies the action. For it is the man who uses violence to spoil
things, not the man who uses it to mend them, that is blameworthy.

The organizer of a state ought further to have sufficient prudence and virtue not
to bequeath the authority he has assumed to any other person, for, seeing that men

are more prone to evil than to good, his successor might well make ambitious use
of that which he had used virtuously. Furthermore, though but one person suffices
for the purpose of organization, what he has organized will not last long if it
continues to rest on the shoulders of one man, but may well last if many remain in
charge and many look to its maintenance. Because, though the many are
incompetent to draw up a constitution since diversity of opinion will prevent them
from discovering how best to do it, yet when they realize it has been done, they
will not agree to abandon it.

That Romulus was a man of this character, that for the death of his brother and
of his colleague he deserves to be excused, and that what he did was done for the
common good and not to satisfy his personal ambition, is shown by his having at
once instituted a senate with which he consulted and with whose views his
decisions were in accord. Also, a careful consideration of the authority which
Romulus reserved to himself will show that all he reserved to himself was the
command of the army in time of war and the convoking of the senate. It is clear,
too, that when the Tarquins were expelled and Rome became free, none of its
ancient institutions were changed, save that in lieu of a permanent king there were
appointed each year two consuls. This shows that the original institutions of this
city as a whole were more in conformity with a political and self-governing state
than with absolutism or tyranny.

I might adduce in support of what I have just said numberless examples, for
example Moses, Lycurgus, Solon and other founders of kingdoms and republics
who assumed authority that they might formulate laws to the common good; but this
I propose to omit since it is well known. I shall adduce but one further example,
not so celebrated but worth considering by those who are contemplating the
drawing up of good laws. It is this. Agis, King of Sparta, was considering how to
confine the activities of the Spartans to the limits originally set for them by the
laws of Lycurgus, because it seemed to him that it was owing to their having
deviated from them in part that this city had lost a good deal of its ancient virtue,
and, in consequence, a good deal of its power and of its empire. He was, however,
while his project was still in the initial stage, killed by the Spartan ephors, who
took him to be a man who was out to set up a tyranny. But Cleomenes, his
successor in that kingdom, having learned from some records and writings of Agis
which he had discovered, what was the latter’s true mind and intention, determined
to pursue the same plan. He realized, however, that he could not do this for the
good of his country unless he became the sole authority there, and, since it seemed
to him impossible owing to man’s ambition to help the many against the will of the
few, he took a suitable opportunity and had all the ephors killed and anybody else

who might obstruct him. He then renewed in their entirety the laws of Lycurgus. By
so doing he gave fresh life to Sparta, and his reputation might thereby have become
as great as that of Lycurgus if it had not been for the power of the Macedonians and
the weakness of other Greek republics. For, after Sparta had thus been reorganized,
it was attacked by the Macedonians, and, since its forces proved to be inferior and
it could get no outside help, it was defeated, with the result that Cleomenes’ plans,
however just and praiseworthy, were never brought to completion.

All things considered, therefore, I conclude that it is necessary to be the sole
authority if one is to organize a state, and that Romulus’ action in regard to the
death of Remus and Titus Tatius is excusable, not blameworthy.

26. In a City or Province which he has seized, a New Prince should
make Everything New

Should anyone become the ruler either of a city or of a state, especially if he has no
sure footing in it and it is suited neither for the civic life characteristic of a
monarchy nor yet that of a republic, the best thing he can do in order to retain such
a principality, given that he be a new prince, is to organize everything in that state
afresh; e g. in its cities to appoint new governors, with new titles and a new
authority, the governors themselves being new men; to make the rich poor and the
poor rich; as did David when he became king, ‘who filled the hungry with good
things and the rich sent empty away’; as well as to build new cities, to destroy
those already built, and to move the inhabitants from one place to another far
distant from it; in short, to leave nothing of that province intact, and nothing in it,
neither rank, nor institution, nor form of government, nor wealth, except it be held
by such as recognize that it comes from you.

His aim should be to emulate Philip of Macedon, the father of Alexander, who,
starting as a little king, by these methods made himself prince of Greece. Of him a
writer says that he moved men from province to province as shepherds move their
sheep.

Such methods are exceedingly cruel, and are repugnant to any community, not
only to a Christian one, but to any composed of men. It behoves, therefore, every
man to shun them, and to prefer rather to live as a private citizen than as a king
with such ruination of men to his score. None the less, for the sort of man who is
unwilling to take up this first course of well doing, it is expedient, should he wish
to hold what he has, to enter on the path of wrong doing. Actually, however, most
men prefer to steer a middle course, which is very harmful; for they know not how

to be wholly good nor yet wholly bad, as in the next chapter will be shown by
means of an example.

Book 3
41. That one’s Country should be defended whether it entail

Ignominy or Glory, and that it is Good to defend it in any way
whatsoever

The consul and the Roman army were surrounded by the Samnites, as has just been
said. The Samnites had imposed on the Romans ignominious conditions. They were
to pass under the yoke and to be sent back to Rome without their arms and
equipment. At this the consuls being astonished and the whole army being in
despair, Lucius Lentulus, the Roman legate, told them that it did not seem to him
that they should reject any alternative in order to save their country; for, since the
survival of Rome depended on the survival of this very army, it should be saved in
any way that offered; and that it is good to defend ones country in whatever way it
be done, whether it entail ignominy or glory; for, if this army was saved, Rome
might in time wipe out the ignominy; but that, if it were not saved and even if it
should die gloriously, Rome and its freedom would be lost. So Lentulus’s advice
was followed.

This counsel merits the attention of, and ought to be observed by, every citizen
who has to give advice to his country. For when the safety of ones country wholly
depends on the decision to be taken, no attention should be paid either to justice or
injustice, to kindness or cruelty, or to its being praiseworthy or ignominious. On
the contrary, every other consideration being set aside, that alternative should be
whole-heartedly adopted which will save the life and preserve the freedom of ones
country.

This is the course the French adopt – both in what they say and what they do –
in order to defend the majesty of their king or the power of their kingdom; for no
voice is heard with greater impatience than one that should say: ‘Such an
alternative it would be ignominious for the king to adopt.’ No decision the king
makes can be shameful, they say, whether it leads to good or to adverse fortune,
for, whether he wins or loses is entirely his business, they claim.

NICCOLÒ MACHIAVELLI

NICCOLÒ MACHIAVELLI (1469–1527), a minor Florentine official and
diplomat, posthumously infamous for the advice to tyrants on how to seize or
maintain power contained in his little book The Prince (1532). Machiavelli’s
political career came to an end in 1512 when he was imprisoned and tortured by
the recently restored Medici regime, after which he retired to his farm near San
Casciano outside Florence to study the works of the ancient Romans, whose
wisdom he revered. Neither The Prince nor his longer and, arguably, more
substantial Discourses on the First Ten Books of Livy (1531) was published
during his lifetime. Rightly or wrongly, both books have been read as articulating a
doctrine of reason of state, and for that reason are considered classics of political
realism.

From The Prince

Chapter 1
The different kinds of principality and how they are acquired

All the states, all the dominions that have held sway over men, have been either
republics or principalities. Principalities are either hereditary (their rulers having
been for a long time from the same family) or they are new. The new ones are
either completely new (as was Milan to Francesco Sforza) or they are like limbs
joined to the hereditary state of the ruler who annexes them (as is the Kingdom of
Naples to the King of Spain). States thus acquired are either used to living under a
prince or used to being free; and they are acquired either with the arms of others or
with one’s own, either through luck or favour or else through ability.

Chapter 2
Hereditary principalities

I shall not discuss republics, because I have previously treated them at length. I
shall consider only principalities, and shall weave together the warps mentioned
above, examining how principalities can be governed and maintained.

I say, then, that states which are hereditary, and accustomed to the rule of those
belonging to the present ruler’s family, are very much less difficult to hold than
new states, because it is sufficient not to change the established order, and to deal
with any untoward events that may occur; so that, if such a ruler is no more than
ordinarily diligent and competent, his government will always be secure, unless
some unusually strong force should remove him. And even if that happens,
whenever the conqueror encounters difficulties, the former ruler can re-establish
himself.

Chapter 3
Mixed principalities

However, it is in new principalities that there are real difficulties. First, if the
principality is not completely new but is like a limb that is joined to another
principality (which taken together may almost be called a mixed principality), its
mutability arises first from a very natural problem, which is to be found in all new
principalities. This is that men are very ready to change their ruler when they
believe that they can better their condition, and this belief leads them to take up
arms against him. But they are mistaken, because they later realise through hard
experience that they have made their condition worse. This arises from another
natural and normal constraint, which is that anyone who becomes a new ruler is
always forced to injure his new subjects, both through his troops and countless
other injuries that are involved in conquering a state. The outcome is that you make
enemies of all those whom you have injured in annexing a principality, yet you
cannot retain the friendship of those who have helped you to become ruler, because
you cannot satisfy them in the ways that they expect. Nor can you use strong
medicine against them, since you have obligations to them. For even if one
possesses very strong armies, the goodwill of the inhabitants is always necessary
in the early stages of annexing a country.

These were the reasons why Louis XII of France quickly annexed Milan, and
just as quickly lost it; and Ludovico’s own troops were sufficiently powerful to
deprive him of it the first time. For when the people who had opened the gates to
Louis found that they did not receive the benefits they had expected, they could not
endure the oppressive rule of the new master.

It is certainly true that, after a country that has rebelled has been reconquered a
second time, it is less likely to be lost, since the ruler, because of the rebellion,
will be more ruthless in consolidating his power, in punishing the guilty, unmasking

suspects, and remedying weaknesses in his government. Thus, a Duke Ludovico
creating a disturbance on the borders was enough to cause the King of France to
lose Milan the first time. But to lose it a second time, it was necessary to have all
the powers acting against him, and for his armies to be defeated or driven out of
Italy. This happened for the reasons mentioned above.

Nevertheless, he did lose Milan twice. The general reasons for the first loss
have been discussed; it remains now to discuss the reasons for the second, and to
consider what solutions were available to him, and what someone in his position
might do, in order to maintain better than the King of France did the territory
annexed.

I say, then, that the territories a conqueror annexes and joins to his own well-
established state are either in the same country, with the same language, or they are
not. If they are, it is extremely easy to hold them, especially if they are not used to
governing themselves. To hold them securely, it is enough to wipe out the family of
the ruler who held sway over them, because as far as other things are concerned,
the inhabitants will continue to live quietly, provided their old way of life is
maintained and there is no difference in customs. This has happened with
Burgundy, Brittany, Gascony and Normandy, which have been joined to France for
a long time. Although there are some linguistic differences, nevertheless their way
of life is similar, so no difficulties have arisen. Anyone who annexes such
countries, and is determined to hold them, must follow two policies: the first is to
wipe out their old ruling families; the second is not to change their laws or impose
new taxes. Then the old principality and the new territory will very soon become a
single body politic.

But considerable problems arise if territories are annexed in a country that
differs in language, customs and institutions, and great good luck and great ability
are needed to hold them. One of the best and most effective solutions is for the
conqueror to go and live there. This makes the possession more secure and more
permanent. This is what the Turks did in Greece: all the other measures taken by
them to hold that country would not have sufficed, if they had not instituted direct
rule. For if one does do that, troubles can be detected when they are just beginning
and effective measures can be taken quickly. But if one does not, the troubles are
encountered when they have grown, and nothing can be done about them.
Moreover, under direct rule, the country will not be exploited by your officials; the
subjects will be content if they have direct access to the ruler. Consequently, they
will have more reason to be devoted to him if they intend to behave well, and to
fear him if they do not. Any foreigners with designs on that state will proceed very
carefully. Hence, if the state is ruled directly, it is very unlikely indeed to be lost.

The other very good solution is to establish colonies in a few places, which
become, as it were, off shoots of the conquering state. If this is not done, it will be
necessary to hold it by means of large military forces. Colonies involve little
expense; and so at little or no cost, one establishes and maintains them. The only
people injured are those who lose their fields and homes, which are given to the
new settlers; but only a few inhabitants are affected in this way. Moreover, those
whom he injures can never harm him, because they are poor and scattered. All the
other inhabitants remain unharmed, and should therefore be reassured, and will be
afraid of causing trouble, for fear that they will be dispossessed, like the others. I
conclude that these colonies are not expensive, are more loyal, and harm fewer
people; and those that are harmed cannot injure you because, as I said, they are
scattered and poor.

It should be observed here that men should either be caressed or crushed;
because they can avenge slight injuries, but not those that are very severe. Hence,
any injury done to a man must be such that there is no need to fear his revenge.

However, if military forces are sent instead of colonists, this is much more
expensive, because all the revenue of the region will be consumed for its security.
The outcome is that the territory gained results in loss to him; and it is much more
injurious, because it harms the whole of that region when his troops move round
the country. Everyone suffers this nuisance, and becomes hostile to the ruler. And
they are dangerous enemies because, although defeated, they remain in their own
homes. From every point of view, then, this military solution is misguided,
whereas establishing colonies is extremely effective.

Again, as I have said, anyone who rules a foreign country should take the
initiative in becoming a protector of the neighbouring minor powers and contrive
to weaken those who are powerful within the country itself. He should also take
precautions against the possibility that some foreign ruler as powerful as himself
may seek to invade the country when circumstances are favourable. Such invaders
are always helped by malcontents within the country, who are moved either by
their own overweening ambition or by fear, as happened in Greece, where the
Aetolians were responsible for the invasion by the Romans. And in every country
that the Romans attacked, some of the inhabitants aided their invasion. What
usually happens is that, as soon as a strong invader attacks a country, all the less
powerful men rally to him, because they are enviously hostile to the ruler who has
held sway over them. The invader has no trouble in winning over these less
powerful men, since they will all be disposed to support the new power he has
acquired. He needs only to be careful that they do not acquire too much military
power and influence. And using his own forces, and with their consent, he can

easily put down those who are powerful, thus gaining complete control of that
country. A ruler who does not act in this way will soon lose what he has gained
and, even while he does hold it, he will be beset by countless difficulties and
troubles.

Chapter 15
The things for which men, and especially rulers, are praised or

blamed

It remains now to consider in what ways a ruler should act with regard to his
subjects and allies. And since I am well aware that many people have written
about this subject I fear that I may be thought presumptuous, for what I have to say
differs from the precepts offered by others, especially on this matter. But because I
want to write what will be useful to anyone who understands, it seems to me better
to concentrate on what really happens rather than on theories or speculations. For
many have imagined republics and principalities that have never been seen or
known to exist. However, how men live is so different from how they should live
that a ruler who does not do what is generally done, but persists in doing what
ought to be done, will undermine his power rather than maintain it. If a ruler who
wants always to act honourably is surrounded by many unscrupulous men his
downfall is inevitable. Therefore, a ruler who wishes to maintain his power must
be prepared to act immorally when this becomes necessary.

I shall set aside fantasies about rulers, then, and consider what happens in fact. I
say that whenever men are discussed, and especially rulers (because they occupy
more exalted positions), they are praised or blamed for possessing some of the
following qualities. Thus, one man is considered generous, another miserly (I use
this Tuscan term because avaro in our tongue also signifies someone who is
rapacious, whereas we call misero someone who is very reluctant to use his own
possessions); one is considered a free giver, another rapacious; one cruel, another
merciful; one treacherous, another loyal; one effeminate and weak, another
indomitable and spirited; one affable, another haughty; one lascivious, another
moderate; one upright, another cunning; one inflexible, another easy-going; one
serious, another frivolous; one devout, another unbelieving, and so on.

I know that everyone will acknowledge that it would be most praiseworthy for a
ruler to have all the above-mentioned qualities that are held to be good. But
because it is not possible to have all of them, and because circumstances do not

permit living a completely virtuous life, one must be sufficiently prudent to know
how to avoid becoming not orious for those vices that would destroy one’s power
and seek to avoid those vices that are not politically dangerous; but if one cannot
bring oneself to do this, they can be indulged in with fewer misgivings. Yet one
should not be troubled about becoming notorious for those vices without which it
is difficult to preserve ones power, because if one considers everything carefully,
doing some things that seem virtuous may result in ones ruin, whereas doing other
things that seem vicious may strengthen ones position and cause one to flourish.

From The Discourses

Book 1
6. Whether in Rome such a Form of Government could have been set
up as would have removed the Hostility between the Populace and

the Senate

We have just been discussing the effects produced by the controversies between the
populace and the senate. Now, since these controversies went on until the time of
the Gracchi when they became the causes which led to the destruction of liberty, it
may occur to some to ask whether Rome could have done the great things she did
without the existence of such animosities. Hence it seems to me worth while to
inquire whether it would have been possible to set up in Rome a form of
government which would have prevented these controversies. In order to discuss
this question it is necessary to consider those republics which have been free from
such animosities and tumults and yet have enjoyed a long spell of liberty, to look at
their governments, and to ask whether they could have been introduced into Rome.

Among ancient states Sparta is a case in point, and among modern states Venice,
as I have already pointed out. Sparta set up a king and a small senate to govern it.
Venice did not distinguish by different names those who took part in its
government, but all who were eligible for administrative posts were classed under
one head and called gentry. This was due to chance rather than to the prudence of
its legislators; for many people having retired to those sandbanks on which the city
now stands and taken up their abode there for the reasons already assigned, when
their numbers grew to such an extent that it became necessary for them to make
laws if they were to live together, they devised a form of government. They had
frequently met together to discuss the city’s affairs, so, when it seemed to them that
the population was sufficient to form a body politic, they decided that all

newcomers who meant to reside there, should not take part in the government.
Then, when in course of time they found that there were quite a number of
inhabitants in the place who were disbarred from government, with an eye to the
reputation of those who governed they called them gentlefolk and the rest
commoners.

Such a form of government could arise and be maintained without tumult
because, when it came into being, whoever then dwelt in Venice was admitted to
the government, so that no one could complain. Nor had those who came to dwell
there later on and found the form of government firmly established, either cause or
opportunity to make a commotion. They had no cause because they had been
deprived of nothing. They had no opportunity because the government had the
whip-hand and did not employ them in matters which would enable them to acquire
authority. Besides, there were not many who came later to dwell in Venice, nor
were they so numerous as to upset the balance between rulers and ruled; for the
number of gentlefolk was either equal to, or greater than, that of the newcomers.
These, then, were the causes which enabled Venice to set up this form of
government and to maintain it without disruption.

Sparta, as I have said, was governed by a king and by a small senate. It was
able to maintain itself in this way for a long time, because in Sparta there were few
inhabitants and access to outsiders desirous of coming to dwell there was
forbidden. Moreover, it had adopted the laws of Lycurgus and shared in his repute,
and, as these laws were observed, they removed all occasion for tumult, so that the
Spartans were able to live united for a long time. The reason was that the laws of
Lycurgus prescribed equality of property and insisted less on equality of rank.
Poverty was shared by all alike, and the plebeians had less ambition, since offices
in the city were open but to few citizens and from them the plebs were kept out; nor
did it desire to have them since the nobles never ill-treated the plebs. This was due
to the position assigned to the Spartan kings, for, since in this principality they
were surrounded by nobles, the best way of maintaining their position was to
protect the plebs from injustice. It thus came about that the plebs neither feared
authority nor desired to have it, and, since they neither feared it nor desired it,
there was no chance of rivalry between them and the nobility, nor any ground for
disturbances, and they could live united for a long time. It was, however, mainly
two things which brought this union about: (i) the smallness of Sparta’s population,
which made it possible for a few to rule, and (ii) the exclusion of foreigners from
the state, which gave it no chance either to become corrupt or to become so
unwieldy that it could no longer be managed by the few who governed it.

All things considered, therefore, it is clear that it was necessary for Rome’s
legislators to do one of two things if Rome was to remain tranquil like the
aforesaid states: either to emulate the Venetians and not employ its plebs in wars,
or, like the Spartans, not to admit foreigners. Rome did both these things, and, by
doing so, gave to its plebs alike strength, increase and endless opportunities for
commotion. On the other hand, had the government of Rome been such as to bring
greater tranquillity, there would have ensued this inconvenience, that it would have
been weaker, owing to its having cut off the source of supply which enabled it to
acquire the greatness at which it arrived, so that, in seeking to remove the causes of
tumults, Rome would have removed also the causes of expansion.

So in all human affairs one notices, if one examines them closely, that it is
impossible to remove one inconvenience without another emerging. If, then, you
want to have a large population and to provide it with arms so as to establish a
great empire, you will have made your population such that you cannot now handle
it as you please. While, if you keep it either small or unarmed so as to be able to
manage it, and then acquire dominions, either you will lose your hold on it or it
will become so debased that you will be at the mercy of anyone who attacks you.
Hence in all discussions one should consider which alternative involves fewer
inconveniences and should adopt this as the better course; for one never finds any
issue that is clear cut and not open to question. Rome might indeed have emulated
Sparta, have appointed a prince for life, and have made its senate small; but it
would not in that case have been able to avoid increasing its population with a
view to establishing a great empire; nor would the appointment of a king for life
and of a small number of senators have been of much help in the matter of unity.

Should, then, anyone be about to set up a republic, he should first inquire
whether it is to expand, as Rome did, both in dominion and in power, or is to be
confined to narrow limits. In the first case it is essential to constitute it as Rome
was constituted and to expect commotions and disputes of all kinds which must be
dealt with as best they can, because without a large population, and this well
armed, such a republic will never be able to grow, or to hold its own should it
grow. In the second case it might be constituted as Sparta and Venice were, but,
since expansion is poison to republics of this type, it should use every endeavour
to prevent it from expanding, for expansion, when based on a weak republic,
simply means ruin. This happened both in Sparta’s case and in that of Venice. For
of these republics the first, after having subjugated almost the whole of Greece,
revealed, on an occasion of slight importance in itself, how weak its foundation
was, since, when Thebes revolted at the instigation of Pelopidas and other cities
followed suit, this republic entirely collapsed. In like manner Venice, having

occupied a large part of Italy, most of it not by dint of arms, but of money and
astute diplomacy, when its strength was put to the test, lost everything in a single
battle.

I am firmly convinced, therefore, that to set up a republic which is to last a long
time, the way to set about it is to constitute it as Sparta and Venice were
constituted; to place it in a strong position, and so to fortify it that no one will
dream of taking it by a sudden assault; and, on the other hand, not to make it so
large as to appear formidable to its neighbours. It should in this way be able to
enjoy its form of government for a long time. For war is made on a commonwealth
for two reasons: (i) to subjugate it, and (ii) for fear of being subjugated by it. Both
these reasons are almost entirely removed by the aforesaid precautions; for, if it be
difficult to take by assault owing to its being well organized for defence, as I am
presupposing, rarely or never will it occur to anyone to seize it. And, if it be
content with its own territory, and it becomes clear by experience that it has no
ambitions, it will never occur that someone may make war through fear for himself,
especially if by its constitution or by its laws expansion is prohibited. Nor have I
the least doubt that, if this balance could be maintained, there would be genuine
political life and real tranquillity in such a city.

Since, however, all human affairs are ever in a state of flux and cannot stand
still, either there will be improvement or decline, and necessity will lead you to do
many things which reason does not recommend. Hence if a commonwealth be
constituted with a view to its maintaining the status quo, but not with a view to
expansion, and by necessity it be led to expand, its basic principles will be
subverted and it will soon be faced with ruin. So, too, should heaven, on the other
hand, be so kind to it that it has no need to go to war, it will then come about that
idleness will either render it effeminate or give rise to factions; and these two
things, either in conjunction or separately, will bring about its downfall.

Wherefore, since it is impossible, so I hold, to adjust the balance so nicely as to
keep things exactly to this middle course, one ought, in constituting a republic, to
consider the possibility of its playing a more honourable role, and so to constitute
it that, should necessity actually force it to expand, it may be able to retain
possession of what it has acquired. Coming back, then, to the first point we raised,
I am convinced that the Roman type of constitution should be adopted, not that of
any other republic, for to find a middle way between the two extremes I do not
think possible. Squabbles between the populace and the senate should, therefore,
be looked upon as an inconvenience which it is necessary to put up with in order to
arrive at the greatness of Rome. For, besides the reasons already adduced to show
that the authority of the tribunes was essential to the preservation of liberty, it is

easy to see what benefit a republic derives when there is an authority that can bring
charges in court, which was among the powers vested in the tribunes, as will be
shown in the following chapter.

9. That it is necessary to be the Sole Authority if one would constitute
a Republic afresh or would reform it thoroughly regardless of its

Ancient Institutions

To some it will appear strange that I have got so far in my discussion of Roman
history without having made any mention of the founders of that republic or of
either its religious or its military institutions. Hence, that I may not keep the minds
of those who are anxious to hear about such things any longer in suspense, let me
say that many perchance will think it a bad precedent that the founder of a civic
state, such as Romulus, should first have killed his brother, and then have
acquiesced in the death of Titus Tatius, the Sabine, whom he had chosen as his
colleague in the kingdom. They will urge that, if such actions be justifiable,
ambitious citizens who are eager to govern, will follow the example of their prince
and use violence against those who are opposed to their authority. A view that will
hold good provided we leave out of consideration the end which Romulus had in
committing these murders.

One should take it as a general rule that rarely, if ever, does it happen that a
state, whether it be a republic or a kingdom, is either well-ordered at the outset or
radically transformed vis-à-vis its old institutions unless this be done by one
person. It is likewise essential that there should be but one person upon whose
mind and method depends any similar process of organization. Wherefore the
prudent organizer of a state whose intention it is to govern not in his own interests
but for the common good, and not in the interest of his successors but for the sake
of that fatherland which is common to all, should contrive to be alone in his
authority. Nor will any reasonable man blame him for taking any action, however
extraordinary, which may be of service in the organizing of a kingdom or the
constituting of a republic. It is a sound maxim that reprehensible actions may be
justified by their effects, and that when the effect is good, as it was in the case of
Romulus, it always justifies the action. For it is the man who uses violence to spoil
things, not the man who uses it to mend them, that is blameworthy.

The organizer of a state ought further to have sufficient prudence and virtue not
to bequeath the authority he has assumed to any other person, for, seeing that men

are more prone to evil than to good, his successor might well make ambitious use
of that which he had used virtuously. Furthermore, though but one person suffices
for the purpose of organization, what he has organized will not last long if it
continues to rest on the shoulders of one man, but may well last if many remain in
charge and many look to its maintenance. Because, though the many are
incompetent to draw up a constitution since diversity of opinion will prevent them
from discovering how best to do it, yet when they realize it has been done, they
will not agree to abandon it.

That Romulus was a man of this character, that for the death of his brother and
of his colleague he deserves to be excused, and that what he did was done for the
common good and not to satisfy his personal ambition, is shown by his having at
once instituted a senate with which he consulted and with whose views his
decisions were in accord. Also, a careful consideration of the authority which
Romulus reserved to himself will show that all he reserved to himself was the
command of the army in time of war and the convoking of the senate. It is clear,
too, that when the Tarquins were expelled and Rome became free, none of its
ancient institutions were changed, save that in lieu of a permanent king there were
appointed each year two consuls. This shows that the original institutions of this
city as a whole were more in conformity with a political and self-governing state
than with absolutism or tyranny.

I might adduce in support of what I have just said numberless examples, for
example Moses, Lycurgus, Solon and other founders of kingdoms and republics
who assumed authority that they might formulate laws to the common good; but this
I propose to omit since it is well known. I shall adduce but one further example,
not so celebrated but worth considering by those who are contemplating the
drawing up of good laws. It is this. Agis, King of Sparta, was considering how to
confine the activities of the Spartans to the limits originally set for them by the
laws of Lycurgus, because it seemed to him that it was owing to their having
deviated from them in part that this city had lost a good deal of its ancient virtue,
and, in consequence, a good deal of its power and of its empire. He was, however,
while his project was still in the initial stage, killed by the Spartan ephors, who
took him to be a man who was out to set up a tyranny. But Cleomenes, his
successor in that kingdom, having learned from some records and writings of Agis
which he had discovered, what was the latter’s true mind and intention, determined
to pursue the same plan. He realized, however, that he could not do this for the
good of his country unless he became the sole authority there, and, since it seemed
to him impossible owing to man’s ambition to help the many against the will of the
few, he took a suitable opportunity and had all the ephors killed and anybody else

who might obstruct him. He then renewed in their entirety the laws of Lycurgus. By
so doing he gave fresh life to Sparta, and his reputation might thereby have become
as great as that of Lycurgus if it had not been for the power of the Macedonians and
the weakness of other Greek republics. For, after Sparta had thus been reorganized,
it was attacked by the Macedonians, and, since its forces proved to be inferior and
it could get no outside help, it was defeated, with the result that Cleomenes’ plans,
however just and praiseworthy, were never brought to completion.

All things considered, therefore, I conclude that it is necessary to be the sole
authority if one is to organize a state, and that Romulus’ action in regard to the
death of Remus and Titus Tatius is excusable, not blameworthy.

26. In a City or Province which he has seized, a New Prince should
make Everything New

Should anyone become the ruler either of a city or of a state, especially if he has no
sure footing in it and it is suited neither for the civic life characteristic of a
monarchy nor yet that of a republic, the best thing he can do in order to retain such
a principality, given that he be a new prince, is to organize everything in that state
afresh; e g. in its cities to appoint new governors, with new titles and a new
authority, the governors themselves being new men; to make the rich poor and the
poor rich; as did David when he became king, ‘who filled the hungry with good
things and the rich sent empty away’; as well as to build new cities, to destroy
those already built, and to move the inhabitants from one place to another far
distant from it; in short, to leave nothing of that province intact, and nothing in it,
neither rank, nor institution, nor form of government, nor wealth, except it be held
by such as recognize that it comes from you.

His aim should be to emulate Philip of Macedon, the father of Alexander, who,
starting as a little king, by these methods made himself prince of Greece. Of him a
writer says that he moved men from province to province as shepherds move their
sheep.

Such methods are exceedingly cruel, and are repugnant to any community, not
only to a Christian one, but to any composed of men. It behoves, therefore, every
man to shun them, and to prefer rather to live as a private citizen than as a king
with such ruination of men to his score. None the less, for the sort of man who is
unwilling to take up this first course of well doing, it is expedient, should he wish
to hold what he has, to enter on the path of wrong doing. Actually, however, most
men prefer to steer a middle course, which is very harmful; for they know not how

to be wholly good nor yet wholly bad, as in the next chapter will be shown by
means of an example.

Book 3
41. That one’s Country should be defended whether it entail

Ignominy or Glory, and that it is Good to defend it in any way
whatsoever

The consul and the Roman army were surrounded by the Samnites, as has just been
said. The Samnites had imposed on the Romans ignominious conditions. They were
to pass under the yoke and to be sent back to Rome without their arms and
equipment. At this the consuls being astonished and the whole army being in
despair, Lucius Lentulus, the Roman legate, told them that it did not seem to him
that they should reject any alternative in order to save their country; for, since the
survival of Rome depended on the survival of this very army, it should be saved in
any way that offered; and that it is good to defend ones country in whatever way it
be done, whether it entail ignominy or glory; for, if this army was saved, Rome
might in time wipe out the ignominy; but that, if it were not saved and even if it
should die gloriously, Rome and its freedom would be lost. So Lentulus’s advice
was followed.

This counsel merits the attention of, and ought to be observed by, every citizen
who has to give advice to his country. For when the safety of ones country wholly
depends on the decision to be taken, no attention should be paid either to justice or
injustice, to kindness or cruelty, or to its being praiseworthy or ignominious. On
the contrary, every other consideration being set aside, that alternative should be
whole-heartedly adopted which will save the life and preserve the freedom of ones
country.

This is the course the French adopt – both in what they say and what they do –
in order to defend the majesty of their king or the power of their kingdom; for no
voice is heard with greater impatience than one that should say: ‘Such an
alternative it would be ignominious for the king to adopt.’ No decision the king
makes can be shameful, they say, whether it leads to good or to adverse fortune,
for, whether he wins or loses is entirely his business, they claim.

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