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honour, and security, they thus run into infamy, reproach, blame, and anger, and inquietude.” He then proceeds to show, how history will inform us, that the best, and the greatest men in private, are more to be admired than bad princes; that though servile writers might exalt the name of Cæsar, yet the advocates of freedom, do not fail to place Brutus beyond him; that the good Princes of Rome, the Trajans, and the Antonines, were more secure, as well as more happy, than the Caligulas, and the Neros. After thus drawing from history the best proofs of virtuous government, he concludes, “ that all to whom heaven has given the power to reform a corrupted state, should remember, that there are two paths before them; one by which they may live securely, and after their death become glorious; the other by which, during life, they shall be in constant anxieties, and leave behind them eternal infamy.” It is difficult to persuade ourselves that we are reading an author, who the world suppose the advocate of the most criminal policy. An additional test of his purity is, that an epitome of his political maxims, taken in substance, and even literally from his works, disposed in regular chapters under the title of “The Mind of a Statesman,” was published at Rome in 1771, under the eyes of the Papal Court, who gave it a solemn and public approbation. Such is the value of names. Had they deemed it so reprehensible they would have felt the inclination, and they did not want the power, to suppress it.
If the private character of an author be permitted to illustrate his writings, it is difficult to suppose Macchiavelli the advocate of despotism. He had long and faithfully served his native Republic. Nearly fourteen years he had been its Secretary, and the important missions he filled, the four embassies to France, two to Germany, two to Rome, two to Vienna, with others of less importance, sufficiently prove his zeal, his abilities, and the confidence of the state. At the head of the young Republicans, who frequented the Rucellai gardens, he was notoriously a partisan of freedom. It was for their use that he wrote the Discourses on Livy, full of sound maxims of government, and tinctured with all the notions of freedom which the history of Rome is calculated to inspire. Could he be the teacher of arbitrary tyrants? He had been driven from office, he had been tortured, for a real or supposed conspiracy against the Medici. Could he seriously instruct this same family, how to destroy the very freedom for which he had suffered? When applied to by Leo the 10th, to remedy the disasters of the state, he recommended a plan of government, which, while it might flatter the pride of the Medici, would have established substantially the liberty of Florence, and which was (perhaps for that very reason) rejected. Could this same man, when but recently before he wrote The Prince, have intended to overturn that liberty? In 1573, when his grandsons were about publishing his works, they appealed to the memory of many, who knew him and could attest his piety and his exemplary observance of religious duties. Should he be lightly charged as the propagator of impiety?
But Macchiavelli has not always laboured under such heavy imputations; and it may not perhaps be a useless task, to trace back the steps by which his character has reached us. The works of Macchiavelli were first printed in 1531. They were prohibited by Paul IV, in 1559, by Pius IV, in 1564, and still stand on the list of proscription. Already, however, cardinal Pole, and Catarino, a Dominican, had attacked them, and since their time there have not been wanting zealous enemies, from the pious Jesuits of Ingolstadt, who courageously burnt him in effigy, to Voltaire and Frederic, the philosopher who vindicated morals and religion, the King who practised a pure and meek system of politics.
In opposition to all this it may be boldly asserted, that Macchiavelli had been consulted by Leo X; that Clement VII, who must have known him as the author of The Prince, not only employed him, but accepted the dedication of his History, and gave permission to publish his works, among which was expressly The Prince. The friend therefore of two Popes, and tolerated by their successors, it was not till the progress of the reformation had alarmed the Court of Rome, that it followed the example of Charles V, and made a fastidious proscription which included Macchiavelli. It is needless to inquire how far the influence of his literary antagonist cardinal Pole, contributed to this disgrace, nor to mention that the list of Pius IV, called that of the Council of Trent, was but a literal copy of the first. But it is important to know, that in 1572, a committee of Cardinals appointed to revise the list, gave Macchiavelli's grandsons the liberty of purging and printing his works. That the corrections intended were chiefly of parts in which the author speaks too freely of the Popes, appears by a letter from the grandsons themselves; and the Bishop of Reggio, in a letter written on the occasion from Rome, expresses his pleasure that Macchiavelli is not held in disrepute, and that the office had no complaint against him. The project however failed, because the Cardinals, for a reason not known, wished the work to be published under some other name than that of Macchiavelli. The attack too, of Possevino, a Jesuit, which appeared about that time, may have contributed to its suppression. If then the papal government has condemned Macchiavelli merely through inattention, their censure is worthy of but little consi
deration, if, from a knowledge of his principles, the censure of a des- potic court is no mean proof that they are not the principles of the ranny.
If the opinions of those who knew his character, his views, and what would probably be the spirit of his writings, should influence our judgment, Macchiavelli is not without support. In a letter still extant, Buonnacorsi, his companion, praises highly The Prince, and even his enemy, Cardinal Pole, says, that he found the citizens of Florence under a persuasion that The Prince was the representation of a tyranny, which the author had thus designedly exposed to detestation.
But Macchiavelli may be also defended by that argument so soothing to the apathy of the human mind-the opinions of others, which powerfully assist in forming our own. The dry enumeration of names is perhaps the humblest office of letters; but the force of public sentiment is best controlled by opposing to it the opinions of those whom it is accustomed to respect. Alberico Gentile considers Macchiavelli as a favourer of freedom and a bitter enemy of tyrants. “His object* was,” says he, “not to instruct a tyrant, but by developing his secrets, to exhibit him naked and conspicuous to the suffering people, whom it was his purpose to inform under an appearance of general learning." Boccalinit views his work as a collection of political precepts, drawn from the actions of some Princes, whom it might have cost him his life to name, and regrets, that while the inventor of such a political system, is unmolested, he who merely describes it is denounced, that the original should be sacred while the copy is execrated, and while the study of history may make every man a Macchiavelli. It was his object, observes Count Gaspar Scioppio,& to describe a tyrant hostile to his country, and thus excite indignation against him, and by explaining his arts prevent them. For this purpose he pretends to be desirous of serving them, by showing the means by which they may acquire power. Yet he sometimes hints that he is restrained by fear of personal danger from a free avowal of his sentiments. Naudeus says that Macchiavelli "painted Princes as they are generally discovered to be.”'ll Balthazar Scuppio elegantly observes, “a most discerning observer of human profligacy, a most open witness, and a too ingenuous describer of it, was Macchiavelli of Florence. He candidly spoke what many other politicians not only feel and perfectly believe, but what, all their lives, they practise. Yet the unfortunate Macchiavelli is abused by all. As the Cyropædia of Xenophon is not a faithful history, but a model of just government; so on the other hand, Macchiavelli has described some Princes of Italy, whose god was money, whose will was law, whose guide ambition, whose art rashness, whose rule
* De Legationibus, ch. 9. Pædia Politices, p. 32. VOL. 1.
Boccalini Centuria 1, Ragguaglio 89. || Bibliographia Politica, p. 88.
custom, not as they should be, but as they were.”* Wiquefort says that he “has shown what Princes do, not what they ought to do, and if principles hostile to religion are sometimes advanced, he does it to show how tyrants avail themselves of them, and not how lawful Princes should use them.”+ Rousseau asserts that “pretending to give les sons to Kings, he has given better lessons to the people. The Prince is the code of Republicans.” “Every time,” says Linguet, " that I look at the works of this great genius, I cannot conceive the reason d. his having fallen into such disrepute. I much doubt whether his greatest enemies be not those who have not read his works, or those who have most abused his maxims. The first calumniate him through prejudice; the second, because he has too clearly revealed their cruel policy."|| “We owe thanks," says Lord Bacon, f“ to Macchiavelli and such writers, who have, openly and without dissembling, shown what men usually do, not what they ought to do.” “I rejoice,” observes Gray, “when I see Macchiavel defended or illustrated, who to me appears one of the wisest men that any nation in any age has produced.” To this may be added the tardy justice which his native city has rendered to him. Among the monuments which adorn the church of Santa Croce, there is one whose inscription, after mentioning the name of Macchiavelli, concludes with, “ Tanto nomini nullum har elogium.” The opinions of these distinguished writers may assist us in discovering the real intentions of Macchiavelli. Yet after all, we are perhaps ascribing to him motives very unnecessarily. Is there anything improbable in the opinion, that he may have written his treatise without any particular views ? He was a man of letters, and the motives which urge the pen of a writer are not always bounded by any immediate prospect. He had been a statesman, he had mingled much with the world, and he might for fame, for the information of others, for his own amusement, have occupied his leisure with the description of what he had seen. In fact, there is scarcely any maxim of The Prince, which is not expressly illustrated by the conduct of some distinguished personage of his day, or may not clearly, though obliquely, be referred to it. Of the wayward, profligate politics, which caused, and accompanied, and followed the commotions of Italy, he was a profound observer. From the accession of "Alexander VI, he had seen his country in almost continual warfare. The latent claims to the crown of Naples, perhaps the stronger per suasion of Ludovico Sforza, seduced the King of France into a ruinous expedition to the south of Italy. He expelled the legitimate sovereign.
Disserto de Opinione. # Soc. Cont. B. 3, ch. 3. os De Aug. Sci. B. 7.
+ L'Ambassadeur et ses Fonctions.