To cause a prince to withdraw his mind altogether from peace and agreement with his adversaries, he must commit and use some notable and outrageous injury against them. (Discourses, book 3 chapter 32)
Because men are naturally vindictive and desirous to take vengeance on those who offend them, it consequently falls out that they who have outraged or injured any, especially if the injury be great, can never trust him they have so injured. For every man fears and distrusts his reconciled enemy. And therefore to find means that a prince may never set his heart and mind upon peace, nor reconcile himself to any adversary, he must be persuaded to practice some outrageous act upon his said adversary. So by that means he will never trust him, nor be reconciled with him.
Behold here the very counsel that Achitophel gave to Absalom, to make him irreconcilable with his father David, and to place a division in all his kingdom. For he advised Absalom to cohabitate and dwell even with his father David’s wives, which was the greatest and most villainous injury that he could have done to him. And to this end he did it; that Absalom and all who followed him might be utterly out of hope to make peace with David, and by that means, playing the desperado, they might gather double courage and make themselves possessors of the kingdom. For necessity and despair make men hardy and valiant; but what was the issue thereof? Even this, that Achitophel, the author of this counsel, hanged himself, either out of despair or fear that David would have punished him. Absalom also soon after miserably perished as a reward for his adherence and cleaving to so bad counsel.
The same happened to Tolumnius, King of the Veians, who had caused the Fidenates to revolt from the Romans. For when the Romans sent ambassadors to the Fidenates, to know the reason of their revolt, Tolumnius counseled them to slay the ambassadors, as indeed they did. To the end, according to Livy, that the Fidenates might be more faithful to him, and out of hope of reconciliation with the Romans, perceiving themselves guilty of so strange a crime. So the Romans made war upon the Fidenates, unto whose succor came Tolumnius; and as he was in battle, a Roman named Cornelius Cossus saw him and said, “Behold the breaker of human leagues, the violator of the people’s right; now shall thou be sacrificed for the death of our ambassadors.” And couching his spear against Tolumnius, ran at him and carried him to the earth, where he slew him, cut off his head, and showed it in front of a number of the enemies, who as soon as they saw the King’s head turned their backs and fled.
The Capuans, after receiving many good turns and succors from the Romans, even when they yet had in their town a Roman garrison, enterprised to make their profit of the Romans’ calamity in the battle of Cannes. For, seeing that Hannibal had much enfeebled the Roman forces, they revolted from them and joined unto Hannibal. They also sent ambassadors to Rome, to tell the Senate that if they would receive the Capuans in equality of government, by according that from thenceforward one of the consuls of Rome should be a Capuan, they would help the Romans against Hannibal. The Roman senators, perceiving a foolish and proud demand of these effeminate Capuans, who were no better warriors than common strumpets, made no answer and chased them out of the Senate. These ambassadors, seeing themselves repulsed from their demand, returned to Capua and reported how they sped in their embassage. Then these devilish Capuans, according to the guise and nature of all effeminate cowards, who are always cruel for their own advantage, enterprised in a conspiracy with Hannibal to massacre all the Roman garrison which they had in their town of Capua. The Roman garrison being thus massacred, the Romans sent to besiege Capua. Hannibal, unable to leave without great peril, besieged Rome, hoping thereby to draw their siege from Capua. After Hannibal had removed, the Romans assaulted the town and entered in. Quintus Fulvius, lieutenant general of the Roman army, had a proclamation made that all those of the town who would resort to their camp within certain days would not be held culpable, and not consenting to the revolt and massacre made by the Capuans. But none dared trust this proclamation; not that they doubted the Romans would hold their word, but because they had left no hope to obtain any pardon. Yet most of the senators of Capua concluded to send ambassadors to Rome to obtain grace and pardon, having some hope in the clemency so many times proved in the Roman Senate. And indeed their ambassadors obtained letters of grace. But one Virius, the principal author of the said revolt and massacre, was not of that opinion to have recourse nor any hope in the Senate, judging his crime to be so great that it was impossible to obtain pardon. Therefore he and 27 other senators of his opinion resolved to slay themselves; they prepared a great banquet, furnished with viands and wine, the most exquisite that could be gotten, and drank till their senses were taken from them; and for their last farewell every man drank a glass of poison. Embracing one another, they began to weep and lament the ruin of them and their country, and to detest the wicked counsel they had taken, to use so outrageous a part against the Romans, to take away all hope of peace and reconciliation. So having long wept and lamented, they fell dead upon the earth, one after the other. Is not this a notable example, to detest that wicked counsel of Machiavelli, to seek means to be irreconcilable? Is there any prince in the world unto whom a necessity may not sometimes come to be reconciled with his inferior adversary? And if reconciliation may always come in good time and for good purpose, how does this wicked atheist lay down this maxim?
Catiline, a man devoid of all virtue and a bundle of all vice, resolving in his brain to be an exceedingly great man or altogether nothing, devised a conspiracy against his country and drew to his league many Roman gentlemen such as himself. Considering that he could not bring to effect his conjuration without declaring and communicating it to the chieftains of his aid, yet fearing that some of them would disclose it, he made them all take a most execrable oath, that thereby might be foreclosed from them all hope of retiring from his side. So he mixed wine with human blood in pots and made all his companions drink of it, and made them swear with an execration that they would never disclose the enterprise, but employ themselves with all their power to execute it. His partners, already culpable of human blood, were so secret that nothing would have been discovered, if God had not permitted a harlot called Fulvia to draw certain words out of a conspirator’s mouth, as she demanded of him where he lay the preceding nights. Being drunk, to enjoy his courtesan, he disclosed to her that he had been in a company with whom he made an enterprise that would make him rich forever. As soon as Fulvia knew all the conjuration she disclosed it to the consul Cicero. Cicero did what he could to open all the enterprise, but the conspirators held so well their horrible oath, that not one of so great a number would ever reveal a word. But yet Cicero found means to know all, by the declaration which the Allobroges made, who Catiline had appointed to furnish him with people for the execution. But the end of Catiline was such, that he was slain fighting with a great number of others, and most of his accomplices were executed by justice. Briefly, all who have practiced that wicked doctrine of Machiavelli, to commit outrageous acts to be irreconcilable, their ends and lives have proved very tragedies.