A prince in time of peace, maintaining discords and partialities among his subjects may more easily use them at his pleasure. (The Prince, chapter 20)
Our ancient ancestors, especially those who were esteemed the wisest, have always held that people must be held in obedience by the means of partialities. And for that cause they nourished discords in certain towns, the more easily to govern them. The Venetians also, moved with the like opinion, maintained in the towns of their government the factions of the Guelphs and Gibelines, that their subjects’ minds, being occupied with such studies, might have no leisure to think upon rebellion. Yet a prince who has any blood in his nails will not nourish such partialities in time of war, for so may they bring him hurt; but in time of peace he may by such means handle his subjects much more easily.
Whenever the commonwealth is governed by a good prince who uses good counsel in the conducting of his affairs and gets the love of his subjects, it is certain that both in time of peace and war he shall always be obeyed. For most of the people will obey him voluntarily and without constraint; some for love, others for fear of his justice, which he shall have well established in his domination. And therefore this maxim cannot be but damaging and pernicious to a good prince, for it alienates him from the love of his subjects. For if he nourishes partialities among his subjects, he cannot possibly carry himself so equally towards both parties, but in them both will be jealousy and suspicion. Each party will esteem the other to be more favored, whereupon he will hate his prince, and by that means it may come to pass that the prince shall be hated by both parties; and so both the one and the other shall machinate his ruin, which he can hardly shun, having all their evil wills. And suppose he had but the evil will of one party; yet he could not be assured, seeing men are naturally inclined to desire to ruin and destroy what they hate; and that not only many, but even one alone may well find and encounter means to bring to pass his purpose, and to execute an enterprise, as before we have demonstrated by many examples. Therefore this maxim cannot but be very pernicious and very perilous for a prince who will use it. But it may be a tyrant may make use of it to hider a concord of the people, which may prove ruinous and perilous unto him. For when a people accords, a tyrant’s nails have no great power upon them; neither can he easily introduce or practice tyrannical actions upon a people in good concord, because it refuses the yoke and denies obedience unto wicked ordinances and new burdens, and without obedience nothing by him is brought to effect. Therefore those who mean to introduce a tyranny first cast this foundation of partiality as the most certain means to establish and build it; and although no tyranny is ever firm or assured, and we seldom or never see tyrants live long, because all tyranny comprehends violence, and by nature violent things cannot endure; as also that God sets in foot and exercises his justice upon them; yet for all that, there is not a better nor more expedient means to establish a tyranny than to plant a partiality among the people. And this is the mark and end whereat Machiavelli shoots to establish a tyranny, as we have before showed in many places.
It may be Machiavelli learned this maxim from Claudius Appius, who was a man of courage, and very tyrannical towards the Roman people. And if all other senators had been of his humor, assuredly the Senate would have usurped a tyranny in the city, and changed the aristocratic estate into an oligarchy; but most often he remained alone in his opinion. But we must understand that at Rome there were ten tribunes of the people, who were magistrates established to conserve the liberties and franchises of the common people against the tyrannical enterprises of the great men of the city. They had power to oppose themselves against all novelties, as new laws, new burdens and taxes; and after a firm opposition, none might pass any further. They also had power to propose and pursue the reception of new laws, as they knew it was requisite and profitable for all the people; whereby it often came to pass that the tribunes sought to pass laws to the great dislike of the patricians and senators, and to the utility of the common people. Appius always gave the Senate advice to sow a partiality among the ten tribunes, so that they might oppose themselves against law which otherwise they would have to pass. For, said he, by this means the tribunes’ power shall ruin itself without us seeming to have meddled therein, and without the people knowing that any of our action is in it. This counsel of Appius was many times followed, but in the end they found it did them no good; for after the tribunes were partialized against each other, and nothing could pass nor be concluded by way of deliberation and accustomed voting, they then fell to arms and seditions. So that in the end the people were constrained by force to pluck from the patricians what they would not permit to be handled and disputed by the accustomed way of good deliberation and conclusion by plurality of voices. Thus the patricians were often constrained, to appease the people, to grant them things which by reason they might have persuaded them to leave. For it is the nature of men to always desire what is denied them, as the poet Horace says very well, expressing what ordinarily happens in the world:
That which denied is most commonly,
Desired is by us most ardently.
Moreover, it often came to pass that the patricians desired to pass some law which seemed to them profitable for the commonwealth; but they could not come to the sentences, because they had fashioned the tribunes to a contradiction of each other. And of those tribunary partialities arose great insurrections of the people, and great murders and effusion of blood, as there did when the two Gracchi brothers were slain. And therefore that good counsel of Appius, whereupon Machiavelli has made his maxim, was cause of great evils and calamities; as surely it is easy to judge that all partialities and divisions are cause of ruin and desolation among a people. Whereof we are also advised by him who is truth itself, our Lord Jesus Christ, who says that every kingdom divided in itself shall be desolate. And if there be any Machiavellian so gross-headed that he cannot comprehend this in spirit, yet he may see this by experience in France if he is not altogether blind. And if he is French, he cannot but palpably touch it in the loss of his goods, and in the death of his parents and friends, unless he is a lazer, or without sense. For all the late ruins of France, from where have they proceeded but from the partialities of papists and Huguenots, which foreigners sowed and maintained thereof. It is folly to say that the diversity of religion was the cause thereof. For if men had handled all controversies of religion by preaching, disputes, and conferences, as at the beginning they did, they would never have fallen into partiality. But since men came to arms and massacres, and by constraint would force men to believe, partialities sprung up, which was the only mark whereat all foreigners shot, that thereby they might plant in France the government of Machiavelli.
The Chalcedonians were well advised not to believe the counsel of the Aetolians, which resembled this doctrine of Machiavelli and the counsel of Appius. For when the war was open between the Romans and king Antiochus, the Chalcedonians, allies and friends of the Romans, assembled the States of their countries to resolve upon what Antiochus made them understand, that he came into Greece to deliver them from the subjection and servitude of the Romans, and therefore required them to ally themselves with him. The Aetolians – who were very inconstant and mutable people with each wind, as are the Machiavellians – chanced to be in that assembly, and persuaded the Chalcedonians that Antiochus had passed from Asia into Europe to deliver Greece from Roman servitude; and that they thought it best that all the cities of Greece ought to ally with both the two parties, the Antiochs and the Romans. For, they said, if we ally ourselves with both parties, when one offends us the other will avenge us. The Chalcedonians not finding this counsel good, knowing well that none can serve two contrary masters, neither could they ally themselves with two nations’ enemies, and that those who will entertain two contrary parties shall often fall into the bad graces of both. And therefore Mixtion, one of the principals of the Chalcedonians, made to the Aetolians a very wise and notable answer:
“Masters Aetolians, we do not see that the Romans have seized upon any town in Greece, neither that they have placed any Roman garrison thererin, nor that any pays them tribute; neither do we know any whom they have given any law, or in any way changed their estate. And therefore we do not acknowledge ourselves entangled in any servitude, but in all ways are in the same liberty we have always been. Being therefore free, we stand in no need of a deliverer, and the coming of Antiochus into Greece cannot but hurt us, and he can perform no greater good unto us than to withdraw himself far from our country. And as for us, we are resolved to receive none within our towns but by the authority of the Romans, our allies.”
The Chalcedonians then governed themselves after this answer, and it happened well unto them. But the Aetolians were almost all ruined and lost by practicing their foolish opinion, to entertain both the Romans and Antiochians together. For so were they of necessity forced to seek practices maintaining war between that king and the Roman commonwealth, to the end that the two powers might always stand on foot, without the ability to overthrow the other; because otherwise they could not attain to their design and purpose, which was to keep themselves in friendship with both parties. Yet thus seeking to sustain them both, and maintain them enemies, they made themselves hated by both; so that after the retreat of Antiochus, these miserable Aetolians fell into a desperate case, likely to have torn each other in pieces, accusing each other as the invertors of that wicked counsel. Yet in the end, by the Romans’ clemency and bounty, which pardoned them, they had a certain subsistence, though in a mean sort.
The partialities of the Carthaginians, were they not the cause of their utter ruin? There were two factions at Carthage, the Barchinian (whereof was Hannibal’s house), and the Hannoenne. As soon as Hannibal’s father Hamilcar was dead, the Carthaginians elected as general of their army Asdrubal, one of the Barchian faction, who they sent to make war with Spain with a great army. This Asdrubal had learned the art of war under Hamilcar, which was the cause why he sought to have young Hannibal near him, to administer unto him the same benefit which he had received at his father’s hands. Therefore he wrote to the Senate of Carthage, who brought this to deliberation; Hanno’s advice being demanded, he reasoned in this way.
“Masters, I think the demand of Asdrubal is very equal, yet I do not think his request should be granted. For it is equal in that he desires to restore a like benefit to the son which he received from the father; yet we ought not to accommodate ourselves to his will, and give him our youth to nourish after his fancy. I am then of advice that this young Hannibal be nourished and educated in this city, under the obedience of laws and magistrates, and that he be taught to live after justice, and in equality with others, lest this little fire one day raise up a far greater.”
The wisest and best advised of the Senate were of this opinion, but the plurality (which was of the Barchian faction) was to send young Hannibal into Spain; who as soon as he arrived was much beloved by the soldiers, as well because he resembled his father Hamilcar as for his military virtues. Not long after, he was chosen general of the Carthaginian army. But as soon as he was settled in that estate, he accomplished the prophecy of Hanno; for he lighted the great fire of the Punic Wars against the Romans, whereby in the end the Carthaginians were utterly ruined. All this proceeded but from the partiality which was at Carthage; for as soon as the Hannonians reasoned one way, the Barchinians reasoned to the contrary, and they studied for nothing but to obtain the upper hand without care or consideration what opinion was best. And thus ordinarily it happens where there is any partiality. For then men give themselves more to contradiction than to judge after a wholesome sentence, and without passion of what is profitable and expedient.
During the Punic Wars there were created consuls Marcus Livius and Claudius Nero, who bore great enmity towards each other of long standing. The Senate, fearing that this enmity should cause some partialities in the administration of their estate, which might turn to the damage of the public good, admonished them to be reconciled. Marcus Livius answered that it was not needful, and that their enmities and partialities should cause them with envy to seek to do better than the other. But the Senate was not of that advice; for they remembered that in the time of the proconsulship of Quintius Paenus, Caius Furius, Marcus Posthumius, and Cornelius Cossus, the Roman army had been vanquished by the Veians because of the partialities of the chieftains, who could not accord in their counsels and designs, but always tended to contrary ends. The like also happened in the proconsulship of Publius Virginius and Marcus Sergius. But the most memorable and latest example which the Senate had before their eyes was the loss of the battle at Cannes, where the Romans lost 50,000 men; which loss happened by the discord and partiality of two chieftains, Paulus Aemylius and Terentius Varro. These examples moved the Senate to exhort these two consuls, Livius and Nero, to a reconciliation, not believing that their partiality could serve them for anything but evil to conduct the affairs of the commonwealth. Being constrained by the Senate’s authority, they accorded and reconciled themselves, and very well acquitted themselves in their charge, and overthrew 50,000 men which Asdrubal brought into Italy to Hannibal his brother. In this defeat Asdrubal was slain, and his head secretly carried and cast into Hannibal’s camp, who yet had no news of that journey. When Hannibal saw the head of his brother, he deplored his fortune and despaired of his affairs, knowing that the Roman virtue would never bow nor stoop for either misfortune or calamity.
The reconciliation and concord of Marcus Livius and Claudius Nero, then, were the cause of a great good and utility to the commonwealth, and remounted the affairs thereof into a great hope, and abated the pride that Hannibal had taken from the battle of Cannes; as also by the contrary, the partiality of Paulus Aemylius (who was a wise captain) and of Terentius Varro (who was very rash and heady) was the cause that the Roman commonwealth was almost utterly overthrown, and that Hannibal was mounted into so great pride and hope to be master thereof.
Concord then, and not partiality, is profitable and healthful to a commonwealth; and to this purpose is very memorable, the oration of Fabius Maximus to the Roman people. Fabius being elected consul five times, and twice having had for his companion Publius Decius, the people at this time would have for his companion Lucius Volumnius. But Fabius arose upon his feet, and turning himself towards the people, said: “My masters, I have already had in two consulships Publius Decius for a companion; and we have carried ourselves together in a very good concord; therefore I pray you to give me him yet this time again, in favor of my age, which can hardly now accustom itself to any other companion. You know that there is nothing more firm for the tuition of the common weal than magistrates who accord well; for every man will communicate his counsel more privately with him he knows, and who is of manners and conditions accordant with his own, than with another.” At this request of Fabius, the people accorded unto him Decius for his companion, with such joy and comfort that each man thought that from so good concord of two consuls, there could not proceed anything but good and profit to the commonwealth.
The Romans one day having no silver in their treasury for a war which was on their hands, the Senate gave charge to certain senators, to remonstrate to the people that each man should make them ready to do their best for the defense of the commonwealth, and that none ought to abandon the defense of their country for want of food and payment of wages. This was so well done that first the knights offered to serve for nothing; then great troupes of people ran to the palace, to have themselves enrolled to march without wages. The Senate ordained that the colonels assemble their regiments, and by orations give them great thanks in the name of the Senate and of the commonwealth, for their goodwill in freely serving the common weal. Which commission they all executed, highly praising the generosity of Roman soldiers. All the world was taken with such joy for this great concord and unanimity of great and small to conserve the commonwealth, that everyone wept for joy, and cried on high that assuredly the city of Rome was most happy, invincible and eternal, by this concord; that the knights were most brave men, worthy of praises; that the people were good and loveable, and that the debonarity and kindness of the Senate had been vanquished by the prompt and voluntary obedience of the people. Here you may see what opinion the Roman people had of concord, so far were they from thinking that partialities were good.
But when we say that concord is good, necessary, and profitable for the conservation of the public good, I do not mean that all persons who deal in the commonwealth ought of necessity to be of one humor, of one voice and complexion. For rather contrary, they must needs be gentle and sharp, affable and fierce, severe and pitiful, such as Appius and Publicola, Cato and Caesar. For as in the lute, if all strings were of one sound, the harmony would be worth nothing; but being of diverse sounds, tending to one melody, it proves a pleasant and agreeable harmony. So in a commonwealth or in a prince’s council, if all were of one humor and inclination, their advices and government could not be good. But being of diverse natures, yet tending to one end, which is the common good, their opinions shall always be better debated by diverse and contrary reasons, and conclusions better taken and better digested. This is what Tullius Hostilius, king of the Romans, said to Sussetius, dictator of the Albanois: “The partialities which you reproach us with are profitable, and not damaging to the commonwealth, as you say; for we contend together, who shall most profit it, great or young, old or new citizens. And because to maintain a public estate two things are necessary, force in war and prudence in counsel, we will contend and debate upon them both, who shall do best, and who shall show himself most virtuous in war and most prudent in counsel. This partiality in counsel then, when all men tend to the public good, are well according dissonances, which in the end makes a very sweet harmony.”
I conclude then this matter with the saying of Comines, that if a prince is in peace, maintaining partialities among his subjects will bring him into war; and if he is at war, they will bring him into ruin and confusion. I conclude then, that a prince above all things ought to take heed that he nourish no partialities unless among women. For a prince may take pleasure in maintaining a partiality among the ladies and gentlewomen of his court, and so may always have some pleasant news to laugh at and take his pastime. But yet I could like better that among the ladies of a prince’s court there should be such a partiality as there was in times past among the Roman ladies. The patrician ladies had a chapel dedicated to chastity, where they often went to make devotions in a great troupe. These ladies being one day in their chapel, there arrived Virginia, a patrician married to Lucius Volumnius, who was of the third estate, although also a great lord. These patrician ladies would by no means suffer Virginia to enter into their chapel, because she was not married to a patrician, but thrust her back. Virginia said she was by race a patrician, a chaste wife without reproach, and married to a lord who had received great honor and estates in the commonwealth, although by race he was but of the third estate. Notwithstanding whatever she could say, these patrician ladies would not suffer her to enter the chapel. Virginia seeing this, to show that she was a chaste lady, had an altar erected to Pudicity, and dedicating it in the presence of a great troupe of other patrician ladies, said: “I dedicate this altar to the patrician Chastity, and admonish you all that the same contention which is among our husbands, of who shall be most valiant and virtuous, may also be among us, who shall be most chaste; and that you may so do and behave yourselves, as this altar may be more holily and chastely reverenced than this chapel here.” Behold here a contention worthy of virtuous and sage ladies! But at this day ladies contend who shall best dance, paint, and deck themselves, and to do such like things as do not lead them into the chapel of the Roman patricians, nor to the altar of Virginia’s chastity, but rather lead them clean contrary.