Essay, Research Paper: Machiavelli 


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Niccolo Machiavelli was not one, but three men: a political theorist, a military
theorist, and a famous writer. Niccolo Machiavelli was born in Florence in 1469.
The Machiavelli family was one of the most prominent politically in the city,
having 15 Gonfaloniere among his ancestors.1 Niccolo’s father, Bernardo
Machiavelli was a legal consultant in the city, prominent participant in
humanist scholarship of the day, and close associate of the city’s First
Chancellor. Niccolo received the very top quality humanist education available.
We first hear of him playing an active role in the affairs of his native city in
1498, when the position for head of second chancery, came open. He was only
twenty-nine years old at the time, and didn’t have any previous experience.
However, his nomination was confirmed and he was appointed second chancellor of
the Florentine Republic.2 Machiavelli’s official position involved him in very
important duties. The first and second chanceries both handled official
correspondence dealing with Florence’s domestic, foreign, and military
affairs. As head of the second chancier, Machiavelli was also soon assigned the
further job of secretary to the Ten of War, the committee responsible for the
Florence’s diplomatic relations.3 In addition to his routine office duties, he
also traveled abroad to act as spokesman for the Ten. During the next fourteen
years, Machiavelli was sent on numerous diplomatic missions to France,
Switzerland, and Germany. In June 1500, Machiavelli was in France at the court
of Louis XII, negotiating for assistance in regaining Pisa, which had asserted
its independence form Florence and tried to establish an independent
city-state.4 There in France, Machiavelli saw first-hand the weak leadership of
the king. He also learned about the French Parliament and its difficulties in
resolving power struggles between the hereditary nobles and the common people.
The Medici reentered the city of Florence in 1512, after eighteen years. Within
weeks the free republic of Florence was swept away, and in came oligarchy, and
the Medici family assumed absolute power. In November 1512, Machiavelli was
dismissed from his government post and forbidden to leave Florentine territory
for a year.5 In February 1513, he was falsely accused of taking part in an
unsuccessful conspiracy against the Medici and was imprisoned.6 Early in the
same year, Cardinal Giovanni de’ Medici was elected as pope as Leo X. The
election greatly strengthened the new regime in Florence. Along with
celebrations, they freed many political prisoners, including Machiavelli. As
soon as he was released, he tried to get his job back. With no response from the
Medici, he withdrew to his farm at Sant’ Andrea. There Machiavelli began
writing “The Prince”-describes the means by which a leader may gain and
maintain power. Machiavelli hoped that “The Prince” would bring him to the
attention of the Medici. He wanted them to see that he was still their loyal
subject, and to impassive that he was a man worth employing.7 The year 1512 is
generally considered to have been the turning point of his life. Machiavelli,
throughout his whole life was involved in politics and writing.. He was a born
writer even when he was not trying. After he was dismissed from office, was when
he used his writing as means to get his job back. The Medici didn’t agree with
the book, and the public was outraged. The public thought he was cruel and
heartless for having such evil thoughts. Machiavelli never won the trust of the
Medici, and never got his job back. From 1513 to the time of his death in 15278,
he wrote numerous of political works including: The Prince, 1513; The Discourses
on the First Ten Books of Titus Livy, 1513-1518; The Discourse on the War with
Pisa, 1498; Report on the Fortifications of Florence, 1526; The Life of
Castruccio Castracani, 1520; The Art of War, 1517-1520, etc. In addition, he
wrote several literary works: Mandragola, a play; Clizia, an adaptation from
Plautus; Belfagor, a novel.9 The Medici was kicked out of Florence a few years
later.10 Machiavelli ran to take office, but his reputation with The Prince made
people think that his political views were like the Medici and was not elected.
Machiavelli continued to write and died peacefully in his home in 1527.11 Even
after his death he was criticized for his corrupt ruling. Machiavelli’s
purpose was to describe the realities of political life-not to set up a school
for tyrants. It was believed that rulers like Napoleon I and Adolf Hitler used
The Prince as a kind of textbook to guide them in the pursuit of power.12 If
Machiavelli’s exposition applies to the nineteenth--or twentieth-century
figures like Napoleon and Hitler, that is much more of an indication of how well
he understood the political dimensions of the human nature than it is evidence
that such figures learned their methods from him. Machiavelli believes that
military training is the source of human virtue because it forces the individual
to sacrifice for society.13 Ethics comes from the sacrifice of individual
interests to the state. Involuntary recruiting is the main form of education for
a people who want to be free and the best remedy for a people already corrupted
by indolence of peace.14 He thinks of educators as army leaders, not learned
academics.15 The youth of a country should become used to hardship and work, and
get used to fighting and not fear death. Idleness leads to indolence and
corruption. Frederick of Prussia wrote Refutation of Machiavelli’s Prince, or
Anti-Machiavel between 1739 and 174016. Frederick of Prussia attacks The Prince,
chapter by chapter. He completely missed Machiavelli’s point, while trying to
reconcile his own pessimistic and militaristic tendencies. “ My intention in
this work is to satisfy myself and to express my true convictions freely. If the
reader is sufficiently depraved not to like the truth or contradictions, he can
throw away this book. No one, assuredly, is forcing him to read it.”17
Frederick of Prussia criticizes Machiavelli all the way through the book, making
smart remarks ever so often. He states, “Machiavelli is only striving by this
maxim to inspire princes with a secret jealousy for their generals and
allies.”18 He also says that Machiavelli only wrote for “petty princes”19.
Was Hitler and Napoleon petty? He says that Machiavelli “exaggerates so much
that he wants his prince to be nothing but a solider.”20 “ Throughout
Machiavelli’s writings, one can see that he was a very intelligent man. He was
first to see the connection between foreign and internal affairs, between armed
forces and the constitution. Yet, he is one of the most misunderstood and
distorted of philosophers. While Machiavell’s political career was much more
broad than of other political theorists, it was not in such an honorable
position as to achieve for him the fame he sought. His books, however, far
exceed in value the purpose for which they were created, and have earned for him
even more renown as a monumental political theorists than he could have possibly
1. Butterfield, Herbert. The Statecraft of Machiavelli. New York, Collier
Books. 1967,c1962. pp126. 2.. Fredrick II, King of Prussia, 1712-1786. Anti-Machiavel.
Ohio University press, c1981. pp164. 3. Gilbert, Felix. Machiavelli and
Guicciardini. Princeton, New Jersey, Princeton University Press, c1965. pp.349.
4. Jensen, De Lamar. Machiavelli: Cynic, Patriot, or Political Scientist?.
Boston, Heath, c1960. pp108. 5. Who2: Niccolo Machiavelli: Profile.
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