Category Archives: Machiavelli

Machiavelli and the Pazzi Conspiracy Part 2

The conspirators and their issues:

Pope Sixtus IVOne of the main players behind the conspiracy was the avaricious  Pope Sixtus IV*. He felt great hostility towards the Medici.

The pope wanted to add Florence and its territories to his Papal States, thus considerably increasing the size of his holdings and his income, while upsetting the delicate balance of power in central Italy. He also needed money to finance several major construction projects in Rome, including the creation of the Vatican Library. From Florence he would have leverage to pressure cities in the nearby Romagna, and by taking them create a kingdom for his nephew, Girolamo Riario. All of this would add to the pope’s expanding power base. But Lorenzo resisted.

When the pope asked Lorenzo to lend him money to finance his military campaigns in the Romagna, Lorenzo refused to commit any support. Instead, to strengthen their bonds with Rome, the Pazzi,a rival Florentine banking family, loaned 30,000 ducats to the pope. This angered Lorenzo, who encouraged the other Florentine bankers to hold onto their money.

The pope then changed bankers: he shifted the administration of the papal finances from the Medici to the Pazzi. This created a deep rift between Rome and the Medici. Managing the papal finances paid large commissions, creating enormous wealth for the managers: the Medici lost a major source of income.

The pope also ordered an audit on the accounts of the alum mine trade, also managed by the Medici. Alum was central the the dyeing trade in Florence, so a major source of revenue. The Pope granted the Pazzi the monopoly on the alum.

Then, Lorenzo passed a law retroactively prohibiting family inheritance by female offspring. The death of the wealthy Pazzi elder, Giovanni Borromei, without male heirs, meant that the Pazzi assets passed to the cousins, not to his wife, Beatrice. This dealt a blow to the Pazzi fortunes and exacerbated tensions between the families.

The pope was well aware of the plot and supported it, although he did not commit any of his troops to it.

Francesco Salviati was a member of a less distinguished, but still powerful Florentine family, who acted as Papal bankers in the city. Francesco had taken holy orders and was a bishop in the 1470s. He wanted to become archbishop of Florence, his home city, and the pope agreed. But the Medici made sure the position went to Rinaldo Orsini, the brother of Lorenzo’s new wife (the Orsini were another powerful family in Italy).

Francesco turned to Pope Sixtus for help. The pope didn’t have control over the appointment, but instead named Salviati archbishop of Pisa, a client city-state of Florence. This was an insult to both the Medici and the city of Florence because in the past, popes had always consulted with the city when selection an archbishop for Pisa. This infuriated Lorenzo so much that he ordered the gates of Pisa closed, preventing Salviati from entering to take office. Francesco was forced to bide his time in Rome, fretting and plotting, until Lorenzo relented in 1475.

Federigo da MontefeltroFederigo da Montefeltro, Duke of Urbino (right), was a mercenary – a conditierre  – who was playing for personal gain and an easy profit by renting out his troops to the pope. His daughter was married to Giovanni Della Rovere, the pope’s favourite nephew, and his title had been granted by the pope in 1474. He secretly committed to put 600 of his troops outside Florence to support the conspirators. **

King Ferrante of Naples was a silent partner in the conspiracy, but with long-range goals to gain from the events. He had ambitions to extend his kingdom north, outflanking the papal states and Florence was a serious obstacle. He needed to unseat the Medici and replace them with a family or ruler more supportive of his cause. He agreed to supply his army to aid the pope. Later, he made peace with Lorenzo, which angered the pope.

Girolamo Riario was a favourite nephew of Sixtus IV. The pope purchased the stronghold of Imola, from Milan, but the Medici had wanted it for Florence. The pope gave it to his nephew as a dowry when he married Caterina Sforza (daughter of Galeazzo Maria Sforza, Duke of Milan) in 1473. Although Girolamo survived the aftermath for many years, he continued to plot against the Medici, but all his efforts failed. In 1488 he was assassinated – the last of the main Pazzi conspirators alive –  by members of the Orsi.

Continued in Part 3

~~~~~

* Wikipedia notes:

One of his first acts was to declare a renewed crusade against the Ottoman Turks in Smyrna. Fund-raising for the crusade was more successful than the half-hearted attempts to storm Smyrna, with little to show in return.

This ill-considered crusade would later come back to haunt Sixtus during the aftermath of the Pazzi conspiracy. In the middle of their march on Florence, Naples had to shift its attention away from the conflict to southern Italy to deal with a Turkish invasion. In 1480, an army from the the Ottoman Empire landed at  Otranto, under orders to march on Rome and capture the city. After a two-week battle they captured Otranto, then massacred the inhabitants. The pope panicked, and demanded King Ferdinand of Naples gather together a new crusade to defeat the Turks. The Turkish ruler, Mehmet the Conqueror,  sailed to Italy to lead the army on to conquer the rest of the peninsula, but died en route. His successor ordered the army’s general to be hung, and the Turks retreated at the end of September, 1481. Ferdinand’s son Alphonso, duke of Calabria, retook the city after 13 months of Turkish rule.

** In 1482, when the pope turned against other Italian republics, Ferdinand switched sides. He joined the city states of Ferrara and Milan against the alliance of Sixtus IV and the Republic of Venice.

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Machiavelli and the Pazzi Conspiracy Part 1

Pazzi medallionOne of the historical events that had an influence on the young Niccolo Machiavelli‘s political and social development was the attempted assassination of the heads of the ruling Medici family, in April 1478. That Easter Sunday evening, April 26, while Lorenzo Medici (“The Magnificent”) and his brother Giuliano, were attending a packed service in the cathedral, they were attacked by several would-be assassins.

Lorenzo would survive the attempt, wounded, and in response wreaked tremendous revenge on everyone involved in the conspiracy. His brother, Giuliano, was murdered.

The eight-year-old Machiavelli (a week shy of his ninth birthday) would have seen the men running through the streets, swords drawn; the bodies bleeding on the cobblestones; heard the screams, seen the dead hanging from the bridges. He would have learned about the story from family and neighbours. He would have seen for himself how the attempt changed the face of Florentine politics and brought down one its its great families – and how it soon pitted the city against the temporal and spiritual power of the pope and his allies.

What would a young child have made of it? Clearly the conspiracy had a great effect on contemporary Florentine politics. Biographers of Machiavelli seldom do more than mention the event, many merely in passing, and none explore in depth its potential effect on his later work. Yet it must have made a significant impression.

Machiavelli would, as he matured, ponder the events of that year, trying to make sense of them, both as a local event,and what they meant in general to his theory of conspiracies. He wrote about the conspiracy in depth in his Florentine Histories, Book VIII, and briefly in The Discourses, but it is not mentioned in The Prince, nor in The Art of War. He says, briefly:

Chief among the causes which led the Pazzi to conspire against the Medici, was the law passed by the latter depriving them of the inheritance of Giovanni Bonromei.
The Discourses 3, VI

He would carefully watch the actions of the troops and mercenary armies in the wars that followed, weighing their performance and behaviour under fire. It would help him define his attitudes towards mercenaries, alliances, militia and warfare in general. Not only would he write about these in his books, but he would put some of his ideas into practice when he was allowed to create and manage a Florentine militia.

The Pazzi conspiracy is a complex, confusing event that sprung from ancient enmities between the Medici and Pazzi families, a power struggle between the Medici and the pope over the papal finances and the office of cardinal of Florence, plus the efforts of a handful of opportunistic characters such as Francesco Salviati Riario (archbishop of Pisa), a professional assassin (Giovan Battista Montesecco), a mercenary with his own troops (Girolamo Riario, the pope’s nephew), city-state allies of the conspirators (the Republic of Siena, the Kingdom of Naples), an ambitious condottiere and soldier of fortune (the Duke of Urbino: Federico da Montefeltro), members of the Della Rovere family, and a few others.

Although the conspiracy began in 1477, the rivalries are much older; some of them can be traced back to Dante’s time.

The assassination attempt was made in 1478, but the civil strife and political machinations that resulted were to continue long after the botched assassination. Florence would find itself embroiled in war with the pope and his allies, then with other Italian city states for more than a decade (the War of the Barons). Tensions both within Florence and in the city’s relations stormy with other states continued until Lorenzo’s death in 1492, then resumed when the French invaded in 1494, and another generation of war broke out.

The Medicis’ place as the city’s rulers was firmly cemented after the assassination attempt; the opposite of what the conspirators had been attempting to bring about. The Medici wielded that power openly and absolutely until  Lorenzo’s death. Yet the ruthless Lorenzo was also widely recognized as patron of the arts and culture, as a poet, playwright and a statesman.

When his son, Piero, took the municipal leadership after his father’s death, the city population was chafing under what many by then considered Medici despotism; they overthrew the family shortly after (replacing it with the theocratic republic under the friar Savonarola). That same mob had, only 14 years ago, swept through the streets to support the Medici and punish the Pazzi.

It’s difficult to define the conspiracy in simple terms for modern readers. It’s like trying to define a spider’s web by describing each separate, sticky strand, and hoping the reader can assemble the various descriptions into a web. There are much better writers than I who have written about the conspiracy, including:

Continued in Part 2

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Updates and changes 1.25.2013

I recently updated several pages, including the bibliography, after receiving several relevant books from online booksellers. I’m still looking for alternate translations of Machiavelli, and would appreciate any recommendations not already noted in the biblio. PDFs of older (non-copyright) works would be appreciated.

I made Demonizing Machiavelli a separate page after I updated it with information about early English translations. Still more to add when I have time to flesh out the research, but I felt it deserved its own page. It used to be a subsection under Machiavellian Misquotes.

I have several books by Balthasar Gracian and works by Queen Elizabeth I with quotes to add, which will be a near-future project. Right now I’m working on a post about how the Pazzi conspiracy affected Machiavelli’s political thought and development.

It never seems to end…

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Machiavelli and Savonarola

Wikipedia picThere is no evidence that Niccolo Machiavelli ever met the charismatic Dominican friar and fiery preacher, Girolamo Savonarola, but we know he attended at least one of the friar’s sermons. In a letter to Ricciardo Bechi, dated March 9, 1498, Machiavelli described his experience. He was not impressed. He wrote that, in his judgement, Savonarola was a hypocrite who,

…acts in accordance with the times and colors his lies accordingly.*

Savonarola played a seminal role in the development of Machiavelli’s political and moral thought; not only through what Machiavelli perceived of him, but in the way Savonarola organized the government of Florence during his leadership.

Savonarola had been well schooled in both biblical and classical studies. He spent his early years as an itinerant priest making fiery and contentious sermons calling for reform and repentance, with an apocalyptic theme, throughout the northern Italian city states. After several years, in 1490, he was assigned to the convent of San Marco, where Lorenzo de Medici (Lorenzo the Magnificent) met him, and decided to make him spiritual counsel for his family.

In Florence, his sermons against what he saw as tyranny and corruption grew increasingly strident, and Savonarola peppered them with prophesies about apocalyptic disasters, and Florence rising to become the “new Jerusalem.” Wikipedia notes,

In 1492 Savonarola warned of “the Sword of the Lord over the earth quickly and soon” and envisioned terrible tribulations to Rome. Around 1493 (these sermons have not survived) he began to prophesy that a New Cyrus was coming over the mountains to begin the renewal of the Church.

When the French king, Charles VII rode his army into northern Italy, in 1494, many of Savonarola’s followers believed it was proof of this prophesy. As Charles’ army pushed through Italy, defeating one opponent after another, and sacking cities along the way in order to get to the Kingdom of Naples, more and more Florentines turned to Savonarola for help to prevent their city suffering a similar fate.

By this time, Lorenzo had died (1492). His son, Piero – called Piero the Unfortunate – took over as the city’s ruler and proved inadequate to the role. Piero dithered, attempted to get Charles to bypass Florence, and treat the city as neutral. Charles would have none of it, and threatened to capture and raze the city. Florentines, desperate to protect their city and their lives, defected to Charles’s side; many flocked to Savonarola to protect them.

Piero lost his nerve. He surrendered Florence to Charles, caving in to every demand and not even attempting to negotiate better terms. In response, the populace rose up and looted the Medici home. In December, 1494, Piero and his family fled (he would eventually ally with the French, and lose his life after a battle in which the French lost). The populace turned to the fanatical friar to help them negotiate with the French, and then establish a new government. He did so with gusto.

Savonarola played on the emotions and envy of the Florentines. He convinced them that they were being abused by the rich; their opulence was a clear sign of their tyranny.

Machiavelli was, at this time, 25. He would later write that people followed Savonarola indiscriminately, and believed his every word without any proof:

And though it be easier to impose new institutions or a new faith on rude and simple men, it is not therefore impossible to persuade their adoption by men who are civilized, and who do not think themselves rude. The people of Florence do not esteem themselves rude or ignorant, and yet were persuaded by the Friar Girolamo Savonarola that he spoke with God. Whether in this he said truth or no, I take not on me to pronounce, since of so great a man we must speak with reverence; but this I do say, that very many believed him without having witnessed anything extraordinary to warrant their belief; his life, his doctrines, the matter whereof he treated, being sufficient to enlist their faith.
The Discourses, 1, XI.

As a cleric, Savonarola could not hold office. However, he formed a political party from his followers, the Frateschi, and together they set about to remake Florence in Savonarola’s pious, Christian, and somewhat egalitarian model. Not all of this was bad. They wrote a new constitution that gave the vote to the artisan class, not merely the nobles. They created an election process to appoint citizens to some civic offices not simply hand out offices like favours. They passed a “Law of Appeal” to limit rulers and their supporters from using exile and capital punishment as “factional weapons.”

But making laws that seemed to offer more liberty was not enough. They had to be kept, and not all were. This would cause Savonarola a loss of face and support. Machiavelli later wrote,

After the year 1494, the city of Florence reformed its government with the help of the Friar Girolamo Savonarola… Among other ordinances for the safety of the citizens, he caused a law to be passed, allowing an appeal to the people from the sentences pronounced by “the Eight” and by the “Signory” in trials for State offences; a law he had long contended for, and carried at last with great difficulty. It so happened that a very short time after it was passed, five citizens were condemned to death by the “Signory” for State offences, and that when they sought to appeal to the people they were not permitted to do so, and the law was violated. This, more than any other mischance, helped to lessen the credit of the Friar; since if his law of appeal was salutary, he should have caused it to be observed; if useless, he ought not to have promoted it. And his inconsistency was the more remarked, because in all the sermons which he preached after the law was broken, he never either blamed or excused the person who had broken it, as though unwilling to condemn, while unable to justify what suited his purposes. This, as betraying the ambitious and partial turn of his mind, took from his reputation and exposed him to much obloquy.
The Discourses, Book 1, LVI

Savonarola continued preaching, and making more of his alleged ability of prophesy. With 20-20 hindsight, he publicly claimed he had predicted the deaths of Lorenzo de’ Medici and Pope Innocent VIII, and the invasion of King Charles of France, . He spoke about his visits to heaven where the Virgin Mary revealed the future to him. He told his audience that “God had chosen Florence,” and promised that, if the people of Florence followed his teachings, “it would have riches, glory and power.”

He also called on Florentines to live pure lives and rid their city of “vice”. His party passed new laws against ‘sodomy’ (which included male and female same sex relations), adultery, public drunkenness, and other “moral transgressions.” Gangs of fundamentalist-minded boys and young men  – pious thugs – patrolled the streets, attacking anyone whose dress or behaviour they considered “immodest.” The people followed his “puritanical” lifestyle eagerly – at first. Savonarola’s constraints to show signs of wear fairly soon. By 1497, the bars were selling wine and spirits again.

The peak of Savonarola’s civic madness came in February, 1497, when he organized the Bonfire of the Vanities where he built a large bonfire in the main square and exhorted Florentines to cast into it any “objects that are deemed to be occasions of sin.” His roving gangs helped round up material from the residents, often forcibly. Thousands of cosmetics, pieces of priceless art, books, sculpture, painting and furniture were destroyed.

Pope Alexander VI initially tolerated fra Girolamo’s somewhat erratic actions, and even ignored the friar’s increasingly strident and accusatory attacks on the church and the papacy. Florence refused to join the pope’s Holy League alliance to drive out the French, because Savonarola and his party already had an alliance with the French to protect them from both the papal ambitions and the threatened return of the Medici. Although the French never provided the promised help, Savonarola clung stubbornly to their side.

The pope had had enough. He started an exchange of angry letters with Savonarola. The friar in turn sent the pope his “Compendium of Revelations,” a self-serving account of his “prophetic career.”

The exasperated pope demanded Savonarola appear in Rome. The friar pleaded ill health, so the pope banned him from preaching. Savonarola obeyed for a short while, but couldn’t keep his mouth shut for very long. He resumed his sermons, in an even more challenging and castigating manner. So the pope used his last weapon: excommunication, in May, 1497. he also threatened the Florentines with “interdiction” if they continued to offer him sanctuary in their city.

For the next ten months, Savonarola ignored the order, and continued to preach. He became increasingly convinced of his divine mission and spoke of performing miracles to prove himself. In March, 1498, Machiavelli heard one of his sermons at San Marco. In his letter, he wrote that the friar’s words had an effect on those in the crowd who didn’t examine them closely or apply critical thinking to them, but that they were meant mostly to bolster the faith of the followers while denigrating any perceived opponents:

Now that our friar was in his own house, if you had heard with what boldness he began preaching and with how much he continued, it would be an object of no little  admiration. Because, fearing greatly for himself and believing that the new Signoria would not be reluctant to injure him – and having decided that quite a few citizens  should be brought down with him – he started in with great scenes of horror; with explanations that were quite effective to those not examining them closely, he pointed out that his adherents were excellent people while his opponents were most villainous, and he drew on every expression that might weaken his opponents’ party and fortify his own.

“Savonarola… was ruined with his new order of things immediately the multitude believed in him no longer, and he had no means of keeping steadfast those who believed or of making the unbelievers to believe.”
The Prince, VI

The government of Florence, under increasing political, economic, and religious pressure, tried to convince Savonarola to shut up. Many followers left his side, others faltered as pressures mounted and the city’s economic status wilted. In a final, desperate attempt to regain his lost authority, Savonarola accepted a challenge by a Franciscan preacher, who proposed he and Savonarola walk through fire to prove who had the most favour with God.

The date for the ordeal was April 7, 1498, in the central square. When the day arrived, a huge crowd attended. The two priests and their followers milled about nervously as the flames grew. They each, separately, found one excuse after another to delay the test. Hours later, a heavy spring rain drenched the fires, and in frustration, government officials cancelled the contest.

The crowd was not pleased. The people had put their faith in Savonarola, and believed his words. He lacked the faith he demanded they themselves show. When he failed to follow through, they blamed him for the fiasco, and for the low esteem in which Florence had fallen with other rulers and states, since his arrival. A mob assaulted the convent of San Marco where he was headquartered.

Savonarola and two of his fellow monks, Fra Domenico and Fra Silvestro Maruffi, were arrested and imprisoned. They were tortured; Savonarola confessed to “having invented his prophecies and visions.” He then retracted his confession, was tortured more, and confessed again. On May 23, 1498, the three were publicly condemned as heretics and schismatics. They were hung in the public square, and their bodies burned.

Savonarola’s fall from grace, and his death had several aftereffects. His words would not be forgotten, and would later influence many others who felt that the papacy had grown too corrupt and concerned with temporal power – Martin Luther, the architect of the Reformation a few years later, would read them and praise the friar. The Huguenots in France would take some of their reforming inspiration from him.  Even as late as the mid-20th century, Savonarola  would be held up as an early model for social justice and reform, so much so that – despite his intolerance and authoritarianism – he has been considered for sainthood.

For Florence, the major shift was the creation of the republic after the friar, that would soon hire young Niccolo Machiavelli as an official – a republic that was founded on many of the principles and bureaucratic systems Savonarola initiated.

For Machiavelli, Savonarola would be a complex lesson. He appears as the “unarmed prophet” who failed because he lacked the force necessary to secure his authority:

“If Moses, Cyrus, Theseus, and Romulus had been unarmed they could not have enforced their constitutions for long — as happened in our time to Fra Girolamo Savonarola, who was ruined with his new order of things immediately the multitude believed in him no longer, and he had no means of keeping steadfast those who believed or of making the unbelievers to believe.”
The Prince, VI

Machiavelli would also contrast Savonarola’s rule with that of Piero Soderini’s, later, arguing that Savonarola was unable to deal with adversaries effectively, and did not have the followers to carry out the necessary tasks for him:

But when fortune is not thus propitious to him, he must contrive other means to rid himself of rivals, and must do so successfully before he can accomplish anything. Any one who reads with intelligence the lessons of Holy Writ, will remember how Moses, to give effect to his laws and ordinances, was constrained to put to death an endless number of those who out of mere envy withstood his designs. The necessity of this course was well understood by the Friar Girolamo Savonarola, and by the Gonfalonier Piero Soderini. But the former could not comply with it, because, as a friar, he himself lacked the needful authority; while those of his followers who might have exercised that authority, did not rightly comprehend his teaching. This, however, was no fault of his; for his sermons are full of invectives and attacks against “the wise of this world ,”that being the name he gave to envious rivals and to all who opposed his reforms.
The Discourses, Book 3, XXX

On the other hand, Machiavelli argued for Florence to retain some of the institutions – such as the election for public office – that Savonarola and his Frateschi had initiated. A republican at heart, Machiavelli valued the change from the hereditary state under the Medicis to a more inclusive government that allowed him a chance to prove his worth.

Savonarola’s rise and fall was also a lesson in the potentially disastrous intersection of religion and politics, as well as the practical need to have more than faith to support your goals. Machiavelli’s own views on the role of the papacy and its involvement in temporal and political matters would be shaped in part of Savonarola’s ideals. As Wikisource.org notes, Machiavelli shared some of Savonarola’s sentiments:

When it comes to religion Machiavelli is not the cold time-server that some would have people believe. Echoing Savonarola, he complains how the Christian religion had decayed from “its principles,” coming close, “without any doubt, to ruin or punishment.” The common belief that Machiavelli considers Christianity to be inferior to the classical religions is not founded. With great care, he makes a distinction between original Christianity and the corrupted one of his times. He says: “If from the beginning of the Christian republics the Christian religion would have maintained itself according to its giver’s order, the Christian state and republic would have been more united and happy that they are presently.”
(Quotes from The Discourses, Book 1, XII)

A few months before Savonarola was overthrown and executed in the main square, in 1498, Machiavelli stood in the election for a position in public office. He lost, possibly because he was known to be critical of Savonarola. But in April, the Frateschi’s political leader, Francesco Valori, was murdered, and the government started to unravel. Many of Savonarola’s supporters, including chancery staff, were removed from office by the anti-Savonarola newcomers.

Machiavelli ran again for office after Savonarola had been executed. This time he won. At age 29 he became secretary of the Second Chancery; an executive position in the department that kept the ruling council informed on military and political affairs. Without the new rules Savonarola had put in place, he would not likely have been given such a position. Who knows if he would have ever penned his famous works, if not.
~~~~~
* A somewhat different translation can be found in The Letters of Machiavelli, translated by Allan Gilbert, University of Chicago Press, USA, 1961. Gilbert translates: “Thus, according to my judgment, he keeps on working with the times and making his lies plausible.”

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Enhancing my interpretation of Machiavelli

Since I first wrote my book reinterpreting Machiavelli’s The Prince for municipal politicians, I have been reading the works of other writers, and adding quotations from them to my chapters to further buttress my interpretation of Machiavelli’s words. These recently have included William Shakespeare and Francis Bacon, among others.

I recently turned to reading Balthasar Gracian for his words from The Art of Worldly Wisdom. Gracian’s 1647 book of 300 aphorisms is not specifically meant for leaders, but rather is advice and observations for the middle-to-upper classes and professionals of his day. He writes on behaviour, attitude, leadership, friendship, gossip, wisdom and more. There are some elements of faith in it, but it is not a religious or moralizing book, and not specifically political.

Some of it, however, complements Machiavelli’s words quite well, and I am assembling a selection of aphorisms to add to this book. Gracian’s book has had many appreciative fans since it was first published, and a recent translation by Christopher Maurer was a bestseller a few years back.

Despite its age, much of what Gracian says is common sense and still applicable today. I recently posted a blog piece, listing several of his aphorisms that I felt were worth weighing when pondering local issues and social media threads. With 300 of these aphorisms, it is, of course, possible to pick something that would be applicable in almost any situation.

Gracian, however, was not a fan of Machiavelli.He was an ordained Jesuit priest and would probably have found Machiavelli’s comments about separating the church from the state offensive. Machiavelli’s distinction between morality and politics would also have run counter to Gracian’s Catholic education.

Balthasar wrote an earlier book, The Hero, which was a response to The Prince, and offers a more moralistic guide to behaviour for leaders, with less emphasis on governing a state and acquiring power.During this period, there were other Spanish authors who wrote counterpoints to Machiavelli and similar guides, as this essay notes. The author, Angelo J. Di Salvo, writes,

The Spanish guides are most probably a product of the conflict between Medieval and Renaissance political, economic and religious conditions, and, in particular, they were mostly produced as a reaction to Machiavelli’s ragion di stato. The writers of these works also offered their solutions to the abuses as well as the corruption of the modern European states. These works were written by humanists, royal counselors, former soldiers, writers of religious literature, and authors of secular literature such as Gracián and Quevedo. First and foremost, they promote the concept of the prince as the representative and upholder of Roman Catholicism. Several treatises combine the concept of the ideal Christian prince with the practical advice garnered through the writer’s own experiences in court and in the battlefield. As a rule, these guides support the ideal of a prince who will embody and reflect the Christian virtues, and, thus, enable him to be a model for his subjects. In this capacity, he/she may direct the reform of Christian society.

The difficulty to collating other writers with Machiavelli is that political and social conditions in their countries were, for the most part, greatly different from Machiavelli’s Italy.Often there are no direct parallels between situations.

In England and Spain in the 16th and 17th centuries, for example, strong monarchs governed a cohesive and relatively stable state, and were not under attack by external forces. In both, as well, the relationship with the church and religion were quite different than among the city states of Italy (where the Pope fielded armies). Finally, Spain was one of the military contenders in Italy for ownership of some of these states, and Spanish writers and leaders had a vested interest in contradicting Machiavelli’s call for an Italy united against the “barbarian” invaders.

Political conditions in Spain, however, were very different from those in Italy. First, the nation had been united by what Spaniards and Machiavelli himself considered to be model princes, Ferdinand and Isabell; second, the monarchy and the Church consolidated their power and influence with the introduction of the Inquisition; third, there was no internal strife in Spain except for that represented by the Moriscos; fourth, foreign powers did not vie for control of Spain as was the case in Italy. Another model prince, Charles V, increased the power of the monarchy and expanded its empire. In addition, Machiavelli’s political theories threatened Spain’s hegemony in Italy.

Despite the differences and the antagonism, there are often remarkably similar words of advice in these authors, although sometimes cloaked in moralizing. My task is to select which fit, rather than trying to force them. I hope to post some of Gracian’s most relevant aphorisms within this work, in the next a week.

In Christopher Maurer’s book, A Pocket Mirror for Heroes (which includes content from The Hero and other works by Gracian), Balthasar is quoted as saying The Prince was better suited for governing “a stable than a state.” I’d like to read more about Gracian’s thoughts on Machiavelli. He seems to have been part of a general anti-Machiavellian movement among Catholic writers of the time, but it is also part of the dialectics where arguments were presented in classical rhetorical form.

Renaissance political ideas penetrated to a large extent the political thought of the Catholic Reform and this Antimachiavellism resulted from the widespread triumph of Machiavelli’s ideas in Western Europe.

It’s an interesting comment that Machiavelli’s ideas triumphed in Western political thought despite what seems to have been a concerted and aggressive assault on them by writes in numerous nations. I will have to pursue that line of thought some time.

Gracian would also write El político Don Fernando el Católico in 1646, a book specifically about governing, dedicated to his ruler, King Ferdinand. It was a more direct counterpoint to Machiavelli. However, I have not found an English translation, and while I have found Spanish editions, my own my Spanish is not competent to tackle something that complex and that old. If anyone has an English translation or can point me to one online, please contact me.

I continue to read books about Machiavelli, about reactions to his works, and about that historical period in general. I will no doubt find more to add to this work (and will list major sources in the bibliography). I recently added one of Machiavelli’s most important letters to a page here, and am working on another page about Machiavelli’s use of rhetoric in making his arguments. This might take a while to complete, because there is much to read, and I was not schooled in rhetoric or oratory, so I have to educate myself further in these fields.

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Welcome to The Municipal Machiavelli: The Prince Rewritten

MachiavelliThis is an online version of a book I wrote in 2012. My goal was to modernize Machiavelli’s famous work, The Prince, and return its attention to its original audience: municipal politicians. It has not been published in a paper version, yet, but I am still looking for a suitable publisher. I am also working on an e-book  and iPad version should I not find a book publisher.

I chose to publish it in this WordPress format now because, after recent events at the local level in my own municipality, I felt it was of great and growing relevance to the daily political business of municipal governance. I do admit to some tongue-in-cheekiness in my comments in these pages, however.

2013 is the 500th anniversary since the writing of The Prince (it wasn’t published until 1532, after Machiavelli’s death). I felt it only fitting to update Machiavelli and bring back the audience he first wrote for. Municipal politicians are often overlooked when scholars dissect Machiavelli, and that’s a big oversight given who Machiavelli originally wrote for. I hope I can in some small way contribute to restoring him to his audience.

This site is somewhat of a work in progress. I am always tweaking with layout and design, so I apologize in advance if you find it changing rather too often.

I have laid this site out using the chapters and sections of the book, including all of the prefatory material, addenda and bibliography. My chapters parallel Machiavelli’s own in The Prince, although the chapter titles are somewhat different. It has approx. 65,000 words. I am still looking for some historical material through online booksellers, and may add content to the bibliography or additional quotations to the core material, in future. I have an outline for a chapter on Machiavelli and Rhetoric, too.

I use many quotes taken from a wide range of sources to buttress both my own interpretations and Machiavelli’s own arguments – Han Fei Tzu, Sun Tzu, Napoleon, Robert Greene, Cicero and others. Quotations lifted from Machiavelli’s book have often been modified to make them clearer or to phrase them in more modern language. In doing so, I used many different translations of his works to find the most appropriate wording, as noted in the bibliography. More than 450 of the main quotes from the book are displayed in the sidebar quotation widget

I take full responsibility for any misquotes, any mistakes, typos, misinterpretations, and bad ideas.

I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. I am working on a version for e-book, iTunes and PDF. Please contact me if you would like a copy.

This work is copyright 2012 under international law by Ian Chadwick. Please do not reproduce any part of it it without prior permission, except as per fair use clauses and for reviews. Thank you for your consideration. I welcome your comments via email: ichadwick (at) rogers.com.

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Directory of pages in the Municipal Machiavelli