Quotes from Machiavelli

These are the quotations taken from Machiavelli’s works, used in this book. I used the public domain versions of his books for most of my sources, however some of the wording and punctuation may be updated or altered for clarity and modernity. See the Bibliography for details on sources.

In the book, quotations from The Prince are shown entirely in bold.

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“Even where a republic is poor, and has but little to give, it ought not to withhold that little; since a gift, however small, bestowed as a reward for services, however great, will always be esteemed most honourable and precious by him who receives it.”

— Niccolo Machiavelli, The Discourses: I, 24

“No well-ordered State ever strikes a balance between the services of its citizens and their misdeeds; but appointing rewards for good actions and punishment for bad, when it has rewarded a man for acting well, will afterwards, should he act ill, chastise him, without regard to his former deserts.“

— Niccolo Machiavelli, The Discourses: I, 24

“Men, however, not knowing how to be wholly good or wholly bad, choose for themselves certain middle ways, which of all others are the most pernicious…”

— Niccolo Machiavelli, The Discourses: I, 26

“Presuppose that all men are bad and that they will use their malignity of mind every time they have the opportunity; and if such malignity is hidden for a time, it proceeds from the unknown reason that would not be known because the experience of the contrary had not been seen, but time, which is said to be the father of every truth, will cause it to be discovered.”

— Niccolo Machiavelli, The Discourses: I, 3

“All men are bad, and will always, when they have free field, give loose to their evil inclinations; and that if these for a while remain hidden, it is owing to some secret cause…”

— Niccolo Machiavelli, The Discourses: I, 3

“…the mistakes which the inexperience of new men would have occasioned, as because from their ambition having a freer course, and from their having none near them in whose presence they might fear to do amiss, they would have grown less scrupulous; and in this way the public service must have suffered grave harm.”

— Niccolo Machiavelli, The Discourses: I, 36

“…whenever men are not obliged to fight from necessity, they fight from ambition; which is so powerful in human breasts, that it never leaves them no matter to what rank they rise.”

— Niccolo Machiavelli, The Discourses: I, 37

“In every republic there are two conflicting factions, that of the people and that of the nobles, it is in this conflict that all laws favourable to freedom have their origin, as may readily be seen to have been the case in Rome.”

— Niccolo Machiavelli, The Discourses: I, 4

“He who looks well to the results of these tumults will find that they did not lead to banishments, nor to violence hurtful to the common good, but to laws and ordinances beneficial to the public liberty.”

— Niccolo Machiavelli, The Discourses: I, 4

“He who has once seemed good, should he afterwards choose, for his own ends, to become bad, ought to change by slow degrees, and as opportunity serves; so that before his altered nature strip him of old favour, he may have gained for himself an equal share of new, and thus his influence suffer no diminution. For otherwise, being at once unmasked and friendless, he is undone.”

— Niccolo Machiavelli, The Discourses: I, 41

“Men ought therefore to look to the risks and dangers of any course which lies before them, nor engage in it when it is plain that the dangers outweigh the advantages, even though they be advised by others that it is the most expedient way to take.”

— Niccolo Machiavelli, The Discourses: I, 52

“People, often deceived by an illusive good, desire their own ruin, and, unless they are made sensible of the evil of the one and the benefit of the other course by someone in whom they have confidence…”

— Niccolo Machiavelli, The Discourses: I, 53

“You cannot subject men to hardships unless you hold out rewards, nor can you without danger deprive them of those rewards whereof you have held out hopes.”

— Niccolo Machiavelli, The Discourses: I, 55

“He who looks carefully into the matter will find, that in all human affairs, we cannot rid ourselves of one inconvenience without running into another.”

— Niccolo Machiavelli, The Discourses: I, 6

“For although the act condemns the doer, the end may justify him…”

— Niccolo Machiavelli, The Discourses: I, 9

“In a new province they always sought for some friend who should be to them as a ladder whereby to climb, a door through which to pass, or an instrument wherewith to keep their hold.”

— Niccolo Machiavelli, The Discourses: II, 1

“Men seldom if ever rise to great place from small beginnings without using fraud or force, unless, indeed, they be given, or take by inheritance the place to which some other has already come. Force, however, will never suffice by itself to effect this end, while fraud often will…”

— Niccolo Machiavelli, The Discourses: II, 13

“The art of deception, an art always necessary for those who would mount to great heights from low beginnings; and which is the less to be condemned when… it is skillfully concealed.…the only inference to be drawn… is that the prince who would accomplish great things must have learned how to deceive.”

— Niccolo Machiavelli, The Discourses: II, 13

“A prince … if he would have credit, should never make any concession voluntarily. For almost always when matters have come to such a pass that you cannot give way with credit, it is better that a thing be taken from you by force than yielded through fear of force.”

— Niccolo Machiavelli, The Discourses: II, 14

“If you yield through fear and to escape war, the chances are that you do not escape it; since he to whom, out of manifest cowardice you make this concession, will not rest content, but will endeavour to wring further concessions from you, and making less account of you, will only be the more kindled against you. At the same time you will find your friends less zealous on your behalf, since to them you will appear either weak or cowardly. But if, so soon as the designs of your enemy are disclosed, you at once prepare to resist though your strength be inferior to his, he will begin to think more of you, other neighbouring princes will think more; and many will be willing to assist you, on seeing you take up arms, who, had you relinquished hope and abandoned yourself to despair, would never have stirred a finger to save you.”

— Niccolo Machiavelli, The Discourses: II, 14

“In all matters of difficulty, wherein courage is needed for resolving, this uncertainty will always be met with, whenever those who have to deliberate and decide are weak.”

— Niccolo Machiavelli, The Discourses: II, 15

“…it is the well-being, not of individuals, but of the community which makes a State great…”

— Niccolo Machiavelli, The Discourses: II, 2

“Cases, moreover, arise in which those who have little experience of affairs are sure to be misled, from the matters with which they have to deal being attended by many deceptive appearances such as lead men to believe whatsoever they are minded to believe.”

— Niccolo Machiavelli, The Discourses: II, 22

“… it was not by fortresses, but by the good-will of the people, that he could be maintained in his government.”

— Niccolo Machiavelli, The Discourses: II, 24

“…fortresses are built either as a defence against foreign foes or against subjects…”

— Niccolo Machiavelli, The Discourses: II, 24

“Render some aid to the weaker side, so as to plunge them deeper in hostilities, wherein both may exhaust their forces without being led by your putting forth an excess of strength to suspect you of a desire to ruin them and remain their master… The city of Pistoia… was won over to the Florentine republic… For the town being split by factions, the Florentines, by now favouring one side and now the other, without incurring the suspicions of either, brought both to such extremities that, wearied out with their harassed life, they threw themselves at last of their own accord into the arms of Florence.”

— Niccolo Machiavelli, The Discourses: II, 25

“A prince, therefore, who is attacked by an enemy much more powerful than himself, can make no greater mistake than to refuse to treat, especially when overtures are made to him; for however poor the terms offered may be, they are sure to contain some conditions advantageous for him who accepts them, and which he may construe as a partial success.”

— Niccolo Machiavelli, The Discourses: II, 27

“Wherefore, let a prince be careful how he embarks in any enterprise on the representations of an exile; for otherwise, he is likely either to be put to shame, or to incur the gravest calamities.”

— Niccolo Machiavelli, The Discourses: II, 31

“Let a prince be careful how he embarks on any enterprise on the representations of an exile; for otherwise, he is likely either to be put to shame, or to incur the gravest calamities… they fill you with false impressions, on which if you build, your labour is in vain, and you are led to engage in enterprises from which nothing but ruin can result.”

— Niccolo Machiavelli, The Discourses: II, 31

“Three methods have been used by republics for extending their power. One… is to form a confederation of many States, wherein none has precedence over the rest in authority or rank, and each allows the others to share its acquisitions… The second method is to provide yourself with allies or companions, taking heed, however, to retain in your own hands the chief command, the seat of government, and the titular supremacy… The third method is to hold other States in direct subjection to you, and not merely associated with you as companions.”

— Niccolo Machiavelli, The Discourses: II, 4
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