Niccolo Machiavelli 1469 - 1527

Italian statesman, political writer

Whenever men are not obliged by necessity to fight, they fight from ambition.

Before all else, be armed.

The records of ancient history furnish many examples to show how difficult it is for a people brought up under a prince to preserve its liberty, if by accident it is attained... and not by reason; for the people resemble a wild beast, which naturally fierce, and accustomed to live in the woods has been brought up, as it were, in a prison and in servitude, and having by accident got its liberty, not being accustomed to search for its food, and not knowing where to conceal itself, easily becomes the prey of the first who seeks to incarcerate it again.

And certainly, if the Christian religion had from the beginning been maintained according to the principles of its founder, the Christian states and republics would have been much more united and happy than what they are. Nor can there be a better proof of its decadence than to witness the fact that the nearer people are to the Church of Rome, which is the head of our religion, the less religious are they.

The Church has ever kept and keeps our country divided.

A prince then should look mainly to the successful maintenance of his state. The means which he employs for this will always be accounted honorable, and will be praised by everybody; for the common people are always taken by appearances and by results, and it is the vulgar mass that constitutes the world.

For when on the decision to be taken wholly depends the survival of one’s country, no consideration should be given either to justice or injustice, to kindness or cruelty, or to its being praiseworthy or ignominious, but rather, any other thought being set aside, that alternative should be followed utterly which will save its existence and preserve its freedom.

For our country, wrong is right.

In taking possession of a state the conqueror should well reflect as to the harsh measures that may be necessary, and then execute them at a single blow... Cruelties should be committed all at once.

Never was anything great achieved without danger.

From this arises the question whether it is better to be loved rather than feared, or feared rather than loved. it might perhaps be answered that we should wish to be both; but since love and fear can hardly exist together, if we must choose between them, it is far safer to be feared than loved.

Men have less hesitation in offending one who makes himself feared; for love holds by a bond of obligation which, as mankind is bad, is broken on every occasion whenever it is for the interest of the obliged party to break it. But fear holds by the apprehension of punishment, which never leaves men.

It seldom happens that men rise from low conditions to high rank without employing either force or fraud, unless that rank should be attained either by gift or inheritance.

Nor do I believe that there was ever a man who from obscure condition arrived at great power by merely employing open force; but there are many who have succeeded by fraud alone.

Though fraud in all other actions be odious, yet in matters of war it is laudable and glorious, and he who overcomes his enemies by stratagem is as much to be praised as he who overcomes them by force.

In the opinion of all who have written about civil government, and according to the experience of all history, whoever prepares to establish a commonwealth and prescribe laws, must presuppose all men naturally bad, and that they will yield to their innate evil passions, as often as they can do so with safety; and though those passions may lie concealed for a time, they spring up from some hidden cause, of which we can give no account; but Time then discovers them, and is therefore justly called the “Father of Truth.”

You do not know the unfathomable cowardice of humanity...servile in the face of force, pitiless in the face of weakness, implacable before blunders, indulgent before crimes... and patient to the point of martyrdom before all the violence’s of bold despotism.

It is necessary that the prince should know how to color his nature well, and how to be a great hypocrite and dissembler. For men are so simple, and yield so much in immediate necessity, that the deceiver will never lack dupes.

He who desires or attempts to reform the government of a state, and wishes to have it accepted and capable of maintaining itself to the satisfaction of everybody, must at least retain the semblance of the old forms; so that it may seem to the people that there has been no change in the institutions, even though in fact they are entirely different from the old ones.

It is well observed by writers on civil policy that those people are more cruel and vindictive who have lost and recovered their liberty, than those who have preserved it as handed down by their fathers.

For the great majority of mankind are satisfied with appearances, as though they were realities, and are often more influenced by the things that seem than by those that are.

It may be said of men in general that they are ungrateful and fickle, dissemblers, avoiders of danger, and greedy of gain. So long as you shower benefits upon them, they are all yours; they offer you their blood, their substance, their lives and their children, provided the necessity for it is far off; but when it is near at hand, then they revolt.

When the material (the people, or masses) is corrupt, it is easy for the Prince to act.

It is essential for a prince to be on a friendly footing with his people, since, otherwise, he will have no resource in adversity.

Let no one quote against me the old proverb, “He who builds on the people builds on sand,” for that may be true of a private citizen who presumes on his favor with the people, and counts on being rescued by them when overpowered by his enemies or by the magistrates. But a prince who is a man of courage and is able to command, who knows how to preserve order in his state, need never regret having founded his security on the affection of the people.

How perilous it is to free a people who prefer slavery.

Politics have no relation to Morals.

A prince, then, should have no other thought or object so much at heart, and make no other thing so much his special study, as the art of war and the organization and discipline of his army; for this is the only art that is expected of him who commands.

The prince who relies upon their words, without having otherwise provided for his security, is ruined; for friendships that are won by awards, and not by greatness and nobility of soul, although deserved, yet are not real, and cannot be depended upon in time of adversity.

A sagacious prince than cannot and should not fulfill his pledges when their observance is contrary to his interests, and when the causes that induced him to pledge his faith no longer exist. If men were all good, then indeed this precept would be bad; but as men are naturally bad, and will not observe their faith towards you, you must, in the same way, not observe yours to them; and no prince ever yet lacked legitimate reasons with which to color his want of good faith.

Hence it comes about that all armed Prophets have been victorious, and all unarmed Prophets have been destroyed.

Our religion has glorified those of meek and contemplative character rather than those of action. Further, it places the highest good in humility, lowliness, and the contempt for worldly things... This manner of life, then, seems to have rendered the world weak, and to have given it over as a prey to wicked men.

Those Princes or Republics that would save themselves from growing corrupt should above all else keep uncorrupted the ceremonies of religion, holding them always in veneration. For there can be no surer sign of decay in a country than to see the rites of religion held in contempt.

It is therefore the duty of princes and heads of republics to uphold the foundations of the religion of their countries, for then it is easy to keep their people religious, and consequently well conducted and united. And therefore everything that tends to favor religion (even though it were believed to be false) should be received and availed of to strengthen it; and this should be done the more, the wiser the rulers are, and the better they understand the natural course of things.

And as the strict observance of religious worship is the cause why states rise to eminence, so contempt for religion brings ruin on them. For where the fear of God is wanting, destruction is sure to follow, or else it must be sustained by the fear felt for their prince, who may thus supply the want of religion in his subjects. Whence it arises that the kingdoms, that depend only on the virtue of a mortal, have a short duration; it is seldom that the virtue of the father survives in the son.

Domestic revolutions are most commonly occasioned by people who have property, because the fear of losing what they have begets in them the same passions that burn in the hearts of those who desire to seize property, because men think they own securely only those things that they have taken or defended successfully from others.

The evil example of the court of Rome has destroyed all piety and religion in Italy.

You cannot govern states with words.

He who takes upon himself a tyranny, and does not slay Brutus, and he who makes a free state, and does not slay the sons of Brutus, maintains his work only for a short time.

One of the great secrets of the day is to know how to take possession of popular prejudices and passions, in such a way as to introduce a confusion of principles which makes impossible all understanding between those who speak the same language and have the same interests.

Men, iron, money and bread be the strength of the war, but of these four, the first two be most necessary; because men and iron find money and bread; but bread and money find not men and iron.

I judge impetuosity to be better than caution; for Fortune is a woman, and if you wish to master her, you must strike and beat her.