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Deitz Reviewed work(s): Source: The American Political Science Review, Vol. 81, No. 4 (Dec., 1987), pp. 1277-1288 Published by: American Political Science Association Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1962589 . Accessed: 03/01/2012 20:12
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MACHIAVELLI'S PARADOX: TRAPPINGOR TEACHINGTHE PRINCE In The Discourses Machiavelli extolled the virtues of republican government." Lorenzo de Medici.In otherwords. The prevailing view. I want to suggest that a particular"nationalistic" version of the dominant view of the relationship between The Prince and The Discourses offers a much more tenable interpretationthan the one she devises. is that Machiavelliis actually seeking in The Prince to teach an absolute ruler how to use his power to reform a corruptand feeblestate and therebyto lay the foundation for the emergence of a viable republic. politicalliberty. it seems clear. Instead. ." designedto restorea republicin Florence by tricking a "gullibleand vainglorious prince. that Machiavelli was seeking to teach the prince how to govern so that the autocratic state could evolve into a republic. in contrast." a piece of "duplicitous advice. John Langton contends. she advancesthe contentionthat ThePrinceis actuallya "politicalact. Dietz (p. Machiavelli defends the ideals of republicangovernment by arguingon historicalgroundsthat the most stable. The Discourses on the First Ten Books of Titus Livius. 81 NO.""anact of deception. but after analysis and reflectionit strikes me as implausible and misleading. and mixedconstitutionsembodying a system of checks and balances. 4 DECEMBER 1987 . according to the dominant interpretation.' or firm advice a new prince . Yet in his best known book. What accounts for this paradox? Mary Dietz argues that Machiavelli sought to deceive the prince. In his most substantial work. . can rely AMERICAN POLITICAL SCIENCE REVIEW VOL. "Machiavellian" program for acquiring and retainingautocraticpower and thus seems to encourage a form of practical politics that vitiates the realizationof his political values. In exposing these flaws in Dietz's argument. misguidedreading of the relevanttexts and an inadequate construal of both Machiavelli's fundamental values and his theoretical intentions. This is a novel and provocative thesis. rule of law. Mary Dietz (1986)rejectsthis and other availableattemptsto reconcilethe politics of The Prince and the values of The Dis- courses as unpersuasive. It is predicatedon a selective. 781). into implementing policies that would "jeopardize his power and bring his demise"(p. yet in The Prince he advised the ruler on how to perpetuate autocratic rule. and humane states have been founded on social equality. The "text itself provides areas of 'solid ground. trapping him into actions that would destroy his rule. Students of political theory have proposed quite a few diversesolutions to this paradox. The Prince. 782) essentially views The Princeas a well-disguisedtrap. Machiavelli lays out an elaborate.Machiavelli regardsthe absolutismhe encourages in The Prince as the necessary precondition for the establishmentof the kind of republicanism he endorses in The Discourses. solid. popularelections.
In other words."concealed by "promises of power. to put the question in a more manageableform. I think it is clear. too historical.is that The Princeis too long. snappy. In The Discourses Machiavelli (1950. and this explainsall the well-tended"firmground" aroundthe pitfalls in The Prince.would any other allegedpitfallsbeen of Machiavelli's effective.which have no directbearing on the problemof maintainingpower within a state. Putting it another way. (2) that he should strive to gain the favor of the people. uncomplicatedway? Indeed. indeed altogethertoo judicious for this to be the case. City Residingin a Conquered (Florence) As Dietz points out. ardent republicans. meretricious memorandum on how to govern Florence instead of a densely packed handbook on realpolitik (which.too involved. But are there really consciously preparedpitfalls in the text? Or. if a new prince wants to effectivelygovern a republiche has seized or conquered. if Lorenzo had elected to Florence? "destroy" But what about the less radical option of residencewithin the city as a "meansof Is securingpossession"? this a trap?Dietz construes the suggestion to be a ploy to induce Lorenzo to abandon his country villa and take up residence in the city. this argumentturns on the assumption that the mass of Florentineshad not forgotten "the name of liberty"-that they were. 81 upon to gain and maintain power. 782-83).1 repeats the advice about destroyingconqueredcities or provincesin orderto rule them securely. which Machiavelli himself (1950. according to Machiavelli. (3) that he should not build any fortresses. he should either "destroy it" or "residein it" (pp.just waiting for the Dietz contends that Machiavelli puts four main suggestionsin The Prince that he hopes will induce Lorenzo to dig his own political grave: (1) that he should residein the city of Florenceitself. why is the solid ground around the putativepitfallsso well prepared-and so extensive? Machiavelli examines many topics in The Prince. of and the restructuring its stratification system. by the way. Machiavelli is apparentlyquite sincerewhen he advises Lorenzothat he has an option: to solidify his rule in Florencehe can destroythe city or reside in it. particularlyin the area of foreignaffairs. why did Machiavelli not just write a short. the redistribution its population. 783).in contrast. is that Machiavelli'spurpose was instruction. not deception.American Political Science Review Vol. thus giving Lorenzoa chanceto follow a path leading away from the pitfall?Indeed. And he does so in a rigorous. What if Lorenzo had chosen the formeroption. if his goal was to bring Lorenzo down. a gullible and vainglorious prince would probably not peruse)?The answer." But hidden amid this solid counsel are " 'ditchesand pitfalls'in the form of subversive directives. Now. Does The Prince contain any advice not consonant with what Machiavelli teaches in The Discourses? civilian militia or mass-based native in army. 183-84). but he explains here that the destructionof a society in this context means the reorganizationof its governof ment. Letus examineeach prescription if turnto determine it has a sinisterintent. it can be retortedhere that the most effective trap always looks like somethingelse. glory and popular support. in fact. Why did he not simply relate the solid counsel in a more straightforward."My impression. 184) describesas "the best means of holding a principality"? Why present an option here. bureaucratic "issues-and-options" style.and (4) that he should createa 1278 . Of course. where he could be more easily found and people destroyedby a vengefulFlorentine still deeply imbuedwith republicansentiments (p.
but has always remainedunder a numberof princesand lords." that "in Florence. no Italian city-state. 783). which occasion her so many dissensionsand so muchweakness that she becamea prey not only to the powerful barbarians. requires the labor of an absolute ruler (1950.Indeed. united under a strong (ultimately republican) government. And thus she has gone on for the two hundredyears of which we have any reliableaccount.and institutions were never strongly developed in Florence. The broader implication of Machiavelli's assessmentof his native city is that it explodesDietz's claim that the purpose of The Prince was to "restore"the previous Florentinerepublic (pp. traditions. But even that was not sufficient. reformed. and this. How can practical advice about gaining popular supportbe a trap? Dietz's conjectureis that Machiavelli's real view of the matteris just the opposite . A countrycan neverbe unitedand happy.is the Church. He wanted the city reorganized. only tended to increase the disorders.the idea of liberty was deeply rooted in political tradition" (p. 151-52) .by publicandfreesuffrage.. 138-39. rebellious mass in his estimationand the actual history of Florence afterthe fall of the republic in 1512 fully confirmsthis view. has beenthe any cause why Italy has never been able to unite underone head. Machia1279 GainingPopularSupport As Dietz relates. generallylacked civic virtue in the sense that their propensitywas to put their private interestsbefore the general good. 85). Moreover. 166-67d. 239-40) The specificimplicationof this passage is that Machiavelli clearly does not see Florence a hotbed of republicanism as and certainlydid not write The Prince under the illusion that most Florentineswere chafingto regaintheirlost liberty.but of whoever chose to assail her. (1950. and consequentlycould not be good. 170-71)..becausefromMachiavelli's perspective. (1950. there is probably no more frequentlyrepeatedpiece of advice in The Prince than that "theruler should always strive to gain the favor of the people" (p. Indeed. 110-11. velli did not think the old republic was worth restoring:its constitutionwas not good and its citizens.to a few of hercitizensto reformthe government. . 369. Yet. yet theseneverorganized for thegeneralgood.Machiavelli'sParadox opportunity to break the shackles of princelyrule.Machiain velli contends in The Discourses that republicanvalues.Dietz'swhole thesis rests on the assumptionthat "the Florentines had become accustomedto a republic. was really a viable geopoliticalentity in a world dominatedby largeabsolutistkingdoms. which. The Church. Machiavelli not only reiterates this advice again and again but offers apparentlyprudentsuggestionsfor implementingit (1950. no matter what form of government it possessed. 785) a passage from Machiavelli's History of Florencewhere he states that "libertywas unknown" the city. 64-67. but it alwayswith a view of benefiting theirown party. 491).elites as well as common people.The city had its "originin servitude. They were not a dangerous.. see also Machiavelli1950. 794. not having been powerful enoughto be able to masterall Italy. 781. The only viable entity was the entire country of Italy. insteadof establishingorderin the city. nor having permitted otherpowerto do so. revitalized.she beganby makinga constitutionthat was a mixtureof her old and bad institutions with new ones.andis not governedby either one republicor one sovereign. he emphasizes. then. all the evidenceof TheDiscoursesleads to the conclusion that Machiavelliregarded his countrymenas largely "corrupt" and "effeminate"(1950. she herselfquotes (p. 111). And although Florence repeatedly gave ampleauthority.except when it obeys wholly one government. 784). 284-85.as is the case in France and Spain."and then when afterwardsthe opportunityoccurredfor her to gainherlibertyin a measure.and the sole causewhy Italyis not in the samecondition. As Machiavelli observed at one point in The Discourses.whether a republicor a monarchy.withoutever havinga governmentthat could really be called a republic.
In other words.Machiavelli because claims. and he should never rely on mercenaryor auxili- . . duplicitous? I think not. fortressesare "injurious" they induce the foolish presumptionon a prince's part that he can systematically abuse his subjects and yet control them with force. fortresses have a debilitating effect on the military capacity of a society: they foster the conviction that a large. In the long run this generates tremendoushostility. attempting to trick the Florentine dictator into alienating his natural allies and trusting his natural foes. In light of this analysis. Second. detects a clever trap (pp.But is this. in fact. on the one hand. as Machiavelli observes (1950. well-trainedarmy is unnecessary. on the other hand. entitled "On Reformingthe State of Florence. 35-36). Machiavelli strenuously argues in The Prince. I cannot see how Dietz manages to convince herself that Machiavelli's advice on fortressesis a trap. discusshis threemain groundsfor this advice. 787-88).American Political Science Review Vol. However Machiavelliantheir teachings may be. Yet Dietz 1280 a Creating CitizenMilitia A new ruler. will never build fortresses.and not upon the strengthof the citadels"(1950. "A good and wise prince . and no citadel can permanently protect a ruler from an aroused populace. massacring the nobles and. Machiavelliwas. so that they may place their relianceupon the good will of their subjects. should always have his subjects armed and trained for combat. Machiavelli profferssome very equivocal advice about the practice of building fortresses. Finally. whereas. Indeed. really Machiavelli'strue belief? Dietz herself acknowledges in a footnote that in The DiscoursesMachiavelli unequivocally denounces the practice of erecting fortresses (p. allowing the people "tolive in security. however. and most crucially." This only erodes their authority. . She does not. First. he repeats essentially the same advice in The Prince (1950. to conduct governmentaccording to the rule of law (1950. She thinksthis chapteris intendedto convince Lorenzo not to build a fortress. then. 362-68). The "bestremedy"for popularhostility is not repressionbut "to try to secure the good will of the people. indeed any wise ruler. fortresses cannot preserve states without good armies and they are unnecessaryfor states with them. while distrusting and. 364). Fortresses Building In chapter 20 of The Prince. by telling Lorenzothrough The Prince to be hostile to the nobility and to cultivate the favor of the people. both works are sincere efforts to educateand to exhort. fortressesare "useless" againstthe artilleryof a modem army (1950." Yet in The Discourses Machiavelli (1950. Whom is Machiavelli trying to deceive here? Although he employs a different argument. in Dietz's view. But perhapshe is being duplicitous in The Discoursesas well when he avers. because Machiavelli really believes a central citadel would make the dictator less vulnerable to a republicaninsurrection. if necessary. 797). 81 of what he preachesin ThePrince:in contrast to what he writes there. Are both books. Dietz supports this conjecture in large measure through a strained interpretation of a memorandumwritten by Machiavelli to Pope Leo X. repressingthe libertyliving people. he actually believes that a dictator in Florencecould best secure his position by gaining the support of the nobles. 369).the advice is so wishy-washy that it is difficultto imaginethat it would persuade anyone to do anything. 162-63)." such as "cruelty." And this can be achievedby. 162) says that he regards"asunfortunatethose princes" who try to control a mass of hostile subjects with "extraordinary measures."that is.
which afterwards Machiavelliknew that few successfuldic. instead he was articulating is full of such examples'[of new princes one of his deepest convictions. His bold claim that 'history tine dictator.new sovereigns arming their subjects. unfaithfuland danger. doubtless because attemptingto deceiveand ruinthe Florenthey did not. this piece of advice is perhaps Machiavelli's most treacherous pitfall: "The new prince who arms his . he ly. defense or attack ought well to be includingthe case of Cesare Borgia him. it is not Borgia found his mercenarytroops "un. Epaminondas. . But in point times as have no national troops for of fact.and if two arguments. 44-46. 77-78). encouraging Lorenzo to establish a he makes no mention of their having civilian militia.. created popularly based armies-Tullus.solely to the fault of the prince" (1950.Machiavelli'sParadox when every one saw that he was the sole master of his own forces. Lorenzo the Magnificent.ashamed of it.."For Machiavelli.81-82). constantly increased. 786). easily make himself a pages after the point where Machiavelli mark for overthrowby creatingthe very claimsthat "historyis full of examples" of instrumentof his own destruction. the "current discusses such virtuous new princes as King of England" (1950." (1950. obviously... Now discusses the case of his contemporary.name. . for . 48.. or CesareBorgia. 175-76). [Thereafter.owing to any natural or local defect. Nothing more graphically reAlthough it now seems almost superveals Dietz's carelessreading of the rele. as I have tried to tain his armies... but certainto handle.and that. . Machiavellicites many examples.all very great and some of them extration for the republicancommitmentsand ordinary. . But what leads Dietz to maintainthat this be termed a new prince because from a is what Machiavelliactuallyhoped would weak king he has become for fame and follow from his advice?She seemsto offer glory the firstking in Christendom. and inspire rebels. Accordingto Dietz. On the other hand. a civilian militia" (p. she implies that for his military power. 51-52. relied on his own men..made him famous. who armed their subjects]is followed by that "princes and republics of modem no examplesat all" (p.] Dietz tries to make her argumentabout his reputation . Machiavelli was hardly armed their subjects. 51). in chapter 21 of The Prince. the duplicitouscharacterof Machiavelli's and he was never so highly esteemed as advice by focusing exclusively on ques1281 ary troops (1950. position. In Francesco Sforza. namely.. King of Spain. armingand traininga substan. in fact."Ferdinand. she inti.this tators or princeshad actually armedtheir is a particularly instructive example.. "whenMachiavelli Pelopidas.. He was able with the money revolutionary potentialof his countrymen from the Churchand the people to main(pp.. soldiers where there are men.does not appear to be the [with the Moors] to lay the foundations case. 786-87).fluous to say it."As Machiavelliobserves incite insurrection. but this. TheDiscoursesis actually vant texts and her misconstrual of full of examples of absolute rulers who Machiavelli'svalues than this argument. . and by that long war demonstrate. subjects." He therefore"suppressed them and 175).On the one hand. 786). what Machiavelli exhorts some "rehad actually disarmed the citizens of deemer"to do for Italy in the famous last Florencein order to securehis dictatorial chapterof The Prince. if there are no self! As he explicitlypoints out (1950. For Dietz. ous. King of Aragon." Perhapseven more damaging to Dietz's argument. "Ferdinand may almost . the present tial body of citizensmay "facilitate plots. a mere three subjects may . Lorenzo'sown because Ferdinanddid for Spain exactly grandfather. .you regardhis actions you will find them mates that Machiavellihad a high estima.
indigenous army in a world filled with violent and voracious states. and badly organized Florentinerepublic could do nothing for the achievementof these nationalisticaspirations. from Machiavelli'sperspective. Indeed.The establishment of a viable Italian state could. And on this subjectif thereis one message whichMachiavelliwants to drivehome. an Italian nationalist rather than merely a Florentinerepublican. internationalaffairs. 385. having few troops of her own. he discloses his conviction that the Roman republic stands as the historical model of what a state should be. 794). the first step in the process of creatinga national state in Italy had to be the emergenceof some autocraticleaderwho possessedthe knowledge-and the motivation-to accomplish in Italy what Ferdinand had achieved in Spain. then it seems clear that the national unification. Creating and maintaininga civilian militia poses risks to a prince's regime.After a ruler had carriedout the "moral"and practical program outlined in The Prince-that is. 285." and she floundersin this execrablecondition precisely because. When Lorenzothe Magnificent disarmedthe Florentinepeople. WhetherMachiavelliactually believed that Lorenzo de Medici was up to this Political Values. 491). What Machiavelli ultimately hopes to foster through his writings is the rebirthin RenaissanceItaly of the Roman republicin some modernized form. 369. thus ensuring its greatnessand the prince's(and ultimateglory (see MachiaMachiavelli's) velli 1950. but being without such a force guarantees his country's degradation.and inevitable obliteration. corrupt. after he had secured control over a particular citystate. 129-30. however. The Prince and The Discourses are easily reconciled. But Machiavelli was also a passionate nationalist. and glory of Italy were among Machiavelli's most cherished values. feeble.American Political Science Review Vol.perhapsnear the end of his reign and under Machiavelli's own personal guidance. The problem was not so much that Machiavellihad sought a position with Lorenzo but that he had become. In The Discourses (1950. Viewed from this perspective. he committed. developed a strong. 796). then it is no wonder that he was not given position in the (ultimately a governmental weak and short-lived)Florentinerepublic that emerged in 1527 after 15 years of Medici rule. Again and again in The Discourses. security. long-lived and humane. 145). But both The Princeand The Discourses addressas well the other dimension of realpolitik. popularly forces based army. she reliesheavily on cowardly mercenaries (1950. as Dietz suggests. But this is only one aspect of what Machiavelli wants. In Machiavelli's estimation. If this was Machiavelli's he shared it with friends and associates. if the last chapterof The Prince is a sincerecry for risorgimentoand not. in terms of his partisancommitments.subjugation. and extendedhis control over the country-he could turn to The Discourses. 317. to learn how to give his new political creation the republican institutions and culture which would make it stable. one more piece of "bait"to trap a vaingloriousLorenzode Medici (p. 81 tions of domestic politics and internal power. 166). set the stage for the reintroduction and evolution of republicaninstitu1282 . it is the utterfolly of beingwithout a strong. view and if tions. Theoretical Intentions Dietz's thesis rests substantiallyon the assumptionthat Machiavelli'sonly deep and values are "republicanism liberty"(p. 212-14.a heinous political crime. 116-17. Machiavelli describes Florence as "feeble. driven "barbarian" from Italy. The destruction of Lorenzo and the restorationof a small.
The Prince. In criticizingthe kind of reconciliation of The Prince and The Discourses proposed here. view Sufficeit to say that I still find unconvincing the notion that Machiavellibelieved that a Medici prince. of course. self is an Italiannationalist.JohnLangtonresurrects staple view of the nineteenth century." written in a "rigorous." and second. this is what eventuallyhappenedin Italy. Let me turn to our particular disagreements over Machiavelli's "advice. the former gives him reason to 1283 Westminster College . is a cry for national and Machiavellihimself-determination. The latter argument gives him the Prince continues to fascinate and invite impetus to plot against the Medici autoIn competinginterpretations. which in turn permittedthe riseof masspolitics. that Machiavelliintendedthe "heroicpolitics" of the (nationalist) princewould give way (under Machiavelli's guidance) to the republicanpolitics of the Discourses. thereis no questionthat he hoped he might be and that he would hire Machiavelli as chief consultant for the project. In sum. Langton's first claim. that Florentinerepublicanism was a remarked.'issuesand-options' style. and a biographical one. as Garret Mattingly once one. and The life. he states. and the glory to be gained from. however-that The Prince contains honest nationalistadvice-challenges my interpretation more directly. Machiavelli was not trying to deceive and ruin Lorenzo. once secure. far from being naive. But a moment's reflection on what we know about the broad trajectory of European political evolution will show that this view.Machiavelli'sParadox stupendoustask. he was 350 years ahead of his time.ratherthanan ardentrepublican. Machiavellian ruler would "somehow 'give away' to mass politics. Since I addressedthe second argument at some length in my article and since nothingnew has been addedto it by Langton.bureaucratic. Nevertheless. LANGTON JOHN of my interpretation The Princeas an act of political deception whose advice is intended to trap and destroy Lorenzode the Medici. This.Machiavelliremainsa just from 1498 to 1512 but throughouthis theorist ripe for controversy. is incredibly prescient. the demands of. thereby hastening his own political demise. but it has the merit of being much more plausiblethan the argument concoctedby Dietz." after resituating the generalproblemhistorically. 780). Machiavelli remained a republican not 190). would selflessly endow his regime with republican ordini. the puzzle of Machiavelli's living reality when Machiavelliwrote his Prince "has taken up more time and treatise. It is not too farfetched to say that Machiavelli wanted to do for Lorenzowhat Count Cavourdid for King Victor EmmanuelII in the late 1850s. that the death of the prince [would] lead to the rise of the republic" (p. that The Prince is a sincereand straightforward"handbookon realpolitik. Alas for Machiavelli. the unificationand political regenerationof Italy. I will not reiterate criticismof the my "from-heroic-to-mass-politics" here.he was trying to educatehim about the opportunityfor. Dietz suggests that Machiavelli was too politicallyastuteto entertain the naive belief that the "heroicpolitics" of a full-fledged.His familiarinterpretation rests upon two general claims: first. is not a novel thesis.Absolutismservedas the preconditionfor the establishmentof the modem nation-state. Florentine Republicanism At the center of my interpretationof The Princeas an act of politicaldeception stand two key arguments: a historical Perhaps. responseto crat. Indeed. that energy than it deserves" (Plumb 1961.
At the very least then.And if the Florentine propensityto revolt requiresany further confirmation..and revitalize" in orderto unify Italy.. and of constitutionalist traditions espousing equality before the law.we also have Machiavelli's own words. Skinner1978). R. Rubinstein1968. and "nationalism" rises in its stead. Langtoncasts doubt on both of these arguments contending by that after 1512 Florence was hardly a "hotbed of republicanism"and perhaps not accurately viewed as a city deeply rooted in republicantraditionsat all. we know that Florencewas also a city of strong civic republican practices-of "substantial lasting"oppositionto the and Medici stretching back to their first regime in 1434. simply flies in the face of historical. Therefore it is the better pro- ceeding that You open it with secure methods and means. then. Rubinstein. Hale 1977. thanks to the labors of recent historians. It does not portray. Florentinethinkersin the fifteenth century developed a political the theorycelebrating republicanideals of liberty. Machiavelli himself "did not think that the old republic was worth restoring". the opportunityto reopen it againstyour will and with the destruction and ruin of your friends. are never satisfied-and whoeverbelievesotherwiseis not wise-unless you restore. and freedom of speech(Brucker 1969. and an armsbearingcitizenry(Baron1961. elections by lot. What he does declare is that "the 1284 actual history of Florenceafter the fall of the republic fully confirms" that the Florentines were disinclinedto attemptto regain their liberty. But to what "actual history"does he refer?The newly restored republic of 1527 may indeed have been "weakand short lived.. civic equality. 1478. Najemy 1982. he challenges the very context upon which my interpretation depends. its political corruption. Langton comments upon none of this previous scholarship (not even to reject it). and Schevill ably trace the story of popular unrest in the city after the returnof Lorenzo. These are indeedbold claims. Moreover. reform. it on two counts-for the city and for Machiavelli himself-republicanism becomes a dead letter. to Quentin Skinnerand J. warning that the whole general mass of Citizens. Machiavelli emphasizesthe volatility of the city after 1512. Pocock 1975. or promiseto restore to them theirAuthority. Hale.. 81 believe that the political environment would be hospitable to an overthrow if only the conditions to hasten such an event were in place. 635) The picture Machiavelli paints for Pope Leo reveals a citizenry that cannot cast aside the memory of its ancientliberty. . by questioningthe republican tradition in Florence and Machiavelli's political preferences." but it was neverthelessborn of a popularrebellionagainst the Medici lords. But is he correct? As we know from the discoveriesof a generationof scholars. and 1494. the critical attitude Machiavelli adopted toward his native city as well as his frequentattacksupon its factionalism. as Langtonwould have it. (quoted in Pansini 1969. As Langton notes. from Hans Baron and J. Hale. Langton also emphasizes. Pocock. Florenceseems to have been a "hotbed"of republicanideas.textual. a populaceimmuneto the promiseof a republic and incapable of reclaimingits republican traditions. Thus. Furthermore. and with reason... and political evidence. Hale 1977. Schevill 1936). .instead. G. In advisingPope LeoX on "reforming" Florence. and that You take away from whoever was your enemy. the year of Piero de Medici's overthrow. A. The general mass of FlorentineCitizens will never be satisfiedexcept the (Council)Chamber be reopened. he thought Florence would be better served by an absolute rulerwho would "reorganize. fully in keeping with a traditionof republicanfervor and citizen opposition between 1434 and 1458 and again in 1466.American Political Science Review Vol.and its failure to achieve a stable governmentakin to the . What Langton asserts.
The first choice. "Should Florence governedby a republican be constitution or by an absolute prince?" Rather. much less do they require abandoning an interpretationof Machiavelli's pieces of advice as trapsfor the Medici prince. The destruction of Florence. and how can our sick state have its vital tone restored?" (Hale 1961. "in a great republic there are constantly evils occurringrequiringremedieswhich must be efficacious in proportion to the importanceof the occasion"(1950.Machiavelli'sParadox one he so admiredin ancient Republican Rome and envied in Venice.ever claimed that Florencewas the pristine image of republicanism.The periodof 1478 -when the Mediceanreactionagainstthe republican revival of 1466 was in full swing-was certainly one such period. far from leading away from the "pitfall. Without question. least of all Machiavelli. On the issue of residence.a republicfacesits greattest difficultyand politics its most impor1285 tant challenge-the restoration of its liberty and civic virtis. 'What qualitiesshould our republicshow the outsideworld. worried about the inabilityy of those cities "born in servitude"to effect successful republican regimes."actually draws the prince toward it.a republicis best not recoveredbut ratherthat once destroyed (or overthrown)." and with craft and cunning in The Prince.It rendersthe truly dangerous second choice-residing in the cityas the only attractive alternative. Much the same could be said of Florence. faces head on with historical creativity in the Discourses. as he acknowledgesin his History of Florence and in referenceto the Pazzi conspiracy. Certainlyno one. Machiavelli's criticism may be taken at face value-as evidence of his refusal to bow to idealisticvisions and his awarenessof what the Florentines were up againstwith regardto theirpolitical survival. pace Langton. political actor. Pitfalls in The Prince The force of Langton'scriticism turns upon a general thesis about Machiavelli and Florentinerepublicanismthat lacks biographical. especially regardingthe Medici residence. Machiavelliwould give Lorenzothe illusion of choice even as he narrows the . what of his specific countersto the "pitfalls"I uncover in The Prince. This is the issue that Machiavelli. Likewise. as political theorist. and Florentine patriot. As Hale has observed. But now. that he had no interest in restoringthe republicand insteadwelcomed the arrival of a state-building prince?I find no evidence of it. 181). But do Machiavelli'srealist appraisalsmean.the civilian militia. is an outrageoussuggestionand a practical impossibility. city was at best charthe acterized by constant fluctuations between autocraticand republicanrule. as Langtonclaims.Machiavelliwas. there were times in which "libertywas unknown"in Florence. Thus.Machiavelli advises Lorenzoeither to destroy the city or reside in it. and the building of fortresses?I am afraidthat none of Langton's counters succeed.as Machiavelliknows. But nowhere-including in the passage Langton takes as evidenceof Machiavelli's disdain for republicanismin Florence-does he would be betteroff govsay that Florence ernedby an absoluteprincewith nationalist aspirations.historical. In the firstplace. but a republic nonetheless and in need of "efficacious remedies" to restore it to health. As he writesof Romein the Discourses. I will returnto this in closing. that once destroyed. Machiavellidoes not think. with detailed advice about the restoration of republicanordiniin "Reforming State the of Florence. without question. Machiavelli'sconcern was with the question. neither Machiavelli nor his contemporaries were asking themselves. a far less gloriousrepublicto be sure. Thus. and textual support. 538).
Thus." His misreading hingeson what should be the obvious differencebetween a "civilianmilitia"of the kind Machiavelli recommends Lorenzo. when in essence he advises the rearmingof a formerly republican city. Regardlessof fit whetherBorgiaor Ferdinand the bill. These examples are important. dragged Donatello's Judithfrom the family gardens. to and a "privatearmy"or "nationaltroops" which he credits Borgia and Ferdinand. we might recall that the history of republican upheavals in Florencewas in part one of the people'stakingand retakingthe Palazzo Medici.however. he presentsthe warrant of history to Lorenzo. consider also Ligurio'sploys in Mandragola. which was vulnerableto mass action in a way the Medici villas in the Tuscan hills were not. I would suggest that it is Langtonwho advances the "careless reading. Machiavellisets still another trap. As to the dangerof residingin the city. to oust a prince a people must have not only the spiritbut also the opportunityto get at him.But nowhere does Machiavelliequatetheiractionswith the creationof an arms-bearing citizenry. 1286 Langton.in fact. Machiavelliallegedly of provides models whom Lorenzo can use for the course of action outlined in chapter 20.but the warrantis in fact a sham. I think that by seizingupon them. And it is the latter that he counsels Lorenzoto create in chapter20. Such an event -of practicalpoliticalas well as symbolic importance-could not have occurred had the Medici prince been fortified beyond the city walls. Lorenzo's grandfather. 81 prince'srangeof possibilities. just as he does not mention il Magnifico. Leavingaside the obvious question -if Borgiaand Ferdinand were such good examples. disarmed the Florentines and was the most successfulof all the Medici lords.so Machiavellidoes not mention him.and set it up beforethe palaceof the Signoriawith a new inscription warningwould-be tyrants and praisingcivic liberty. 5 and 21) of new princes who armedtheirsubjects. Perhaps Machiavelli fondly remembered the ouster of Piero in 1494. the examples of Borgia and Ferdinandare neither apt nor relevant in this context. neither was beholdento foreignsoldiers. with establishing. claimsthat Machiavelli offers at least two examples (in chaps. I argue that in advising Lorenzo in chapter 20 to "keep his subjects armed" and make "partisans"of them. is . The matterof Machiavelli's advice concerning "whom to arm" is even more important. Langton ultimately dodges the most important question of all. for the advisorknows that the practice he describes as routine for new princes is rare. examples of new princes who "always had their subjects armed?"On this score. respectively. why did Machiavellinot mention them in Chapter 20?-let us turn instead to a more vital question: are Borgia and Ferdinand. In fact. To convince Lorenzo that new princes regularly arm their subjects.In CesareBorgiaand Ferdinand Spain. who.This is how Machiavelliusually conceivesof the complex world of choices and deceptions. Thus. As Machiavelli understood. where he often plays an outrageous choice off against one that seems reasonable to old Nicia but one which will actually compromisehim. Machiavelli appeals to history but he offers no historical (uncharacteristically) examplesat all to illustratethe aptnessof his advice. Machiavellisurely appreciates that in the Romagna (the greatest source of mercenaries) Borgiarelies upon "his own men" and that in Spain Ferdinand taxed the people to build up his military might. To put this otherwise. He lays the groundworkfor a new Florentine civilian militia that could contribute mightily to the destructionof the Medici regime.American Political Science Review Vol. the example of Borgia could be counterproductive. when a vengeful Florentine populace drove the family from the palazzo. As a result. Nevertheless.
he does not resolve it. we are given the nineteenth-century languageof "nationalist aspirations" the twentiethor century conception of a "viable geopolitical entity. Pitfalls aside. To counter my interpretation of Machiavelli'sadvice on fortresses."and rhetorically asks why."Langton again sidesteps the intriguingand difficultissues. Langton'sinterpretation fails finally to confront the methodological premisebehind my readingof The Prince-that genuinelyhistoricalstudy is the indispensableprecondition for interpreting political texts of the past.too. Nor does Langtontry to explain how Machiavelli'sdictate to Lorenzo to "buildupon the people" and be wary of 1287 the nobility squares with his straightforward comment to Pope Leo that a prince in Florence"despoiledof Nobility cannot sustain the burden of the Principality. So. The bureaucraticmemorandum and the "white paper"were not literary options in the fifteenth century. Nor-to take another example of importance in my essay but unacknowledgedby Langton-does he confrontthe counselagainst liberalityin ThePrincewith Machiavelli's treatmentof it in the History of Florence as a valuableMediceantactic to maintain power. He praisesthe Florentinerepublicanfor having the prescience to anticipate nothing less than "the political evolution" of Europedown throughthe nineteenthcen- . In his conclusion."and thus must create a "middle group" between himself and the general public (Pansini 1969. and acknowledgenot only those passagesthat seem to point to a sameness in Machiavelli'sadvice.Langton offers no historical reading of Machiavelli's treatise and uses descriptions the author could not in principle have accepted as his. where Machiavelliequates the successful Medicean conquest of Florenceprecisely with the building of a fortezza. but also account for those passageswhere strikingcontradictionsappear. He seems to imply that on matterswhere there is no contradiction between The Prince and Machiavelli's other writings (especiallythe Discourses)there must be no deceptionat work in The Prince. Langton turnsto the Discourses. snappy. to explain the advice against fortress building in The Prince in terms of Machiavelli's letter to Guicciardini. nor does he persuasively challenge the contextual and historical evidence I present in order to reveal Machiavelli'sdeception. he needs to be more consistentin his application of it. he describesthe former as written in a "bureaucratic 'issues-and-options' style.Langton would have us accept an ahistorical description of The Prince and the Discoursesas works of politicalliterature. unless one assumes(as I do not) that everything Machiavelli expresses elsewhere can be read as the "truths"that expose the "lies"of The Prince. 620).He makesno attempt. did Machiavelli not simply write a "short.for example." Preciselysol But in admittingas much he simply begs the crucialquestion.Machiavelli'sParadox Machiavelli's advice on armingone's subjects helpful counsel for a Medici in Florence?Langton himself concedes that "creating and maintaining a civilian militia poses risks to a prince'sregime. and within the existing genre of the Mirror of Princes tracts The Prince is remarkablyshort and snappy. however. this is Langton'spresumption. Langtonshifts from an ahistorical to a suprahistoricalinterpretation of Machiavelli'sintentions.and notes that there. if my he interpretationis correct." Furthermore. By simply asserting that the latter is a "strained interpretation. for example. Machiavelliis chary of fortress building and urges that the prince rely insteadupon the good will of his subjects. Other than a few (unsubstantiated)assertions about Florentinerepublicanism. If. meretricious memorandum?"But these are anachronisms.As noted. He certainly offers no explanationfor them. I see no reason to accept such an interpretation.
Niccolo. 1. Hale. John H. or anacyclosis. however. and regeneration. Schevill. D'Amico. Gene. Princeton: Princeton University Press. The Foundations of Modern Political Thought. Machiavelli and the Medici: The Lessons of Florentine History. The Prince and the Discourses.a view he did not hold nor could have held. Florence and the Medici. Najemy. MARYG. John G. 1975. In Florentine Studies. 1950. 132). A. 1969. American Political Science Review 80:777-99. Universityof Minnesota 1288 . Writing history backwards. To the contrary. Machiavelli: The Republican Citizen and the Author of The Prince. 1961. New York: American Heritage. New York: Modern Library. John Rigby. Jack. Mary G. London: Farber & Farber. Plumb. Pansini. The Italian Renaissance. Among its lesser faults. Hans. Constitutionalism and Medici Ascendency. New York: Ungar. DIETz References Baron. 81 tury. 1978. The Machiavellian Moment. Trapping the Prince: Machiavelli and the Politics of Deception. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Even more troubling. London: Thames & Hudson. includingthe "politics of deception" find there. Machiavelli and the Renaissance." Canadian Journal of Italian Studies 7:132-47. Rubinstein. Greenvale. John.Langtonwould have us understand Machiavelli as "350 years ahead of his time"! Commentatorsmay well take issuewith this or that interpretation of The Prince. 1986.American Political Science Review Vol. Berkeley: University of California Press. Order from Disorder: Machiavelli on "Cyclicity. 1961. is Langton'sevident willingness to subscribeto an overly simplified view of Europeanhistory-only to reconstitute Machiavelli's contribution both to it and to political thought more generallyas a grand moment in the telos of the modem nation-state. History of Florence from the Founding of the City through the Renaissance. 1969. 1984. has more to do with the revolution of order and disorder than with the evolution of "mass" from "absolutist" politics (D'Amico 1984. ed. London: English University Press. Ferdinand. English Historical Review 299:217-53.ButI would like I to suggest that we can make headway in our controversies over the meaning of Machiavelli's little treatise only if we return it to the period in which it was written and examine Machiavelli'sintentions within his own time. not aheadof it. 1936. Skinner. decay. 1968. his own clearlyexpressedvision of the cyclical movement of glory. Brucker. author. Luigi Ricci and Christian Detmold. Vol. 1961. Hale. Anthony. Renaissance Quarterly 35:551-76. 1977. this credits Machiavelliwith a vision of politicalcreation as a linearprogress. Trans. Nicolai. Dietz. Renaissance Florence. Pocock. 1982. Machiavelli. Niccolo Machiavelli and the United States of America. John Rigby. NY: Greenvale. Quentin.
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