The Prince Chapter 3

Chapter three was a lengthy five pages long; the first page begins the discussion of mixed principalities, which is basically one ruler, ruling over one or more provinces.

He begins the chapter describing the difficulties a ruler faces taking over a new principality where the inhabitants are unhappy with a previous ruler. When this occurs, a new Prince enters the principality with his own soldiers, taking it over with aid from within. In the process he usually instigates resentment and rebellion by those who did not initially aid him. He has to reward the malcontents quickly, before they turn against him. The province is split into factions, those who helped, and those that did not.

When this occurs, the new prince has to keep an armed military unit present in order to hold the principality. This causes more resentment and rebellion from the local population. In holding a new principality, it is extremely important a new ruler earns the good will of the local population very quickly. Machiavelli describes Louis the XII of France who took over Milan twice. He lost Milan the first time because he didn’t reward those who helped him from within fast enough to please them, they turned on him.

Louis XII (retrieved from Google images)

Machiavelli says that a principality taken a second time is less likely to be lost because the would-be ruler is less tolerant of potential trouble-makers and the population tends to not fault such a ruler for his less tolerant stance. Louis VII did lose Milan a second time, though it appears Machiavelli was not willing to speculate on the reasons due to lack of information. He moves on to discuss the nuances of annexing a new principality to a previously existing one where culture and language are similar or very different.

In the case of a state that is being annexed to an already well established principality, Machiavelli notes that it is best if the new state shares a common language, culture and customs with the principality it is being joined to, and has never been exposed to self-governance before. A new ruler would in such cases destroy the family of the former ruler, but otherwise transition with the previous laws and taxes in place. The new state will accept the new ruler and be as content as they had been under the previous ruler.

The second page begins with Machiavelli discussing the annexation of a state to an already existing nation where there is no common language, laws, customs, or culture. Machiavelli says these states are extremely difficult for a new ruler to keep. Machiavelli suggests that a ruling prince should take up residence in the new province so that the new prince can govern personally and handle problems before they get out of hand. Likewise this prevents abuses by the new ruler’s officials that lead to major rebellion.

In the next paragraph, Machiavelli recommends another course of action, sending small colonies to key locations within the new principality instead of a full army within the whole of the principality which alienates the population. In this case only a few are displaced and scattered, these are not able to do more than complain, and the rest of the population keeps quiet and well behaved so they aren’t displaced next. Machiavelli is both pragmatic and ruthless, he acknowledges a ruler has few choices.

The ruler should treat the subjects well whenever possible. When it is not possible to treat the subjects well, then crush them completely so they are never in a position to cause fear, violence or revenge. Next Machiavelli details why armed military occupation should be avoided; first because of the financial cost to the state, and also because it encourages conflict and rebellion against the occupying military forces by the local population. Military occupation forces make prime targets for rebel factions.

Machiavelli suggests that a new prince should, when dealing with the above type of province, take note of neighboring states. A new prince should become a defender of the less powerful neighboring states and work to weaken the more powerful neighboring states, ensuring that no nearby foreign princes are as powerful as he is. This prevents such a foreign prince from gaining a footing within the region. He goes on to explain why with an example involving the Romans.

Page three continues with the lessons learned from the Roman strategies for annexing other states. Then Machiavelli returns to the example of Louis XII; the Venetians wanted half of Lombardy so they invited Louis XII into Italy. Louis took Milan and two-thirds of the rest of Italy petitioned for friendly relations with Louis. Because of this Louis didn’t have to pay the Venetians their portion of Lombardy. Page four begins Machiavelli’s explanation of how and why Louis XII lost Italy despite strategic advantage.

Louis XII first helped Pope Alexander VI occupy Romagna, elevating the Church’s position in Italy. This alienated some of the new allies he had made. By giving the Church so much authority he encouraged Pope Alexander’s ambition and in order to stem that, Louis had to go to Italy himself. Then Louis decided he wanted Naples and brought in the King of Spain, which further angered his allies. Louis ended up being driven out of Italy by another power, one he invited in to begin with.

When you really didn’t see that coming but you really should have.

Page four ends with a list of the six strategic errors Louis XII made in Italy. On page five Machiavelli related a conversation with Cardinal Rouen in which Rouen observes, “the Italians did not understand war“. Machiavelli relates his response “the French did not understand statecraft.” Machiavelli further explains his meaning: “Otherwise they would not have allowed the Church to reach such greatness.” It was because of France that the Church and Spain became prominent in Italy, and it ultimately hurt France.

Machiavelli goes on to state, “from this a general rule is drawn which is never or rarely ever fails: that he who is the cause of another becoming powerful is ruined; because that predominance has been brought about either by astuteness or else by force, and both are distrusted by him who has been raised to power.” In other words, be careful of helping allies become more powerful through being smart or through force; they will stop trusting you because they will know you are smarter and stronger; they will fear you.

In the business world, some of this is used when new organizational leaders move upward into new departments or take over leadership of a new company. One of the first things they do is reward those who helped them along their way. The next thing they will do is remove those that placed obstacles in their path. Very often, they will bring with them trusted personnel (in the case of mergers), and place them into key positions (the small colonies rather than the occupational forces).

And while it is always good to aid allies and those one mentors in business, don’t do it in such a way that your stealth and craftiness, or your uber bad-assery in the boardroom scares the hell out of everyone else. Sure it might make you feel good, powerful, to surprise others, but when you scare them, they don’t trust you at their back. Or their front, or their side, you see where I am going with this? People love to be helpful in most cases, but not when it might get them a knife in the back. Don’t carry any knives.

And of course it goes without saying all of this has its correlation in warfare and statecraft. Case in point….terrorism (also known as asymmetrical warfare) has been around for a very long time. It’s origins date back to the American and French Revolutions where local populations rose up against their governments and ended their rule in favor of other governing bodies. It was not long before the tactics were studied, written about, improved upon, until other colonies of other nations were emulating it.

Skip to the invasion of Afghanistan by the Soviet Union in the 1970’s and our Government decided to teach the local rebel factions how to fight the Soviet Occupation. It wasn’t long before those same rebel factions were finding plenty of reasons to stop trusting the nation that was showing them how to be successful against a larger, better equipped and numerous occupying force. It wasn’t long for those rebel leaders to consider the nature of those doing the teaching and coming to fear and distrust them.

The details may change but the generalities in history tend to remain the same, probably because where there is ignorance there is the illusion of innovation and a failure to evolve.

The problem with trying to be another France is that when you anger and frighten your regional allies, they go looking for alternatives. They find themselves another version of The Church, and another Spain, and they make nice. The problem with being the biggest bad-ass on the block (because of intelligence, technology or military strength) is that you end up becoming a target. A show of cleverness and strength only works as deterrence for so long. The deterrence ends when your enemies get strong enough to end you.


Thanks for reading! Check back next Monday for Chapter 4.