“CONCERNING NEW PRINCIPALITIES WHICH ARE ACQUIRED EITHER BY THE ARMS OF OTHERS OR BY GOOD FORTUNE.”
This chapter concerns principalities in which a new ruler is placed in power by someone else, or has risen to power through fortune or luck. It starts off with Machiavelli noting that these types of rulers rise fast, and have few problems in the rise, but once installed, often have their greatest difficulties in staying there. Such is the situation for those to whom a state is given either for money or the favor of the one who bestows it.
Such occurred in the cities of Ionia and Hellespont, where princes were made by Darius, so that those cities would be held by friendly hands Having these cities in friendly control adding to Darius’s security and glory. It is considered a matter of good fortune when when a leader rises from the ranks of the common soldier to the position of emperor by corrupting the loyalty of the military; making it to themselves rather than to the state.
Such leaders are elevated on the goodwill and fortune of others, both of which are inconsistent and unstable methods. Also, unless they were men of great worth and ability, it was not reasonable to expect them to know how to command an entire country having no prior experience to rely on. An incompetency for leadership in statecraft undermines loyalty to such a leader especially by the military.
Therefore a man who suddenly finds himself in the position of prince has to know how to quickly adapt and solidify their foundations in such a way that they could not easily be displaced. They had to have great ability. Machiavelli suggests two individuals within his own knowledge and experience as examples. They were Francesco Sforza, Duke of Milan, and Casare Borgia.
Sforza became Duke of Milan by marrying the previous Duke’s daughter, and became Duke at the death of his Father in Law. He had acquired his position “with a thousand anxieties” but he kept it with little trouble. Cesare Borgia, called by the people, Duke Valentino, acquired his position during the ascendancy of his father, Pope Alexander, and he lost his position at his father’s decline, despite doing everything he could have possibly done, to secure himself.
So well did he attempt to lay his foundations, that Machiavelli uses him as an example that should be followed despite his ultimate failure to maintain his own position. Machiavelli credits Borgia’s failure not the to man, but to “the extraordinary and extreme malignity of fortune.” Page two is a description of how Pope Alexander went about procuring a position for Casare Borgia. The first thing he did, was appraise the principalities and their leaders.
Giving Caesare a state that belonged to the Church would have incurred the wrath of the Venetians and the Duke of Milan, as well as others who did not wish to see the Church aggrandized in Italy, particularly the Orsini and the Colonnesi. So he got them fighting against each other, which was easy to do, since the Venetians were already inclined to bring the French into Italy themselves. Rather than oppose this, he assisted in it, by dissolving the marriage of King Louis.
This allowed the French in, with the assistance of the Venetians and the consent of Pope Alexander. No sooner was Louis in Milan, than the Pope received soldiers from Louis, to take Romagna, which yielded to him on the reputation of Louis. Duke Valentino was now in Romagna, using Orsini forces, and having beaten the Colonnesi, wished to hold what he had, and advance further, was held back on two counts. First, Duke Valentino’s forces did not appear loyal to him.
This presented a problem because it meant his own forces were not under his control. What tipped him off, was that the Orsini, after taking Faenza and in attacking Bologna were unwilling in the attack due to loyalty to King Louis. This caused Duke Valentino to decide not to depend any further upon the arms or luck of others. So Duke Valentino weakened the Orsini and Colonnesi by gaining to himself all their supporters.
He made them his by giving them good pay, and according to their rank, giving them offices and commands in such a way that within a few months all previous attachments to the factions were destroyed and loyalties turned entirely to him. Then he waited for an opportunity to crush the Orsini, having scattered the adherents of the Colonna house. This came quickly, when the Orsini realized that the Duke and the Church were a threat, and called a meeting of the Magione in Perugia.
That meeting resulted in rebellion at Urbino, and trouble in the Romagna It also put the duke in great danger; danger he was able to overcome this with the help of the French. Once his authority was restored, he secured his authority against further risk by taking the necessary steps to avoid dependence on the French and any other external sources of assistance. He concealed his true intentions and secured the friendship of Signor Pagolo, who mediated the dispute between the Duke and the Orsini, resulting in reconciliation.
Once he had the Orsini in his power at Sinigalia, he exterminated the leadership, and turned their supporters into his friends, thus laying a solid foundation to his own power. He had all of the Romagna and the Duchy of Urbino, and then he won the local inhabitants over to him by bringing about their own prosperity. In this way Duke Valentino secured his foundation. First, Romagna’s rulers were weak masters, who had taken to plundering their subjects rather than ruling them.
The country was full of robbery, fighting and “every kind of violence.” Wishing to bring the principality back to peace and obedience to authority, Valentino decided to bring in Messer Ramiro d’Orco, who was a “swift and cruel man” and Valentino gave him the fullest power. This man brought about peace and unity in a short period of time and with great success, by essentially being brutal.
The Duke also knew that it was not a good idea to leave this man with excessive authority for too long, because then the local inhabitants would hold him responsible. He set up a court of judgement to which all cities had their advocates. To clear himself in the eyes of the people, and gain their trust and loyalty, he made a show of dissociating himself from Ramiro’s cruel excessiveness. He had him executed in such a way that the people were “at once satisfied and “dismayed”.
Now the duke was sufficiently powerful and partly secured from immediate dangers by having armed himself in his own way. Having crushed forces of opposition in his vicinity that could injure him if he wished to proceed with the taking of more territory, his next consideration was France. Louis, now aware of his mistake in bringing in the Church would not support Duke Valentino any further. So Duke Valentino began to seek new alliances.
France had by this time brought in the Spaniards, and was moving on the kingdom of Naples, against the Spaniards who were in the process of besieging Gaeta. Valentino’s intention was to secure himself against them which he would have accomplished if Alexander had continued to live. Valentino had much to fear from the death of his father, the Pope. Mainly that a new Pope might not be friendly, and would seek to take from him what Alexander had given him.
So he made a four point plan. First, he exterminated the families of the lords of whom he had already destroyed, so as to remove the pretext of a future Pope in reinstating those families. Second, he won over to him, all of the gentlemen of Rome, so as to be able to curb the power of a future Pope by having them on his side. His third move, was to make as many friends as he could within the College of Cardinals, from which the next Pope would be selected.
Lastly, by acquiring so much power before his father should die, that he could by his own measures resist the first shock of his father’s death. By the time Alexander died, he had accomplished three of the four parts of his plan. He had exterminated most of the surviving nobles, few escaped. He had won over the Roman gentlemen, and he had the most numerous party in the college of Cardinals. He intended to take Tuscany, he already had Perugia and Piombino, Pisa was under his protection, and France was not a threat.
The Spaniards had driven the French out of Naples, and both France and Spain were seeking his goodwill. He then secured Pisa, and Lucca and Siena yielded to him immediately, out of fear and hatred of the Florentines. If he had continued to prosper as he had through the year that Alexander had died, he would have acquired so much power and reputation that he would have been able to stand on his own, by his own power and ability.
However, Alexander died five years after attempting to place his son in power, and when he did, Duke Valentino was also in extremely poor health, with Romagna well consolidated, but the rest of his territories less so, caught between two powerful and hostile armies. However so good had he laid those foundations, if he had been healthy, he likely would have been able to succeed in seeing a Pope elected who was friendly to him, or at least prevent one who was hostile, from being elected.
Machiavelli could only blame him for the election of Julius the Second, of whom he considered a bad choice. As Machiavelli noted, not being able to elect a Pope friendly to him, he could have prevented the election of a cardinal of whom he had previously injured or had reason to fear if he had become Pope. Machiavelli suggests he should have had a Spaniard Pope elected, or Rouen, and not San Pietro ad Vincula. Machiavelli makes it clear, “he who believes that new benefits will cause great personages to forget old injuries is deceived.”
Duke Valentino made a fatal mistake in his choice and Julius the Second destroyed him.
A more modern interpretation of the principles of this chapter? This is the truth of both medieval statecraft, and to a large degree, modern statecraft. Behind all the rhetoric of a more enlightened age, this is still what it all comes down to. Ruthlessness and the maintenance of a facade. Statecraft itself is a combination of warfare and diplomacy. Politics is warfare with words instead of weapons. There are echoes even today, on the playing field of national and world politics.
Certain factions support one or another leader who will represent their particular interests. They make friends of who is useful. They use rhetoric in an effort to destroy those who are not useful. The rest of us are pawns in a very old game, generally useful for securing power by virtue of popularity; this is done through narratives, not always truthful narrative. Politicians are only marginally improved from Machiavelli’s own day.
Politicians in Machiavelli’s day could get away with assassinating not only political rivals, but also their entire families. Today politicians (except in absolute monarchies) are limited to discrediting their political rivals through the use of false rhetoric or narrative or by opportune instances where proof of unethical or illegal conduct could be enough to cause a politician to be removed from Office. This chapter also illuminates some critical points in the understanding of statecraft.
- The leader should not ever rely on external forces or allies; or they will be controlled by those external forces and allies.
- The loyalty of the Military forces must be to the state for stability; to a leader in situations where the leader can otherwise be deposed (absolute monarchies).
- The goodwill and support of the ordinary citizenry can solidify a leader’s power; abuse and contempt of the ordinary citizenry can end it.
- When a leader is helped to the top by someone else, the leader should never assume they are there solely on their own merit; and they will need their own merit to stay there.
- If you did something bad to someone and caused them a serious injury of some kind, don’t ask them to do you any favors later.
Like many of the chapters in this book it has its correlations within other contexts, such as the executive level suite in business organizations. Politics is generally present in any group of human beings; large or small, regardless of its purpose. It’s present within families both immediate and extended. Politics is what determines hierarchy of leadership and individual roles within the group. In larger groups where leadership is established through the support of a faction or a mentor, this chapter is useful.
For instance, in some organizations, depending on their structure, executives may hand-pick junior members as potential successors. In others, they don’t, for various reasons, but when that happens it leaves the organization with a major problem in the event that an organizational leader dies or is otherwise incapacitated. If an organization is expected to outlive its founding owner and executive leaders, succession planning is necessary to avoid disruptive in-fighting that kills employee morale and organizational stability.
In other words, a CEO could keep this chapter in mind when grooming a junior team member to take his or her place. A CEO should guide that junior team member, but also encourage that junior team member to make his or her own alliances, develop their own network of supporters, cultivate the good will of others within the organization so that when (not if, when) the CEO dies and its time for that junior member to take his or her place, the transition is expected, smooth, and relatively painless.
Thanks for reading and be sure to check back next Monday for Chapter 8.