Subscribe for ad free access & additional features for teachers. Authors: 267, Books: 3,607, Poems & Short Stories: 4,435, Forum Members: 71,154, Forum Posts: 1,238,602, Quizzes: 344

Chapter 16

CHAPTER XVI

CONCERNING LIBERALITY AND MEANNESS

Commencing then with the first of the above-named characteristics, I
say that it would be well to be reputed liberal. Nevertheless,
liberality exercised in a way that does not bring you the reputation
for it, injures you; for if one exercises it honestly and as it should
be exercised, it may not become known, and you will not avoid the
reproach of its opposite. Therefore, any one wishing to maintain among
men the name of liberal is obliged to avoid no attribute of
magnificence; so that a prince thus inclined will consume in such acts
all his property, and will be compelled in the end, if he wish to
maintain the name of liberal, to unduly weigh down his people, and tax
them, and do everything he can to get money. This will soon make him
odious to his subjects, and becoming poor he will be little valued by
any one; thus, with his liberality, having offended many and rewarded
few, he is affected by the very first trouble and imperilled by
whatever may be the first danger; recognizing this himself, and
wishing to draw back from it, he runs at once into the reproach of
being miserly.

Therefore, a prince, not being able to exercise this virtue of
liberality in such a way that it is recognized, except to his cost, if
he is wise he ought not to fear the reputation of being mean, for in
time he will come to be more considered than if liberal, seeing that
with his economy his revenues are enough, that he can defend himself
against all attacks, and is able to engage in enterprises without
burdening his people; thus it comes to pass that he exercises
liberality towards all from whom he does not take, who are numberless,
and meanness towards those to whom he does not give, who are few.

We have not seen great things done in our time except by those who
have been considered mean; the rest have failed. Pope Julius the
Second was assisted in reaching the papacy by a reputation for
liberality, yet he did not strive afterwards to keep it up, when he
made war on the King of France; and he made many wars without imposing
any extraordinary tax on his subjects, for he supplied his additional
expenses out of his long thriftiness. The present King of Spain would
not have undertaken or conquered in so many enterprises if he had been
reputed liberal. A prince, therefore, provided that he has not to rob
his subjects, that he can defend himself, that he does not become poor
and abject, that he is not forced to become rapacious, ought to hold
of little account a reputation for being mean, for it is one of those
vices which will enable him to govern.

And if any one should say: Caesar obtained empire by liberality, and
many others have reached the highest positions by having been liberal,
and by being considered so, I answer: Either you are a prince in fact,
or in a way to become one. In the first case this liberality is
dangerous, in the second it is very necessary to be considered
liberal; and Caesar was one of those who wished to become pre-eminent
in Rome; but if he had survived after becoming so, and had not
moderated his expenses, he would have destroyed his government. And if
any one should reply: Many have been princes, and have done great
things with armies, who have been considered very liberal, I reply:
Either a prince spends that which is his own or his subjects' or else
that of others. In the first case he ought to be sparing, in the
second he ought not to neglect any opportunity for liberality. And to
the prince who goes forth with his army, supporting it by pillage,
sack, and extortion, handling that which belongs to others, this
liberality is necessary, otherwise he would not be followed by
soldiers. And of that which is neither yours nor your subjects' you
can be a ready giver, as were Cyrus, Caesar, and Alexander; because it
does not take away your reputation if you squander that of others, but
adds to it; it is only squandering your own that injures you.

And there is nothing wastes so rapidly as liberality, for even whilst
you exercise it you lose the power to do so, and so become either poor
or despised, or else, in avoiding poverty, rapacious and hated. And a
prince should guard himself, above all things, against being despised
and hated; and liberality leads you to both. Therefore it is wiser to
have a reputation for meanness which brings reproach without hatred,
than to be compelled through seeking a reputation for liberality to
incur a name for rapacity which begets reproach with hatred.

Niccolo Machiavelli

Sorry, no summary available yet.