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 26

CHAPTER XXVI

AN EXHORTATION TO LIBERATE ITALY FROM THE BARBARIANS

Having carefully considered the subject of the above discourses, and
wondering within myself whether the present times were propitious to a
new prince, and whether there were elements that would give an
opportunity to a wise and virtuous one to introduce a new order of
things which would do honour to him and good to the people of this
country, it appears to me that so many things concur to favour a new
prince that I never knew a time more fit than the present.

And if, as I said, it was necessary that the people of Israel should
be captive so as to make manifest the ability of Moses; that the
Persians should be oppressed by the Medes so as to discover the
greatness of the soul of Cyrus; and that the Athenians should be
dispersed to illustrate the capabilities of Theseus: then at the
present time, in order to discover the virtue of an Italian spirit, it
was necessary that Italy should be reduced to the extremity that she
is now in, that she should be more enslaved than the Hebrews, more
oppressed than the Persians, more scattered than the Athenians;
without head, without order, beaten, despoiled, torn, overrun; and to
have endured every kind of desolation.

Although lately some spark may have been shown by one, which made us
think he was ordained by God for our redemption, nevertheless it was
afterwards seen, in the height of his career, that fortune rejected
him; so that Italy, left as without life, waits for him who shall yet
heal her wounds and put an end to the ravaging and plundering of
Lombardy, to the swindling and taxing of the kingdom and of Tuscany,
and cleanse those sores that for long have festered. It is seen how
she entreats God to send someone who shall deliver her from these
wrongs and barbarous insolencies. It is seen also that she is ready
and willing to follow a banner if only someone will raise it.

Nor is there to be seen at present one in whom she can place more hope
than in your illustrious house,[*] with its valour and fortune,
favoured by God and by the Church of which it is now the chief, and
which could be made the head of this redemption. This will not be
difficult if you will recall to yourself the actions and lives of the
men I have named. And although they were great and wonderful men, yet
they were men, and each one of them had no more opportunity than the
present offers, for their enterprises were neither more just nor
easier than this, nor was God more their friend than He is yours.

[*] Giuliano de Medici. He had just been created a cardinal by Leo X.
In 1523 Giuliano was elected Pope, and took the title of Clement
VII.

With us there is great justice, because that war is just which is
necessary, and arms are hallowed when there is no other hope but in
them. Here there is the greatest willingness, and where the
willingness is great the difficulties cannot be great if you will only
follow those men to whom I have directed your attention. Further than
this, how extraordinarily the ways of God have been manifested beyond
example: the sea is divided, a cloud has led the way, the rock has
poured forth water, it has rained manna, everything has contributed to
your greatness; you ought to do the rest. God is not willing to do
everything, and thus take away our free will and that share of glory
which belongs to us.

And it is not to be wondered at if none of the above-named Italians
have been able to accomplish all that is expected from your
illustrious house; and if in so many revolutions in Italy, and in so
many campaigns, it has always appeared as if military virtue were
exhausted, this has happened because the old order of things was not
good, and none of us have known how to find a new one. And nothing
honours a man more than to establish new laws and new ordinances when
he himself was newly risen. Such things when they are well founded and
dignified will make him revered and admired, and in Italy there are
not wanting opportunities to bring such into use in every form.

Here there is great valour in the limbs whilst it fails in the head.
Look attentively at the duels and the hand-to-hand combats, how
superior the Italians are in strength, dexterity, and subtlety. But
when it comes to armies they do not bear comparison, and this springs
entirely from the insufficiency of the leaders, since those who are
capable are not obedient, and each one seems to himself to know, there
having never been any one so distinguished above the rest, either by
valour or fortune, that others would yield to him. Hence it is that
for so long a time, and during so much fighting in the past twenty
years, whenever there has been an army wholly Italian, it has always
given a poor account of itself; the first witness to this is Il Taro,
afterwards Allesandria, Capua, Genoa, Vaila, Bologna, Mestri.[*]

[*] The battles of Il Taro, 1495; Alessandria, 1499; Capua, 1501;
Genoa, 1507; Vaila, 1509; Bologna, 1511; Mestri, 1513.

If, therefore, your illustrious house wishes to follow these
remarkable men who have redeemed their country, it is necessary before
all things, as a true foundation for every enterprise, to be provided
with your own forces, because there can be no more faithful, truer, or
better soldiers. And although singly they are good, altogether they
will be much better when they find themselves commanded by their
prince, honoured by him, and maintained at his expense. Therefore it
is necessary to be prepared with such arms, so that you can be
defended against foreigners by Italian valour.

And although Swiss and Spanish infantry may be considered very
formidable, nevertheless there is a defect in both, by reason of which
a third order would not only be able to oppose them, but might be
relied upon to overthrow them. For the Spaniards cannot resist
cavalry, and the Switzers are afraid of infantry whenever they
encounter them in close combat. Owing to this, as has been and may
again be seen, the Spaniards are unable to resist French cavalry, and
the Switzers are overthrown by Spanish infantry. And although a
complete proof of this latter cannot be shown, nevertheless there was
some evidence of it at the battle of Ravenna, when the Spanish
infantry were confronted by German battalions, who follow the same
tactics as the Swiss; when the Spaniards, by agility of body and with
the aid of their shields, got in under the pikes of the Germans and
stood out of danger, able to attack, while the Germans stood helpless,
and, if the cavalry had not dashed up, all would have been over with
them. It is possible, therefore, knowing the defects of both these
infantries, to invent a new one, which will resist cavalry and not be
afraid of infantry; this need not create a new order of arms, but a
variation upon the old. And these are the kind of improvements which
confer reputation and power upon a new prince.

This opportunity, therefore, ought not to be allowed to pass for
letting Italy at last see her liberator appear. Nor can one express
the love with which he would be received in all those provinces which
have suffered so much from these foreign scourings, with what thirst
for revenge, with what stubborn faith, with what devotion, with what
tears. What door would be closed to him? Who would refuse obedience to
him? What envy would hinder him? What Italian would refuse him homage?
To all of us this barbarous dominion stinks. Let, therefore, your
illustrious house take up this charge with that courage and hope with
which all just enterprises are undertaken, so that under its standard
our native country may be ennobled, and under its auspices may be
verified that saying of Petrarch:

Virtu contro al Furore
Prendera l'arme, e fia il combatter corto:
Che l'antico valore
Negli italici cuor non e ancor morto.

Virtue against fury shall advance the fight,
And it i' th' combat soon shall put to flight:
For the old Roman valour is not dead,
Nor in th' Italians' brests extinguished.

Edward Dacre, 1640.

Niccolo Machiavelli

Sorry, no summary available yet.