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Chapter 17

That we are not to offend a Man, and then send him to fill an important Office or Command.

A republic should think twice before appointing to an important command a citizen who has sustained notable wrong at the hands of his fellow-citizens. Claudius Nero, quitting the army with which he was opposing Hannibal, went with a part of his forces into the March of Ancona, designing to join the other consul there, and after joining him to attack Hasdrubal before he came up with his brother. Now Claudius had previously commanded against Hasdrubal in Spain, and after driving him with his army into such a position that it seemed he must either fight at a disadvantage or perish by famine, had been outwitted by his adversary, who, while diverting his attention with proposals of terms, contrived to slip through his hands and rob him of the opportunity for effecting his destruction. This becoming known in Rome brought Claudius into so much discredit both with the senate and people, that to his great mortification and displeasure, he was slightingly spoken of by the whole city. But being afterwards made consul and sent to oppose Hannibal, he took the course mentioned above, which was in itself so hazardous that all Rome was filled with doubt and anxiety until tidings came of Hasdrubal's defeat. When subsequently asked why he had played so dangerous a game, wherein without urgent necessity he had staked the very existence of Rome, Claudius answered, he had done so because he knew that were he to succeed he would recover whatever credit he had lost in Spain; while if he failed, and his attempt had an untoward issue, he would be revenged on that city and On those citizens who had so ungratefully and indiscreetly wronged him.

But if resentment for an offence like this so deeply moved a Roman citizen at a time when Rome was still uncorrupted, we should consider how it may act on the citizen of a State not constituted as Rome then was. And because there is no certain remedy we can apply to such disorders when they arise in republics, it follows that it is impossible to establish a republic which shall endure always; since in a thousand unforeseen ways ruin may overtake it.

Niccolo Machiavelli

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