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Chapter 27

How a divided City may be reunited, and how it is a false opinion that to hold Cities in subjection they must be kept divided.

From the example of the Roman consuls who reconciled the citizens of Ardea, we are taught the method whereby the feuds of a divided city may be composed, namely, by putting the ringleaders of the disturbances to death; and that no other remedy should be used. Three courses, indeed, are open to you, since you may either put to death, as these consuls did, or banish, or bind the citizens to live at peace with one another, taking security for their good behaviour. Of which three ways the last is the most hurtful, the most uncertain, and the least effectual; because when much blood has been shed, or other like outrage done, it cannot be that a peace imposed on compulsion should endure between men who are every day brought face to face with one another; for since fresh cause of contention may at any moment result from their meeting, it will be impossible for them to refrain from mutual injury. Of this we could have no better instance than in the city of Pistoja.

Fifteen years ago this city was divided between the Panciatichi and Cancellieri, as indeed it still continues, the only difference being that then they were in arms, whereas, now, they have laid them aside. After much controversy and wrangling, these factions would presently proceed to bloodshed, to pulling down houses, plundering property, and all the other violent courses usual in divided cities. The Florentines, with whom it lay to compose these feuds, strove for a long time to do so by using the third of the methods mentioned; but when this only led to increased tumult and disorder, losing patience, they decided to try the second method and get rid of the ringleaders of both factions by imprisoning some and banishing others. In this way a sort of settlement was arrived at, which continues in operation up to the present hour. There can be no question, however, that the first of the methods named would have been the surest. But because extreme measures have in them an element of greatness and nobility, a weak republic, so far from knowing how to use this first method, can with difficulty be brought to employ even the second. This, as I said at the beginning, is the kind of blunder made by the princes of our times when they have to decide on matters of moment, from their not considering how those men acted who in ancient days had to determine under like conditions. For the weakness of the present race of men (the result of their enfeebling education and their ignorance of affairs), makes them regard the methods followed by the ancients as partly inhuman and partly impracticable. Accordingly, they have their own newfangled ways of looking at things, wholly at variance with the true, as when the sages of our city, some time since, pronounced that Pistoja was to be held by feuds and Pisa by fortresses, not perceiving how useless each of these methods is in itself.

Having spoken of fortresses already at some length, I shall not further refer to them here, but shall consider the futility of trying to hold subject cities by keeping them divided. In the first place, it is impossible for the ruling power, whether prince or republic, to be friends with both factions. For wherever there is division, it is human nature to take a side, and to favour one party more than another. But if one party in a subject city be unfriendly to you, the consequence will be that you will lose that city so soon as you are involved in war, since it is impossible for you to hold a city where you have enemies both within and without. Should the ruling power be a republic, there is nothing so likely to corrupt its citizens and sow dissension among them, as having to control a divided city. For as each faction in that city will seek support and endeavour to make friends in a variety of corrupt ways, two very serious evils will result: first, that the governed city will never be contented with its governors, since there can be no good government where you often change its form, adapting yourself to the humours now of one party and now of another; and next, that the factious spirit of the subject city is certain to infect your own republic. To which Biondo testifies, when, in speaking of the citizens of Florence and Pistoja, he says, "In seeking to unite Pistoja the Florentines themselves fell out."[1] It is easy, therefore, to understand how much mischief attends on such divisions. In the year 1501, when we lost Arezzo, and when all the Val di Tevere and Val di Chiana were occupied by the Vitelli and by Duke Valentino, a certain M. de Lant was sent by the King of France to cause the whole of the lost towns to be restored to the Florentines; who finding in all these towns men who came to him claiming to be of the party of the Marnocco[2], greatly blamed this distinction, observing, that if in France any of the king's subjects were to say that he was of the king's party, he would be punished; since the expression would imply that there was a party hostile to the king, whereas it was his majesty's desire that all his subjects should be his friends and live united without any distinction of party. But all these mistaken methods and opinions originate in the weakness of rulers, who, seeing that they cannot hold their States by their own strength and valour, have recourse to like devices; which, if now and then in tranquil times they prove of some slight assistance to them, in times of danger are shown to be worthless.

[Footnote 1: Flav. Blondri Hist., dec. ii. lib. 9. Basle ed. 1559, p. 337]

[Footnote 2: The heraldic Lion of Florence.]

Niccolo Machiavelli

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