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Chapter 29

That the Faults of a People are due to its Prince.

Let no prince complain of the faults committed by a people under his control; since these must be ascribed either to his negligence, or to his being himself blemished by similar defects. And were any one to consider what peoples in our own times have been most given to robbery and other like offences, he would find that they have only copied their rulers, who have themselves been of a like nature. Romagna, before those lords who ruled it were driven out by Pope Alexander VI., was a nursery of all the worst crimes, the slightest occasion giving rise to wholesale rapine and murder. This resulted from the wickedness of these lords, and not, as they asserted, from the evil disposition of their subjects. For these princes being poor, yet choosing to live as though they were rich, were forced to resort to cruelties innumerable and practised in divers ways; and among other shameful devices contrived by them to extort money, they would pass laws prohibiting certain acts, and then be the first to give occasion for breaking them; nor would they chastise offenders until they saw many involved in the same offence; when they fell to punishing, not from any zeal for the laws which they had made, but out of greed to realize the penalty. Whence flowed many mischiefs, and more particularly this, that the people being impoverished, but not corrected, sought to make good their injuries at the expense of others weaker than themselves. And thus there sprang up all those evils spoken of above, whereof the prince is the true cause.

The truth of what I say is confirmed by Titus Livius where he relates how the Roman envoys, who were conveying the spoils of the Veientines as an offering to Apollo, were seized and brought on shore by the corsairs of the Lipari islands in Sicily; when Timasitheus, the prince of these islands, on learning the nature of the offering, its destination, and by whom sent, though himself of Lipari, behaved as a Roman might, showing his people what sacrilege it would be to intercept such a gift, and speaking to such purpose that by general consent the envoys were suffered to proceed upon their voyage, taking all their possessions with them. With reference to which incident the historian observes: "The multitude, who always take their colour from their ruler, were filled by Timasitheus with a religious awe." And to like purport we find it said by Lorenzo de' Medici:--

 "A prince's acts his people imitate;
 For on their lord the eyes of all men wait."[1]

[Footnote 1: E quel che fa il signer, fanno poi molti;
Chè nel signer son tutti gli occhi volti.
(La Rappresentazione di San Giovanni e Paolo.)]

Niccolo Machiavelli

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