Niccolò Machiavelli: The Prince - Machiavelli Essay Example

Niccolò Machiavelli: The Prince

 

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Niccolò Machiavelli wrote the Prince in 1513; which was published in 1532 after his death. The book is considered as a political work written for the rulers or the Prince to use shrewd methods to gain power or establish his reign through terror and meanness. Machiavelli asserts that moral principals should be given up or tailored whenever situation requires.

 

He describes five basic qualities of leadership for a Prince; which are described below;

 

An ideal prince should imitate the behaviour of great mean such Ancient Roman Emperors.
A Prince should be dedicated to war.
A Prince should have greater understanding of vice and cruelty, which are necessary to maintain stability and order in the state.
A Prince should have the prudence to disburse his own wealth.
And a Prince should appear religious (even if he is not religious); which makes easy for him to form public opinion in his favour.
Machiavelli mentions the behaviour of prince towards his subject in the following words

“It is necessary for a prince wishing to hold his own to know how to do wrong, and to make use of it or not according to necessity. Therefore, putting on one side imaginary things concerning a prince, and discussing those, which are real. He need not make himself uneasy at incurring a reproach for those vices without which the state can only be saved with difficulty, for if everything is considered carefully, it will be found that something which looks like virtue, if followed, would be his ruin; whilst something else, which looks like vice, yet followed brings him security and prosperity”( CHAPTER XV

Concerning Things For Which Men, And Especially Princes, Are Praised Or Blamed).

Machiavelli points out that a Prince can have many qualities, but a Prince should not be overly concerned with becoming over good; however a reputation of being a bad or evil is also not useful for a ruler. Any evil or vice is not vice as long it can protect a Prince and his State. Machiavelli approach is simple; in politics there is no ultimate evil or good.

For a Prince it is better to be loved and feared; however he mentions that the best strategy is to be feared; as fear brings greater security for a ruler.

 

 

The Prince defines effective methods to govern several principalities (new or hereditary)

He mentions that a principality is either acquired by fortune or inherited. However in hereditary people are loyal and royal family name has influence in the principality; due to which its easy to regain, even if it is lost. In the newly acquired principalities due to the difference in customs and traditions, the new ruler finds it hard to sustain his status quo. In order to establish the status quo, the Prince should execute all the living members of the family to establish his (new) status quo as he explains in the following words. “Now I say that those dominions which, when acquired, are added to an ancient state by him who acquires them, are either of the same country and language, or they are not. When they are, it is easier to hold them, especially when they have not been accustomed to self-government; and to hold them securely it is enough to have destroyed the family of the prince who was ruling them; because the two peoples, preserving in other things the old conditions, and not being unlike in customs, will live quietly together”. (Chapter III; Concerning Mixed Principalities). In a nutshell if the Prince needs change in laws or customs; he should not hesitate to change and enforce himself by all possible means.

 

After the acquisition of new foreign territories, the Prince must have fortune and ability to control it. “When states are acquired in a country differing in language, customs, or laws, there are difficulties, and good fortune and great energy are needed to hold them, and one of the greatest and most real helps would be that he who has acquired them should go and reside there. This would make his position more secure and durable”

(Chapter III; Concerning Mixed Principalities). The prince should physically reside in the new territory to put down the rebellions and instill loyalty in the public as mentioned in the above lines.

 

Machiavelli next discusses the ways to attack other countries or how to defend a state.

He mentions that a self-sufficient Prince is the one who can show his valor in the battlefield; however only bravery is not essential. A city or states also need to be fortified and during a siege a Prince can keep the morale of his subjects high by removing all the dissenters. “In the second case one can say nothing except to encourage such princes to provision and fortify their towns, and not on any account to defend the country. And whoever shall fortify his town well, and shall have managed the other concerns of his subjects in the way stated above, and to be often repeated, will never be attacked without great caution, for men are always adverse to enterprises where difficulties can be seen, and it will be seen not to be an easy thing to attack one who has his town well fortified, and is not hated by his people”(Chapter 1, Concerning the way in which the strength of all principalities ought to be measured). He mentions it is the war through which a Prince can maintain his power. Machiavelli shows a complete disregard for morality and ethics; which is complete departure from the classical view of a virtuous king.  Instead of Prince being considerate and passionate Machiavelli advice is to remain rule by all means.

 

The Prince is the most influential book in politics. Many rulers in history including the dictators in the 20th century have practiced Machiavelli teachings. Mussolini of Italy was one such ruler; who imitated The Prince. He was a great orator imitating the ancient Roman rulers and he imitated many of their habits. Being a good orator meant to tell things what people want to hear. He was successful for years to his ruthless and duplicity. Similarity Hitler is also one classic example; who exalted himself through wars and kept the German nation in consistent wars for years. He also invented many traditions and his Nazism was a kind of religion that was based on hatred, war and attack on neighbouring countries. Thus we can conclude that many rulers in history justified their rule by all means as Machiavelli advised in The Prince.

 

 

Reference:

“Machiavelli: The Prince.” 29 Nov 2006 <oregonstate.edu/instruct/phl302/texts/prince/prince_contents.html >.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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