Prince essay

Prince essay - POLI 231- Essay One James Hirsh...

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POLI 231- Essay One James Hirsh Machiavelli’s The Prince endures as one of the most important political treatises ever written. Machiavelli carefully crafts an economic and practical manual which he believes can and should be used by rulers. While The Prince has been interpreted in many different ways, at its core it is a manual for an autocratic ruler, attempting to give this ruler advice on the ways to create, maintain and strengthen a principality. In the Dedicatory Letter and the first chapters, Machiavelli explains his intention to write a political tract for princes. In his dedication to Lorenzo de’ Medici, Machiavelli establishes the importance of his gift, saying that it is the compilation of “the knowledge of the actions of great men.” (The Prince, 3). Machiavelli than identifies the specific types of principalities and how they are formed. Machiavelli is primarily interested in the foundation of new principalities, those in which the prince is the most vulnerable and can be most easily convinced of a new philosophy for ruling. New princes are, however, highly regarded because people often believe that new rulers will fare better than the rulers who were previously in power. Over the first several chapters, Machiavelli gives practical advice for how princes are able to maintain all sorts of different principalities, drawing often on historical examples of princes who have undertaken overzealous or nearsighted attempts at ruling and have ultimately failed. This advice is an example of Machiavelli’s pragmatic attempt to analyze politics. Chapter VIII shows a good example of Machiavelli’s ability to seperate politics from morality. Instead of avoiding unsavoury topics, such as princes who gain their dominions through crimes, Machiavelli attacks this subject head on. He writes about Agathocles the Sicilian who became king of Syracuse despite being of poor birth and living a life of crime. Machiavelli then lauds Agathocles for his ability to maintain his city “without any civil controversy.” (The
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Prince, 35) Machiavelli finds little fault with the fact that in order to create this civility Agathocles had to kill all the senators and rich men in Syracuse to eliminate political competition. Machiavelli only sees in Agathocles an example of a man who took the kind of unrelenting action which he advocates as necessary in order for the maintenance of a state. Machiavelli writes about the importance for a certain type of military in order for a prince to be successful. He emphasizes the “principal foundations that all states have…good laws and good arms.”(The Prince, 48). Machiavelli than advises princes to employ national forces instead of mercenary or auxiliary arms, which he calls “useless and dangerous.” (ibid). This advice is clearly aimed at princes, as it is through military defeats that most princes lose their states and
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This note was uploaded on 04/17/2008 for the course POLI 222 taught by Professor Sholtz during the Fall '08 term at McGill.

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Prince essay - POLI 231- Essay One James Hirsh...

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