Machiavelli, selected notes from
A prince will not be able to avoid harming those who have helped him to power,
and can’t fulfill all the hopes of the people. As such, Machiavelli urges a cautious
path, “If the ruler wants to keep hold of his new possessions, he must bear two
things in mind: first, that the family of the old prince must be destroyed; next, that
he must change neither their laws nor their taxes. In this way, in a very short
space of time the new principality will be rolled into one with the old,” (III).
The ruler must also attempt to bind the state to him in any way possible, and to
gain influence with bordering powers.
A plea for foresight, which is Machiavelli’s key lesson to offer, “When trouble is
sensed well in advance it can easily be remedied; if you wait for it to show itself
any medicine will be too late because the disease will have become incurable…
Political disorders can be easily healed if they are seen well in advance (and only
a prudent ruler has such foresight,” (III).
Machiavelli cautions that to help another to power is to tempt self-ruination, and
that it is best to seek power for oneself.
One of Machiavelli’s core lessons is to learn from, but not be fettered by, history,
as Machiavelli notes, “Men nearly always follow the tracks made by others and
proceed in their affairs by imitation, even though they cannot keep to the tracks of
others or emulate the prowess of their models. So a prudent man must always
follow in the footsteps of great men and imitate those who have been
The less you rely on fortune, the stronger your position. New princes rise insofar
as they posses prowess and prudence.
It is necessary to grasp power through your own strength, as Machiavelli notes,
“Such rulers rely on the goodwill and fortune of those who have elevated them,
and both these are capricious, unstable things,” (VII).
To do so, Machiavelli urges that a new prince should secure self against enemies,
conquer by force or stratagem, make self both loved and feared by subjects, be
both respected and followed by soldiers, destroy those who can injure him, reform
ancient institutions, be severe where he can, magnanimous when necessary.
A prince is well served to make sure the people and the nobles are always
dependent against him so that there is no space for rebellion, “Therefore a wise
prince must devise ways by which his citizens are always and in all circumstances
dependent on him and on his authority; and then they will always be faithful to
The ambitions of the nobles – those with the resources to depose a ruler – must be