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Reason for Writing the Book
After going through a rigorous educational system, Machiavelli qualified to work as a banker in one of the financial institutions in Rome. He went back in his hometown of Florence whereby he came across various injustices being meted out to innocent citizens who had lived peacefully for several years. The Medici family was expelled together with other oligarchs who had ruled the city-state for several years. The traditional governance system was replaced by a complex religious leadership structure that forced the locals to abide by rules that were unfamiliar to them.
Foreign powers, such as France, Spain, and Britain, were interested in taking over a number of the country’s city-states in order to gain political and economical power, something that never augured down well with Machiavelli forcing him to publish a book titled The Prince outlining the way in which the political leadership of the country could get rid of foreigners and restore glory.
By then, Florence, Milan, Venice, and Naples were all under the control of foreigners. The hostility among the various powers had resulted in chaos in the country because violence and blackmail were some of the valued tricks and strategies as far acquiring new territories was concerned. Machiavelli returned in the place of birth in 1494, the same year in which Charles VIII of France launched an offensive towards Italy.
The French government continued with the trend forcing Machiavelli to write the book urging his fellow countrymen to unite with an aim of fighting the common enemy. Since he was highly educated and well-travelled, Machiavelli was made the senior official of the Florence government serving as the head of the second chancery and secretary to the council of the Ten for War.
By then, no person was allowed to criticize the papal leadership and this was proved when Pope Alexander VI excommunicated Savanorola for trying to compete with the authority. Machiavelli was encouraged to write his book when he was sent to France on official duty as the top diplomat. His position as the country’s representative in France allowed him to meet frequently with Pope Alexander and the new king, Louis XII.
The top leaders in the hierarchy of the church influenced Machiavelli’s reasoning on politics and leadership, encouraging him further to publish a book. Machiavelli established that brutality, cunningness, viciousness, and dictatorship characterized the lives of French officials and these could be some of the things that made them excel in their leadership positions.
Borgia was one of the French strategists who pleased Machiavelli and he believed the leader had all the qualities needed in bringing the Italian people together to fight for their survival in the highly turbulent political environment. Machiavelli realized that there were no permanent friends or enemies in politics and any leader would always come close to an individual with the capacity to fulfill his or her ambitions. Even though he had the traits of a good leader, Borgia was banished to Spain upon the death of Alexander VI and subsequent rise of Julius II.
Machiavelli played a critical role in training the private army in the city-state of Florence in order to decrease over-dependence on mercenaries. He was given a new responsibility of advising the new king. However, the headship of the municipality took a new twist when the Medici family reclaimed power leading to the removal from office of Machiavelli. He was later charged with incitement, but he managed to free himself after just two weeks seeking refuge in the neighboring town. He decided to quit politics and venture in writing, which proves that he was simply explaining the intrigues of leadership, but not interested in making a lot of money.
The works of Machiavelli on the prince is a masterpiece of political leadership and the associated risks even though his position is contestable among modern scholars. First, the writer dedicated the book to Lorenzo de Medici family of Florence meaning it was meant to give young leaders encouragement and the much-needed enthusiasm as far as ruling is concerned. The writer devoted the first two chapters to describing the scope of the book. Generally, the book is concerned with explaining the leadership styles that autocratic leaders espouse as opposed to the ones that republicans would implement.
In the first chapter in particular, the author gives a brief definition of the several types of principalities and princes. In the third chapter, the way in which a principality would be maintained is explained clearly whereby the prince should not be familiar to the citizens of the newly annexed region. In the same chapter, the author introduces the various aspects that the prince should be acquainted with, including politics, war, and goodwill (Machiavelli 175).
In the IV through XIV chapters, the writer explains his main thoughts on leadership and gives various suggestions on how the prince could acquire and maintain power. For instance, he suggests new tricks to the prince on acquiring new states, dealing with resistance, establishing friends, and maintaining a robust military.
However, he introduces several other issues that contradict his viewpoint, such as free will, natural law, and morality. From chapter XV to XXIII, he explains the qualities of a good prince who has the capacity to liberate his people from oppression. In his view, leaders with abstract ideas are likely to facilitate poor governance while those who are more practical tend to succeed in convening the major aims and objectives of the locals.
In this regard, a prince should not be concerned with virtues because this would contribute to the collapse of the state. For instance, the prince should not hesitate to use violence, treachery, and deceit, as long as they would bring greatness to the city-state. However, he insists that a leader who seeks the goodwill of the people is likely to stay in power for long as opposed to the other who rules without people’s mandate.
Therefore, the leader should simply appear to be virtues, but exercising real virtue is detrimental to the successful of the city-state. In the final chapters, the author explains how disunity and lack of clear leadership in Italy resulted in its downfall given the fact foreigners managed to invade the various city-states in the country.
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Profiling of Characters
Cesare Borgia: The leader lived between 1476 and 1507 winning himself a title of the Duke, but failed to replace his father. Machiavelli tends to suggest that the leader was an example of a prince because he would do everything to ensure his people achieve greatness. He was the only leader who secured the interests of his people within the shortest time possible.
Julius II: The leader was the pope for ten years and he is remembered for strengthening the position of the church as far as leadership of the country is concerned. He employed diplomacy in solving inter-state issues, something that played a critical role in bringing down the Roman barons.
Leo X: The leader was elected as pope in 1513 after Julius II and aspired to serve as the advocate of the Medici family, one of the autocrats in the country.
Statesmanship: an individual who ensures that his people attain the major goals and objectives by facilitating an enabling environment that paves way for individual fulfillment. In this regard, he suggested that a good statesman should respect the natural laws by putting in place a strong military that will protect citizens from external aggression. Again, a statesman has to put in place measures to ensure that the citizens are secure economically because other city-states might take advantage of the weak financial system to infiltrate the economy
War craft: This means utilizing the military effectively to achieve personal and state ambitions. Machiavelli suggested that a good leader should not fear using the military to preempt any threats, irrespective of the magnitude. Engaging in diplomacy is also a valid tool for maintaining power and it falls under war craft because the leader might be forced to deploy forces abroad in case the condition gets worse.
The prince: according to Machiavelli, the prince is simply a transitional leader who is charged with the major role of restoring sanity in the city-state. Once the city is under the control of the locals, the prince should reassign to pave way for a more democratic and logical government that respects the views of the majority and allows the minorities to participate in the decision-making. Unlike the prince, the subsequent leader should be open, democratic, and in constant consultation with other sections of the society to prevent chaos.
Value of the Book
The book plays a critical role in serving as both the literature and an evocation of historical era. Being a literature, it gives important information on leadership since it urges modern politicians to ensure that the people they represent achieve greatness by convening their goals and objectives. In this case, the book could be utilized as a reference whereby the prince should be allowed to transform society and be given the needed support to allow him kick out foreigners.
Therefore, leaders should not be engaged in unnecessary politics that might impede the chances of success on the side of the prince. If the people are disunited, chances are high that the enemy will succeed in dividing them further, but unity is the backbone of success in any city-state. The book is an evocation of history in the sense that it outlines the various stages that Italy has gone through to be what it is in the modern society (Fischer 67). The close relationship between the church and the state led to various problems as Machiavelli outlines and this played a role in drawing the 1647 Treaty that separated the state from the church.
Recommending the Book
Machiavelli’s ideas on leadership are no longer valid in the modern society because the state is no longer associated with the church. His suggestion was that the political class should be left to restructure the state matters while the church would simply come in to offer advice when necessary. However, the book is recommended to history students who would want to capture the development of political activities in the western countries.
Fischer, Markus. Well-ordered License: On the Unity of Machiavelli’s Thought. New York: Lexington Books, 2000. Print.
Machiavelli, Niccolo. The Prince. New York: Randy Dillon, 2009. Print.