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“The Prince” by Niccolo Machiavelli Essay


The Prince is a political piece of writing by Niccolo Machiavelli, an Italian political theorist. In this treatise, Machiavelli expounds political views tackling how a prince might access and maintain power. Some critics and analysts alike have branded this work ‘extreme’; however, Machiavelli insists that a prince should maintain a firm principality for its preservation lies in it. He lays down strategies that an aspiring prince can use to gain power or a serving prince to maintain power.

He makes it clear that, as long as a state is stable, the means of maintaining this stability should not be questioned even if they are cruel. This treatise examines attainment, protraction, and application of political power that was prominent in the western world in the sixteenth century. Machiavelli does not advocate for law, rather he calls for use of power to rule. This paper tackles mixed monarchies as exposited in The Prince.

Machiavelli on Mixed Monarchies

Machiavelli notes that, governance problems are prevalent amongst new and mixed monarchies. Naturally, men would wish to change rulers or overthrow them for their own benefits. Unfortunately, Machiavelli notes that, this shallow thinking works against the perpetrators because they lack experience.

To princes, Machiavelli cautions that, after overpowering their rebellious juniors, they cannot afford to remain friends with those who helped them in the battle because sooner than later the princes will not meet these people’s expectation. Therefore, to ensure that a prince has absolute control over his juniors, he requires the “favor of the inhabitants to take possession over a province” (Machiavelli 5). This ensures a prince gets allegiance from grassroots.

Actually, Louis XII of France lost his possession in Italy to Ludovico because the inhabitants preferred Ludovico to Louis XII. Machiavelli notes that losing a territory the first time is not difficult; however, after regaining it, to lose it a second time becomes insurmountable because a prince can now punish rebels, strengthen weaknesses, and probe any insurgence before things get out of hand.

This explains why after Ludovico regained possession of Milan, Louis XII could not overthrow him a second time. This is what princes should take into consideration if they are to conquer and rule. Nevertheless, Machiavelli notes there are ways a prince may lose a territory a second time under some conditions as exposited next.

One of the greatest threats of a kingdom is annexation. Machiavelli observes that, if different states are annexed to an existing one, chances of survival depends on two factors viz. common nationality and language. If these states are of different nationality and language, then chances of survival are slim. Nevertheless, there is a way out. The fact that there is a problem is a confirmation of existence of an answer.

For the annexed state to stand firm, two conditions should prevail; “the blood of their old rulers is extinct and make no alteration either in their laws or in their taxes” (Machiavelli 7). With former rulers silenced and unaltered tax regulations, subjects would remain calm. Moreover, a prince may decide to reside amongst these new states to assure them security, just as Turkey did in Greece.

This ensures that any discontentment is noticed early and addressed before it becomes a crisis. Additionally, this strategy excludes malicious officials who may spoil Prince’s reputation and good governance. Alternatively, if living amongst his subjects proves tricky, a prince may consider keeping armed men across his empire or establish several colonies in different places of his empire. However, Machiavelli prefers establishment of colonies to deploying armed men.

Colonies would cost a prince nothing. For one, in the process of making colonies, some people will be disposed of their houses, which will be given to new habitants.

Therefore, the disposed remain hapless and scattered and people in this state can never think of rebelling against the prince for lack of resources and strength. On the other side, those given new homes will not rebel for fear of being dispossessed too. Therefore, colonies, “cost nothing, are more faithful, and give less offence…men must either be caressed or else annihilated.” (Machiavelli 8).

Offering some colonies houses at the expense of others amounts to caressing the former while annihilating the latter. Men will always retaliate if slightly injured; however, they will remain silent if greatly injured. A prince can gain power over a territory through more diverse ways.

Machiavelli notes that a powerful prince can expand his territories by entering less powerful territories. When a powerful prince enters a new province, all inhabitants want to associate with him. Man is wired in a way that he wants to associate with power. As aforementioned, juniors in a territory are always jealous of their masters; therefore, when a powerful prince approaches less powerful territories, he would gain popularity and accrue following because these people are ever displeased by their rulers.

For the new prince to overcome the same fate befalling him, Machiavelli notes that, “he has merely to be careful that they do not assume too much power and authority” (9). This creates a balance. By allowing inhabitants to have some power, they remain one’s adherents; by checking this power, prevents tyranny amongst them.

Machiavelli warns princes to rule with integrity for any form of misdemeanor risks losing adherents to enemies. The bottom line here is to flatter the less powerful in a colony without necessarily increasing their powers and overthrow rebel inhabitants who do not want to cooperate. Romans used this strategy in Macedonia and it worked for them. Finally, Machiavelli compares leadership to treatment of diseases.

As the common adage goes, prevention is better than cure, Machiavelli insinuates that this adage applies in governance just as in medicine. The secret of strong governance is to recognize all evils that may be brewing and prevent them before they spread across a territory.

Therefore, a wise prince would invest more in ‘spying’ to ensure that every matter is settled before it causes divisions in a territory. Due to this strategy, Romans would remotely recognize a brewing evil, and come up with a remedy to counter it. Machiavelli concurs that wars are inevitable; however, a prince may choose to defer war or initiate one to his advantage.

For instance, by noticing potential enemies, a prince may decide to initiate war in enemy’s backyard to prevent meeting the enemy at an advanced stage and in important occasions. For instance, because Romans did not want to face Greece in Italy, they initiated war in Greece’s backyard to silence them beforehand.

To cap it all, Machiavelli advises princes to be wary of engaging church in state affairs. The only mistake that prince Charles of France did in Italy was to allow church infiltrate into state affairs. Church knows very little about state affairs; moreover, the principles applied by wise princes to maintain power are not popular amongst believers.

Conclusion

By writing The Prince, Machiavelli sought to enlighten princes on how to seize and maintain power. In mixed monarchies, Machiavelli makes it so obvious that a prince can conquer and rule over new provinces provided he adhere to laid down procedures. One of the greatest challenges of conquering and ruling mixed monarchies is if annexations are made from different nationalities and languages.

However, Machiavelli advises princes to ensure that they silence rulers of these monarchies and not to change taxes of the people. In gaining access to new territories, a prince may consider befriending the inhabitants for without their support, it would be hard to rule. He also talks of establishing different colonies across one’s territories for better administration.

Works Cited

Machiavelli, Niccolo. “The Prince.” Ricci, Luigi. (Ed.) Texas; RDMc Publishing, 2008.

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IvyPanda. 2019. ""The Prince" by Niccolo Machiavelli." May 7, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-prince/.

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IvyPanda. (2019) '"The Prince" by Niccolo Machiavelli'. 7 May.

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