MACHIAVELLI'S THE PRINCE In the book, The Prince, Niccolo Machiavelli lays the groundwork for a prince to rescue his homeland, Italy, and his place of birth, the city of Florence, from the "barbarians" that had invaded (King, 380). Throughout The Prince it would appear that the experience of seeing his country conquered and dismembered during his life caused Machiavelli to have a poor view of human nature and a general distrust of people. This is very apparent as he details the way a prince should wage war and rule the citizens through fear rather than love. Niccolo Machiavelli (1469-1527) was a politician and historian born to a minor patrician family in the city of Florence, Italy (King, 379). Throughout Machiavelli's life he watched Italy and the city of Florence, which he loved, be invaded several times and specifically by King Charles VIII in 1494. The city of Florence eventually fell to a new form of republican government where Machiavelli secured a position writing letters for the Ten, the committee that oversaw Florence's foreign policy (King, 380).
It was during these years that Machiavelli witnessed the fracturing of Italy, as Italy was slowly dismembered and fell to foreign troops. Machiavelli was later to be exiled and forced into retirement where he wrote one of his most famous works, The Prince. The Prince was addressed to the Medici, the hereditary dukes of Florence at the time. The Prince was a detailed handbook, laying the groundwork for a prince, which would rise up and save Italy from the "barbarians" that had invaded and restore Italy and Florence to its former glory. In The Prince, Machiavelli makes several references to the art of war and how a prince should be very versed in the ways of war. Specifically Machiavelli states, "The prince ought to have no other aim or thought, nor select anything else for his study, than war and its rules and discipline; for this is the sole art that belongs to him who rules, and it is of such force that it not only upholds those who are born princes, but it often enables men to rise from a private station to that rank" (Machiavelli, Paragraph 1).
Throughout the years Machiavelli had seen his homeland and his birth city be conquered by men through force. It is obvious that these experiences had given Machiavelli a view that the way to rule and hold on to your land was to be a master of war, so much so that he believed if you could master the art of war, a person of non-stature could rise to the level of being a prince. Machiavelli loved his country and the city of Florence and wanted nothing more than to see the two restored to their former glory. Machiavelli dedicated his life to seeing this goal fulfilled by dedicating 14 years of his life to the government that he hoped would accomplish this goal. Even after showing so much dedication Machiavelli was exiled from his birth city of Florence and forced into retirement, which no doubt lead to his distrust of people. This is made no clearer than in The Prince when Machiavelli states, "Upon this question arises: whether it is better to be loved than feared or feared than loved? It may be answered that one should wish to be both, but, because it is difficult to unite them in one person, it is much safer to be feared than loved, when of the two, either must be dispensed with.
Because this is to be asserted in general of men, they are ungrateful, fickle, false, cowardly, covetous, and as long as you successes they are yours entirely; they will offer you their blood, property, life, and children, as is said above, when the need is far distant; but when it approaches they turn against you" (Machiavelli, Paragraph 4). The above statement clearly shows that through Machiavelli's experiences with people that had betrayed him, he felt that if you let your emotions take over and ask to be loved, they people would only trample on you, but if you instilled fear in them and ruled with an iron fist, it is only then that they would follow you and do whatever you ask of them. Machiavelli wrote The Prince as handbook that would lay the groundwork for a prince that would rise up to save Italy and Florence from the invaders that had taken his homeland and forced him into exile. The experiences that Machiavelli had throughout his life gave rise to his feelings that instilling fear and conquering people through the mastery of war became paramount in his mind as the way to rule and keep a country united. In the end, Machiavelli's The Prince, was to become known as a great change in the way governments were to be looked upon and became one of the foremost texts in Western political science. Sadly, Machiavelli's prince never came and unfortunately, Italy fell to various other nations.
(King, 418) Works Cited King, Margaret. Western Civilization, Volume 1: Prehistory - 1750. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 2003 Niccolo Machiavelli, The Prince, ed. W. K.
Marriot. London: J. M. Dent and Sons, 1908, pp. 117-118, 129-131, web (accessed June 09, 2003).