The Prince by Machiavelli has a notorious reputation forfocuses on how a Prince or leader should rule

The Prince by Machiavelli has a notorious reputation forfocuses on how a Prince or leader should rule. The multiple techniques that are stated within the text have caused various debates ever since its’ initial publication. When The Prince was created by Machiavelli, his contemporaries were shocked at the ideas and themes presented. This piece introduced a whole new way of thinking that was almost completely contrary to present beliefs. For that reason, in 1559 the Pope banned the printing of the Prince and the rest of Machiavelli’s writings. What makes the Prince so controversial? The ideas presented in the book, such as the end justifies the means, makes it so controversial. Machiavelli’s influence is displayed throughout history and literature. Due to the influence, Machiavelli acquired the word Machiavellian, meaning anyone characterized by the political principles and methods that Machiavelli recommended in The Prince. There are many examples of past and present Machiavellian leaders, such as King Henry VIII, Joseph Stalin, and Adolf Hitler. Machiavelli’s The Prince makes an easy guide for any dictator or leader to rule and sustain power.
Machiavelli was born on May 3, 1469 in Florence, Italy. Fortunately, Machiavelli had an excellent education as a child. Paolo da Ronciglione, a renowned Latin teacher, taught Machiavelli. He then attended the University of Florence and received an excellent education there. Later Machiavelli pursued a career within the government, first he became a clerk, and then an ambassador. Soon after, Machiavelli became Chancellor of Florence and engaged in tons of diplomatic activity which also allowed him to travel frequently. It also placed him in charge of Florentine military, making him responsible for the protection of the city. At the beginning of Machiavelli’s career, Florence was a republic; but then the Medici family rose to power. In the process, the family imprisoned and tortured Machiavelli for several weeks for supposedly conspiring against the family. However, the Medici family released him after he proved his innocence; Machiavelli then retired to his estate in Sant’Andrea, Percussina. There he began writing The Prince. He believed that he harbored a unique understanding because he lived in an extremely chaotic time with popes leading armies, mighty city-states collapsing, and changing governments. Therefore, he firmly believed that he could provide knowledge about leading. Machiavelli wanted to provide a straight forward, easily understood, and practical guide that any leader could follow. However, he possessed a greater personal goal, or an ulterior motive, in writing The Prince. He dedicated the book to Lorenzo De’Medici, the new ruler, in hopes of restoring his past position in the new Italian government. Unfortunately, Machiavelli never accomplished that goal. Nevertheless, Machiavelli composed an excellent guide for any leader to use.
Many people today argue and debate about whether or not the Prince provided a positive or negative affect on history and society. However both sides of the debate can agree that The Prince influenced many leaders ever since its publication, but they disagree about the kind of influence. Machiavelli’s The Prince has had a negative influence of history and society for three reasons, Machiavelli’s teachings and beliefs, past examples of Machiavellianism, and modern examples of Machiavellianism.
The Prince transpires negative influence as a result of the teachings and beliefs that Machiavelli infused into the text. First, Machiavelli argues in The Prince that there are only two kinds of states, republics and principalities. Machiavelli does not speak about republics but instead he dedicated the Prince to principalities. He divides principalities into two categories: hereditary and new. Hereditary principalities are the current state which the prince rules. Machiavelli states that hereditary states are easier to control and maintain because the people are accustom to prince’s rule. Machiavelli stated “…, if the prince is reasonably assiduous he will always maintain his rule, unless some extraordinary and inordinate force deprives him of it; and if so deprived, whenever the usurper suffers a setback he will reconquer.” 1 Here Machiavelli proclaims that the natural prince will have the peoples support as long as the princes ambitions are moderate. Machiavelli also states that the natural prince will have less reason to cause the people to hate, when he states ” The fact is that the natural prince has less reason and less need to give offence; and so it follows that he should be more loved; ” 1 Now Machiavelli shifts his focus toward new states. Machiavelli states that new principalities are far more difficult to sustain than hereditary principalities for many reasons. Machiavelli claims that conquering new states is the most dangerous and difficult mission a prince can take on. First, in unstable new states the people will be more accepting of a new ruler because they are unsatisfied with their current one. However, if the new prince does not act quickly to improve the current state of the new principality the people will rise up and rebel. Therefore, the prince could lose power immediately, if the correct actions are not taken. Machiavelli states that if a revolt rises it must be suppressed quickly and harshly to avoid any future revolts. Actions as these will force the people to fear the prince. Additionally, a prince should move to the newly acquired state because new states tend to be very unstable. Machiavelli said “One of the best, most effective expedients would be for the conqueror to go the live there in person.” Doing so would allow the prince to receive news concerning the new state more quickly; therefore, actions can be taken faster. For instance, if a rebellion broke out and the prince lived in the old state by the time the news gets to him the problem would likely have grown out of control, but if the prince lives in the new state then any problem such as rebellion can be addressed immediately. In The Prince Machiavelli also focuses on how to govern and maintain principalities. First, Machiavelli describes how to maintain new principalities. In the Prince, it states “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.” Machiavelli also believes that a ruler should crush any opposition to the will of the ruler; for that reason, he stated “And here it has to be noted that men must be either pampered or crushed, because they can get revenge for small injuries but not for grievous ones.” Machiavelli believes that a ruler must eliminate any opposition to retain dominance; he also gives an example on how Rome destroyed Carthage by similar methods.
The Prince states that it would be ideal for a state to contain one leader with absolute power. Therefore, an ideal leader would control every aspect of the state. Such a leader would put in effect policies that would benefit his self-interests such as, gaining, maintaining, and expanding his political power. Also, it states that a leader should not allow morality and virtues to get in the way of leading. Machiavelli believes that moral and virtue are merely products of the imagination and should be discarded. It even states that a man who desires to act virtuously in every way will come to grief among those who are not virtuous. Additionally, The Prince states that secular forms of government are more realistic than pious ones because a pious government would be bound by morals. In the Prince, Machiavelli tries to convey that the end justifies the means, which means anything goes. He claims that it would be ideal for a prince to possess all the qualities that are deemed well by other men, but states that no leader can accomplish that. He also states that the security of the state should be the prince’s first priority and it must be protected by any means necessary. Although, this can be true in certain cases, Machiavelli uses it as an excuse to use evil and cruel tactics. Machiavelli also teaches that a leader should be ready to change character at any given time. Therefore, a leader does not have to keep his word, but can change it depending on the circumstances. This can be seen in The Prince “If all men were good, this precept would not be good; but because men are wretched creatures who would not keep their word to you, you need not keep your word to them.” The Prince p.56 “But one must know how to color one’s actions and to be a great liar and deceiver.” The Prince p.57 Clearly Machiavelli believes that a leader does not have to keep his word but can change it at any moment. He also believes that a leader should only appear to be a man of integrity and of compassion; therefore the people are given a false representation of their leader.
In a Machiavellian society most if not all freedoms would be lost and instead would be controlled and monitored by the state. Unsurprisingly, Machiavelli affirms that a leader should not trust his own citizens because men are wretched creatures as he stated in The Prince “For love is secured by a bond of gratitude which men, wretched creatures that they are, break when it is to their advantage to do so; but fear is strengthened by a dread of punishment which is always effective.” Machiavelli believes that citizens should live in fear to prevent any up risings. However, these tactics don’t work all the time; this year, 2011, proved this theory again. On January, 25, millions of peaceful protesters in Egypt rose up against the corrupt government that they have been under for over forty year. They demanded President Mubarak to step down, and after weeks of determination the protesters obtained what they always desired, freedom and liberty. Over 400 protesters were killed and 6,000 were injured from the Egyptian revolution. As it can be seen, People will do whatever it takes to gain freedom even if it means death. Fear only works for a limited time, but when people get pushed too far they will put fear aside and rebel. Therefore, Machiavelli’s theory is wrong because fear will actually cause rebellion in the long term.
Ever since the publication of Machiavelli’s The Prince, there have been many examples of, what Machiavelli would call, the ideal prince. What qualities would such a prince have to possess? Basically, a Machiavellian prince must desire to seek power, gain power, and maintain power by any means necessary. One great example of a Machiavellian leader would be King Henry VIII. King Henry VIII possessed all the qualities that are needed to be classified as a Machiavellian leader. He did whatever it took to maintain his power. No one knows for sure if Henry read The Prince, but we do know that a friend suggested him to read it. Therefore, the Prince could have influenced Henry since many of his actions resemble ideas stated in The Prince. For instance, in 1510, early in his reign, King Henry VIII arrested two of his father’s ministers and charged them with high treason. Soon after, both were executed. He even executed several of his relatives to prevent any competition to the throne. This became Henry’s primary way of dealing with opposition; thus establishing fear into the people. In 1534, King Henry VIII declared himself supreme head over the Church of England. He then started to reform the church, which caused anger in many Christians. As a result of the reforms, a major uprising resulted; they called them self’s the Pilgrimage of Grace. Robert Aske led the Pilgrimage of Grace with 30,000 rebels at his command. This caused a major problem for Henry. As a result, he acted quickly. Henry convinced Robert Aske to come to London to discuss the matter. Deceivingly, Henry arrested him, charged him with treason, and executed him. To prevent the other rebels from acting, Henry executed 200 of the them, which caused the problem to vanish. Desiring more control and security, King Henry used the Star Chamber court. The Star Chamber suppressed any threats to the throne; it was so powerful that it could convict other courts of crimes. Enemies to the Star Chamber were convicted without a jury and rarely saw any evidence against them for the acts they supposedly committed. The Star Chamber also tortured enemies to reach confessions; these techniques caused many innocent people to confess to doing something they had not done. Henry’s use of the Star Chamber instilled great fear into the people, which caused a dramatic decrease of opposition. Thomas Jefferson once said ” When the people fear their government, there is tyranny; when the government fears the people, there is liberty.” Therefore during King Henry’s reign the people were in tyranny because they feared their government. As a result, in any Machiavellian society, like the one during King Henry VIII reign, the people are under tyranny.

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