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The Prince

Essay by   •  August 24, 2010  •  1,169 Words (5 Pages)  •  1,676 Views

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"All the states, all the dominions, under whose authority men have lived in the past

and live now have been and are either republics or principalities." In Machiavelli's, The

Prince, timeless keys to a successful principality are examined. The keys are understanding

human nature, respecting that nature, and reaffirming that successful leadership can exist

in the same fashion yesterday, today, and tomorrow.

Machiavelli's perspective of human nature is founded on the principle that people

in general don't want their culture changed by an outside influence. Machiavelli

demonstrates in the book that the nature of people is to defend who they are. When "the

prince" attempts to change their culture in any way the subjects will do any number of

things to crush this attempt or even change the leadership. If a prince uses force to try to

change people this will lead to hostility, because as Machiavellis says, "they remain,

defeated, in their own homes." This underlying fact will lead to a rebellion of some sort.

One way this rebellion can happen is when a powerful foreigner invades the principality.

The now "defeated" people will join this powerful foreigner, in hopes that their culture

will now be respected, to dethrone the prince. When the prince tries to use force to

control the people it only creates enemies. Machiavelli explains this aspect of human

nature when he writes, "he harms the whole state by billeting his army in different parts of

the country, everyone suffers from this annoyance, and everybody is turned into an

enemy." On the contrast if a prince allows the people to keep their customs Machiavelli

states that the people will remain content when he writes, "For the rest, so long as their

old ways of life are undisturbed and there is no divergence in customs, men live quietly."

Another natural tendency of people comes with freedom. Once they have had a taste of

freedom, they virtually cannot live without it. This feeling of control over one's life is a

quality that once molded is nearly impossible to reshape. Machiavelli asserts this idea

when he writes, "a city used to freedom can be more easily ruled through its own

citizens...than in any other way." The same tendency lies in the control that the prince

gains over the people in the principality. Once the prince has control he finds that giving

up control to be extremely difficult. That is why ideally a prince would posses a number

of qualities to find success as a leader.

Only through an understanding of the nature of his subjects, having an ability to

control his subjects, and possessing the means to defend his subjects can "the prince" truly

find the universal key to open the door to upholding the ideals of practical leadership.

When a prince understands the nature of the people it is easier for him to enter the land.

Machiavelli writes of the Romans and how they developed their empire, "the Aetolians

once brought the Romans into Greece; and in every other country they invaded, the

Romans were brought in by the inhabitants." Because the Romans understood human

nature their movement into power was unchallenged. Once in power it is essential for the

prince to be able to control the people. "I say that a prince must want to have a reputation

for compassion rather than cruelty: none the less, he must be careful that he does not

make bad use of compassion." When Machiavelli wrote this he was outlining the key to

controlling the people. The prince needs to be able to keep the people united, and loyal to

him and at the same time ensure respect for the laws by instilling a fear for punishment.

One of Machiavelli's most used examples of a successful prince is Cesare Borgia. It is

essential to be feared not hated and in the case of Borgia his minister Remirro de Orco

punished law breakers in a cruel fashion that led to people hating Borgia. To create a

feeling of fear for punishment rather than hatred for the prince Borgia decided to punish

his minister for all to see. "One morning, Remirro's body was found cut in two pieces on

the piazza at Cesena, with a block of wood and a bloody knife beside it. The brutality of

this specticle kept the people of the Romagna at once appeased."

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