In 1513, Machiavelli is a ruined man, denied by all. After so many good and loyal services, we turn our backs on him like dirt. He then retired to the countryside on his property in Sant’Andrea in the Chianti region.
It was from the depths of this exile that he began to write his most famous work, Prince, that is dedicated to Lorenzo II de Medici, hoping to regain a place in the Florence government. His dedication is unequivocal: “Those who wish to obtain the good graces of a prince are generally in the habit of appearing before him with those of his possessions to which they attribute the most value. […] Desiring, therefore, for my part to offer myself to Your Magnificence with some testimony of my respectful devotion to Him, I have not found among my possessions anything that matters to me or that I esteem so much as the knowledge of the deeds of great men, such as I have acquired from modern things by long experience and Antiquities by assiduous reading”.
Machiavelli In this way, he presents his extensive experience and his meditations on politics, collected in this book, which is presented as a dissertation on the art of governing and a practical manual for retain power. It’s dynamite, a succession of biting maxims and aphorisms, not bothering with morals or convoluted turns of phrase. Machiavelli Tell it like it is intransigent.
Here is an example that sets the standard. “There is two ways to fight: one with laws, the other with force; the first is proper to man, the second is that of the beasts; but as the first, many times, is not enough, it is convenient to resort to the second. That is why it is necessary for a prince to know how to use the beast and the man well.” In other words, when the laws are powerless, it is necessary to resort to force.
A text that “dynamites” everything in its path
so inevitably, so frank or cynical some will say that it contrasts with the theological virtues of Christianity: faith, hope and charity. That is why Machiavelli will always be a suspicious author in the eyes of the Church, because he breaks an enormous taboo by pointing out the obvious: political will is one thing, reality is another. Machiavelli does not judge this discrepancy, he simply acknowledges it, without hypocrisy.
Must deal with the wickedness of men, is a parameter, like any other. It is so. It is the whole medieval ideal exposed in the writings of Saint Thomas Aquinas that crumbles at a stroke. We’re straight into the era of modern politics where all shots are allowed, especially cheap shots and dirty tricks!
Removed from power, Machiavelli therefore wrote his major works as Prince Where speech in the first decade of Tito Livio, or again, The Art of War. In his free time, he is also engaged in literature, writing plays or allegorical poems.
And his posterity?
Machiavelli died on June 21, 1527 of peritonitis. His remains are buried in the magnificent Basilica of Santa Croce in Florence. Two hundred years later, a monument will be erected in his honor near Michelangelo’s tomb, crowned by an allegory of the muse Clio, who symbolizes History and Politics, with the maxim: “No praise equals such a great name.”
Posterity, in fact, has avenged Machiavelli, because his abrasive thinking has been commented on, studied and discussed like few times in history. He has never failed to inspire statesmen or political thinkers throughout the centuries. The English philosopher Francis Bacon writes: “We are highly indebted to Machiavelli and other such authors who openly and unassumingly announce and describe what man does, and not what he should do.
Machiavelli’s shadow hangs over the figure of the Cardinal de Richelieu, There is never a shortage of pranks to strengthen the state. “Politics consists in making what is necessary possible,” Richelieu writes in his Political Will. Sounds like Machiavelli in the text! More recently it is Francois Mitterrand who has been compared to Machiavelli, to the point of being nicknamed “Francis the Florentine”. In addition, his Prime Minister during the coexistence, Édouard Balladur, wrote in 2006 an essay entitled Machiavelli in democracyin which he writes: “The merit of Machiavelli is to have put an end to the hypocrisy of good feelings. The first, he described the methods of power: the struggle for its conquest is the confrontation of selfish ambitions, nothing more”.
Ah, I knew some of the “selfish ambitions” in the “conquest of power”. Was he thinking of another Nicolás, who dropped him in the middle of the 1995 presidential campaign? Who knows ?