The Prince

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Niccolo Machiavelli’s The Prince is a book on political thought. The book is comprised of political beliefs that Machiavelli belived made a good ruler. A letter written by Machiavelli to a close friend Francesco Vettori in December of 151 that stated that he was studying ancient history, and was comprising a book that showed what he learned about governments and political power. Machiavelli wrote “I have composed a little book On Principalities, in which I delve as deeply as I can into this subject” (p. ). This book was The Prince; it was completed in late 151.

Niccolo Machiavelli was born in 146 in Florence, Italy. He was educated in Latin by Paolo da Ronciglione. He then attended the University of Florence. Between 146 and 148 not much is known about Machiavelli. In 148 the Florence government fell and new officials were elected. Machiavelli was elected into head of the second Chancery and as secretary of the Ten of War. Machiavelli’s political career came to an end in 151. In 151 Machiavelli was accused of participating in a conspiracy against the new leaders. Machiavelli was tortured and put into prison for this attack against the Government. He was later able to leave the city and resided in the country side. While living the country he wrote The Prince.

The Prince is a well written book which covered the political history of the world by revealing the strengths and weakness of the rulers or groups. Machiavelli organized his ideas on a perfect ruler into topics. Each topic was greatly explained and advice was given on each. Some of these topics include hereditary principalities; how one should govern cities or principalities that, before being conquered, used to live under their own laws; those who become rulers through wicked means; generosity and meanness; how flatterers should be shunned; and others. Machiavelli covers many areas of ruling from military standards and tactics to the reasons why a ruler should live in unstable areas.

In chapter twelve Machiavelli states, on the topic of different types of armies and mercenaries, that “Mercenaries and auxiliaries are useless and dangerous; and anyone who relies upon mercenaries to defend his territories will never have a stable or secure rule” (p 4). He believes that in order to keep your power in foreign lands you must be able to control and keep your own army and not rely on foreign armies that can quickly turn against you. To also keep power in conquered lands a ruler should destroy what was left of the previous government or make the previous rulers puppets for the ruler to control. “ There are three ways of holding them the first, to destroy their political institutions; the second, to go to live there yourself; the third, to let them continue to live under their own laws, exacting tribute and setting up an oligarchical government that will keep the state friendly towards yours” (p 17)

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I felt Machiavelli did a good job writing this book. I enjoyed reading it, mainly because I feel the same on most subjects, it kept me captivated and interested. It almost seems that he put them in order of importance but this was never announced in the book. This gives me a greater understanding of what the “ideal” ruler would be. A good ruler, under Machiavellian standards could never be because they would have to be compassionate and vicious, trustworthy but a liar, and other opposite character traits. It seemed that every other chapter was contradicting its self. But if all these traits could be acquired by one person they would be the ultimate ruler of not only that time but this one also.

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