Chapter 10

How The Strength Of All Principalities Should Be Measured Icon

September 25, 2021

Should a prince have so much power to support himself with his own resources?

Or should he always need the assistance of others?

I define:

  • the self-reliant as those who have plenty of men or money to raise an army sufficient to join battle for defense.
  • the dependent as those who always are forced to defend themselves by sheltering behind walls.
    • Dependent princes should provision and strengthen their towns, and not on try to defend the countryside. Whoever protects his town well, and has managed the other concerns of his subjects in the way stated above, will never be attacked without great caution.

Men are not eager for actions where the difficulties can be clearly seen, and it will be seen to not be an easy thing to attack one who has his town well protected, and who is not hated by his people.

The German cities are absolutely free. They own little of the country around them. They yield obedience to the king when it suits them. They do not fear this or any power they may have near them, because they are protected in such a way that every one thinks the taking of them by direct attack would be drawn out and difficult.

They have proper ditches and walls, they have sufficient large guns and they always keep enough supplies in public store houses for one year’s eating, drinking, and fighting.

Beyond this, to keep the people quiet and without loss to the state, they always have the means of giving work to the community in those labours that are the life and strength of the city, and through the pursuit of which the people are supported. They also value military exercises, and moreover have many laws to support these exercises. Therefore, a prince who has a strong city, and who has not made himself hated, will not be attacked.

If any one does attack, he will only be driven off in defeat. Because the affairs of this world are so changeable, it is almost impossible to keep an army for a whole year in the field without being interfered with. And whoever should reply= “If the people have property outside the city, and see it burnt, they will not remain patient, and the long attack and self-interest will make them forget their prince”. To this I answer that a powerful and courageous prince will overcome all such difficulties by giving at one time hope to his subjects that the evil will not be for long, and at another time encouraging fear of the cruelty of the enemy.

At the same time he should deal appropriately with those subjects who seem to him to speak out too much.

Furthermore, the enemy would naturally immediately on their arrival burn and ruin the country at the time when the spirits of the people are still hot and ready for the defence. Therefore, so much the less should the prince hesitate; because after a time, when spirits have cooled, the damage is already done, and there is no longer any remedy. Thus the people are at that time much more ready to unite with their prince, because he appears to owe them a favour now that their houses have been burnt and their possessions ruined in his defence.

This is because it is in the nature of men to be bound by the benefits they confer as much as by those they receive. Therefore, if everything is well considered, it will not be difficult for a wise prince to keep the minds of his citizens strong and loyal from first to last when he continues to support and defend them.

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