Chapter 19 of the Prince Simplified

One Should Avoid Being Hated And Despised Icon

September 22, 2021

How can a prince avoid being hated or despised?

If he can succeed with this, then:

  • he will have done the best he can, and
  • he need not fear any danger in other criticisms.

He will be hated the most if he:

  • is greedy
  • exploits the property and women of his subjects

And so he must avoid doing this.

The majority of men live happily when neither their property nor their honour is threatened28. The prince has only to deal with the ambition of a few, whom he can easily control in many ways.

A prince is despised if he is:

  • changeable
  • foolish
  • weak
  • mean
  • uncertain

A prince should avoid these characteristics.

He should try to show:

  • greatness
  • courage
  • seriousness
  • strength

In his private dealings with his subjects, he should show that his judgments must be followed. He should maintain himself with such a reputation that no one can hope either:

  • to deceive him or
  • to get round him

A prince who shows these good qualities will be highly respected. It will be difficult to attack him. This is why a prince should have two fears:

  1. One from within, on account of his subjects
  2. One from outside, on account of external powers.

From the latter he is defended by being:

  • well armed and
  • having good friends
    • If he is well armed he will have good friends.

Affairs will always remain quiet within, when they are quiet outside, unless they have been already disturbed by conspiracy. Even if affairs outside are disturbed, if he has carried out his preparations and has lived as I have said, as long as he does not despair, he will resist every attack.

How to Guard Against Conspiracy

But when affairs outside are disturbed, he only has to fear that his subjects will conspire secretly.

A prince can easily secure himself from this:

  • by avoiding being hated and despised, and
  • by keeping the people satisfied with him.

It is extremely important for him to do this. One of the most effective remedies against conspiracies is not to be hated and despised by the people. Any conspirator always expects to please the people by the prince’s removal.

But when the conspirator offends the people, he will not have the courage for conspiracy because his difficulties will be infinite. There have been many conspiracies, but few have been successful.

A conspirator cannot act alone. His only companions are those whom he believes to be dissatisfied. As soon as you have opened your mind to a dissatisfied person, you have given him the material with which to satisfy himself, because by informing on you he can look for every advantage.

So, because of the certain gains from informing and the uncertain gains and certain dangers from conspiring, he must be a very true friend, or a thoroughly determined enemy of the prince, to keep faith with you.

The conspirator only has:

  • fear
  • jealousy
  • the prospect of punishment.

The prince has:

  • the power of the principality
  • the laws
  • the protection of friends
  • the state to defend him.

If we add to all these things the popular support of the people, conspiracies would be foolish.

I will give an example.

Annibale Bentivogli

Annibale Bentivogli was prince in Bologna (grandfather of the present Annibale).

He was murdered by the Canneschi, who had conspired against him. All but one of his family, a very young child called Giovanni, were killed.

Immediately after Annibale was killed, the people rose and murdered all the Canneschi. This sprung from the popular love which the house of Bentivogli enjoyed in those days in Bologna. This love was so great that after the death of Annibale, the Bolognese asked the last living adult Bentivogli in Florence to rule Bologna, even though he was the son of a poor worker.

It was ruled by him until the surviving child, Giovanni, was old enough to take over the government.29

This is why a prince should not worry about conspiracies when his people love and respect him. But when the people are hostile towards him, he should fear everything and everybody.

Well-ordered states and wise princes have taken every care to keep the nobles happy, and to keep the people satisfied and contented, for this is one of the most important goals a prince can have.

Parliament

France is among the best ordered and governed kingdoms of our times. It has many good institutions on which the liberty and security of the king depends. Of these, the first is the parliament and its authority.

A king knows the boldness and ambition of the nobility. He realizes the need to control them.

He also knows the fearful hatred of the people against the nobles and the need to protect the people. However, he did not want this to be the king’s responsibility. Therefore, to take away the criticism which the king would face from the nobles for favouring the people and from the people for favouring the nobles, he set up the parliament. It could beat down the great and favour the lesser without the king being blamed.

From this, one can draw another important conclusion, that princes should:

  • leave affairs which may upset some people to the management of others, and
  • keep those which will make people happy in their own hands.

A prince should take care of the nobles, but not so as to make himself hated by the people.

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