A prince has many rules for his people. It is his personal doctrine to set examples for others andinfluence their lesser hearts to do as a prince says. But when will this personal doctrine apply to one’sown mind, especially that of a prince? Such a ruler must set standards for himself, a necessaryguideline for how his superlative mind works. If he can not reason with himself, then how will heestablish the ideals to which his people must follow? Standing as Lorenzo De Medici’s advisor, mycounsel should be taken thoughtfully by him, which is why it is considerably important to relayMachiavelli’s enlightenment as acutely and straightforward as one can be with such a ruler. Manyquestions have arose from him after reading the treatise on how one should rule, and it is my job ingood counsel to provide these answers to Medici. My opinion is to be delivered on the speculationwhether a king should be loved or feared, kind or ruthless, or care about his demeanor and presence tohis people.
All such questions can be answered with my knowledge of Machiavelli’s theories.Perhaps the greatest debate among rulers, is whether they choose to be loved or feared, or if theyassume the hate they bring on others will amount to their reception of love from their subjects. Thechoices are endless for princes and kings alike, whether to let their guard down, and show kindness andvulnerability when addressing their citizens and enemies, or to be ruthless and cruel, keeping everyonewary in their presence. Machiavelli writes “it is better to be feared than loved,” (Chapter 17). Theseideals seem to come from the assumption that losing the ability to make others fall at your knees toanswer your whim, will be accompanied with losing any ounce of respect a subject presumably shouldhave for such a great ruler as yourself. In war-like terms, a ruler must set aside a good relation with alower individual, in order to maintain the presence of a highly respected authority figure. The morale ofthis ideology, is if you can not be feared and loved, it is better to be feared than loved.
Machiavelliproclaims the importance of how little the two often coexist, and rulers will be faced with a impactfulchoice. While Machiavelli often praises some cruel intentions of rulers, he often stresses the balance ofthe two, as one may attempt to have both sparring inclinations. The issue however, is that when givenlove, the subjects will return it to the prince, but in times of struggle, the prince’s men will desert himdue to their fickle and greedy nature.Contrary to Machiavelli’s beliefs in the ruthless perspective of a prince, a lighter morecompromised approach is used when describing the traits that amount to an honest leader. Machiavelliwrites that while it “praiseworthy” for a ruler “to be straightforward rather than crafty in his dealings,”(chapter 18), but still demonstrates that successful princes give “their word lightly,” (chapter 18).Machiavelli again emphasizes that princes are held to a moral standard that reverses the typicaldistinction between virtues and vices.
Wise rulers will seek to develop their cunning and intellect,which can form a crucial aspect of their prowess. Rulers must not shirk from breaking promises when itis necessary. Machiavelli states that the modern rulers “who have achieved great things” were thosewho knew how “to trick men with their cunning,” triumphing over those who clung to “honestprinciples,” (Chapter 18).A reputation for generosity, especially among rulers is usually favored, but developing it can bedangerous. Generosity exercised in truly virtuous ways is never seen by others, so if you wish to bethought of as a virtuous ruler, you must portray an exuberant public display, Machiavelli claims. Tosupport this principle, if a prince should raise taxes and collect money from his subjects as a concept ofdeveloping social standard and order, “he will soon squander all his resources,” (Chapter 16). He caneither choose to be leeching and hated, or poor and despised. Therefore, a prudent prince will “notmind being called a miser.
” His “parsimony” will be eventually seen as generosity. (Chapter 16).Machiavelli does not associate true generosity with having a negative outcome, but rather being anunnoticed waste if not seen. A prince must be concerned with how he is seen by his people, but manytimes this is not in a true effort to please them, but to satisfy their needs with feeding their unknowndesires at times.
But “above all, a prince should avoid being despised and hated,” (Chapter 18).Despite the conflict between opposing views in Machiavelli’s philosophy, these unequivocalprinciples should be referred to when a prince may be making both commonplace and controversialdecisions alike. While these leaders may face tedious backlash for their callous and sometimesinsensitive actions, Machiavelli claims a ruler who wants to secure his position “must be prepared tonot to be virtuous, and to make use of this or not according to need,” (Chapter 15). Machiavelli’s valuesin The Prince consist of the contrast between praising the likes of the generosity-based campaign ofPope Julius II, and the relentless and acute battle strategies used against foes, that were implemented byHannibal the great war general. As these prominent figures show, leaders acquire power in differentways, and exercise their approaches further after this power is required. To what point will a princeexhaust his last measure in a grasp at leverage and authority? Will his or his subject’s morality betossed to the wind and ignored, only to see the pieces of his legacy squandered? Machiavelli’sphilosophies in The Prince serve as an ethical influence on politics, and can be justified by ourubiquitous need for human decency.
As Machiavelli states, “He who neglects what is done for whatought to be done, sooner effects his ruin than his preservation,”