Niccolò Machiavelli, The Prince: Detailed suggestion by Machiavelli to the Prince

The prince of Machiavelli consists of 26 chapters which lend themselves to three divisions.

 Division I represents a general introduction and discusses various forms of absolute government

 Division II denounces the then current system of mercenary troops and pleads for the establishment of a
national army.
 Division III contains the substance of Machiavelli’s philosophy. It gives a number of rules for the guidance of the
prince, especially the ‘new prince’ i.e. one who was a usurper or a leader of men who had seized a state with
force or craft.

The Prince of Machiavelli is neither an academic treatise nor a book on political science as such. It is ‘real politic’.
It is a memorandum on the art of government and of political success prepared by the ex-secretary of Florence. It
deals with the mechanics of government. It is pragmatic in character and gives the technique of successful rulership.
The whole argument of the Prince is based on two premises, borrowed mainly from Aristotle.
 One of these is that the state is the highest form of human association and the most indispensable instrument
for the promotion of human welfare and it is by merging ‘himself in the state that an individual maintains the
state and thereby finds his full fruition, his best self. Considerations of the welfare of the state must, therefore,
outweigh any considerations of individual or group welfare.
 The second premise is that material self is the most potent of motive forces in individual and public action. The
art of government, therefore, lies in the intelligent and unflinching pursuit by the ruler of his self-interest
regardless o ethical considerations. Machiavelli almost identifies the state with the ruler.


 To Machiavelli, as to the ancient Greeks, virtue in a prince which excelled in bringing success and power and
these were cunning, deceit and ruthlessness.
 Chapter XVIII of the Prince gives Machiavelli’s idea of the virtues which a successful prince must possess:
 Integrity may be theoretically better than collusion but cunning and subtlety are often very useful. The two
means of success are law and force.
 A prince must combine in himself the rational and the brutal, the latter in turn representing a judicious
combination of the lion and the fox.
 A prince must play the fox and act the hypocrite to disguise his real motives and inclinations.
 To Machiavelli the preservation of the state was the raison d’etre of monarchy. A prince must regard his
neighbors as likely enemies and keep on guard.
 A clever prince will realize the internal unity of his state not by surrendering his powers to the people but by
establishing thorough-going despotism.
 Economic motives being the mainspring of human conduct, a prince must do all he can to keep his subjects
materially contented. A prince might execute a conspirator but should not confiscate his property, for
confiscation would be more seriously taken notice of by the affected family then the execution.
 A prince held Machiavelli must be free from emotional disturbances but must be ready and capable of taking
advantage of the emotions of other people.
 He must be a cool and calculating opportunist. He must oppose evil by evil. In the interests of the state he must
be ready to sin boldly.
 He must be of unshakeable purpose and dead to every sentiment except love for his state which he must save
even at the cost of his own soul.
 It was always wrong for an individual to tell a lie but sometimes necessary and good for the ruler to do so in the
interests of the state.
 He must not allow himself to be weighed down by any puerile considerations of justice or injustice, good or bad,
right or wrong, mercy or cruelty, honor or dishonor in matters of state.
 Subtlety is often useful in public affairs. Dishonesty is the best policy.
 The fact is that Machiavelli conceived of himself as a physician of the state. He was concerned not with the
ethics of his patient’s public actions but only with the means of maintaining his patient i.e. the state in a
condition of good vigor and prosperity regardless of what this vigor was to be used for.
 To Machiavelli it was clear that the interests of the state justified everything. The end of justified the means.
Public necessity knew no law.
 State actions were not to be judged by individual ethics. Machiavelli prescribes a double standard of conduct for
the ruler and for individual citizens on the basis that the ruler is a creator of law as also of morality for moral
obligations must ultimately be derived from and sustained by law. As such he is above both.
 It will be the ruin of the state if the ruler’s public actions relating to problems of external and internal security of
the state were to be weighed down by individual ethics.
 The state has no ethics. It is an un-ethical entity. The rightness or wrongness of a state action was to be judged
merely by its results.
Relation with other states:
 The prince should aim at acquisition and extension of his princely powers and territories. If he fails to do this, he
is bound to perish.
 For this he should always regard his neighboring states as enemies and remain always prepared to attack them
at some weak moments of theirs. For this he must have a well-trained citizens’ soldiery. A good army of soldiers
are in reality the essence of princely strength.
 Mercenary soldiers should be rid of, as they may become the cause of lawlessness. Such bands of hired
hooligans would be ready to fight for the largest pay and could not be faithful to anyone. This could shake the
authority of the Prince; therefore, the Prince must possess a nationalized standing army of soldiers at his

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