Discourses on Livy/Third Book/Chapters XXIX-XXXV
THAT THE FAULTS OF THE PEOPLE ARISE FROM THE PRINCES.
Princes should not complain of any fault that is committed by the People who are under their authority, for such faults result either from their negligence or because they are stained by similar faults. And whoever discusses those people who in our time have been given to robberies and similar faults, will see that these arise entirely from those who govern them, who were of a similar nature. The Romagna, before those Lords who ruled her were crushed by Pope Alexander VI, was an example of all the most criminal life, as here a great many killings and robberies were seen to happen for any slight reason. Which resulted from the wickedness of the Princes, and not from the wicked nature of men, as was said. For those Princes being poor, but wanting to live as rich men, were forced to turn themselves to many robberies and employ various methods in doing them. And among the other dishonest means they employed, they made laws and prohibited some activities, then they were the first who give cause for their non-observance, and they never punished the non-observers except when they saw there were many others guilty of the same, and then they turned to punishing them, not from any zeal for the law which was enacted, but from the cupidity (for money) expected from commuting the penalty. Whence many evils arose; and, above all of them, that the people were impoverished without being corrected, and those who were impoverished endeavored to make good (their losses) from those less powerful. Whence all those evils sprung up that were mentioned above, of which the Prince was the cause. And that this is true, T. Livius shows when he narrates, how, when the Roman legates brought the gift of the booty of the Veienti to Apollo, they were seized by the corsairs of Lipari in Sicily, and carried to that land. And Timastheus, their Prince, learning what gift this was, where it was going, and who was sending it, conducted himself ((although born in Lipari)) as a Roman, and showed his people how impious it was to seize such a gift. So that by general consent, he allowed the Legates to go with all their things. And the words of the historians are these: Timasitheus implanted religion in the multitude, who always imitate their rulers. And Lorenzo De'Medici in confirmation of this opinion says:
And that which the Lord does, many then do,
Whose eyes are always turned on their Lord.
FOR A CITIZEN WHO WANTS TO DO SOME GOOD DEED IN HIS REPUBLIC ON HIS OWN AUTHORITY, IT IS FIRST NECESSARY TO EXTINGUISH ENVY; AND HOW THE DEFENSE OF A CITY OUGHT TO BE ORGANIZED ON THE COMING OF THE ENEMY
The Roman Senate learning that Tuscany had made new levies to come to attack Rome, and that the Latins and the Hemicians, who had been in the past friends of the Roman people, had allied themselves with the Volscians, the perpetual enemies of Rome, judged that this war would be a dangerous one. And Camillus, finding himself Tribune with consular power, thought he would be able to do without creating a Dictator, if the other Tribunes, his colleagues, would yield the supreme Command to him. Which the other Tribunes did voluntarily. Believing ((says Livius)) that this would not detract from their authority, conceded that authority to him. Whence Camillus taking this consent at its word, commanded that three armies should be raised. The first he wanted to Head and go against the Tuscans: the second, of which he made Quintus Servilius Head, he wanted kept near Rome to restrain the Latins and Hemicians if they should make a move. The third, he placed Lucius Quintus at its Head, and was to serve to keep the City guarded, (and) to defend the gates and the Curia (Senate) in any event that might arise. In addition to this, he ordered that Horatius, one of his colleagues, should provide arms and grain and all the other things requested in times of war. He placed Cornelius, also a colleague of his, in charge of the Senate and the public council, so that he should be able to counsel what actions were to be taken and executed daily. Thus were the Tribunes in those times disposed to command and obey where the safety of the country was involved. It is to be noted from this test what a good and wise man does, and of what good he is the cause, and how much usefulness he can accomplish for his country, when, by his goodness and virtu, he has extinguished envy; this, many times, is the reason that men are not able to act well, the said envy not permitting them to have that authority which is necessary to have in important events.
This envy can be extinguished in two ways: either by some extraordinary and difficult incident, where everyone seeing himself about to perish, lays aside every ambition and runs voluntarily to obey him who he believes can, by his virtu, liberate him; as happened to Camillus, who, having given many proofs (of himself) of being a most excellent man, hand having been made Dictator three times, and having always employed that rank for public usefulness and not for his own advantage, had caused men not to fear his power; and as he was as powerful as he was reputed to be, they did not esteem it a disgrace to be inferior to him. And therefore Titus Livius wisely spoke those words, Believing that this, etc. The other way of extinguishing envy is, when either by violence or by natural orders, those men die who have been your rivals in arriving at some reputation and power, and who on seeing you reputed more than they, find it impossible ever to acquiesce and remain patient. And, if there are men accustomed to live in a corrupt City, where education has not resulted in any goodness in them, it is impossible that they should be restrained by any accident: but so as to obtain their desires and satisfy their perversity of mind, they would be content to see the ruin of their country. To overcome such envy, there is no other remedy than the death of those who have it: and when fortune is so propitious to that man of virtu as to make them die naturally, he becomes glorious without trouble, and may then display his virtu without any obstacle and without offense to anyone. But when he does not have such good fortune, he must think of every way to cut them off beforehand, and before he does anything he needs to overcome this difficulty. And whoever reads the Bible attentively, will see Moses, in wanting that his laws and his orders be observed, was forced to kill an infinite number of men who opposed his designs, moved by nothing else other than envy. Brother Girolamo Savonarola recognized this very well: Pietro Soderini, Gonfalonier of Florence also recognized it. The one would not overcome it because he did not have the authority to be able to do it, and this was the Brother; but because he was not well understood by those who followed him, he did not have the authority. None the less, he did all he could, and his preachings are full of accusations and invective against the wise of the world, for he thus called the envious and those who opposed his doctrines. The other (Soderini) believed that with time, with goodness, with his good fortune, and by benefiting some, to be able to extinguish this envy; seeing himself young and with so many new favors that his method of proceeding were adding to him, he believed he could overcome the many who opposed him from envy, without any trouble, violence, and tumult: but he did not know that time cannot wait, goodness is not enough, fortune changes, and malignity does not find gifts which placate it. So that both of these men were ruined, and their ruin was caused by their not having known how or having been able to overcome this envy.
The other thing to be noted is the orders given by Camillus, both inside and outside the City, for the safety of Rome. Truly and not without reason good historians ((as is our T. Livius)) wrote distinctly and in detail of certain cases, so that future people may learn how they have to defend themselves in similar incidents. And it ought to be noted from this text that there is no more dangerous or more useless defense than that which is done tumultuously and without order. And this is shown by that third army which Camillus had raised to have in Rome to guard that City; for many had judged and still would judge this part to be superfluous, since that people were warlike and ordinarily armed, and therefore it was not necessary to raise it as it was enough to have the citizens armed when the need should arise. But Camillus, and whoever was as wise as he was, judged otherwise; for he never permitted a multitude to take up arms except with certain orders and in a certain way. And, therefore, based on this example, one in charge of guarding a City ought to avoid as a dangerous rock the arming of men tumultuously, but ought first to have enrolled and chosen those he wants armed, and whom they must obey, where are the places of assembly, and where they are to go; and to command those who are not enrolled to remain in their homes to guard them. Those who follow these orders in a City under attack, are able easily to defend themselves: those who do otherwise do not imitate Camillus, and will not be able to defend themselves.
STRONG REPUBLICS AND EXCELLENT MEN RETAIN THE SAME COURAGE AND DIGNITY IN ANY FORTUNE
Among the other admirable things that our historian has Camillus say in order to show how an excellent man ought to be constituted, he puts these words in his mouth: My Dictatorship neither gave me courage, nor did my exile diminish it. By which words it is seen how great men are always the same in any fortune; and if it should change, exalting him now, oppressing him then, he does not change but always keeps his courage, and this is joined with his way of living so that everyone easily knows that fortune does not have power over him. Weak men conduct themselves otherwise; for becoming vain and inebriated by good fortune, they attribute all the good that they obtained to that virtu which they will never know: Whence it arises that they become unbearable and odious to all those who are around them. And when there is a sudden change of fortune, as soon as they come face to face with the cause, they come quickly into that other defect, and become vile and abject. From which it happens that Princes thus constituted, in adversity, think more of fleeing than of defending themselves, like those who, for having ill used that good fortune, are unprepared for any defense (against a reverse). This virtu and this vice which I say are found in an individual, are also found in a Republic, and in example there are the Romans and the Venetians.
No ill fortune ever made the Romans become abject, nor did good fortune ever make them become insolent, as was manifestly seen after the defeat they experienced at Cannae, and after the victory they obtained against Antiochus: for this defeat, although it was most grave for having been the third one, never made them cowardly, but sent out new armies: they did not want to go against their institutions by ransoming their prisoners, nor did they send to Hannibal or Carthage to seek peace: but keeping out all these abject thoughts, they thought always of (continuing) the war, arming old men and slaves for want of men. When this thing became known to Hanno, the Carthaginian, ((as was said above)) he pointed out to that Senate how little account they (the Romans) took of the defeat at Cannae. And thus it is seen that times of difficulty did not dismay them or render them humble. On the other hand, prosperous times did not make them insolent; for when Antiochus, before they had come to the battle with them, and in which he had been defeated, sent ambassadors to Scipio seeking an accord, (and) Scipio gave him certain conditions for peace, which were that he should retire inside Syria, and leave the rest (of the country) to the control of the Romans: Which accord Antiochus refused, and coming to battle, and losing it, he again sent ambassadors to Scipio with the commission that they should accept all those conditions which were given them by the victor: to whom he (Scipio) did not propose other terms than those which he had offered before he he had won, adding these words: The Romans do not lose their courage when defeated, nor become insolent when they win.
The opposite of this was seen to be done by the Venetians, who, in good fortune ((which they seemed to think they gained by that virtu which they did not have)), had come to such insolence that they called the King of France a son of Saint Mark, they did not respect the Church, nor recognize any other (power) in Italy, and had presupposed in their minds the creation of an empire similar to the Roman one. Afterwards, when good fortune abandoned them, and they suffered a partial defeat at Vaila at the hands of the King of France, they not only lost all their State by rebellion, but, through cowardice and abjection of spirit, gave a good part (of their territory) to both the Pope and the King of Spain, and were so demoralized that they sent ambassadors and made themselves tributary to him, and wrote letters full of humility and submission to the Pope in order to move him to compassion. To which infelicity they came in four days, and after only a partial defeat; for their army, after having fought, in the retreat about half of it was attacked and beaten, so that only one of the Proveditori who saved himself, arrived in Verona with more than twenty five thousand soldiers, both horse and foot. So that if there had been any kind of virtu in Venice and in their institutions, they could easily have reorganized and shown a new face to their fortune, and would have been in time either to have won or lost more gloriously, or to have obtained a more honorable accord. But the baseness of their spirit, caused by the bad quality of their military organization, made them lose at a single blow their courage and their State. And thus it will always happen to whoever is governed as they were; for this becoming insolent in good fortune, and abject in bad, arises from your mode of procedure and from the education in which you are raised, which, when they are weak and vain makes you likewise, but when it has been otherwise, makes you also otherwise; it will make you know the world better, less joyful in good fortune, and less depressed in bad (fortune). And that which is said of an individual, is said also of the many who live in a Republic, and who will perfect themselves according to the manner in which they live there.
And although at another time it has been said that the foundation of all States is a good military organization, and that where this does not exist there cannot be any good laws or any other good thing, it does not appear superfluous to me to repeat it; for the necessity of this is seen to appear at every point in the reading of this history; and it is seen that the military organization cannot be good unless it is disciplined, and that it cannot be done unless it is composed of your subjects. For a State is not always at war, or can be: therefore it must be able to train troops in times of peace, and this cannot be done with others except subjects on account of the expense. Camillus had gone out with the army ((as we said above)) against the Tuscans, and his soldiers, having seen the size of the enemy army, were all dismayed, as they deemed themselves inferior and unable to sustain their (enemy's) attack. And this bad disposition of the troops coming to the ears of Camillus, he showed himself outside, and going about the camp, he spoke to this soldier and that one, and then without making any change in arrangements, he said: What every man has learned and is accustomed to do, let him do it. And whoever considers these circumstances well, and the words he said to reanimate them to go against the enemy, will realize that he could neither say nor do any of those things to the army, unless it had first been organized and trained both in peace and in war. For a Captain cannot trust those soldiers who have not learned to do anything or believe that they will do anything well. And if a new Hannibal were to command them, he yet would be ruined; for a Captain ((while the engagement is going on)) cannot be in every place, and unless he has first disciplined them to have the same spirit as himself, and trained them well in his method of proceeding, of necessity it must happen that he be ruined. If, therefore, a City would be armed and organized as Rome, and its citizens every day both privately and publicly are required to make a test of their virtu and the power of fortune, it will always happen that they will maintain the same courage and dignity as the Romans under similar conditions. But if they are disarmed and rely only on the vagaries of fortune, and not on their own virtu, they will change with changes of fortune, and will give of themselves the same example as the Venetians had given.
WHAT MEANS SOME HAVE HAD TO DISTURB A PEACE
Circea and Velitrae, two of her (Roman) colonies, having rebelled from the Roman people, under the hope of being defended by the Latins, and the Latins afterwards having been defeated, they were deprived of that hope, many citizens counselled that Ambassadors be sent to Rome to submit themselves to the Senate; which proceeding was disturbed by those who had been the authors of the rebellion, who feared that all the punishment would fall on their heads. And to take away all discussion of peace, they incited the multitude to arm themselves and make incursions into the confines of Rome. And truly, if anyone sees a People or a Prince abandon all idea of an accord, there is no other more sure or more effective way, than to make them commit some grave wickedness against those with whom you do not want the accord made. For the fear of that punishment which seems to them to be merited because of the error they committed will always keep them apart. After the first war that the Carthaginians fought with the Romans, those soldiers who had been employed by the Carthaginians in that war in Sicily and Sardinia, as soon as peace was made, went to Africa; where, not being satisfied with their stipend, turned their arms against the Carthaginians, and creating two chiefs for themselves, Mathus and Spendius, they occupied many towns of the Carthaginians, and sacked many of them. The Carthaginians, in order to try every other means than battle, sent their citizen Hasdrubal as an ambassador to them, thinking he should have some influence with them as he had been their Captain in the past. And when he arrived, Mathus and Spendius wanting to oblige all those soldiers never to have peace again with the Carthaginians and therefore to oblige them to make war, persuaded them it was better to kill him together with all the other Carthaginians who were their prisoners. Whereupon they not only killed them, but first tore them to pieces with a thousand torments, adding to this wickedness and edict that all Carthaginians who might be taken in the future, should be killed in similar fashion. Which decision and execution made that contest against the Carthaginians cruel and obstinate.
IN WANTING TO WIN AN ENGAGEMENT, IT IS NECESSARY TO MAKE THE ARMY HAVE CONFIDENCE BOTH IN THEMSELVES AND IN THEIR CAPTAIN
In wanting an army to win an engagement, it is necessary to make it confident so that it believes it ought to win in any circumstance. The things that make it confident are, that it be well armed and organized, and each man should know the other. Nor can this confidence or discipline result unless those soldiers are natives and live together. It is necessary also that the Captain be esteemed in a way that they have confidence in his prudence, and will always consider him so when they see him orderly, watchful, and courageous, and maintains the majesty of his rank by a good reputation: and he will always maintain it when he punishes their errors, does not fatigue then in vain, observes his promises to them, and shows them that the path to victory is easy, and conceals and makes light of those dangers which he is able to discern from afar. Which things well observed are good reasons why the army becomes confident, and being confident, wins. The Romans used to make their armies assume this confidence by way of Religion, whence it happened that they created Consuls, levied troops, sent out the armies, and came to the engagement, by the use of auguries and auspices: and without doing these things a good and wise Captain would never hazard any action, thinking he could easily lose it if his soldiers should not first have learned that the Gods were on their side. And if any Consul or other Captain had fought contrary to the auspices, they would have punished him as they punished Claudius Pulcher. And although this part is observed in all Roman histories, none the less it is most certainly proved by the words Livius put in the mouth of Appius Claudius, who, complaining to the people of the insolence of the Tribunes of the plebs, points out how, by their means, the auspices and other things pertinent to Religion were corrupted, says thusly: It pleases them now to deride religion; Do they not care if the fowl are fed, or if they come out of their cages slowly? These things are small; but small things are not to be condemned. By them our ancestors made this Republic great. For in these little things is the strength to hold the soldiers united and confident, which are the principal causes of every victory. None the less it is necessary that these things be accompanied by virtu, otherwise they are of no value.
The Praenestines, having taken the field against the Roman army, they went to encamp on the river Allia, the place where the Romans had been overcome by the Gauls. They did this in order to put confidence in their soldiers, and to frighten the Romans because of the fortune of the place. And although this proceeding of theirs was probable for those reasons that have been discovered above, none the less the way the event turned out showed that true virtu does not fear every least incident. The historian expresses this well with the words placed in the mouth of the Dictator, who speaks thusly to his Master of the horse: You see the enemy, trusting to fortune, placed on the Allia; and you, trusting to arms and valor, attack the center of their battle line. For a real virtu, a good organization, a sureness derived from so many victories, cannot be extinguished in a moment; nor does a vain thing make them fear, or a disorder injure them; as is certainly seen where the two Consuls Manlius, when they were going against the Volscians, foolishly sent part of their camp to pillage the country, it happened that at the same time, both those who had gone out and those who remained found themselves besieged; from which danger, it was not the prudence of the Consuls, but the virtu of the soldiers themselves which freed them. Whence Titus Livius says these words: The soldiers, even without a leader, were saved by their own virtu. I do not want to omit an expedient employed by Fabius, when he first entered into Tuscany with his army in order to make them confident, as he judged such confidence more necessary in leading them into a new country and against new enemies, he addressed his soldiers before the battle, and after giving them many reasons through which they could hope for victory, he said he could also tell them other good things which would make their victory certain, except that it would be dangerous to reveal them. This method so wisely used, also merits to be imitated.
WHAT FAME OR VOICE OR OPINION WHICH A PEOPLE MAKE BEGINS TO FAVOR A CITIZEN; AND WHETHER THEY DISTRIBUTE THE MAGISTRACIES WITH GREATER PRUDENCE THAN A PRINCE
At another time we have spoken of how Titus Manlius, who was afterwards called Torquatus, saved L. Manlius, his father, from an accusation that had been made against him by Marcus Pomponius, Tribune of the Plebs. And although the manner of saving him was somewhat violent and extraordinary, none the less, that filial piety toward the father was so agreeable to the general public, that not only was he not censured, but when they had to create Tribunes of the legions, T. Manlius was named to the second place. This success, I believe, should make the manner to be considered well, in which the people have to judge men in their distribution of offices, and because of this we see whether what had been concluded above is true, that the people are better distributors of offices than a Prince. I say, therefore, that the people in their distribution are guided by what is said of one by the public voice and fame, even if by his noted deeds he appears different; or by the preconceptions or opinion which are had of him. Which two things are caused either by the fathers of such men who had been great and valiant men in the City and so it was believed that the sons ought to be like them, until the contrary is found out by their deeds; or by the opinion that the speaker holds. The better means that can be employed is to have as companions serious men, of good habits, and reputed wise by everyone. And because no better index can be had of a man than the companion with whom he keeps company, and meritedly one who keeps company with honest companions acquires a good name, for it is impossible that he does not have some similitude with them. Or truly this public fame is acquired by some extraordinary and notable act, even though it may be a private matter, which has turned out honorably. And of all these three things, which in the beginning give a good reputation to one, none gives it best than this last; for the first is based on relatives and fathers, and is so fallacious, that it comes to men so slowly and in a little while is consumed if the individual virtu of that man who is to be judged does not accompany him. The second, which makes you known by way of your practices, is better then the first, but is much inferior to the third; for until some sign arising from you is seen, your reputation is founded on opinion, which is most easy to stamp out. But that third, being begun and founded on your actions, gives you such a name in the beginning that it will be necessary that you many times do contrary deeds if you want to destroy it. Men who are born in a Republic ought, therefore, to adopt this last course and endeavor to begin to elevate themselves by some extraordinary action.
This is what many of the young men did in Rome, either by promulgating a law that served some common usefulness, or by accusing some prominent citizen as a transgressor of the laws, or by doing some similar new and notable things for which he is talked about. Not only are such things necessary in order to begin to give oneself reputation, but they are also necessary to maintain and increase it. And to want to do this, it is necessary to repeat them, as Titus Manlius did in his entire lifetime; for, having defended his father so extraordinarily and with so much virtu, and because of this act acquired this original reputation, and after a few years he fought that Gaul and, killing him, took from his that chain of gold which gave him the name of Torquatus. This was not enough for him, for afterwards when he was already of mature age, he killed his own son for having fought without permission, even though he had defeated the enemy. Which three acts gave him fame at that time, and will make him more celebrated for all the centuries to come, than all the victories and all the triumphs with which he was honored, as much as any other Roman, gave him. And the reason is, that in that victory Manlius had very many rivals, but in these particular acts he did not have any or only a very few. The elder Scipio did not gain as much glory with all his triumphs as was given him by his having defended his father on the Ticino while a youth, and be having, after the defeat at Cannae, animatedly with bloody sword made many young Romans swear that they would not abandon their country, as they had already decided; which two acts were the beginning of his reputation, and made for him the ladder for the triumphs of Spain and Africa. Which opinion was also increased by him when, in Spain, he sent back a daughter to her father and a wife to her husband. Such conduct is necessary not only for those Citizens who want to acquire fame in order to obtain honors in their Republic, but is also necessary for Princes to enable them to maintain their reputation in their Principality; for nothing makes itself so esteemed as his giving some example of some rare deed or saying concerning the common good, which show the lord to be magnanimous, liberal, or just, and which is such that it becomes as a proverb among his subjects, But to return whence we begun this discussion, I say, that when the people begin to bestow a rank upon one of its Citizens, if founded on those three reasons mentioned above, it is not badly founded: but when, however, the many examples of his good conduct make him more noted, it is better founded; for in such a case they are almost never deceived. I speak only of those ranks that are given to men in the beginning, and before they are known from firm experience, and before they pass from one act to another dissimilar one. Here, both as to false opinion and corruption, the people always make smaller errors that do Princes. Although it could happen that the people might be deceived by the fame, opinions, and acts of a man, esteeming them greater than, in truth, they are; which does not happen to a Prince, for he would be told and advised of it by those who counsel him; for although the people do not lack these counsels, yet the good organizers of Republic have arranged that, when appointments have to be made to the highest offices of the City, where it would be dangerous to place inadequate men, and where it is seen that the popular will is directed toward naming some that might be inadequate, it be allowed to every citizen, and it should be imputed to his glory, to make public in the assemblies to defects of that one (named for public office), so that the people ((lacking knowledge of him)) can better judge. And that such was the custom in Rome is witnessed by the speech of Fabius Maximus which he made to the people in the second Punic war, when in the creation of consuls their favors turned to the creation of T. Otacilius: and Fabius judging him inadequate to govern in the Consulship in those times, spoke against him and turned the favor of the people to one who merited it more than he. The people, therefore, in the election of Magistrates judge according to the best evidence that they can obtain, and err less than Princes: and the Citizen who desires to begin to obtain the favor of the people ought to gain it for himself ((as T. Manlius did)) by some notable deed.
WHAT DANGERS OCCUR IN MAKING ONESELF HEAD IN COUNSELLING A THING, AND HOW MUCH THE DANGER INCREASES WHEN IT IS AN EXTRAORDINARY THING
It would be too lengthy and important a matter to discuss here what a dangerous thing it is to make oneself Head of a new thing which relates to many people, and how difficult it is to direct and achieve it, and having achieved it to maintain it: reserving it to a more convenient place, therefore, I will speak only of those dangers that Citizens are exposed to in counselling a Prince to make himself head of a grave and important decision in such a manner that the entire counsel given him is imputed to him. For as men judge a matter by its result, all the evil that may result is imputed to the author of the counsel, but if the result is good he is commended, but the reward does not counterbalance by far the punishment. The present Sultan Selim, called the Grand Turk, having prepared himself ((according to what was reported by some who came from his country)) to make an enterprise against Syria and Egypt, was advised by one of his Pashas whom he had stationed at the borders of Persia, to go against the Sofi (Shah): motivated by this counsel, he went on that enterprise with a very large army, and having arrived in that very large country where there are great deserts and rivers are rare, and finding those same difficulties that had already caused the ruin of many Roman armies, was so overwhelmed by them that ((even though he had been superior in the war)) he lost a great part of his forces by famine and pestilence. So that angered against the author of the counsel, he killed him. You will read of many Citizens having been advisors (in favor) of an enterprise, and because that resulted badly, they were sent into exile. Some Roman Citizens advised that in creating Chiefs, that Plebs should be made Consuls in Rome. It happened that the first who went in the field with an army was defeated, whence harm would have come to those counsellors if that party, in whose honor that particular decision had been made, had not been so powerful. It is a most certain thing, therefore, that those who counsel a Republic and those who counsel a Prince, are placed between these two hazards; that if they do not counsel the things which appear to them useful either to the Prince or to the City (Republic) without regard (to the consequences to themselves), they fail in their office: if they do counsel it, they do so at the peril of their lives and their States; for all men are blind in these things, and are accustomed to judge the good or evil of a counsel by its result.
And in thinking of how they may be able to avoid this infamy or danger, no other way is seen than to take things moderately, and not to undertake any as one's own enterprise, and to give an opinion without passion, and without passion to defend it modestly: so that if the Princes or the City follows it, they do so voluntarily and does not appear as though they were drawn into it by your importunity. When you act thusly, it is not reasonable that a Prince or a People will wish you ill because of your counsel, as it was not followed against the wishes of the many. For here the danger arises when it is contradicted by many, who then, when the result is unhappy, come "together in causing your ruin. And, if in such a case that glory is lacking which is acquired in being alone against the many in counselling a thing which chances to have good ending, yet there are two benefits which result: The first, danger is avoided: The second, that if you counsel a thing modestly, and because of contradiction your counsel is not taken, but ruin results from the counsel of others, you will obtain a very great glory. And although you cannot enjoy the glory that is acquired from the misfortune that happens to your City or your Prince, none the less it is to be held of some account.
I do not believe other advice can be given to men in this case, for in counselling them to remain silent and not speak their opinion, would be a useless thing to the Republic or to their Princes, and they would not avoid danger as in a little while they would become suspect: and it could happen to them as to those friends of Perseus, King of the Macedonians, who, when he was defeated by Paulus Emilius, having fled with a few friends, it happened that, in discussing the past events, one of them begun to tell Perseus of the many errors committed by him which had been the cause of his ruin; to which Perseus, turning to him, said: Traitor, you have waited to tell me this until now when I no longer have a remedy; and upon these words he killed him with his own hands: and thus this man suffered the punishment for having been silent when he should have spoken, and to have spoken when he should have been silent, and he did not avoid the danger by not having given his counsel. I believe, therefore, that the course mentioned above is the one to be held and observed.