Page:History of Freedom.djvu/256

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VII


INTRODUCTION TO L. A. BURD'S EDITION OF IL PRINCIPE BY MACHIAVELLI


Mr. Burd has undertaken to redeem our long inferiority in Machiavellian studies, and it will, I think, be found that he has given a more completely satisfactory explanation of The Prince than any country possessed before. His annotated edition supplies all the solvents of a famous problem in the history of Italy and the literature of politics. In truth, the ancient problem is extinct, and no reader of this volume will continue to wonder how so intelligent and reasonable a man came to propose such flagitious counsels. When Machiavelli declared that extraordinary objects cannot be accomplished under ordinary rules, he recorded the experience of his own epoch, but also foretold the secret of men since born. He illustrates not only the generation which taught him, but the generations which he taught, and has no less in common with the men who had his precepts before them than with the Viscontis, Borgias, and Baglionis who were the masters he observed. He represents more than the spirit of his country and his age. Knowledge, civilisation, and morality have increased; but three centuries have borne enduring witness to his political veracity. He has been as much the exponent of men whom posterity esteems as of him whose historian writes: "Cet homme que Dieu, après l'avoir fait si grand, avait fait bon aussi, n'avait rien de la vertu." The authentic interpreter of Machiavelli, the Commentarius Perpetuus of the Discorsi and The Prince, is the whole of later history

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