Discourses on Livy
Upon The First Ten (Books) of Titus Livy
I send you a present which if it is not equal to the obligations that I have toward you, it is one which without doubt the best that Niccolo Machiavelli has been able to offer you. Because in it I have expressed what I know and what I have learned through a long experience and a continuing study of the things of the world. And neither you nor others being able to desire more of me, I have not offered you more. You may well complain of the poverty of my endeavor since these narrations of mine are poor, and of the fallacy of (my) judgement when I deceive myself in many parts of my discussion. Which being so, I do not know which of us should be less obligated to the other, either I to you who have forced me to write that which by myself I would not have written, or you to me that having written I have not satisfied you. Accept this, therefore, in that manner that all things are taken from friends, where always the intention of the sender is more than the quality of the thing that is sent. And believe me I obtain satisfaction from this when I think that even if I should have been deceived on many occasions, I know I have not erred on this one in having selected you, to whom above all other of my friends I address (dedicate) these Discourses; as much because in doing this it appears to me I have shown some gratitude for the benefits I have received, as well because it appears to me I have departed from the common usage of those writers, who usually (always) address (dedicate) their works to some Prince, and blinded by ambition and avarice laud him for all his virtuous qualities when they should be censuring him for all his shameful parts. Whence I, so as not to incur this error, have selected, not those who are Princes, but those who by their infinite good qualities would merit to be such; (and) not to those who could load me with rank, honors, and riches, but to those who although unable to would want to do so. For men, when they want to judge rightly, should esteem those who are generous, not those who are able to be so; and likewise those who govern a Kingdom, not those who can but have not the knowledge. And writers lauded more Hiero of Syracuse when he was a private citizen than Perseus the Macedonian when he was King, for to Hiero nothing was lacking to be a Prince than the Principality, and the other did not possess any part of the King than the Kingdom. Enjoy this, therefore, whether good or bad, that you yourselves have wanted; and if you should continue in this error that these thoughts of mine are acceptable, I shall not fail to continue the rest of the history according as I promised you in the beginning. Farewell.