Page:Cambridge Modern History Volume 1.djvu/241

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of a State, and render it the prey of a stronger neighbour; but if any people could possess adequate recuperative power, the circular movement might continue for ever: "a State would be able to revolve for an indefinite period from government to government." Considering the inherent defects of each of these constitutional forms, Machiavelli accorded unreservedly a theoretical preference to a "mixed" government, while rejecting it as practically unsuited to the condition of Italy in his own day.

The next step was to consider, how this tendency to become corrupt and, ultimately, extinct, made itself manifest in a State; what were the symptoms of decay and what the more immediate causes which determined it; and, lastly, what were the methods by which the process of national dissolution might be, at least temporarily, arrested. Machiavelli furnished an answer by a reference to a primitive bias of human nature, a congenital failing in all men. Power breeds appetite; no rulers are ever satisfied; no one has ever reached a position from which he has no desire to advance further. "Ambition is so powerful in the hearts of men that, to whatever height they rise, it never leaves them. The reason is, that nature has created men so that they can desire everything, but they cannot get everything; thus, as the desire is always in excess of the power of gratifying it, the result is that they are discontented and dissatisfied with what they possess. Hence arise the vicissitudes of their fortunes; for as some desire to have more, and some fear to lose what they have already, enmities and wars ensue, which lead to the ruin of one country and the rise of another.—That which more than anything else throws down an empire from its loftiest summit is this: the powerful are never satisfied with their power. Hence it happens that those who have lost are ill-contented and a disposition is aroused to overthrow those who come off victors. Thus it happens that one rises and another dies; and he who has raised himself is for ever pining with new ambition or with fear. This appetite destroys States; and it is the more extraordinary that, while everyone recognises this fault, no one avoids it." The primary impulse towards evil thus comes from within the ruler: the direction in which political changes tend is not determined by the progress of general enlightenment among the citizens, by the growth of new ideas, or by the development of new needs in a country. Machiavelli deemed the individual supreme: a "new prince," like the Greek νομοθέτης, brought into existence an artificial structure, formed on arbitrary lines, and called a State: under this his subjects had to live. He also by his personal and individual failings led the way to ruin. On the other hand, having regard rather to the general body of citizens than to their rulers, Machiavelli believed, like Bacon, that wars were necessary as a national tonic; peace is disruptive and enervating; "war and fear" produce unity. So long as a community continued young, all would be well; but "virtue produces peace, peace idleness, idleness disorder, disorder ruin.—Virtue