Page:Cambridge Modern History Volume 1.djvu/243

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commonwealths; so also is their neglect the cause of ruin. For where the fear of God is wanting, a kingdom must either go to ruin, or be supported by the fear of a Prince as compensating for the lost influences of religion.—Rulers of a commonwealth or kingdom ought to preserve the existing foundations of religion; if they do this, it will be easy for them to keep their State religious, and consequently virtuous and united." A politician is not called upon to examine the truth or the absolute value of religion; in some cases it may even be incumbent upon a prince to protect a form of religion which he believes to be false; and thus religious toleration would rest, in the first instance, upon a secular sanction. The ruler must be careful to preserve his intellectual balance, and to allow neither religion nor sentiment to intrude inappropriately. Politics and paternosters are distinct. If the auspices are unfavourable, they must be set aside. On the other hand no ceremonies and no creed can of themselves secure success. "The belief that if you remain idle on your knees, God will fight for you in your own despite, has ruined many kingdoms and many States. Prayers are, indeed, necessary; and he is downright mad who forbids the people their ceremonies and devotions. For from them it seems that men reap union and good order, and upon these depend prosperity and happiness. Yet let no man be so silly as to believe that, if his house falls about his head, God will save it without any other prop; for he will die beneath the ruins." When the supports of law and of religion collapse, a State is approaching its dissolution. It is possible, indeed, that a reformer may be equal to the work of regeneration; but on the other hand it is "very easy for a reformer never to arise." Under such conditions abnormal methods find their justification; recourse must be had to "extraordinary remedies" and "strong medicines"; the diseased members must be cut away, to prolong, though but for a season, the life of a State.

Such, in broad outline, were the chief views of Machiavelli concerning the nature of man and the general movement of history, separated from the limitations of any particular time and place. At first sight they might perhaps appear visionary, remote, unreal; vitiated in some degree by ambiguities in the meaning of the terms employed and by hasty generalisation; academic in character, and out of relation to the storm and stress of a reawakening world. This impression would be only partially true. Machiavelli, living at a period of transition, endeavoured, in the presence of an unusual problem, to push beyond its barriers, and to fix the relations of what was local and temporal to the larger and more universal laws of political societies in general. It was only by enlarging the area of analysis, and embracing the wider questions of history and ethics, that it was possible to frame a scientific basis on which to erect the structure of practical politics. The theoretical foundation was essential. Interest was naturally most largely centred in that portion of his works which was the most unusual; but in reality