might be, without some measure of popularity success would be an impossibility. "I reckon unhappy those princes who, to secure their State, are obliged to employ extraordinary methods, having the many for their enemies; for he who has the few for his enemies, readily and without serious difficulties secures himself; but he who has for enemy the whole people never secures himself, and, the more cruel he is, the weaker his rule becomes. So the best remedy within his reach is to try to make friends with the people." To win popularity and yet to conduct a thorough reform might seem hopeless; but Machiavelli found a solution of the difficulty in the blind ignorance of the people, who may easily be deluded by the appearances of liberty. "He who desires or intends to reform the government of a city must, if this reform is to be accepted and carried on with general approval, retain at least the semblance of the ancient methods, lest it should appear to the people that their constitution has changed, although in reality the new institutions are entirely different from the old; for the mass of mankind is fed with appearances as much as with realities; indeed, men are frequently more stirred by what seems than by what is." Populus vult decipi et decipiatur. There will, of course, be some few men who cannot be cheated; the new prince must not hesitate to kill them. "When men individually, or a whole city together offend against the State, a prince for a warning to others and for his own safety has no other remedy than to exterminate them; for the prince, who fails to chastise an offender so that he cannot offend any more, is reckoned an ignoramus or a coward." Elsewhere the language is even more explicit: "he who is dead cannot think about revenging himself." But such violence would only be necessary in the early stages of a reformer's career, and a wise prince will so manage that the odium shall fall on his subordinates; he may thus secure a reputation for clemency, and in any case all cruelty must be finished at one stroke, and not subsequently repeated at intervals. Such a course would be less obnoxious than to confiscate property, for men would sooner lose their relatives than forfeit their money. Dead friends may sometimes be forgotten; the memory of lost possessions always survives.
It is clear that the task of a reformer, as Machiavelli understood it, would require a very unusual combination of gifts and qualities. It appeared unlikely that any one could be found with the ability and the will to act without reference to traditional standards, and without concession to the ordinary feelings of humanity. Machiavelli was not blind to the difficulties of the case. It had, first, a moral and an emotional side. Whoever was to accomplish the salvation of Italy must be ready to sacrifice his private convictions and to ignore the rights of conscience. The methods which Machiavelli advocated were, he readily admitted, opposed to the life of a Christian, perhaps even to the life of a human being. Were the morally good to be set side by side with the morally evil, no one would ever be so mad or so wicked,