Today’s installment concludes The Rise And Fall Of The Borgias,
our selection from The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli published in 1532.
If you have journeyed through all of the installments of this series, just one more to go and you will have completed a selection from the great works of three thousand words. Congratulations!
Previously in The Rise And Fall Of The Borgias.
Alexander VI died five years after he had first unsheathed his sword. He left his son nothing firmly established but the single state of Romagna. All his other conquests were absolutely visionary, as he was not only enclosed between two hostile and powerful armies, but was himself attacked by a mortal disease. The Duke, however, possessed so much ability and courage, was so well acquainted with the arts either of gaining or ruining others as it suited his purpose, and so strong were the foundations he had laid in that short space of time, that if he had either been in health or not distressed by those two hostile armies, he would have surmounted every difficulty.
As a proof of the soundness of the foundation he had laid, Romagna continued faithful to him and was firm to his interest for above a month afterward. Although the Baglioni, the Vitelli, and the Ursini all came to Rome at that time, yet — half dead as he was — they feared to attempt anything against him. If he could not elect a pope of his own choice, he was at least able to prevent the election of one unfriendly to his interests. If he had been in health when Alexander died, he would have succeeded in all his designs; for he said, the very day that Julius II was elected, that he had foreseen every obstacle which could arise on the death of his father, and had prepared adequate remedies, but that he could not foresee that at the time of his father’s death his own life would be in such imminent hazard. 
[1 On August 18, 1503, he and his father drank, by mistake, a poison which they had presumably prepared for one of their guests. The father died, and Borgia’s life was for a time in extreme danger.]
Upon a thorough review of the Duke’s conduct and actions, I cannot reproach him with having omitted any precaution; and I feel that he merits being proposed as a model to all who by fortune or foreign arms succeed in acquiring sovereignty. For as he had a great spirit and vast designs, he could not have acted otherwise in his circumstances; and if he miscarried in them, it was solely owing to the sudden death of his father, and the illness with which he was himself attacked. Whoever, therefore, would secure himself in a new principality against the attempts of enemies, and finds it necessary to gain friends; to surmount obstacles by force of cunning; to make himself beloved and feared by the people, respected and obeyed by the soldiery; to destroy all those who can or may oppose his designs; to promulgate new laws in substitution of old ones; to be severe, indulgent, magnanimous, and liberal; to disband an army on which he cannot rely, and raise another in its stead; to preserve the friendship of kings and princes, so that they may be ever prompt to oblige and fearful to offend — such a one, I say, cannot have a better or more recent model for his imitation than is afforded by the conduct of Borgia.
One thing blamable in his actions occurred on the election of Julius II to the pontificate. He could not nominate the prelate whom he wished, but he had it in his power to exclude anyone whom he disliked. He ought therefore never to have consented to the election of one of those cardinals whom he had formerly injured, and who might have reason to fear him after his election; for mankind injure others from motives either of hatred or fear. Among others whom he had injured were St. Peter ad Vincula Colonna, St. George, and Ascanius. All the other candidates for the pontificate had cause to fear him except the Cardinal of Rouen and the Spanish cardinals — the latter were united to him by family connections — and the Cardinal d’Amboise, who was too powerfully supported by France to have reason to fear him.
The Duke ought by all means to have procured the election of a Spaniard, or, in case of failure, should have consented to the proposal of the Archbishop of Rouen, but on no account to the nomination of St. Peter ad Vincula. It is an error to think that new obligations will extinguish the memory of former injuries in the minds of great men. The Duke therefore in this election committed a fault which proved the occasion of his utter ruin .
[2 Within thirteen months he lost all his sovereignties, and was imprisoned, but escaped to Spain, where he was killed in the attack on Viana in 1507.]
This ends our series of passages on The Rise And Fall Of The Borgias by Niccolo Machiavelli from his book The Prince published in 1532. This blog features short and lengthy pieces on all aspects of our shared past. Here are selections from the great historians who may be forgotten (and whose work have fallen into public domain) as well as links to the most up-to-date developments in the field of history and of course, original material from yours truly, Jack Le Moine. – A little bit of everything historical is here.
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