The Prince

Niccolò Machiavelli

One change always leaves a dovetail into which another will fit.

Men, thinking to better themselves, are always ready to change masters, and in this expectation will take up arms against any ruler; wherein they deceive themselves, and find afterwards by experience that they are worse off than before.

Enemies who remain, although vanquished, in their own homes, have power to hurt.

War is not to be avoided, but is only postponed to the advantage of the other side.

Time, driving all things before it, may bring with it evil as well as good.

He who is the cause of another's greatness is himself undone, since he must work either by address or force, each of which excites distrust in the person raised to power.

For since men in the most part follow in the footsteps and imitate the actions of others, and yet are unable to adhere exactly to those paths which others have taken, or attain to the virtues of those whom they would resemble, the wise man should always follow the roads that have been trodden by the great, and imitate those who have most excelled, so that if he cannot reach their perfection, he may at least acquire something of its savor.

While it was their opportunities that made these men fortunate, it was their own merit that enabled them to recognize these opportunities and turn them to account.

They who come to the Princedom by virtuous paths, acquire with difficulty, but keep with ease.

There is no more delicate matter to take in hand, nor more dangerous to conduct, nor more doubtful in success, than to set up as a leader in the introduction of changes. For he who innovates will have for his enemies all those who are well off under the existing order of things, and only lukewarm supporters in those who might be better off under the new. This lukewarm temper arises partly from the fear of adversaries who have the laws on their side, and partly from the incredulity of mankind, who will never admit the merit of anything new, until they have seen it proved by the event. The result, however, is that whenever the enemies of change make an attack, they do so with all the zeal of partisans, while the others defend themselves so feebly as to endanger both themselves and their cause.

All armed Prophets have been victorious, and all unarmed Prophets have been destroyed.

They who from a private station become Princes by mere good fortune, do so with little trouble, but have much trouble to maintain themselves… Such Princes are wholly dependent on the favor and fortunes of those who have made them great, than which supports none could be less stable or secure; and they lack both the knowledge and the power that would enable them to maintain their position.

He who does not lay his foundations at first, may, if he be of great parts, succeed in laying them afterwards, though with inconvenience to the builder and risk to the building.

Men must either be conciliated or crushed.

He deceives himself who believes that with the great, recent benefits cause old wrongs to be forgotten.

Injuries should be inflicted all at once, that their ill savor being less lasting may the less offend; whereas, benefits should be conferred little by little, that so they may be more fully relished.

The people desire not the domineered over or oppressed by the nobles, while the nobles desire to oppress and domineer over the people.

He who holds his State by means of mercenary troops can never be solidly or securely seated. For such troops are disunited, ambitious, insubordinate, treacherous, insolent among friends, cowardly before foes, and without fear of God or faith with man. Whenever they are attacked defeat follows; so that in peace you are plundered by them, in war by your enemies. And this because they have no tie or motive to keep them in the field beyond their paltry pay, in return for which it would be too much to expect them to give their lives.

The ruler is not truly wise who cannot discern evils before they develop themselves, and this is a faculty given to few.

From want of foresight men make changes which relishing well at first do not betray their hidden venom.

It may be a good thing to be reputed liberal, but, nevertheless, that liberality, without the reputation of it is hurtful; because, though it not be worthily and rightly used, still if it be not known, you escape not the reproach of its opposite vice.

There is no quality so self-destructive as liberality; for while you practice it you lose the means whereby it can be practiced, and become poor and despised, or else, to avoid poverty, you become rapacious and hated.

To be liberal with the property of others does not take from your reputation, but adds to it.

Is it better to be loved rather than feared, or feared rather than loved? It might perhaps be answered that we should wish to be both; but since love and fear can hardly exist together, if we must choose between them, it is far safer to be feared than loved.

Men are less careful how they offend him who makes himself loved than him who makes himself feared.

Men will sooner forget the death of their father than the loss of their patrimony.

Unreflecting writers, indeed, while they praise his achievements, have condemned the chief cause of them.

A wise Prince should build on what is his own, and not on what rests with others.

A prudent Prince neither can nor ought to keep his word when to keep it is hurtful to him and the causes which led him to pledge it are removed.

It is well to seem merciful, faithful, humane, religious, and upright, and also to be so; but the mind should remain so balanced that were it needful not to be so, you should be able and know how to change to the contrary.

So long as neither their property nor their honor is touched, the mass of mankind live contentedly.

Princes should devolve on others those matters that entail responsibility, and reserve to themselves those that relate to grace and favor.

As Princes cannot escape being hated by some, they should, in the first place, endeavor not to be hated by a class; failing in which, they must do all they can to escape the hatred of that class which is the stronger.

I do not believe that divisions purposely caused can ever lead to good; on the contrary, when an enemy approaches, divided cities are lost at once, for the weaker faction will always side with the invader, and the other will not be able to stand alone.

The best fortress you can have, is in not being hated by your subjects.

Once the people take up arms, foreigners are never wanting to assist them.

The Prince who is more afraid of his subjects than of strangers ought to build fortresses, while he who is more afraid of strangers than of his subjects, should leave them alone.

Supposing two of your powerful neighbors come to blows... he who is not your friend will invite you to neutrality, while he who is your friend will call on you to declare yourself openly in arms.

Victories are never so complete that the victor can afford to disregard all considerations whatsoever, more especially considerations of justice.

We never seek to escape one mischief without falling into another. Prudence therefore consists in knowing how to distinguish degrees of disadvantage, and in accepting a less evil as a good.

There are three scales of intelligence, one which understands by itself, a second which understands what is shown it by others, and a third which understands neither by itself nor on the showing of others.

There is no way to guard against flattery but by letting it be seen that you take no offense in hearing the truth: but when everyone is free to tell you the truth respect falls short.

It is an unerring rule and of universal application that a Prince who is not wise himself cannot be well advised by others, unless by chance he surrender himself to be wholly governed by some one adviser who happens to be supremely prudent; in which case he may, indeed, be well advised; but not for long, since such an adviser will soon deprive him of his Government.

Men are more nearly touched by things present than by things past, and when they find themselves well off as they are, enjoy their felicity and seek no further.

He will prosper most whose mode of acting best adapts itself to the character of the times.