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tion the justice of the vulgar decision. It is notorious that Machiavelli was, through life, a zealous republican. In the same year in which he composed his manual of King-craft, he suffered imprisonment and torture in the cause of public liberty. It seems inconceivable that the martyr of freedom should have designedly acted as the apostle of tyranny. Several eminent writers have, therefore, endeavored to de. tect, in this unfortunate performance, some concealed meaning, more consistent with the character and conduct of the author than that which appears at the first glance.
One hypothesis is, that Machiavelli intended to practise on the young Lorenzo de Medici a fraud, similar to that which Sunderland is said to have employed against our James the Second, — that he urged his pupil to violent and perfidious measures, as the surest means of accelerating the moment of deliverance and revenge. Another supposition, which Lord Bacon seems to countenance, is, that the treatise was merely a piece of grave irony, intended to warn nations against the arts of ambitious men. It would be easy to show that neither of these solutions is consistent with
many passages in the Prince itself. But the most decisive refuta. tion is that which is furnished by the other works of Machi. avelli. In all the writings which he gave to the public, and in all those which the research of editors has, in the course of three centuries, discovered in his Comedies, designed for the entertainment of the multitude - in his Comments on Livy, intended for the perusal of the most enthusiastic patriots of Florence - in his History, inscribed to one of the most amiable and estimable of the Popes — in his Pub. lic Despatches — in his Private Memoranda, the same obli. quity of moral principle for which the Prince is so severely censured is more or less discernible. We doubt whether it would be possible to find, in all the many volumes of his compositions, a single expression indicating that dissimulation and treachery had ever struck him as discreditable.
After this, it may seem ridiculous to say, that we are acquainted with few writings which exhibit so much elevation of sentiment, so pure and warm a zeal for the public good, or so just a view of the duties and rights of citizens, as those of Machiavelli. Yet so it is. And even from the Prince itself we could select many passages in support of this re. mark. To a reader of our age and country this inconsistency is, at first, perfectly bewildering. The whole man seems to be an enigma - a grotesque assemblage of incon. gruous qualities - selfishness and generosity, cruelty and benevolence, craft and simplicity, abject villany and roman. tic heroism. One sentence is such as a veteran diplomatist would scarcely write in cypher for the direction of his most confidential spy; the next seems to be extracted from a theme composed by an ardent schoolboy on the death of Leonidas. An act of dexterous perfidy, and an act of patriotic self-devotion, call forth the same kind and the same degree of respectful admiration. The moral sensibility of the writer seems at once to be morbidly obtuse and morbid. ly acute. Two characters altogether dissimilar are united in him. They are not merely joined but interwoven. They are the warp and the woof of his mind ; and their combina. tion, like that of the variegated threads in shot silk, gives to the whole texture a glancing and ever-changing appearance. The explanation might have been easy, if he had been a very weak or a very affected man. But he was evidently neither the one nor the other. His works prove, beyond all contradiction, that his understanding was strong, his taste pure, and his sense of the ridiculous exquisitely keen.
This is strange — and yet the strangest is behind. There is no reason whatever to think, that those amongst whom he lived saw anything shocking or incongruous in his writings. Abundant proofs remain of the high estimation in which both his works and his person were held by the most
respectable among his contemporaries. Clement the Sev. enth patronized the publication of those very books which the council of Trent, in the following generation, pronounced unfit for the perusal of Christians. Some members of the democratical party censured the secretary for dedicating the Prince to a patron who bore the unpopular name of Me. dici. But to those immoral doctrines, which have since called forth such severe reprehensions, no exception appears to have been taken. The cry against them was first raised be. yond the Alps — and seems to have been heard with amaze. ment in Italy. The earliest assailant, as far as we are aware, was a countryman of our own, Cardinal Pole. The author of the Anti-Machiavelli was a French Protestant.
It is, therefore, in the state of moral feeling among the Italians of those times, that we must seek for the real expla. nation of what seems most mysterious in the life and writings of this remarkable man. As this is a subject which suggests many interesting considerations, both political and metaphysical, we shall make no apology for discussing it at some length.
During the gloomy and disastrous centuries which follow. ed the downfall of the Roman Empire, Italy had preserved, in a far greater degree than any other part of Westeru Europe, the traces of ancient civilization. which descended upon her was the night of an Arctic sum. mer: the dawn began to reappear before the last reflection of the preceding sunset had faded from the horizon. It was in the time of the French Merovingians, and of the Saxon Heptarchy, that ignorance and ferocity seemed to have done their worst. Yet even then the Neapolitan provinces, recog. nising the authority of the Eastern Empire, preserved something of Eastern knowledge and refinement. Rome, protected by the sacred character of its Pontiffs, enjoyed at least comparative security and repose. Even in those re
gions where the sanguinary Lombards had fixed their monarchy, there was incomparably more of wealth, of information, of physical comfort, and of social order, than could be found in Gaul, Britain, or Germany.
That which most distinguished Italy from the neighboring countries was the importance which the population of the towns, from a very early period, began to acquire. Some cities founded in wild and remote situations, by fugitives who had escaped from the rage of the barbarians, preserved their freedom by their obscurity, till they became able to preserve it by their power. Others seem to have retained, under all the changing dynasties of invaders, under Odoacer and Theodoric, Narses and Alboin, the municipal institutions which had been conferred on them by the liberal policy of the Great Republic. In provinces which the central government was too feeble either to protect or to oppress, these institutions first acquired stability and vigor. The citizens, defended by their walls, and governed by their own magistrates and their own by-laws, enjoyed a considerable share of republican independence. Thus a strong democratic spirit was called into action. The Carlovingian sovereigns were too imbecile to subdue it. The generous policy of Otho encouraged it. It might perhaps have been suppressed by a close coalition between the Church and the Empire. It was fostered and invigorated by their disputes. In the twelfth century it attained its full vigor, and, after a long and doubtful conflict, triumphed over the abilities and courage of the Swabian Princes.
The assistance of the Ecclesiastical Power had greatly contributed to the success of the Guelfs. That success would, however, have been a doubtful good, if its only effect had been to substitute a moral for a political servitude, to exalt the Popes at the expense of the Cæsars. Happily the public mind of Italy had long contained the seeds of free
opinions, which were now rapidly developed by the genial influence of free institutions. The people of that country had observed the whole machinery of the church, its saints and its miracles, its lofty pretensions and its splendid ceremonial, its worthless blessings and its harmless curses, too long and too closely to be duped. They stood behind the scenes on which others were gazing with childish awe and interest. They witnessed the arrangement of the pullies, and the manufacture of the thunders. They saw the natural faces, and heard the natural voices of the actors. Distant nations looked on the Pope as the vicegerent of the Almighty, the Oracle of the All-wise, the umpire from whose decisions, in the disputes either of theologians or of kings, no Christian ought to appeal. The Italians were ac. quainted with all the follies of his youth, and with all the dishonest arts by which he had attained power. They knew how often he had employed the keys of the church to release himself from the most sacred engagements, and its wealth to pamper his mistresses and nephews. The doctrines and rites of the established religion they treated with decent
But though they still called themselves Catholics, they had ceased to be Papists. Those spiritual arms, which carried terror into the palaces and camps of the proudest sovereigns, excited only their contempt. When Alexander commanded our Henry the Second to submit to the lash before the tomb of a rebellious subject, he was him. self an exile. The Romans, apprehending that he entertained designs against their liberties, had driven him from their city; and, though he solemnly promised to confine himself for the future to his spiritual functions, they still refused to readmit him.
In every other part of Europe, a large and powerful privi. leged class trampled on the people, and defied the govern. ment. But, in the most flourishing parts of Italy, the feudal