Nicolo Machiavelli

[Nicolo Machiavelli] Writer, statesman, born Florence, Italy, 1469; died there, 1527. For many years he was secretary of the Lower Chancery of the Signory and was frequently employed on diplomatic missions; later he served under Pope Leo X and Pope Clement VII. As an historian he is an excellent source for contemporary affairs, though partial; his comedies are clever but bear traces of his moral laxity. Though he died a Christian, his life and writings are pagan, exhibiting a dislike for Christian virtue and the authority of the papacy. Machiavelli is best known for the theory synonymous with treachery, intrigue, subterfuge, and tyranny, bearing his name, and expounded in "Il Principe" and "Discorsi sopra Livio." He believed a united Italy possible and hoped that the Florentine Medici would realize it. In these works he points out the way to accomplish it. To gain the end in view results are to be the only criteria of the methods employed; the moral law and individual virtue must give way when the interest of the state demands it. The prince must be beforehand in misleading and even doing away with his opponent, to prevail against his treachery and cruelty. As a theory Machiavellism may be a novelty but in practise it is as old as political society. "Il Principe" is immoral and was placed on the Index in 1559.

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