Cruelty and Clemency

Concerning Cruelty And Clemency, And Whether It Is Better To Be Loved Than Feared
Niccolo Machiavelli

Scipio Africanus Showing Mercy to the Spanish

Scipio Africanus Showing Mercy to the Spanish

COMING now to the other qualities mentioned above, I say that every prince ought to desire to be considered clement and not cruel. Nevertheless he ought to take care not to misuse this clemency. Cesare Borgia was considered cruel; notwithstanding, his cruelty reconciled the Romagna, unified it, and restored it to peace and loyalty. And if this be rightly considered, he will be seen to have been much more merciful than the Florentine people, who, to avoid a reputation for cruelty, permitted Pistoia to be destroyed. (Romagna and Pistoia are both Italian cities. Cesare Borgia was famous for being cruel but effective. The Florentines were famous for being kind but ineffective.)

Therefore a prince, so long as he keeps his subjects united and loyal, ought not to mind the reproach of cruelty; because with a few examples he will be more merciful than those who, through too much mercy, allow disorders to arise, from which follow murders or robberies; for these are wont to injure the whole people, whilst those executions which originate with a prince offend the individual only.

Is this good advice for a modern leader? Should a teacher or politician worry about being cruel if they have achieved order? Should they be willing to make examples of enemies to promote the greater peace?

And of all princes, it is impossible for the new prince to avoid the imputation of cruelty, owing to new states being full of dangers. Hence Virgil, through the mouth of Dido, excuses the inhumanity of her reign owing to its being new, saying:

…against my will, my fate,
A throne unsettled, and an infant state,
Bid me defend my realms with all my pow’rs,
And guard with these severities my shores.

Nevertheless he ought to be slow to believe and to act, nor should he himself show fear, but proceed in a temperate manner with prudence and humanity, so that too much confidence may not make him incautious and too much distrust render him intolerable.

Upon this a question arises: whether it be better to be loved than feared or feared than loved? It may be answered that one should wish to be both, but, because it is difficult to unite them in one person, is much safer to be feared than loved, when, of the two, either must be dispensed with. Because this is to be asserted in general of men, that they are ungrateful, fickle, false, cowardly, covetous, and as long as you succeed they are yours entirely; they will offer you their blood, property, life and children, as is said above, when the need is far distant; but when it approaches they turn against you. And that prince who, relying entirely on their promises, has neglected other precautions, is ruined; because friendships that are obtained by payments, and not by greatness or nobility of mind, may indeed be earned, but they are not secured, and in time of need cannot be relied upon; and men have less scruple in offending one who is beloved than one who is feared, for love is preserved by the link of obligation which, owing to the baseness of men, is broken at every opportunity for their advantage; but fear preserves you by a dread of punishment which never fails.

Is this true? Do allies made from generous behavior remain loyal? How about allies made from respect? How about allies made from fear? How about allies made from force?

Nevertheless a prince ought to inspire fear in such a way that, if he does not win love, he avoids hatred; because he can endure very well being feared whilst he is not hated, which will always be as long as he abstains from the property of his citizens and subjects and from their women. But when it is necessary for him to proceed against the life of someone, he must do it on proper justification and for manifest cause, but above all things he must keep his hands off the property of others, because men more quickly forget the death of their father than the loss of their patrimony. Besides, pretexts for taking away the property are never wanting; for he who has once begun to live by robbery will always find pretexts for seizing what belongs to others; but reasons for taking life, on the contrary, are more difficult to find and sooner lapse. But when a prince is with his army, and has under control a multitude of soldiers, then it is quite necessary for him to disregard the reputation of cruelty, for without it he would never hold his army united or disposed to its duties.

Among the wonderful deeds of Hannibal this one is enumerated: that having led an enormous army, composed of many various races of men, to fight in foreign lands, no dissensions arose either among them or against the prince, whether in his bad or in his good fortune. (For more information about Hannibal visit http://terms.naver.com/entry.nhn?docId=1161195&cid=40942&categoryId=33471.) This arose from nothing else than his inhuman cruelty, which, with his boundless valour, made him revered and terrible in the sight of his soldiers, but without that cruelty, his other virtues were not sufficient to produce this effect. And shortsighted writers admire his deeds from one point of view and from another condemn the principal cause of them. That it is true his other virtues would not have been sufficient for him may be proved by the case of Scipio, that most excellent man, not of his own times but within the memory of man, against whom, nevertheless, his army rebelled in Spain; this arose from nothing but his too great forbearance, which gave his soldiers more licence than is consistent with military discipline. (For more information about Scipio, visit http://terms.naver.com/entry.nhn?docId=1719395&cid=43077&categoryId=43077) For this he was upbraided in the Senate by Fabius Maximus, and called the corrupter of the Roman soldiery. The Locrians were laid waste by a legate of Scipio, yet they were not avenged by him, nor was the insolence of the legate punished, owing entirely to his easy nature. (Scipio’s officer attacked a city but Scipio, wanting to be kind, did not punish the officer. Legate = officer.)

Insomuch that someone in the Senate, wishing to excuse him, said there were many men who knew much better how not to err than to correct the errors of others. This disposition, if he had been continued in the command, would have destroyed in time the fame and glory of Scipio; but, he being under the control of the Senate, this injurious characteristic not only concealed itself, but contributed to his glory.

Returning to the question of being feared or loved, I come to the conclusion that, men loving according to their own will and fearing according to that of the prince, a wise prince should establish himself on that which is in his own control and not in that of others; he must endeavour only to avoid hatred, as is noted … Upon this, one has to remark that men ought either to be well treated or crushed, because they can avenge themselves of lighter injuries, of more serious ones they cannot; therefore the injury that is to be done to a man ought to be of such a kind that one does not stand in fear of revenge.

Questions:
1. I made the following lists of ways to be kind and cruel. Please add at least one more way to be cruel and hated, cruel but not hated, kind and hated, kind but not hated.
a) Types of cruelty that inspire hatred: Capriciousness, humiliation, inferiority complexes
b) Types of cruelty that do not inspire hatred: Ruthlessness, severity, high standards
c) Types of kindness that inspire hatred: Favoritism, giving unearned gifts, fake friendship
d) Types of kindness that do not inspire hatred: Thorough but conditional forgiveness, giving earned gifts (particularly the gift of trust), recognizing achievement

2. Do you agree with Machiavelli that a leader can control fear but can’t control love?
3. Is it better to be cruel like Hannibal or kind like Scipio?
4. After reading this section and Sun Tzu’s section, analyze why Dr. McN was a good teacher and Professor CL was not.

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One comment

  1. […] Part Three – Concerning Cruelty and Clemency […]

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