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The Prince

The Prince


by Niccolò Machiavelli

The Prince Chapter 3 Summary

Mixed Monarchies

  • New monarchies are hard to deal with, even the sort of new ones that are just adding a territory onto an old monarchy. Machiavelli calls these mixed monarchies.
  • What's the problem? The conquered will rebel at the first sign of a better situation, which is good if you want to take over but bad once you've conquered them.
  • As elected officials find out, you can never give people all the things they expected, so they'll hate you for a while. Here's the thing: you need them to not hate you because your army can't control the new land by themselves and need the people on their side.
  • Machiavelli gives the example of when the king of France, Louis XII, tried to take Milan.
  • Everyone thought that Louis was going to be this awesome king, so they helped him kick out their ruler, Duke Ludovico. The thing is, Louis XII was awful, so they ran back to Ludovico.
  • Even though it was easy to take over Milan the first time, after that, the Milanese wised up and it took "the whole world" to push their way in the second time (3.2).
  • But then Louis was kicked out again. Why did he lose the second time? Let's take a look:
  • If the land you are adding to your kingdom shares the same language as the rest of the kingdom, great. All you have to do is kill the old rulers and you're set. Leave everything else alone. Seriously. It'll all work out. Do that and you're golden.
  • "But what if my new territory speaks a different language," we hear you bloodthirsty princes and princesses asking. That's just a wee bit more difficult. In that case, you should go live there. You wanted a new summer home didn't you?
  • Then, if anyone tries to rebel, you can shut them down personally. Also, then you don't have to trust that officials are taking care of your new pet country instead of stealing all of its riches.
  • Plus, people are more likely to like you if they see you as one of them, and most people would think twice about attacking your new crib. Basically, this is the best way to go.
  • Don't want to move? Then you can make colonies instead. This is great because it doesn't require lots of military and it's super cheap.
  • Just take land from the natives and give it to your colonialists. The only downside is that the people whose land you took will be angry. But that doesn't matter because they are poor and have no land. Win-win.
  • By the way, you should only deal with people in two ways: crush them or pamper them to death. If you are going to hit, you need to hit so hard that they can't stand up again.
  • Are you thinking about armies? Stop it. Armies will cause widespread but uneven damage, leaving more than enough people left who can hit back and are looking for you. Bad idea.
  • Okay, next thing you have to do is become the guardian angel for the weaker nations around your new land. Or at least look like it.
  • What you are really doing is making sure a strong foreign power doesn't swoop in and start cramping your style.
  • People have this silly tendency to ask foreign nations to come in and save them from their horrible rulers. That's how the Roman Empire got so huge—people invited them in. You want to make sure that no foreigners come in and that everyone is on your side. So play nice with the neighbors.
  • Machiavelli has the perfect example: the Romans. They had colonies, they made friends with the neighbors, they made strong neighbors weaker, and they didn't let any stronger people move into the neighborhood. Perfect.
  • They were preparing for trouble that might come in the future, which is the easiest and best way to deal with problems. They didn't try to procrastinate, which only makes things worse. They hit their problems head on.
  • Anyway, back to Louis and Milan. Why was he so terrible again? Oh yeah, he did the opposite of everything he was supposed to do. He didn't play nice with his neighbors (even though they were begging to be friends) and he actually helped two stronger powers move in to the neighborhood. He helped Pope Alexander invade Romagna and basically carried the King of Spain's moving boxes into Naples so they could split the Kingdom and be roomies. Yikes, no wonder he got kicked out.
  • Machiavelli gets that Louis wanted more land, but it's best not to get too greedy. It doesn't make sense to get more land if you can't do it on your own. Help comes with too many strings attached.
  • So in total, Louis was stupid in six ways:
    1. He got rid of his weaker buddies.
    2. He made the pope stronger.
    3. He brought a stronger king into his neighborhood.
    4. He didn't live in his new land.
    5. He didn't establish colonies.
    6. And the worst offense: he took power away from Venice, which allowed another strong state to muscle its way in.
  • According to Machiavelli, it's no surprise that he lost his land. He did everything wrong, after all.

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