How we cite our quotes:
These reflections prompt the question: is it better to be loved rather than feared, or vice versa? The answer is that one would prefer to be both but, since they don't go together easily, if you have to choose, it's much safer to be feared than loved. (17. 5)
Here it is, the part that we all know. But notice that, when people quote this, they never say the first part—that it's best to be both. If you read carefully you'll see that Machiavelli makes a slight concession to what people would normally say (both) before writing what he really feels. And for that matter, why don't love and fear go together easily?
Men are less worried about letting down someone who has made himself loved than someone who makes himself feared. (17.5)
Sometimes Machiavelli contradicts himself a bit, like he does here. Later he says that a ruler can't make himself loved. Well, Niccolò, tell us: can he or can't he?
Love binds when someone recognizes he should be grateful to you, but, since men are a sad lot, gratitude is forgotten the moment it's inconvenient. Fear means fear of punishment, and that's something people never forget. (17.5)
Ain't that the truth? We're going to guess that the number of people that tried to go against Cesare Borgia after he put his own man's head on a stake was pretty close to zero.