Practically in the Florentine Government. His youth,

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Practically nothing is known of Nicolo Machiavelli before he became a minor
official in the Florentine Government. His youth, however, was passed
during some of the most tumultuous years in the history of Florence. He
was
born the year that Lorenzo the Magnificent came to power, subverting the
traditional civil liberties of Florence while inaugurating a reign of
unrivaled luxury and of great brilliance for the arts. He was twenty-five
at the time of Savonarolas attempt to establish a theocratic democracy,
although, from the available evidence, he took no part in it. Yet through
his family, he was closer to many of these events than many Florentine
citizens. The Machiavelli family for generations had held public office,
and his father was a jurist and a minor official. Machiavelli himself,
shortly after the execution of Savanarola, became Secretary of the Second
Chancery, which was to make him widely known among his contemporaries as
the
Florentine Secretary.

By virtue of his position Machiavelli served the Ten of Liberty and
Peace,
who sent their own ambassadors to foreign powers, transacted business with
the cities of the Florentine domain, and controlled the military
establishment of Florence. During the fourteen years he held office,
Machiavelli was placed in charge of the diplomatic correspondence of his
bureau, served as Florentine representative on nearly thirty foreign
missions, and attempted to organize a citizen militia to replace the
mercenary troops.

In his diplomatic capacity, which absorbed most of his energies, he dealt
with the various principalities into which Italy was divided at the time.

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His more important missions, however, gave him insight into the court of
the
King of France, where he met the mightiest minister in Europe, Cardinal d
Amboise. On this occasion he began the observation and analysis of
national
political forces, which were to find expression in his diplomatic reports.

His Report on France was written after he completed three assignments for
his office in that country; the Report on Germany was prepared as a result
of a mission to the court of Emperor Maximilian.

The most important mission, in view of his later development as a political
writer, was that to the camp of Cesare Borgia, Duke Valentino. Under the
protection of his father, Pope Alexander VI, Cesare was engaged in
consolidating the Papal States, and Machiavelli was in attendance upon him
at the time of his greatest triumph. Machiavelli had served audiences with
Cesare and witnessed the intrigues culminating in the murder of his
disaffected captains, which he carefully described in the Method Adopted by
Duke Valentino to Murder Vitellozzo Vittli. As the Florentine Secretary,
he was present a few month later in Rome when the end of Cesare came to
pass
with disgrace following the death of Alexander VI.

During his diplomatic career Machiavelli enjoyed one outstanding success.

Largely through his efforts, Florence obtained the surrender of Pisa, which
had revolted from Florentine rule and maintained its independence for
years.

Although he did not achieve any other diplomatic triumphs, he was esteemed
for the excellence of his reports and is known to have had the confidence
of
the president of Florence, the Gonfalonier, Piero Soderini. But with the
restoration of the Medicis to power in 1512, Machiavellis public career
came to an abrupt end. His attempts to prove his talents to the new rulers
were ineffectual. His appearance as a former gonfalonier man cast
significant doubt on his work and he was removed from office and exiled
from
the city for one year. He was imprisoned and tortured for allegedly being
involved in a conspiracy against the new government. His release required
the intervention of Giovanni de Medici himself, albeit after his ascension
to the papacy.

On release from his dungeon, Machiavelli with his wife and children,
retired
to a small farm not far from Florence. Dividing his time between farming
and petty dispositions, he commented that, possessing nothing but the
knowledge of the State, he had no occasion to use it. His only remaining
link the official world was through his longtime friend, the Florentine
Ambassador to the Pope, to whom he wrote of public affairs and, strangely,
his more romantic encounters. His letters reveal the inner dichotomy of
this man. He wrote, at the threshold I take off my workday clothes,
filled
with the dirt and mud, and don royal and curial garments. Worthily
dressed,
I enter in the ancient courts of the men of antiquity, where I am warmly
received. I feed on that which is my only food and which was meant for me.

I am not ashamed to speak with them and ask them the reasons for their
actions, and they, because of their humility, answer me. Hours can pass,
and I feel no weariness; my troubles forgotten, I neither fear poverty nor
dread death. I give myself over entirely to them. And since Dante says
that there can be no science without retaining what has been understood, I
have noted down the chief things in their conversations. It was through
these discussions that the concept of The Prince took form.

Largely because of the fame he had acquired as a writer, Machiavelli was
asked by the Medici rulers to give advice on the government of Florence.
He
used the occasion to re-state and defend republican principles. He was
also
commissioned to produce a history of the city, and did so in his Florentine
History. He was finally appointed by Pope Clement VII to organize a city
militia, such as he had defended in previous writings, but the lack of
assistance from men with whom he was assigned the task led to little
productivity. Finally, his efforts bore no fruit when the troops of
Emperor
Charles V sacked Rome.

Shortly before Macheavellis death, the Republic was re-created in
Florence.

Although he had never been able to regain public office in Florence under
the Medicis, he still seemed to close to them to be acceptable to the new
republican government. His request to be reinstated to his previous
position was denied, and he died a few days later on Jun 20, 1527.

For over 500 years past his end, Machiavelli has influenced how many people
perceive the idea of the end justifies the means. While much of the text
of the Prince at first reading seems heatless and, judging by the reception
the work received in the 1500s, extreme, many of the tenets were
applicable
until recent years. The question of modern times is whether, against the
backdrop of national interests and the concepts of principalities mentioned
so often in this work, has globalization and the decrease in the
sovereignty
of definitive countries and governments made obsolete the personal traits
referred to in the Prince? As Socrates stated, the study of philosophy is
no less an important matter than how we ought to live, so then this work of
Machiavelli would seem to be a matter of how man should govern.

Central to the theme in this work is the belief that a leaders personality
ranks as prominently as his capability. The issues of liberality and
meanness, cruelty and clemency, integrity, and whether the leader should
aspire to be hated by his subjects are debated and questioned as to their
impact on the population. It was this frank attempt to discuss the most
efficient means of ruling a principality that led to the idea of his
insensitivity to the concerns of the population. In reality, the Prince
provided a clear and objective historical perspective on actions that
already were implemented by governments and rulers for many generations.
As
Machiavelli wrote in chapter XV, It remains now to see what ought to be
the
rules of conduct for a prince towards subject and friends. And as I know
that many have written on this point, I expect I shall be considered
presumptuous in mentioning it again, especially as in discussing it I shall
depart from the methods of other people. But, it being my intention to
write a thing which shall be useful to him who apprehends it, it appears to
me more appropriate to follow up the real truth of a matter than the
imagination of it; for many have pictured republics and principalities
which
in fact have never been known or seen, because how one lives is so far
distant from how one ought to live, that he who neglects what is done for
what ought to be done, sooner effects his ruin than his preservation; for a
man who wishes to act entirely up to his professions of virtue soon meets
evil with what destroys him among so much that is evil. This work was
then
considered one of the definitive essays on the successful ruling of a
nation. The negative image of Machiavelli as a person who advocates any
action that creates a successful outcome is skewered from the premise that
all possible actions have already been undertaken in all possible
situations. Even in what was considered modern times, namely
post-renaissance Europe through the beginning of the 1950s, the concept of
a ruler operating unabated in the confines of his own country was accepted
as the norm.

Machiavelli wrote diligently about the need for this ruler to possess
certain traits, as well as their contradictory qualities. And that is was
through this combination of vices and virtues that the well-being of a
nation rested. He wrote specifically of liberality, cruelty, faith,
renown,
and being despised. His detractors mention often that on the subject of
liberality versus meanness Machiavelli showed his true form and penchant
for
any action that promotes the proper outcome. He wrote that any incident of
liberality, from spending public monies on specific areas to the
maintenance
of the army, should be noted and treated as a memory in the peoples
concept
of their leader. He believed that any act of liberality not associated
with
the leader is a wasted opportunity and begets more suffering in the future.

For example, Machiavelli stated in his works liberality exercised in a way
that does not bring you the reputation for it, injures you; for if one
exercises it honestly and as it should be exercised, it may not become
known, and you not avoid the reproach of its opposite. While this may not
be considered the Judeo-Christian methodology of how best to live ones
life, the similarities between these words and what the population at large
in many countries saw on a daily basis is barely discernable. He goes
further to dictate that a ruler who acts out of avariciousness will be
recognized for this, and any actions will be viewed through the prism of
this characteristic. Therefore, this person will be loved by all from whom
he does not take, because he does not squander his resources, and only
regarded hostilely by those few from whom he takes, who do not have the
numbers to rise against him.

On the subject of cruelty and clemency Machiavelli advocates that all
rulers should strive to be considered clement, but not at the expense of
losing their control of the realm. With many examples throughout history
to
refer he paints a picture of how leaders considered malevolent and vicious
were able to unite large groups of very different people. From the time
periods of Cesar Borgia to the modern examples of Tito in Yugoslavia,
rulers
have relied on this belief to insure their survival. The crux of the issue
in Macheavellis writings centers on the belief that somewhat heartless and
malevolent rulers are preferred by their people more so than a merciful
leader who fails to provide the domestic tranquility necessary for a good
life in the realm. Again it is the overt style of this writing that causes
readers to cringe with the apprehension typically associated with the
Prince, not the information itself. Even in our modern world we see
examples of cold-heartedness in this allegedly free society of America,
always at the cry of insuring better opportunities and lifestyles for the
masses. Worse yet is the stated belief of the author that people are
ungrateful, fickle, false, cowardly, and covetous. And owing to this
cynical mindset of humanity, it is only natural for one to prefer the stick
to the carrot.

The author touches on the subject of whether it is advantageous for a
leader to be hated and despised by his subjects. He addresses with many
examples, the fate of rulers who, upon finding their land threatened by
external forces, seek to rely on the capabilities of the citizenry. It is
in this light that the need to maintain the goodwill of the masses is most
evident. Whereby a leader establishes good and sound laws then maintains
those laws upon the entire populous, this leader will be loved and adored
by
his subjects, and may seek their aid in times of strife.

But, having provided a workable background for this mans work, I seek to
discover whether the laws of the past on the rule of kingdoms still holds
to
the test, or whether it has been replaced, either for good or for temporary
tenure. In the early 1950s the nations of the world banded together and
developed a forum in which each, great or small, could voice their
particular grievances and expect to be heard. This organization, the
United
Nations, still stands as testimony to the belief that the closest
definition
of violence is the breakdown of communication. But it has morphed into the
very international enigma Machiavelli warned. Almost to a fault the belief
of Machiavelli was each ruler could and should provide the best means of
governance for his country. It is the advent of globalization and the
uni-polar mechanisms put in place by non-accountable unions such as the
World Bank, the European Union, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, the
World Health Organization, and the U.N. Security Council that constantly
devalues the leeway and options of each countries populace. The Security
Council smacks of the worst in Orwellian more equalism. Every country
has
a seat at the table, but only some, those with the power to utterly destroy
neighbors, may have a special seat. Then when other countries seek the
same
recognition, India and Pakistan, the rules are changed by the status quo.

The World Bank establishes objective ratings for the credit and solvency
of nation-states, but has anyone seen a global decision in the last 50
years
without political considerations? The people of Austria chose a leader in
a
democratic, open election, followed by the threat of economic constraints
by
the remainder of the EU because of the fear of radical idealism. NATO
dropped bombs on a sovereign country in an effort to stop a self-defined
ethnic cleansing, which turns out to be a euphemism for the same
migration
of people from a dangerous situation that has gone on since man began to
wage war.

It is in this fray of differing logic and changing reasoning for armed
intervention that Macheavellis teachings seem so distant from the world in
which we live. Even in this seemingly endless string of examples and
references, a question remains unanswered. Will the end result of this
single super power era, with the support of its allies and followers, the
economic stranglehold wrapping itself around the globe, and the cultural
oneness of the developing young men and women lead to the emergence of a
solid, almost utopian world where everyone must resort to debate and
compromise to overcome differences? So many foundations of conventional
wisdom lead us to remember that nature abhors a vacuum, and that each
rising
power has met the same familiar fate. On the upswing of the national
growth
and development, one can always find the antithesis of the selected
country.

This implied struggle lays the groundwork for a national unity, a unity of
consciousness against an enemy of the state. And where this enemy lacks,
either internally or externally, groups of others form together as
raindrops
creating a river, to right the scales that have been human existence. In
this context, the writings of Machiavelli dictate the pendulum will return
after a time, and all will be as it was. However, each of the pillars of
possible change is currently owned by either the great superpower, again we
are reminded that this power operates on the premise of republican ideals
not individual leader characteristics, or a conglomerate of leading
nation-states determined to preserve their status in the international
arena. Politically, culturally, and economically, saving only the
continued
fragmentation of religious beliefs on the planet, we have witnessed the
amalgamation of these pillars into the new world order. We are left to
ponder the significance of our ascendancy. Does the nature of man, and the
desire for one to live his or her life by separate concepts of civilization
and the cultural identity this allows, force us to eventually tear apart
these artificial binds with one another? Or have we reached the turning
point in our discovery that human life, regardless of the differences seen
by the eye, will be the defining characteristic, and the artificiality of
nationalism and borders will fade into the history as feudalism and the
pre-Copernicus understanding of the solar system? Will Machiavelli be
proved timeless, or time spent?
References and cited works:
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