Politics and patriotism in Florence

Niccolo Machiavelli was born in Florence, Italy on May 3rd 1469. As an Italian historian, statesman, political philosopher, and a diplomat during the renaissance, Machiavelli was a man who lived his life for politics and patriotism. As a patriotic Florentine, he was a firm believer in that Florence was the most important state, and should have a strong government, as Italy was divided into states where much political upheaval was occurring, particularly between the four dominant states; Florence, Milan, Naples and Venice.

In this essay, the main features of the Machiavellian state, the major concepts of fortune and virtue within Machiavelli's theory of the state, and also the significance of the theory for individuals in society will all be discussed and analysed to the fullest extent. Machiavelli was given a position of authority-service secretary-in 1498, after a banking family-the Medici's-were exiled from Florence due to the political upheaval within the state. During this time, three major events in Machiavelli's life were the inspiration for him to write "The Prince", a book about personal and national tragedy.

The first of the major events was the military scandal in 1499, in which the Florentine army unsuccessfully attempted to capture the city of Pisa due to the army leader Vitelli calling off the attack. After this humiliation, he was looked upon as a traitor, and was ruthlessly executed as a result. From this, Machiavelli derived that mercenary troops cannot and must not be trusted to have the power to make important decisions especially if it has a detrimental effect on the government.

He also believed that states should be self sufficient, that they should run within themselves and be protected by their own army, not humiliated. It was during his exile in San Casciano, when he was desperate to get back into government, that he wrote his principle works: the Discourse on Livy, the Prince, the History of Florence, and two plays. Many of these works, such as The Prince, were written for the express purpose of getting a job in the Medici government.

The second major event was the diplomatic mission to France in 1500 where Machiavelli tried to persuade Louis xii, who provided the troops for the assault on Pisa and that the failure of the assault on Pisa was nothing to do with Florence but the bad managing of his troops. Machiavelli left with nothing achieved, and instead of having the welcome and leaving he thought he deserved he got insults of neglect and hearing the Florentines dismissed as 'signor nothing. ' After this trip he came to the conclusion that you have to be clever and ruthless if you want to create a state that has a strong force, he had to spend money and be cultured.

In 1502 his third mission he met with Cesare Borgia and the massacre of Senigallia, this is where he witnessed Borgia killing two of his right hand men one of which his lieutenant, Ramirez de Lorqua who where unsuccessful in doing their job and send another two away to be killed. Machiavelli admired his way; he felt if he did the same then it might be possible to restore authority. Machiavelli believed that the state should be reason-raison d'etat-meaning not Christian morality. These terms of self interest were later pursued by theorists like Hegal and men like Hitler and Bismarck.

He also believes in a self sufficient state which has an independent army, strong leader and has no reliance on allies'. Machiavelli wanted a united nation and he was going to go to any lengths to achieve it. Although he was not someone who condoned tyranny within the state by any means, he did however advise strong action be taken against any law breaker whenever necessary. Moreover, he felt it important that he should have a reputation of being honest, so people were able trust him but Machiavelli was very deceitful and cunning as he knew he wanted power so he had to be manipulative to get it.

Furthermore, he felt that his state is the organised mass power used by those who control it for the pursuit of ends, which means that those who are in power can manipulate the public through the government in order to gain from it, either personally of politically. In addition, the state gives society its cohesion, individuality and power. According to Machiavelli himself "the state should make itself as strong as possible so that it would not have to depend on others, on allies. It should avoid neutrality and inactivity like the plague".

This backs up what has been said, as he clearly states that a state should not be dependent on anyone but it, should aspire to be as strong as possible. In his famous book "the Prince", Machiavelli wrote 'A ruler must learn to be other than good' which is exactly what he has done. Machiavelli teaches that state maximize and secure their power if they rule through fear. He felt that rulers should use the right amount of cruelty against their own citizens so that fear is created. This will prevent anyone attempting to break the law in anyway, as it will be fearful of any punishment due to their actions.

Machiavelli also believed that a state, which is so organised, can maintain order and peace within its own borders. This is backed up with Machiavelli believing in a strong enough state without relying on allies, as it is so organised within itself, that no other party is required to help keep the peace. Furthermore, Machiavelli also believes states that build up reserves of power and keep maximum power for ready use at any time are states that best provide protection and security to their own people

Machiavelli's concepts of fortune and virtue within his theories are a very important part within his theory of state. He saw fortune as "the idea of a force that intervenes uncontrollably in our lives, luck and simply unforeseen changes in circumstances". This indicates that no matter how powerful and popular a leader is, or how feared and respected they are, that their success is partly due to good fortune. He also feels that people do often have some scope for initiative and free will but he emphasises that fortune is responsible for half the things we do.

"Fortune favours the brave". This means that Machiavelli was brave enough to see what he wanted, and more importantly was also brave enough to do what it took to get it, and so therefore fortune was on his side. In one of the most famous passages from The Prince, Machiavelli describes the proper orientation towards the volatility of the world, or Fortune, by comparing Fortune to a lady: "la Fortuna i?? donna," or "Fortune is a Lady. " Machiavelli is referring to the courtly love tradition, where the lady that constitutes the desire when approached and entreated and begged.

The ideal Prince, however, does not, for Machiavelli, entreat or beg Lady Fortune, but rather physically grabs her and takes whatever he wants. This was a scandalous passage and still is the single most articulated value in the work of Machiavelli. When talking about virtu (Latin virtus), which is related to our word, "virtue. ", Machiavelli means it more in its Latin sense of "manly," but individuals with virtue are primarily marked by their ability to enforce their will on volatile social situations. Furthermore, it is used to describe the qualities for a man who is ruthless. To do so a man had to be brave have pride, courage and strength.

Have all of these did not guarantee success but failure was certain since this meant depending upon fortune. Therefore the only sound, sure and enduring methods of defence and those based on your own virtue. You should be willing to do wrong use force like the lion or the cunning fox when the circumstances are necessary, As Machiavelli said we cannot attribute to fortune or virtue that which is achieved without either. The significance of the theory for individuals in society is that Self interest is eradicated because it is not subject to any rules of ethics. Machiavelli would view individuals as people and not in one large group.

This is a controlled risk he takes, although not a good one, that is taken in secrecy without regard for civic responsibility. He endorsed 'good laws' so the rights of the public were still taken into consideration. In conclusion, the key points of Machiavelli's theory of state have been discussed and analysed, which allows us to see that although many of his ideas are ethnically wrong, all he longed for was to unite all of the Italian states, and to protect it from foreign aggressors. In conclusion therefore, this essay shows Machiavelli to be a true patriot, as he craved for his country to be as strong and stable as possible.