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Summary of The Prince by Machiavelli

Home | Chapters 1 to 7 | Chapters 8 to 15 | Chapters 16 to 20 | Chapters 21 to 26

Chapter 8 to Chapter 15

Chapter 8

Most frequently a private person becomes a prince through fortune or his own genius abilities. A third way is through wickedness.

For example, you can become a prince by rising through the ranks through clever, step by step, wickedness.

Becoming a prince primarily by being a wicked genius is also full of dangers and problems. If you have no mercy, no religion, kill people and deceive your friends you might be able to get an empire - you will not have any glory however. Such genius wickedness could be respected, but never celebrated.

You may be cruel at one blow if this is necessary for your security. You should not persist in evil - only when you can use this for the advantage of your people. Princes that use evil once (as required) are more successful than princes that continue to use evil more and more every day.

If a prince seizes a state, all the required injuries should be inflicted at one stroke. This way it is not necessary to every day be a little evil. Injuries should be inflicted once, swiftly - so that it may be forgotten. A prince should however deliver frequent, small benefits to his people so that its positive effects last longer.

Chapter 9

This chapter describes how a private person favoured by the people or by the nobles becomes prince.

Two opposites exist in all cities:

  • people not wishing to be ruled and oppressed
  • nobles that wish to rule and oppress
These two opposite desires leads to one of three results:

principality, self-government, or anarchy (lawlessness).

A principality is created by nobles by selecting one of themselves as prince so that at least one of them can rule.

A principality is created by the people by selecting on of themselves as prince to help defend themselves against the nobles.

A prince selected among the nobles to be prince has difficulty because the other nobles consider themselves equal to the prince. Such a prince has difficulty in ruling the nobles.

A prince selected from the people has few people around to obey him

A prince can never fully secure himself against the too many people, but can secure himself against the fewer in number nobles.

Hostile nobles may abandon or rise up against you, people can only abandon you. Nobles either bind themselves too your fortune, or not. Those who bind themself to you should be loved and honoured. You should always regard those not binding with you to be your enemies. In difficult times they are the ones that help to ruin you.

Someone that becomes prince through the favour of the people should keep them friendly towards him by not oppressing them.

Someone that becomes prince through the favour of the nobles should make the people friendly towards him by protecting them. "I repeat, it is necessary for a prince to have the people friendly, otherwise he has no security in adversity. "

Not any private citizen can just rely on people to support him - the builds on muddy foundations. However, a prince that has proven himself to be courages, energetic, a worthwhile and able leader, can rely on the people and will not be let down.

It is misleading too rely on people in quiet times to think they agree and will die for him, for when difficult times come, they do not agree and is not willing to die for him. The way a wise prince can make the people to be faithful to him is to always create the circumstances under which they need him.

Chapter 10

A prince either has abundant money and men to support himself, or, always need the help of others.

Princes in constant need of the help of others should fortify their towns well. It is not easy to attack a well-fortified town, where the prince is not hated by his people. Such a well-fortfied town is even stronger when there are supplies inside to last the town a year, and when the military holds frequent excercises.

Anyone attacking such a fortfied city with its powerful prince will be driven off in disgrace.

The wise prince should support his people especially after their houses have been burnt and possessions ruined in defence of him.

Chapter 11

Ecclesiastical principalities do not require ability or good fortune for a prince to get hold of. These principalities are sustained by all-powerful religious laws. Princes of such principalities do not rule, people are not ruled. These principalities used to have little worldly power, but they now have a great deal. The short, 10 year life of a pope is not enough to make a considerable difference.

Chapter 12

The most important foundations of new and old states are good laws and good armies.

A prince can defend his state using mercenaries, auxiliaries, or a mix of these two.

Mercenaries and auxiliaries are useless and dangerous for the following reasons:

  • they are disunited,
  • ambitious and without discipline,
  • unfaithful,
  • brave before friends, but cowardly before enemies;
  • they have neither the fear of God nor fidelity to men
  • In peace they rob you, in war they let the enemy rob you. They are in it only for the money - however their small salaries is not worth dying for.

If mercenary captains are capable, they only aspire for their own greatness - they try to oppress you. Mercenary captains that ae not capable leaders is worthless in helping you defend your state.

The best way to win a war is if the prince himself leads as captain and use the citizens of his states as soldiers.

The best way to defend yourself is by using your own citizens as soldiers. Mercenaries are useless. Ways to reduce tiredness and dangers in war are:

  • do not kill, take prisoners
  • do not attack towns at night
  • do not attack encampments at night
  • do not fight in the winter

Chapter 13

Using auxiliaries to fight your wars lets you lose two ways:

  • if they lose the war, you lose the war
  • if they win the war, you are help captive by them and their skills

The wise prince always use his own soldiers and own army and never auxiliaries. A wise prince does not consider a war won with auxiliaries a victory for the prince himself - it is only a victory for the auxiliaries.

You should also use your own weapons, not those of others.

Armies of mercenaries and your own people is better than just mercenaries or just auxiliaries, however armies made up only of your own people is always the best way to defend your state and attack other states. "I conclude, therefore, that no principality is secure without having its own forces"

Chapter 14

A prince should constantly be busy studying the art of warfare. This art belongs to princes only.

Knowing the art of war enables you to rise from a citizen to being a prince. Not knowing this art causes princes to become private citizens.

A prince should always have the art of war in his mind. In times of peace he should study the art of war and frequently hold military excercises.

You should study the following about your own country in detail: how the valleys open out how plains lie the nature of rivers and marshes

This knowledge enables a prince to be much more able to defend his country.

Such a study enables a prince to study other countries easier. There are similaries between valleys, plains, rivers and hills in all countries. These similarities makes it easier to study other countries.

It is essential that a prince undertakes these studies. These studies help a prince to take advantage of the knowledge in surprise attacks and selecting safe places to camp out.

A prince should always discuss military strategy with his friends when in their countries to enusre that he is never surprised by unexpected circumstances.

In order to imimate war victories of other illustrious men and avoid defeats, a prince should study war histories to learn the causes of war victories and defeats.

Chapter 15

Others also wrote about how a prince should conduct himself to be praiseworthy. However, they dealt with the theoretical aspects of this. They also imagined principalities and republics that does not exist in real life.

A prince has to know how to do wrong, and when to use this for this advantage. You need to know this, because just being praiseworthy makes you allow evil things in reality to destroy you. It should appear that a wise prince has all the good qualities one expects of him and none of the bad qualities. However human nature prevents anyone to be perfect.

Virtues just followed because it is virtues might cause your ruin.

Vices must not always be avoided, it might bring security and prosperity.

Summary of Chapters 16 to 20


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