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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 16 to Chapter 20

Chapter 16

You should be liberal and have a reputation of being liberal, otherwise liberality injures you.

Liberality will cause you to give away all your property. Liberality will also require you to tax your people to have money to give away. In the end you will be poor - this helps no-one.

The moment a prince stops being liberal, he is being accused as being greedy.

A wise prince understands that being considered mean is better than being considered liberal. By being mean, you save enough to be able to defend your country and its people. You are also able to engage in large enterprises without taxing your people.

"We have not seen great things done in our time except by those who have been considered mean; the rest have failed. "

Being mean (not liberal) enables a prince to govern. This does not mean you should rob your people.

A prince should sparingly spend what he or his people owns. A prince should be liberal in giving away what other people owns.

Liberality always leads a prince to be hated and despised. Liberality leads to you having to be greedy to get more (by force) to give away for free. This leads to hate.

Meanness only leads to people finding fault with that - they do not hate you for it.

Chapter 17

Every prince should work towards being considered merciful and not cruel. Do not be totally against being cruel. A lack of cruelty will lead to disorder, chaos, murders and robberies.

A new prince unfortunately have to be cruel initially because being a new prince is full of dangers.

You should consider issues with careful, moderate consideration - not extreme distrust or extreme trust.

It is not possible to love and fear a prince. Being feared is much safer than being loved. In general, people are ungrateful, cowards, greedy and false - do not rely on them. You can not rely on friendships you bought.

People do not care to disappoint a loved one, the fear the fear most. Be feared, they will always keep this fear in mind. Be loved, they will be a traitor to this love when it is to their advantage.

A prince should avoid being hated - that is dangerous - being feared is not dangerous. You can avoid being hated by keeping your hands off the possessions and woman of your people.

When a prince starts robbing his people, he will carry on robbing them more and more.

When with his army, a prince must be cruel in order to keep the army united and to be in control.

A wise prince does not mind being loved or feared. A wise prince is very careful not to be hated - that is dangerous.

Chapter 18

It is most praiseworthy of a prince to be considered trustworthy and not be cunning. However, in real life, princes that used cunning are always more successful than those princes that are always to be trusted fully.

A prince must know and understand when to act like a man and like a beast, as circumstances require both - just one is not enough.

Lions cannot defend themselves against traps, and foxes cannot defend themselves against wolves. You have to be like a fox to see the traps, and like a lion to terrify the wolves. If all people was always totally trustworthy you only had to be like a lion. In reality you have to be like a cunning fox at times. Princes that are cunning and strong as appropriate always succeed better as princes that are only as lions.

A prince will always find someone to deceive - men are too focussed on the present necessities.

The better you understand the nature of mankind, the better you will be able to deceive them with success.

A prince does not have to actually have all perfect good qualities a prince must have. You only must appear to have those qualities. Always acting according to good qualities might harm you - you have to know when to act against it.

Unfortunately a new prince will initially have to act against the nature of good qualities.

Everything a prince says must be filled with these five qualities:

  • being merciful
  • be trustworthy
  • being religious
  • being kind
  • being honest

Chapter 19

As said before, a prince should avoid all things which causes people to hate him.

Violating other's woman and property is the main way to be hated - do not do this.

A prince should guard against being considered:

  • changeable,
  • not serious,
  • womanly,

A prince should endeavor to show his:

  • greatness
  • courage
  • fortitude
  • gravity importance, seriousness

Your people should know your judgements can not be changed, you can not be deceived. These qualities will allow you to be held in high regard. Princes esteemed like this is not easy to attack.

A prince can be attacked from the inside or from the outside. You defend yourself from the outside by having a good army and good allies. If you have a good army you will have good friends.

You can defend yourself from attacks from the inside by avoiding to be hated and despised. This is one of the best defences against a conspiracy. For a conspiracy to work, the conspirators need many others that thoroughly hate and despise you.

A conspirator has fear and the prospect of being punished counting against him.

The prince has the majesty of his principality, laws, friends and popular goodwill all counting for him.

After a successful conspiracy, the conspirators have to deal with the fact that they made enemies with the people.

When a prince is held in esteem he does not have to fear a conspiracy, when he is hated, he has to fear conspiracies from everything and everybody. A prince must take great care to ensure everyone is satisfied and contented.

People loved peace, soldiers loved war. Therefore, people loved an unaspiring prince, while soldiers loved a bold, cruel, greedy prince.

Princes can't avoid being hated by some, the must avoid being hated by all. Princes must work very hard to avoid being hated by the most powerful - in most cases the soldiers.

A prince can become hated by doing good or bad works.

A prince can become loved by doing good or bad works.

Sometimes a prince must do bad works to satisfy the needs of those that hate him.

A prince should be careful not to seriously injure those working closest with him. These people will attack and kill you if the hate is strong enough, not caring if they die in the process too.

A prince should not do things unworthy of his imperial majesty. It will cause him to be hated and despised.

Even just keeping sheep, a great indignity for a prince, can eventually lead to so much hate and contempt, that you are killed.

Princes should focus on satisfying the most powerful. In general this is the army, but at times this might be the people.

Being hated leads to a princes' death.

A prince new to a principality can not just imitate others before him to be successful. He must imitate actions from many different princes depending on the current state of affairs.

Chapter 20

It is not possible to judge the effectiveness of factions or fortresses without having all the details about a certain case to help your decision.

New princes always arm his people. By arming them, you become armed. This also makes those that distrust you faithful to you and keep the currently faithful faithful too.

Those you provide with arms become dependant on you, those you cannot provide with arms understand that you can not possibly have arms for everyone.

Disarming people shows people you distrust them. This offends them and leads to hating you. If you disarm your people, you have to rely on mercenaries, which is useless.

Dividing towns into quarreling factions is not a good idea. Divided cities are always lost when attacked - the weakest party helps the attackers and the remaining parties are unable to resist.

A new prince that overcomes difficulties and dangers lets him earn renown and become great. A wise prince can help this along by secretly fostering hostility against himself, so that he can then crush it, to increase his fame.

A prince that wins over those that initially have a bad impression of him, wins over very strong supporters.

Those unhappy with the previous government, helping you to become prince, do not make great friends. They do not necessarily love you, they just did not like the previous government. It is better to make friends with those content in the current government.

The usefulness of fortresses depends on the circumstances - they spare you from injury in one way but causes you injury in the other way.

The best possible fortress is not to be hated by the people. A fortress is of no use if your people hate you. Do not rely on a fortress, rather avoid being hated by the people.

Summary of Chapters 21 to 26


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