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rents half-a-century later. But then Sir Robert Peel did not live in the mephitic miasma of shuddering uncertainty and pettifogging intrigue; Sir Robert Peel did not look for counsel to the maxims of the counter, or serve out his policy by the yard. There was no disposition in those days to assure the nation that the article supplied by the Tory party was substantially the same as that provided over the way, with the difference of allowing the trade discount. The statesmen who revived Constitutional principles after the first great triumph of English Radicalism were not in the habit of adopting the ideas of their opponents while censuring their "vacillating and inconsistent" application. But in those bygone days the Tory party had not ceased to respect itself and its leaders.
Let it not be imagined that the object of these pages is merely to gratify the malice of Eliphaz, or to promote the aspirations of Bildad. Those candid friends had to pay the penalty of their inconsiderate admonitions by a series of sacrifices. No one who has studied their observations can deny their general value. And Sir Stafford Northcote would do well to take to heart the utterances of those who, if perhaps somewhat captious and a little prone to personal animadversion, are yet the spokesmen of opinions not to be disregarded. There is, however, a lesson to be deduced from this controversy which it ought not to be difficult to decipher. If there is a future in store for the Conservative party-which some affect to doubt-it must be a future untrammelled by any association with the immediate past. If the Conservative leaders are to stand between their country and a Democratic revolution they must bave other instruments than those which wrought their downfall four years ago. They must have a confidence in their principles which they have not yet shown; a confidence in themselves which they do not yet possess; a confidence in their party which they have yet to learn. First, let them realise the first of these duties; next, let them train themselves up to some perception of what is meant by self-respect-or, if they cannot, let them give way to better men; finally, let them discard the rubbish which they brought away from their old offices, and seek in the ranks of their party those who have a loftier and truer conception of Conservative statesmanship than that which consists in framing resolutions intended to commit nobody, and which are contemned by everybody. The party which in comparatively recent days of discouragement produced a Hardy, a Hunt, and even a Northcote, can scarcely fail to furnish their counterparts to-day. It would be a sad thing if the great political confederation which almost saved and afterwards restored the English Monarchy, which checked the French Republic and crushed Napoleon in his pride, should expire under the counter of a circulating library in the Strand.
AN ENGLISH TORY.
In our own, as in other European languages, the name of Machiavelli is a household word, and has supplied a term of reproach loosely given to all dishonest and unscrupulous policy. Yet probably to the majority of educated men, even The Prince,' the most famous, if not the best, of his works, is known only by reputation, and a scholarly translation of that renowned treatise is therefore neither inopportune nor superfluous. Mr. C. Detmold has undertaken a more ambitious task. He has published in four handsome volumes a translation of the collected historical and political works of the Florentine statesman.2 Mr. Detmold has done his work with care and ability, and it is perhaps hypercritical to remark that he has not reproduced the admirable lucidity and terse vigour of Machiavelli's style, and that a careful comparison of his translation with the original discloses here and there trifling inaccuracies.
The appearance of these translations permits an English reader to form his own judgment on Machiavelli's writings: but such a judgment must be erroneous, or at best imperfect, unless the student of Machiavelli has a sufficient knowledge of the conditions under which he wrote, the circumstances which inspired him, the age which he addressed. Such knowledge is amply supplied by Professor Villari's life of Machiavelli, the English version of which 3 has just been completed. After marvelling at the ingenious perversity of so many of his predecessors, we are disposed to rate the acuteness and sobriety of judgment, shown by Signor Villari, even more highly than the thorough knowledge of his subject which we expected as a matter of course from an historian whose intimate acquaintance with the Italy of the fifteenth century needed no further proof.
Machiavelli is far from being one of the most attractive in that brilliant series of great men who, during three centuries, maintained the supremacy of Italy in every province of literature and art. The circumstances of his life were neither romantic nor striking. He served his country with a loyal and unwearying devotion, but the part he played was obscure, and the stage narrow. The misfortunes of his later days touch us, not because they extend beyond our experience, but rather because we find in them so much of the
(1) The Prince. By Nicolo Machiavelli, Citizen and Secretary of Florence. Translated from the Italian by N. H. J. Kegan Paul, Trench, & Co., 1882.
(2) The Historical, Political, and Diplomatic Writings of Nicolo Machiavelli. Translated by C. Detmold. 4 vols. Trübner & Co., 1883.
(3) Niccolo Machiavelli and his Times. By Prof. Pasquale Villari. Translated by Linda Villari. 4 vols. (Kegan Paul, Trench, & Co. 1883.)
common lot of humanity, disappointed ambition, capacities, real or fancied, which are denied the opportunities of action, ideal aspirations obscured by the sordid realities of poverty. Machiavelli meanly dressed, drinking and wrangling with boors in a wayside pothouse, is a striking instance of fortune's irony; but we miss the tragic grandeur of that nobler Florentine, walking with unimpaired dignity through the antechambers of the Scala, or pointed at with awe in the streets of Ravenna. Nor are the qualities of Machiavelli's writings, however eminent, those which command general popularity and widespread fame.
It may, therefore, appear remarkable that, after being the subject of uninterrupted literary controversy during three centuries, no other Italian author should in our own time have attracted so much of the attention of his countrymen. Yet the reason is not far to seek. The theme on which Machiavelli insisted, and to which he constantly returned, the object and the excuse of his statecraft, was twofold-the expulsion of the barbarians and the establishment of an Italian kingdom as the necessary condition of national unity and regeneration. It is therefore natural that an age which, after sharing in these hopes, has seen their realisation, should revere in him a prophet and a guide. Another great people has in this century attained to unity and freedom from foreign interference, and we are not surprised to find that Machiavelli has been studied as carefully and sympathetically by Germans as by his own countrymen. Too many, no doubt, of the measures he recommends, may be, as he himself allows, opposed not only to the precepts of our religion, but even to the plain dictates of humanity; yet we cannot deny that if Germany has become great and Italy free, it has been by following a policy which the Florentine secretary would not have disavowed. It may therefore not be without interest shortly to recapitulate the most important facts of Machiavelli's life, and to offer such considerations as may enable the reader to decide for himself the few and simple issues which can be raised about the character and objects of the political treatises of the Florentine secretary.
Machiavelli was born in May, 1469, of an old Florentine family, not noble, but reckoned among the notable plebeian houses of the Guelf faction. In 1494, when Piero de' Medici fled, and Charles VIII. of France entered Florence, the future secretary was in his twentysixth year. Like all Italians he sought the ideal of the future in the past, but Tacitus taught him to hate the Empire; Cæsar to him was but a more fortunate Catiline; and in Livy he learnt to revere the Roman Republic as the model of all political wisdom. An ardent admirer of pagan antiquity, he was likely to feel but little interest in the theocratic Republic with which Savonarola sought to replace the tyranny of the Medici.
It was not till after the friar's death that he began to take an active part in public life. In 1498 he was appointed Chancellor of the Second Chancery, or public office of the Florentine government. It was his duty to act as secretary of the "Ten of War and Liberty," or commissioners for war and home affairs. From this time onward we find Machiavelli busily engaged in the government of Florence; as the permanent secretary of a changing board he would naturally influence their decisions, while the execution of their measures seems to have been left to his discretion.
The new secretary was in his thirtieth year. He is said to have been of moderate height, thin, with dark hair, aquiline nose, quick, peering eyes, firmly compressed lips, sometimes unbending into a sarcastic smile. He was a born diplomatist, an accurate observer, possessed of perfect self-command, and able to hide his thoughts under a not wholly assumed character of levity and good-fellowship. Indeed, a taste for dissipation, neither creditable nor refined, was a salient feature in his character. For fourteen years he was the devoted servant of the Florentine Republic. No patriotism was ever more disinterested, he was content that others should enjoy the credit of the measures he suggested and promoted; far from enriching himself, he was impoverished in the service of his country. Yet political action was probably not less pleasing to him as an artist than as a patriot, and had the Medici continued to employ him, he would have been scarcely less zealous. These fourteen years must have been the happiest of Machiavelli's life. His duties were congenial, he was brought into contact with the leading men, and initiated into the political movement and intrigues of the time. Yet he was afterwards able to illustrate the errors which a ruler should most strive to avoid by the policy of Florence, and he must often have experienced how bitter a thing it is—in the words of Herodotus-to abound in knowledge and wisdom, yet to have little control over action.
When Machiavelli entered upon the duties of his office, Florence had begun that long struggle to reconquer Pisa, in which the patient resolution shown by the conquerors and the obstinate heroism of the conquered proved that some, at least, of the qualities which fit men to be citizens of a free state survived in Italy. The Secretary of the Ten was at once plunged into preparations for the war, and into the confused negotiations which it occasioned. He witnessed the treachery of the Italian mercenaries, the insubordination and ill-will of the French allies of the Florentine government, and it became an axiom of his policy that no state can be powerful which relies on other arms than those which are in the hands of its own citizens.
His embassies in 1502 to the Court of Cæsar Borgia, mark what was perhaps the most important epoch in Machiavelli's political experience. He was in the Romagna with the Duke of Valentinois
at a juncture when his boldness, his unscrupulous statecraft, the undeviating pertinacity with which he followed out the line of action on which he had determined were most conspicuous; qualities, the absence of which Machiavelli most lamented in the rulers of Florence, and which were most opposed to the policy of compromise and of timid intrigue which he deprecated.
In 1503 he had an opportunity of witnessing the election of a successor to St. Peter and Alexander VI., and of watching the intrigues of the Roman Court, at a time when its vice and corruption were most shamelessly paraded. Machiavelli's political education was now far advanced. In superintending the preparations for the war against Pisa, he had studied the causes of the military weakness of the Italian States. His embassy to France had taught him the humiliation of their dependence on foreigners; his conversations with Cæsar Borgia, what he had seen of the success of his government in the Romagna, convinced him that even Italian anarchy might be overcome by a vigorous prince, whose policy should be wholly directed by considerations of utility. In Rome he had learnt to know those "rascally priests," to whose evil example he attributed the ruin of religion and morality in Italy, while her political disunion was the result of their selfish intrigues.1
The year 1512, which opened so favourably for the French and their allies, with the short and brilliant campaign of Gaston de Foix, saw the total overthrow of their influence in Italy, the flight of the Gonfaloniere Soderini from Florence, the advance of the Spaniards, and the restoration of the Medici. Torn by factions, surrounded by enemies, accustomed for many years to a monarchical or oligarchical government, Florence had not been in a position to carry the experiment of a Republican constitution to a successful issue. It might have been possible to substitute the rule of the Soderini for that of the Medici, but the desire of Soderini to act as a republican magistrate, to conform strictly to the laws, made his overthrow inevitable. Such absolute devotion to legality and to one form of government seemed folly to Machiavelli. Hence the severity of the judgment which he passed on his friend's political capacity. Soderini was, we are told (Discourses, Book II. chap. iii.), a memorable example of the truth of the saying that the work of the founder of a Republic who hesitates to slay the sons of Brutus will not long endure. He thought that by his patience and goodness he would overcome the regret of his opponents for the former government, and in this he was deceived: besides, he shrank from breaking the Constitution as from an evil precedent, not sufficiently considering that the means must be judged by the ends for which they are employed: so, too, elsewhere we are assured that Savonarola and
(1) Discourses, Book I. ch. xii.