Machiavel, Nicholas

, a celebrated political writer and historian, was born of a good family, at Florence, in 1469. He first distinguished himself as a dramatic writer, but his comedies are not formed on the purest morals, nor are the verses by which he gained some reputation about the same time, entitled to much praise. Soon after he had entered public life, either from the love of liberty, or a spirit of faction, he displayed a restless and turbulent disposition, which not only diminished the respect due to his abilities, but frequently endangered his personal safety. He involved himself in the conspiracy of Capponi and Boscoli, in consequence of which he was put to the torture, but endured it without uttering any confession, and was set at liberty by Leo X. against whose house that conspiracy had been formed. Immediately after the death of Leo, he entered into another plot to expel the cardinal de Medici from Florence. Afterwards, however, he was raised to hitjh honours in the state, and became secretary to the republic of Florence, the 'duties of which office he performed with great fidelity. He was likewise employed in embassies to king Lewis XII. of France; to the emperor Maximilian; to the college of cardinals; to the pope, Julius II., and to other Italian princes. Notwithstanding the revenues which must have accrued to him in these important situations, it would appear that the love of money had no influence on his mind, as he died in extreme poverty in June 1527. Besides his plays, his chief works are, 1. “The Golden Ass,” in imitation of Lucian and | Apuleius 2. “Discourses on the first Decade of Livy” 3. “A History of Florence” 4. “The Life of Castruccio Castracani;” 5. “A Treatise on the Military Art;” 6. “A Treatise on the Emigration of the Northern Nations;” 7. Another entitled “Del Principe,” the Prince. This famous treatise, which was first published in 1515, and intended as a sequel to his discourses on the first decade of Livy, has created very discordant opinions between critics of apparently equal skill and judgment, some having considered him as the friend of truth, liberty, and virtue, and others as the advocate of fraud and tyranny. Most generally “the Prince” has been viewed in the latter light, all its maxims and counsels being directed to the maintenance of power, however acquired, and by any means; and one reason for this opinion is perhaps natural enough, namely, its being dedicated to a nephew of pope Leo X. printed at Rome, re*published in other Italian cities, and long read with attention, and even applause, without censure or reply. On the other hand it has been thought impossible that Machiavel, who was born under a republic, who was employed as one of its secretaries, who performed so many important embassies, and who in his conversation always dwelt on the glorious actions of Brutus and Cassius, should have formed such a system against the liberty and happiness of mankind. Hence it has frequently been urged on his behalf, that it was not his intention to suggest wise and faithlul counsels, but to represent in the darkest colours the schemes of a tyrant, and thereby excite odium against him. Even lord Bacon seems to be of this opinion. The historian of Leo considers his conduct in a different point of view; and indeed all idea of his being ironical in this work is dissipated by the fact, mentioned by Mr. Roscoe, that “many of the most exceptionable doctrines in” The Prince,“are also to be found in his” Discourses,“where it cannot be pretended that he had any indirect purpose in view; and in the latter he has in some instances referred to the former for the further elucidation of his opinions. In popular opinion” The Prince“has affixed to his name a lasting stigma; and Machiavelism has long been a received appellation for perfidious and infamous politics. Of the historical writings of Machiavel, the” Life of Castruccio Castracaniis considered as partaking too much of the character of a romance; but his” History of Florence," comprising the | events of that republic, between 1205 and 1494, which was written while the author sustained the office of historiographer of the republic, although not always accurate in point of fact, may upon the whole be read with both pleasure and advantage. It has been of late years discovered tnat the diary of the most important events in Italy from 1492 to 1512, published by the Giunti in 1568, under the name of Biagio Buonaccorsi, is in fact a part of the notes of Machiavel, which he had intended for a continuation of his history; but which, after his death, remained in the hands of his friend Buonaccorsi. - This is a circumstance of which we were not aware when we drew up the account of this author under the name Esperiente.

In English we have a translation of the whole of Machiavel’s works by Farneworth, and editions of them are common in almost every language. 1


Tiroboschi —Moreri. Gioguene Hist. Litt. D’ltalie. Roscoe’s Leo. —Saxii Onomasticon.