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Niccolo Machiavelli
The Prince 15
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CHAPTER XV

CONCERNING THINGS FOR WHICH MEN, AND ESPECIALLY PRINCES,
ARE PRAISED OR BLAMED

It remains now to see what ought to be the rules of conduct for a
prince towards subject and friends. And as I know that many have
written on this point, I expect I shall be considered presumptuous in
mentioning it again, especially as in discussing it I shall depart
from the methods of other people. But, it being my intention to write
a thing which shall be useful to him who apprehends it, it appears to
me more appropriate to follow up the real truth of the matter than the
imagination of it; for many have pictured republics and principalities
which in fact have never been known or seen, because how one lives is
so far distant from how one ought to live, that he who neglects what
is done for what ought to be done, sooner effects his ruin than his
preservation; for a man who wishes to act entirely up to his
professions of virtue soon meets with what destroys him among so
much that is evil.

Hence it is necessary for a prince wishing to hold his own to know how
to do wrong, and to make use of it or not according to necessity.
Therefore, putting on one side imaginary things concerning a prince,
and discussing those which are real, I say that all men when they are
spoken of, and chiefly princes for being more highly placed, are
remarkable for some of those qualities which bring them either blame
or praise; and thus it is that one is reputed liberal, another
miserly, using a Tuscan term (because an avaricious person in our
language is still he who desires to possess by robbery, whilst we call
one miserly who deprives himself too much of the use of his own); one
is reputed generous, one rapacious; one cruel, one compassionate; one
faithless, another faithful; one effeminate and cowardly, another bold
and brave; one affable, another haughty; one lascivious, another
chaste; one sincere, another cunning; one hard, another easy; one
grave, another frivolous; one religious, another unbelieving, and the
like. And I know that every one will confess that it would be most
praiseworthy in a prince to exhibit all the above qualities that are
considered good; but because they can neither be entirely possessed
nor observed, for human conditions do not permit it, it is necessary
for him to be sufficiently prudent that he may know how to avoid the
reproach of those vices which would lose him his state; and also to
keep himself, if it be possible, from those which would not lose him
it; but this not being possible, he may with less hesitation abandon
himself to them. And again, he need not make himself uneasy at
incurring a reproach for those vices without which the state can only
be saved with difficulty, for if everything is considered carefully,
it will be found that something which looks like virtue, if followed,
would be his ruin; whilst something else, which looks like vice, yet
followed brings him security and prosperity.


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