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Because Events Happen

Summary by Lewis G. Miller

Machiavelli in the preceding two chapters has warned us against the use of mercenaries and auxiliaries, those soldiers of other princes. It is much more prudent to make use of your own. The next problem arises, though, how should one gain the respect of our soldiers?

This chapter warns the Prince that soldier are not fond of princes who do not understand the art of war. Princes should not just study how war is fought, but “a prince… is to have no other design, nor thought, nor study but war and the arts and disciplines for it”.

Hobbies such as falconry and hunting are seen to be sensible choices as the Prince is able to get a feel for the land he is likely to be defending. When wandering our lands, we are to survey them and bore our accomplices about what one should do if an enemy were to attack from one place.

This chapter acts as a reminder to guard against complacency, which is the angle we take in our analysis of the chapter. In times of peace, we are tempted to consider that there will always be peace and to ignore the worst situations possible. As a result, we leave ourselves and our states open to attack. In his words, “A wise Prince should never be idle in times of peace, but employ himself therein with all his industry, that in his adversity he may reap the fruit of it, and when fortune frowns, be ready to defy her.”

Another aspect of the chapter is the ability for the Prince to command his ultimate embodiment of power; the army. If the prince is unable to command armies then they are unlikely to stay in power for long. Power over the military is, therefore, seen to be of the utmost concern for Machiavelli, more so than other areas of power.

As the ‘devil’s advocate’, I try to argue quite strongly in the defence of this idea although it is normally sensible for Prince’s to understand more than the conduct of war. Regardless, the idea of complacency is one which is highly relevant to modern politics. On a final note, Chapter 14 is the last chapter of the section on military affairs and precedes the famous discussion on concepts such as love and fear, and parsimony and kindness. An important note for those who have neglected the first 14 chapters, as they seem too practical for Renaissance Princes, is just how much information is to be found there. Proper study of these chapters and thought as to what the principles of each chapter will show Machiavelli to have many illuminating perspectives. Avoid neglecting them!

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