THE DIALOGUE IN HELL BETWEEN MACHIAVELLI AND MONTESQUIEU -- APPENDIX
Appendix: Macaulay's Machiavelli
What Thomas Babington Macaulay has said about Machiavelli has been very influential. Indeed, echoes of it can still be heard today. It is found in an essay that was written in 1828. This was when publication of Machiavelli's complete works appeared in Paris. It was, we presume, a notable event, given the anathema, then about 300 years old, attached to such a personage.
What is valuable in the "Memoir on Machiavelli" in the Bohn edition of the Florentine's works, already mentioned, comes from Macaulay. I also have the suspicion that Joly could at least read English and find it likely that he read Macaulay's essay. At the very least, Joly would place Macaulay "among those who have read and understood Machiavelli" and not among the "vulgar" interpreters. In any case, Joly's view of the "real" Machiavelli stands very close to that of Macaulay. It is for this reason that I beg the reader's indulgence for a brief excursus on Macaulay's Machiavelli.
Macaulay's antiquarian researches unearthed an amusing reference to Machiavelli in a "poem" called Hudibras. This following jingle appears there in Part III Canto I:
Nick Machiavelli had ne'er a trick
The "poet" is heir to a now even longer tradition that associates the surname of Machiavelli with "knavery" and makes his Christian name synonymous with the "devil."
For reasons we will explore, Macaulay does not find it strange that "ordinary readers" of his day regard the author of The Prince as "the most depraved and shameless of human beings." Still, it seems "inconceivable" that the .'martyr of freedom should have designedly acted as the apostle of tyranny." (Joly's Montesquieu expresses the same thought in almost identical terms.) Macaulay writes a bit further on:
The whole man seems to be an enigma, a grotesque assemblage of incongruous qualities, selfishness and generosity, cruelty and benevolence, craft and simplicity, abject villainy and romantic heroism.
This encapsulates the mystery of Machiavelli that Macaulay proposes to resolve in his essay. The publication of Machiavelli's complete works would then be launched in a proper way, a way that would allow Macaulay's generation to come to a true appreciation of the Florentine and, after all these centuries, to once again find delight and profit from him.
After briefly treating and dismissing other "learned interpretations" (including Francis Bacon's), Macaulay will demonstrate that Machiavelli can only be understood by reference to "his times." (Again, this is what the Montesquieu of the Dialogue also says.) The "real" Machiavelli emerges only against the background f a sensitive interpretation of the Renaissance and a sympathetic understanding of the political predicament of Florence and Italy in the sixteenth century.
Briefly, MachiaveIli stands at the first dawn of modernity. He is a product of urban life in a city recognized as preeminent for its wealth and civilization, even among other similarly privileged cities in Italy at the time. There, the mind found itself nourished .in one of the richest intellectual soils ever known to mankind, either before or after. It could flower untrammeled, in a place where authentic talent was honored, almost worshipped. It was in Renaissance Italy that free and full expression was given the whole range of human phenomena-the low and the high. And Machiavelli equally delighted in the depiction of both extremes.
The contrast with life beyond the Alps is sharp. There, the monarch's court dominated and cities, such as existed, were pitiable sights. Life was lived according to certain "forms," practices inherited from the past and rooted in force and superstition. Life outside the court was stupifyingly ignorant and poor.
If, again we may speak in such a way, the "tragic flaw" infecting Italy stemmed from what made life there so exceptional. The civilized pursuits of urban life left no time for the brute-like martial virtues, exclusively cultivated in the North. In many particulars, the city-states of Renaissance Italy find their closest parallel in the ancient Greek city-states. However, the latter maintained their martial spirit by necessity, that is to say, because of the presence of the war-like Sparta and a large body of restive slaves in their midst.
Italy, like Greece at the time of her decline, eventually became dependent on mercenary soldiers for her defense. She fell victim to invasion and, by turns, was forced to submit to the "brutality" of Switzerland, the "insolence" of France, and the "fierce rapacity" of Arragon. They fought the overwhelming force with the best arms they had, cunning and duplicity. The cultivated and refined Italian stood in relation to his conquerors as the cultivated and refined Greek stood to the Roman. Each disdained the other, but for exactly opposite reasons.
This is the experience that Machiavelli lived and it explains both his person and his writings. He sought to expel the barbarians in order to secure civilization for Italy and his people, as he knew it. The "true" Machiavelli is "the patriot." And his patriotism is elevated by its links to higher human concerns. He lived exclusively for his country and to protect a way of life mortally threatened by outsiders. To achieve his ultimate end, he suffered and compromised much of what he held dear. His persona] tragedy was to live at the end of a grand epoch and to die with the consciousness that his life's enterprise was a failure.
According to Macauley, Machiavelli had his faults, but certainly not those which the "vulgar" think. More precisely, he had "a single defect" but a "most mischievous one."
The great principle, that societies and laws exist only for the purpose of increasing the sum of private happiness, is not recognized with sufficient clearness. The good of the body, distinct from the good of the members, and sometimes hardly compatible with the good of the members, seems to be the object which he proposes to himself. Of all political fallacies, this has perhaps had the widest and most mischievous operation.
In sum, it seems Machiavelli's "defect" was that he was too patriotic in seeing the interests of his country as taking precedence over the happiness of its members-including himself, we might add. If the virtues of men in the ancient city were derived from "love of country," as Montesquieu claimed, he might be characterized as virtuous in this sense. But, Macauley seems to imply, like Montesquieu, that the ancient city has passed and such virtues are no longer appropriate for truly modern men. Machiavelli's mode of thinking is now "fallacious," if in- deed it could ever have been fully defended.
The Renaissance did not last, of course. The Counter-Reformation set in and fixed the reputation of Machiavelli ever after. He became the convenient scapegoat for an era that the Church now repudiated and condemned. But Renaissance Italy saw Machiavelli differently, not as a monster, but as one of its most beautiful products. The moral horizons of the two historic epochs that separate Machiavelli and Macaulay are dramatically different and Macaulay's whole essay can be seen as trying to revive and defend the earlier perspective that formed Machiavelli. He says some startling things and in the most beautiful prose. For brevity's sake we will mention only one, but it is particularly illustrative.
Macaulay claims, astonishingly, that if we saw things like Machiavelli's con- temporaries, that is, with all the clarity of these clear-sighted men, we would to a remarkable degree switch our sympathies from Othello to Iago. Iago's "virtues" -- wit, judgment, psychological acuity-would be more obvious. Othello would inspire "nothing but detestation and contempt." In a similar vein, he tells us, if we lived in fifteenth century Italy, we would better appreciate the qualities of Francesco Sforza, an upstart "hero,"-- clanless, lawless, and hearthless -- and depreciate those of Henry V, a mere hero of the (much disdained) "North."
Can Macaulay be serious in heaping admiring praise on iago and so disparaging Othello? The play is about jealousy, not just Othelllo's but Iago's. It is hard to avoid the terms of modern psychotherapy to capture the bent of such a small man with such monstrous, "green-eyed" obsessions. Furthermore, is it possible to put Sforza in the same league with the great-souled Ha]? He speaks of lago's "virtues" without speaking of the perverted use to which they were put. What about Henry's "wit," "judgment," and "psychological acuity?" In Falstarrs protege, they are no less formidable than the same traits found in Iago. But they are put to noble use in founding a truly greater Britain.  At end, if all this is an indication of the moral sensibility it takes to redeem Machiavelli from his anathema, clearly something is wrong.
Essentially, Macaulay deals with the shocking things found in Machiavelli by telling us, reassuringly, that they are not really shocking after all. In effect, "this is how people thought back then. Open minds sensitized by history would see things so." This is a lamentably weak, if not "vulgar," argument! Are we really to believe that everyone back then was a Machiavellian? Can anyone read Machiavelli's works and come to the conclusion that he is dealing with a common mind? That, ] maintain, is inconceivable, regardless of when he was read, back then, in the nineteenth century, or even now.
I do not want to be snide in dealing with such a worthy and eminent historian. But I think we can discern in the mild "criticism" that he does make of Machiavelli, a hidden praise of the liberalism of nineteenth-century England. Following Macaulay and accepting momentarily his view that moral perspectives change radically with the times, we might be tempted to say that it is the experience of nineteenth century England that crucially shapes the historian. Machiavelli's "mischievous defect" was that he did not clearly enough see what any nineteenth-century liberal clearly saw, that government was meant to serve the "interests" of society-the happiness of the individual, however defined. "Hear! Hear! Score one for the political institutions of England!" And score two for its religious arrangements-the Anglican Church that shelters its people from ultramontane ob-uscation, which, among other things, clouds our mind concerning the question of poor, misunderstood Machiavelli.
I have great reservations about Macaulay's thesis, and that of Joly, which stands so close to it. As was said with regard to Joly, to want to turn Machiavelli into a liberal robs his thought of all its moral ambiguity as well as its majestic heights. For sure, he is concerned about the people's interests. A great teacher I knew once remarked that the whole of democratic politics begins with several lines in Chapter IX of The Prince. But the teaching of Machiavelli is decidedly more oriented (if not exclusively so) by concern with the "few," the natural princes of our race (Moses, for example) and "rare" moments, such as political foundings. They are really worthy of attention for they form the horizon in which we all live. He speaks to the rare men-those not satisfied with an ample meal, a warm bed, and the envious notice of a neighbor-and he speaks to them about glory. It too has its exigencies, though "happy" men don't feel them. And a politics that neglects these exigencies is incomplete, impoverished, truncated, and vulnerable. 
We can not simply ignore the shocking things Machiavelli says and recommends. Nor can we dismiss the concerns they raise as a product of vulgar minds not yet free from Romanish obscurantism. With Machiavelli, we are in the presence of one of those rare individuals. Macaulay would have us think of him, but for a common defect, as a "jolly good fellow." (It is even a "defect" that, paradoxically, does him honor). But I don't think a nation, like Britain, of such decency and propriety, would, then or now, accept what Machiavelli says as quite "cricket."  Nor would the country of Shakespeare easily come to such unseemly interpretations of his thought.
I sense that Machiavelli would smile at his scolding for his "mischievous defect." The Church's ban deals with far weightier matters. Its gravamen speaks of the soul and this helps put things in proper perspective.
Macaulay remains a truly grand historian and a sublime writer. However, I see the essay on Machiavelli as perhaps the exception that proves the rule of his worthiness. Machiavelli has disturbed his normally sure judgment. He always has this effect on his readers. It's part of his timelessness.
At end, we should not be so hard on old Macaulay if the historical net he fashioned failed to catch Machiavelli. He's a slippery kind of guy. I suspect that those who have engaged in the chase and really got hold of him are not the same per- sons that started the hunt. I also suspect that these very few individuals would be loath to tell all about the prize they caught. 
1. During the war, Winston Churchill was said to have attended a performance of Henry V in London. His box hovered close to the stage. The actor playing Hal (Sir Laurence Olivier, I believe) complained that every time he was about to deliver Henry's stirring lines, he could hear Churchill's deep and gravelly voice mumbling the words just before him. If the voice belonged to another person, one could imagine the actor stopping in mid-sentence, glaring up, and asking for silence. The point is that at Britain's "darkest hour," indeed our darkest hour, we would be surprised, to say the least, to find the great man sustaining himself with the words of Francesco Sforza. Churchill saved the regime Henry helped found and immortalized the glory of that "blessed plot" that harbors a "happy breed of men. "
2. I used to hear this argument in the classroom almost daily. It is also the argument of the "cultural relativists." I often found the "openness" that is this latter group's boast leading them to a defense of the most questionable, not to say heinous, practices of our species. At end, they are not really "relativists." "Openness" is their absolute openness to the point of vacuity.
3. Abraham Lincoln speaks eloquently about the moral ambiguity of men who have glory as their ruling passion. He explicitly draws attention to Napoleon, who, like Caesar, was willing to destroy a republic and enslave free men to satisfy his ambition. Joly sees his nephew as a pretender to the same "tribe."
When Lincoln wrote the following words, the founding moment in America had passed. That "field of glory" had been "harvested." The question that the country faced was whether or not that founding would last. Lincoln deserves extensive quotation.
But new reapers will arise, and they will seek a field. It is to deny, what the history of the world tells us is true, to suppose that men of ambition and talents will not continue to spring up among us. And when they do, they will naturally seek the gratification of their ruling passion, as others have done so before them. The question is, can the gratification be found in supporting and maintaining an edifice that has been erected by others? Most certainly it cannot. Many great and good men sufficiently qualified for any task they should undertake, may ever be found, whose ambition would aspire to nothing beyond a seat in Congress, a gubernatorial or presidential chair; but such belong not to the family of the lion, or the tribe of the eagle[.] What! Think you these places would satisfy an Alexander, a Caesar, or a Napoleon? Never! Towering genius disdains a beaten path. It seeks regions hitherto unexplored. It sees no distinction in adding story to story, upon the monuments of fame, erected to the memories of others. It denies that it is glory enough to serve under any chief. It scorns to tread in the footsteps of any predecessor, however illustrious. It thirsts and burns for distinction; and, if possible, it will have it, whether at the expense of emancipating slaves or enslaving freemen. Is it unreasonable then to expect, that some man possessed of the loftiest genius, coupled with ambition sufficient to push it to its utmost stretch, will at some time, spring up among us? And when such a one does, it will require the people to be united with each other, attache to the government and laws, and generally intelligent, to successfully frustrate his designs.
Distinction will be his paramount object; and although he would as willingly, perhaps more so, acquire it by doing good as harm, yet, that opportunity being past, and nothing left to be done in the way of building up, he would set boldly to the task of pulling down.
Lincoln's words are impressive, not to say prophetic and poetic. As usual with him, lofty thoughts find the simplest and homeliest of expression. He gives a homily for democratic ears. Yet, it is absolutely devoid of the slightest tinge of preachiness or flattery. He says only a "general intelligence" can save our republic. All over America "experts" are redesigning our educational systems to better conform to the "Internet age." They should listen to Abe. (No doubt Lincoln felt the ambition he so eloquently speaks of).
For many reasons, this writer has peculiar satisfaction in ending his book about despotism with references to Churchill and Lincoln. For those who periodically feel the need, there's no better tonic than contemplating their words and lives to restore faith in humanity.
Lincoln's words are found in a speech he gave when he was a relatively unknown Illinois politician: "Address before the Springfield Young Men's Lyceum" in 1838 entitled "The Perpetuation of our Political Institutions." It can be found in The Political Thought of Abraham Lincoln, Richard N. Current ed., (New York: Bobbs-Merrill, 1967), 11-21.
4. Though if we are to believe the scandals now said to infect this peculiar and incomprehensible sport (throwing matches, fixing scores, bribing umpires, etc.), it might be just that.
5. Macaulay's essay on Machiavelli can be found in Macaulay, ed. G. M. Young (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press: 1967) 235-269. For those who get it into heir head to track down Machiavelli, there is no better guide than Leo Strauss. See in particular his Thoughts on Machiavelli (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1969).