THE DIALOGUE IN HELL BETWEEN MACHIAVELLI AND MONTESQUIEU -- TRANSLATION
Montesquieu: Before listening to you, I didn't really know about either the spirit of the laws or the spirit of finances. I am in your debt for having taught me both. You hold in your hands the greatest power in modern times: money. You can get nearly as much of it as you want. With such prodigious resources, you will undoubtedly do great things. It is finally the time to demonstrate that good can come from evil.
Machiavelli: That's exactly what I intend to demonstrate.
Montesquieu: Well, let's see.
Machiavelli: First, the greatest of my benefactions will be to bestow domestic peace upon my people. During my reign, malevolent passions are suppressed. The good are encouraged and the wicked tremble! To a country previously torn by factions, I bring liberty, dignity, and strength.
Montesquieu: Having changed so many other things, have you come so far as to change the meaning of words?
Machiavelli: Liberty does not mean license, any more than dignity and strength mean insurrection and disorder. My empire, peaceful at home, will be glorious abroad.
Machiavelli: I shall wage war in the four corners of the world. I shall cross the Alps, like Hannibal. I shall fight in India like Alexander, in Libya like Scipio. I shall go from the Atlas to the Taurus, from the shores of the Ganges to the Mississippi, from the Mississippi to the river Amur. The Great Wall of China will fall at the sound of my name. In Jerusalem, my victorious legions will defend the tomb of the Savior. In Rome, the vicar of Jesus Christ. In Peru, my legions will trample the dust of the Incas; in Egypt, the ashes of Sesostris; in Mesopotamia, those of Nebuchadnezzar. As the descendant of Caesar, Augustus, and Charlemagne, I will avenge the defeat of Varus on the shores of the Danube; the rout of Cannes on the shores of the Adige; the Norman outrages on the Baltic.
Montesquieu: Please. Stop a moment and think. You're not up to avenging the defeats of all the military leaders of history .Of Louis XIV, Bolleau once said: Great king cease your conquering or I cease writing. I won't even compare you to Louis because it wouldn't do you justice. I grant that no hero of antiquity or modern times could rank with you.
But that's not the question. War in itself is an evil and in your hands it serves to maintain a still greater evil: servitude. But where in all this is the good that you promised to bring about?
Machiavelli: I'm not being evasive here. Glory is itself a great good. It is the most formidable asset. All other assets accrue to the sovereign who has glory. He is the terror of neighboring states and the arbiter of Europe. Whatever you might say about the worthlessness of victories, strength never abdicates its rights, and therefore this sovereign's power prevails and is invincible. Someone may pretend that wars are fought for ideals and make a display of disinterested- ness, but one fine day he ends up seizing a coveted province and imposing tribute on the conquered.
Montesquieu: But in a world such as you describe, when the opportunity offers itself, such action is perfectly all right. Otherwise the military profession would be exceedingly foolish.
Machiavelli: Exactly! See, our ideas are beginning to come a bit closer together. Montesquieu: Yes, like the Atlas and the Taurus. Let's see the other great features of your reign.
Machiavelli: I'm not as disdainful as you seem to be of likening my reign to that of Louis XIV. I would have more than one trait in common with that monarch. Like him, I would erect gigantic buildings. However, my ambition would outstrip his and that of the most celebrated potentates. I would want to show the people that a monument whose construction used to require centuries could be built by me in a few years. The palaces of my predecessors would fall under the wrecker's ball in order to raise them again in new, modernized forms. I would destroy entire cities in order to reconstruct them according to more regular plans and to obtain beautiful views. You can't imagine the extent to which buildings attach people to monarchs. It could be said that they easily forgive destruction of their laws provided that they are built houses. Moreover, you will see in a moment that building projects serve several particularly important objectives.
Montesquieu: After buildings, what will you do?
Machiavelli: You 're going pretty fast. The number of great actions is not limit less. From the time of Sesostrus, to Louis XIV, to Peter the First, haven't the two principal marks of great reigns always been war and buildings?
Montesquieu: True, but still there have existed absolute sovereigns who were concerned with providing good laws, improving morals, and introducing simplicity and decency. Some were concerned with financial regulations and a well-structured economy and intended to leave a legacy of order, peace, lasting institutions-sometimes, even liberty.
Machiavelli: Oh! All that will be accomplished. You yourself see something good in absolute sovereigns.
Montesquieu: Alas! Not very much. But try to prove the contrary. Tell me of the good you'll do.
Machiavelli: I would prodigiously stimulate the spirit of enterprise. My reign would be one of commerce. I would launch speculation upon a new and hitherto unknown course. My administration would unfetter certain restrictions. I would free a number of industries from regulation. Butchers, bakers, and theatrical impressarios would be free.
Montesquieu: free to do what?
Machiavelli: Free to bake bread, free to sell meat, free to put on theatrical productions without official permission.
Montesquieu: I don't see what is such a big deal about that. Free enterprise is a right taken for granted among modern peoples. Don't you have anything better to teach me?
Machiavelli: The people's lot in life would be my constant concern. My government would find them work.
Montesquieu: It would be better to let the people find work for themselves. Political power does not have the right to make a play for popularity with its subject's money. The public revenues are a collective contribution that must be used only for the general welfare. When the working classes habitually rely on the state, they degenerate. They lose their energy, their vitality, and their intellectual skills. Being paid by the state casts them into a kind of servitude from which they can not rise except by destroying the state itself. Your building projects will consume enormous sums in nonproductive expenditures. They make capital scarce, kill small industry, and destroy credit for lower levels of society. Starvation is the consequence of all your schemes. Economize and you can build later. Govern with moderation and justice, restrict the scope of your government as far as possible, and the people will have nothing to ask of you because it will have no need of you.
Machiavelli: What cold indifference you show to the wretchedness of the people! The principles of my government are quite different. My heart goes out to the most insignificant of our poor, suffering creatures. I am indignant when I see the few rich procure pleasures beyond the reach of the many. I will do everything I can to ameliorate the material conditions of workers, laborers, and those who are bent under the weight of social necessity.
Montesquieu: Very well, then begin by giving them the funds you reserve for the salaries of your great dignitaries, your ministers, your emissaries and ambassadors. Retain for them the largess that you thoughtlessly lavish on your pages, courtesans, and mistresses.
Better yet, dispose of those sovereign trappings whose sight is an affront to the equality of men. Rid yourself of the titles of Majesty, Highness, and Excellency that pierce the ears of the proud like steel. Call yourself protector, like Cromwell, but follow the Acts of the Apostles. Go live in the cottage of the poor, like Alfred the Great. Sleep in hospitals and stretch out on the bed of the diseased like the saintly Louis. It's too easy to perform acts of evangelic charity when one's life is spent on sumptuous couches with beautiful women, when, upon going to bed and arising, great personages are eager to help you into or out of your shirt. Be a father of a family and not a despot, a patriarch and not a prince.
If this role does not suit you, be the leader of a democratic republic. Grant liberty. Infuse it into the public mind if that's your inclination. Be Lycurgus, be Agesllaus, be Gracchus. But I don't see the value of this slack civilization where everyone bows and becomes pale in the presence of the prince, where all minds are cast in the same mold and all souls are made uniform. I can understand aspiring to reign over men but not automatons.
Machiavelli: What an overwhelming flood of eloquence. Governments are overturned by such talk.
Montesquieu: Alas! You have but one concern: preserving yourself. It is a simple matter to put your love of the public good to the test. The people who elected you would only have to express its will by asking you to descend from the throne in the name of the state's salvation. Then it would be obvious to all.
Machiavelli: What a bizarre request! Obviously, it's for its own good that I would oppose such a request.
Montesquieu: What do you know about the public good? If the people are above you, by what right do you subordinate their will to yours? If you are freely accepted by the people, even if their choice is dictated by necessity and not justice, why do you place so much faith in force and nothing in reason? I count you among those rulers who last but for a day.
Machiavelli: A day! I will reign my whole life and my descendants perhaps after I me. I have revealed my political, economic, and financial system. Do you want to know the final way by which I will sink the roots of my dynasty into the depths of the earth?
Machiavelli: You refuse to listen to me. You are vanquished-you, your principles, your school, and your country.
Montesquieu: Since you insist, speak, but let this conversation be the last.
Machiavelli: I won't respond to any of your oratorical outbursts. Rhetorical excesses are out of place here. Isn't it madness to say to a sovereign: "Would you please descend from your throne for the happiness of the people?" Moreover, to say to him: "Since you are a creature of popular will, abide by changes in the public mood. Be willing to have your fate publicly debated." Is this conceivable? Isn't self-defense the first law of every constituted power, not only out of self-interest, but also in the interest of the people it governs? Haven't I paid the greatest possible homage to modern principles of equality? After all, isn't a government based on universal suffrage the expression of the will of the greatest number? You will tell me this principle is destructive of public liberties. What can I do about it? When this principle has penetrated the public mind, do you know how to uproot it? And if it can't be uprooted, do you know how to realize it in the great European societies of today other than by a single man? You are too strict regarding the ways of governing. Show me some other way executive power can be employed. If there is no alternative to absolute power, tell me how it can escape certain drawbacks that necessarily follow from its principle.
No, I am not a Saint Vincent de Paul. My subjects need not an evangelic soul, but a strong ann. I am not an Agesllaus, a Lycurgus, or a Gracchus because I am dealing neither with Spartans nor Romans. I am in the midst of voluptuous societies, where a passion for pleasure and war go hand in hand, where people, transported by power and sensuality, no longer recognize divine authority, paternal authority, or religious restrictions. Did I create the world in which I live? I am as I am because it would disintegrate even more quickly if it were left to itself. I control this society through its vices because it only presents me with vices. If it had virtues, I would employ them.
Some austere and principled individuals criticize my power. But can they fall to recognize the real services I provide them, my genius, and even my grandeur?
I am the revolutionary arm, the sword that counters a sense of destruction that is in the air. I harness the mad forces that are, at end, driven by brute instincts, ravishing all in their path under the veneer of principle. If I discipline these forces, if I stop their spread in my country, if only for a century, would I not deserve to be honored? Couldn't I even claim the gratitude of European states that turn their eyes toward me as toward Osiris, who alone has the power to captivate these frenzied masses? Look up to the man who bears on his countenance the fatal mark of human destiny and bow down before him.
Montesquieu: Avenging angel, grandson of Tamerlane, though you reduce the people to Helots, you can't prevent free souls from rising somewhere. They will defy you, and their contempt would suffice to preserve those rights of the human conscience that God has rendered invisible.
Machiavelli: God protects the strong.
Montesquieu: Please, forge the last links of the chain you have been fashioning. Forge them together firmly. Use anvil and hammer. You can do anything. God protects you. He himself guides your fate.
Machiavelli: It's hard for me to understand the animus behind your words. Am I really so harsh when I embrace, not violence, but self-effacement as my political end? Rest assured then, I bring you more than one unexpected consolation. lust let me take a few more precautions that I think are necessary for my security. Enveloped with the protection they afford me, you'll see that a prince has nothing to fear from events.
Whatever you say, our writings have more than one thing in common. I think that a person who wishes to be a complete despot can not dispense with reading you. So, it was well said in The Spirit of the Laws that an absolute monarch must have a large praetorian guard.  That's good advice. I shall follow it. My guard will be about one-third of the effective strength of the army. I am a great advocate of conscription, which is one of the finest inventions of the French genius. But I believe that this practice must be perfected. I shall try to keep under arms the greatest possible number of those who have completed compulsory service. I think this can be done by clamping down on the buying and selling of military obligations, a practice that occurs in many states, even in France. I would suppress this hideous practice as it is now conducted. I myself would honestly engage in it by establishing a monopoly and creating a military endowment fund out of its proceeds. Those who would want to devote themselves exclusively to a military career would then be lured by money to serve and to continue in the service.
Montesquieu: For all intents and purposes, you want to establish a kind of mercenary force within your country!
Machiavelli: Yes, partisan spite might say something like that. But my suggestion is motivated only by the good of the people and also by an additional interest in my own preservation-very legitimate-that constitutes the common good of my subjects.
Let's go on to other subjects. You may be surprised that I am going to return to the subject of building. I warned you that we would come back to it. You'll see the political motive behind the vast system of building that I undertook. I will put an economic theory into practice that has had disastrous consequences in certain European states. This theory looks to providing permanent work for the working classes. My reign promises them a salary indefinitely. If I die, and my system is abandoned, no more work. The people would strike and mount an assault on the richer classes. Open revolt follows. Productivity would nosedive, debts would be canceled, and insurrection would spread to neighboring states. Europe would be aflame. I pause. Wouldn't the privileged classes, which quite naturally fear for their fortunes, closely loin ranks with the working classes to maintain either my person or my dynasty? Additionally, wouldn't the great powers loin together to support me out of a shared interest in a tranquil Europe?
As you can see, this subject of building, which appears so trivial, is really of colossal importance. Given the ends this policy serves, sacrifices must not be spared. Have you noticed that almost all my political reforms simultaneously serve economic goals? This is the case once again. I will set up a fund for public works, endowed with several hundred million francs that will stimulate construction all over my kingdom. You must have guessed my objective. It will provide me with a worker's lacquerie and be turned into another army that I need against factions. But this proletarian mass that I control must not turn against me if some day they are without bread. The building projects themselves will guard against this. You see, it is characteristic of my plans that each simultaneously serves multiple purposes. The worker who builds for me will also build the means of defense that I need against him. Without knowing it, he drives himself from the center of the city proper where his presence disturbs me. He makes the success of street revolutions forever impossible. The upshot of these great building projects is actually to restrict the area where the artisan lives. He will be confined to suburbs because of a rise in the cost of living, due to an increase in rents. He will soon be forced to abandon even these. It will be almost impossible for those who live by dally labor to be able to live in my capital except in the outskirts. As a result, it will be impossible for insurrections to take place. It is only in neighborhoods bordering the seat of government that insurrection can take place. Of course this means that there will be an immense working population around the capital that can be fearsome if its anger is provoked. But the renovations that I would undertake would all be conceived according to a strategic plan, that is to say, they would allow for great avenues down which cannon could move from one end to the other. The ends of these great avenues would be linked to barracks and fortresses, full of arms, soldiers, and munitions. My successor would have to be an imbecllic dotard or a chlld in order to allow his being brought down by an insurrection. At the wave of his hand, a whiff of gunpowder could sweep the streets clear up to twenty leagues from the capital. But the blood that flows in my veins burns with vitality, and my race possesses all the signs of strength. Are you listening to me?
Machiavelli: You do understand that I don't intend to make dally life difficult for the working population of the capital. I face a problem here, of course. But, the abundant resources at my government's disposal suggest a solution. It is to build vast cities for the common people where housing would be low priced and where the masses would find themselves united as in vast families.
Machiavelli: Oh! This denigrating mindset, this implacable partisan hatred doesn't miss a chance to run down my institutions. What you say will be repeated. So what? If this tool doesn't succeed, another will be found.
I must not abandon this subject of building projects without mentioning what might appear as a quite insignificant detail. But is there anything insignificant in politics? The many edifices that I construct must bear testimony to my fame: emblems, symbols, bas reliefs, and sculptures that call to mind certain subjects germane to my .history .My coat of arms and my initials must ornament everything. In one place, there will be angels supporting my crown. Farther on, statues of justice and wisdom will bear my initials. These are matters of utmost importance.
Through symbols and emblems, the person of the sovereign is always present. One lives with him, his memory, and his thought. As continually falling drops of water dissolve even granite, so the sentiment of absolute sovereignty seeps into even the most rebellious spirits. For the same reason, I want my statue, my bust, and my portraits to be in all public buildings, especially in courtrooms. l want to be represented in royal costume or on horseback.
Montesquieu: Alongside the image of Christ.
Machiavelli: Certainly not, but facing him, for sovereign power is a reflection of divine power. In such a way, my image will be associated with that of providence and justice.
Montesquieu: justice itself must wear your livery .You are not a Christian, but a Greek Byzantine emperor.
Machiavelli: I am a Roman, Catholic, and Apostolic emperor. For the same reasons as those lust mentioned, I want my name, the royal name, to be given to public buildings of all sorts-Royal Tribune, Royal Court, Royal Academy, Royal Legislative Body, Royal Senate, Royal Council of State. As often as possible, the same designation will be given to bureaucrats, agents, and the official personnel who surround the government-King's Lieutenant, King's Archbishop, King's Jester, King's Judge, King's Lawyer. Finally, the word "royal" will be a sign of power for those men or things that bear it. Only my birthday will be a national and not a royal holiday. In addition, as far as possible, the streets, public places, and squares should bear the names which recall the historical events of my reign. Anyone that follows these prescriptions, even a Caligula or a Nero, is certain to impress himself into the memory of peoples and to transmit his fame to the most distant centuries.
I still have so much to say, but I must limit myself. Who could say everything without a deadly boredom? I come now to small matters. I am sorry for these things are perhaps not worthy of your attention, but, for me, they are vital.
It is said that the bureaucracy is a scourge of monarchic government. I don't believe it. Bureaucrats are thousands of servants who are naturally attached to the existing order of things. I have an army of soldiers, an army of judges, an army of workers. I want an army of government employees.
Montesquieu: You no longer take the trouble to justify anything.
Machiavelli: Do I have time?
Montesquieu: No, go on.
Machiavelli: In states that have been monarchies, and they all have been at least once, I have discovered a veritable frenzy for braid and ribbons. These things cost the prince almost nothing. He can make people happy and, even better, loyal with pieces of cloth and baubles of silver or gold. Really, it would take little for me to decorate everyone who requests it. A decorated man is a bought man. I would make these decorations tokens of devotion that enthuse my subjects. I really believe that I could buy off nine-tenths of my kingdom for this price. I would thereby satisfy as far as I could the egalitarian instincts of the nation. But mark this well. The more a nation as a whole prizes equality, the more individuals themselves have a passion for distinction. It would be a sorry commentary on my ruling skills not to take advantage of this course of action. Therefore, far from getting rid of titles, as you advised me, I would multiply them as I would honors. I want the etiquette of Louis XIV restored at my court, the domestic hierarchy of Constantine, austere diplomatic formality, and impressive ceremoniousness. Those are infallible ways to govern the minds of the masses. In the midst of all this, the sovereign appears as a god.
I am assured that in states that appear to embrace democratic ideas, the former monarchic nobility has lost nothing of its prestige. My chamberlains would be gentlemen of the oldest stock; Many ancient names would certainly be extinct. But by virtue of my absolute power, I would revive them through titles. At my court, the greatest names of history since Charlemagne would be found.
These ideas might appear bizarre to you, but I can assure you that they win do more for the consolidation of my dynasty than the wisest laws. Worship of the prince is a kind of religion and his worship, like all other religions, involves contradictions and mysteries beyond reason. [2l Each of my acts, howsoever seemingly incomprehensible, proceeds from a calculation whose sole aim is my security and that of my dynasty. Moreover, as I say in The Prince, the really difficult thing is to acquire power, but it is easy to preserve it. Basically, all that is needed is to eliminate whatever harms it and introduce whatever protects it. The essential feature of my politics, as you can see, has been to make myself indispensable.  I have destroyed as many intermediary powers as was necessary so that nothing could proceed without me, so that the very enemies of my power tremble to overturn it.
What remains for me to do is merely develop the moral premises inherent in my institutions. My reign is a reign of pleasure. Surely you won't forbid me to cheer my people by games and festivals. This will help soften manners. It cannot hide the fact that money is the predominant concern of the century. The people's needs have doubled. Luxury ruins families. Everywhere material pleasures are sought. A sovereign would have to be out of touch with his times not to know how to turn to his advantage this universal passion for money and this sensual ardor that today consumes men. Misery squeezes them as if caught in a vice. Luxury inspires them. Lasciviousness drives them. Ambition devours them. They are mine. But if I speak in this way, at bottom it is the interest of my people that guides me. Yes, I shall make good emerge from evil. I shall exploit materialism for the sake of harmony and civilization. I shall extinguish the political passions of men by placating their ambitions, covetousness, and material needs. I intend to have for servants of my reign those who, under previous governments, made the most noise about liberty. The most austere virtues are like Gioconda's wife. All that is necessary is always to double the price of defeat. Those who will turn down money will not turn down honors. Those who will turn down honors will not turn down money. In seeing those who are believed to be most pure fall one by one, public opinion will grow so weak that it will end up abdicating completely. Really, what cause will there be for complaint? I will be harsh only in what relates to politics. This passion alone will be suppressed. I will even secretly favor other passions by a thousand secret channels open to absolute power.
Montesquieu: Having destroyed the political conscience of men, you are about to destroy their moral conscience. You have killed society, now you murder man. Would to God that your words were heard on earth. They would strike ears as the most brilliant refutation of your own doctrines.
Machiavelli: Let me finish.
Machiavelli; I have only to sketch certain particulars concerning my way of acting and certain character traits that give my government its final countenance.
In the first place, I want my scheme to be impenetrable even to those who are closest to me. In this regard, I would be like Alexander VI and the Duke of Valentinois. There was a saying about Alexander VI at the court of Rome, "that he never did what he said," and about the Duke of Valentinois, "that he never said what he did." I win reveal my plans only when I issue the order for their execution and I would give my orders only at the last moment. Borgia never did it any other way. His ministers themselves knew nothing and everyone around him was always kept guessing. I have a hunter's patience. When I see my prey, I look away from it, and when it is in my reach, I turn suddenly and pounce on it before it has time to utter a cry.
You would not believe what prestige such a power of dissimulation gives a prince. When it is combined with rigorous action, he is enveloped in a superstitious reverence. His counselors ask themselves in hushed tones what he will think of next. The people place confidence only in him. To them, he personifies providence whose ways are inscrutable. When the people see him pass, they are prompted by an instinctive fear to wonder what his nod could mean. Neighboring states are constantly in fear and shower him with signs of deference because they never know from one day to the next if some enterprise is about to be launched against them.
Montesquieu: You maintain power over your people by keeping them under foot. However, if you deceive the states with which you deal in the same way you deceive your subjects, their combined strength will soon wipe you out.
Machiavelli: You're getting me off the track. I'm only concerned here with domestic politics, but if you want to know one of the principal ways to check the combined hatred of foreigners, here it is. It's understood that I reign over a powerful kingdom. Among neighboring states, I would search out a large country in decline that aspires to rise again. Through some general war, I would raise it to its former greatness, as has happened to Sweden and Prussia, and might one day happen to Germany or Italy. This country would thrive only at my sufferance, I would only be an emanation of my being, and would provide me with 300,000, more men against armed Europe for as long as I live.
Montesquieu: And what about the safety of your state? You have raised a rival power on your borders that will sooner or later be an enemy.
Machiavelli; I look to my own preservation first and foremost.
Montesquieu: Then you are not even concerned about the future destiny of your kingdom?
Machiavelli: Who said that? When I provide for my own welfare, am I not pro- viding for the welfare of my kingdom?
Montesquieu: The sketch of your royal countenance is becoming more and more clear. I want to see it in finished form.
Machiavelli: Then please don't interrupt me.
A prince, no matter how intelligent, won't always find the necessary spiritual resources within himself. One of the greatest talents of a statesman consists in making use of advice from those around him. Brilliant opinions are often found in his entourage. Therefore, I would call my council together very often. I would have it debate the most important questions in my presence. When the sovereign distrusts his own instincts or does not have rhetorical skills to disguise his true thought, he must remain silent or speak only to provoke further discussion. When a council is well chosen, the correct course of action for a given situation is almost always formulated in one way or another. A member of the council who had tentatively offered his opinion might be quite astonished the next day to see him take it up and act on it.
You can see in my institutions and my actions the attention I always pay to creating certain effects. It's as important in words as well as deeds. The real test of this skill is to create belief in one's sincerity when one is full of deceit. My schemes will not only be impenetrable; my words will always signify the opposite of what they seem to indicate. Only the initiated will be able to penetrate the meaning of certain words that from time to time I will utter on high. When I say; my reign stands for peace, it means there will be war. When I make a moral appeal, it means that I am going to use force. Are you listening to me?
Machiavelli: You have seen that my press has a hundred voices that speak constantly of the grandeur of my reign and of the enthusiasm of my subjects for their sovereign. At the same time, it puts in the mouths of the people the opinions and ideas, and even the forms of speech by which they communicate them. You have also seen that my ministers constantly impress the public with incontestable evidence of their accomplishments. As for me, I will rarely speak only once a year, and now and then on great occasions. Each of my appearances would then be welcomed as an event, not only in my kingdom but also throughout Europe. A prince whose power is based on democratic foundations must craft his language in a popular idiom. If need be, he must not shrink from speaking like a demagogue, for, after all, he represents the people and must have their passions. When the occasion warrants, he must show proper solicitude, indulge in certain flatteries and certain demonstrations of sensibility. It matters little that these techniques appear base or puerile in the eyes of the world. The people will not look so closely, and the sought-after effect will be produced.
In my book, I advise the prince to take for a model some great man from the past in whose footsteps he must follow insofar as possible.  Even today, these imitations of historical figures have a great effect on the masses. Such a prince is enlarged in their imagination. In his lifetime, he is granted that place which posterity is reserving for him. Besides, in the history of great men are found comparisons, useful hints, and sometimes even identical situations from which valuable lessons can be drawn. All great political lessons are contained in history .When a prince finds a great man to whom he is somewhat analogous, he can do still more. You know that people love a prince to have a cultivated mind, a taste for letters, even to have talent himself. Well, the prince could not put his leisure to better use than by writing, say, the history of the great man of the past whom he has taken for a model. An austere philosophy might condemn such things as frivolous. When the sovereign is strong, he is excused. Such pursuits even give him an indefinable attractiveness.
Moreover, certain weaknesses, and even certain vices, serve the prince as much as virtues. You have already seen the truth of these observations in the use that I have sometimes had to make of duplicity arid violence. For example, it should not be believed that the vindictive character of the sovereign harms him. Quite the contrary. While it is often opportune to employ clemency or magnanimity, at certain moments, his anger must be brought to bear in a terrifying manner. Man is the image of God, and the Divinity avails Himself of severe blows as well as mercy. When I have decided to destroy my enemies I will crush them until there remains nothing but dust. Men avenge only slight injuries. They are powerless against great ones.  hat's what I assert in my book. The prince has only to choose the instruments of his wrath. He will always find judges ready to sacrifice their consciences to his projects of vengeance or hatred.
Have no fear that the people will ever be roused by the blows I deliver. First, they like to feel a strong arm in command. Next, they naturally hate what is elevated and instinctively rejoice when what is above them is struck down. And yet, perhaps you are not aware how quickly people forget.
In the early Roman Empire, Tacitus reports that victims welcomed torture with an inexplicable joy. You do understand that nothing similar happens in modem times. Manners have become quite soft. So now quite light punishments are sufficient- proscription, imprisonment, and the forfeiture of certain civil rights is all that is needed. To achieve sovereign power, it is true that blood had to be spilt and many rights violated. I repeat that all this will be forgotten. The smallest gesture of the prince, acts of good will on the part of his ministers or his agents, will be welcomed with expressions of the greatest gratitude.
If one must punish with an unyielding vigor, it is necessary to be prompt and generous with rewards. This I would never fall to do. Whoever renders a service to my government would be rewarded on the very next day. Positions, distinctions, and the greatest honors would constitute a hierarchy of rank for those who effectively carry out my policy. In the army, in the courts, in all public posts, advancement would be calculated according to the extent of agreement with and the degree of zeal for my government. You are silent.
Machiavelli: l return to a consideration of certain vices and even certain eccentricities that I think are necessary for the prince. Handling power is an awesome task. However skilled a sovereign may be, however penetrating his sight, and however vigorous his resolve, fortune still plays a role in his existence. He has to be superstitious. Don't think that this is of no consequence. In the life of the prince, there are situations so difficult and moments so grave that human prudence no longer suffices. In those instances, decisions are almost a matter of rolling dice. The course of action I recommend and would follow in crises is to line yourself up with famous. historical dates and appropriate anniversaries, placing this or that bold decision under the auspices of a day when a victory was won or a surprise attack successfully carried out. I must tell you about another great advantage in being superstitious. people identify with this turn of mind. These attempts at playing to destiny often bear fruit and they must also be employed when success is certain. The people, which only judges by results, gets used to believing that there is a correspondence between each of the sovereign's acts and certain celestial signs, that historical coincidences force the hand of fortune.
Montesquieu: When you come right down to it, you are a gambler.
Machiavelli: Yes, l have unheard-of good fortune. And I have such a sure hand and so fertile a brain that fortune has no role to play.
Montesquieu: Since you are portraying yourself fully, you must still have other vices or other virtues to show off.
Machiavelli: l hope that you'll pardon licentiousness. A sovereign can put the passion for women to use much more than you might imagine. Henry IV owed a part of his popularity to his incontinence. Men are so made that they are pleased to find this penchant in those who govern them. Indulging in moral improprieties has been fashionable in all times, a gallant trait in which the prince must outdo his peers, as he outdoes his soldiers before the enemy. These are French ideas and I don't think that they will prove too offensive to the author of The Persian Letters. I don't want to carry such vulgar considerations too far. However, I can't dispense with telling you that the most substantial benefit from the prince's behavior is to win the sympathy of the more beautiful half of his subjects.
Montesquieu: You 're not going to compose madrigals, are you?
Machiavelli: One can be serious and gallant. You yourself provide the proof. I will not retreat from my proposition. The influence of women on the public mind is considerable. For political reasons, the prince is condemned to be attentive to women, even if basically he cares little for it. But such a case will be rare.
I can assure you that if I carefully follow the rules I have lust outlined there will be little concern about liberty in my kingdom. The people will have a vigorous sovereign, lusty, full of the spirit of chivalry, and adroit in all athletics. He will be loved. Austere people will not be able to do anything about it. They will be swept up in the wave. What's more, nonconformists will be proscribed and isolated. People will put no trust in their character or in their disinterestedness. They will be thought malcontents who want to be bought off. If once or twice I show no favor to a certain talent, it will be spurned everywhere. Consciences will be casually tread upon. But basically, I would be a moral prince. Certain limits must be set up. I will respect the public's sense of shame when it shows it wants to be respected. I will remain unblemished in all this, for the odious aspects of administration will be assigned to others. The worst that might be said of me is that I am a good prince with a bad entourage, but that I want the good, genuinely want it, and will always do it when it is pointed out to me.
If you only knew how easy it is to govern when one has absolute power. There is no opposition and no resistance. I have the luxury of time to carry out my plans and to correct my mistakes. Facing no opposition, I can devote myself to the happiness of the people, which is my constant concern. I can assure you that boredom will not exist in my kingdom. A thousand different objects will constantly occupy people's minds. I shall spread before the people the spectacle of my lavish trappings and the display of my court. Grand ceremonies will be orchestrated. I shall lay out gardens. I shall entertain kings. I shall attract ambassadors from the remotest lands. At times, there will be rumors of war. At other times, talk will concentrate on complicated matters of diplomacy for months on end. I shall even go so far as to satisfy the obsession for liberty. The wars that will occur in my reign will be undertaken in the name of the liberty of men and the independence of nations. And while people are acclaiming me along the way, I will secretly whisper in the ears of absolute monarchs: Have no fear. I am with you. I wear a crown like you and I'm anxious to keep it. I embrace European liberty but only to stifle it.
Perhaps there does exist one thing that could compromise my fortunes-the day when all sides recognize my politics as disingenuous and that all my acts are a product of calculation.
Montesquieu: Who will be so blind not to see that?
Machiavelli: My people as a whole, except for a few coteries of little consequence. Besides, compared to them, I have brought into being around me a formidable school of political men. You can't believe the extent to which Machiavellianism is contagious and how easy many of its precepts are to follow. In all branches of government there will be veritable miniature Machiavellis, who will trick, dissimulate, and lie with an imperturbable sangfroid. Truth will not be able to come to light anywhere.
Montesquieu: As I see it, Machiavelli, you have been jesting from beginning to end in this conversation and I regard your irony in this regard as your most impressive achievement.
Machiavelli; Irony! You are quite mistaken if you think so. Don't you see that I have spoken candidly and that it is the terrible violence of the truth that colors my account? And you see that as irony!
Montesquieu: Surely, you've finished.
Machiavelli; Not yet.
Montesquieu; Then finish.
Machiavelli: I shall reign for ten years under these conditions without changing anything in my legal code. Success is assured only at this price. Nothing, I repeat, absolutely nothing must make me change during this period. The cover of the cauldron must be made of iron and lead. During this time, the work of destroying factious spirits is carried out. Perhaps you believe the people are unhappy and that they complain. Ah! I could be held to account if that were so. But when the springs are most tightly coiled and when I weigh most heavily on the chests of my people, here is what will be said: "We only got what we deserved. Let's put up with it."
Montesquieu: You are quite blind if you construe that as a defense of your reign and if you don't understand these utterances as indicating a powerful longing for the past. Those stoic words foretell the day of your downfall.
Machiavelli: Your words disturb me. O.K. The time has come to uncoil the springs. I am going to grant liberties.
Montesquieu: Oppression by you, even granting all its excesses, is a thousand times better. Your people will respond: "Keep what you have taken."
Machiavelli: Ah! I clearly see an implacable partisan hatred at play here. It concedes nothing to its adversaries-nothing. It doesn't even acknowledge benefits.
Montesquieu: No, Machiavelli. I grant you nothing, nothing! The immolated victim receives no benefits from his executioner.
Machiavelli: Ah! How easily I can read the minds of my enemies in this regard. They flatter themselves in hoping that the coiled energies that I have compressed will sooner or later launch me into space. The fools! They will really understand me only in the end. In politics, the slightest pretext of danger can serve to play into the greatest possible repression. And such pretexts will be found.
Surely, I won't grant significant liberties, but you have to grasp the extent to which absolutism has already penetrated the public mind. I bet that at the first mention of these liberties, dreadful rumors will circulate about me. My ministers and counselors will cry out that I have abandoned the rudder, that all is lost. I shall be implored in the name of the state and the country not to grant them. The people will say: "What's he thinking about? His genius is no longer in evidence and he's losing his grip." The lukewarm will say: "He's finished." Those who are full of hate will say: "He's dead."
Montesquieu: And they will be right. A modem writer has spoken a great truth: "Do you want to ravish men of their rights? One must do nothing by halves. What is left them will be used to reclaim what has been stolen. The hand that is left free frees the other from its chains."
Machiavelli: That's a fine thought and very true. I know that I am quite vulnerable. You have to say that you treat me unjustly, for I love liberty more than is said. A short while ago you asked me if I could act disinterestedly and sacrifice myself for my people by relinquishing the throne, if need be. You now have my answer. I could relinquish it as a martyr. Montesquieu: You're growing quite soft. What liberties would you grant?
Machiavelli; On the first day of each year I would allow my legislature to express its wishes to me in a petition.
Montesquieu: But since the great majority of the lower chamber is devoted to you, what will you receive but thanks and tokens of admiration and love?
Machiavelli; Well, yes, but aren't these tokens genuine?
Montesquieu: That's the only liberty you'll grant?
Machiavelli: But this first concession is significant, whatever you may say. However, I will not rest there. In Europe today, there is a movement of thought away from centralization, not among the masses but among the enlightened classes. I shall decentralize. That is to say, I shall give my provincial governors the right to settle many of the petty local questions that used to be handled by my ministers.
Montesquieu: You only make tyranny more unpalatable if the local level counts for nothing.
Machiavelli: Behold the dangerous impatience of those who clamor for reform. Prudent steps must be taken along the path of liberty. However, I shall go one step further. I'll grant commercial liberties.
Montesquieu: You have already mentioned them.
Machiavelli: Industrial matters always concern me. I don't want it said that my laws are set against the people and prevent them from providing for their own subsistence. It is for this reason that I will present to the legislature laws whose purpose is to soften some of the more prohibitive provisions regarding the right of association. Moreover, my tolerant government will make this measure superfluous. Finally, given that we must remain armed, nothing will be changed in the law except its wording. Today there are deputies in the legislature who readily lend themselves to these innocuous stratagems.
Montesquieu: Is that all?
Machiavelli: Yes, but it's a lot, too much, perhaps. But I think I can rest assured. My army is enthusiastic; my courts are faithful; and my penal institutions function with the regularity and precision of all those powerful machines invented by modem science.
Montesquieu: So, you won't alter the laws regarding the press?
Machiavelli: You don't really expect that?
Montesquieu: Local legislation?
Montesquieu: Voting matters?
Montesquieu; You won't alter the organization of the Senate or the legislature, change your domestic or foreign policy, or your economic and financial system?
Machiavelli: I shall only alter what I've mentioned. In a nutshell, I leave the period of terror behind and embark upon the path of tolerance. I can do this safely. I could even grant real liberties. You'd have to be completely bereft of political intelligence not to see that by this time my legislation has borne fruit. I've done what I said I would do. The character of the nation has changed. The trivial rights that I have granted are for me yardsticks by which I measure the depth of change. Everything is done. Everything is accomplished. Resistance is no longer possible. There is no more danger. None! And yet, I've given nothing away. You've said lust as much. This is the effectual truth.
Montesquieu: Hurry up and finish, Machiavelli. May my spirit never encounter you again and may God erase from my memory the last trace of what I've lust heard!
Machiavelli: Take care, Montesquieu. Before this moment lapses into eternity, you will anxiously try to trace my steps and the memory of this conversation will torment your soul eternally.
Machiavelli: All right, let's go on. You're acquainted with everything I've done. By means of these concessions to the liberal spirit of my time, I have disarmed partisan hatred.
Montesquieu: Ah! You continue to wear this hypocritical mask that has covered unspeakable crimes. Do you want me to leave this eternal darkness and to heap reproaches on you! Ah! Machiavelli. Your previous teaching had not degraded humanity to this extent! You did not conspire against conscience. You had not thought to so degrade the human soul that the Divine Creator Himself would no longer recognize it.
Machiavelli: True, I surpass even myself.
Montesquieu: Get out of here! Do not prolong this conversation another moment.
Machiavelli; Before those tumultuous souls over there have reached this dark ravine that separates us from them, I will have finished and you will not see me any more and will call for me in vain.
Montesquieu; Finish then. That will be expiation for the temerity that I've shown in accepting this unholy wager.
Machiavelli; Ah! Liberty! Behold the force with which you possess a few souls although the people despise you and console themselves with baubles. Let me illustrate with a very short anecdote. Dion relates that the Roman people were indignant toward Augustus because of certain very harsh laws that he had made. But as soon as he had the actor Piladus recalled and the seditious were banished from the city, discontent ceased.
There is my anecdote. Now here is the conclusion of an author whose eminence makes him worthy of citation. "Such a people feels tyranny more keenly when an actor is banished than when it is deprived of the protection of the laws."  Do you know who wrote that?
Montesquieu: It doesn't matter!
Machiavelli: Then you realize that you wrote it. I'm surrounded by base souls. What can I do about it? During my reign there win be no dearth of actors and they would have to behave quite badly for me to banish them.
Montesquieu; I don't know if you have quoted my words exactly. But here is a quotation I can vouch for. It will forever give the lie to your slanders against the people. "The character of the prince contributes as much to liberty as laws. lust as the laws can make men out of beasts and beasts out of men, so can the prince. If he loves free souls, he will have subjects. If he loves base souls, he will have slaves." 
That's my response and if I had to add anything to this quotation today, I would say: "When public integrity is banished from the midst of courts, and when corruption flaunts itself indecently, it only penetrates the hearts of those near a bad prince. The love of virtue continues to live in the hearts of the people and the power of this principle is so great that if the bad prince disappears, it is in the very nature of things for integrity and liberty simultaneously to return to the operation of government."
Machiavelli: That is well said and quite straightforward. There's only one flaw in it. In the mind and soul of my people, I personify virtue. Even more, I personify liberty and also revolution, progress, the modern spirit, finally, all that is best at the core of contemporary civilization. I don't say that I shall be respected or loved, but I do say that I will be revered and adored. If I so wished, I could have monuments raised to me because I exert a fatal attraction for the masses. In your country, Louis XVI was guillotined, although he only desired the good of the people and wanted it with all the conviction and ardor of a genuinely honest soul. Several years before, monuments were raised to Louis XIV who cared less for the people than the least of his mistresses. He, with a slight nod of the head, would mow down the rabble while shooting dice with Lauzun. But I am more formidable than Louis XIV because my reign rests on popular foundations. I am Washington, Henry IV, Saint Louis, Charles the Wise. I select the kings you consider best in order to humor you. I am simultaneously king of Egypt and Asia. I am pharaoh; I am Cyrus; I am Alexander; I am Sardanapolus. When I pass by, I exalt the soul of the people. people run deliriously in my train. I am an object of idolatry. The father points me out to his son. The mother invokes my name in her prayers. The girl looks at me, sighs, and thinks that if only I might glance at her, perchance, she could lie for a moment in my bed. When the un- fortunate are oppressed, they say: if only the king knew. When someone seeks revenge or hopes for help, they say: the king will understand. Moreover, I am never approached but when my hands are full of gold. It is true that there are those in my entourage who are harsh and violent and occasionally deserve a flogging. But things are necessarily so. Their hateful and spiteful character, their base cupidity, their debaucheries, their shameless prodigality, and their crass avarice provide a striking contrast with the sweetness of my character, my un- pretentious demeanor, and my inexhaustible generosity. I tell you that my name will be invoked as if I were a god. When there are hailstorms, droughts, and fires, I rush up and the people throw themselves at my feet. They would bear me to heaven in their arms if God gave them wings.
Montesquieu: All of which would not prevent you from mowing them down at the faintest sign of resistance.
Machiavelli: That's true, but love does not exist without fear.
Montesquieu: Is this frightful fantasy finished?
Machiavelli: A fantasy! Ah! Montesquieu! How disillusioned you are! Tear up The Spirit of the Laws. Ask God to grant you oblivion as your eternal reward. Behold in full the terrible truth that you have already glimpsed. There is nothing fantastic in what I have lust told you.
Montesquieu: What are you about to tell me?
Machiavelli; What I have lust described-this mass of monstrous things before which the spirit recoils in fright, this work that only hell itself could accomplish-all this is done, exists and is prospering in the light of day, at this very hour, in that place on the robe that you have recently departed.
Machiavelli; No. That would mean inflicting a second death on you.
Montesquieu: Ah! Speak, in the name of heaven!
Machiavelli: Well ...
Machiavelli; The hour is past! Don't you see that the whirlwind is carrying me away?
Machiavelli: Look! Do you recognize these souls passing nearby with their hands covering their eyes? It is they who were the glory and envy of the whole world. They are petitioning God on behalf of their fatherland! ...
Montesquieu: Eternal God, what have you permitted! ...
I. The Spirit of the Laws X I5.
2. The Spirit Of the Laws XXV 2.
3. The Prince IX.
4. The Prince XIV.
5. The Prince III.
6. The Spirit of the Laws XIX 2.
7. The Spirit of the Laws XII 27.