CONCERNING CRUELTY AND CLEMENCY, AND WHETHER IT IS BETTER TO BE LOVED THAN FEARED

CHAPTER XVII: CONCERNING CRUELTY AND CLEMENCY, AND WHETHER
IT IS BETTER TO BE LOVED THAN FEARED
Coming now to the other qualities mentioned above, I say that every prince ought to
desire to be considered clement and not cruel. Nevertheless he ought to take care not to
misuse this clemency. Cesare Borgia was considered cruel; notwithstanding, his cruelty
reconciled the Romagna, unified it, and restored it to peace and loyalty. And if this be
rightly considered, he will be seen to have been much more merciful than the Florentine
people, who, to avoid a reputation for cruelty, permitted Pistoia to be destroyed.
Therefore a prince, so long as he keeps his subjects united and loyal, ought not to mind
the reproach of cruelty; because with a few examples he will be more merciful than those
who, through too much mercy, allow disorders to arise, from which follow murders or
robberies; for these are wont to injure the whole people, whilst those executions which
originate with a prince offend the individual only.

CONCERNING CRUELTY AND CLEMENCY, AND WHETHER
IT IS BETTER TO BE LOVED THAN FEARED


Upon this a question arises: whether it is better to be loved than feared or feared than
loved? It may be answered that one should wish to be both, but, because it is difficult to
unite them in one person, it is much safer to be feared than loved, when, of the two, either
must be dispensed with. Because this is to be asserted in general of men, that they are
ungrateful, fickle, false, cowardly, covetous, and as long as you succeed they are yours
entirely; they will offer you their blood, property, life, and children, as is said above,
when the need is far distant; but when it approaches they turn against you. And that
prince who, relying entirely on their promises, has neglected other precautions, is ruined;
because friendships that are obtained by payments, and not by greatness or nobility of
mind, may indeed be earned, but they are not secured, and in time of need cannot be
relied upon; and men have less scruple in offending one who is beloved than one who is
feared, for love is preserved by the link of obligation which, owing to the baseness of
men, is broken at every opportunity for their advantage; but fear preserves you by a dread
of punishment which never fails.


Nevertheless a prince ought to inspire fear in such a way that, if he does not win love, he
avoids hatred; because he can endure very well being feared whilst he is not hated, which
will always be as long as he abstains from the property of his citizens and subjects and
from their women. But when it is necessary for him to proceed against the life of
someone, he must do it on proper justification and for manifest cause, but above all
things he must keep his hands off the property of others, because men more quickly
forget the death of their father than the loss of their patrimony. Besides, pretexts for
taking away the property are never wanting; for he who has once begun to live by
robbery will always find pretexts for seizing what belongs to others; but reasons for
taking life, on the contrary, are more difficult to find and sooner lapse. But when a prince
is with his army, and has under control a multitude of soldiers, then it is quite necessary
for him to disregard the reputation of cruelty, for without it he would never hold his army
united or disposed to its duties.


Among the wonderful deeds of Hannibal this one is enumerated: that having led an
enormous army, composed of many various races of men, to fight in foreign lands, no
dissensions arose either among them or against the prince, whether in his bad or in his
good fortune. This arose from nothing else than his inhuman cruelty, which, with his
boundless valor, made him revered and terrible in the sight of his soldiers, but without
that cruelty, his other virtues were not sufficient to produce this effect. And short-sighted
writers admire his deeds from one point of view and from another condemn the principal
cause of them. That it is true his other virtues would not have been sufficient for him may
be proved by the case of Scipio, that most excellent man, not only of his own times but
within the memory of man, against whom, nevertheless, his army rebelled in Spain; this
arose from nothing but his too great forbearance, which gave his soldiers more license
than is consistent with military discipline. For this he was upbraided in the Senate by
Fabius Maximus, and called the corrupter of the Roman soldiery. The Locrians were laid
waste by a legate of Scipio, yet they were not avenged by him, nor was the insolence of
the legate punished, owing entirely to his easy nature. Insomuch that someone in the
Senate, wishing to excuse him, said there were many men who knew much better how
not to err than to correct the errors of others. This disposition, if he had been continued in
the command, would have destroyed in time the fame and glory of Scipio; but, he being
under the control of the Senate, this injurious characteristic not only concealed itself, but
contributed to his glory.


Returning to the question of being feared or loved, I come to the conclusion that, men
loving according to their own will and fearing according to that of the prince, a wise
prince should establish himself on that which is in his own control and not in that of
others; he must endeavor only to avoid hatred, as is noted.