CONCERNING LIBERALITY AND MEANNESS

CHAPTER XVI: CONCERNING LIBERALITY AND MEANNESS.

Commencing then with the first of the above-named characteristics, I say that it would be
well to be reputed liberal. Nevertheless, liberality exercised in a way that does not bring
you the reputation for it, injures you; for if one exercises it honestly and as it should be
exercised, it may not become known, and you will not avoid the reproach of its opposite.
Therefore, anyone wishing to maintain among men the name of liberal is obliged to avoid
no attribute of magnificence; so that a prince thus inclined will consume in such acts all
his property, and will be compelled in the end, if he wish to maintain the name of liberal,
to unduly weigh down his people, and tax them, and do everything he can to get money.
This will soon make him odious to his subjects, and becoming poor he will be little
valued by any one; thus, with his liberality, having offended many and rewarded few, he
is affected by the very first trouble and imperiled by whatever may be the first danger;
recognizing this himself, and wishing to draw back from it, he runs at once into the
reproach of being miserly.

CONCERNING LIBERALITY AND MEANNESS


Therefore, a prince, not being able to exercise this virtue of liberality in such a way that it
is recognized, except to his cost, if he is wise he ought not to fear the reputation of being
mean, for in time he will come to be more considered than if liberal, seeing that with his
economy his revenues are enough, that he can defend himself against all attacks, and is
able to engage in enterprises without burdening his people; thus it comes to pass that he
exercises liberality towards all from whom he does not take, who are numberless, and
meanness towards those to whom he does not give, who are few.


We have not seen great things done in our time except by those who have been
considered mean; the rest have failed. Pope Julius the Second was assisted in reaching the
papacy by a reputation for liberality, yet he did not strive afterwards to keep it up, when
he made war on the King of France; and he made many wars without imposing any
extraordinary tax on his subjects, for he supplied his additional expenses out of his long
thriftiness. The present King of Spain would not have undertaken or conquered in so
many enterprises if he had been reputed liberal. A prince, therefore, provided that he has
not to rob his subjects, that he can defend himself, that he does not become poor and
abject, that he is not forced to become rapacious, ought to hold of little account a
reputation for being mean, for it is one of those vices which will enable him to govern.


And if anyone should say: Caesar obtained empire by liberality, and many others have
reached the highest positions by having been liberal, and by being considered so, I
answer: Either you are a prince in fact, or in a way to become one. In the first case this
liberality is dangerous, in the second it is very necessary to be considered liberal; and
Caesar was one of those who wished to become pre-eminent in Rome; but if he had
survived after becoming so, and had not moderated his expenses, he would have
destroyed his government. And if anyone should reply: Many have been princes, and
have done great things with armies, who have been considered very liberal, I reply: Either
a prince spends that which is his own or his subjects’ or else that of others. In the first
case he ought to be sparing, in the second he ought not to neglect any opportunity for
liberality. And to the prince who goes forth with his army, supporting it by pillage, sack,
and extortion, handling that which belongs to others, this liberality is necessary,
otherwise he would not be followed by soldiers. And of that which is neither yours nor
your subjects’ you can be a ready giver, as were Cyrus, Caesar, and Alexander; because it
does not take away your reputation if you squander that of others, but adds to it; it is only
squandering your own that injures you.


And there is nothing wastes so rapidly as liberality, for even whilst you exercise it you
lose the power to do so, and so become either poor or despised, or else, in avoiding
poverty, rapacious and hated. And a prince should guard himself, above all things,
against being despised and hated; and liberality leads you to both. Therefore it is wiser to
have a reputation for meanness which brings reproach without hatred, than to be
compelled through seeking a reputation for liberality to incur a name for rapacity which
begets reproach with hatred.