Page:Machiavelli, Romanes Lecture, 2 June 1897.djvu/37

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safety of a country is concerned, whether it be princedom or republic, no regard ought to be paid to justice or injustice, to pity or severity, to glory or shame; but putting aside every other consideration, that course alone ought to be followed which may preserve to the country its existence and its freedom. Diderot pithily put the superficial impression of all this when he said that you might head these chapters as 'The circumstances under which it is right for a Prince to be a Scoundrel.' A profounder commentary of a concrete kind is furnished by Mommsen's account of Sulla27—an extraordinary literary masterpiece, even in the view of those who think its politics most perverse. Such a Sulla was the real type of Machiavelli's reformer of a rotten State.

It has been a commonplace of reproachful criticism that Machiavelli chose for his hero Cæsar Borgia.28 Not only was Borgia a monster, it is said, but he failed. The baleful meteor flamed across the sky for little more than four years, and then went out. If only success should command admiration, Borgia and his swiftly shattered fortunes ought to be indifferent to Machiavelli and the world for which he was writing. What Machiavelli says is this—'I put him forward,' he writes, 'as a model for such as climb to power by good fortune and the help of others. He did everything that a long-headed and capable man could do, who desires to strike root. I will show you how broad were the foundations that he laid for the fabric of his future power. I do not know what better lessons I could teach a new prince (i.e. an usurper)