The Prince

Why should a prince not rely too much on nobles? Why should a prince not rely too much on citizens?

Found in chapter IX

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“On the Civil Principate,” concerns another kind of prince: one who gains power “not through crimes or other intolerable violence, but by the choice of his fellow citizens (and this may be called a civil princedom, success in which depends neither completely on skill nor completely on fortune, but rather on a kind of lucky shrewdness).” A prince can rise in this fashion in one of two ways: either by the will of the people, or by the will of the nobles. “In every city,” Machiavelli goes on to argue, “there are two different humors, one rising from the people’s desire not to be ordered and commanded by the nobles, and the other from the desire of the nobles to command and oppress the people.” If nobles see they are having trouble with the people, they make one of their own a prince; he becomes their puppet, and therefore they get what they want on a larger scale. If the people feel that the nobles are oppressing them, they will try to make one of their own a prince; he then becomes their shield against the nobles.

As nobles are particularly difficult to deal with, a prince of any kind should try to win the favor of the populace and keep it dependent on the state. Machiavelli rejects the notion that “The man who counts on the people builds his house on mud,” though he does concede that a prince should not let “himself think that the people will come to his aid when he is in trouble.” As with so much else, it is all about balance.