Слике страница

'pagne' is a record extraordinary alike for its courage, for its vivacity, and for its modesty.

The peculiar spirit of ardent gallantry to which we have dedicated these few pages is illustrated, as will be observed, by examples taken without exception from the first months of the war. It would be rash to say, without a careful sifting of evidence, how much of this sentiment survived the days which preceded the battle of the Marne. France has, in the succession of her attacks up to the present hour, continued and confirmed the magnificent tradition of her courage. But it is impossible to overlook the elements which have taken the romantic colour out of the struggle. No chivalry could survive close experience of the vile and bestial cruelty of German methods. The sad and squalid aspects of a war of resistance, fought in the very bleeding flesh of the beloved mother-country, were bound to be fatal to 'cette bonne humeur bienfaisante which so marvellously characterised the young French officers of August 1914. Moreover, the mere physical element of fatigue has been enough to quench that first radiant flame. We find it deadening, at last, even the high spirit of Paul Lintier, and we listen to his confession : 'To sleep! to sleep ! "O to live without a thought, in absolute silence. To live,

after having so often nearly died. I could sleep for days, ‘and days, and days !!

These are considerations which belong to a heavier and a wearier time. As a matter of history—so that in our hurrying times a gesture of so much beauty may not, because it was so ephemeral, be forgotten-we have endeavoured to catch a reflection of the glow which blazed in the hearts of young intellectual officers at the very beginning of the war. If, in the inevitable wear and tear of the interminable struggle, this beauty fades into the light of common day, so much the more is there need that we should fix it in memory, since in a world which savagery and treason have made so hideous, we cannot afford to let this jewel of pure moral beauty be trampled into oblivion.



1. Discorsi sopra la prima Deca di Tito Livio ; Il Principe ; Istorie

Fiorentine ; Dell'Arte della Guerra, etc. By NICCOLÔ

MACHIAVELLI. 2. Erinnerungen und Gedanken. By BISMARCK. 3. Central Europe. By FRIEDRICH NAUMANN.

THE work by which Nicholas Machiavelli is best known is

1 'Il Principe': a treatise popularly regarded as the standard manual of unscrupulous diplomacy. The word Machiavellism, like its counterpart Jesuitism, is a current term with a definite meaning: the former may be employed by an admirer of Machiavelli, as the latter by a lover of the Jesuits. It signifies a philosophy of pure expediency; the subordination of every moral and human consideration to the political needs of the hour.

'The Prince' is a work as characteristic of its author as any of the others; though we may add that it will be best understood by those to whom it is not the only one with which they are acquainted. Some students of Machiavelli have, indeed, tried to place this book in a special category : they have regarded it as ironical; or as a description of the vices of princely rulers cast into the illusory form of a treatise for their guidance; or even as just a time-serving effort to enter into grace with the Medicis, when thus alone its author could hope to obtain public employment.

This last motive may, indeed, have had something to do with the actual form of the work; but as for the other interpretations they are surely uncalled for. If ever a writer was clear and consistent and characteristic throughout his works, it is Machiavelli ; we may not always like his meaning, but we can never mistake it. Some of the most unscrupulous passages from ‘The Prince' could be set beside others from the 'Discourses on Livy,' though the first is on tyrannical and the second on popular government. Thus in chap. xviii. of 'The Prince,' having given reasons why a prince cannot always keep his word, Machiavelli concludes that a

prudent ruler 'neither can nor ought to keep faith when to

do so would be to his disadvantage, and when the motives ' for which he made his promise are no longer existent.'

But in the ‘ Discourses on Livy 'Machivelli applies the same principle of expediency to the conduct of the loyal citizen : 'No sensible person will reproach anyone for however extra'ordinary an action that is directed to the well-ordering of 'a kingdom or the founding of a republic.'

And in another place : 'When the salvation of our country is at stake all questions of justice and injustice, of mercy ' and cruelty, of honour and dishonour must be set aside ; ' every other consideration must be subordinated to the one aim of saving her life and preserving her honour.'

We need not multiply examples. The consensus of opinion is that, whatever else he also was, Nicholas Machiavelli was Machiavellian : as Machiavellian as Bismarck; as Machiavellian as the German General Staff; as Machiavellian as the rest of us, and the best of us, in the realm of diplomacy, unconsciously or protestingly, are to some extent bound to be.

Machiavelli was a diplomat: a statesman in so far as his position permitted of it; and, in all his strivings, a statebuilder. He was in love with ancient Rome, with all her works, and all her pomps; with her wisdom and her perfidy ; her magnanimity and her ruthlessness. He studied, with passion and admiration, the story of her political evolution ; of the emergence of a self-governing people from the warfare of conflicting sects. He held that men changed but little in the course of history, and that what had been done could be done again. He dreamed of a modern Florence fashioned according to the lessons of Livy: a free, strong, democratic and austere republic. But with Latin sincerity he set forth his doctrine of ways and means, and in that doctrine is the philosophy of Machiavellism, though, as we shall see, there is also something besides.

But once again, just because he was a thorough Latin, his subject interested him for its own sake, apart from its practical bearings. Thus in dealing with the question of tyrannical government, even had there been no living tyrants with whom he had to reckon, the subject would have interested him for its own sake, and he would have set forth the rules that should guide the conduct of a prince, who aimed at despotic power for purely selfish ends, just as calmly and fully as though he were advocating tyranny as his own ideal.

To the ordinary English mind this moral detachment is perplexing and misleading, like much else in the Latin temperament. The Englishman is more truthful than the Latin, but he is not so great a lover of truth. The Latin thinks it and speaks it as his intellect moves him to do, the Englishman speaks it because he holds that he ought to do so ; his moral life is more vigorous, his intellectual life is not so keen. Hence the quiet indifference with which a Latin will declare certain actions to have been admirably fitted to the attainment of their own end, without uttering or implying further comment : the manner, for instance, in which Machiavelli describes the clever trapping and murdering of his enemies, Vitellozzo Vitelli and three others, by the Duke of Valentinois, will confuse the Anglo-Saxon, but not the Latin, to whom it is the fact, and not its moral bearings, that presents the main intellectual interest.

But even with this proviso Machiavellism remains a distinct code of action, of ethical as well as intellectual import: a statement of politics and diplomacy not originated by its namesake, but by him put into work and system. Therefore, the first thing we want to understand in Machiavelli is his Machiavellism, and its relation to modern statecraft; only then can we see whether, and how far, Machiavelli is greater than Machiavellism, just as we can also, by a frank estimate of our own Machiavellism, best appreciate how far our own policy is set towards higher ends.

One of the first and most fundamental characteristics of Machiavellism is its estimate of human nature. The majority of men are mean, cowardly, and self-interested ; this is the primary fact with which the statesman has to deal. He may start with another view if he likes, but he does it at his own risk and that of his country.

'It may be said of men in general [he writes in ‘The Prince '] that they are ungrateful, plausible, deceitful, cowardly, and avaricious; so long as you benefit them they are yours—they offer you their blood, their possessions, their life, their children, while danger is distant; but when it comes too near, they turn. And then the Prince, who has made no other provision than his trust in them, is ruined. (Ch. xvii.)

There are two ways of dealing with men, he tells us in the next chapter : by law and by force. Law is properly for men, and force for beasts ; but since human beings are in part beasts, the prince must be fox and lion as well as man. It is a fine thing to keep faith, but only with those who are correspondingly loyal. Mutual distrust is a primary principle of sound diplomacy.

The next guiding principle of Machiavellism is the avoidance of half measures. “He who would be a tyrant, but slays not 'Brutus, and he who would free his country, but slays not 'the sons of Brutus, is doomed to failure.' (Discorsi, Bk. III. ch. iii.)

Nor is it enough to kill some of the children of Brutus and leave others; all must go. Machiavelli often refers to the downfall of his friend Piero Soderini, one time Gonfaloniere of Florence, as the consequence of an admixture of human with political motives; while the Duke of Valentinois (Cesare Borgia) was, even from the humanitarian standpoint, more successful, in virtue of his swift and ruthless action.

Krieg ist Krieg; for Machiavellism there is no other conception of war. For war is, indeed, the supreme occasion in which it is man as beast, and not man as man, with whom we are dealing. Law, as Machiavelli has already stated, is for man; force is for the brute. If, between ruler and people, occasions arise on which the bestial and not the human element is to be taken into count, how much more is this the case when it is with avowed enemies that we have to deal. We have yet to see if, in the philosophy of Machiavelli, there be any hint of pacifist tendencies; but in war itself he allows no place for half-measures. For him peace was peace, and war was war: 'You cannot call it peace,' he says, 'when ' States are continually falling on one another with armies ; ‘nor can you call it war when men are not killed, cities are 'not ravaged, governments are not destroyed.' And he adds regretfully that war at one time became so decadent, ‘that it 'was undertaken without fear, waged without danger, and 'concluded without loss. (Istorie Fiorentine, Bk. V.)

To be thorough, and also to be fearless and to be swift : this is Machiavellian wisdom. The Pecca fortiter of Luther, which has been so wholeheartedly adopted as a German motto, is in perfect consonance with this principle of moral fearless

« ПретходнаНастави »