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Environed thus, and with a peculiarly Italian morbidezza, or plasticity we find Machiavelli. Others before had written of politics, but Machiavelli “had the better talent of writing.” He wrote to tell things clearly. Imagination he had none, as an historian, and his comedy is in Limbo. He is all intellectual strength, but the moral influence is missing. He is, says Mr. Morley, simple, unaffected, direct, vivid, rational. He is as literal as a woman. His literal statement is his finest effect of irony. Mr. Morley’s analysis of the Machiavellian style is itself a masterpiece of serene expression, rising with a solemn sense of the fearful absence of all principle, as we understand it, in the work, to a richly eloquent, and even tender, tribute to the moral beauty of life. I wish I might transcribe it and I hope that many will read it. It is rarer than anything you may remember of Macaulay’s essay upon the everlastingly execrable Florentine.

“Men are a little breed” might have been Machiavelli’s motto. Or he might have said “the more I see of men the better I like dogs.” He is remorseless in seeing only that men are ungrateful, fickle, deceivers, greedy of gain, run-aways before peril, readier to pay back injury than kindness. “Worst of all they take middle paths.” Upon these, his observations, he proceeds to tell a story of a State and he tells it icily. He lays bare the foulness of man. He doesn’t lecture, he does not preach, he never laughs, never scolds, is never surprised. He shows, says Mr. Morley about “as good a heart as can be made out of brains.” In my opinion, that sentence is the most terrible indictment in the book. It marks him as a monster worse than Frankenstein.

Machiavelli has no opinion to argue about; nothing but men’s passions as they were and are. He is alive, always and everywhere, because he shows us men. He maintains, according to Mr. Morley, that the world grows no better and no worse. There is for him no “one far-off, divine event to which the whole creation moves.” Nothing for him but Power. Good and evil concern him not. He recited what we call a crime as impassively as he recited a virtue. So-and-so did such and such. This followed. That is all. He is a fatalist with no more sound philosophy than this: “It is better to be adventurous than cautious, for Fortune is a woman, and to be mastered must be boldly handled. He was a republican, but he believed that strength was the secret of government–strength in itself and in mastery of those who make up the State. No half-measures for him. The State is his idol, if he have one. The State must be supreme in will, in vigor, in intelligence; unflinching, unsparing, remorseless. The humility of Christ has no part in his scheme. He knows no mercy and no justice. One almost can admire his inhuman disregard of men. He cared as little for them as Napoleon. He scorns all gentleness. And yet he thought well of the people, of their prudence and stability. He deemed them liable to err as to generalities but apt to be right as to particulars. Our experience, I dare say, is otherwise–no matter how we stand on the financial question. “Better far,” he repeats an hundred times, “than any number of fortunes is not to be hated by your people.” Not to be hated! That was as near as he could come to love. He is opposed to dictators and he speaks out plainly enough, in his discourses, about the unwisdom of slaying fellow-citizens, betraying friends, being without mercy, without religion. He is conventional enough in all this. When he comes to describe the Prince, who is to save the divided State, he does so in lines that make a picture at once to fascinate and affright mankind.