[S]ince all subjects cannot be armed, when the ones whom you do arm receive benefits, you can deal more securely with the others; and this difference in treatment that the armed ones recognize toward themselves makes them feel more obligated to you; the others excuse you, judging it necessary that those who face more danger . . . get greater rewards. But when you disarm them, you begin to offend them, and you show that you distrust them either because of cowardice or lack of loyalty, and both these judgements generate hatred against you.
[T]he prince who fears his own people more than foreigners ought to build fortresses, but the one who has more fear of foreigners than of the people ought to forget about them. The castle of Milan, which Francesco Sforza built there, has brought and will bring more wars upon the house of Sforza than any other disorder in that state. Therefore, the best fortress that exists is not to be hated by the people, for even if you have fortresses, they will not save you if the people hate you[.]
A prince must also show himself a lover of virtue [virtù], welcoming able [virtuosi] men and honoring those who excel in each art. Moreover, he must encourage his citizens quietly to practice their trades . . . in such a way that this man is not afraid to augment his possessions for fear that they might be taken from him, nor that man to start a commercial enterprise for fear of taxes. On the contrary, he must prepare prizes for whoever thinks in any way about improving his city or his state.
The first conjecture that one makes of a ruler’s intelligence comes from seeing the men he had about him, and when they are capable and loyal, one may always consider him wise because he knew how to recognize their ability and keep them loyal. But when they are otherwise, one may always make a negative judgement of him because the first mistake one makes is made in the choice of ministers.
A prince . . . must always take counsel, but when he wants to, not when others want to; on the contrary, he must discourage anyone from advising him on any matter unless he asks him about it. But he must certainly be a great asker of questions, and then, a patient hearer of the truth concerning the things he has asked about; indeed, when he understands that someone, for whatever scruple, is not telling him the truth, he should become angry.