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Although a prince should always aim to keep an army of size and strength equaling that of any aggressor, it is just as important to maintain defenses and fortifications. These defensive preparations not only provide security but also deter enemies from attacking.
Some might argue that if an enemy lays siege to a fortified city, the people inside, upon witnessing their countryside pillaged and possessions destroyed, will turn against their prince. But a prince who has made adequate defensive preparations can actually inspire his subjects during such times. To do so, he must convince the people that the hardships are only temporary and, more importantly, create feelings of patriotism and enthusiasm for the city’s defense. This way, when the siege is over, the grateful and obliged people will love the prince all the more.
Ecclesiastical principalities, regions under the control of the Catholic Church, are different from other kinds of principalities. Taking control of these principalities is difficult, requiring either unusual good fortune or prowess. Machiavelli sarcastically remarks that principles of religion, rather than governments, rule ecclesiastical principalities, so the prince does not even need to govern. Ecclesiastical principalities do not need to be defended, and their subjects require no administration. Nonetheless, these states are always secure and happy. Since these principalities are “sustained by higher powers which the human mind cannot comprehend,” delving further into why this is the case would be presumptuous.
It is useful, however, to look at how the Church has obtained its great temporal power. Italy was once divided among the pope and the city-states of Venice, Naples, Milan, and Florence. Each of these powers was wary of the others and prevented the intervention of any foreign power. Papal power was fairly weak during this time, due to disagreement among the Roman barons and the short duration of papacies. But Popes Alexander VI and Julius II greatly increased the power of the Church by using armed force to weaken the other factions, accumulating wealth to strengthen the Church’s own position, and nurturing factionalism within any remaining factions.Thus, the current Church, under the leadership of Pope Leo X, has been made strong through the force of arms. It is now hoped that Pope Leo will use his goodness and virtue to maintain its power.
Although Chapter 10 focuses partly on maintaining the well-being of the people in a city during a period of difficulty, Machiavelli views this only as a necessary step in making the city itself strong and immune from attack. One surprising characteristic of The Prince is how completely it defines the city as an entity existing to serve its ruler rather than its populace. The discussion of fortification emphasizes this conception of the city: obtaining the support of the people is not a goal in itself but rather a means for ensuring that the city remain fortified and resistant to foreign conquest. The purpose of convincing the people that their hardships are temporary, for example, is not to lighten the burden of the people whose city is besieged, but rather a way to ensure the defense of the city.
The ultimate goal is not happiness but patriotism: the defense of the state and its ruler. While Machiavelli often advocates the use of military force, he also recognizes that military strength alone cannot maintain a state’s strength. Although the fortification of cities has a military value, Machiavelli focuses on fortification as a tool by which a prince can solidify popular support in times of war or siege.
Chapter 11 may initially seem inconsistent with the rest of Machiavelli’s writing. His acknowledgment that ecclesiastical principalities are not subject to the historical patterns he observes, and his description of their immunity from bad rulers and war, initially seem to point to a respect for religion and acknowledgment of a higher moral plane on which a state can exist. But Machiavelli’s remarks in this chapter are bitterly ironic—he actually opposes the presence of the Church in politics altogether, a view that he makes explicit in his Discourses.
In reality, Machiavelli understands ecclesiastical principalities to be examples of the effective consolidation of power, much in the same way as the examples of successful princes that he cites. He focuses on the factors that ultimately led to the Catholic Church gaining control over Italian principalities, and reveals that these factors were not essentially different than those used by other princes to gain power. Like other princes, the Church used armed force, the accumulation of wealth, and astute political strategy in order to gain control. Even though Machiavelli opens the chapter professing that ecclesiastical principalities exist in their own category, ultimately he views them just as he does any other state.
Ace your assignments with our guide to The Prince!