To defend against internal insurrection, princes have used a variety of strategies. Some have divided towns, some have disarmed the populace, some have tried to woo disloyal subjects, and others have built or destroyed fortresses. The effectiveness of each of these policies depends on the individual conditions, but a few generalizations can be made.
Historically, new princes have never prevented their subjects from having weapons. Arming subjects fosters loyalty among the people and defends the prince. Disarming subjects will breed distrust, which leads to civil animosity. But if a prince annexes a state, he must disarm his new subjects. He can allow his supporters in the new state to keep their arms, but eventually they must also be made weaker. The best arrangement is to have the prince’s own soldiers occupying the new state. However, weakening an annexed territory by encouraging factionalism only makes it more easily captured by foreigners, as the Venetians learned.
Princes become great by defeating opposition. Thus, one way they can enhance their stature is to cunningly foster opposition that can be easily overcome. Moreover, fostering subversion in a new state will help reveal the motives of potential conspirators.
Some princes have chosen to build fortresses to curb rebellion. Others have destroyed them, in order to maintain control in newly acquired states. The usefulness of fortresses depends on the specific circumstances. But a fortress will not be able to protect a prince if he is hated by his subjects. The issue is not whether a prince should build a fortress. Rather, a prince should not put all his trust in a fortress, neglecting the attitudes of his people.
Great enterprises and noble examples are two ways for a prince to earn prestige. Examples of great campaigns include those of King Ferdinand of Spain, who skillfully used his military to attack Granada, Africa, Italy, and France. These campaigns focused his people’s attention and prevented attacks against Ferdinand.
Nobility can be achieved by the grand public display of rewards and punishments. Above all, princes should win a reputation for being men of outstanding ability.