Note:  Do not rely on this information. It is very old.


Machiavelli, Niccolo (1469-1527), diplomatist, historian, and poet, was born at Florence of a noble family. He became at an early age Chancellor, and then State Secretary, of the Florentine republic, and conducted several important embassies with signal address. Louis XII. insisted on a council being held at Pisa, which induced Pope Julius II. to unite with Ferdinand of Aragon in restoring the Medici (1513); whereupon Lorenzo de' Medici deprived Machiavelli of his civic dignities, and soon after, Lorenzo's uncle, Cardinal Giovanni de' Medici, had him banished after imprisonment and torture, but on his elevation to the Papacy as Leo X. (1514) the banishment was annulled. Machiavelli returned, and wrote his famous treatise on government, Il Principe (The Prince), dedicating it to Lorenzo, whereupon he was received into favour by the Medici, and under. Clement VII. (cousin of Leo X.), after an interval of suspicion and disfavour, was employed in the service of the state; but, after all, on his return from the defence of Tuscany against Charles V. he fell into neglect, and died in poverty. The Prince has been generally misunderstood and condemned, so that the author's name has become a byword for unscrupulous and criminal policy; but its immorality is that of Italy in the 15th century; and, if Lorenzo was advised to gain and keep power by treachery, oppression, and even crime, he was to use it for the union and freedom of Italy, and for beneficent purposes generally. The best of Machiavelli's comedies, The Mandragola, is, in spite of an unsavoury subject, full of humour, and shows that he thoroughly understood the dramatic art, His History of Florence (in eight books) from 1215 to 1492 is a work of the highest merit and value, and he is said to have left materials for its completion to Guicciardini. In his Discourses on the First Ten Books of Livy (composed before The Prince) he treats of the conditions requisite for the maintenance of a republic and of the crises which make for its downfall. Sir Henry Maine ascribes to him a large share in forming the modern conception of the State.