Machiavelli Wrote “The Prince” as an Instructional Manual for a Renaissance Ruler.
The first and foremost criterion for a ruler is to remain in the seat of power. Truth and integrity are timeless values and as a ruler I will uphold them. The ambition to remain in the seat of power has both positive and negative connotations. The positive one is the passion to serve the subjects selflessly. The negative one is aggrandizement for wealth and stick to the seat of power at all costs using all the options, fair and fowl. Some of the secular aspects of governance have changed much since the time of Machiavelli, and as the ruler, I will follow what is relevant and practical in the present political scenario in the world. His classification of principalities is no more practical, as my country follows the democratic principles, and we have adopted democracy as the political system for the country under the constitution. I do not believe in annexing territories of other countries by criminal acts of extreme cruelty or any other method. I desire peace in the borders for well-being and prosperity of the country and will take all steps to protect the borders of my country. The character and behavior of the Prince is perfect for me and I will abide by them in letter and spirit. These are the golden principles of behavior the summing up of which has been done by Jonathan Bennet thus: “It is better to be miserly than generous; it is better to be cruel than merciful; It is better to break promises if keeping them would be against ones interest; princes must avoid making them hated and despised; the goodwill of the people is a better defense than any fortress; princes should undertake great projects to enhance their reputation; princes should choose wise advisors to confide and consult with.”(33) These qualities will bring praise or blame to the ruler and I am seized of the consequences and will face the resultant trials and tribulations, with indomitable courage.
I will implicitly follow the guidelines suggested by Machiavelli relating to the military affairs. The seat of power and the relationship of the ruler with the military establishment are closely linked. The ruler needs a good and faithful army and good laws of governance are needed to frame and maintain that relationship. I will study the history of past wars, the shortcomings of the rulers who lost wars and the genius of the rulers who won the wars. I am aware that the study of the war manuals and their practical application are like the alternative beats of the same heart. I agree with the observation of Machiavelli that reliance on mercenaries and auxiliary forces loaned to the ruler by another ruler are dangerous and unreliable, as protecting own interests is their supreme priority than serving the one who has taken their assistance. I will pay emphasis on troops raised from my own citizens as I can expect their implicit loyalty.
I think that the moral base of Machiavelli’s arguments is suspect. Perhaps he was playing to the gallery to please the then rulers and to advance his own stature and career prospectus. The wise saying goes, ‘you can fool some for all time and all for some time, but not all for all time.’ I do not agree with his assertion that “ends justify the means.” The gain in such cases is bound to be short term. There is the infallible divine law of retribution, which controls all the secular laws framed by fallible human beings. But Machiavelli lays emphasis on the necessity to increase the common good for which a strong ruler is needed. He is willing to sweep under the carpet evil deeds done by the ruler to punish some, for achieving happiness for the majority of the people. I am aware that as a ruler, I may have to walk on the razor’s edge; I will not employ evil alternatives as a rule. Only in exceptional cases, will I deviate from the path of established moral norms. My golden rule will be to abide by truth at all times and truth at all costs.
People are supreme
I agree with the observations of Machiavelli about the need to adopt a cautious approach to the varying moods of the people. People can build or break the prospectus of the ruler, depending upon the type of his response to their grievances. The ruler should command the love fear of the people, but his actions should not generate their hatred. Hatred and contempt are irrational emotions and people will be obliged to retaliate in a drastic manner. Religion and nationalism are good tools to control the mob, but do not expect the people to accept irrational measures in the name of religion. To appease the mob is a good and practical option.
I know, as a ruler, I cannot expect perfect discipline in the society, and I am willing to carry on with the available discipline and at the same time, strive for improvement. Machiavelli’s assertion that goodwill of the people is a political instrument to ensure the stability of the reign of the ruler is absolutely correct.
Bennet, Jonathan. The Prince – Early Modern Texts