Sunday, October 25, 2009

October 25: It Greatly Encouraged Intrigue (Vol. 27, pp. 363-372)

I guess the subtitle for this reading would be "sympathy for the devil." English essayist Thomas Macaulay, who was born this day in 1800, writes about Machiavelli and defends him from the common perception that he is the source of all political evil in the world.

If you only read "The Prince," Macaulay wrote, you might believe that. But the rest of Machiavelli's work demonstrate that he is not as evil as advertised.

"The explanation might have been easy if he had been a very weak or very affected man. But he was evidently neither one nor the other. His works prove, beyond all contradiction, that his understanding was strong, his taste pure, and his sense of the ridiculous exquisitely keen," wrote Macaulay.

He believes the reason why Machiavelli has received such a bum rap is due to the time and place that he plied his trade. Northern Italy did not resemble the rest of Europe as it exited the long night of the Medieval Era. It was at its zenith as a commercial and intellectual center, far above anywhere else on the continent. A culture devoted to commerce is not a culture that sees war as a necessity, at least the sort of war where all members of a society march off to fight.

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