Chapters 22

The Personal Staff Of Princes Icon

September 20, 2021

The choice of staff is very important to a prince, and they are good or not according to the discrimination of the prince.

The first opinion which one forms of a prince, and of his capability, is by observing the people he has around him. When they are capable and faithful, he may always be considered wise because he has known how to recognize the capable and to keep them faithful. But when they are otherwise, one cannot form a good opinion of him, for the prime error which he made was in choosing them.

Antonio da Venafro was the minister of Pandolfo Petrucci, prince of Siena. Pandolfo was very clever to have Venafro on his staff.

Three Kinds of Minds

There are three classes of minds:

  1. One which understands by itself. This is most excellent
  2. One which appreciates what others understood. This is good.
  3. One which neither understands by itself nor through the explanation of others. This is useless

Pandolfo was both a first and second class mind. Whenever one has sufficient judgment to know good and bad, he can recognize the good and the bad in his staff.

The one he can praise and the other correct. Thus the person cannot hope to deceive him, and is kept honest.

But to enable a prince to form an opinion of his staff, there is one test which never fails. When you see someone thinking more of his own interests than of yours, and seeking inwardly his own profit in everything, such a man will never make a good servant.

Nor will you ever be able to trust him, because he who has the state of another in his hands ought never to think of himself.

He should always think of his prince and never pay any attention to matters in which the prince is not concerned.

On the other hand, to keep his servant honest the prince ought to reward him, honouring him, enriching him, doing him kindnesses, sharing the honours and concerns with him. At the same time let him see that he cannot stand alone, so that many honours may not make him desire more, many riches make him wish for more, and that many problems may make him afraid to take chances.

When, therefore, servants, and princes towards servants, are thus disposed, they can trust each other. But when it is otherwise, the end will always be bad for either one or the other.

Chapter 23: How Flatterers Should Be Avoided

Princes should be very careful and discriminating of flatterers.

The courts are full of such people, because men are so wrapped up in their own affairs, and in a way so deceived in them, that it is difficult to protect them from this danger.

If they wish to defend themselves, they run the danger of becoming despised.

The only way to guard from flatterers is to allow people to tell you the truth. But this also reduces respect for you.

Therefore a wise prince should follow a third way by choosing the wise men in his state, and letting them alone speak the truth to him. He should:

  • question them about everything
  • listen to their opinions
  • form his own conclusions.

These councilors, separately and collectively, should know that the more freely they speak, the more they will be preferred.

Outside of these, he should listen to no one. He should pursue and stick to his decisions.

He who does otherwise is either:

  • beaten by flatterers, or
  • changes his opinions that he is laughed at.

An example is Fra Luca, the man of affairs to Maximilian, the present emperor. He said to the emperor:

“He consulted with no one, yet never got his own way in anything.”

This is because the emperor was secretive. He does not communicate his plans to any one, nor does he receive opinions on them.

When he implemented his opinions, they were immediately argued against by the men around him. This made him change them.

This made his decisions unreliable.

A prince, therefore, should always:

  • take advice, but only when he wishes and not when others wish
  • make it clear that he does not want advice unless he asks for it.
  • constantly inquire and patiently listen
  • let his anger be felt by anyone who misinforms him

Some think that a prince might appear wise not through his own ability, but through his good advisers. Such a belief is clearly wrong, because an unwise prince will never take good advice. He might be well governed, but only for a short time. This is because his governor would in a short time take his state away from him.

If a prince who is not wise takes advice from more than one person he will always get different bits of advice, and he will not know how to accommodate them.

Each of the advisors will think of his own interests and the prince will not know how to control them or to see through them. This is typical, because men will always deceive you, unless they are kept honest by constraint.

Therefore, good advice, no matter where it comes from, is a result of the prince’s wisdom. The prince’s wisdom does not come from good advice.