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Machiavelli Is Always in Earnest: “That course alone must be taken which preserves the existence of the country and maintains its liberty.”

 In judging means, look only to the end: if the state goes under, all is lost. Hence the famous paragraph in the forty-first chapter of the third book of The Discourses where he says:

When the very safety of the country depends upon the resolution to be taken, no considerations of justice or injustice, humanity or cruelty, not of glory or of infamy, should be allowed to prevail. But putting all other considerations aside, the only question should be “What course will save the life and liberty of the country?”

CHAPTER XLI.—That our Country is to be defended by Honour or by Dishonour; and in either way is well defended.

The consuls together with the whole Roman army fell, as I have related, into the hands of the Samnites, who imposed on them the most ignominious terms, insisting that they should be stripped of their arms, and pass under the yoke before they were allowed to return to Rome.

The consuls being astounded by the harshness of these conditions and the whole army overwhelmed with dismay, Lucius Lentulus, the Roman lieutenant, stood forward and said, that in his opinion they ought to decline no course whereby their country might be saved; and that as the very existence of Rome depended on the preservation of her army, that army must be saved at any sacrifice, for whether the means be honourable or ignominious, all is well done that is done for the defence of our country. And he said that were her army preserved, Rome, in course of time, might wipe out the disgrace; but if her army were destroyed, however gloriously it might perish, Rome and her freedom would perish with it. In the event his counsel was followed.

Now this incident deserves to be noted and pondered over by every citizen who is called on to advise his country; for when the entire safety of our country is at stake, no consideration of what is just or unjust, merciful or cruel, praiseworthy or shameful, must intervene. On the contrary, every other consideration being set aside, that course alone must be taken which preserves the existence of the country and maintains its liberty.

[From A Special Supplement: The Question of Machiavelli by Isaiah Berlin ]

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • ghostsniper February 22, 2019, 11:38 AM

    I’ll have no part of any of it.
    Lone wolf, always vigilant.

  • John Venlet February 22, 2019, 12:20 PM

    Stalin quite evidently took Machiavelli’s words to heart during the Purges. As Chambers notes in his book Witness:

    …as Communists, Stalin and the Stalinists were absolutely justified in making the Purge. From the Communist viewpoint, Stalin could have taken no other course, so long as he believed he was right…That was the horror of the Purge–that acting as a Communist, Stalin had acted rightly. In that fact lay the evidence that Communism is absolutely evil. The human horror was not evil, it was the sad consequence of evil. It was Communism that was evil, and the more truly a man acted in its spirit and interest, the more certainly he perpetuated evil.

    Chambers, Whittaker. Witness, pg. 79, Random House, New York 1952

    I’ll have no part of Machiavelli’s admonitions in regards the alleged sanctity of the country.

  • Jack W. February 22, 2019, 1:55 PM

    Your readers clearly don’t understand what “preserves the existence of the country and maintains its liberty” really means. Not for Machiavelli, or for Lentulus, or themselves.

    It means “think of what happens to you if you lose.”

    The American Deep State deserves no loyalty. But there is an American nation, which is not the same thing. Our enemies are marxist fanatics with a record of 100 million dead in the last century alone. They mean genocide, and by their nature cannot leave any of us alone.

    It’s time to make hard choices.

    Lone wolves? A lone wolf is a defective and an exile. Wolves are pack animals. So are we.

  • John the River February 22, 2019, 3:23 PM

    “Guard, protect and cherish your land, for there is no afterlife for a place that started out as Heaven. Charles M. Russell, Montana, 1926. ”

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but Archangel Michael has a sword. And Heaven has a wall.

  • Matt Burchett February 22, 2019, 4:39 PM

    After the Oklahoma City bombing, Bill Clinton shoved his mug in a camera and blathered something I never will forget. Paraphrasing: “You can’t say you love your country and hate your government.”

    Recalled vividly for two reasons: First, it’s the only time a hurled beer bottle cracked my TV screen (dumb). Second, in gem-like photo-negative fashion, Bill provided my political credo ever since: “Because I so love my country, I cannot abide its current government.”

  • ghostsniper February 23, 2019, 4:59 AM

    My choice is to not join clubs in which I can’t verify all of it directly with my own eyeballs and mind.
    Join what you want, believe what you want, but leave me out of it.
    If you don’t understand this then you have no business speaking of an american ideal.

  • Casey Klahn February 23, 2019, 9:22 AM

    I believe I’ve learned from this thread of comments. John the River scores points, but the win goes to Jack W.

    We have a republic because men are evil. Marx states and then demands that all men be good (biblical sense). The history of Marx is encyclopedic with the sins of men.

    Clausewitz, whose work descends from Machiavelli, does a good job of organizing your thoughts when it comes to such things. War has a mind of its own, so when that jar is opened, shit gets real and the euphemism for it is “escalation”. Use history as a guide; fail not in war, because your regrets will be too bitter to stand. Wall? The wall is behind you, for when you get pushed out of your home, there is no fall back position. The Irish said their southern border was no such thing. It was England’s border with Ireland, and Ireland’s border was the sea.

    Brothers, my powder is dry. Last week, someone shot a coyote from my north porch at 250 yards, on snow. It was a heart shot. There are layers to that event, and they all involve morality.

  • JiminAlaska February 23, 2019, 10:25 AM

    In this “woke” age, all are insane, except, perhaps, the lone wolves.

    I grew up in the WW II and aftermath years. For decades thereafter I couldn’t comprehend how the Japanese and German citizens could aid, abet, support their governments actions.

    Alas, looking at far too many of my fellow Americans today, I clearly understand.