The Best Quotes From Niccolo Machiavelli’s ‘The Prince’


In 1513, Niccolo Machiavelli wrote a book on statecraft and the wielding of power called ‘The Prince.’ This almost 500 year old book which has just over 100 pages, has as much relevant information about foreign policy in it as you’ll find on the shelves of your local bookstore. While not everything Machiavelli said can be directly applied to the situations we’re dealing with today, a surprising amount of it can as long as you apply it to foreign policy. So read and enjoy…

“And what physicians say about disease is applicable here: that at the beginning a disease is easy to cure but difficult to diagnose; but as time passes, not having been treated or recognized at the outset, it becomes easy to diagnose but difficult to cure. The same thing occurs in affairs of state; for by recognizing from afar the diseases that are spreading in the state (which is a gift given only to a prudent ruler), they can be cured quickly; but when they are not recognized and are left to grow to the extent that everyone recognizes them, there is no longer any cure.” — Niccolo Machiavelli

“And one should bear in mind that there is nothing more difficult to execute, nor more dubious of success, nor more dangerous to administer than to introduce a new order to things; for he who introduces it has all those who profit from the old order as his enemies; and he has only lukewarm allies in all those who might profit from the new. This lukewarmness partly stems from fear of their adversaries, who have the law on their side, and partly from the skepticism of men, who do not truly believe in new things unless they have personal experience in them.” — Niccolo Machiavelli

“Well used are those cruelties (if it is permitted to speak well of evil) that are carried out in a single stroke, done out of necessity to protect oneself, and are not continued but are instead converted into the greatest possible benefits for the subjects. Badly used are those cruelties which. although being few at the outset, grow with the passing time instead of disappearing. Those who follow the first method can remedy their condition with God and with men…; the others cannot possibly survive.” — Niccolo Machiavelli

“Besides what has been said, people are fickle by nature; and it is a simple to convince them of something but difficult to hold them in that conviction; and, therefore, affairs should be managed in such a way that when they no longer believe, they can be made to believe by force.” — Niccolo Machiavelli

“And many writers have imagined for themselves republics and principalities that have never been seen or known to exist in reality; for there is such a gap between how one lives and how one ought to live that anyone who abandons what is done for what ought to be done learns his ruin rather than his preservation: for a man who wishes to profess goodness at all times will come to ruin among so many who are not good.” — Niccolo Machiavelli

“Therefore, in order not to have to rob his subjects, to be able to defend himself, not to become poor and contemptible, and not to be forced to become rapacious, a prince must consider it of little importance if he incurs the reputation of being a miser, for this is one of the vices that permits him to rule.” — Niccolo Machiavelli

“From this arises an argument: whether it is better to be loved than feared. I reply that one should like to be both one and the other; but since it is difficult to join them together, it is much safer to be feared than to be loved when one of the two must be lacking.” — Niccolo Machiavelli

“One can make this generalization about men: they are ungrateful, fickle, liars, and deceivers, they shun danger and are greedy for profit; while you treat them well, they are yours. They would shed their blood for you, risk their property, their lives, their children, so long, as I said above, as danger is remote; but when you are in danger they turn against you.” — Niccolo Machiavelli

“And that prince who bases his power entirely on…words, finding himself completely without other preparations, comes to ruin;” — Niccolo Machiavelli

“Men are less hesitant about harming someone who makes himself loved than one who makes himself feared because love is held together by a chain of obligation which, since men are wretched creatures, is broken on every occasion in which their own interests are concerned; but fear is sustained by dread of punishment which will never abandon you.” — Niccolo Machiavelli

“One should never allow chaos to develop in order to avoid going to war, because one does not avoid a war but instead puts it off to his disadvantage.” — Niccolo Machiavelli

“You must, therefore know that there are two means of fighting: one according to the laws, the other with force; the first way is proper to man, the second to beasts; but because the first, in many cases, is not sufficient, it becomes necessary to have recourse to the second.” — Niccolo Machiavelli

“For a prince should have two fears: one, internal concerning his subjects; the other, external, concerning foreign powers. From the latter he can always defend himself by his good troops and friends; and he will always have good friends if he has good troops.” — Niccolo Machiavelli

“And here one must not that hatred is acquired just as much by means of good actions as by bad ones; and so, as I said above, if a prince wishes to maintain the state, he is often obliged not to be good; because whenever that group which you believe you need to support you is corrupted, whether it be the common people, the soldiers, or the nobles, it is to your advantage to follow their inclinations in order to satisfy them; and then good actions are your enemy.” — Niccolo Machiavelli

“And it will always happen that he who is not your friend will request your neutrality and he who is your friend will ask you to declare yourself by taking up arms. And irresolute princes, in order to avoid present dangers, follow the neutral road most of the time, and most of the time they are ruined.” — Niccolo Machiavelli

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