19 Mar

Men who become rules by prowess similar to [Moses, Cyrus, Romulus, Theseus and others like them] acquire their principalities with difficulty but hold them with ease. The difficulties they encounter in acquiring their principalities arise partly because of the new institutions and laws they are forced to introduce in founding the state and making themselves secure.

It should be borne in mind that there is nothing more difficult, more doubtful of success, and more dangerous to carry through than initiating changes in a state’s constitution.

The innovator makes enemies of all those who prospered under the old order, and only lukewarm support is forthcoming from those who would prosper under the new. Their support is lukewarm partly from fear of their adversaries, who have the existing laws on their side, and partly because men are generally incredulous, never really trusting new things unless they have tested them by experience. In consequence, whenever those who oppose the changes can do so, they attack vigorously, and the defense made by others is only lukewarm. So the innovator and his friends come to grief.

VI. ‘New principalities acquired by one’s own arms’.
The Prince, 1532 (first printed)
Niccolò Machiavelli (1468-1527)


(The death mask of Lorenzo de Medici to whom The Prince was dedicated)


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