from: Francesco Guicciardini [1483 - 1540], Maxims and Reflections of a Renaissance Statesman
by Mario Domandi, Introduction by Nicolai Rubinstein, Harper &
Row, 1965 (1857) (1530) (1528) (1512).
"In the history of Renaissance thought, Guicciardini's
Ricordi occupy a place of singular importance. Few
works of the sixteenth century allow us so penetrating an insight
into the views and sentiments of its author as these reflexions
of the great Italian historian, written down over a period of eighteen
years. Like Machiavelli's Prince, the Ricordi
form one of the outstanding documents of a time of crisis and transition;
but unlike the Prince, they range over a wide field of private
as well as public life. In doing so, they reveal the man as well
as the political theorist." .
"In 1516, Leo X [Pope 1513 - 1521 (1475 - 1521)] made him
[Guicciardini] governor of Modena, and in 1517, of Reggio. It was
the beginning of a long and distinguishing career in the Papal administration,
first under Leo X, and then under the second Medici Pope, Clement VII [Pope 1523 - 1534 (1478 - 1534)]."
[Note: Leo X was
Pope, when Martin Luther [1483 - 1546] reacted (95 theses, 1517)].
'The development of Guicciardini's views on Italy coincides
largely with the time of his friendship with Machiavelli
[Niccolò Machiavelli 1469 - 1527] [see 1635; 2136-2137]. The two men shared the same views on a number
of subjects; yet this went hand in hand with fundamental disagreements.
Their intellectual relationship was of the nature of
a long debate between equals, rather than of one-sided or
mutual influence; while Guicciardini accepted some of the ideas
which Machiavelli had put forward in his political works, The
Prince and the Discourses, he strongly rejected others.
Dating back to Machiavelli's brief visit, in 1521, to Modena, where
Guicciardini was Papal governor, the friendship between the two
men became closest in the last years of Machiavelli's life...."Io
amo messer Francesco Guicciardini, amo la patria mia più dell' anima,"
writes Machiavelli a few weeks before his death in 1527:17
"I love Francesco Guicciardini and
I love my fatherland more than my own soul."
among the attitudes the two men shared, besides their patriotism,
was an objective and non-ethical approach to politics, which has
earned Guicciardini the epithet of "the first of the Machiavellians."18
Where their views differed, as in the question of the applicability
of precedents from Roman antiquity to modern times, or in that of
the intrinsic goodness or evil of human nature, Guicciardini's objections
were largely bound up with his distrust of Machiavelli's tendency
to theorize and to draw what he would consider to be sweeping conclusions
from inadequate evidence. These objections to some of Machiavelli's
basic theories appear already, together with a good deal of similarity
in judgment, in the Dialogue on Florentine Government. A
few years later, he formulated them systematically in his unfinished Observations on the "Discourses" of
probably in 1530, when that work was being prepared for printing.
That Guicciardini should have felt the urge to clarify his views
on Machiavelli's political philosophy is significant in that it
shows how deeply Machiavelli's ideas affected him. For us, the
Observations have the additional significance that Guicciardini
was writing them about the time when he was engaged in compiling
the final selection of his Ricordi.' [18-19].
"I have translated
C, B, and Q 2, and given them in that order, which is the reverse
of the chronological. C is the most
mature, the most thought-out version. It seemed to me that
it should be read first so that the others might be measured against
June, 1964" .
"Series C [from the manuscript of 1530]
1. The pious say that faith can do great
things, and, as the gospel tells us, even move mountains. The reason is that
faith breeds obstinacy. To have faith means simply to believe firmly—to deem
almost a certainty—things that are not reasonable; or, if they are reasonable,
to believe them more firmly than reason warrants. A man of faith is stubborn in
his beliefs; he goes his way, undaunted and resolute, disdaining hardship and
danger, ready to suffer any extremity.
since the affairs of the world are subject to chance and to a thousand and one
different accidents, there are many ways in which the passage of time may bring
unexpected help to those who persevere in their obstinacy. And since this
obstinacy is the product of faith, it is then said that faith can do great
[Origins of faith:
lower brain stem?]. [See: Article #1, 3, 17. (Guicciardini)].
"28. I know of
no one who loathes the ambition, the avarice, and the sensuality of the clergy
more than I—both because each of these vices is hateful in itself and
because each and all are hardly suited to those who profess to live a life
dependent upon God. Furthermore, they are such contradictory vices that they
cannot coexist in a subject unless he be very unusual indeed.
spite of all this, the positions I have held under several popes
have forced me, for my own good, to further their interests. Were
it not for that, I should have loved Martin
Luther [1483 - 1546] as much as myself—not so that I might
be free of the laws based on Christian religion as it is generally
interpreted and understood; but to see this bunch of rascals get
their just deserts, that is, to be either without vices or without
authority." . [See: 851, 124.].
"62. People generally—and inexperienced men always—are
more easily moved by the hope of gain than by the danger of loss.
And yet the contrary should be true, for the desire to keep is more
natural than the desire to gain. The reason for the mistake is that,
ordinarily, hope is stronger than fear. Men easily allay their fears,
even when they are warranted; and hope, even when there is no hope."
"161. When I consider
the infinite ways in which human life is subject to accident, sickness,
chance, and violence, and when I consider how many things
must combine during the year to produce a good harvest, nothing surprises me more than to see an old man,
a good year." .
"173. Prodigality in a prince is more detestable
and more pernicious than parsimony. For a prince cannot be prodigal
without taking something from many of his subjects, and thus they
are worse off than if he were parsimsious [parsimonious] and gave
them nothing. And yet it seems the public prefers a prodigal prince
to a stingy one. The reason is that although the prodigality of
the prince favors few men compared to the necessarily large number
from which it takes, it is nevertheless true, as I have said at
other times, that men hope more than they fear. They like to think
they will be one of the few who will be favored rather than one
of the many from whom something will be taken." [84-85].
"Series B" [from the manuscript of 1528]
"14. I want to see three things before I die,
but I doubt whether I shall see any of them, no matter how long
I live. I want to see a well-ordered republic in our city, Italy
liberated from all the barbarians, and the
world delivered from the tyranny of these wicked priests."
"29. Just as it is often the fate of merchants
to go bankrupt and of sailors to drown, so too those who govern
territories of the church for any length of time generally come
to a bad end." .
"31. Never argue against religion or against things
that seem to depend on God. These matters are too strongly rooted
in the minds of fools." .
"32. It was said truly that too much religion spoils the world, because it
makes the mind effeminate, involves men in thousands of errors,
and diverts them from many generous and virile enterprises. I do
not hereby wish to derogate from the Christian faith and divine
worship, but rather to confirm and augment them by distinguishing
what is excessive from what is sufficient, and by stimulating men's
minds to consider carefully what should be taken into account and
what may safely be ignored." .
"95. Considering its origin carefully, all political power is rooted in violence. There
is no legitimate power, except that of republics within their own
territories but not beyond. Not even the power of the emperor is
an exception, for it is founded on the authority of the Romans,
which was a greater usurpation than any other. Nor do I except the
priests from this rule—indeed, their violence is double, for they
use both the temporal and the spiritual arms to subjugate us." .
I have always wanted to see the ruin of the Papal State [see
Addition 47, 2582 (Comment)]. But as fortune would have it, I have
been forced to support and work for the power of two popes. Were
it not for that, I would love Martin Luther more than myself, in the hope that
his sect might demolish, or at least clip the wings, of this wicked
tyranny of the priests." [125-126].
"165. Very rarely are documents falsified at the
start. Usually it is done later, when men have had time for wicked
thoughts; or else it is done when men notice, in their management
of affairs, that a certain thing would be to their advantage, whereupon
they try to make the instruments say what they would like them to
have said. Therefore, when you have important documents drawn up,
make it a habit to have them turned over to you immediately, and
keep them at home in their authentic form." [136-137].
_____ _____ _____
by Peter E. Bondanella, Indiana University, Twayne Publishers, 1976.
'As Guicciardini bluntly puts it, "the
desire to dominate and to have superiority over others is natural
in men," while the love of liberty is much less strong; anyone
who has the opportunity to rule others, including those who profess
themselves to be lovers of freedom, will do so without the slightest
hesitation.21 [21"Opere de Francesco Guicciardini",
"336"] Consequently, he rejects as irrelevant much of the energy
expended in humanist circles over the "best" or most "natural" kind
of government suitable to Florence; in his view no state can exist
without force. Legitimized violence, as Guicciardini said earlier
in the Discourse of Logrogno, is the essence of the state.
Men, in fact, love justice more than liberty,22 and a
republic's only theoretical justification is that it may offer more
justice than other forms. If the type of tyranny practiced by the
Medici succeeds in convincing the citizens that they are being treated
equally, men will not hesitate to prefer that form of government
without freedom over another kind of government which is closer
to the republican ideal.' [50-51].
History of Italy
The History of Italy [written 1534 - 1540
["12"]] displays a heavy reliance upon the humanist models, those
practices constituting "the laws
of history," as Guicciardini once called them.1
Stylized battle scenes, paired literary speeches, portents of impending
disasters, and carefully drawn literary portraits abound in the
narrative. Guicciardini even included
in the papers comprising the manuscript of the work a quotation from Cicero's De Oratore on the composition
of true history:
nature of the subject needs chronological arrangement and geographical
representation:...it calls also, as regards such plans, for some
imitation of what was done or said, but also for the manner of doing
or saying it; and, in the estimate of consequences, for an exposition
of all contributory causes, whether originating in accident, discretion
or foolhardiness; and, as for the individual actors, besides an
account of their exploits, it demands particulars of the lives and
characters of such as are outstanding in renown and dignity. Then
again the kind of language and type of style to be followed are
the easy and the flowing, which run their course with unvarying
current and a certain placidity, avoiding alike the rough speech
we use in Court and the advocate's stinging epigrams.2
Cicero [106 - 43 B.C.E.] calls attention to several
important traits of true history: chronological arrangement, attention
to detail (especially anecdotes concerning the lives of the main
characters), a search for historical causes, and a pleasing, simple
'....Most contemporary students of
the Renaissance would agree with John R. Hale's estimation of Guicciardini's stature as "the greatest historian between Tacitus in the first
century and Voltaire and Gibbon in the eighteenth and he
is one of the greatest of all writers of contemporary history."45
As the author of the Ricordi, the Considerations on the
'Discourses' of Machiavelli, and numerous dialogues and treatises,
Guicciardini merits increased recognition as one of the most original
philosophical minds of his day....' .