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ABSTRACT: “Dating The Prince: Beginnings and Endings,” by William J. Connell

One of the subtle ways in which modern scholarship has attempted to excuse the harsh messages of The Prince has been to say that the work was never completed to its author’s satisfaction. Thus some have argued that The Prince contains passages that Machiavelli may well have rethought if given more time or not pressed for a job. Others have hypothesized that what we have is a still unpolished draft. New archival evidence permits us to date the presentation of The Prince to Lorenzo de’ Medici the Younger in Florence in May- June 1515. Formal composition of the book must have begun and been largely finished in 1513, but a number of additions in 1515 show Machiavelli making final touches to his work before presenting it. Since important elements of The Prince were anticipated in earlier writings, especially the Ghiribizzi of 1506, it is impossible to avoid the conclusion that The Prince reflected many years of thought. At the time of its presentation in 1515 Machiavelli surely considered the work complete.

in 1515 Machiavelli surely considered the work complete. Castello Sonnino, formerly Machiavelli, Montespertoli,

Castello Sonnino, formerly Machiavelli, Montespertoli, Italy. [Photo: Wikimedia Commons]

The Review of Politics 75 (2013), 497514. © University of Notre Dame


Dating The Prince : Beginnings and Endings

William J. Connell

Let s begin by presenting some newly discovered documents concerning Niccolò Machiavelli. The biographical detail may at rst appear overwhelm- ing, but the light these documents shed on the chronology of Machiavellis composition of The Prince helps to answer some old questions concerning the character of Machiavelli s little treatise. The new documents date from the year 1515. They were drawn up at a time of nancial dif culty and pro- found personal disappointment in the life of the former Florentine secretary and second chancellor. In 1512 Machiavelli had been red from the chancery of the Florentine Republic. In 1513 he had been arrested on a probably false charge of conspiracy, tortured (although he gave no confession), and then unexpectedly freed in a general amnesty following the election of a Florentine, Giovanni de Medici, as Pope Leo X. In 1515, at the time these documents were drawn up, Machiavelli was still out of favor. But he was also putting into prose the theoretical work that established the extraordinary reputation still associated with him today. On 3 July 1515 there took place a small family meeting in Florence invol- ving several members of the Machiavelli, including Niccolò, the former Secretary. We know about the meeting from three notarial acts, hitherto unknown to scholars, that were drawn up in the course of the meeting. 1 Those present included the brothers Niccolò and Totto, and Battista di Buoninsegna Machiavelli, the grandson of their grandfather s brother, with whom the two brothers had a close rapport. 2 A more distant relative, a

William J. Connell is Professor and La Motta Chair, Department of History, Seton Hall University, South Orange, NJ 07079 (william.connell@shu.edu ).

1 They are preserved in Archivio di Stato di Firenze (henceforth ASF ), Notarile antecosimiano (henceforth NA ) 1233, fol. 322r v, and will be published in full tran- scriptions in another context. I am especially grateful to Tommaso Casini for his assist- ance with this article. 2 Battista di Buoninsegna, Niccolòs second cousin, was the eldest of two Machiavelli boys who, after the death of their father, were looked after by Bernardo, the father of Niccolò and Totto, together with their mother. See Bernardo Machiavelli, Libro di ricordi, ed. Cesare Olschki (Florence: Le Monnier, 1954), 96 97 et passim. He is also mentioned in Thomas Kuehn, Heirs, Kin, and Creditors in Renaissance Florence (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008), 105.




priest, Prior Battista di Filippo Machiavelli, who was mentioned in the rst act but not present, joined them later in time to take part in drawing up the second and third of the documents. A notary from the archbishop s curia was also present, as were two witnesses who belonged to the politically and socially important Guicciardini and Federighi families. 3 The meeting was held in the home of Niccolò s younger brother, Totto, in the parish of Santa Felicita, just across the Ponte Vecchio from the center of Florence. It was appropriate that they should have met in Totto s house, since his was the future that was being decided. The rst of the three documents states that Prior Battista, who had not yet arrived, proposed to resign his principal ecclesiastical bene ce, the Priory of Sant Andrea, which was in Montespertoli, a small town south of Florence, with which the Machiavelli family had historical connections that dated at least to the fourteenth century. The document accordingly assigned for the next six months the presentation right the right of presenting to the arch- bishop a new holder of the bene ce to a family member, the absent Lorenzo Machiavelli, once the priory became vacant. 4 The priory in Montespertoli was a reasonably well-endowed church whose patronage was shared by the Machiavelli with the Captains of the Guelph Party. 5 In fact the Machiavelli family possessed patronage rights to a network of about a dozen rural churches and oratories outside of Florence. It has been suggested that Niccolò did not take a particular interest in these bene ces, possibly as a consequence of a lack of religious feeling. 6 Yet documentation uncovered more recently has shown that for nearly two decades it was Niccolò who took the lead role in preserving the family s rights over these churches and in managing appointments to the bene ces. As we shall see,

3 Battista Guicciardini is mentioned in Machiavelli s famous letter of 10 December 1513 to Francesco Vettori (Niccolò Machiavelli, Lettere, ed. Franco Gaeta, in Opere, vol. 3 [Turin: UTET, 1984], 425). The second witness, Carlo Federighi, is otherwise unknown, but he happened to be the subject of a bronze portrait medal done by Niccolò Fiorentino in 1498 now in the Victoria and Albert Museum. 4 ASF, NA 1233, fol. 322r v. 5 Luigi Santoni, Raccolta di notizie storiche riguardanti le chiese dellarci-diocesi di Firenze (Florence: Mazzoni, 1847), 34950. The Machiavelli held two-thirds of the patronage right and the Captains of the Guelf Party one-third. Unlike the English priory, which serves a monastic function, the Italian prioria is a simple church that has satel- lites or other churches subordinate to it. 6 The Machiavelli beneces were described in Gene Brucker, Niccolò Machiavelli, His Lineage, and the Tuscan Church,I Tatti Studies, no. 13 (2010): 77 89, who associ- ated Niccolò s apparent lack of interest in them with his critical attitude toward the Church. The evidence that Niccolò was instead quite active begins with the two letters of 1497 concerning the benece of S. Maria a Fagna (Machiavelli, Lettere , 63 65). For a tour of the churches around Montespertoli where the Machiavelli held patronage rights I am most grateful to Giulio Cesare Bucci.



the intention in this case had been that Niccolò s brother, Totto, would receive the Priory from Battista. But then Prior Battista arrived at Totto s house. A change of plan is evident in the two further documents that were drawn up that day. First of all, it was decided that Prior Battista would not have to relinquish his priory. Instead it was agreed that a different bene ce would be assigned to Totto, not by Prior Battista but by Battista s son, Giampiero Machiavelli, who also happened to be a priest. It was, to be sure, irregular for a priest, in this case Prior Battista Machiavelli, to have fathered a son and yet Battista had two of them. 7 It was also irregular for a priest s son, in this case Giampiero Machiavelli, to serve as a priest. But with a certain frequency these were things that hap- pened in the Church in the decades before and after 1500. Dispensations, moreover, were obtainable. Giampiero, the holder of the bene ce that was now designated for Totto, had been living in France after leaving Florence in October 1513. At the time of his departure he had made his father, Prior Battista, his procurator with full power over his affairs. 8 Since the rst document had stated that Battista intended to resign his own bene ce, but after he arrived it was agreed that Giampiero would resign his bene ce, it seems quite possible that it was Giampiero s assent that made the change possible. Battista, in other words, would have arrived at the meeting with word from France that his son was willing to resign the church. The bene ce that Giampiero was to resign happened to be the parish church at Sant Andrea in Percussina. The Machiavelli had patronage rights there that they shared with the parishioners. Sant Andrea in Percussina was where Niccolò Machiavellis family farm was located the farm described in Machiavelli s famous letter to Francesco Vettori of 10 December 1513, where Machiavelli wrote much of The Prince . Prior Battista had himself been the rector there from at least 1493 down to 1504, when, with the connivance of Niccolò, he had arranged to have the church passed to Giampiero, thus circumventing the rule that strictly forbade the passing of an ecclesiastical bene ce from

7 That Messer Giampiero Machiavelli was the son of Prior Battista di Filippo di Piero Machiavelli is established above all in ASF, NA 1233, fol. 322v: locaverunt et conces- serunt venerando viro domino Baptiste Philippi de Machiavellis priori Sancti Andree de Montespertulo presenti et conducenti etc., pro se et domino Iohanne Petro et Alexandro fratribus et liis Baptiste Philippi de Machiavellis. See also ASF, NA 1237, fol. 56v, a compromissum between Giampiero and Alessandro, brothers and sons of Battista, dated 20 April 1520. Armando F. Verde, Lo Studio orentino, 14731503: Ricerche e documenti , 6 vols. in 9 (Florence and Pistoia, 19732010), III:2, p. 849, mistakenly supposed that Giampiero was the son of Battista di Buoninsegna (see note 2 above). 8 ASF, NA 1232, fol. 338r (13 October 1513).



father to son. 9 In the second of these three documents of 3 June, Prior Battista, exercising his powers as procurator, transferred to Niccolò Machiavelli the ability to resign the bene ce of Sant Andrea in Percussina on Giampiero s behalf. 10 The church at Sant Andrea in Percussina was hardly a prize bene ce. The run-down state of the property is evident in the report of an episcopal visita- tion of 1514: Everything is in bad condition. The lamp before the body of Christ was not lit. The house of the priest is in ruins, and the church s con- dition is deplorable. We are informed that Niccolò Machiavelli is the renter of all [the church s property]. 11 The report stated that the church served one hundred souls ( anime ) and its income was valued at thirty gold orins per annum not a large sum. With the rector Giampiero absent in France, and with Niccolò, the chief tenant, in nancial straits and possibly in arrears with his rent, it is not surprising that the episcopal visitor found the church in deplorable condition. The participants in the meeting of 3 July were surely aware of this troubled situation. After more discussion a third document was drawn up. The witnesses to the rst two documents were no longer present. It was perhaps convenient for Niccolò and Totto that such patrician friends as Battista Guicciardini and Carlo Federighi were no longer present, since the third document involved a socially embarrassing concession. New witnessesa tailor and a rag-dealer were called in from the neighborhood so that the notarial act could be formalized. The subject of the days third agreement was a ruined castle or castellaccio that stood next to Battistas priory at Montespertoli. 12 More than a century earlier, in a testament dated 1393, the last castellano had transferred the

9 Verde, Lo Studio , IV:3, p. 1246, places (the future Prior ) Battista di Filippo in the benece in 1493. For the transferral of the bene ce to Giampiero in 1504, see Archivio arcivescovile di Firenze (henceforth AAF), Atti beneciali (henceforth AB) 9, fols. 179v180r. For the prohibition under canon law that the Machiavelli dodged, see c. 3, X, De liis presbyterorum ordinandis vel non, 1, 17: Non potest lius sacerdotis eccle- siae paternae praeesse. Vanna Arrighi, Machiavelli, Totto, in Dizionario biogra co degli italiani , no. 67 (2006): 106, erred in thinking that Prior Battista was still the rector in 1515. 10 ASF, NA 1233, fol. 322v, although he had previously been rector down to 1504 (see the following note). 11 AAF, Visite Pastorali (henceforth VP) 004-1, fol. 69r (26 October 1514): Omnia [canc.: bene] male se habebant. Lampas non erat accensa ante corpus Christi. Domus tota ruinosa. Et ecclesia male se habebat. Relatum est Nicolaum de Malchiavellis tenere ad afctum omnia.Gene Brucker (see his Niccolò Machiavelli, 77) kindly shared a photocopy of the original. 12 For the locations of the castle and the priory and a seventeenth-century dispute over the land owned by each, see Giulio Cesare Bucci, La misteriosa Rocca o Castellaccio dei Machiavelli a Montespertoli (Florence: Edizioni IT.COMM, 2006). The later dispute had its origin in the transaction of 1515 described here.



ownership of the castle to two Machiavelli brothers living in Florence, one of whom was Niccolò s great-grandfather. 13 In the intervening years various Machiavelli had ceded their shares of the castle to other members of the family, chie y through the repudiation of debt-laden inheritances. By 1515 the sole owners of the castle were two pairs of brothers: Niccolò and Totto on the one hand, and Battista di Buoninsegna (not to be confused with Prior Battista) and his brother Messer Piero, on the other. 14 Even as a ruin, the castle must have been a source of pride. Sold out of the family in the seventeenth century, it eventually became the home of Sidney Sonnino, a two-time prime minister of the early twentieth century, whose family built a new castle on the site that incorporated some of the existing structure. (See photograph.) Today the Castello Sonnino produces some very ne wines. What was agreed upon in the third document was that Niccolò and Totto, with the additional consent of Battista di Buoninsegna and his absent brother, would lease the castle at Montespertoli to Prior Battista and his two sons, Messer Giampiero and Alessandro, at no cost, save for two pounds of white wax that was to be provided each year in acknowledgment of the lease. 15 Although the initial lease was for ve years, later documents inform us that the castle remained in the hands of Prior Battista and his heirs for several decades, until the death of Alessandro, the prior s second son, who left his estate to Niccolò s children. 16 Possession of an old castle, even a ruined one, conferred a great deal of social prestige. It is unlikely that Niccolò Machiavelli would have ceded the castle gratis, as was done now, to a priest and his two illegitimate sons, without a pressing motive. Clearly a favor from Prior Battista was anticipated. What that favor was becomes clear in two documents drawn up on the fol- lowing day, on 4 July 1515, in the archbishops curia. 17 These inform us that Prior Battista, as his son s procurator, resigned the church at Sant Andrea in Percussina and that Battista di Buoninsegna, acting on behalf of the

13 See ASF, Carte strozziane, ser. 1, 118, in which a copy of the 1393 testament is inserted along with the records of a dispute of 1428. A summary of the same testament appears in the ricordanze kept by Ristoro Machiavelli now in the Biblioteca Marucelliana di Firenze, with the relevant passage quoted in Catherine Atkinson, Debts, Dowries, Donkeys: The Diary of Niccolò Machiavellis Father, Messer Bernardo, in Quattrocento Florence (Frankfurt a.M.: Peter Lang, 2002), 35n37. 14 The ownership and leasing of the castle is traced reasonably accurately in the seventeenth-century genealogical tree published at the back of the rst edition of Bernardo Machiavelli, Libro di ricordi, ed. Cesare Olschki (Florence: Le Monnier, 1954). The genealogy was omitted in the recent (2007) reprint of this book. 15 ASF, NA 1233, fols. 322v323r. 16 As stated in the genealogical tree (see note 14 above), next to the ve sons of Niccolò di Bernardo: Questi furno eredi di Alexandro di Batista.17 AAF, AB 11, fols. 105r106r; and ASF, Diplomatico, Ricci, normali, 4 July 1515.



Machiavelli patrons, presented the same church to his cousin Totto. The upshot of the two days of family negotiations was that in exchange for the free lease of the castle, Totto was to become the rector at the church next to his brother s house. It had been decided that Totto would become a country priest. For Totto this represented a signi cant and disappointing reversal. His initial career plans had not involved the priesthood. Younger than Niccolò by six years, Totto had received a humanistic education under some of the same teachers as his brother. Then Totto had dedicated himself to commerce. It is true that at some point prior to 1510 Totto took minor orders. As a formal matter, this enabled him to accept certain bene ces and it left open various ecclesiastical options. 18 But minor orders also involved little commitment. They made a career in the church a possibility, on short notice, should it become necessary. Thus it was as a form of insurance that Niccolò and Totto arranged in 1502 for their sixteen-year-old nephew Giovanni Vernacci, the son of their late sister Primavera, to take minor orders in Venice. Giovanni became a merchant, however, and there is no indication that he was interested in an ecclesiastical career. 19 Still, after several of Totto s commercial ventures in the eastern Mediterranean failed, he seems to have altered his career plans. 20 In 1510, he arranged the con rmation in Rome of the minor orders that he had taken previously, together with his title as a cleric, although he was not a priest. 21 Totto may have sought the con rmation of his status in order to protect himself from the scandal then affecting his Niccolò in Florence regard- ing the possible illegitimacy of their father, Bernardo. Two years later, in 1512 1513, it must have been hard for Totto when Niccolò lost his job and

18 Letters from (the future Prior ) Battista of 9 November 1503 and from Totto of 21 November 1503 (in Machiavelli, Lettere, 17273, 180) that regard a series of rich bene- ces in Tuscany have sometimes been read (e.g., Brucker, Niccolò Machiavelli,86) as indicating Tottos interest in them, but this is debatable. The unnamed holder of the listed beneces (d età d anni 64in 1503) was Niccolò Pandolni, bishop of Pistoia, who was a Medici client. He had been awarded the beneces by the exiled Giovanni deMedici (but with regress) in order to evade the republics attempted sequestration of the income. 19 Machiavelli, Lettere, 157, where nostro nipote is Giovanni Vernacci. For the inter- est his uncles took in him, see ibid., 101. One of these Vernacci in-laws was a priest, Luca Battista Vernacci, who had held the bene ce at Sant Andrea in Percussina in 1480 or 1481; see Brucker, Niccolò Machiavelli, 81 (although not simply a local cleric). 20 Arrighi, Machiavelli, Totto, 106. 21 ASF, Diplomatico, Ricci, normali, 5 January 1510, drawn up in Rome, con rms Totto s minor orders as a clericus,but the document does not involve his ordination as a priest, as stated in Brucker, Niccolò Machiavelli, 86, who followed Oreste Tommasini, La vita e gli scritti di Niccolò Machiavelli , 2 vols. in 3 (Rome: Loescher, 18831911), 1:476.



was then arrested. However the election of Giovanni deMedici as Pope Leo X in March 1513 appears to have been propitious for Totto, who, together with his brother, is likely to have known Giovanni de Medici from their boyhood in pre-1494 Florence, before Giovanni was exiled with the Medici family. Niccolò was freed from prison as a result of the papal election, and even as he attempted to win some kind of government appointment for himself via friends in Rome, he also campaigned vigorously for Totto s appointment as one of the pope s familiares. 22 The idea, advanced in letter after letter to Francesco Vettori, was for Totto to receive a position in the papal court with the possibility of advancement. But that was not what was on offer for Totto in July 1515. A position as a prete di contado was frowned upon by Florentines who were well-off. In 1477, for instance, Giovanni Tornabuoni had asked for Lorenzo deMedici s help in securing a rich bene ce for a nephew so that he wont have to be a country priest. 23 Now, in early July 1515, it was clear that Totto s hopes for a post in the Roman curia had come to naught. Instead of moving to Rome, Totto would have to become a simple country cleric and in the poor church at the farm of his own family. Totto delayed his ordination as a priest the sacerdotal ordination that was required of a church rectoruntil he was granted a privilege by Pope Leo, on 28 January 1516, permitting him to become a pluralist, by holding more than one bene ce, if others were presented to him. 24 Finally, on 2 March 1516, Totto took sacerdotal orders, taking the customary vows that included celibacy. 25 He must have felt help- less when, two months later, on 28 April 1516, Pope Leo assigned to Sant Andrea s former rector Giampiero Machiavelli, who was still in France an annual pension of eight gold ducats that were to be subtracted from the church s meager revenues. 26 The documents presented above tell us that the Machiavelli brothers were facing a major crisis in the summer of 1515. To be sure, the concession at no cost of the old castle in Montespertoli was mostly a symbolic matter. But Totto s decision to become a country priest was an irrevocable one. It is true that ve years later, after his brother Niccolò was restored to the good

22 Niccolò Machiavelli to Francesco Vettori, 13 March 1513, in Lettere, 361: Voi sapete in che grado si truova messer Totto nostro. Io lo raccomando a voi et a Pagolo [Vettori] generalmente. Desidera solo, lui et io, questo particulare: di essere posto in tra i familiari del papa, e scritto nel suo rotolo, et averne la patente; di che vi preghiamo. 23 Brucker, Niccolò Machiavelli, 82, citing Verde, Lo Studio , III:1, pp. 55455: che non abbia essere prete di contado.24 ASF, Diplomatico, Ricci, normali, 28 January 1516, cited by Arrighi, Machiavelli, Totto, 1067. 25 Totto s priestly ordination is recorded in ASF, Diplomatico, Ricci, normali, 2 March 1516, cited by Arrighi, Machiavelli, Totto, 1067. 26 ASF, NA 1235, fols. 167v168r.



graces of the Medici, Totto found other opportunities for advancement. 27 But in July 1515 Totto could not have known that that would be the case. The dif culty the two brothers faced explains the anguish evident in the only letters from Niccolò that survive from the second half of 1515. To put them in perspective, earlier in 1515, on 31 January, Niccolò had been ecstatic about what seemed a likely appointment with Giuliano deMedici, thanks to some assistance from Francesco Vettori s brother Paolo. 28 But after months of silence, the next letter that we have from Niccolò is only a very brief note of 18 August, addressed to his nephew Giovanni Vernacci, who was then working in the wool trade at Pera, near Istanbul. The tone is completely different from that of the hopeful letter of January:

Carissimo Giovanni. Se io non ti ho scritto per lo addietro, non voglio che tu ne accusi né me, né altri, ma solamente i tempi, i quali sono di sorte che

mi hanno fatto sdimenticare di me medesimo.

Dearest Giovanni, If I have not written to you earlier, I do not want you to blame either me or anyone else, but only the times; they have beenand still are of such a sort that they have made me forget even myself. 29

As Hugo Jaeckel once observed of this letter, these are the words of a man still suffering from shock. 30 The August letter was followed in November by an even darker letter, again to Vernacci:

Carissimo Giovanni. . La fortuna non mi ha lasciato altro che i parenti e

gli amici, et io ne fo capitale, e massime di quelli che più mi attengono,

come sei tu, dal quale io spero, quando la fortuna ti inviasse a qualche fac- cenda onorevole, che tu renderesti il cambio amiei gliuoli deporta- menti miei verso di te.

27 In 1520 he became familiare, domestico and continuo commensaleof Cardinal Giovanni Salviati, and he is recorded as doing administrative work in the Florentine Studio at Pisa at that time (Arrighi, Machiavelli, Totto, 106). 28 Machiavelli, Lettere, 48891. 29 Machiavelli, Lettere, 492, here following the English translation in Machiavelli and His Friends: Their Personal Correspondence, trans. James B. Atkinson and David Sices (DeKalb: Northern Illinois University Press, 1996), 314. 30 Hugo Jaeckel, What Is Machiavelli Exhorting in His Exhortatio ? The Extraordinaries, in Niccolò Machiavelli: Politico storico letterato , ed. Jean-Jacques Marchand (Rome: Salerno, 1996), 83. Jaeckel s attempt to read The Prince with a view to Machiavelli s alleged cheering on of Francis I s invasion runs into the obstacle of Leo X s hostility to the French. Corrado Vivanti, Intorno a Machiavelli, in his Incontri con la storia: Politica, cultura e società nellEuropa moderna , ed. Miguel Gotor and Gabriele Pedullà (Formello: Edizioni SEAM, 2001), 121, notes that it is unlikely that someone hoping for service with the Medici would have wanted to demonstrate the popes errors in such a fashion. What Jaeckel calls The Extraordinaries of chapter 26 more likely refer to the return of the Medici to Florence and to Leos subsequent election.



Dearest Giovanni. . Fortune has left me nothing but my family and my friends I trust that, should Fortune send some honorable business affairs your way, you will do unto my children as I have done unto you. 31

It appears from the correspondence as though there was a great disappoint- ment that befell Machiavelli between the end of January and the middle of August in 1515. Our new documents, which are from early July, indeed show the brothers relying only on a small number of family and friends.They would appear to be related to this disappointment. We don t have a letter that says what Machiavelli s disappointment might have been. But Machiavelli s ring in 1512 and his arrest and subsequent release in 1513 were several years in the past. What new event or events might have pushed the two brothers to the extremes outlined in these new docu- ments? There is a good likelihood that the difculty the brothers now faced were the diminished expectations that resulted from the failure of Machiavellis dedication of The Prince to Lorenzo deMedici the Younger.

*** Long ago it was pointed out by Gennaro Sasso that the arguments advanced by scholars concerning the dating of Machiavellis composition of The Prince and Discourses were often related to the hypotheses these same scholars had pro- posed concerning Machiavellis purpose in writing his treatise. 32 What Machiavelli meant to do or to show in The Prince has been a matter of contention almost from the time the small book rst began to circulate. Some have said that Machiavelli was secretly advancing an antimonarchical, republicanthesis in The Prince. Others have said that the book offers forthright advice for rulers. Some have characterized The Prince as an exception in Machiavellis oeuvre, while others think it is part and parcel of his thought. The early negative recep- tion of The Prince in many quarters, even while the work was still in manuscript, seems to have led Machiavelli himself to muddy the waters since late in his life he is reported to have excused the work to friends as having been written with a secretly democratic or anti-Medicean agenda. 33 Given these disagreements, many scholars have imagined, not unreasonably, that Machiavellis intentions might more satisfactorily be discovered if it could be established to a more precise degree when, and under what circumstances, Machiavelli composed The Prince. Thus some scholars have said that the work was composed in a brief time and rushed, and that therefore it contains regrettable lapses. Others have argued that it was laboriously reworked and remained more or less a work in progressand therefore contains regrettable lapses. Others have

31 Machiavelli, Lettere, 492; Machiavelli and His Friends, 315. 32 Gennaro Sasso, Niccolò Machiavelli: Storia del suo pensiero politico, rev. ed. (Bologna:

Il Mulino, 1980), 31420. 33 As in the remarks attributed to Machiavelli by his friends who discussed The Prince with Cardinal Pole, and in the anecdote preserved by Riccardo Riccardi.



maintained that it is a perfected rhetorical gem: The Prince, they think, corre- sponds well with the author s aims, and it contains no serious aws. By now so much has been written on the dating of The Prince that Paul Larivaille recently called it a rompicapo,or puzzle, awaiting its Rosetta Stone.34 Yet, as the analogy suggests, this does not mean that progress is impossible. As will be shown, the new evidence that has been presented helps better to establish an end date for the works composition. But to understand the extent to which The Prince should be seen as a considered and nishedwork of prose it will be of use, rst, to review what is known concerning the works beginnings. Machiavelli s famous letter to Vettori dated 10 December 1513 and written from Florence not from the farm he describes, as is commonly supposed announces that he has written and is revising and adding to a work on prin- cipalities ( de principatibus ). 35 Machiavelli almost certainly began writing his treatise in 1513, in the period between his release from prison on 13 March and the letter to Vettori of 10 December. The notion that The Prince was hastily written in 1513, in extreme circumstances, with precise aims, and after apparently little reection, was advanced most notably by Federico Chabod. He doesn t say it outright, but it seems clear that Chabod was looking for a way to excuse what he found morally objectionable in The Prince . 36 The idea was further developed by Hans Baron to excuse as an aber- ration what Baron thought only a eeting endorsement of princely rule, written in a time of dire necessity, in a career otherwise dedicated to republi- can ideals. 37 Supposedly the work was a hasty exercise, the moral impli- cations of which were not completely thought through by its author. But these views can be dismissed in a fairly denitive way as a consequence of Jean-Jacques Marchands discovery of the autograph draft of Machiavellis remarkable draft letter to Giovanni Battista Soderini of September 1506, known as the Ghiribizzi , or Caprices for Soderini. 38 Previously known

34 Paul Larivaille, In attesa della Stele di Rosetta: Appunti sulla cronistoria di un rompicapo machiavelliano, Filologia e critica 34, no. 2 (2009): 261. 35 Machiavelli, Lettere , 42328. On the text of the letter and on Machiavelli s circum- stances in 1513, see William J. Connell, New Light on Machiavelli s Letter to Vettori, 10 December 1513,in Europa e Italia: Studi in onore di Giorgio Chittolini / Europe and Italy: Studies in Honour of Giorgio Chittolini (Florence: Firenze University Press, 2011), 93127. 36 Federico Chabod, Del Principe di Niccolò Machiavelli (1925), in Scritti su Machiavelli (Turin: Einaudi, 1964), 29 135, and Chabod, Sulla composizione de Il Principe di Niccolò Machiavelli (1927), in Scritti, 13793. 37 Hans Baron, Machiavelli the Republican Citizen and Author of The Prince, in In Search of Florentine Civic Humanism: Essays on the Transition from Medieval to Modern Thought (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1988), 2: 10151. 38 Marchand brought the autograph to the attention of Roberto Ridol, who pub- lished it. See Roberto Ridol and Paolo Ghiglieri, I Ghiribizzi al Soderini,La Biblio lia 72, no. 1 (1970): 53 74.



from a poor transcription made by Machiavelli s grandson Giuliano deRicci, the Ghiribizzi had been ascribed to 1512 1513 and thought to be addressed to Pier Soderini, the former Florentine head of state. The Ghiribizzi anticipate many of the ideas later to be found in The Prince that concern matters ranging from forti cations to Fortuna , so that dating the draft to 1506 makes clear Machiavellis long-standing engagement with the issues he was treating in 1513 in The Prince . As Roberto Ridol put it:

Lanticipazione dei Ghiribizzi dallinverno 15121513 al settembre del 1506 porta un grosso scompiglio nella biograa del Machavelli e nella storia del suo pensiero: è forse la maggiore novità che vi si sia veduta da più di un secolo a questa parte. Concetti che già stupivano per la precocità loro ris- petto al Principe e ai Discorsi vengono in tal modo retrodatati di addiritura sei anni. The redating of the Ghiribizzi from the winter of 1512 1513 to September 1506 results in a huge overhaul for Machiavelli s biography and the history of his thought. It is perhaps the greatest discovery that has been seen in this eld for more than a century. Concepts that [in 15121513] were already considered early anticipations of The Prince and Discourses now have to be dated six years earlier. 39

It is worth noting, too, that the Ghiribizzi were addressed to the nephew of Florence s own quasi prince, or principe civile : Pier Soderini, the republic s Life Standard-Bearer was a head of state who was childless, with the result that the children of his late older brother Paolantonio received special con- sideration, both in Florence and abroad. This gives the draft letter philosophi- cal and pedagogical dimensions that are consonant with the dedication of The Prince to Lorenzo deMedici the Younger and the earlier planned dedication to Giuliano de Medici. Moreover, Machiavelli s substantial insertions on the draft which is brimming over with corrections, marginal scribblings, and added sections, indicate that he worked at it over some period of time. Since he preserved this particular draft, although he did not generally keep minutes or copies of his letters, the possibility that Machiavelli may have referred to the Ghiribizzi when he was later writing The Prince in 1513 cannot be excluded. To call the Ghiribizzi a rst sketch of the later work seems not inaccurate. Still, our rst de nite evidence that Machiavelli was speci cally writing the work titled De principatibus is from December 1513. At what point he began writing The Prince is not clear. With good reason most scholars think the book was at least begun by late August of 1513, although, as has already been stated, many of the book s ideas had been percolating in Machiavelli s mind since at least 1506. Most importantly, the idea that the treatise was written in unthinking haste is now impossible of acceptance. But did he ever consider it nished ?

39 Roberto Ridol, Vita di Niccolò Machiavelli , 7th ed. (Florence: Sansoni, 1978), 478.



Another way of defending a text that engenders difculties is to say that it remained in some respects un nished. Such would appear to be the defense implicit in the arguments offered over several decades by Mario Martelli. According to Martelli, although the book was begun in 1513, it only entered a nal draft phase in the last months of 1518, when Machiavelli alleg- edly turned it from a technical work into an aggressive treatise stating the pol- itical program for a coup d état that was being planned by Lorenzo the Younger. 40 For Martelli The Prince was still an open work( opera aperta ). In 1518, he argued, un nished and still up in the air,[the book] was corrected and patched up (possibly not by the author alone) so that it could be given out to the public. And even so it was not published until after 1532, ve years after the author s death. Thus, for Martelli, The Prince remained to the end a work that was never completed to its author s satisfaction. 41 Martellis position has not won much support. It has been objected that the work did circulate rather widely in manuscript and that the early manuscripts offer a fairly consistent text. And the early readers of The Prince in manuscript, beginning in 1516 not 1518 as Martelli would have it seem to agree on the passages that interested them. Finally, although Machiavelli is reported to have defended The Prince in several ways, he is never said to have complained that it was un nished that it was ripped untimely from his hands. But when was it nished? The rst known reading of The Prince by a con- temporary of Machiavelli s can be dated in the rst months of 1516. At that time Francesco Guicciardini was writing his Discorso del modo di assicurare lo stato ai Medici , a work that engages The Prince on a series of points that are immediately recognizable. 42 So The Prince was almost certainly completed by 1516, and probably, as we shall see, somewhat earlier. But how much earlier? Some scholars, most notably Gennaro Sasso and Giorgio Inglese, have been persuaded by rhetorical and stylistic considerations that The Prince is a tightly uni ed and coherent work completed in its entirety by the summer of 1514. There is indeed good reason to think that the work was in most respects complete by then. 43 But, meanwhile, evidence has also

40 Mario Martelli, Da Poliziano a Machiavelli: Sull epigramma dellOccasione e sulloccasione,Interpres 2 (1979): 23054. Larivaille, In attesa, offers the best account of the development of Martelli s theory. 41 Mario Martelli, Edizione nazionale delle opere di Niccolò Machiavelli (Rome: Salerno Editrice, 1997), 1819. 42 Brian Richardson, The Prince and Its Early Readers,in Niccolò Machiavelli s The Prince: New Interdisciplinary Essays, ed. Martin Coyle (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1995), 25; Larivailles (In attesa) suggested terminus a quo of between June 1516 and 8 October 1516 is undermined by the evidence of the Guicciardinian Discorso evidence that he himself admits. 43 Connell, New Light, 103 and 12023, suggests that elements found in chapters 19 and 25 of The Prince are already found in Machiavelli s letter to Vettori of 10 December 1513. Robert Black, Notes on the Date and Genesis of Machiavelli s



been mounting to the effect that Machiavelli must have made minor revisions in the rst half of 1515. In an article that was published posthumously, Hans Baron noted that in chapter 26 of The Prince , Machiavelli follows a remark concerning tante guerre fatte nei passati venti anni (so many wars that have been waged in the past twenty years) with a list of battles that begins with the battle of Fornovo on the Taro, which was fought on 6 July 1495. 44 Twenty years after 1495 puts us in July 1515. Some ambiguity remains, however, since the refer- ence to guerre, as Sasso once correctly noted, could also indicate the initial French invasion of 1494 and thus indicate Sasso s preferred date of 1514. Passages that can be more securely called alterations appear in remarks in chapters 3 and 16 relating to Louis XII of France. An intervention in chapter 3 that suggests a date was rst noted in my own English translation of The Prince , published in 2005. When Machiavelli discusses the cinque errori (the ve mistakes) made by Louis XII of France in his invasion of Italy, he writes Even these errors could not have harmed him, if he had lived.The phrase if he had lived ( vivendo lui ) surely refers to the death of Louis, who expired during the night of 31 December 1514 and 1 January 1515, so surely the passage must have been inserted after that date. 45 As Martelli already pointed out in a study of chapter 3 published in 1981, there are several paragraphs regarding Louis s policies in Italy that appear slightly out of order from a logical and stylistic perspective. They suggest that the author returned to his text and intervened in a second moment without having reread the existing text. 46 Robert Black in a recent article accepts that vivendo lui is a later insertion, and he points, too, to the deletion in certain manuscripts of the word presente appearing in the phrase el re di Francia presente of chapter 16. Since there was no effort in the manuscripts to eliminate the word presente from a similar mention, also in chapter 16, of Ferdinand of Spain ( el re di Spagna presente ) and since Ferdinand died on 23 January 1516, Black correctly concludes that the two alterations regard- ing Louis (the insertion of vivendo lui and the elimination of presente) must

De principatibus, in Europa e Italia , 31, writes: It is clear that Machiavelli s efforts to ll out the text did not extend beyond the spring of 1514.44 Hans Baron, The Principe and the Puzzle of the Date of Chapter 26,Journal of Medieval and Renaissance Studies 21, no. 1 (1991): 83102. Why Baron never published the article is not clear. Possibly he realized that if it were recognized that Machiavelli was working seriously on The Prince in 1515, two years after the famous letter to Vettori, it would undermine his prior argument (see note 26 above) that The Prince rep- resented a temporary deviation for the otherwise republican Machiavelli. 45 William J. Connell, introduction to The Prince with Related Documents , ed. Connell (Boston: Bedford/St. Martin s, 2005), 19, 33n32, 49n26. 46 Mario Martelli, La struttura deformata: Sulla diacronia del cap. III del Principe ,Studi di lologia italiana , no. 39 (1981): 77 120.



have been made between 1 January 1515 and 23 January 1516. 47 But the events of that year were dramatic for Florence and for Italy. It was also the time, most scholars believe, when Machiavelli was busily writing his Discourses on Livy, which he referenced in chapters 2 and 8. If at all possible, one would like to be able to further narrow the range of the period within which The Prince was put in nal form. The reference to Louis s death in chapter 3 is the last item mentioned in The Prince that can be assigned a solid date. Not all will agree, however. Recently Robert Black reprised an idea of Federico Chabod an idea that Chabod himself later retracted concerning a passage in chapter 14, when Machiavelli writes that Francesco Sforza, because he was armed, from being a private man became duke of Milan; his sons, because they ed the hardships of arms, from being dukes became private men ( Francesco Sforza, per essere armato, di privato diventò duca di Milano; egliuoli, per fuggire e disagi delle arme, di duchi diventorono privati ). Black, following Chabod s original view, reads gliuoli here not in its direct sense as sons, which is the accepted reading, but instead as descendants.He then reads the passage as one in which Machiavelli refers to recent events concerning the Sforza dynasty: in August 1512, at the Congress of Mantua, Massimiliano Sforza, the grandson of Francesco Sforza, was awarded the Duchy of Milan; and on 1213 September 1515, after the Battle of Marignano, Massimiliano lost the Duchy. According to Black, Machiavellis passage could only have been written after Massimiliano was defeated at Marignano. He thus dates the nal version of The Prince between the period shortly after Marignano in September 1515 and the death of Ferdinand of Spain on 23 January 1516. But dating the completion of The Prince after Marignano brings with it new dif culties. To begin with, as Hans Baron pointed out, Machiavelli does not mention Marignano in The Prince : neither in the twenty-year list of battles in chapter 26, nor elsewhere. 48 Marignano, moreover, seen from a broader perspective, was a decisive battle and an afrmation of French power. As Carlo Dionisotti points out, had the tremendous French victory at Marignano already occurred, Machiavellis exhortation to liberate Italy from the barbarians would have appeared ridiculous. 49 A more secure reading of the passage concerning the gliuoli of Francesco Sforza avoids these dif culties and perhaps even explains why Chabod retracted the sug- gestion that Black has made his own. If we read gliuoli in its primary sense, as referring not to Francesco Sforza s grandson Massimiliano, but to his real sons, Galeazzo Maria, Ludovico, and Ascanio, Machiavellis message becomes quite clear. It was Galeazzo Maria who chose to abandon

47 Black, Notes on the Date, 33 34. 48 Baron, The Principe .49 Carlo Dionisotti, Machiavelleria ultima,Rivista storica italiana, no. 107 (1995): 2223.



the military lifestyle of his condottiere father, Francesco, becoming instead a corrupt devotee of luxury while earning the reputation that led to his assas- sination as a tyrant. Massimiliano, on the other hand, was raised in exile in Flanders, at the imperial court, and was never in a position from which he could choose to abandon the armed way of life of his grandfather. 50 Galeazzo Maria s brothers, Ludovico and Ascanio, are, moreover, nicely cap- tured by Machiavellis use of the plural gliuoli , since these two sons of Francesco were bound closely together, rst in the loss of Milan in September 1499, then in their brief recovery of the city in February 1500, and nally in their de nitive loss of it in April 1500. 51 At this point, it seems only logical to accept that the plural gliuoli does not refer to Francescos grandson Massimiliano and to embrace, for the reasons already stated, the hypothesis of Baron and Dionisotti that The Prince must have been nished prior to the Battle of Marignano in September 1515. A preliminary range of dates during which The Prince must have been put into nal form has now been established on the basis of internal textual evi- dence. The work must have been completed between 1 January 1515 (the death of Louis XII) and 13 September 1515 (the Battle of Marignano). But it may be possible even further to narrow the suggested period if we look beyond the text to the evidence concerning the treatise s dedication. Machiavelli s famous letter to Vettori of 10 December 1513 indicated that he was intending to dedicate The Prince to Giuliano deMedici. Moreover, as already noted, on 31 January 1515, Machiavelli wrote a letter to Francesco Vettori concerning the likelihood that he would be appointed to a position with Giuliano de Medici in what he anticipated would be the government of a principality in north-central Italy. Machiavelli was still hoping for a pos- ition with Giuliano. So it is unlikely, as Dionisotti pointed out, that Machiavelli had already at that date changed the works dedication, naming Giuliano s nephew, Lorenzo the Younger. 52 Thus the hope for a pos- ition with Giuliano remained alive at least until 14 February 1515, the date of a letter from Pietro Ardinghelli to Giuliano de Medici. It was a letter that for- warded instructions from Cardinal Giulio deMedici prohibiting Giuliano from employing Niccolò Machiavelli. 53 Whether or how the veto was com- municated to Machiavelli is not known. But until that point it would not have made sense for Machiavelli to be dedicating a work on princely rule

50 My thanks to Marcello Simonetta for a suggestion to this effect. 51 For the way in which these events brought the brothers together, see Marco Pellegrini, Ascanio Maria Sforza. La parabola politica di un cardinale-principe del rinasci- mento , 2 vols. (Rome: Istituto storico italiano per il medio evo, 2002), 2: 764, who writes: La solidarietà fraterna con il Moro e con loperazione dinastica da lui [i.e. Ascanio] compiuta scattò nel cardinale proprio nel momento della catastrofe che piombò addosso a entrambi, dopo una vita di innite contese. 52 Dionisotti, Machiavelleria ultima, 2425. 53 Published in Tommasini, Vita e scritti , II:2, pp. 106465.



to Lorenzo while hoping for employment with Giuliano. In all likelihood it was Paolo Vettori or his brother Francesco who communicated to Machiavelli the fact that he would not be receiving a post with Giuliano. In the period 1514 1515 the two brothers, both working mostly in Rome, had in almost opportunistic fashion divided between them the sources of Medici patronage. Paolo, who was one of those who had initiated the coup that led to the ight of Pier Soderini and the return of the Medici to Florence, had attached himself to the pope s brother Giuliano. Meanwhile Francesco, while serving as Florentine ambassador in Rome, had become a trusted companion of the pope s nephew, Lorenzo the Younger. 54 The fact that The Prince as we now have it is dedicated to Lorenzo is our surest indi- cation that Machiavelli was in some way informed that a post with Giuliano would not be forthcoming and that his best chance for employment lay with Lorenzo the Younger. Another consequence seems to have been an audience with Lorenzo where he could present his work. That there was actually an audience with Lorenzo in which Machiavelli presented the young prince with the nal version of his treatise nds reason- able con rmation in an anecdote written down late in the sixteenth century by the Florentine Riccardo Riccardi. The passage reads as follows:

Niccolò Machiavelli presented to [Lorenzo di] Piero deMedici his book on The Prince. And it counted against him that he happened to give it to him at the same time that a brace of hunting dogs was given to him, whereupon Lorenzo gave greater thanks and responded in a friendlier way to the man who had given him the dogs than to Machiavelli. Hence Machiavelli went away offended. And he had occasion to say, among his friends, that he was not the kind of man to make conspiracies against princes, but that, all the same, if [the Medici] observed his methods [in The Prince], they would see that conspiracies resulted from it, as if he meant to say that his book would get him his revenge.

The anecdote, which was rst published by Edoardo Alvisi in 1883, is some- times challenged as apocryphal. 55 To be sure, its author, Riccardo Riccardi, who lived from 1558 to 1612, was writing long after Machiavelli s death. But Riccardi was a Florentine with connections. And the fact that the anecdote is known only from Riccardi s Ricordi lessens the chance that it was merely invented to be shopped around for literary purposes. The second part of the anecdote ( And he had occasion to say, among his friends …”) is some- what similar to Reginald Pole s remarks of 1539, based also on comments from Machiavellis friends, which suggests that some of the same friends

54 Rosemary Devonshire Jones, Francesco Vettori: Florentine Citizen and Medici Servant (London: Athlone, 1972), 103: Of the two Vettori brothers, it was Paolo who was on good terms with Giuliano. 55 Niccolò Machiavelli, Lettere familiari , ed. Edoardo Alvisi (Florence: Sansoni, 1883), p. XIV.



were the source of Riccardis anecdote. Both Pole and Riccardi agree in pre- senting a Machiavelli who retailed the story that he wrote The Prince with a view to making the Medici more tyrannical and unpopular, hoping that that would lead to their overthrow. It was and is an unlikely explanation, but the audacity and the implicit humor are characteristic of the Florentine secretary. What is more important for our present purpose, however, is that the Riccardi anecdote would seem to con rm that there was an actual presen- tation to Lorenzo, which moreover would have been customary, thus marking a date at which the treatise was nalized in its present form. The anecdote is true to what we know of Lorenzo the Younger, whose mother, Alfonsina, complained in a letter that the young man was more interested in hunting than in nding a wife. 56 If there had been no such presentation, Machiavelli had close friends, like Francesco Guicciardini, who survived him by many years, and who would have been in a position to deny it. The presentation to Lorenzo of the nalized text of The Prince would have occurred most naturally in the period soon after Lorenzo s return to Florence, in the company of Francesco Vettori, on 15 May 1515. 57 Lorenzo, who had been absent in Rome, was now returning with the express mission of organiz- ing the Florentine military. Francesco Vettori, moreover, was advising Lorenzo on the militia, which was precisely Machiavellis area of expertise. It would have been logical at this point to have introduced to Lorenzo the former chancellor of the Nine of Militia. Let us return now to the archival documents that were mentioned at the outset. It seems clear that the family meeting that resulted in Totto s assuming a career as an ecclesiastic had been called with the intention of stabilizing the nancial and social position of the two Machiavelli brothers. The hopes that Niccolò had had for himself and his brother in January 1515 were not to be realized. Niccolò s employment with the Medici was no longer on the table and neither was Totto s. The Prince , considered as a job application, had failed. These new notarial documents, like the letters to his nephew Vernacci, show that for Machiavelli it was a time for saving what could be saved, relying only on his closest family and friends. Given the straitened cir- cumstances of the Machiavelli brothers, Prior Battista had indicated that he was willing to resign to Totto his priory at Montespertoli. But it is likely that word had also been sent to Giampiero in Paris. So, when Battista arrived at the meeting on 3 July, he brought the news that Giampiero

56 Gaetano Pieraccini, La stirpe deMedici di Cafaggiolo: Saggio di ricerche sulla trasmis- sione ereditaria dei caratteri biologici (1924; repr., Florence: Nardini, 1986), 1: 22526. 57 Hilde Reinhard, Lorenzo von Medici, Herzog von Urbino, 14921515: Ein biogra- phischer Versuch unter besonderer Berücksichtigung der Vermittlerrole Lorenzos zwischen Leo X. und Franz I. von Frankreich im Jahre 1515 (Freiburg i. B.: Jos. Waibel, 1935), 48.



would cede to Totto the church of Sant Andrea in Percussina where Totto could become a country priest. Let me conclude. The Prince was not a hastily composed work. It was a deeply considered work that should be seen as originating in ideas that Machiavelli rst attempted to put down in writing in 1506. In 1513 and 1514 Machiavelli reformulated these ideas in the context of a treatise de prin- cipatibus that he hoped would win him employment with Giuliano deMedici. He made small revisions to the work in the rst half of 1515, when the dedicatee was changed from Giuliano deMedici to Lorenzo the Younger. The Prince is not a work that has come down to us in an incomplete or unsatisfactory form. It must have been complete to the satisfaction of the author, insofar as an author can ever be satis ed, at the time of its presen- tation to Lorenzo the Younger. To be sure, Machiavelli would later regret his work, but that is not the same thing as leaving it un nished. And, nally, the presentation of The Prince the meeting between Machiavelli and his dedicatee should now be dated sometime between Lorenzo s arrival in Florence on 15 May 1515 and the unhappy family meeting that took place in the house of Totto Machiavelli in Florence on 3 July 1515.