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Chapters 1 and 2

Chapter I: The Various Kinds of Government, and the Ways By Which They Are Established.

Machiavelli begins The Prince with a crucial distinction of political categories. There are, he writes, only two ways in which a state can be organized: as a republic, or as a monarchy. After making this distinction, Machiavelli immediately, without a pause or comment, simply drops the discussion of the "republic." This doesn't mean that Machiavelli doesn't like republics -- republics, after all, are the subject of his other major work of political theory, The Discourses. Rather than accuse Machiavelli of anti-democratic bias, we should note that in this particular book, which meant to describe the proper conduct of a prince, any discussion of princeless republics would be entirely irrelevant. After bracketing the idea of a republic, then, Machiavelli moves on to divide the category of "monarchy" into further sub-categories. Monarchies, he writes, can be either hereditary and governed by the same family for generations, or recently founded. Again, Machiavelli follows one division with another. Leaving aside hereditary monarchies for the moment, he distinguishes two different kinds of recently founded monarchies - those which are entirely new, and those which are new annexations of territory added onto pre-existing hereditary monarchies. As we might expect, within this latter category (the annexed state), there are also two subcategories: Machiavelli points out that some annexed states were previously subject to another ruler, and some were formerly free. And finally, there is yet another kind of subcategory within annexed states: those which were conquered by a prince in war, and those which simply fall to him through luck or skill.

Chapter II: Of Hereditary Monarchies

This chapter begins with Machiavelli's apology for not discussing republics in this book - in what seems to be an explicit reference to Discourses, Machiavelli notes that he has "treated of them fully in another place." After making that disclaimer, he moves ahead with his discussion of how the various kinds of monarchies are best governed and maintained. He starts off with the hereditary monarchy. This kind is pretty easy to handle, according to Machiavelli, because political circumstances in such a monarchy have been relatively stable for a long period of time, and subjects are used to the way things are under a ruling family. All a prince has to do, if he inherits his state, is not to change anything too violently. Even if some "exceptional and excessive" force were to disempower the hereditary monarch, the countervailing force of political habit would soon restore him to power at the slightest opportunity. Machiavelli gives the example of the Duke of Ferrara, who was able to withstand attacks by Venice and Rome simply because he was part of a long-standing family of Dukes. Unless such a ruler goes out of his way to alienate his people, they will usually love and honor him as a part of their own traditional way of life.

Browse all book notes

Historical Context
Important Persons
Points to Ponder
Did You Know
Summary of the Argument
Prefatory Letter
Chapters 1 and 2
Chapter 3
Chapters 4 and 5
Chapter 6
Chapter 7
Chapter 8
Chapters 9 and 10
Chapters 11 and 12
Chapters 13 and 14
Chapters 15 and 16
Chapters 17 and 18
Chapters 19 and 20
Chapters 21, 22, and 23
Chapters 24, 25, and 26


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