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NICCOLÒ MACHIAVELLI (1469-1527) writes to the Prince of Gunns

From Il Principe - Chapter 22: De his quos a scretis* principes habent - On the Advisors who accompany the Prince

There are three ranks of intelligence: the first understands itself, the second perceives what others understand, and the third does not understand by itself or with the help of others.

The first is excellent, the second good and the third useless.

This necessarily means that if a Prince was not in the first rank, he is at least in the second.

Whenever a Prince has the ability to recognise the good or the bad that a person says or does, the Prince can identify the bad and good actions of his advisors; praise the latter and punish the former. By this way, the advisor cannot hope to deceive a Prince, and consequently the advisors continue to behave fittingly.

There is one infallible # way, however, that you can recognise the true character of an advisor to a Prince. When you notice that an advisor is more concerned with himself than with any other, and that he seeks his own profit in all he does - such a person will never make a good advisor, nor can you ever trust him.

* Secretis - secretaries, ministers, principal advisors
#  infallible - sure; not likely to be mistaken

NICCOLÒ MACHIAVELLI writes to the Princes of Environment

From Il Principe - Chapter 23: Quomodo adulators sint fugiendi - How Flatters are Avoided

I do not want to leave aside an important matter, a mistake that it is easy for a Prince to make unless he is very prudent** and has good judgement. It concerns flatterers, of which the courts are full, for men become so obsessed with their own affairs, deceiving themselves in the process; it is difficult to defend a Prince from this plague.

In seeking to combat this plague, a Prince runs the risk of being hated.

There is no other defence against flattery than letting all men in your state know that they will not offend you by telling you their truth. Yet when everyone feels able to tell you the truth, you risk losing their respect!

A Prince should therefore follow a third path - prudently choose wise men in his state who alone are given the freedom to speak to him truthfully. The prince should consult such wise advisors on all matters, and listen to their views, and only then deciding on his own views, as he see fit.

Any Prince who acts differently either comes to grief amongst the flatterers or is prone to changing his mind regularly because of the variety of opinions to choose from. This gives rise to the Prince being held in little esteem.

** - wisely cautious in practical affairs, good judgment, sagacious

NICCOLÒ MACHIAVELLI writes to the Princes+ of Government

From Il Principe - Chapter 23: Quomodo adulators sint fugiendi - How Flatters are Avoided

Moreover, should a Prince finds anyone reluctant to tell him the truth for whatsoever reason, he should become angry.

There is a widespread notion that some Princes who have a reputation for being prudent** leaders in fact owe that reputation not on their own natural abilities but to the quality of the advice at their disposal. This notion is quite unfounded.

The following general rule is infallible: that a Prince who himself is not wise cannot be well advised, unless by chance he should place himself in the hands of a most prudent man who manages all his affairs. In this case the Prince might be well advised, but he would not last long, as such a man who governs on his behalf would seize the state from the prince in no time.

When a Prince, who is not wise, seeks advice from more than one person, he will never have a consensus of views, nor will he know how to establish one for himself.  Each of his advisors will consider their own concerns, and the Prince will not know either how to punish such advisors or to praise them.

These advisors cannot be otherwise - for Princes will find that men always prove evil unless a particular need forces them to be good.

So the conclusion must be that good advice - advice of lasting benefit to a Prince - where ever it comes from, had better arise from the discretion and wisdom of the Prince in the first place; rather than from advice alone.

+ - also Princesses