In history, the main reason why a nation prospers is because of its leader. The best written piece I have come across on this topic is Niccolo Machiavelli’s book, “The Prince”. A leader should be intelligent, strong, caring and devoted to his subjects. Although people have different opinions in the qualities of a good ruler, all believe that a leader should help his nation grow and thrive.
In his book, “The Prince”, Niccolo Machiavelli states his opinions on what makes a good ruler. He believed that a leader should not think about his luxuries as much as gaining knowledge about commanding and leading. This takes a lot of training and hard work, but by doing this he will maintain the reign of his family rule.
A great example of a ruler who was too caught up in luxuries and weakened his empire because of selfishness is Louis XIV. He tried to gain as much power as possible at the expense of his subjects. He taxed the poor to support his wars. He lived in a palace so large that one would need days to explore all its beauties. However, when he died, his subjects celebrated like never before as nothing can be more humiliating than that.
One of the most important qualities Machiavelli stated a ruler should have is knowledge of warfare. Without the ability to defend his nation, a ruler will not be for long. It also makes the people feel uneasy and unsafe, which leads to conspiracies against him and challenges against his power. Machiavelli believed that a ruler should always exercise his practice in warfare, especially during peacetime.
Machiavelli advised that a ruler should study the history of other great leaders to learn how they won and lost battles, and try to avoid their mistakes. Machiavelli says that a prince in warfare should be like a fox and a lion; a fox to show tactic and cunningness during battle, while a lion to show great strength and bring fear to his aggressors.
Some internal qualities of a ruler are generosity, leadership, intelligence and a kind heart. On the other hand, Machiavelli thought that the sovereign should take whatever action that he felt to make sure that order and stability was maintained; therefore, he advocates the use of evil to acquire a principality.
He mentioned how cruelty was used in Romania by Cesare Borgia to achieve order and obedience. Borgia was able to do this because he used his own men and not mercenaries. Machiavelli felt that by using mercenaries, it would have lead to the prince’s downfall. He thought mercenaries were “disunited, ambitious, without discipline, and unfaithful”, and therefore, would ruin the prince, as well as his country.
Machiavelli theorized that it is better to be feared than loved, and he showed this example through Hannibal. Hannibal was able to lead an army of different races through other countries without problems because he was cruel and people feared him. So, Machiavelli felt that the fear of punishment was a better way to maintain power than getting people’s goodwill and love. The leader should not be lenient because it enables people to take advantage of him.
One of the greatest rulers who demonstrated Machiavelli’s ideas was Julius Caesar. Caesar helped his nation grow and thrive. He ruled as a dictator even though the government laws stated that he could only do so in times of dire emergencies. Another reason for Caesar’s success was that he was not only the head of the state religion in the Roman Empire, but also had total command of the armies in the empire. As a ruler Caesar helped benefit his people in many ways. Throughout his empire he extended Roman citizenship, helped the colonies of veterans, and eliminated the highly corrupt tax system. In fact, he was so feared because of his power, that he was stabbed to death by the senate.
Machiavelli uses the example of Alexander Severus, who was seen to be controlled by his mother and considered feminine. This appearance of weakness led his troops to kill him.
He also shows how Antonius Caracella was a strong military leader and great fighter, but his cruel rule made him come under threat of his people, and was finally killed.
The aim to stress on a strong army is put through in his examples of Italy. He felt that Italian princesses lost their states because they were not armed. He felt that an “armed population is a stable population”.
Machiavelli also had opinions of human nature. For the most part he believed that human nature was bad. He said that no human being is perfect no matter how hard they try. Therefore, these ideas were not set in stone, but to bring a leader as close to perfection as possible.
There are many different ways a leader can achieve prosperity and have qualities of a good ruler. Machiavelli stated his opinions of what makes a good ruler which turned out to be very accurate in both theory and practice. Some of the greatest rulers in history showed traits of a good ruler according to Machiavelli. Though some may think of him as an immoral being trying to spread hatred when reading passages such as “Men are ungrateful, fickle, simulators and deceivers, avoiders of danger, greedy for gain; and while you work for their good they are completely yours, offering you their blood, their property, their lives, and their sons… when danger is far away; but when it comes nearer to you they turn away,” others would agree that Machiavelli had the right idea about most of mankind.
I agree with Machiavelli’s ideas because he exposed reality to the extreme with his book. Poetry and music are supposedly related to real life issues yet the author always fails to accomplish the goal of exposing reality. Machiavelli however, did not have the restrictions of the elegance for a poem or rhymes for a song and was able to get his points across very well. Amazingly, though the book was written very well, it was not written very clearly as Machiavelli never came to a complete conclusion about exactly what makes the perfect ruler. After all, according to Machiavelli himself, no one is perfect with him as no exception.