Even within the field of the kind of facts to which he attaches significance, Machiavelli’s analysis was far from being comprehensive. At the time he wrote, and indeed for a century and more before, Italy had been split up into a large number of political entities, most of which were in a chronic state of political instability not unlike that of many Central American countries to-day. Few Italian rulers were secure from either domestic or foreign foes. Machiavelli made much use of the comparative method in his analysis, and properly; but as he was mainly concerned with the means of securing and maintaining personal rule under conditions which at best could not provide a solid basis for governmental authority, his conclusions seldom possess general validity. They were not applicable to the centralized governments of large territorial areas then in process of development north of the Alps, where the ruling dynasties were already strongly entrenched in power. It is even more evident that his analysis affords little of practical value in the solution of modern problems of government. Possibly there is some analogy between the conditions described by Machiavelli and the struggle for political power carried on upon a low plane between rival bosses in misgoverned municipalities. One would, however, search the pages of the “Prince” in vain for a remedy for such ills of democratic government.

In the field of international politics, Machiavelli’s analysis has undoubtedly been measurably in accord with practice in his own time and since. Ethical restraints have been relatively weak in the dealings of the nations one with another; and it is a significant fact that nowhere has Machiavelli found so many close readers as among those statesmen who have been mainly concerned with foreign affairs.

After making every qualification, it must still be recognized that in the “Prince” Machiavelli took a long step in advance toward the development of a sound method of analyzing political problems. His example was, however, not followed very generally by writers on government in his own and the two succeeding centuries. Questions of divine right and theories of natural rights and natural law rather than the facts of government absorbed the attention of most publicists. In the nineteenth century more exact methods have been adopted in this as in other fields of knowledge; but in bringing about this desirable change little or no direct influence can be attributed to the work of Machiavelli.

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