The Prince: Novel Summary: Chapters 3-4
Chapter 3: Chapter three is the start of Machiavelli's actual discourse. He first discusses the difficulty which arises when new princes try to govern. Having no natural allies among the people (since they are foreign and newly conquered), the prince is forced to make certain concessions to the group of citizens he hopes to win over. Though sometimes these people will remain loyal to the prince, usually he is unable "to satisfy them in the way they expected." Thus, even a prince with much military might will find it hard to secure friendships among his conquered citizenry. Machiavelli cites Louis XII as an example of such a prince.
Next, Machiavelli distinguishes between the types of newly held territories. If the prince speaks the same language and has the same customs as his conquered people, this is better, Machiavelli argues, than a prince who speaks a foreign language and encourages foreign traditions. Here, the "better" prince is he who can maintain order and retain his territory. He uses France as an example for this point. Though Brittany, Burgundy, Gascony, and Normandy are all different in some respects, they remain united under one king because they are all of similar language and culture. Here, all a ruler has to do is "extinguish" the former prince and retain laws and taxation rates.
Soon Machiavelli turns to the reign of alien princes, who must expend "good fortune and great energy" if they want to maintain control. According to Machiavelli, the most important way for this kind of prince to preserve order is to take up residence in the city. This is key for two reasons: first, because he can immediately put down any uprisings that occur and second, because he doesn't have to rely on provincial officials to oversee his kingdom.
Yet there's a better way to rule a foreign territory, Machiavelli maintains: send colonies. According to Machiavelli, colonies are inexpensive yet highly effective. Though the colony will have to displace a minority of natives in order to reside in the territory, this minority will remain "poor and scattered," and unable to cause much civil unrest.
Next, Machiavelli turns to a discussion of potential threats to power. He asserts that the prince must remain powerful and always be wary of powerful outsiders who might try to unseat him. One such example is the Romans, who eventually grew to takeover Greece with the help of the Aetolians, a minority group that brought in the Romans because they hated the ruling Greeks. This is always the case when a "powerful foreigner" enters the country, says Machiavelli: the natives who hate the ruling prince will naturally gravitate toward the foreign challenger. Here, the Romans are the model. Though they conquered expansive territory, they always were conscious of appeasing the majority of natives while keeping down any potential challengers. Machiavelli likens this strategy to the medicine that the prince must take to prevent the sickness of rebellion that will eventually infect his people if not cured early: "In the beginning of the malady it is easy to cure but difficult to detect, but in the course of time, not having been either detected or treated in the beginning, it becomes easy to detect but difficult to cure."
Finally, Machiavelli turns his focus to France. He mentions both Louis XII and Charles VIII but asserts the Louis is the better example of an effective prince. When Louis began advancing into Italy, many groups reached out to him in order to gain his favor. His mistake, however, was coming to the aid of Pope Alexander and thus surrendering too much of his power over to the Church. Another error was his decision to divide Naples with the King of Spain. Here, Machiavelli criticizes Louis for conquering lands that couldn't be kept. The teacher explains, "The wish to acquire is in truth very natural and common, and men always do so when they can.but when they cannot do so, yet wish to do so by any means, then there is folly and blame." Machiavelli goes on to elaborate on Louis' mistakes: "Louis made these five errors: he destroyed the minor powers, he increased the strength of one of the greater powers in Italy, he brought in a foreign power, he did not settle in the country, he did not send colonies." He ends the chapter by re-emphasizing Louis' embrace of the Church and of Spain, as seeds of his own destruction.
Chapter 4: Next, Machiavelli explains why Alexander the Great was able to preserve such a strong empire. According to Machiavelli, this is because the Turkish empire Alexander conquered was composed of one lord with servants to carry out his wishes. Thus, when this lord was defeated in battle by Alexander, it was very easy for the Macedonian to take the place of the king. Here, Machiavelli separates this type of government from the one seen in France, in which a king rules through nobles, or barons as he calls it. In this system there is no unity among the rulers, which makes it especially difficult for a conquering prince to keep order in his new territory. This is because the local barons still possess some regional authority over their spheres of influence, thus making it impossible for the new prince to step in and assume absolute power. In such states, Machiavelli argues that it is easy for a foreign prince to win the favor of a baron to help undermine the authority of the reigning prince. Yet at the same time, it's hard for the foreigner to conquer the whole territory for the reasons explained above.
This theory explains why the Romans had difficulty ruling in Spain, France, and Greece until the natives lost their memory of the local nobles. Once the noble class was "exterminated" over the years, Rome was left as the single government authority.