The Prince

The Prince Chapter 5 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
With newly acquired states that "have been accustomed to living freely under their own laws," Machiavelli lists three ways to secure control. Firstly, a prince can destroy the state. Secondly, a prince can live there in person. Finally, a prince can allow the people to maintain their laws and establish an oligarchy to ensure that the state remains loyal to him. States that are accustomed to freedom, such as republics, can be easily ruled by their own citizens. However, Machiavelli cautions, "There is no surer way of keeping possession than by devastation." Citing Ancient Greek and Roman examples, Machiavelli warns that if the conqueror of a republic chooses not to destroy it, then he "may expect to be destroyed himself." Regardless of the passage of time and "the benefits received from the new ruler," republics remember their former freedom and thus are prone to rebellion.
Machiavelli assumes a ruthlessly pragmatic tone when discussing the governance of newly acquired republics and other formerly free states. Machiavelli advocates "devastation" as the surest means of securing these rebellion-prone states. In this instance Machiavelli advises strict and severe rule over the rebellious masses, which, regardless of the ruler's behavior and the passage of time, will never accept the new prince. Because the citizens of former republics cannot be won over, Machiavelli counsels a proactive course of harsh rule and punishment that will save princes' from their own ruin.
Themes
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The Masses and The Elite Theme Icon
By contrast, acquired principalities are much easier to govern because, having lost their former prince and being unaccustomed to freedom, their people are more likely to obey the new prince. Within conquered republics there is "more life, more hatred, [and] a greater desire for revenge." Therefore, Machiavelli concludes that the "surest way" to secure control of conquered republics is "to wipe them out or live there in person."
The citizens of acquired republics resent the loss of their civic freedoms and therefore despise their conqueror. The "surest way" for a new prince to combat the people's unremitting hatred is through destruction. When surrounded by vengeful masses, pragmatic rulers must govern with an iron fist.
Themes
Laws and Arms Theme Icon
Goodwill and Hatred Theme Icon
The Masses and The Elite Theme Icon