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fight, they might put their heads together and say, 'It is from malice that the King is leaving us to fight one another'; thus the ill will they bore me might lead them to attack me, and I might well be beaten, besides incurring the hatred of God, who says, 'Blessed are the peacemakers'.”

Thus it was that the Burgundians and Lorrainers, whom the King had reconciled, loved and obeyed him, so much that I have seen them appear before him, at the royal court at Rheims and Paris and Orleans, when they had disputes between one another.

[From Ricordi by Francesco Guicciardini, S. F. Vanni, New York, 1949]


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By Francesco Guicciardini

(1492–1540) The affairs of this world are so shifting and depend on so many accidents, that it is hard to form any judgment concerning the future; nay, we see from experience that the forecasts even of the wise almost always turn out false. Wherefore I commend not the prudence of those who renounce a present though less good through fear of a future but

a greater evil, unless the evil be very near or very certain. For since what you fear is often not realised, you may find that you have sacrified what gave you pleasure to a groundless alarm. Still it is a wise saying di cosa nasce cosa, one thing leads to another.

Things fated to perish not by violence but by a gradual wasting, often hold out much longer than at first seemed possible; not merely because their decay is slower than was counted on, but also because men, if stubborn to endure, will do and suffer things beyond belief. Accordingly, we find that a war which has to be brought to an end by famine, failure of ammunition, want of money, or the like, always lasts much longer than was expected. In like manner the life of the consumptive patient is constantly prolonged beyond the time anticipated by the physicians and those about him. So too the merchant who is eaten up by usury will keep on his feet for a longer time than was thought possible, before he breaks.

I have ever been of a most open nature, and the sworn foe of all quirks and cavils, so that any one dealing with me has always felt himself much at his ease. Nevertheless I have recognised that in negotiating this artifice is of signal service, namely, never to come at once to those questions that are of most moment, but postponing these to the last, to allow yourself to be drawn towards them only step by step and reluctantly. Whoso does this often succeeds beyond his hopes; while he who transacts business as I do, will only secure that without which no settlement were possible.

Take heed how you involve yourself in new enterprises or engagements; for once in, you are forced to go on. Whence it results that men are often found labouring through tasks which being embarked in they cannot withdraw from, though had they foreseen a tenth part of their difficulty they would have gone a thousand miles to avoid them. This rule holds most of all in feuds, factions, and wars, before taking part in which, or in anything of a like nature, no amount of careful and cautious consideration will be excessive.


I have noticed that men of great sagacity, when they have to resolve on any business of moment, almost invariably fall to distinguishing the various courses the thing may take, and after considering two or three probable contingencies, form their final resolve on the footing that some one of these will happen. Be warned that this is a dangerous method to follow; for often, and indeed almost always, a third or fourth contingency, not taken into account in your deliberations and not met by your resolve, will turn up. Accordingly, it is your safer plan, in resolving, to assume that things you think unlikely may well come about, and never where you can help it to limit the scope of your deliberations.

(Essay XLVII, The Essays of Francis Bacon, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 18901


By Francis Bacon

(1561-1626) It is generally better to deal by speech than by letter; and by the mediation of a third than by a man's self. Letters are good when a man would draw an answer by letter back again; or when it may serve for a man's justification afterwards to produce his own letter; or where it may be danger to be interrupted or heard by pieces. To deal in person is good when a man's face breedeth regard, as commonly with inferiors; or in tender cases where a man's eye upon the countenance of him with whom he speaketh may give him a direction how far to go: and generally where a man will reserve to himself liberty either to disavow or to expound. In choice of instruments, it is better to choose men of a plainer sort, that are like to do that that is committed to them and to report back again faithfully the success, than those that are cunning to contrive out of other men's business somewhat to grace themselves, and will help the matter in report, for satisfaction sake. Use also such persons as affect the business wherein they are employed, for that quickeneth much; and such as are fit for the matter, as bold men for expostulation, fair-spoken men for persuasion, crafty men for inquiry and observation, forward and absurd men for business that doth not well bear out itself. Use also such as have been lucky and prevailed before in things wherein you have employed them; for that breeds confidence, and they will strive to maintain their prescription. It is better to sound a person with whom one deals afar off than to fall upon the point at first, except you mean to surprise him by some short question. It is better dealing with men in appetite than with those that are where they would be. If a man deal with another upon conditions, the start or first performance is all: which a man cannot reasonably demand, except either the nature of the thing be such which must go before: or else a man can persuade the other party that he shall still need him in some other thing; or else that he be counted the honester man. All practice is to discover or to work. Men discover themselves in trust, in passion, at unawares, and of necessity, when they would have somewhat done and cannot find an apt pretext. If you would work any man, you must either know his nature and fashions, and so lead him; or his ends, and so persuade him; or his weakness and disadvantages, and so awe him; or those that have interest in him, and so govern him. In dealing with cunning persons, we must ever consider their ends to interpret their speeches; and it is good to say little to them, and that which they least look for. In all negotiations of difficulty, a man may not look to sow and reap at once; but must prepare business and so ripen it by degrees.

[From The Prefaces, Proverbs, and Poems of Benjamin Franklin Originally Printed

in Poor Richard's Almanacs for 1733–1758, Collected and Edited by Paul Leicester Ford, G. P. Putnam's Sons, New York]


By Benjamin Franklin

Would you persuade, speak of interest, not of reason.

Necessity never made a good bargain.

Distrust and caution are the parents of security.

Beware of meat twice boil'd, and an old foe reconcil'd.

There is no little enemy.

Promises may get thee friends, but non-performance will turn them

into enemies.

He that speaks ill of the Mare, will buy her.

Mad Kings and mad Bulls are not to be held by treaties and


Love your Neighbour; yet don't pull down your Hedge.

The Wolf sheds his Coat once a Year, his Disposition never.

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When a Friend deals with a Friend, Let the bargain be clear and well

penn'd, That they may continue Friends to the End.

Words may shew a man's Wit, but Actions his Meaning.

Saying and Doing have quarrel'd and parted.

Great Good-nature, without Prudence, is a great Misfortune.

[From “Of the Balance of Power” in Theory of Politics by David Hume, Edited

by Frederick Watkins, Nelson, 1951]


By David Hume


In the general wars maintained against this ambitious power, Great Britain has stood foremost; and she still maintains her station. Beside her advantages of riches and situation, her people are animated with such a national spirit, and are so fully sensible of the blessings of their government, that we may hope their vigour never will languish in so necessary and so just a cause. On the contrary, if we may judge by the past, their passionate ardour seems rather to require some moderation; and they have oftener erred from a laudable excess than from a blameable deficiency.

In the first place, we seem to have been more possessed with the ancient Greek spirit of jealous emulation, than actuated by the prudent views of modern politics. Our wars with France have been begun with justice, and even, perhaps, from necessity, but have always been too far pushed from obstinacy and passion. The same peace which was afterwards made at Ryswick in 1697 was offered so early as the year ninety-two; that concluded at Utrecht in 1712 might have been finished on as good conditions at Gertruytenberg in the year eight; and we might have given at Frankfort, in 1743, the same terms which we were glad to accept of at Aix-la-Chapelle in the year forty-eight. Here then we see that above half of our wars with France, and all our public debts, are owing more to our own imprudent vehemence than to the ambition of our neighbours.

In the second place, we are so declared in our opposition to French power, and so alert in defence of our allies, that they always reckon upon our force as upon their own; and expecting to carry on war at our expense, refuse all reasonable terms of accommodation. Habent subjectos, tanquam suos: viles, ut alienos. All the world knows that the factious vote of the House of Commons in the beginning of the last parliament, with the professed humour of the nation, made the queen of Hungary inflexible in her terms, and prevented that agreement with Prussia

which would immediately have restored the general tranquillity of Europe,

In the third place, we are such true combatants that, when once engaged, we lose all concern for ourselves and our posterity, and consider only how we may best annoy the enemy. To mortgage our revenues at so deep a rate, in wars where we were only accessories, was surely the most fatal delusion that a nation which had any pretension to politics and prudence has ever yet been guilty of. That remedy of funding, if it be a remedy, and not rather a poison, ought in all reason to be reserved to the last extremity; and no evil but the greatest and most urgent should ever induce us to embrace so dangerous an expedient.

These excesses to which we have been carried are prejudicial; and may perhaps in time become still more prejudicial another way, by begetting, as is usual, the opposite extreme, and rendering us totally careless and supine with regard to the fate of Europe. The Athenians, from the most bustling, intriguing, warlike people of Greece, finding their error in thrusting themselves into every quarrel, abandoned all attention to foreign affairs, and in no contest ever took part on either side, except by their flatteries and complaisance to the victor.

[From On War by Karl von Clausewitz, Cox and Wyman Ltd., London, 1968)


By Karl von Clausewitz

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(1780-1831) War is only a part of political intercourse, therefore by no means an independent thing in itself.

We know, certainly, that War is only called forth through the political intercourse of Governments and Nations; but in general it is supposed that such intercourse is broken off by War, and that a totally different state of things ensues, subject to no laws but its own.

We maintain, on the contrary, that War is nothing but a continuation of political intercourse, with a mixture of other means. We say mixed with other means in order thereby to maintain at the same time that this political intercourse does not cease by the War itself, is not changed into something quite different, but that, in its essence, it continues to exist, whatever may be the form of the means which it uses, and that the chief lines on which the events of the War progress, and to which they are attached, are only the general features of policy which run all through the War until peace takes place. And how can we conceive it to be otherwise? Does the cessation of diplomatic notes stop the political relations between different Nations and Governments? Is not War merely another kind of writing and language for political thoughts? It has certainly a grammar of its own, but its logic is not peculiar to itself.

Accordingly, War can never be separated from political intercourse, and if, in the consideration of the matter, this is done in any way, all the threads of the different relations are, to a certain extent, broken, and we have before us a senseless thing without an object.

This kind of idea would be indispensable even if War was perfect War, the perfectly unbridled element of hostility, for all the circumstances on which it rests, and which determine its leadings features, viz. our own power, the enemy's power, Allies on both sides, the characteristics of the people and their Governments respectively, etc., . .

are they not of a political nature, and are they not so intimately connected with the whole political intercourse that it is impossible to separate them? But this view is doubly indispensable if we reflect that real War is no such consistent effort tending to an extreme, as it should be according to the abstract idea, but a half-and-half thing, a

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