Chapter I: The Kinds of Principalities and the Means by Which They Are Acquired
Machiavelli provides a description of the various kinds of states. He argues that all states are either principalities or republics. There are two types of principality: the hereditary principality and the new principality. The new principality can be entirely new or it can be a new appendage to a state that already exists. A prince can use either his own army or arms belonging to others to acquire a new principality.
Chapter II: Hereditary Principalities
Chapter 11 focuses on methods one should use to govern principalities and maintain them. Machiavelli refrains from discussing republics, stating that he has “discussed them at length on another occasion. This statement is made in reference to Book 1 of Machiavelli’s Discourses.
Machiavelli sets out two main reasons why governing a hereditary state is easier than governing a new principality. The first reason is that he people under the rule of hereditary states are already familiar with the rule of the prince’s family. In these circumstances, the natural prince’s only real task is to keep existing institutions fully intact, while making sure that these institutions are properly adapted to current circumstances. The second reason is that subjects in a hereditary state have a natural disposition towards loving the existing ruling family. This is only destroyed if the prince is foolish enough to carry out a horrible action against the people. When if the hereditary state is conquered by an overwhelming outsider, the prince will be able to reconquer the state if the outsider comes across any setbacks.
Chapter III: Mixed Principalities
Machiavelli makes it clear why it is more difficult to maintain a new principality than it is to keep power in a hereditary state. Firstly, people are likely not to see the difference between being ruled by one new ruler or another. They will likely hope that the new ruler will be more effective than the current one. They will hope for improvement, and this may push people to fight against an unestablished prince. While the people may promptly conclude that their attempt at revolt will not be effective, they will still be successful in creating significant disorder. Additionally, when princes conquer other princes’ domains, they find themselves in difficult situations when it comes to the people who gave him power. He will be not able to maintain the support provided by these people because he will not have the ability to fulfill all of the expectations they have with regard to improvements in their situations. The fact that the prince is in their debt, however, will prevent him from dealing with them too harshly. Immediately after he has taken power, the new prince will find himself in danger of losing his new position and territory.
If a prince is successful in suppressing a revolt, however, he has the ability to easily prevent additional rebellion by being harsh in his punishments and destroying all opponents. He will be able to be harsher with his principality’s subjects in his punishments than he would be able to in normal circumstances.
The prince will find it much easier to maintain his control of a new principality if its people speak the same language and have the same customs as his own country. In these circumstances, a prince need only accomplish two tasks: destroy the former prince's family and maintain the existing taxes and laws. If their established ways of life are left as they are, people will live quietly and refrain from opposing the new prince’s rule.
The prince will have more of a challenge maintaining power in a new state if it has different customs and a different language than those of his home country. An effective tactic is for the prince to reside in the new state. It is by living in the new state that the prince will be most able to address problems efficiently and effectively. He will be able to prevent his territory being plundered by local officials. People who are generally inclined to be good will be more likely to demonstrate their allegiance to the new prince. People who tend to be bad will feel more compelled to fear him. Invaders will be more likely to hesitate before making any moves to invade the state.
The establishment of colonies within the new state is another effective way of overcoming cultural and linguistic discrepancies. Establishing colonies is less expensive than keeping up a military occupation. Also, colonialism tends to only harm inhabitants who are poor and scattered and therefore do not pose a threat. It is posited as a general rule that men must either be pampered or oppressed. The only time a prince should cause any injury to people is if he knows there is no chance of revenge being exacted upon him. The approach of setting up military bases all over the state will be ineffective in maintaining order. It will only upset the people. The people will then in turn likely become hostile and could be enemies able to greatly harm the new regime.
Domination of neighboring states should be another aim of a prince who has occupied a state in a foreign country. He needs to weaken strong neighboring states and make sure that there isn’t a strong foreign power that will be able to invade his new territory. It is natural for weaker powers to align themselves with the strongest one, but this is case only if they are unable to become strong themselves. It is necessary for the prince to be master of the entire country if he is to be able to maintain control of the state he has successfully conquered.
The prince must take action to solve problems before those problems manifest themselves fully. It is when political disorders are identified and acted on early that they are easy to resolve. It will be too late to deal with if they are left too long without being addressed. It is natural for men to always seek to acquire more. When they are successful in acquiring more, they are not condemned but praised. However, rulers who do not have the ability to acquire but persist in trying to do so at the cost of their current power ought to be condemned.
A strong understanding of statecraft and warcraft are necessary for a prince to hold a state. Statecraft and warcraft are intertwined. It is only through suppressing disorder that war can be avoided. Yet it is not possible to escape a war. Postponement of war is done only to the advantage of the enemy.
Chapter IV: Why Alexander’s Successors Were Able to Keep Possession of Darius’ Kingdom after Alexander’s Death
There are two main methods for governing a principality. The first way involves a prince and his appointed ministers. Everyone is subservient to the prince, although the ministers assist in governing. The second method includes a prince and nobles. The prince does not appoint the nobles, but they have their own subjects and benefit from their lineages. The first method is considered stronger for the prince, as when there is only the prince and his ministers, the prince is the country’s only ruler.
A country where the prince uses ministers is much more difficult to take over. This is because ministers are much less susceptible to the corruption of foreign powers in order to turn against their prince. Even if ministers were to decide to turn against their prince, they wouldn’t have the capability of getting support from any of the subjects as they do not have the personal loyalties that nobles have. Nobles have their own subjects and these subjects are loyal to them. When a noble is corrupt, they will corrupt their subjects. When a country has nobles, it is easier to conquer because one can corrupt them and get their cooperation. This is especially easy if the nobles are discontented.
While it is easier to take over when a state has nobles, it is more difficult to maintain power for the new ruler. This is because when there are nobles in a state, it is insufficient to only destroy the family of the former ruler. The nobles will be powerful enough to revolt and overthrow the new ruler. It is easier to keep control of a state that has ministers. Machiavelli argues that his ideas are consistent with the evidence of historical events, such as the rebellions against the Romans in Greece, France, and Spain and Alexander’s conquests in Asia.