Dialogue in hell between Machiavelli and Montesquieu
- Selected Extracts -
– Text not included in the book –
For everyone, who has the ability to think, comes the moment, or the moments, in his life, to choose what he himself will become and what he will attempt to spread to those around him; whether he will choose to humanize the human animal or will choose to dehumanize it.
It is the big decision of a small creature, in a huge, prefabricated world. Will his soul, within his depths, find its way, or will it be trapped in the eternal delusion? Will he understand that on the scale of existence it is only what we gave and what we became that weighs? Or will he be forgotten forever in a descending road, adding days harmful or useless to a wasted life?
Let us hope that a day, an hour, a moment will come, when he will choose rightly. When his soul will stand higher than human ignorance and smallness, and for a while face its true destiny. Perhaps in order to follow it, for as many steps as possible, before fading away.
Regarding the book:
A gloomy manual about the seemingly democratic submission of people, obviously written to inform people, and perhaps used to further educate their oppressors.
Even though it refers to a specific era and society, it should also be considered from a higher perspective: the era of globalization under an invisible “sovereign” – on an economic, social, and religious level. An era of planned establishment of pseudo-democracies, of scheduled blooming and mortification of economies, and of cheaply bought consciences. A “utopia” of a pitiful imagination, turning to reality through many who pollute this world, sowing without caring pain and death through the centuries.
Unhealthy souls that visualized a bleeding throne. Uneducated souls that understood not, that ignorance reigns in the dark side of humans. That felt not, that the superior serves and the inferior is served.
And that only knowledge, deeper, substantial knowledge, has the true power to finally transform humanity, ever so tyrannized by humans.
The selection of these extracts and, moreover, the use of different colour in some parts of them, aims in highlighting in short some of the most important aspects of the book. Of course reading them, as important as it may be, doesn’t substitute the reading of the whole book.
– from a translation available on the internet –
The book [first published in 1864] was written by French attorney Maurice Joly in protest against the regime of Napoleon III (Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte) who ruled France from 1848 to 1870. The piece uses the literary device of a dialogue of the dead. Shadows of the historical characters of Niccolo Machiavelli and Charles Montesquieu meet in Hell and dispute on politics.
In the beginning of the 20th century the book was used as a basis for the ‘Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion’, an antisemitic literary forgery, wherein the leaders of the Jews play the role of Machiavelli. The Protocols were lavishly plagiarized from Joly’s book.
Montesquieu: ....Your principles are that good can come from evil and that it is permitted to do evil when it can result in good. Thus, you do not say: it is good in itself to betray one’s word or it is good to make use of corruption, violence and murder. Instead, you say: one can betray when it is useful, to kill when it is necessary, to take the goods of others when it is advantageous to do so. I hasten to add that, in your system, these maxims are only applied to the princes and when it is a question of their interests or those of the State. Consequently, the prince has the right to violate his oaths; he can spill blood in torrents to seize power or to maintain his control over it; he can skin those whom he has banished, overturn all the laws, make new ones and violate them, too; squander finances, corrupt, repress, punish and strike down without cease.
...Do we not know that the [self-] interest of the State is most often the [self-] interest of a particular prince or that of the corrupt favorites who surround him?
...In a word, politics, according to you, has nothing to do with morality. You allow to a monarch what you deny to his subjects. Depending on whether the actions are accomplished by the weak or by the strong, you glorify them or your disapprove of them; they are crimes or virtues, depending on the social rank of those who commit them.
Montesquieu:...You spoke to me a little while ago of war, which still rages, I know, but the first progress made was no longer giving the property of the vanquished States to the victors.
...After having assured their private rights by civil laws, and their public rights by treaties, the people wanted to put themselves in order with their princes and they assured their political rights through constitutions.
...This is the country governing itself, through the alternating shifts of majorities, which in the chambers influence the nominations of the
Machiavelli:Listening to your theories of the division of power and the benefits that it has brought to the people of Europe, I could not keep myself, Montesquieu, from admiring the point at which the illusion of systems seizes hold of the greatest minds.
...From the lassitude of ideas and the shock of revolutions have come cold and disabused societies that have arrived at indifference in politics as well as in religion, that have no other stimulants than material pleasures, that only live through self-interest, that have no other worship than that of gold, whose mercantile customs compete with those of the Jews, whom they have taken as models.
...What forms of
government would you apply to societies in which corruption is everywhere; in which fortunes are only acquired by the surprises of fraud; in which morality is only guaranteed by repressive laws; in which the feeling of patriotism itself is extinguished in I-don’t-know-what universal cosmopolitanism?
I do not see any other salvation for such societies, veritable colossi with feet of clay, than in the institution of a maximum concentration that puts all public power at the disposition of those who govern.
Montesquieu: ...Until now, I have only known two European States that are completely deprived of liberal institutions, that have kept the pure monarchical element on all sides: Turkey and Russia, and, even if you closely regard the internal movements that operate in the heart of this last power, perhaps you will find there the symptoms of an imminent transformation.
Machiavelli: ...At first I must say that you are completely deceived about the application of my principles. In your eyes, despotism always presents itself in the decrepit forms of Eastern monarchicalism, but this is not what I imagine; in new societies, one must employ new procedures. Today, governing is not a matter of committing violent iniquities, decapitating enemies, stripping subjects of their goods, the liberal use of torture; no, death, despoliation and physical torment can only play secondary roles in the internal politics of modern States.
...Listen to me and judge for yourself. Today, it is less a question of doing violence to men than disarming them, of repressing their political passions than effacing them, of combating their instincts than deceiving them, of proscribing their ideas than changing them by appropriating them.
...The principal secret of government consists in weakening the public spirit to the point of completely disinteresting the people in the ideas and principles with which one makes revolution these days.
...In your beautiful, well-ordered societies, you have placed — in the stead of absolute monarchs — a monster called the State, a new Briareus [A hundred-armed monster in Greek mythology] whose arms extend everywhere, a colossal organism of tyranny in the shadow of which despotism will always be reborn.
...With the help of regulatory power, I would institute, for example, immense financial monopolies, reserves of the public fortune, which would depend so narrowly on the fate of all the private fortunes that they would be swallowed up along with the State’s credit the day after any political catastrophe.
...Here is another arrangement borrowed from the industrial order: at present, the aristocracy has disappeared as a political force; but the landed bourgeoisie is still an element of dangerous resistance to the government because it is independent; it would be necessary to impoverish it or even ruin it completely. To do this, it would suffice to increase the taxes that weigh upon landed property, to maintain agriculture in a state of relative inferiority, to favor commerce and industry to the limit, but principally speculation, because the too-great prosperity of industry can itself become a danger by creating a too-great number of independent fortunes.
...It is useless to add that the perpetual maintenance of a formidable army, ceaselessly engaged in foreign wars, must be the indispensable complement of this system; it is necessary to reach a situation in which — in the State — there are only proletarians, several millionaires, and soldiers.
...To any internal agitation, the sovereign must be able to respond through external war; to any imminent revolution, he must be able to respond through general warfare; but as words must never be in agreement with actions (as in politics), it is necessary that, in diverse conjunctions, the prince is quite skillful at disguising his real designs under contrary ones; he must always have the air of yielding to the pressure of public opinion when he executes what his hand has secretly prepared.
To summarize the word system in a phrase, revolution must be contained within the State: on the one side, by the terror of anarchy, on the other, by bankruptcy, and — all things considered — by general warfare.
...The power of which I dream — quite far from having barbaric customs, as you can see — must attract to it all the forces and the talents of the civilization in the heart of which it lives. It must surround itself with publicists, lawyers, jurisconsults, practical men and administrators, people who thoroughly know all the secrets, all the motives of social life; who speak all the languages, who have studied man in all his milieus. It is necessary to take them everywhere, no matter where, because such people render astonishing services through the ingenious procedures that they apply to politics. It is necessary to bring along with them a world of economists, bankers, industrialists, capitalists, men of vision and millionaires, because everything will actually be resolved by numbers.
Machiavelli: ...This would be the goal, but, at the moment, it is only necessary to reach it through oblique routes, diverted means, clever arrangements and — as far as possible — without violence. Thus, I would not directly destroy the institutions, but I would link them, one to the other, by an unperceived blow that would disturb their [respective] mechanisms. Thus, I would by turns touch the judiciary organizations, suffrage, the press, individual liberty and education.
On top of the old laws, I would place a new legislation that, without expressly abrogating the old ones, would first mask them, then soon after efface them completely. Such are my general conceptions; now you will see the details of the execution.
...I do not know if you have remarked the power of slight means in politics. After doing what I have told you, I would stamp my image upon all new monies, of which I would issue a considerable quantity.
...The very enemies of my power will be obligated to have my portrait in their purses. It is quite certain that one would little by little get used to regarding with the most loving eyes the features that are stamped upon the material sign of our pleasures. From the day on which my image is on the money, I would be king.
...So, I will recall them to you myself. No doubt you would not fail to speak to me of the separation of the powers, freedom of speech and the press, religious liberty, individual liberty, the right of [free] association, equality before the law, the inviolability of property and the home, the right of petition, the free consent to taxes, the proportionality of penalties, and the non-retroactivity of the laws. Is this sufficient? Do you desire more?
Montesquieu:I believe that this would be much more than necessary, Machiavelli, to put your government ill at ease.
Machiavelli:Here you are deceived and this is so true that I do not find it inconvenient to proclaim such principles; indeed, I would even make them the preamble of my constitution, if you like.
Machiavelli: ...We are in Europe; my constitution will be presented en bloc, it will be accepted en bloc.
...You will also see that I would have no need to destroy your institutions from the bottom to the top to arrive at my goal. It would be sufficient for me to modify the economy and change the arrangements.
...In statics, the displacement of a fulcrum can change the direction of force; in mechanics, the displacement of a spring can change movement. But in appearances, everything remains the same. Likewise, in physiology, temperament depends on the state of the organs. If the organs are modified, the temperament changes. So, the diverse institutions of which we speak function in the governmental economy like real organs in the human body. I would touch the organs, the organs would remain, but the political complexion of the State would be changed. Can you understand this?
Montesquieu: This is not difficult and circumlocution is not necessary. You keep the names, and you remove the things [they refer to]. This is what Augustus did in Rome when he destroyed the Republic. There was still a consulate, a praetorship, a censor, a tribunal; but there were no consuls, praetors, censors or tribunes.
Machiavelli: You must confess that one could have chosen worse models. Everything can be done in politics on the condition that one flatters public prejudices and keeps respect for appearances intact.
...To my eyes, your parliamentary governments are only schools for dispute, homes for sterile agitation, in the midst of which are exhausted the fecund activities of the nations that the grandstand and the press condemn to powerlessness.
...I would cross out parliamentary initiative. The proposition of the laws would belong to the sovereign alone.
...The law must be accept or rejected: there can be no other alternative.
...I would abolish the gratuity of the
legislative mandate; I would have the deputies receive a salary; their functions would be salaried. I regard this innovation as the surest means of tying the nation’s representatives to [my] power.
...It is not good that the person of the sovereign is constantly in play, that his hand is always perceived; it would be necessary that his action could, if needed, be covered under the authority of the great magistracies that surround the throne.
Montesquieu: You speak of the throne: I see that you are the king and we were in a republic just a moment ago. The transition has hardly been arranged.
Machiavelli:..."Directly" is not the word of a statesman; I would not suppress anything directly; here the fox must work with the lion. What use is politics if one cannot gain through oblique routes the goal that cannot be obtained by a straight line? The bases of my establishment are set; my forces are ready; there is nothing left but to put them into motion.
Machiavelli: In Spirit of the Laws, you quite rightly remarked that the word "liberty" is one to which one attaches many diverse meanings. One says that in your work one can read the following proposition: "Liberty is the right to do what the laws permit."
...I would decree that, in the future, no newspaper could be founded without the authorization of the government; right there the development of the evil would be stopped, because you can easily imagine that the newspapers that would be authorized would only be organs devoted to the government.
...The industry of the press would soon be so expensive, thanks to the elevation of taxes, that one will only indulge in it hesitantly.
Montesquieu: ...You can move on now to the policing of books.
Machiavelli: This subject preoccupies me less, because in an era in which journalism has been so prodigiously extended, one hardly ever reads books. Nevertheless, I do not intend to leave the door open for them.
Machiavelli: I have only showed you the "defensive" part of the organic regime that I would impose on the press. Now I would like to show you how I would employ this institution for the profit of my power. I dare say that, until today, no government has had a bolder conception than the one of which I will speak to you. In the parliamentary countries, governments almost always perish due to the press; so, I foresee the possibility of neutralizing the press by the press itself. Since it is as great a force as journalism, do you know what my government will be? It will be journalistic, it will be journalism incarnate.
...It is in the following categories of newspapers that the most powerful levers of my power would be found. Here the official or unofficial tone would be completely lost — in appearance, of course — because the newspapers of which I speak would all be attached by the same chain to my government: a visible chain for some; an invisible one to others. I would not undertake to tell you what would be their number, because I would assign a dedicated organ to each opinion, in each party; I would have an aristocratic organ in the aristocratic party, a republican organ in the republican party, a revolutionary organ in the revolutionary party, an anarchist organ — if need be — in the anarchist party. Like the God Vishnu, my press would have a hundred arms and these arms would place their hands upon all the nuances of opinion throughout the entire country. One would be of my party without knowing it. Those who believe they speak their language would [actually] be speaking mine; those who believe they were acting in their party would be acting in mine; those who believe they were marching under their flag would be marching under mine.
...But it is not so difficult to conceive, because (remark it well) neither the bases nor the principles of my government would be attacked by the newspapers of which I speak; they would only make a polemic of skirmishes, a dynastic opposition within the narrowest limits.
...Another, no less important result would be to provoke observations such as this: "See the point at which the bases of this government, its principles, are respected by all of us; here are newspapers that allow themselves the greatest freedoms of speech, but they never attack the established institutions. It is necessary that these institutions are beyond the injustices of the passions, because the very enemies of the government cannot help themselves from rendering homage to them."
...With the help of the occult devotion of these public papers, I can say that I would direct public opinion to my liking in all questions of domestic and foreign policy.
...You must know that journalism is a kind of Freemasonry: those who live in it are more or less attached to each other by the links of professional discretion; just like the ancient augurs, they do not easily divulge the secrets of their oracles. They gain nothing by betraying them, because for the most part they have more or less shameful secrets. It is quite probable, I agree, that in the center of the capital, in a certain circle of people, things would not be a mystery; but everywhere else, one would not suspect anything, and the large majority of the nation would march with the most complete confidence along the guided routes that I will have provided.
...Among the southern peoples [of Europe], it would be necessary for the governments to appear ceaselessly occupied; the masses consent to be inactive, but on the condition that those who govern them provide them with the spectacle of an incessant activity, a kind of fever; that they constantly attract their eyes with novelties, surprises and dramatic turns of events; this would perhaps be bizarre, but, once again, it would be necessary.
...The people do not love atheistic governments; so, in my communications with the public, I would never fail to place my actions under invocations of the Divinity, thereby skillfully associating my own star with that of the country.
...In addition, I would have in foreign countries newspapers that I have bought, the support of which would be all the efficacious if I could give them an oppositional color in several details.
...In the most advanced European countries, the invention of the printing press ended up giving birth to crazy, furious, frightening and almost unclean literature: a great evil. So, it is sad to say it, but it would almost be sufficient to not hinder it, so that this rage to write — which possesses your parliamentary countries — is practically satisfied.
Machiavelli:...The closer the judge is to power, the more he belongs to it.
...Nevertheless, here you are be obliged to recognize that I am far from the barbarous governmental proceedings that you seemed to attribute to me at the beginning of this discussion. You see that violence would play no role in all this; I would place my support where everyone does today: in the law.
Machiavelli: ...Furthermore, I would make use of tolerance; not only would I not prohibit the meetings that would be formed in the interests of my candidates, but I would go as far as closing my eyes to the machinations of several popular candidacies that would noisily agitate in the name of liberty; but it is good to tell you that those who would cry the loudest would be my own men.
...Public order has less need of men of talent than men devoted to the government. Great ability sits upon the throne and among those who surround it; elsewhere it is useless; it is even harmful, because it can only be exercised against power.
...A skillful government would have so many other resources! Without directly buying the vote, that is to say, by naked funds, nothing would be easier for such a government than making the populations vote as it wished by means of administrative concessions, by promising to build a port here, a market there, a road or a canal somewhere else; inversely, by giving nothing to the cities and towns in which the vote is hostile.
...Do you believe that I have the pretense of being perfect? Do I not know that more than one mistake would be made around me? No, no doubt I could not arrange things so that there would not be a few pillages, a few scandals. Would this prevent the totality of my affairs from progressing and progressing well? The essential would be not so much committing no mistakes than maintaining responsibility with an energetic attitude that overwhelms my detractors. Although the opposition might manage to introduce into my chamber a few declaimers, what would this matter to me?
...In the same way that I would use the press against the press, I would use the grandstand against the grandstand; as much as necessary, I
would have men who are trained in speechmaking and capable of speaking for several hours without stopping. The essential would be to have a compact majority and a president of whom one is sure. There is a particular art in conducting debates and carrying off the vote. Would I need the artifices of parliamentary strategy? Nineteen of the twenty members of the Chamber would be my men, who would vote according to orders, while I would move the strings of an artificial and clandestinely purchased opposition; once this was in place, one could make beautiful speeches, [but] they would enter the ears of my deputies like the wind into the keyhole of a lock.
Machiavelli: ...the State would be the prince; the moral direction of the public establishments would be in his hands; it would be his agents who inspire the minds of the young. Both the leaders and the members of the teaching bodies of all level would be named by the government; they would be tied to it; they would depend on it.
...I must not abandon this subject without telling you that I regard it as very important that, in the teaching of law, studies of constitutional politics would be prohibited.
...My reasons would be very simple: I do not want the young people who are at the conclusion of their studies to be carelessly occupied with politics. To get mixed up in writing constitutions at the age of 18 is to prepare a tragedy.
...It will be necessary that the generations that are born under my reign are raised with respect for established institutions and with love for the prince.
Montesquieu:...Beware of the priest: he only depends on God and his influence is everywhere, in the sanctuary, in the family, and in the school. You could have no power over him: his hierarchy is not yours; it obeys a constitution that does not decide things according to the law or the sword. If you reigned over a Catholic nation, and if you had the clergy as an enemy, you would perish sooner or later, even though the entire population was behind you.
Machiavelli:I do not know why it pleases you to make the priest the apostle of liberty. I have never seen this, neither in ancient nor modern times; I have always found a natural support for absolute power in the priesthood.
Montesquieu:...It would no longer be against the factions in your kingdom that you would end up conspiring, but against the very soul of humanity.
Machiavelli:...I would like to have a prince of my house, seated upon the steps of my throne, who would pretend to be dissatisfied. His mission would consist in posing as a liberal, as a detractor of my government, and in rallying — so as to observe them closely — those who would like to perpetrate a little demagogy from the highest ranks of my kingdom. Insisting upon domestic and foreign intrigues, the prince to whom I would confide these missions would thus play a game of dupe with those who would not be in on the secret of the comedy.
...False conspiracies, which of course could only be used with the greatest restraint, would have another advantage: they could permit me to discover real conspiracies, by giving rise to investigations that lead one to seek everywhere the traces of what one suspects.
Nothing is more precious than the life of the sovereign: it would be necessary that he is surrounded by innumerable guarantees, that is to say, innumerable agents, but it would be necessary that this secret militia is quite dissimulated, so that the sovereign would not have the air of being afraid when he appears in public.
...Moreover, I would have my police officers sprinkled among all the ranks of society. There would be no meeting, no committee, no salon, no intimate foyer in which one could not find an ear to hear what is said everywhere, all the time. Alas, for those who wield power, the facility with which men are made into paid informers is a surprising phenomenon.
...Because the [political] parties are content with murmurs, inoffensive teasing, when they are reduced to powerlessness; and because pretending to disarm them down to their bad humour would be folly. Thus, one would hear them complain, here and there, in the newspapers, in books; they would make allusions to the government in several speeches or in several legal appeals; under diverse pretexts they would make several small demonstrations of their existence — all this would be quite timid, I swear to you, and if the members of the public would be informed of it, they would laugh. One would find me quite good because I tolerate it; I could pass as too good-natured. This would be why I would tolerate what of course appears to me to be without danger; I would not want it said that my government is touchy.
...In my kingdom, the insolent journalist would be confounded in the prisons with the simple thief and hauled before the correctional jurisdictions. The conspirator would be seated before the criminal jury, side by side with the forger, with the murderer.
Machiavelli:...If you do not have despotism in financial matters, you will not have it in matters of politics.
Machiavelli: ...The States that have such methodically ordered budgets and such well-regulated official writings remind me of the merchants who have perfectly kept books and who finally come to ruin.
Machiavelli: ...Perfection consists precisely in knowing how to use ingenious artifices to escape from a system of limitation that in reality is purely fictional.
...Do not forget that the administration of finances would also be an administration of the press.
...I would want my minister of finances to speak the language of figures with an admirable clarity and that his literary style would also be of an irreproachable purity.
...First of all, in all official documents, it would be necessary to insist upon the development of prosperity, commercial activity and the always growing progress of consumption.
...If the deficit is lower than expected, this would be a real triumph; if it is greater, one would say: "The deficit was greater than what we expected, but it was greater the preceding year. In the final accounting, the situation is better, because we spent less and yet we have been through exceptionally difficult circumstances: war, shortages, epidemics, unforeseen crises of subsistences, etc. But next year, the increase of collections will in all probability permit the attainment of a long-desired balance: the debt will be reduced, the budget properly balanced."
Montesquieu:...Permit me to stop you here: you have only spoken of borrowing or drawing on bills of exchange. Do you ever preoccupy yourself with paying something?
Machiavelli:It is good to tell you that one can, in case of need, sell the State’s domains.
Machiavelli: Ah, now you sell! But, finally, do you ever preoccupy yourself with paying?
Montesquieu:...You have in your hand the greatest power of modern times: money.
...Alas! You have no other preoccupation than that of maintaining yourself.
Machiavelli:...Am I the one who created the world in the midst of which I live? I would be such, because it is such. Would I have the power to stop its inclination? No, I could only prolong its life because it would dissolve itself even more quickly if it yielded to itself. I would grasp this society by its vices, because it only presents me with vices; if it had virtues, I would grasp it by them.
Montesquieu: Exterminating angel, grandson of Tamerlane, you who would reduce the people to the level of Helots: you would not be able to prevent the fact that, somewhere, there would be free souls who would brave you, and their disdain would suffice to safeguard the rights of the human conscience rendered imperceptible by God.
Machiavelli:God protects the strong.
...because sovereign power is an image of divine power. My image would thus ally itself with those of Providence and justice.
...The bureaucracy is, one says, a plague upon monarchical governments. I do not believe so. Bureaucrats are thousands of servants who are naturally tied to the existing order of things. I would have an army of soldiers, an army of judges, an army of workers; I would also want an army of employees.
...A decorated man is a bought man.
...The essential trait of my politics, as you have been able to see, will be to render myself indispensable; I would destroy as many of the organized forces as would be necessary, so that no one could make progress without me, so that even the enemies of my power would tremble to overthrow it.
...My reign would be a reign of pleasure; you would not be able to stop me from cheering my people with games and festivals, which would make customs milder. One could not dissimulate that this has been a century of money; needs have doubled; luxury has ruined families; from all sides, one aspires to the material pleasures; it would be necessary for a sovereign to not be of his times for him not to know how to turn to his profit the universal passion for money and the sensual fury that consumes men.
Montesquieu:After having destroyed political consciousness, you would undertake the destruction of moral conscience; you killed society, now you must kill mankind.
Machiavelli: ...Not only would my designs be impenetrable, but my words would almost always signify the contrary of what they seem to indicate. Only the initiates would be able to penetrate into the meaning of the characteristic words that, at certain moments, I would let fall from the heights of the throne. When I say "My reign means peace", I would mean war; when I say that I would appeal to moral means, I would use the means of force.
...A prince whose power is founded upon a democratic base must speak in polished and yet popular language. If need be, he must not fear to speak as a demagogue, because, after all, he is [of] the people and he must have their passions.
...In my book, I recommend that the prince take some great man of the past as a model whose tracks he must follow as closely as possible.
...One finds in the histories of these great men the parallels, useful indications, and sometimes identical situations from which one can draw precious instruction, because all the great political lessons can be found in history.
...Moreover, perhaps you do not know the ease with which the people forget. When the moment of rigor has passed, even those whom one has struck hardly remember.
...It is true that, to attain sovereign power, it is necessary to shed blood and violate rights; but — I repeat — all will be forgotten.
...In the army, in the magistracy, and in all the public positions, advancement would be calculated according to opinion and degree of zeal for my government.
...The passion for women serves a sovereign much more than you might think. Henry IV owed a part of his popularity to his adultery. Men are made such that this penchant pleases them among those who govern them.
...I can affirm to you that one would not be bored in my kingdom; minds would be ceaselessly occupied with a thousand diverse objects. I would give to the people the spectacle of my retinue and the pomp of my court; one would prepare great ceremonies; I would draw up gardens; I would offer hospitality to the [other] kings; I would bring the ambassadors of the furthest-away countries. Sometimes there might be rumors of war; sometimes [there might be] diplomatic complications about which one would gossip for months: I would go even further; I would even give satisfaction to the monomania for liberty. The wars made under my reign would be enterprises in the names of the liberty of the people and the independence of the nations, and while the people were acclaiming me during my passages [abroad], I would secretly say into the ears of the [other] absolute kings: "Fear nothing, I am with you; I wear a crown like you do and I intend to keep it: I embrace European liberty, but so as to suffocate it."
...In all the branches of my government, there would be men of little or no consequence who would be real Machiavellis and who would scheme, dissimulate, and lie with an imperturbable cold-bloodedness; the truth would not come to light anywhere.
Machiavelli: ...I would have accomplished the goal that I announced to you: the character of the nation will have been changed.
...In the mind as in the soul of my people — I would personify virtue; even better, I would personify liberty (do you hear?), as I would also personify revolution, progress, the modern spirit, all that there is of the best in the basis of contemporary civilization. I do not say that one would respect me; I do not say that one would love me; I say that one would venerate me; I say that the people would adore me.
Montesquieu:...Is this frightening dream finished?
Machiavelli:A dream?! Ah, Montesquieu: you will weep for a long time. Tear up the Spirit of the Laws, ask God to give you forgetfulness for your part in the heavens, because here comes the terrible truth of which you already have a presentiment. There was nothing of the dream in what I have spoken to you of.
Montesquieu:What are you telling me?
Machiavelli:What I have described to you — this ensemble of monstrous things before which the spirit recoils, terrified; this work that only Hell itself could accomplish — all this has been done, all this exists, all this thrives under the sun, right now, on a part of the globe that we have left.
Machiavelli:No, [to tell you] this would inflict upon you a second death.
Montesquieu:In heaven’s name, speak!
Machiavelli:The time has passed! Do you not see that the whirlwind carries me away?
Machiavelli:Do you see the shadows that pass not far from you, covering their eyes? Do you
recognize them? They are the glories that are the envy of the entire world. They now ask God for their
Montesquieu:Eternal God, what have you permitted?
You, that gave everything a reason, tell me why are you doing all this?