5
The Passion of Liberty

A theorist who composed the 'Exhortation to Liberate Italy' and declared 'I love my country more than my soul' can hardly be doubted to have been a fervent patriot. His reputation as a patriot in part redeemed him from the sinister fame as adviser of tyrants and perfidious teacher of corrupt politics. Writing in 1827, Lord Macaulay stressed that although it is scarcely possible to read The Prince 'without horror and amazement', 'we are acquainted with few writings which exhibit so much elevation of sentiment, so pure and warm zeal for the public good . . . as those of Machiavelli'. His 'patriotic wisdom', Macaulay concludes, offered an oppressed people 'the last chance of emancipation and revenge'. 1 When Macaulay was writing these lines, that oppressed people was beginning to recognize Machiavelli as the prophet of its independence and national unity. Carlo Cattaneo, one of the best minds of the Italian Risorgimento, wrote that Machiavelli, who had been for three centuries the 'remorse of the conscience of unarmed Italy', had become the symbol of a people who at last are resolved to recover their dignity. 2

Yet, other scholars have not only openly questioned the view of Machiavelli as a forerunner of Italian national consciousness, but have claimed that it is a plain anachronism to place him among modern theorists of the principle of nationality. Luigi Russo, writing in 1936 against nationalist rhetoric of the time, remarked that the famous 'Exhortation to Liberate Italy' is just another version of the late medieval cry against the barbarians, and that Machiavelli regarded the unification of Italy as the political act of a prince or a

-148-

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Machiavelli
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Acknowledgements vii
  • Contents ix
  • Abbreviations x
  • 1 - Machiavelli's Philosophy of Life 11
  • 2 - The Art of the State 42
  • 3 - The Power of Words 73
  • 4 - The Theory of the Republic 114
  • 5 - The Passion of Liberty 148
  • Notes 175
  • Further Reading 231
  • Index 235
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