Christianism ("Christianity"), Etc.


Francesco Guicciardini


from: Francesco Guicciardini [1483 - 1540], Maxims and Reflections of a Renaissance Statesman (Ricordi), Translated by Mario Domandi, Introduction by Nicolai Rubinstein, Harper & Row, 1965 (1857) (1530) (1528) (1512).


"In the history of Renaissance thought, Guicciardini's Ricordi occupy a place of singular importance. Few works of the sixteenth century allow us so penetrating an insight into the views and sentiments of its author as these reflexions of the great Italian historian, written down over a period of eighteen years. Like Machiavelli's Prince, the Ricordi form one of the outstanding documents of a time of crisis and transition; but unlike the Prince, they range over a wide field of private as well as public life. In doing so, they reveal the man as well as the political theorist." [7].

"In 1516, Leo X [Pope 1513 - 1521 (1475 - 1521)] made him [Guicciardini] governor of Modena, and in 1517, of Reggio. It was the beginning of a long and distinguishing career in the Papal administration, first under Leo X, and then under the second Medici Pope, Clement VII [Pope 1523 - 1534 (1478 - 1534)]." [8].

[Note: Leo X was Pope, when Martin Luther [1483 - 1546] reacted (95 theses, 1517)].


          'The development of Guicciardini's views on Italy coincides largely with the time of his friendship with Machiavelli [Niccolò Machiavelli 1469 - 1527] [see 1635; 2136-2137]. The two men shared the same views on a number of subjects; yet this went hand in hand with fundamental disagreements. Their intellectual relationship was of the nature of a long debate between equals, rather than of one-sided or mutual influence; while Guicciardini accepted some of the ideas which Machiavelli had put forward in his political works, The Prince and the Discourses, he strongly rejected others. Dating back to Machiavelli's brief visit, in 1521, to Modena, where Guicciardini was Papal governor, the friendship between the two men became closest in the last years of Machiavelli's life...."Io amo messer Francesco Guicciardini, amo la patria mia più dell' anima," writes Machiavelli a few weeks before his death in 1527:17 "I love Francesco Guicciardini and I love my fatherland more than my own soul."

          Foremost among the attitudes the two men shared, besides their patriotism, was an objective and non-ethical approach to politics, which has earned Guicciardini the epithet of "the first of the Machiavellians."18 Where their views differed, as in the question of the applicability of precedents from Roman antiquity to modern times, or in that of the intrinsic goodness or evil of human nature, Guicciardini's objections were largely bound up with his distrust of Machiavelli's tendency to theorize and to draw what he would consider to be sweeping conclusions from inadequate evidence. These objections to some of Machiavelli's basic theories appear already, together with a good deal of similarity in judgment, in the Dialogue on Florentine Government. A few years later, he formulated them systematically in his unfinished Observations on the "Discourses" of Machiavelli, written probably in 1530, when that work was being prepared for printing. That Guicciardini should have felt the urge to clarify his views on Machiavelli's political philosophy is significant in that it shows how deeply Machiavelli's ideas affected him. For us, the Observations have the additional significance that Guicciardini was writing them about the time when he was engaged in compiling the final selection of his Ricordi.' [18-19].

"Translator's Preface"

"I have translated C, B, and Q 2, and given them in that order, which is the reverse of the chronological. C is the most mature, the most thought-out version. It seemed to me that it should be read first so that the others might be measured against it....

Mario Domandi

Vassar College

June, 1964" [38].


"Series C [from the manuscript of 1530]

1. The pious say that faith can do great things, and, as the gospel tells us, even move mountains. The reason is that faith breeds obstinacy. To have faith means simply to believe firmly—to deem almost a certainty—things that are not reasonable; or, if they are reasonable, to believe them more firmly than reason warrants. A man of faith is stubborn in his beliefs; he goes his way, undaunted and resolute, disdaining hardship and danger, ready to suffer any extremity.

          Now, since the affairs of the world are subject to chance and to a thousand and one different accidents, there are many ways in which the passage of time may bring unexpected help to those who persevere in their obstinacy. And since this obstinacy is the product of faith, it is then said that faith can do great things...." [39].

[Origins of faith: lower brain stem?]. [See: Article #1, 3, 17. (Guicciardini)].

"28. I know of no one who loathes the ambition, the avarice, and the sensuality of the clergy more than I—both because each of these vices is hateful in itself and because each and all are hardly suited to those who profess to live a life dependent upon God. Furthermore, they are such contradictory vices that they cannot coexist in a subject unless he be very unusual indeed.

          In spite of all this, the positions I have held under several popes have forced me, for my own good, to further their interests. Were it not for that, I should have loved Martin Luther [1483 - 1546] as much as myself—not so that I might be free of the laws based on Christian religion as it is generally interpreted and understood; but to see this bunch of rascals get their just deserts, that is, to be either without vices or without authority." [48]. [See: 851, 124.].

"62. People generally—and inexperienced men always—are more easily moved by the hope of gain than by the danger of loss. And yet the contrary should be true, for the desire to keep is more natural than the desire to gain. The reason for the mistake is that, ordinarily, hope is stronger than fear. Men easily allay their fears, even when they are warranted; and hope, even when there is no hope." [57].

"161. When I consider the infinite ways in which human life is subject to accident, sickness, chance, and violence, and when I consider how many things must combine during the year to produce a good harvest, nothing surprises me more than to see an old man, a good year." [82].

"173. Prodigality in a prince is more detestable and more pernicious than parsimony. For a prince cannot be prodigal without taking something from many of his subjects, and thus they are worse off than if he were parsimsious [parsimonious] and gave them nothing. And yet it seems the public prefers a prodigal prince to a stingy one. The reason is that although the prodigality of the prince favors few men compared to the necessarily large number from which it takes, it is nevertheless true, as I have said at other times, that men hope more than they fear. They like to think they will be one of the few who will be favored rather than one of the many from whom something will be taken." [84-85].


"Series B" [from the manuscript of 1528]

"14. I want to see three things before I die, but I doubt whether I shall see any of them, no matter how long I live. I want to see a well-ordered republic in our city, Italy liberated from all the barbarians, and the world delivered from the tyranny of these wicked priests." [101].

"29. Just as it is often the fate of merchants to go bankrupt and of sailors to drown, so too those who govern territories of the church for any length of time generally come to a bad end." [104].

"31. Never argue against religion or against things that seem to depend on God. These matters are too strongly rooted in the minds of fools." [104].

"32. It was said truly that too much religion spoils the world, because it makes the mind effeminate, involves men in thousands of errors, and diverts them from many generous and virile enterprises. I do not hereby wish to derogate from the Christian faith and divine worship, but rather to confirm and augment them by distinguishing what is excessive from what is sufficient, and by stimulating men's minds to consider carefully what should be taken into account and what may safely be ignored." [104].

"95. Considering its origin carefully, all political power is rooted in violence. There is no legitimate power, except that of republics within their own territories but not beyond. Not even the power of the emperor is an exception, for it is founded on the authority of the Romans, which was a greater usurpation than any other. Nor do I except the priests from this rule—indeed, their violence is double, for they use both the temporal and the spiritual arms to subjugate us." [119].

"124. Naturally, I have always wanted to see the ruin of the Papal State [see Addition 47, 2582 (Comment)]. But as fortune would have it, I have been forced to support and work for the power of two popes. Were it not for that, I would love Martin Luther more than myself, in the hope that his sect might demolish, or at least clip the wings, of this wicked tyranny of the priests." [125-126].

"165. Very rarely are documents falsified at the start. Usually it is done later, when men have had time for wicked thoughts; or else it is done when men notice, in their management of affairs, that a certain thing would be to their advantage, whereupon they try to make the instruments say what they would like them to have said. Therefore, when you have important documents drawn up, make it a habit to have them turned over to you immediately, and keep them at home in their authentic form." [136-137].

_____ _____ _____


from: Francesco Guicciardini, by Peter E. Bondanella, Indiana University, Twayne Publishers, 1976.

'As Guicciardini bluntly puts it, "the desire to dominate and to have superiority over others is natural in men," while the love of liberty is much less strong; anyone who has the opportunity to rule others, including those who profess themselves to be lovers of freedom, will do so without the slightest hesitation.21 [21"Opere de Francesco Guicciardini", "336"] Consequently, he rejects as irrelevant much of the energy expended in humanist circles over the "best" or most "natural" kind of government suitable to Florence; in his view no state can exist without force. Legitimized violence, as Guicciardini said earlier in the Discourse of Logrogno, is the essence of the state. Men, in fact, love justice more than liberty,22 and a republic's only theoretical justification is that it may offer more justice than other forms. If the type of tyranny practiced by the Medici succeeds in convincing the citizens that they are being treated equally, men will not hesitate to prefer that form of government without freedom over another kind of government which is closer to the republican ideal.' [50-51].

'Chapter 8

The History of Italy

The History of Italy [written 1534 - 1540 ["12"]] displays a heavy reliance upon the humanist models, those practices constituting "the laws of history," as Guicciardini once called them.1 Stylized battle scenes, paired literary speeches, portents of impending disasters, and carefully drawn literary portraits abound in the narrative. Guicciardini even included in the papers comprising the manuscript of the work a quotation from Cicero's De Oratore on the composition of true history:

The nature of the subject needs chronological arrangement and geographical calls also, as regards such plans, for some imitation of what was done or said, but also for the manner of doing or saying it; and, in the estimate of consequences, for an exposition of all contributory causes, whether originating in accident, discretion or foolhardiness; and, as for the individual actors, besides an account of their exploits, it demands particulars of the lives and characters of such as are outstanding in renown and dignity. Then again the kind of language and type of style to be followed are the easy and the flowing, which run their course with unvarying current and a certain placidity, avoiding alike the rough speech we use in Court and the advocate's stinging epigrams.2

Cicero [106 - 43 B.C.E.] calls attention to several important traits of true history: chronological arrangement, attention to detail (especially anecdotes concerning the lives of the main characters), a search for historical causes, and a pleasing, simple style....' [104].


"A Contemporary Assessment"

'....Most contemporary students of the Renaissance would agree with John R. Hale's estimation of Guicciardini's stature as "the greatest historian between Tacitus in the first century and Voltaire and Gibbon in the eighteenth and he is one of the greatest of all writers of contemporary history."45 As the author of the Ricordi, the Considerations on the 'Discourses' of Machiavelli, and numerous dialogues and treatises, Guicciardini merits increased recognition as one of the most original philosophical minds of his day....' [138].