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Niccolò Machiavelli
Discourses on the first Ten (Books) of Titus Livius

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    • CHAPTER VII HOW MUCH THE FACULTY OF ACCUSING [JUDICIARY] IS NECESSARY FOR A REPUBLIC FOR THE MAINTENANCE OF LIBERTY
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CHAPTER VII

HOW MUCH THE FACULTY OF ACCUSING [JUDICIARY] IS NECESSARY FOR A REPUBLIC FOR THE MAINTENANCE OF LIBERTY

No more useful and necessary authority can be given to those who are appointed in a City to guard its liberty, as is that of being able to accuse the citizen to the People or to any Magistrate or Council, if he should in any way transgress against the free state. This arrangement makes for two most useful effects for a Republic. The first is, that for fear of being accused, the citizens do not attempt anything against the state, and if they should [make an] attempt they are punished immediately and without regard [to person]. The other is, that it provides a way for giving vent to those moods which in whatever way and against whatever citizens may arise in the City. And when these moods do not provide a means by which they may be vented, they ordinarily have recourse to extra ordinary means that cause the complete ruin of a Republic. And there is nothing which makes a Republic so stable and firm, as organizing it in such a way that changes in the moods which may agitate it have a way prescribed by law for venting themselves. This can be demonstrated by many examples, and especially by that of Coriolanus, which Titus Livius refers to, where he says that the Roman Nobility being irritated against the Plebs, because it seemed to them the Plebs had too much authority concerning the creation of the Tribunes who defended them, and Rome [as happened] experiencing a great scarcity of provisions, and the Senate having sent to Sicily for grain, Coriolanus, enemy of the popular faction, counselled that the time had come [to be able] to castigate the Plebs and take away authority which they had acquired and assumed to the prejudice of the Nobility, by keeping them famished and not distributing the grain: which proposition coming to the ears of the people, caused so great an indignation against Coriolanus, that on coming out of the Senate he would have been killed in a tumultuary way if the Tribunes had not summoned him to appear and defend his cause. From this incident there is to be noted that which was mentioned above, that it is useful and necessary for a Republic with its laws to provide a means of venting that ire which is generally conceived against a citizen, for if these ordinary means do not exist, they will have recourse to extraordinary ones, and without doubt these produce much worse effects that do the others. For ordinarily when a citizen is oppressed, even if he has received an injustice, little or no disorder ensues in the Republic, because its execution is done by neither private nor foreign forces which are those that ruin public liberty, but is done by public force and arrangement which have their own particular limits, and do not transcend to things that ruin the Republic.

And to corroborate this opinion with examples, among the ancient ones I want this one of Coriolanus to be enough, on which anyone should consider how much evil would have resulted to the Roman Republic if he had been killed in the tumults, for there would have arisen an offense by a private [citizen] against a private [citizen]; which offense generates fear, fear seeks defense, for this defense partisans are procured, from the partisans factions arise in the City, [and] the factions cause their ruin. But the matter being controlled by those who had authority, all those evils which could arise if it were governed by private authority were avoided. We have seen in our time that troubles happened to the Republic of Florence because the multitude was able to give vent to their spirit in an ordinary way against one of her citizens, as befell in the time of Francesco Valori, who was as a Prince in that City [and] who being judged ambitious by many, and a man who wanted by his audacity and animosity to transcend the civil authority, and there being no way in the Republic of being able to resist him except by a faction contrary to his, there resulted that he [Valori] having no fear except from some extraordinary happening, began to enlist supporters who should defend him: On the other hand, those who opposed him not having any regular way or repressing him, thought of extraordinary ways, so that it came to arms. And where [if it were possible to oppose him, Valori, by regular means] his authority would have been extinguished with injury to himself only, but having to extinguish it by extraordinary means, there ensued harm not only to himself, but to many other noble citizens. We could also city in support of the above mentioned conclusion the incident which ensued in Florence in connection with Piero Soderini, which resulted entirely because there was not in that Republic [means of making] accusations against the ambitions of powerful citizens: for the accusing of a powerful one before eight judges in a Republic is not enough; it is necessary that the judges be many because the few always judge in favor of the few. So that if such a means had been in existence, they would have accused him [Soderini] of evil while yet alive, and through such means without having the Spanish army [called] to come in, they would have given vent to their feelings; or if he had not done evil they would not have had the audacity to move against him, for fear that they would be accused by him: and thus both sides would have ceased having that desire which was the cause of the trouble.

So that this can be concluded, that whenever it is seen that external forces are called in by a party of men who live in a City, it can be judged to result from its bad organization because there did not exist within that circle of arrangements, a way to be able without extraordinary means to give vent to the malignant moods that arise in men, which can be completely provided by instituting accusations before many judges and giving them reputation [authority]. These things were so well organized in Rome that in so many discussions between the Plebs and the Senate, neither the Senate nor the Plebs nor any particular citizen, ever attempted to avail [himself] of external force, for having the remedy at home it was not necessary to go outside for it. And although the above examples are amply sufficient to prove this, none the less I want to refer to another recital by Titus Livius in his history, which refers to there having been in Chiusi [Clusium], at that time a most noble City of Tuscany, one Lucumones who had violated a sister of Aruntes, and Aruntes not being able to avenge himself because of the power of the violator, went to seek out the French [Gauls] who then ruled in that place which today is called Lombardy, and urged them to come to Chiusi with arms in hand, pointing out to them how they could avenge the injury he had received with advantage to themselves: but if Aruntes could have seen how he could have avenged himself by the provisions of the City, he would not have sought the barbarian forces. But just as these accusations are useful in a Republic, so also are calumnies useless and harmful, as we shall discuss in the next chapter.




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