Campaign of the Month: June 2008
Horn of the North
The Adamant Crown
A series of 32 scrolls on the nature of noble power, by Eron Huntcrown. The bound originals were presented to Baerovus, son of Crown Prince Irvel Obarskyr, grandson of King Foril I of Cormyr. Bound copies have been presented to Candelkeep as well as other select libraries throughout the realms. What follows is an exact transcription of the original, used with the permission of and by the grace of Baerovus Obarskyr. Completed and bound this, the 24th day of Tarsakh in the year 1478 by the Dalereckoning – Elemar of Duskendale, Scribe of Candlekeep.
I dedicate these scrolls to the Purple Dragon monarchs of the Forest Kingdom of Cormyr. Long has your rule of over 1000 years been a shining example to our world. May my writing spread the light and strength of our blessed land to realms where shadow holds sway. May future young princes rule with the wisdom of the generations of kings who ruled before them. Though my own personal weaknesses and failings are widely known; my only true love and passion has been and forever will be the ultimate triumph of Cormyrian ideals over tyranny. I am, as always, a loyal servant of Cormyr’s king and people – Count Eron, Lord of Huntcrown, Arabel, 4th day of Flamerule, 1475th year of the Dalereckoning.
There are two types of states: democracies and principalities. I will not discuss democracies (such as found in several of the more famous dales) in depth, examining only how principalities may be acquired and governed. Principalities are inherited or new.
New principalities are either annexed to a ruler’s existing territory or are completely new. New principalities are either used to being ruled by a prince or are used to being free. New principalities are acquired by luck or by strength.
Hereditary principalities, which are used to being ruled by the prince’s family, are easy to maintain, because tradition keeps the prince’s position stable as long as he does not make himself hated.
On New Principalities
New principalities always cause problems for the prince. People are willing to change rulers to better their own lot, but they soon discover that things have gotten worse, because a new ruler must harm those he conquers. Then you have as enemies those you harmed while seizing power, as well as those who put you in power, because you can never satisfy all of their ambitions.
If conquered territories annexed to yours are similar in location and customs, it is easy to keep them, especially if they were hereditary principalities not used to independence. As long as you do not change their way of life, you need only wipe out the old ruling family to keep them.
But if new territories are different in language and customs, they are difficult to keep. The best methods are to go and live there yourself, to establish colonies in them, to protect the neighboring minor powers, to weaken strong factions within the state, and to guard against foreign powers. It is important to deal with developing political problems early, rather than wait until it is too late, because wars can never be avoided, only postponed. Princes who do not follow these policies will failed to keep their territories. Princes also err by making any church more powerful than your throne. To make others powerful is to weaken yourself. Institutions outlive you – appoint a righteous cleric in your lifetime to lead such an organization – and a corrupt apostate will destroy your principality in your great grandson’s day.
A Prince’s Administration
All principalities are governed either by a single ruler assisted by his appointed ministers or by a ruler and the hereditary nobles who hold power in their own right and have the loyalty of their subjects.
The prince that divides his kingdom into districts that are managed by his administrators, contends less with many lords who have longstanding privileges. Because the Prince’s administrators are dependent on him for their power, they are not likely to help a foreign invader. But if an invader had a strong enough army to win, it would be easy to keep their territory, because the people are not personally loyal to the administrators.
If the conquered territory was formerly a democracy, in which the citizens were used to living under their own laws, you must destroy it, go live within it, or let the citizens live under their own laws with a localized government that is friendly to you. If you do not destroy the city, it will destroy you, so fiercely will the citizens remember and long for their freedom.
In a kingdom, the nobles are always ambitious and ready to turn against the king. But if they assist you in conquering the country, they will also be ready to turn on you. Even if you kill all the royal family, the nobles remain, and you can neither satisfy them nor get rid of them. Whether one can control a territory depends less on personal ability than on the character of the territory. If your principality has nobles – you must break their practical power and give it to the people via administrators loyal only to you – while maintaining the wealth and social privileges of the aristocracy. Practical power of taxation, trade, commerce, land ownership, defense, treaties, war, law, justice, and punishment must flow from the monarch directly to all subjects (common and noble). Most nobles will let go of such mundane burdens so long as they are not attacked in their purses or their manor halls. Let the nobles continue to feast, drink, hunt, and waste their own wealth while you build up the coffers of the state and improve the lives of your people.
The Prince’s Rise to Power
The difficulty a new prince will have will depend on his ability. Private citizens become princes either through luck or through ability, but it is best not to trust luck. Those who become prince through their own strength have difficulty gaining power, but keep it easily. Establishing new states is always troublesome, because everyone who was happy under the old order will oppose change, and most people will not support new things until they have seen them work.
The question is whether innovators must rely on others in order to succeed, or whether they can rely on their own forces. Armed prophets succeed, but unarmed prophets must fail. The people are fickle, and when they no longer believe in you, you must force them to believe.
Citizens who become princes through luck or the favor of others find it easy to acquire their states, but difficult to keep them. They are not used to being in command, and they have no armies of their own.
There are also princes who come to power by criminal means (assassination, slaughter, deception, etc.) – I will not discuss them as they are obvious and hold power by the barest threads. I will say this – cruel acts, though evil, may be justified when they are done all at once to establish a prince’s power (but not repeated) and turned to the benefit of his subjects. Cruel acts are done badly when they increase over time. A conqueror should decide how many injuries he must inflict up front and do them all at once to keep his subjects from constantly resenting them. But benefits should be handed out gradually, so that people savor them. Above all, a prince should live with his subjects in such a way that no good or bad situation can force him to change his conduct.
When private citizens become rulers through the favor of their fellow citizens, these may be called civil principalities. One can reach this position through the favor of either the common citizens or the nobles, because the two classes are found in every city. The nobles want only to oppress the people, and the people want only to avoid oppression. From these opposing impulses can come three results: a principality, a democracy, or anarchy (which is very nearly like a democracy). When the nobles feel pressure from the people, they try to make one of their own the prince in order to protect their privileges. When the people feel they cannot resist the nobles, they try to make a fellow citizen prince in order to protect their rights. You can never satisfy the nobles by acting honorably, but you can satisfy the people.
Regardless of how a prince comes to power, he should make every effort to win the good will of the people, or in times of trouble, he will have no hope. A prince must not delude himself about the reliability of the people, but nonetheless, a prince who makes good preparations and knows how to command will never be betrayed by them. A wise ruler will contrive to keep all his citizens dependent on him and on the state, and then he will be able to trust them.
A Word about Holy States
Although this type of principality is gained through ability or luck, their princes stay in power no matter how they act. They do not defend their states or govern their people, and the people never think of getting rid of them. No other state could be so successful. Because these states are ordained by the Gods, it would be foolish as to discuss them in depth. Such states are unlikely to be taken by a new prince – at best they shall be dealt with as enemies or allies. Remember – in such a state – power is only possible with the perception of “divine approval” – all power flows from that belief by the clergy, people, and aristocrats.
Force of Arms
One other measure of a state’s strength is whether a prince can defend himself, or whether he must rely on the help of others. If a ruler can field his own army (either his own men or paid mercenaries), he needs no outside help, but if he must hide behind his city walls, he will always need help from others.
The prince that must have help from others has no option but to fortify his city and lay in supplies. If he has treated his subjects well and has made preparations, others will hesitate to attack him. Therefore, any prince who has a strong city and has not made his people hate him is safe. Some will argue that the stresses of a siege will make the people disloyal, but a wise ruler will know how to keep up their morale, as long as there are enough weapons and supplies.
Princes must lay good foundations, and those foundations include good laws and good armies. There cannot be good laws without good armies, and where there are good laws, there must be good arms, so we will only discuss arms, not laws.
Arms to defend the state are the prince’s own, mercenaries, auxiliaries, or a mix of the three. Mercenaries and auxiliaries are dangerous and unreliable. If a mercenary is talented, he will always be trying to increase his power at the prince’s expense. If he is incompetent, he will ruin the prince. Only princes and democracies that can field their own armies can succeed, for mercenaries do nothing but lose. Those who are well armed can live free. Mercenaries are always ruinous to the state in the end. If payment is their only ruler, they will in time leave your service (taking with them all secrets) and if many different armies employ mercenaries – it is possible they will band together to ensure payment for minimum effort and threat to life. The mercenary is not there to help you win, he is there to be paid and live to be paid again. To forget the nature of the mercenary is to invite the loss of your throne; thus I will say it again – a mercenary is there to be paid and live to be paid again. The mercenary has no particular interest in winning or losing the battle.
Auxiliaries are troops sent by another ruler to help you. Just as with mercenaries, if they lose, you are ruined, and if they win, you are in their power. Auxiliaries come to you as a united body trained to obey others. Mercenaries are less dangerous, because they are not united behind their leaders. A wise prince would rather lose his own troops than win with someone else’s, because a victory with borrowed troops is not really a victory.
A principality that does not have its own army is not really secure, because it depends on fortune, not its own strength. Nothing is weaker than a reputation for power that is not based on your own strength. There is only one group that has a vested interest only in victory in a clash of arms – those who defend their own homes and families. The people of the principality care only for victory if they know they are being attacked. A wise Prince never willingly wastes such an advantage. Do not act in such a way that destroys the love the people have for you or by sending them to fight wars where they do not see a direct threat to that which they love most.
The Prince as Commander
The study of war should be a prince’s main goal, for war is a ruler’s only art. Knowledge of war is so vital that it not only keeps princes in power but can make princes out of private citizens. If princes become too refined to study this art, they lose their states.
Being unarmed makes others contemptuous of you. No one can expect an armed man to obey an unarmed one. Therefore a prince who does not understand military matters will not be able to work well with his soldiers. Even in peacetime, a prince must concentrate on war by exercises and by study. Hunting is excellent exercise, because it strengthens the body and most importanly it makes the prince more familiar with the surrounding terrain of his lands. A prince should always be asking himself how to make the best military advantage of the landscape.
A prince should also exercise his mind by reading the histories of great men and how they waged war, in order to imitate them. Great leaders have always tried to emulate the qualities of those worthy examples who preceded them. By studying their precepts in good times, the prince will be ready when fortune changes.
The proper behavior of princes toward subjects and allies remains to be discussed. Many others have treated this subject, but I base my observations on the real world, not on an imagined ideal. There is so much difference between the way people should act and the way they do act that any prince who tries to do what he should will ruin himself. A prince must know when to act immorally. Everyone agrees that a prince should have all good qualities, but because that is impossible, a wise prince will avoid those vices that would destroy his power and not worry about the rest. Some actions that seem virtuous will ruin a prince, while others that seem like vices will make a prince prosper.
A reputation for generosity is thought to be desirable, but developing it can be dangerous. Generosity exercised in truly virtuous ways is never seen by others, so if you want to be thought of as a generous ruler, you must keep up a lavish public display. To support this image, a prince must raise taxes and squeeze money from his subjects. Generosity of this sort benefits few and harms many. The prince’s subjects will hate him, and no one will respect him because he is poor.
Therefore, a wise prince will not mind being called a miser, because stinginess is a vice that allows him to reign. If a prince is giving away other people’s property, he can afford to be generous, but if he is giving away his own resources, he will become either “grasping and hated” or “poor and despised.”
Every prince will want to be considered merciful, but mercy should not be mismanaged. It is possible to be cruel, and still restored peace and order to a land. No prince should mind being called cruel for keeping his subjects peaceful and loyal. Punishing a few, and thus averting disorder, is better than allowing troubles to develop that will hurt many. New rulers cannot avoid seeming cruel, because their states are insecure. Still, a prince should not be too rash or too fearful.
If you cannot be both loved and feared, then it is better to be feared than loved.
Men are generally fickle, afraid of danger, and greedy. When a prince benefits them, they will do anything for the prince, but when trouble comes, they will desert the prince. People will break ties of love if it is to their advantage, but fear of punishment they will never transgress. A prince must be careful not to make himself hated, even though he is feared; to do this, he must keep his hands off his subjects’ property and their women. People will sooner forget the death of a father than the loss of an inheritance. However, when a prince commands an army, he must be cruel in order to control his troops.
People love at their own wish, but fear at the prince’s will, so a wise ruler will rely on what he can best control.
Everyone knows that princes should keep their word, but we see that the princes who have accomplished the most have been accomplished at deception. A prince may fight with laws, which is the way of human beings, or with force, which is the way of animals. For the prince, to fight as man or beast does not matter – only victory. A prince should imitate the fox in cunning as well as the lion in strength. A wise prince should never keep his word when it would go against his interest, because he can expect others to do the same. In order to pull it off, you must be a good liar, but you will always find people willing to be deceived.
To sum it up, it is useful to seem to be virtuous, but you must be ready to act the opposite way if the situation requires it. A prince should do good if he can, but be ready to do evil if he must. Yet a prince must be careful to always act in a way that appears virtuous, for many can see you, but few know how you really are. If a ruler conquers and maintains his state, everyone will praise him, judging his actions by their outcome.
A prince must avoid becoming hated or despised. Taking the property or the women of his subjects will make him hated. Being frivolous, indecisive, and effeminate will make him despised. All a prince’s actions should show seriousness, strength, and decisiveness. The best defense against internal threats such as conspiracy is to be neither hated nor despised. If a conspirator thinks that killing the prince will enrage the people, he will think twice.
Wise princes are careful not to antagonize the nobles and to keep the people happy. Princes should let others do the unpleasant tasks, doing for themselves what will make them look good.
Consider the demands of the nobles and (if you are foolish enough to maintain them, the standing army), but ultimately Princes should satisfy the people, who are more powerful.
Princes have tried various tactics to maintain power: disarming their subjects, dividing their subjects into factions, encouraging their enemies, winning over the suspicious, building new fortresses, and tearing down fortresses.
New princes must never disarm their subjects, for if a prince arms his people, their arms become his. If a prince disarms them, the people will hate him, and he will be forced to employ mercenaries.
Conventional wisdom says that creating factions is a good way to control a state. When factious cities are threatened by invaders, they quickly fall.
Because rulers become great by overcoming difficulties, some believe that a prince should secretly encourage his enemies, so that when he overcomes them, his reputation will be greater.
Some new princes find that those who were at first suspect prove more useful than others in governing the state. They are anxious to prove themselves to the prince. Those who helped the prince gain power may have done so out of dissatisfaction with the prior state, and the new state may also fail to please them. Those who help a prince overthrow the previous prince are potential traitors – never forget this. Such a person can only be considered loyal if they are happier under your rule than the previous ruler.
Princes often build fortresses to protect themselves from plotters and sudden attacks. If a prince fears his subjects more than foreign invaders, he should build fortresses. The best fortress, however, is not to be hated by the people. If the people will fight on their own to destroy an invader, no invasion will endure.
Nothing enhances a ruler’s reputation more than undertaking great conquests. These activities kept his subjects amazed and preoccupied, so that no one had time to do anything against him. However, conquests are expensive and waste the lives of your people who – as a good prince – are the basis of your power and wealth.
With regard to internal affairs, princes should always find noteworthy ways to reward or punish any extraordinary actions.
Rulers must never remain neutral. If neighboring rulers fight, you must take sides, because if you do not, the winner will threaten you, and the loser will not befriend you. Whether or not your ally wins, he will be grateful to you. However, if you can avoid it, you should never ally with someone more powerful than yourself, because if he wins, you may be in his power.
A prince should show that he loves talent and rewards it. He should encourage his citizens to prosper in their occupations. He should keep the people entertained with festivals at appropriate times. And he should give attention to the various civic groups, attending some of their activities, but without appearing undignified. Dinner with a noble family may be entertaining and provide a full belly, but dinner with the heads of the guilds may cement your influence over them.
Choosing good ministers is vital, because a ruler shows his intelligence in his choice of the men around him. If a man cannot have good ideas himself, he must be smart enough to distinguish his minister’s good ideas from his bad ones. The minister must think always of the prince, not of himself. The prince should honor and reward his minister, so that the minister will be dependent on the prince.
Unless rulers are shrewd about choosing their advisors, they will find themselves surrounded by flatterers. The only way to guard against flattery is to show that you are not offended by the truth. But if anyone can speak their mind to you, you will not be respected. A wise prince will pick intelligent advisors and allow only them to speak frankly, and only when he asks for their opinions. He should listen carefully, but make his own decisions and stick to them.
A prince who is not wise can never get good counsel, unless he puts himself completely in the hands of a wise man; but such a man will soon take over his state. An ignorant prince who takes advice from several counselors will never be able to reconcile their conflicting opinions, for each minister will think of his own interests and only speak to his own knowledge. Do not ask the minister of the treasury his opinion on matters of war – do not ask the chamberlain how best to defend your western border. Men will always be disloyal unless a prince forces them to be faithful. You are the Prince – you are the one who decides. To be indecisive is to be despised.
If a new prince follows all of these principles, he will soon be as secure as a hereditary ruler, because if people find they are doing well in the present, they will not look for changes. But anyone who acquires a new state and then loses it through incompetence is disgraced. If you lose your state, you did so because you lacked military power, made your subjects hate you, or were unable to defend against the nobles. You should not blame bad luck but your own laziness for your losses, because you did not make preparations, and when trouble struck, you ran away, hoping the people would restore you. A prince can only rely on defenses that he can personally control.
Many people believe that fortune controls everything, so that there is no use in trying to act, but fortune controls only half of one’s actions, leaving free will to control the other half. Fortune can be compared to a river that floods, destroying everything in its way. But when the weather is good, people can prepare dams and dikes to control the flood.
Princes are successful one day and ruined the next, with no change in their natures. Two men may use the same method, but only one succeeds; and two men may use different methods, but reach the same goal, all because the circumstances do or do not suit their actions. If a man is successful by acting one way and the circumstances change, he will fail if he does not change his methods. But men are never flexible enough to change, either because their natures will not let them or because they become accustomed to a certain behavior bringing success.
It is better to be bold than timid and cautious, because fortune is an unbroken horse, and the Price who wants to ride it must treat it roughly.
This document modified for my needs in the Forgotten Realms from the Cliff’s Notes summary of Machiavelli’s The Prince. I’ve deleted a couple of chapters, rearranged text, and written many paragraphs of new text. However, the core work is The Prince.