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Machiavelli Perspective on Globalization

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Practically nothing is known of Nicolo Machiavelli before he became a minor

official in the Florentine Government. His youth, however, was passed

during some of the most tumultuous years in the history of Florence. He

was

born the year that Lorenzo the Magnificent came to power, subverting the

traditional civil liberties of Florence while inaugurating a reign of

unrivaled luxury and of great brilliance for the arts. He was twenty-five

at the time of Savonarola's attempt to establish a theocratic democracy,

although, from the available evidence, he took no part in it. Yet through

his family, he was closer to many of these events than many Florentine

citizens. The Machiavelli family for generations had held public office,

and his father was a jurist and a minor official. Machiavelli himself,

shortly after the execution of Savanarola, became Secretary of the Second

Chancery, which was to make him widely known among his contemporaries as

the

"Florentine Secretary."

By virtue of his position Machiavelli served the "Ten of Liberty and

Peace,"

who sent their own ambassadors to foreign powers, transacted business with

the cities of the Florentine domain, and controlled the military

establishment of Florence. During the fourteen years he held office,

Machiavelli was placed in charge of the diplomatic correspondence of his

bureau, served as Florentine representative on nearly thirty foreign

missions, and attempted to organize a citizen militia to replace the

mercenary troops.

In his diplomatic capacity, which absorbed most of his energies, he dealt

with the various principalities into which Italy was divided at the time.

His more important missions, however, gave him insight into the court of

the

King of France, where he met the mightiest minister in Europe, Cardinal d'

Amboise. On this occasion he began the observation and analysis of

national

political forces, which were to find expression in his diplomatic reports.

His Report on France was written after he completed three assignments for

his office in that country; the Report on Germany was prepared as a result

of a mission to the court of Emperor Maximilian.

The most important mission, in view of his later development as a political

writer, was that to the camp of Cesare Borgia, Duke Valentino. Under the

protection of his father, Pope Alexander VI, Cesare was engaged in

consolidating the Papal States, and Machiavelli was in attendance upon him

at the time of his greatest triumph. Machiavelli had served audiences with

Cesare and witnessed the intrigues culminating in the murder of his

disaffected captains, which he carefully described in the Method Adopted by

Duke Valentino to Murder Vitellozzo Vittli. As the "Florentine Secretary,"

he was present a few month later in Rome when the end of Cesare came to

pass

with disgrace following the death of Alexander VI.

During his diplomatic career Machiavelli enjoyed one outstanding success.

Largely through his efforts, Florence obtained the surrender of Pisa, which

had revolted from Florentine rule and maintained its independence for

years.

Although he did not achieve any other diplomatic triumphs, he was esteemed

for the excellence of his reports and is known to have had the confidence

of

the president of Florence, the Gonfalonier, Piero Soderini. But with the

restoration of the Medicis to power in 1512, Machiavelli's public career

came to an abrupt end. His attempts to prove his talents to the new rulers

were ineffectual. His appearance as a former gonfalonier man cast

significant doubt on his work and he was removed from office and exiled

from

the city for one year. He was imprisoned and tortured for allegedly being

involved in a conspiracy against the new government. His release required

the intervention of Giovanni de Medici himself, albeit after his ascension

to the papacy.

On release from his dungeon, Machiavelli with his wife and children,

retired

to a small farm not far from Florence. Dividing his time between farming

and petty dispositions, he commented that, possessing nothing but the

"knowledge of the State," he had no occasion to use it. His only remaining

link the official world was through his longtime friend, the Florentine

Ambassador to the Pope, to whom he wrote of public affairs and, strangely,

his

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