Today we shall deal with Machiavelli’s Idea that the burden of creating a new republican institutions is up to one man with absolute power.
Yes, that is right. To lay the foundations of a republic, Machiavelli says that one man must have absolute control over this process. Obviously sounds like a recipe for disaster, since absolute power corrupts absolutely. However, Machiavelli say’s that that is not always the case. He points to Romulus, who laid the institutions for a republic that continued to exist until the rise of Augustus. Yes, many were killed by him, but Machiavelli said that his ends justified the means, and his ends are good. When Rome overthrew their king and founded the republic, the only thing that was changed was having two yearly elected consuls instead of a king. The rest of the institutions, made by Romulus, was kept entirely intact. This can also be done to return a state back into a previous state. Agis, a king of Sparta, wanted to return the land back to the laws of Lycurgus, which at the time was the most virtuous republic devised in ancient times. However, he tried working with the other Spartans and was killed by them for trying to reform the current system. However, another spartan, Cleomenes, found his writings and was inspired to the the same thing, but learning from a dead man’s mistake, he decided he needed to gain sole power. So he prevented those who would stop him in the typical fashion, and succeeded in renewing the laws of Lycurgus. However, He did not get to bear fruit from his actions, because the Macedonians conquered Greece not much later.
Some of you will try and answer that these states weren’t the most just, due to slavery and lack of women rights, etc. That is true, but that society was what they had planned on making, and succeeded at making it. So by replacing our ends and keeping their means, we to can succeed in making the socialist republic.
However, how can we be sure that this one man will stay true to his ends? With all the power, what prevents them from being corrupted? Nothing, which is uncomforting for me as well. However, States and rulers that are corrupt tend to face many problems, and rely on protection from walls and guards, similar to the reigns of notable bad roman emperors. On the contrary, the Good emperors had very good reigns, and relied only on goodwill as their protection, which surprisingly is more effective that any amount of guards and walls. Corrupt regimes will fall, while good ones prosper, it is simply a matter of finding one who has learned from the Good and avoided the mistakes of the bad, and stay true to your ends which benefit all, and not the few.
In conclusion, the institutions of the Republic must be made by a single man, and the system must be one in which after they are made, no longer requires a single man to rule. Men who turn on their virtuous ends and create a tyranny where only a few enjoy the power, wealth, and fortune of the nation will see their regime fall. Whereas those who stay true to their virtuous ends, and allow the people to enjoy the power, wealth, and fortune of the nation will see his nation prosper.