Faulty Foundings and Failed Reformers in Machiavelli’s Florentine Histories
by John P. McCormick, University of Chicago
This essay argues against prevailing scholarly trends that the *Florentine Histories* continues to delineate the ways through which Niccolò Machiavelli, in *The Prince* and the *Discourses,* advised potential founders or reformers to exploit, for their own benefit and that of their *patria,* the inevitable social conflicts between elites and the peoples that arise in all polities. Machiavelli demonstrates that, in particular, Giano della Bella and Michele di Lando could and should have attempted to imitate exemplary ancient founders and reformers whom he praises in previous works, especially Moses, Romulus, and Brutus. Machiavelli implicitly criticizes Giano and Michele for failing to spiritedly invigorate new laws with necessary and salutary violence; for neglecting to effectively manage the “envy” of rival peers; for not resisting the allure of “middle ways” between difficult political choices; and for failing to militarily organize or mobilize the entirety of Florence’s common people.