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Machiavelli: Prince of Politicians?
Part 1: The Father of Modern Political Theory
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With a battery of lawyers, campaign workers, party officials, and spinmeisters all desperately trying to get their candidate officially declared victor in the U.S. presidential election this fall, there is resource that has yet to be called on. Maybe it's time Vice President Al Gore and Gov. George W. Bush brushed up on their Italian lessons and dusted off their copy of Nicolò Machiavelli's Il Principe, the definitive manual of modern politics written by the Italian Renaissance political philosopher almost 500 years ago.

Florentine Republic(an)
To Machiavelli, a writer and statesman, Florentine patriot, and original political theorist, all the chatter about chads would be nothing more than the whisper of a butterfly's wings. Born in Florence, Italy, in 1469, little is known of his early years, but he might have been involved in overthrowing the government of Girolamo Savonarola in 1498. He was then appointed head of the new government's Second Chancery, and secretary of an agency concerned with warfare and diplomacy (1498-1512). During there years he traveled on several missions in Europe for the Republic of Florence and helped to set up a standing army, which reconquered Pisa in 1509.

As a thinker Machiavelli belonged to an entire school of Florentine intellectuals concerned with an examination of political and historical problems. His important writing, however, were composed after 1512 when he was accused of of conspiracy in 1513. The Medici family had returned to power and had ended a year before the Second Florentine Republic. Lorenzo de' Medici, duke of Urbino, fired Machiavelli, the Secretary to the Second Chancery of the Signoria. He was suspected of plotting against the Medici, jailed and exiled to Sant'Andrea in Percussina. Machiavelli found himself out of job after 14 years of patriotic service, and spent most of his remaining years on a small estate producing his major writings.

In 1519 Machiavelli partly reconciled with the Medici and he was given various duties, including writing a history of Florence. When the Medici was deposed in 1527 Machiavelli hoped for a new government post. However, now he was distrusted by the republican government for previous association with the Medici.

Machiavelli died in Florence on June 21, 1527. His political writings became more widely known in the second half of the 16th century. Ultimately considered dangerous, in 1564 they were placed on the Church Index of officially banned books.

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