It was a busy time of action with the duke at Imola, and yet, amid all the occupation which this equipment of a new army must have given him, he still found time for diplomatic measures, and, taking advantage of the expressed friendliness of Florence, he had replied by desiring the Signory to send an envoy to confer with him. Florence responded by sending, as her representative, that same Niccolo Macchiavelli who had earlier accompanied Soderini on a similar mission to Valentinois, and who had meanwhile been advanced to the dignity of Secretary of State.
Macchiavelli has left us, in his dispatches to his Government, the most precious and valuable information concerning that period of Cesare Borgia's history during which he was with the duke on the business of his legation. Not only is it the rare evidence of an eye witness that Macchiavelli affords us, but the evidence, as we have said, of one endowed with singular acumen and an extraordinary gift of psychological analysis. The one clear and certain inference to be drawn, not only from those dispatches, but from the Florentine secretary's later writings, is that, at close quarters with Cesare Borgia, a critical witness of his methods, he conceived for him a transcending admiration which was later to find its fullest expression in his immortal book The Prince a book, remember, compiled to serve as a guide in government to Giuliano de' Medici, the feeble brother of Pope Leo X, a book inspired by Cesare Borgia, who is the model prince held up by Macchiavelli for emulation.
Does it serve any purpose, in the face of this work from the pen of the acknowledged inventor of statecraft, to describe Cesare's conquest of the Romagna by opprobrious epithets and sweeping statements of condemnation and censure statements kept carefully general, and never permitted to enter into detail which must destroy their own ends and expose their falsehood ?
Gregorovius, in this connection, is as full of contradictions as any man must be who does not sift out the truth and rigidly follow it in his writings. Consider the following scrupulously translated extracts from his Geschichte der Stadt Rom :
(a) " Cesare departed from Rome to resume his bloody work in the Romagna."
(b) "... the frightful deeds performed by Cesare on both sides of the Apennines. He assumes the semblance of an exterminating angel, and performs such hellish iniquities that we can only shudder at the contemplation of the evil of which human nature is capable."
And now, pray, consider and compare with those the following excerpt from the very next page of that same monumental work :
" Before him [Cesare] cities trembled ; the magistrates prostrated themselves in the dust; sycophantic courtiers praised him to the stars. Yet it is undeniable that his government was energetic and good ; for the first time Romagna enjoyed peace and was rid of her vampires. In the name of Cesare justice was administered by Antonio di Monte Sansovino, President of the Ruota of Cesena, a man universally beloved"
It is almost as if the truth had slipped out unawares, for the first period hardly seems a logical prelude to the second, by which it is largely contradicted. If Cesare's government was so good that Romagna knew peace at last and was rid of her vampires, why did cities tremble before him ? There is, by the way, no evidence of such trepidations in any of the chronicles of the conquered States, one and all of which hail Cesare as their deliverer. Why, if he was held in such terror, did city after city as we have seen spontaneously offer itself to Cesare's dominion ?
But to rebut those statements of Gregorovius's there is scarce the need to pose these questions; sufficiently does Gregorovius himself rebut them. The men who praised Cesare, the historian tells us, were sycophantic courtiers. But where is the wonder of his being praised if his government was as good as Gregorovius admits it to have been ? What was unnatural in that praise ? What so untruthful as to deserve to be branded sycophantic ? And by what right is an historian to reject as sycophants the writers who praise a man, whilst accepting every word of his detractors as the words of inspired evangelists, even when their falsehoods are so transparent as to provoke the derision of the thoughtful and analytic ?
As l'Espinois points out in his masterly essay in the Revue des Questions Historiques, Gregorovius refuses to recognize in Cesare Borgia the Messiah of a united Central Italy, but considers him merely as a high flying adventurer ; whilst Villari, in his Life and Times of Macchiavelli, tells you bluntly that Cesare Borgia was neither a statesman nor a soldier but a brigand chief.
These are mere words; and to utter words is easier than to make them good.
" High flying adventurer," or " brigand chief," by all means, if it please you. What but a highflying adventurer was the wood cutter, Muzio At tendolo, founder of the ducal House of Sforza ? What but a high flying adventurer was that Count Henry of Burgundy who founded the kingdom of Portugal ? What else was the Norman bastard William, who conquered England ? What else the artillery officer, Napoleon Bonaparte, who became Emperor of the French ? What else was the founder of any dynasty but a high flying adventurer or a brigand chief, if the melodramatic term is more captivating to your fancy ?
These terms are used to belittle Cesare. They achieve no more, however, than to belittle those who penned them ; for, even as they are true, the marvel is that the admirable matter in these truths appears to have escaped those authors.
What else Gregorovius opines that Cesare was no Messiah of United Italy is true enough. Cesare was the Messiah of Cesare. The well being of Italy for its own sake exercised his mind not so much as the well being of the horse he rode. He wrought for his own aggrandisement but he wrought wisely; and, whilst the end in view is no more to be censured than the ambition of any man, the means employed are in the highest degree to be commended, since the well being of the Romagna, which was not an aim, was, nevertheless, an essential and praiseworthy incident.