Machiavelli's Conception of Rulership or Qualities of a Good Ruler or Prince

In his masterpiece The Prince Machiavelli speaks of some wise,practical and also controversial qualities of a good ruler.The qualities he urges a ruler to practise are quite new ,but very effective.At first,it seems that Machiavelli is not much concerned with morality or religious values and his theory has no particular ends. In fact,Machiavelli is not motivated by any religious consideration and thus does not give emphasis on moral ends.But Machiavelli speaks of three ends,which every ruler should aim at.They are to gain power,to retain power and to extend power.

Here follows the qualities that ,according to Machiavelli,should belong to a good ruler.

Three ends

According to Machiavelli a ruler should have three ends namely to gain power,to retain power and to extend power.In order to achieve these ends,a ruler can do everything.Machiavelli wisely borrows an image from medieval animal fables and says that the ruler must be able to imitate both the lion and the fox. The bravery and strength of the lion will not be enough to enable the ruler to escape the traps set by his enemies; for that, the slyness of the fox is also needed.

Art of deception

In his advices to the rulers Machiavelli was certainly influenced by the political condition of his age.During his time Italy was a safe heaven for the corrupt politicians and the good politicians could not compete with them.So,Machiavelli urged the rulers to develop the art of deception,if they would like to succed in the game of politics.He considered the deception as an art.According to Machiavelli only the shrewdest and most crafty individuals can survive in the vulnerable art of governing.A cunning ruler can only fight back the dangers created by his opponents.

A ruler should not be religious

According to Machiavelli a ruler should not be religious. Machiavelli separates religion from politics.He does not say that a ruler should be moral,religious or kind to his subjects.On the other hand he opines that a ruler should only concentrate on his own welfare and try to achieve his ends.
A ruler must not be moral.The enemies can hatch many plots for a ruler,who is guided by moral considerations.It seems that Machiavelli is not concerned with morality in the matter of politics.

Criticism of Christianity

He sharply criticizes the christian morality and says that it makes men become feeble and weak and causes them to be the easy preys to the evil minded men.He envisions a double standard of behavior,one for the rulers and the other for the subjects.To Machiavelli it will be disastrous for a ruler if he follows Christian morality.But Machiavelli considers religion as a very important element for uniting people in peace and order.This a very cynical and pragmatic view of religion,as he is only concerned with the social usefulness of religion ,not with its moral truth.

A ruler should look virtuous

To Machiavelli, though a ruler should not be virtuous but it is necessary that he should seem to be virtuous. To the previous political writers,a prince was expected to be the embodiment of supreme human virtues.A prince is supposed to be just,magnanimous and truthful to his words and obligations.But Machiavelli objected to such demands.Sometimes cruelty,sometimes leniency,sometimes loyalty must be the right course for a ruler. A ruler should not be bound by any moral rules.As people always shift their moods,a ruler also must be swift and shrewd to adapt himself to the changed situation. A ruler,therefore, can be also faithless.But Machiavelli emphasizes on the fact that a ruler must be able to disguise his character well and be a great feigner and dissembler.

Caesar Borgia vs Savonarola

Machiavelli draws examples from the actual political rulers of Italy.He particularly talks about two political leaders namely Caesar Borgia and Savonarola. Caesar Borgia was a clever, cruel,selfish and unscrupulous ruler.But he was a successful ruler,who was able to keep control over his subjects. Savonarola,on the other hand,was a religious person and so called good ruler.The result was that he was executed.So,to Machiavelli Caesar Borgia is the ideal ruler.
It is ,therefore,according to Machiavelli the ends are important,not the means.The ruler should choose only those means which would fulfill his political ends.Moreover,Machiavelli’s political theory is scientific and is based on his own experience of affairs.