Of all Machiavelli's works, The Prince is undoubtedly the greatest; and a new English edition of it is likely to be welcome to all those who have not the advantage of reading it in the classical Italian original.
For a true appreciation of Machiavelli, impossible in a brief Preface, I must refer the English reader to Macaulay's Essay on the Italian historian and statesman. In it he will see how our Author's ideas and work were wrongfully and willfully misinterpreted by the very men who, while profiting by his wisdom, have with great ingratitude criticized the statesman and defamed his name, as that of the inventor of the worst political system ever imagined.
Yet, as his whole life was an indefatigable and unremitting endeavor to secure for his native Florence a good and popular government, and as he lost his great office of Secretary to the Florentine Republic on account of his avowed liberal opinions, it is not only unjust but ridiculous to accuse him of helping tyrants to enslave the people.
What he did was to show in the most deliberate and in the plainest way the arts by which free peoples were made slaves; and, had his words of advice been always heeded, no tyrant in Italy or elsewhere could have been successful in his policy.
That he was not listened to, and his advice scorned and spurned, was not Machiavelli's fault.