January 30, 2011
Original text written in the 1520’s.
Translated by Alison Brown.
I have often wondered on the fact that this word ‘liberty’ is frequently used more as a disguise and an excuse by those who want to conceal their cupidity and ambition than because men in fact have a natural desire for it. I am talking of the liberty we think about in governing a city, not the liberty that concerns individuals, that is, whether a man is free or enslaved. It seems to me, unless I’m mistaken, that men have a natural desire to dominate and be superior to others; there are normally very few people who love liberty so much that if they had a chance to make themselves lords or superior to others they would not do so willingly. […] But men often let themselves be so deceived by names that they do not recognise the things themselves; and so,when the name of liberty is repeatedly invoked in civil conflicts, most people are blinded by it an do not realise that the objective is different.
Those who enjoy leading positions in the city do not primarily seek liberty as their objective as much as increase of power and making themselves as superior and outstanding as possible. As long as possible, they strive to conceal their ambition with this pleasing title of liberty. This is because those in a city who fear being oppressed far outnumber those who hope to oppress, so the person who seems to be assuming the patronage of equality has far more supporters than someone who openly goes for superiority. Nevertheless, if successful, the outcome reveals the designs of such men, since it is through this deception that they generally use the multitude to make themselves great. […] On the other hand, the people desire and choose liberty as their objective. This is because the position of the majority is such that they fear being oppressed or enjoying a reduced share of the honorary and the salaried offices in the republic, so that the first thing they must concentrate on is equality[.]