During a Democratic primary debate on Jan. 31, 2008, Barack Obama promised how he would act to bring about health-care reform:
“That’s what I will do in bringing all parties together, not negotiating behind closed doors, but bringing all parties together, and broadcasting those negotiations on C-SPAN so that the American people can see what the choices are.”
Speaker Nancy Pelosi promised that this Democratic Congress would be: “The most honest, the most open and the most ethical Congress in history.”
As Americans are perplexed at the total disregard for these promises, it may be insightful to read from a popular political handbook, titled “The Prince” (1515), written by Niccolo Machiavelli (1469-1527):
A prince never lacks legitimate reasons to break his promise.
A wise ruler ought never to keep faith when by doing so it would be against his interests.
The promise given was a necessity of the past: the word broken is a necessity of the present.
Men are so simple and so much inclined to obey immediate needs that a deceiver will never lack victims for his deceptions.
Men are so simple and yield so readily to the desires of the moment that he who will trick will always find another who will suffer to be tricked.
One who deceives will always find those who allow themselves to be deceived.
No enterprise is more likely to succeed than one concealed from the enemy until it is ripe for execution.
It is double pleasure to deceive the deceiver.
Whosoever desires constant success must change his conduct with the times.
Politics have no relation to morals.
The new ruler must determine all the injuries that he will need to inflict. He must inflict them once and for all.
If an injury has to be done to a man it should be so severe that his vengeance need not be feared.
Men ought either to be indulged or utterly destroyed, for if you merely offend them they take vengeance, but if you injure them greatly they are unable to retaliate, so that the injury done to a man ought to be such that vengeance cannot be feared.
Men should be either treated generously or destroyed, because they take revenge for slight injuries – for heavy ones they cannot.
Severities should be dealt out all at once, so that their suddenness may give less offense; benefits ought to be handed ought drop by drop, so that they may be relished the more.
Whoever conquers a free town and does not demolish it commits a great error and may expect to be ruined himself.
Men shrink less from offending one who inspires love than one who inspires fear.
Since it is difficult to join them together, it is safer to be feared than to be loved when one of the two must be lacking.
It is better to be feared than loved, if you cannot be both.
It is much more secure to be feared than to be loved.
One change always leaves the way open for the establishment of others.
I’m not interested in preserving the status quo; I want to overthrow it.
What a difference Machiavelli’s advice is as compared to the Founding Fathers of America, such as John Adams, who wrote in 1798:
“Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”
William Penn wrote in the Preface to his Frame of Government for Pennsylvania, May 5, 1682:
“Governments, like clocks, go from the motion men give them; and as governments are made and moved by men, so by them they are ruined too. Wherefore governments rather depend upon men, than men upon governments. … That, therefore, which makes a good constitution, must keep it, ie: men of wisdom and virtue.”
On April 30, 1776, Samuel Adams wrote to John Scollay of Boston:
“Righteousness exalteth a nation. Communities are dealt with in this world by the wise and just Ruler of the Universe. He rewards or punishes them according to their general character. The diminution of public virtue is usually attended with that of public happiness, and the public liberty will not long survive the total extinction of morals. ‘The Roman Empire,’ says the historian, ‘must have sunk, though the Goths had not invaded it. Why? Because the Roman virtue was sunk.'”
William J. Federer is author of “Endangered Speeches: How the ACLU, IRS & LBJ Threaten Extinction of Free Speech” and “America’s God and Country Encyclopedia of Quotations.”