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3 - The natural desire of states

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  22 September 2009

Mikael Hörnqvist
Affiliation:
Uppsala Universitet, Sweden
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Summary

È cosa veramente molto naturale e ordinaria desiderare di acquistare: e sempre, quando li uomini lo fanno, che possano, saranno laudati o non biasimati …

Niccolò Machiavelli

In his essay, “Of the True Greatnesse of Kingdomes and Estates,” Francis Bacon comments on the necessity of surrounding wars of conquest with a frame of legitimacy. Even though territorial expansion is a natural objective for states, he argues, military aggression needs to be justified, because “there is that Justice imprinted, in the Nature of Men, that they enter not upon Wars (whereof so many Calamities doe ensue) but upon some, at least Specious, Grounds and Quarrels.” To overcome the human disposition to shun war and violence, states that desire to grow and make acquisitions should equip themselves with “those Lawes or Customes, which may reach forth unto them, just Occasions (as may be pretended) of Warre.” They should, in other words, order themselves internally so that their statutes and conventions may provide the legitimating grounds that natural law refuses to supply. The ancient Romans, who well understood this necessity, never waged wars merely for the sake of extending their territory, or for the honor of their consuls, but took care to fashion themselves as the defenders of justice and liberty. They developed a great sensitivity to “Wrongs, either upon Borderers, Merchants, or Politique Ministers,” and a remarkable swiftness in giving “Aids and Succours, to their Confederates.”

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Machiavelli and Empire , pp. 76 - 112
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2004

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