Anti-Machiavel, 1740

Anti-Machiavel, 1740

Frederick’s refutation of Machiavelli’s treatise Il Principe (1532) sets out an ideal of benevolent statesmanship based on rational principles. It was prompted by Frederick’s disagreement with Voltaire’s presentation of the Florentine civil servant as a great man of his time, in a draft of his Siècle de Louis XIV sent to Frederick in 1738. Critical commentary on contemporary political issues made the treatise diplomatically sensitive when Frederick became King in the course of the publication process overseen by Voltaire in The Hague. While attempts to prevent publication of an unauthorised version with the title Examen du Prince de Machiavel, avec des notes proved unsuccessful, the edition exhibited here – authorised by Voltaire – reflects the changes necessitated by political expediency.

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