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Every prince will want to be considered merciful, but mercy should not be mismanaged. Cesare Borgia, by being cruel, restored peace and order to the Romagna. No prince should mind being called cruel for keeping his subjects peaceful and loyal. Punishing a few, and thus averting disorder, is better than allowing troubles to develop that will hurt many. New rulers cannot avoid seeming cruel, because their states are insecure. Still, a prince should not be too rash or too fearful.
If you cannot be both loved and feared, then it is better to be feared than loved. Men are generally fickle, afraid of danger, and greedy. When a prince benefits them, they will do anything for the prince, but when trouble comes, they will desert the prince. People will break ties of love if it is to their advantage, but fear of punishment they will never transgress. A prince must be careful not to make himself hated, even though he is feared; to do this, he must keep his hands off his subjects' property and their women. People will sooner forget the death of a father than the loss of an inheritance. However, when a prince commands an army, he must be cruel in order to control his troops.
In conclusion, people love at their own wish, but fear at the prince's will, so a wise ruler will rely on what he can best control.
Machiavelli, the prince chapter 17