When possible, a prince should strive to rise to power on his own merits and with his own arms. Relying on friends, good luck, or other people’s arms may make the rise easier, but holding onto his newfound power will prove a difficult task. Machiavelli devotes almost an entire chapter to Cesare Borgia , who rose to prominence largely through connections and his father’s help, but was crafty enough to carve out his own niche – though he wound up failing in the end. Princes who rise to the throne through crime are another matter altogether: Machiavelli condemns them as wicked, and yet his words betray his admiration for their cleverness. Cruelty, when well-used, can be justified.
The attempt to rectify the perceived deficiencies of the Philosophic Radicals through engagement with other styles of thought began with Mill’s editing of a new journal, the London Review , founded by the two Mills and Charles Molesworth. Molesworth quickly bought out the old Westminster Review in 1834, to leave the new London and Westminster Review as the unopposed voice of the radicals. With James Mill’s death in 1836 and Bentham’s 1832 demise, Mill had more intellectual freedom. He used that freedom to forge a new “philosophic radicalism” that incorporated the insights of thinkers like Coleridge and Thomas Carlyle. ( Collected Works [ CW ], ). One of his principal goals was “to shew that there was a Radical philosophy, better and more complete than Bentham’s, while recognizing and incorporating all of Bentham’s which is permanently valuable.” ( CW , ).
Moral justifications for violence make so little sense as ruses that we have to assume they’re at least somewhat sincere. That’s an uncomfortable thought. If we accept that dangerous people might be motivated by genuine moral beliefs, we confront a troublingly subjective dimension to morality as such. At the very least, we must face the possibility that one can be sincerely wrong about it. And once you go that far, it’s a short leap to thinking maybe we’re the ones who are wrong, or that there’s nothing to be right about in the first place.