How Does King Leopold Ii of Belgium Relate to the Teachings of Machiavelli?

Topics: Belgium, Niccolò Machiavelli, Congo Free State Pages: 2 (596 words) Published: November 6, 2008
Throughout his reign as the King of the Belgians, Leopold II both followed and went against some of the ideas Niccolo Machiavelli lists in “The Prince”. One of the first things Leopold II did when he came into power in 1865 was pulling Belgium into neutrality in Europe due to recent shifts in the European balance of power. This goes against what Niccolo Machiavelli says in “The Prince” about what a prince must do to be esteemed. “A prince can also win prestige by declaring himself an ally of one side of a conflict. Neutrality alienates both the victor and the loser” (Machiavelli). He tells us in this quote that a prince should choose a side when making allies instead of staying neutral. He claims that the victor will see the nation as a “doubtful friend” while the loser will see them as a coward. Since Belgium was seen as a powerless country in Europe at the time, it probably would have been wise of him to choose a side with either France or Germany since they bordered Belgium and could have taken over at any time. In an instance where Leopold II did follow Machiavelli’s ideas, he lied in the Brussel’s Conference in 1876 by saying that by expanding into the Congo Free State, he was only “promoting scientific exploration of Africa for the advancement of knowledge and for the economic benefit of all humanity” (Blumberg, 161). Machiavelli states that “a prince who honors his word is generally praised by others”, but at the same time, he should be a master of deception by learning “how to fight both with laws and with force” (Machiavelli). Therefore, the best of all princes is one that keeps his promises, but knows when it’s the right time to lie. In this case, Leopold lied at the conference so that he could receive the Congo for his own benefit. Since Belgium was a Constitutional Monarchy in which the king had very little power over domestic affairs, he really didn't do much that would have affected the lives of his people directly. Therefore, by getting the Congo...
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