Machiavelli’s Present of Wine

Sunday, March 7th, 2010

I had not heard the story of Machiavelli’s present of wine:

There is a law observable in the life of nations, that the great crimes committed by them, though they may seem for a time to be very pleasant and profitable, recoil at last upon the heads of their authors, and become their own punishment; their plunder acting in a way somewhat similar to that in which Machiavelli’s present of wine acted on his butcher.

Machiavelli’s servant complained to him one day that his butcher had been very insolent, adding that he had not confined his abusive language to him (the servant), but had also spoken very disrespectfully of his master. Machiavelli made no remark, but ordered the servant to look out half a dozen of the best and choicest wine in his cellar, to take it to the butcher, and beg his acceptance of it as a small present from his master. The servant was surprised, but did as he was ordered.

A short time after, he came and informed Machiavelli that the butcher had been stabbed and killed on the spot by a man whom he had insulted. Machiavelli smiled, and said: ” You see that present of mine acted like poison upon him. Instead of repressing his violent temper, and correcting his ill manners, as he might have done if I had resented his insolence at the time, he has gone on from bad to worse, till he has at last met with the proper punishment.”

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