Written around 1513, Niccolò Machiavelli’s The Prince is arguably one of the most famous treatises on politics in history. Dedicated to Lorenzo de ’Medici, ruler of Florence at the time, The Prince was not published until five years after Machiavelli’s death in 1532. It contains Machiavelli’s well-known analysis of politics: all politics is characteristically defined as the struggle of acquiring and maintaining power. Within his analysis, Machiavelli (1513) writes “One who adapts his policy to the times prospers” (p. 99). This paper will argue that the framework of Machiavelli’s political analysis — adapting policies to the times leads to prosperity which leads to gaining and maintaining power — is reflected through key American presidents during the Civil Rights Movement. Both President John F. Kennedy and his successor, President Lyndon B. Johnson, adapted their political policies to ensure their own prosperity during the peak of the Civil Rights Movement when American society was in the process of shifting from an era of racial discrimination to an era of racial equality.
The meaning of “One who adapts his policy to the times prospers”, though seemingly self-evident, is actually part of a broader discussion regarding the concept of fortune. The word “fortune” as it was used by Machiavelli, coincides with the contemporary notion of luck or chance. Machiavelli compares fortune to a raging torrent that destroys everything in its path if not controlled by dikes and dams prepared by the virtue of the governing body. For Machiavelli, virtue, otherwise known as cunningness or preparations, must be exercised over fortune in order to combat it and be prosperous. During the period in which Machiavelli wrote The Prince, many believed ...
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...estport, CT: Praegar Publishers.
United States Senate. United States Senate, Committee on the Judiciary. (2013). The civil rights act of 1964. Retrieved from website: http://www.judiciary.senate.gov/about/history/CivilRightsAct.cfm
United States House of Representatives. United States House of Representatives, History, Art & Archives. (2008). The civil rights movement and the second reconstruction, 1945—1968. Retrieved from U.S. Government Printing Office website: http://history.house.gov/Exhibitions-and-Publications/BAIC/Historical-Essays/Keeping-the-Faith/Civil-Rights-Movement/
Walker, S. (2012). Presidents and civil liberties from wilson to obama: A story of poor custodians. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.
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