The national state in Western Europe was a new institution, without precedent in the European World. Its rise and almost immediate conflict with the Church challenged political theorists to reexamine the assumptions of a universal church in a universal empire upon which the theory of the two swords was based. These assumptions were so generally accepted that they were not easily abandoned. In the fourteenth century Marsiglia of Padua, for all his disinterest in the two swords, had arrived at his conclusions without denying either the existence of a universal church or the validity of the traditional morality. Other writers who defended the concentration of authority in royal hands sometimes stressed the power accorded the prince in Roman law or appealed to the need for a firm hand in maintaining peace and order in the state. But these writers remained firmly committed to an ideal of justice in political relationship which had its origin in Greek, Roman, and Christian sources. It remained for a figure of the Italian Renaissance, Niccolo Machiavelli (1469-1527), to make the decisive break with the past, which indeed Marsiglia had foreshadowed, an divorce politics from morality. [excerpt]
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Bloom, Robert L. et al. "10. The Political Thought of Machiavelli. Pt. V: The Rise of Capitalism and the National State to 1500." Ideas and Institutions of Western Man (Gettysburg College, 1958), 50-63.