… A question arises: whether it be better to be loved than feared or feared than loved? It may be answered that one should wish to be both, but, because it is difficult to unite them in one person, it is much safer to be feared than loved, when, of the two, either must be dispensed with. Because this is to be asserted in general of men, that they are ungrateful, fickle, false, cowardly, covetous, and as long as you succeed they are yours entirely; they will offer you their blood, property, life, and children, as is said above, when the need is far distant; but when it approaches they turn against you.
Il Principe (The Prince in English) by Niccolò Machiavelli is not only the book that made Machiavelli famous, but also introduced his name as a word in the English language. Unfortunately for Machiavelli the book didn't do during his lifetime what he hoped it would.
He wrote it around 1513 CE (although it wasn't published until 1532, posthumously) and dedicated it to the head Medicis, Lorenzo di Piero de' Medici, (then ruler of Florence) in order to try to gain patronage with him. The book failed in this task.
The book isn't quite as underhand as the term would seem to imply. Although many consider it realistic he really tells people in power that they should be without scruples. He isn't interested in any moral imperative behind power (apart from in as much as this helps the powerful stay powerful), but he is very interested in the ways and means of staying in power.
This particular text is a translation by W. K. Marriott and I have left out his introduction, but left in his footnotes (although I have changed one or two a little). I have also slightly re-edited some of the text, but in essence my changes are pretty insignificant.
References in the footnotes to "Mr. Burd" and "Burd's Il Principe" should probably be taken as references to Il Principe edited by Lord Arthur Burd (Oxford Clarendon press 1891). There are also references to the "Testina edition" which is an Italian printing from 1550.
The dead trees edition I have is part of Penguin Book's Great Ideas series and is translated by George Bull. Although the language is slightly more modern I find the text on this site much easier to read and much more punchy. The footnotes are especially helpful.