Page images
PDF
EPUB

satisfactory to the mind of man, and quencheth the desire of further search, before we come to a jusį period; but then if a man be to have any use of such knowledge in civil occasions, of conference, counsel, persuasion, discourse, or the like ; then shall he find it prepared to his hands in those authors which write in that manner. But the excess of this is so justly contemptible, that as Hercules, when he saw the image of Adonis, Venus's minion, in a temple, said in disdain, Nil sacri es (you are no divinity); so there is none of Hercules's followers in learning, that is, the more severe and laborious sort of inquirers into truth, but will despise those delicacies and affectations, as indeed capable of no divineness. And thus much of the first disease or distemper of learning.

(From The Advancement of Learning.)

OF THE TRUE GREATNESS OF A STATE

AND therefore we may conclude, that as largeness of territory, severed from military virtue, is but a burden ; so, that treasures and riches severed from the same is but a prey. It resteth therefore to make a reduction of this error also unto a truth by distinction and limitation, which will be in this manner :

Treasure and moneys do then add true greatness and strength to a state, when they are accompanied with these three conditions :

First, the same condition which hath been annexed to largeness of territory, that is, that they be joined with martial prowess and valour.

Secondly, That treasure doth then advance greatness, when it is rather in mediocrity than in great abundance. And again better, when some part of the state is poor, than when all parts of it are rich.

And lastly, That treasure in a state is more or less serviceable, as the hands are in which the wealth chiefly resteth.

For the first of these, it is a thing that cannot be denied, that in equality of valour the better purse is an advantage. For like as in wrestling between man and man, if there be a great overmatch in strength, it is to little purpose though one have the better breath ; but, if the strength be near equal, then he that is shortwinded will, if the wager consist of many falls, in the end have the worst; so it is in the wars, if it be a match between a valiant

people and a cowardly, the advantage of treasure will not serve ; but if they be near in valour, then the better moneyed state will be the better able to continue the war, and so in the end to prevail. But if any man think that money can make those provisions at the first encounters, that no difference of valour can countervail, let him look back but into those examples which have been brought, and he must confess that all those furnitures whatsoever are but shows and mummeries, and cannot shroud fear against resolution. For there shall he find companies armed with armour of proof taken out of the stately armouries of kings who spared no cost, overthrown by men armed by private bargain and chance as they could get it: there shall he find armies appointed with horses bred of purpose, and in choice races, chariots of war, elephants, and the like terrors, mastered by armies meanly appointed. So of towns strongly fortified, basely yielded, and the like ; all being but sheep in a lion's skin, where valour faileth.

For the second point, that competency of treasure is better than surfeit, is a matter of common place or ordinary discourse ; in regard that excess of riches, neither in public nor private, ever hath any good effects, but maketh men either slothful and effeminate, and so no enterprisers; or insolent and arrogant, and so overgreat embracers; but most generally cowardly and fearful to lose, according to the adage, “ Timidus Plutus; so as this needeth no farther speech. But a part of that assertion requireth a more deep consideration, being a matter not so familiar, but yet most assuredly true. For it is necessary in a state that shall grow and enlarge, that there be that composition which the poet speaks of, Multis utile bellum: an ill condition of a state, no question, if it be meant of a civil war, as it was spoken ; but a condition proper to a state that shall increase, if it be taken of a foreign war. there be a spur in the state, that shall excite and prick them on to wars, they will but keep their own, and seek no farther. And in all experience and stories you shall find but three things that prepare and dispose an estate to war: the ambition of governors, a state of soldiers professed, and the hard means to live of many subjects. Whereof the last is the most forcible and the most constant. And this is the true reason of that event which we observed and rehearsed before, that most of the great kingdoms of the world have sprung out of hardness and scarceness of means, as the strongest herbs out of the barrenest soils.

For the third point, concerning the placing and distributing of

For except

treasure in a state, the position is simple ; that then treasure is greatest strength to a state, when it is so disposed, as it is readiest and easiest to come by for public service and use : which one position doth infer three conclusions.

First, That there be quantity sufficient of treasure as well in the treasury of the crown or state, as in the purse of the private subject.

Secondly, That the wealth of the subject be rather in many hands than in few.

And thirdly, That it be in those hands, where there is likest to be the greatest sparing, and increase, and not in those hands, wherein there useth to be greatest expense and consumption.

For it is not the abundance of treasure in the subjects' hands that can make sudden supply of the want of a state; because reason tells us, and experience both, that private persons have least will to contribute when they have most cause ; for when there is noise or expectation of wars, then is always the deadest time for moneys, in regard every man restraineth and holdeth fast his means for his own comfort and succour, according as Solomon saith, “The riches of a man are as a stronghold in his own imagination”: and therefore we see by infinite examples, and none more memorable than that of Constantinus the last Emperor of the Greeks, and the citizens of Constantinople, that subjects do often choose rather to be frugal dispensers for their enemies, than liberal lenders to their prince. Again, wheresoever the wealth of the subject is engrossed into few hands, it is not possible it should be so respondent and yielding to payments and contributions for the public, both because the true estimation or assessment of great wealth is more obscure and uncertain ; and because the burden seemeth lighter when the charge lieth upon many hands; and farther, because the same greatness of wealth is for the most part not collected and obtained without sucking it from many, according to the received similitude of the spleen, which never swelleth but when the rest of the body pineth and abateth. And lastly, it cannot be that any wealth should leave a second overplus for the public that doth not first leave an overplus to the private stock of him that gathers it; and therefore nothing is more certain than that those states are least able to aid and defray great charge for wars, or other public disbursements, whose wealth resteth chiefly in the hands of the nobility and gentlemen. For what by reason of their magnificence and waste in expense, and what by reason of their desire to advance

and make great their own families, and again upon the coincidence of the former reason, because they are always the fewest ; small is the help, as to payments or charge, that can be levied or expected from them towards the occasions of a state. Contrary it is of such states whose wealth resteth in the hands of merchants, burghers, tradesmen, freeholders, farmers in the country, and the like, whereof we have a most evident and present example before our eyes, in our neighbours of the Low Countries, who could never have endured and continued so inestimable and insupportable charge, either by their natural frugality or by their mechanical industry, were it not also that there was a concurrence in them of this last reason, which is, that their wealth was dispersed in many hands, and not engrossed into few ; and those hands were not much of the nobility, but most and generally of inferior conditions.

(From Of the True Greatness of Britain.)

THE CHARACTER OF HENRY VII

He was of an high mind, and loved his own will and his own way; as one that revered himself and would reign indeed. Had he been a private man he would have been termed proud : but in a wise Prince, it was but keeping of distance ; which indeed he did towards all ; not admitting any near or full approach either to his power or to his secrets. For he was governed by none. His Queen (notwithstanding she had presented him with divers children; and with a crown also, though he would not acknowledge it) could do nothing with him. His mother he reverenced much, heard little. For any person agreeable to him for society (such as was Hastings to King Edward the fourth, or Charles Brandon after to King Henry the Eighth) he had none; except we should account for such persons Foxe and Bray and Empson, because they were so much with him. But it was but as the instrument is much with the workman. He had nothing in him of vain-glory, but yet kept state and majesty to the height; being sensible that majesty maketh the people bow, but vain-glory boweth to them.

To his confederates abroad he was constant and just ; but not open. But rather such was his inquiry and such his closeness, as they stood in the light towards him, and he stood in the dark to them ; yet without strangeness, but with a semblance of mutual communication of affairs. As for little envies or emulations upon

one,

foreign princes (which are frequent with many kings,) he had never any; but went substantially to his own business. Certain it is, that though his reputation was great at home, yet it was greater abroad. For foreigners that could not see the passage of affairs, but made their judgments upon the issues of them, noted that he was ever in strife and ever aloft. It grew also from the airs which the princes and states abroad received from their ambassadors and agents here ; which were attending the court in great number; whom he did not only content with courtesy, reward, and privateness; but (upon such conferences as passed with them) put them in admiration to find his universal insight into the affairs of the world ; which though he did suck chiefly from themselves, yet that which he had gathered from them all seemed admirable to every

So that they did write ever to their superiors in high terms concerning his wisdom and art of rule. Nay, when they were returned, they did commonly maintain intelligence with him ; such a dexterity he had to impropriate to himself all foreign instruments.

He was careful and liberal to obtain good intelligence from all parts abroad; wherein he did not only use his interest in the liegers here, and his pensioners which he had both in the court of Rome and other the courts of Christendom, but the industry and vigilancy of his own ambassadors in foreign parts. For which purpose his instructions were ever extreme curious and articulate ; and in them more articles touching inquisition than touching negotiation : requiring likewise from his ambassadors an answer, in particular distinct articles, respectively to his questions.

As for his secret spials which he did employ both at home and abroad, by them to discover what practices and conspiracies were against him ; surely his case required it; he had such moles perpetually working and casting to undermine him. Neither can it be reprehended; for if spials be lawful against lawful enemies, much more against conspirators and traitors. But indeed to give them credence by oaths or curses, that cannot be well maintained ; for those are too holy vestments for a disguise. Yet surely there was this further good in his employing of these flies and familiars : that as the use of them was cause that many conspiracies were revealed, so the fame and suspicion of them kept (no doubt) many conspiracies from being attempted.

Towards his Queen he was nothing uxorious ; nor scarce indulgent; but companiable and respective, and without jealousy.

« PreviousContinue »