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XIV. OF NOBILITY.
XWE will speak of Nobility first as a portion of an estate; then as a condition of particular persons. A monarchy where there is no nobility at all, is ever a pure and absolute tyranny; as that of the Turks. For nobility attempers sovereignty, and draws the eyes of the people somewhat aside from the line royal. But for democracies, they need it not; and they are commonly more quiet and less subject to sedition, than where there are stirps2 of nobles. For men's eyes are upon the business, and not upon the persons; or if upon the persons, it is for the business sake, as fittest, and not for flags and pedigree. We see the Switzers last well, notwithstanding their diversity of religion and of cantons. For utility is their bond, and not respects.3 The united provinces of the Low Countries in their government excel; for where there is an equality, the consultations are more indifferent, and the payments and tributes more cheerful. A great and potent nobility addeth majesty to a monarch, but diminisheth power; and putteth life and spirit into the people, but presseth their fortune. It is well when nobles are not too great for sovereignty nor for justice; and yet maintained in that height, as the insolency of inferiors may be broken upon them before it come on
too fast upon the majesty of kings. A numerous nobility causeth poverty and inconvenience in a state; for it is a surcharge1 of expense; and besides, it being of necessity that many of the nobility fall in time to be weak in fortune, it maketh a kind of disproportion between honour and means.
As for nobility in particular persons; it is a reverend thing to see an ancient castle or building not in decay; or to see a fair timber tree sound and perfect. How much more to behold an ancient noble family, which hath stood against the waves and weathers of time. For new nobility is but the act of power, but ancient nobility is the act of time. Those that are first raised to nobility are commonly more virtuous, but less innocent, than their descendants; for there is rarely any rising but by a commixture of good and evil arts. But it is reason2 the memory of their virtues remain to their posterity, and their faults die with themselves.3. Nobility of birth commonly abateth industry; and he that is not industrious, envieth him that is. Besides, noble persons cannot go much higher: and he that standeth at a stay when others rise, can hardly avoid
An extra charge.
A matter agreeable to reason; the idiom is from the old French, il est raison, c'est (bien) raison.
3 Compare the turn of this thought as twice expressed by Shakspere.
"The evil that men do lives after them;
Shakspere. Julius Caesar. iii. 2.
"Men's evil manners live in brass; their virtues
Shakspere. King Henry VIII. iv. 2.
•Stay. Standstill; at a stay, that is, at a standstill.
motions1 of envy. On the other side, nobility extinguisheth the passive envy from others towards them; because they are in possession of honour. Certainly, kings that have able men of their nobility shall find ease in employing them, and a better slide2 into their business; for people naturally bend to them, as born in some sort to command.
XV. OF SEDITIONS AND TROUBLES.
SHEPHERDS of people had need know the calendars of tempests in state; which are commonly greatest, when things grow to equality; as natural tempests are greatest about the Equinoctia. And as there are certain hollow blasts of wind and secret swellings of seas before a tempest, so are there in states:
-Ille etiam cæcos instare tumultus
Sæpe monet, fraudesque et operta tumescere bella.4
Libels and licentious discourses against the state, when they are frequent and open; and in like sort, false news often running up and down to the disadvantage of the state, and hastily embraced; are
1 Motions. Natural impulses, especially of the mind or soul. "For when we were in the flesh, the motions of sins, which were by the law, did work in our members, to bring forth fruit unto death." Romans vii. 5.
2 Slide. Smooth and easy passage.
3 Equinoctia. Equinoxes.
He even often warns that secret tumults are impending, and that treason and open wars are ready to burst forth. Vergil. Georgicon Liber I. 464-465.
amongst the signs of troubles. Virgil1 giving the pedigree of Fame, saith she was sister to the Giants:
Illam Terra parens, irâ irritata Deorum,
Extremam (ut perhibent) Cœo Enceladoque sororem
As if fames3 were the relics of seditions past; but they are no less indeed the preludes of seditions to come. Howsoever he noteth it right, that seditious tumults and seditious fames differ no more but as brother and sister, masculine and feminine; especially if it come to that, that the best actions of a state, and the most plausible, and which ought to give greatest contentment, are taken in ill sense, and traduced: for that shews the envy great, as Tacitus saith, conflata magna invidia, seu bene seu male gesta premunt. Neither doth it follow, that because these fames are a sign of troubles, that the suppressing of them with too much severity should be a remedy of troubles. For the despising of them many times checks them best; and the going about to stop them doth but make a wonder long-lived. Also
1 Publius Vergilius Maro, 70-19 B.C., a famous Roman epic, didactic, and idyllic poet. He wrote the Aeneid, ten Bucolics or Eclogues, and four Georgics.
2 Irritated by the vengeance of the gods, teeming Earth, as they relate, brought her forth last, sister to Coeus and Enceladus. Vergil. Aeneidos Liber IV. 178–180. Bacon also quotes this passage from the Aeneid in the Advancement of Learning, II. iv. 4. Compare also in the Wisdom of the Ancients, The Sister of the Giants; or Fame.
3 Fame. Rumor; report. "And the fame thereof was heard in Pharaoh's house, saying, Joseph's brethren are come: and it pleased Pharaoh well, and his servants." Genesis xlv. 16.
When great unpopularity is excited, they condemn acts, both good and bad. Tacitus. Historiarum Liber I. 7. Bacon quotes the sense, not the exact language.
"So in original. One of the thats should of course be omitted. S.
that kind of obedience which Tacitus speaketh of is to be held suspected: Erant in officio, sed tamen qui mallent mandata imperantium interpretari quam exequi; disputing, excusing, cavilling upon mandates and directions, is a kind of shaking off the yoke, and assay2 of disobedience; especially if in those disputings they which are for the direction speak fearfully and tenderly, and those that are against it audaciously.
Also, as Machiavel3 noteth well, when princes, that ought to be common parents, make themselves as a party, and lean to a side, it is as a boat that is overthrown by uneven weight on the one side ;* as was well seen in the time of Henry the Third of France; for first himself entered league for the extirpation of the Protestants; and presently after the same league was turned upon himself. For when the authority of princes is made but an accessary to a cause, and that there be other bands that tie faster than the band of sovereignty, kings begin to be put almost out of possession.
Also, when discords, and quarrels, and factions, are carried openly and audaciously, it is a sign the reverence of government is lost. X For the motions XI of the greatest persons in a government ought to be as the motions of the planets under primum
1They were in office, but chose rather to interpret the commands of their rulers than to execute them. Tacitus. Historiarum Liber I. 7. (Sense quoted again, not the language.)
2 Assay. Trial.
3 The Italian translation omits the name of Machiavel, and says only un scrittore.
* Discorsi sopra La Prima Deca di T. Livio. III. 27.
5 Henry III., of Valois, 1551-1589, King of France, 15741589.