« PreviousContinue »
nobility fall in time to be weak in fortune, maketh a kind of disproportion between honou and means.
As for nobility in particular persons, it is a re verend thing to see an ancient castle or building no 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 reason the memory of their virtues remain to their posterity, and their faults die with themselves. 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 motions 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 slide 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.” 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 amongst the signs of troubles. Virgil, giving the pedigree of Fame, saith she was sister to the giants :
“ Illam Terra parens, irâ irritata Deorum,
Progenuit." As if fames were the relics of seditions past; but they are no less indeed the preludes of seditions to
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. Als that kind of obedience, which Tacitus speaketh of, to be held suspected : “ Erant in officio, sed tame " qui mallent mandata imperantium interpretar
quam exequi ;” disputing, excusing, cavilling upo mandates and directions, is a kind of shaking off th yoke, and assay of disobedience ; especially if in those disputings they which are for the direction speal fearfully and tenderly, and those that are against it audaciously.
Also, as Machiavel 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 ; for the motions of the greatest persons in a government ought to be as the motions of the planets under“ primum mobile," (according to the old opinion,) which is, that every of them is carried swiftly by the highest motion, and softly in their own motion ; and, therefore, when great ones in their own particular motion move
violently, and, as Tacitus expresseth it well,“ liberius
quam ut imperantium meminissent,” it is a sign the orbs are out of frame : for reverence is that wherewith princes are girt from God, who threateneth the dissolving thereof; “ solvam cingula regum.”
; So when any of the four pillars of government are mainly shaken, or weakened (which are religion, justice, counsel, and treasure), men had need to pray for fair weather. But let us pass from this part of
predictions (concerning which, nevertheless, more ! light may be taken from that which followeth), and
let us speak first of the materials of seditions, then of the motives of them, and thirdly of the remedies.
Concerning the materials of seditions, it is a thing well to be considered; for the surest way to prevent seditions (if the times do bear it), is to take away the matter of them ; for if there be fuel prepared, it is hard to tell whence the spark shall come that shall set it on fire. The matter of seditions is of two kinds, much poverty and much discontentment. It is certain, so many overthrown estates, so many votes for troubles. Lucan noteth well the state of Rome before the civil war,
“ Hinc usura vorax, rapidumque in tempore fonus,
Hinc concussa fides, et multis utile bellum.” This same “ multis utile bellum,” is an assured and infallible sign of a state disposed to seditions and troubles; and if this poverty and broken estate in the better sort be joined with a want and necessity in the mean people, the danger is imminent and great: for the rebellions of the belly are the worst. As for discontentments, they are in the politic body like to humours in the natural, which are apt to gather a preternatural heat and to inflame; and let no prince measure the danger of them by this, whether they be just or unjust : for that were to imagine people to be too reasonable, who do often spurn at their own good; nor yet by this, whether the griefs whereupon they rise be in fact great or small; for they are the most dangerous discontentments where the fear is greater than the feeling : “ Dolendi mo
« dus, timendi non item :" besides in great oppressions, the same things that provoke the patience, do withal mate the courage; but in fears it is not so; neither let any prince, or state, be secure concerning discontentments because they have been often, or have been long, and yet no peril hath ensued: for as it is true that every vapour, or fume, doth not turn into a storm, so it is nevertheless true, that storms, though they blow over divers times, yet may fall at last; and, as the Spanish proverb noteth well, “ The “ cord breaketh at the last by the weakest pull.” The causes and motions of seditions are, innova
, tion in religion, taxes, alteration of laws and customs, breaking of privileges, general oppression, advancement of unworthy persons, strangers, dearths, disbanded soldiers, factions grown desperate; and whatsoever in offending people joineth and knitteth them in a common cause.
For the remedies, there may be some general preservatives, whereof we will speak: as for the just cure it must answer to the particular disease; and so be left to counsel rather than rule.