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And on the other side, counsellors should not be too speculative into their sovereign's person. The true composition of a counsellor is, rather to be skilful in their master's business than in his nature ; 1 for then he is like to advise him, and not to feed his humor. It is of singular use to princes, if they take the opinions of their council both separately and together; for private opinion is more free, but opinion before others is more reverend. In private, men are more bold in their own humors; and in consort, men are more obnoxious 2 to others' humors; therefore it is good to take both; and of the inferior sort rather in private, to preserve freedom ; of the greater, rather in consort, to preserve respect. It is in vain for princes to take counsel concerning matters, if they take no counsel likewise concerning persons; for all matters are as dead images ; and the life of the execution of affairs resteth in the good choice of persons. Neither is it enough to consult concerning persons, “ secundum genera," 8 as in an idea or mathematical description, what the kind and character of the person should be; for the greatest errors are committed, and the most judgment is shown, in the choice of individuals. It was truly said, “ Optimi consiliarii mortui :" 4 "books will speak plain when counsellors blanch ;” 5 therefore it is good to be
1 In his disposition, or inclination. 2 Liable to opposition from
8" According to classes,” or, as we vulgarly say, “ in the lump.” Lord Bacon means that princes are not, as a matter of course, to take counsellors merely on the presumption of talent, from their rank and station; but that, on the contrary, they are to select such as are tried men, and with regard to whom there can be no mistake.
4 “ The best counsellors are the dead.” 8" Are afraid” to open their mouths.
conversant in them, specially the books of such as themselves have been actors upon the stage.
The councils at this day in most places are but familiar meetings, where matters are rather talked on than debated; and they run too swift to the order or act of council. It were better that in causes of weight, the matter were propounded one day and not spoken to till the next day ; “In nocte consilium ;” so was it done in the commission of union 2 between England and Scotland, which was a grave and orderly assembly. I commend set days for petitions; for both it gives the suitors more certainty for their attendance, and it frees the meetings for matters of estate, that they may “ hoc agere.” 8 In choice of committees for ripening business for the council, it is better to choose indifferent persons, than to make an indifferency by putting in those that are strong on both sides. I commend, also, standing commissions; as for trade, for treasure, for war, for suits, for some provinces ; for where there be divers particular councils, and but one council of estate, (as it is in Spain,) they are in effect no more than standing commissions, save that they have greater authority. Let such as are to inform councils out of their particular professions, (as lawyers, seamen, mintmen, and the like,) be first heard before committees ; and then, as occasion serves, before the council; and let them not come in multitudes, or in a tribunitious 4 manner; for that is to clamor councils, not to inform
1“ Night-time for counsel.” — Łv VUKTÈ Bovan. Gaisf. Par. Gr. B. 359.
2 On the accession of James the Sixth of Scotland to the throne of England in 1603.
8 A phrase much in use with the Romans, signifying, “to attend to the business in hand.”
4 A tribunitial or declamatory manner.
them. A long table and a square table, or seats about the walls, seem things of form, but are things of substance; for at a long table a few at the upper end, in effect, sway all the business; but in the other form there is more use of the counsellors' opinions that sit lower. A king, when he presides in council, let him beware how he opens his own inclination too much in that which he propoundeth ; for else counsellors will but take the wind of him, and, instead of giving free counsel, will sing him a song of placebo.” 1
XXI.-OF DELAYS. Fortune is like the market, where, many times, if you can stay a little, the price will fall; and again, it is sometimes like Sibylla's offer,2 which at first offereth the commodity at full, then consum
1 “I'll follow the bent of your humor.”
2 The Sibyl alluded to here is the Cumæan, the most celebrated, who offered the Sibylline Books for sale to Tarquin the Proud.
“ At this time, an unknown woman appeared at court, loaded with nine volumes, which she offered to sell, but at a very considerable price. Tarquin refusing to give it, she withdrew and burnt three of the nine. Some time after she returned to court, and demanded the same price for the remaining six. This made her looked upon as a mad woman, and she was driven away with scorn. Nevertheless, having burnt the half of what were left, she came a third time, and demanded for the remaining three, the same price which she had asked for the whole nine. The novelty of such a proceeding, made Tarquin curious to have the books examined. They were put, therefore, into the Minds of the augurs, who, finding them to be the oracles of the Sibyl of Cumæ, declared them to be an invaluable treasure. Upon this the woman was paid the sum she demanded, and she soon after disappeared, having first exhorted the Romans to preserve her books with care.” — Hooke's Roman History.
eth part and part, and still holdeth up the price ; for occasion (as it is in the common verse) “turneth a bald noddle, after she hath presented her locks in front, and no hold taken ; ” or, at least, turneth the handle of the bottle first to be received, and after the belly, which is hard to clasp. There is surely no greater wisdom than well to time the beginnings and onsets of things. Dangers are no more light, if they once seem light; and more dangers have deceived men than forced them; nay, it were better to meet some dangers half-way, though they come nothing near, than to keep too long a watch upon their approaches ; for if a man watch too long, it is odds he will fall asleep. On the other side, to be deceived with too long shadows, (as some have been when the moon was low, and shone on their enemies' back,) and so to shoot off before the time; or to teach dangers to come on by over early buckling towards them, is another extreme. The ripeness or unripeness of the occasion (as we said) must ever be well weighed; and generally it is good to commit the beginnings of all great actions to Argus with his hundred eyes, and the ends to Briareus with his hundred hands, first to watch and then to speed ; for the helmet of Pluto, which maketh the politic man go invisible, is secrecy in the council, and celerity in the execution ; for when things are once come to the execution, there is no secrecy comparable to celerity ; like the motion of a bullet in the air, which flieth so swift as it outruns the eye.
1 Bald head. He alludes to the common saying: “Take time by the forelock." 2 Phæd. viii.
8 Hom. II. v. 845.
XXII.-OF CUNNING. We take cunning for a sinister, or crooked wisdom; and certainly, there is great difference between a cunning man and a wise man, not only in point of honesty, but in point of ability. There be that can pack the cards, and yet cannot play well; so there are some that are good in canvasses and factions, that are otherwise weak men. Again, it is one thing to understand persons, and another thing to understand matters; for many are perfect in men's humors that are not greatly capable of the real part of business, which is the constitution of one that hath studied men more than books. Such men are fitter for practice than for counsel, and they are good but in their own alley. Turn them to new men, and they have lost their aim; so as the old rule, to know a fool from a wise man, “ Mitte ambos nudos ad ignotos, et videbis,” 2 doth scarce hold for them; and, because these cunning men are like haberdashers 8 of small wares, it is not amiss to set forth their shop.
It is a point of cunning to wait upon 4 him with whom you speak with your eye, as the Jesuits give it in precept; for there be many wise men that
1 Packing the cards, is an admirable illustration of the author's meaning. It is a cheating exploit, by which knaves, who, perhaps, are inferior players, insure to themselves the certainty of good hands.
2 " Send them both naked among strangers, and then you will
8 This word is used here in its primitive sense of “retail dealers.” It is said to have been derived from a custom of the Flemings, who first settled in this country in the fourteenth century, stopping the passengers as they passed their shops, and saving to them, “ Haber das herr?"-""'Will you take this, sir?” The word is now generally used as synonymous with linen-draper.
4 To watch.