Page images
PDF
EPUB

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." 2 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,
Extremam (ut perhibent) Cão Enceladoque sororem

Progenuit.” 3

As if fames 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

1 The periods of the Equinoxes.

2 “He often warns, too, that secret revolt is impending, that treachery and open warfare are ready to burst forth.” — Virg. Georg. i. 465.

3"Mother Earth, exasperated at the wrath of the Deities, produced her, as they tell, a last birth, a sister to the giants Cæus and Enceladus. — Virg. Æn. iv. 179.

give greatest contentment, are taken in ill sense, and traduced; for that shows the envy great, as Tacitus saith, “ Conflatâ magna invidiâ, seu bene, seu male, gesta premunt.” 1 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 that kind of obedience, which Tacitus speaketh of, is to be held suspected : “ Erant in officio, sed tamen qui mallent imperantium mandata interpretari, quam exsequi ;” 2 disputing, excusing, cavilling upon mandates and directions, is a kind of shaking off the yoke, and assay 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 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

1“ Great public odium once excited, his deeds, whether good or whether bad. cause his downfall." Bacon has here quoted incorrectly, probably from memory. The words of Tacitus are (Hist. B. i. C. 7): “Inviso semel principe, seu bene, seu male, facta premunt,'' — " The ruler once detested, his actions, whether good or whether bad, cause his downfall."

2 “ They attended to their duties; but still, as preferring rather to discuss the commands of their rulers, than to obey them."Tac. Hist. ii. 39.

3 He alludes to the bad policy of Henry the Third of France, who espoused the part of “ The League," which was formed by the Duke of Guise and other Catholics for the extirpation of the Protestant faith. When too late he discovered his error, and, finding his own authority entirely superseded, he caused the Duke of Guise and the Cardinal De Lorraine, his brother, to be assassinated.

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," 1 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." 3

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

1" The primary motive power." He alludes to an imaginary centre of gravitation, or central body, which was supposed to set all the other heavenly bodies in motion.

2“ Too freely to remember their own rulers."

8“I will unloose the girdles of kings." He probably alludes here to the first verse of the 45th chapter of Isaiah: “Thus saith the Lord to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have holden, to subdue nations before him; and I will loose the loins of kings, to open before him the two-leaved gates."

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.”i This same “multis utile bellum,” 2 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 humors 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 modus, timendi non item.” 3 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 vapor 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.” 2

1 “Hence devouring usury, and interest accumulating in lapse of time; hence shaken credit, and warfare, profitable to the many." Lucan. Phars. i. 181.

2 " Warfare profitable to the many."
8" To grief there is a limit, not so to fear."

The causes and motives of seditions are, innovation 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.

The first remedy, or prevention, is to remove, by all means possible, that material cause of sedition whereof we spake, which is, want and poverty in the estate ;8 to which purpose serveth the opening and well-balancing of trade; the cherishing of manufactures; the banishing of idleness; the repressing of waste and excess by sumptuary laws; 4 the im

1“ Check,” or “ daunt.”

2 This is similar to the proverb now in common use: “ 'Tis the last feather that breaks the back of the camel."

3 The state.

4 Though sumptuary laws are probably just in theory, they have been found impracticable in any other than infant states. Their principle, however, is certainly recognized in such countries as by statutory enactment discountenance gaming. Those

« PreviousContinue »