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Livy (after he had described Cato Major in these words, “In illo viro, tantum robur corporis et animi fuit, ut quocumque loco natus esset, fortunam sibi facturus videretur,”) falleth upon that he had “versatile ingenium:” therefore, if a man look sharply and attentively, he shall see fortune; for though she be blind, yet she is not invisible. The way of fortune is like the milky way in the sky; which is a meeting, or knot, of a number of small stars, not seen asunder, but giving light together: so are there a number of little and scarce discerned wirtues, or rather faculties and customs, that make men fortunate: the Italians note some of them, such as a man would little think. When they speak of one that cannot do amiss, they will throw in into his other conditions, that he hath “Poco di matto;” and, certainly, there be not two more fortunate properties, than to have a little of the fool, and not too much of the honest: therefore extreme lovers of their country, or masters, were never fortunate: neither can they be; for when a man placeth his thoughts without himself, he goeth not his own way. An hasty fortune maketh an enterprizer and remover; (the French hath it better, “entreprenant,” or “remuant;”) but the exercised fortune maketh the able man. Fortune is to be honoured and respected, and it be but for her daughters, Confidence and Reputation; for those two felicity breedeth; the first within a man's self, the latter in others towards him. All wise men, to decline the envy of their own virtues, use to ascribe them to Providence and Fortune; for so they may the better assume them: and, besides, it is greatness in a man to be the care of the higher powers. So Caesar said to the pilot in the tempest, “Caesarem portas, et fortunam ejus.” So Sylla chose the name of “Felix,” and not of “Magnus:” and it hath been noted, that those who ascribe openly too much to their own wisdom and policy, end unfortunate. It is written, that Timotheus, the Athenian, after he had, in the account he gave to the state of his government, often interlaced this speech, “and in this fortune had no part,” never prospered in any thing he undertook afterwards. Certainly there be whose fortunes are like Homer's verses, that have a slide and easiness inore than the verses of other poets; as Plutarch saith of Timoleon's fortune in respect of that of Agesilaus or Epaminondas: and that this should be, no doubt it is much in a man's self.
XLII. or usury.
MANY have made witty invectives against
usury. They say that it is pity the devil should have God's part, which is the tithe; that the usurer is the greatest sabbath-breaker, because his plough goeth every Sunday; that the usurer is the drone that Virgil speaketh of:
that the usurer breaketh the first law that was made for mankind after the fall, which was, “in sudore vultàs tui comedes panem tuum;” not, “in sudore vultās alieni;” that usurers should have orange-tawny bonnets, because they do judaize; that it is against nature for money to beget money, and the like. I say this only, that usury is a “concessum propter duritiem cordis:” for since there must be borrowing and lending, and men are so hard of heart as they will not lend freely, usury must be permitted. Some others have made suspicious and cunning propositions of banks, discovery of men's estates, and other inventions; but few have spoken of usury usefully. It is good to set
before us the incommodities and commodities of usury, that the good may be either weighed out, or culled out: and warily to provide, that, while we make forth to that which is better, we meet not with that which is worse. The discommodities of usury are, first, that it makes fewer merchants; for were it not for this lazy trade of usury, money would not lie still, but it would in great part be employed upon merchandizing, which is the “vena porta” of wealth in a state: the second, that it makes poor merchants; for as a farmer cannot husband his ground so well if he sit at a great rent, so the merchant cannot drive his trade so well, if he sit at great usury: the third is incident to the other two; and that is, the decay of customs of kings, or estates, which ebb or flow with merchandizing: the fourth, that it bringeth the treasure of a realm or state into a few hands; for the usurer being at certainties, and the other at uncertainties, at the end of the game most of the money will be in the box; and ever a state flourisheth when wealth is more equally spread: the fifth, that it beats down the price of land; for the employment of money is chiefly either merchandizing, or purchasing; and usury waylays both: the sixth, that it doth dull and damp all industries, improvements, and new inventions, wherein money would be stirring, if it were not for this slug: the last, that it is the canker and ruin of many men's estates, which in process of time breeds a public poverty. On the other side, the commodities of usury are, first, that howsoever usury in some respect hindereth merchandizing, yet in some other it advanceth it; for it is certain that the greatest part of trade is driven by young merchants upon borrowing at interest; so as if the usurer either call in, or keep back his money, there will ensue presently a great stand of trade: the second is, that, were it not for this easy borrowing upon interest, men's necessities would draw upon them a most sudden undoing, in that they would be forced to sell their means, (be it lands or goods.), far under foot, and so, whereas usury doth but gnaw upon them, bad markets would swallow them quite up. As for mortgaging, or pawning, it will little mend the matter: for either men will not take pains without use, or if they do, they will look precisely for the forfeiture. I remember a cruel monied man in the country, that would say, “The devil take this usury, it keeps us from forfeitures of mortgages