Page images

highest dignity, which no one of a different family can aspire to, and remaining fixed, under all changes of Ministers and Parliaments, and yet restrained by Parliament from oppressing his subjects, or disregarding their wishes.

'No good king will feel himself lowered in point of dignity by such restraints; but the contrary. For as it is a nobler office to have the command of even a small number of men than a large herd of cattle, so it is more honourable to be the ruler of a free People than the absolute master of a multitude of slaves.

'And moreover, in an absolute monarchy, a wise and worthy king, who had laboured hard for the welfare of his People, would be grieved at the thought that some of his successors, who might be foolish and tyrannical, would undo all the good he had been doing.

'It should be remembered, too, that a certain degree of restraint on the power of a Ruler is the best safeguard against the danger of a Revolution, which might destroy his power altogether; as the experience of what has often taken place in Europe, and other quarters of the world, plainly shows.

'This is set forth in the following fable:—

'' Once on a time a paper kite Was mounted to a wondrous height, Where, giddy with its elevation, It thus expressed self-admiration:'See how yon crowds of gazing people Admire my flight above the steeple;How would they wonder if they knew

Al l that a kite like me can do?Were I hut free, I'd take a flight, And pierce the clouds beyond their sight;But ah! like a poor pris'ner bound

My string confmes me near the ground;I'd brave the eagle's tow'ring wing, Might I but fly without a string.' It tugged and pull'd, while thus it spoke, To break the string,—at last it broke; Depriv'd at once of all its stay, In vain it try'd to soar away;Unable its own weight to bear, It flutter'd downward in the air;Unable its own course to guide, The winds soon plung'd it in the tide.

Ah! foolish kite, thou hadst no wing;How couldst thou fly without a string?

Sovereigns who wish to cast away Wholesome restraints upon your sway,

Be taught in time, that moderation
Will best secure your lofty station.
Who soars uncheok'd may find too late
A sudden downfall is his fate.'

'There are many persons now living who can remember the time when almost all the countries of Europe, except our own, were under absolute governments. Since then, most of those countries have passed through, at least, one or two, and some of them six or seven, violent and bloody revolutions; and none of them, even yet, have settled under a constitution which even the people of those States themselves would think better than ours, if as good.'1

1 Th is passage is from Lessons on the British Constitution, L. ii. § 2.


THE greatest trust between man and man, is the trust of giving counsel; for in other confidences men commit the parts of life, their lands, their goods, their children, their credit, some particular affair; but to such as they make their counsellors they commit the whole—by how much the more they are obliged to all faith and integrity. The wisest princes need not think it any diminution to their greatness, or derogation to their sufficiency, to rely upon counsel. God himself is not without, but hath made it one of the great names of the blessed Son, the 'Counsellor.'' Solomon hath pronounced that 'in counsel is stability.'2 Things will have their first or second agitation; if they be not tossed upon the arguments of counsel, they will be tossed upon the waves of fortune, and be full of inconstancy, doing and undoing, like the reeling of a drunken man. Solomon's son found the force of counsel, as his father saw the necessity of it: for the beloved kingdom of God was first rent and broken by ill counsel—upon which counsel there are set for our instruction the two marks whereby bad counsel is for ever best discerned, that it was young counsel, for the persons, and violent counsel, for the matter.

The ancient times do set forth in figure both the incorporation and inseparable conjunction of counsel with Kings, and the wise and politic use of counsel by Kings; the one, in that they say Jupiter did marry Metis, which signifieth counsel, whereby they intend that sovereignty is married to counsel; the other in that which followeth, which was thus:—they say, after Jupiter was married to Metis, she conceived by him and was with child, but Jupiter suffered her not to stay till she brought forth, but ate her up, whereby he became himself with child, and was delivered of Pallas armed out of his head.3 Which monstrous fable containeth a secret of empire how kings are to make use of their counsel of state—that first, they ought to refer matters unto them, which is the first begetting or impregnation: but when they are elaborate, moulded, and shaped in the womb of their council, and grow ripe and ready to be brought forth, that then they suffer not their council to go through with the resolution1 and direction, as if it depended on them, but take the matter back into their own hands, and make it appear to the world, that the decrees and final directions (which, because they come forth with prudence and power, are resembled to Pallas armed) proceeded from themselves, and not only from their authority, but (the more to add reputation to themselves) from their head and device.

1 Isaiah ix. 6. 2 Trov. xx. 18. 3 Hesiod. Theog. 886.

Let us now speak of the inconveniences of counsel, and of the remedies. The inconveniences that have been noted in calling and using counsel, are three:—first, the revealing of affairs, whereby they become less secret; secondly, the weakening of the authority of princes, as if they were less of themselves; thirdly, the danger of being unfaithfully counselled, and more for the good of them that counsel, than of him that is counselled—for which inconveniences, the doctrine of Italy, and practice of France, in some kings' times, hath introduced cabinet councils—a remedy worse than the disease.

As to secrecy, princes are not bound to communicate all matters with all counsellors, but may extract and select— neither is it necessary, that he that consulteth what he should do, should declare what he will do; but let princes beware that the unsecreting2 of their affairs comes not from themselves: and as for cabinet councils, it may be their motto, 'Plenus rimarum sum.'3 One futile* person, that maketh it his glory to tell, will do more hurt than many that know it their duty to conceal. It is true there be some affairs which require extreme secrecy, which will hardly go beyond one or two persons besides the king—neither are those counsels unprospcrous,—for, besides the secrecy, they commonly go on constantly in one spirit of direction without distraction; but then it must be a prudent king, such as is able to grind with a hand-mill—and those inward1 counsellors had need also be wise men, and especially true and trusty to the king's ends, as it was with King Henry VII. of England, who in his greatest business imparted himself to none, except it were to Morton and Fox.

1 Resolution. Final decision.

'V the progress of this business, Ere a determinate resolution, The bishops did require a respite.'—Shakespere. 3 Unsecreting. The disclosing; the divulging. Shakespcro has the adjective 'unsecret:'

'Why have I blabbdd? Who should be true to us When we are so unsecret to ourselves ?'Shakespere. 3 'Full of chinks am I.'—Tcr. Eun. 1. 11, 25. * Futile. Talkative. Seo pngo 73.

For weakness of authority the fable showeth the remedy— nay, the majesty of kings is rather exalted than diminished when they are in their chair of council,—neither was there ever prince bereaved of his dependencies by his council, except where there hath been either an over-greatness in one counsellor, or an over-strict combination in divers,2 which are things soon found and holpen.3

For the last inconvenience, that men will counsel with an eye to themselves; certainly,'Non inveniet fidem super terram,'' is meant of the nature of times, and not of all particular persons. There be that are in nature faithful and sincere, and plain and direct, not crafty and involved—let princes, above all, draw to themselves such natures. Besides, counsellors are not commonly so united but that one counsellor keepeth sentinel over another; so that if any counsel out of faction or private ends, it commonly comes to the king's ear: but the best remedy is, if princes know their counsellors, as well as their counsellors know them:—

'Frincipis est virtus maxima nosse suos.' *

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 his master's business than in his nature; for then he is like to advise him, and not to feed his humour. 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 humours,

1 Inward. Intimate. 'All my inward friends abhorred me.'—Job xi\. 19. 2 Divers. Several; sundry.

'Dicers new opinions, diverse and dangerous.'—Shakespere. 1 Holpen. Helped. 'They shall be holpen with a little help.'—Dan. xi. 34. 4 'He will not find faith upon the earth.'—Luie xviii. 18. ''The greatest virtue of a prince is to know his man.'

« PreviousContinue »