« PreviousContinue »
borate, 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 resolution 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.
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 themselvesThirdly, 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 be aware, that the unsecreting of their affairs comes not from themselves. And as for Cabinet Councils, it may be their motto: "I am full of chinks,” i. e. “I am full of channels by which secrets may transpire.” 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 beside the king : neither are those Counsels unprosperous; 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 handmill; and those inward 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.
For weakening of authority: the fable showeth the remedy. Nay, the majesty of kings is rather exalted than diminished, when they are in the chair of Counsel. Neither was there ever prince bereaved of his dependencies by his Counsel, except where there hath been either an over-greatness in one Counsellor, or an over-strict combination in divers, which are things soon found and holpen.
For the last inconvenience, that men will counsel with an eye to themselves : certainly, “ he will not find faith upon earth,” 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 centinel over another; so that if any do 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 : “ The greatest virtue a prince can possess, is- to know the characters of his Counsellors."
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 skilled in their 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; and in consort, men are more obnoxious to others humours: 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, “according to their kinds," 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: “ The best Counsellors are dead ones, namely, books :" books will speak plain when Counsellors blanch. Therefore it is good to be conversant in them, especially the books of such as themselves have been
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 Counsel. It were better, that in causes of weight, the matter were propounded one day, and not spoke:. till the next day: “ 'There is wisdom in taking a night to consider.” So was it done in the Commission of Union between England and Scotland, which was a grave and orderly assembly. I commend set days for petitions: for it gives both the suitors more certainty for their attendance, and it frees the meetings for matters of state, that they may “ mind the especial bu
siness of the moment and no other." 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 b divers particular Councils, and but one Council of State (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 manner; for that is to clamour Councils, not to inform 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, sing him a song of " which they conceive will not displease."