Francis Bacon.

The works of Francis Bacon, baron of Verulam, viscount St. Alban, and lord high chancellor of England (Volume 1) online

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which they know well enough to be the best in the
number. But above all, in this rigliting and helping
of a man's self in his own carriage, he must take heed
he shew not himself dismantled, and exposed to scorn
and injury, by too mucli dulccness, goodness, and faci-
lity of nature, but shew some sparkles of liberty, spirit,
and edge : which kind of fortified carriage, with a
ready rescuing of a man's self from scorns, is some-
times of necessity imposed upon men by somewhat in
their person or fortune, but it ever succeedetli with
good felicity.

Another precept of this. knowledge j§, by all^Jfi&si-


blc endeavour to frame tlie iniiul to be pliaut and obe- occasum ; for nothing liindereth mens fortunes
so much as tliis : '" Idem manebat, neque idem dece-
bat." Afen are where they were, when occasions turn ;
and therefore to Cato, whom Jiivymaketli such an ar-
chitect of fortune, he addeth, tliat lie had versatile
ingenhim. And tiiereof it cometh, tliat these grave
solemn wits, wliicli must he hke themselves, and can-
not make departures, have more dignity than felicity.
But in some it is nature to be somewhat viscous and
inwrappcd, and not easy to turn. In some it is a con-
ceit, that is almost a nature, which is, that men can
hardly make themselves believe that they ought to
change their course, when they have found good by it-
in former experience; fo r M achiave l ^ notet h ^ w isel v.
how Fabius Maximus would have been temporizing
still, according to his old bias, when tlie nature of the
war was altered, and required hot pursuit. In some
other it is want of point and penetration in their judg-
ment, that they do not discern when things have a
period, but come in too late after the occasion ; as De-
mosthenes compareth the peoiile of Athens to country
fellows, when they play in a fence school, that if they
have a blow, then they remove their weapon to that
ward, and not before, fn some other it is a loath-
ness to lose labours passed, and a conceit that they
can bring about occasions to their ply ; and yet in the
end, when they sec no other remedy, then they come to
it witli disadvantage; as Tarquinius, that gave for the
third part of Sibylla's books the treble price, when he
might at first have had all three for the simple. But
from whatsoever root or cause this restiveness cfmind
proceedeth, it is a thing most prejudicial, and upthing
is m ore po litic than to make the wheels of our mind
conce^ricaii'(l3''oliible with the wheels of fortune.

AnotHerprecept of this knowledge, which hath some
affinity w-ithlTiat we last spake of, but with difference,
is that which is well expressed, " fatis accede deis-
quc," that men do not only turn with the occasions,
but also run with the occasions, and not strain their
credit or strength to over-hard or extreme points ; but


choose in their action that which is most passable: for
this will preserve men from foil, and not occnpy them
too much about one matter, win opinion of modera-
tion, please the most, and make a show of a perpe-
tual felicity in all they undertake ; w^hicli cannot but
mightily increase reputation.

Another part of this knowledge seemeth to have
some repugnancy with the former two, but not as I
understand it, and it is tliat which Demosthenes ut-
tereth in high terms : " Et quemadmodum receptum
est, ut excrcitum ducat imperator, sic et a cordatis
viris res ipsae ducendte ; ut quae ipsis videntur, ea ge-
rantur, et non ipsi eventus tan turn perscqui cogan-
tur." For, if we observe, we shall find two differing
kinds of sufficiency in managing of business : some can
make use of occasions aptly and dexterously, but plot
little : some can urge and pursue their own plots well,
but cannot accommodate nor take in ; either of which
is very imperfect without the other.

Another part of this knowledge is the pbserving^ji
good mediocrity in the declaring, or not declaring a
man's self: for although depth of secrecy, and making
way, " qualis est via navis in mari," which the French
calleth '" sourdes menees," when men set things in
work without opening themselves at all, l)e sometimes
both prosperous and admirable, yet many times " Dis-
simulatio errorcs parit, qui dissimulatorem ipsum iila-
queant." And therefore, we see, the greatest politi-
cians have in a natural and free manner ])rofessed
their desires, rather than been reserved and disguised
in them : for so we see that laicius Sylla made a kind
of profession, " that he wislied all men ha})py or lui-
happy, as they stood his friends or enemies." So
Ca?sar, when he went first into Gaul, made no scruple
to profess, " that he had rather be iirst in a village,
than second at Rome." So again, as soon as he had
begun the war, we see what ( 'icero saith of him, " Al-
ter," meaning of Caesar, " non recusat, sed quodam-
modo postulat, ut, ut est, sic appelletur tyrannus." So
we may see in a letter of Cicero to Atticus, that Au-
gustus Caesar, in his very entrance into aflairs, when


he was a darling of the senate, yet in his harangues
to tlie people would swear, " I ta parentis honores con-
sequi liceat" (which was no less than the tyranny), save
that, to help it, he would stretch forth liis liand to-
wards a statue of Caesar's, that was erected in the same
place : and men laughed, and wondered, and said, Is
it possible, or. Did you ever hear the like ? and yet
thought he meant no hurt, he did it so handsomely
and ingenuously. And all these were prosperous :
whereas Pom})cy, who tended to the same ends, but in
a more dark and dissembling manner, as Tacitus saith
of him, " Occultior, non melior," wherein Sallust con-
curreth, " ore probo, animo inverecundo," made it his
design, by infinite secret engines, to cast the state into
an absolute anarchy and confusion, that the state might
cast itself into his arms for necessity and protection,
and so the sovereign power be put upon him, and he
never seen in it : and when he had brouglit it, as he
thought, to that point when he was chosen consul
alone, as never any was, yet he could make no great
matter of it, because men understood him not ; but was
fain in the end to go the beaten track of getting arms
into his hands, by colour of the doubt of Caisar's de-
signs : so tedious, casual, and unfortunate are these
deep dissimulations; whereof, it seemeth, Tacitus made
this judgment, that they were a cunning of an inferior
form in regard of true policy, attributing the one to
Augustus, the other to Tiberius, where, speaking of
Livia, he saith, " Et cum artibus mariti simulatione
filii bene composita ; " for surely the continual habit
of dissimulation is but a weak and sluggish cunning,
and not greatly politic.

Anotlicrjirccept of this architecture of fortune is,
to accustom our minds to judge of the proportion, or
value_of things, as they conduce and are materi;d to
our particular ends ; do substantially and
not superficially. For we shall find the logicalpart,
as I may term it, of some mens minds good, but the
mathematical part erroneous ; that is, they can well
judge of consequences, but not of proportions and com-
parisons, preferring things of show and sense before


things of substance and effect. So some fall in love
with access to princes, others with popular fame and
applause, supposing they are things of great purchase ;
when, in many cases, they are but matters of envy,
peril, and impediment.

80 some measure things according to the labom* and
difficulty, or assiduity, which are spent about them ;
and think if they be ever moving, that they must needs
advance and proceed : as Csesar saitli in a despising
manner of Cato the second, when he describeth how
laborious and indefatigable he vvas to no great purpose;
" Ha^c omnia magno studio agebat." 80 in most things
men are ready to abuse themselves in thinking the
greatest means to be best, when it should be the fittest.
As for the true marshalling of mens pursuits towards
their fortune, as they are more or less material, I hold
them to stand thus : first, the amendment of thdr ov.n
minds ; for the remo^ e of the impediments of the
mind will sooner clear the passages of fortune, than the
obtaining fortune will remove the impediments of the
mind. In second place I set down wealth and means,
which, I know, most men would have placed first, be-
cause of the general use which it beareth towards all
variety of occasions. But that opinion I may condemn
with like reason as Machiavcl doth that other, that
moneys were the sinews of the wars, v/liereas, saith he,
the true sinews of the wars are the sinews of mens
arms, that is, a valiant, populous, and military nation ;
and he voucheth aptly the authority of Holon, who,
when Croesus showed him his treasury of gold, said to
him, that if anotlier came that had better iron, he
1 would be master of lii.s gold. In like manner it may
be truly affirmed, that it is not moneys that are the
sinews of fortune, but it is the sinews and steel of mens
minds, wit, courage, audacity, resolution, temper, in-
dustry, and the like. In third place I set down repu-
tation, because of the peremptory tides and currents it
hath, which, if they be not taken in their due time, are
seldom recovered, it being extreme hard to play an
after-game of reputation. And lastly I place honour,
which is moie easily won by any of the other three.


much more by all, than any of them can be purchased
by honour. To conclude this precept, as there is or-
der and priority in matter, so is there in time, the pre-
posterous placing whereof is one of the commonest er-
rors, while men fly to their ends when they should in-
tend their beginnings ; and do not take things in order
of time as they come on, but marshal them according to
greatness, and not according to instance, not observing
the good precept, " Quod nunc instat agamus."

Another precept of tliis knowledge is, not to em-
brace any matters which do occupy too great a quan-
tity oFtime, but to have that sounding in a man's
earg, " 8ed fugit interea, fugit irrcparabile tempus : "
and that is the cause why those which take their course
of rising by professions of burden, as lawyers, orators,
painful divines, and the like, are not commonly so po-
litic for their own fortunes, otherwise than in their
ordinary way, because they want time to learn parti-
culars, to wait occasions, and to devise plots.

AnotliCL. precept of this knowledge is, to imitate
nature, which doth nothing in vain ; which surely a
man Inay do if lie do well interlace his husiness, and
bend not his mind too nnich upon that which he prin-
cipally intendeth. For a man ought in every parti-
cular action so to carry the motions of his mind, and
so to have one thing under another, as if he cannot
have tliat he seeketh in the best degree, yet to have it
in a second, or so in a third ; and if he can have no
part of that which he purposed, yet to turn the use of
it to somewhat else ; and if he cannot make any thing
of it for the present, yet to make it as a seed of some-
what in time to come ; and if he can contrive no effect
or substance from it, yet to win some good opinion by
it, or the like. So that he should exact an account
of himself of every action, to reap somewhat, and not
to stand amazed and confused if he fail of that he
chiefly meant : for nothing is more impolitic than to
mind actions wholly one by one ; for he that doth so,
loseth infinite occasions wliich intervene, and are many
times more proper and propitious for somewhat that
he shall need afterwards, than for that which he urg-


eth for the present ; and therefore men must be perfect
in that rule, " Hsec oportet facere, et illanon omittere."

Another jyecept of this knowledge is, not to engage
a man's self peremptorily in tmy tiling, tliough it se'effT'
not liable to accident, but ever to have a window to fly
out at, or a way to retire ; following the wisdom in the
ancient fable of the two frogs, which consulted when
their plash was dry whither they should go, and the
one moved to go down into a pit, because it was not
likely the water would dry there, but the other answer-
ed, " True, but if it do, how shall we get out again ? "

Another precept of this knowledge is, that ancient
precept of Bias, construed not to any point of perfidi-
ousness, but only to caution and moderation, " Et ama
tanquam inimicus futurus, et odi tanquam amaturus:"
for it utterly betray eth all utility, for men to embark
themselves too far into unfortunate friendships, trou-
blesome spleens, and childish and humorous envies or

But I continue this beyond the measure of an ex-
ample, led, because I would not have such knowledges,
which I note as deficient, to be thought things ima-
ginative, or in the air ; or an observation or two much
made of, but things of bulk and mass, whereof an end
is hardlier made than a beginning. It must be like-
wise conceived that in those points which I mention
and set down, they are far from com]ilete tractates of
them, but only as small pieces for patterns : and lastly,
no man, I suppose, will think that I mean fortunes are
not obtained without all this ado ; for I know they
come tumbling into some mens laps, and a number ob-
tain good fortunes by diligence in a plain way, little
intermeddling, and keeping themselves from gross

But as Cicero, when he setteth down an idea of a
perfect orator, doth not mean that every pleader should
be such ; and so likewise, when a prince or a courtier
hath been described by such as have handled those
subjects, the mould hath used to be made according to
the perfection of the art, and not according to common
practice : so I understand it, tliat it ought to be done


in the description of a politic man, I mean politic for
his own fortune.

But it must be remembered all this while, that tlie
precepts which we liavc set. down arc of .that kind
wliic'li may Ix' counted and called boricB artes. As for
evil art^, if a man would set down for himself that
principle of IMachiavel ; " that a man seek not to at- I
tain virtue itself, but the appearance only thereof; be-
cause the credit of virtue is a help, but the use of it
IF. cumber :" or that other of his principles ; " that he
presuppose that men are not fitly to be wrought other-
wise but by fear, and therefore that he seek to have
every man obnoxious, low, and in strait," which the
Italians call " seminar spine," to sow thorns : or that
other principle contained in the verse which Cicero
citeth, " Cadant amici, dummodo inimici intercidant,"
as the Triumvirs, which sold, every one to other, the
lives of their friends, for the deaths of their enemies :
or that other protestation of L. Catilina, to set on fire,
and trouble states, to the end to fish in droumy wa-
ters, and to unwrap their fortunes, " Ego si quid in
fortunis meis excitatum sit incendium, id non aqua,
sed ruina restinguam :" or that other principle of Ly-
sander, " that children are to be deceived with com-
fits, and men with oaths:" and the like evil and cor-\
rupt positions, whereof, as in all things, there are more 1
in nnrnber than of the good : certainly, with these dis- \
pensations irom the laws of charity and integrity, the
pressiligOf a man's fortune may be more hasty and
compendious. But it is in life, as it is in ways, the
shortest way is commonly the foulest, and surely the
fairer way is not much about.

But men, if they be in their own power, and do bear
and sustain themselves, and be not carried away with
a whirlwind or tempest of ambition, ought, in the pur-
suit of their own fortune, to set before their eyes, not
only that general map of the world, that " all things
are vanity and vexation of spirit," but many other
more particular cards and directions : chiefly that, that
being, without well-being, is a curse, and tlie greater
being the greater curse ; and that all virtue is most


rewarded, and all wickedness most punished in it&elf :
according as the poet saith excellently :

Quae vobis, quae difrna, viri, pro laudibus istis
Pr£emia posse rear solvi ? pulcherrima primum
Dii nioresque dabunt vestri.

And so of the contrary. And, secondly, they ought
to look up to the eternal providence and divine judg-
ment, which often subverteth the wisdom of evil plots
and imaginations, according to that Scripture, " He
hatli conceived mischief, and shall bring forth a vain
thing." And although men should refrain themselves
from injury and evil arts, yet this incessant and Sab-
bathless pursuit of a man's fortune leaveth not that
tribute which we owe to God of our time : who, we
see, demandeth a tenth of our substance, and a seventh,
which is more strict, of our time : and it is to small
piu"pose to have an erected face towards heaven, and a
perpetual groveling spirit upon earth, eating dust, as
doth the serpent, " Atque affigit humo divina? particu-
1am aurae." And if any man flatter himself that he will
employ his fortune well, though he should obtain it ill,
as was said concerning Augustus Caesar, and after of
SeptimiusSeverus, " that either they should never have
been born, or else they should never have died," they
did so much mischief in the pursuit and ascent of their
greatness, and so much good when they were establish-
ed : yet these compensations and satisfactions are good
to be used, but never good to be purposed. And, lastly,
it is not amiss for men in their race towards their
fortune, to cool themselves a little with that conceit
which is elegantly expressed by the emperor (Jharles
the fifth, in his instructions to the king his son, " that
fortune hath soTuev/hat of the nature of a woman, that
if she be too much wooed, she is the farther off,"
But this last is but a remedy for those whose tastes
are corrupted : let men rather build upon that foun-
dation which is as a corner-stone of divinity and phi-
losophy, wherein they join close, namely, that same
Primum (juciritc. For divinity saith, " Primum
quaerite regnum Dei, et ista omnia adjicicntur vobis:"
and philosophy saith, " IVimum quaerite bona animi.


caetera aut adcnnit, aut non obcnnit.'* And although
thclmniaii foundation hath somewhat of tlic.sands,aswc
see in I\f . Brutus, when he brake forth into that speech,

Te cohii, virtus, ut rem : ast tu nonien inane es :
yet the divine foundation is upon tlie rock. But this
may serve for a taste of that knowledge which I noted
as deficient.

Concer ning ^overnme ijt, it is a part of knowledge,
secret and retired in both these respects, in which
things arc (TccnVcd secret ; for some things are secret r
becaiise^flrey nrc hard to know, and some because they ;
are nor Jit to utter ; we see all governments are ob- J
sciu*e and invisible.

Totamque infusa per artus,
Mens agitat niolem, et niagno se corpore miscet.

Such is the description of governments : we see the
government of God over the world is hidden, insomuch
as it seemeth to participate of nuich irregularity and
confusion : the government of the soul in moving the
body is inward and profound, and the passages thereof
hardly to be reduced to demonstration. Again, the wis-
dom of antiquity, the shadows whereof are in the poets,
in the description of torments and pains, next unto the
crime of rebellion, which was the giants offence, doth
detest the crime of futility, as in Sisyphus and Tanta-
lus. But this was meant of particulars ; nevertheless,
ex en unto the general rules and discourses of policy and
government there is due a reverent and reserved hand-

But, contrari\yisej_ in the governors to\vards the go-
verned, all things ought, as far as the frailty of mau
permittcth, to be manifest and revealed. For so it is
expressed in the Scriptures touching the government
of God, that this globe which seemeth to us a dark
and shady body, is in the view of God as crystal, " Et
in conspectu sedis tanquam mare vitreum simile crys-
tallo." 80 unto princes and states, specially towards wise
senates and councils, the natures and dispositions of
the people, their conditions and necessities, their fac-
tions and combinations, their animosities and discon-



tents, ought to be, in regard of the variety of their in-
telhgences, the wisdom of their observations, and the
height of the station where they keep centinel, in
great part clear and transparent. Wherefore, consi-
dering that I write to a king that is a master of this
science, and is so well assisted, I think it decent to pass
over this part in silence, as willing to obtain the cer-
tificate w4iich one of the ancient philosophers aspired
unto; who being silent, when others contended to make
demonstration of their abilities by speech, desired it
might be certified for his part, " that there was one that
knew how to " hold his peace."

Notwithstanding, for the more public part of gp-
vernment, wliTcTi Ts"Taws^~I think good to note oiilv one
; deficiehce : whicli is, that all those which hate written
of laws, have written either as philosophers, or a§"taw-
yers, and none as statesmen. As for the philosopheTST'
they make imaginary laws for imaginary common-
wealths, and their discourses are as the stars, which
give little light, because they are so high. For tlie law^-
yers, they write according to the states where they live,
what is received law, and not what ought to be law ;
for the wisdom of a law-maker is one, and of a lawyer
is another. For there are in nature certain fountains
of justice, whence all civil laws are derived but as
streams : and like as waters do take tinctures and
tastes from the soils throng:}] which tliev run. so do civil
laws vary according to the regions and governments
where they are planted, though they proceed from the
same fountains. Asain, the wisdom of a law-maker
consisteth not only in a platform of justice, but in the
application thereof; taking into consideration, by what
means laws may be made certain, and what are the
causes and remedies of tlie doubtfulness and incertainty
of law ; by what means laws may be made apt and easy
to be executed, and what are the impediments and
remedies in the execution of laws ; what influence laws
touching private right of meum and tuum have into
the public state, and how they may be made apt and
agreeable ; how laws are to be penned and delivered,
whether in texts or in acts, brief or large, with- pre-


ambles, or without ; how they are to be pruned and
reformed from time to time, and w^hat is the best
means to keep them from being too vast in volumes,
or too full of multiplicity or crossness ; liow they are
to be expounded, when upon causes emergent, and
judicially discussed ; and when upon responses and
conferences touching general ])oints or questions : how
they are to be pressed, rigorously or tenderly ; how
they are to be mitigated by equity and good conscience,
and whether discretion and strict law are to be min-
gled in the same courts, or kept apart in several
courts; again, how the practice, profession, and erudition De pruden-
of law is to be censured and governed : and many '/^.'

Online LibraryFrancis BaconThe works of Francis Bacon, baron of Verulam, viscount St. Alban, and lord high chancellor of England (Volume 1) → online text (page 26 of 52)