Francis Bacon.

The works of Francis Bacon, baron of Verulam, viscount St. Alban, and lord high chancellor of England (Volume 3) online

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charged, in respect to the slenderness of the stem.
For so in the defection of the Thebans and the rest
against them, one of the principal revolters spake
most aptly, and with great efficacy in the assembly of
the associates, telling them, That the state of Sparta
was like a river, which after that it had run a great
\vay, and taken other rivers and streams into it, ran
strong and mighty, but about the head and fountain
of it was shallow and weak ; and therefore advised
them to assail and invade the main of Sparta, knowing
they should there find weak resistance either of towns
or in the field : of towns, because upon confidence of
their greatness they fortified not upon the main ; in
the field, because their people was exhausted by garri-
sons and services far off. Which counsel proved sound,
to the astonishment of all Graecia at that time.

For the third, concerning the proportion of the mili-
tary forces of a state to the amplitude of empire, it
cannot be better demonstrated than by the two first
examples which we produced of the weakness of large
territory, if they be compared within themselves ac-
cording to difference of time. For Persia at a time
tvas strengthened with large territory, and at another

Of the true Greatness of Britain. 4- It

time weakened ; and so was Rome. For while they
nourished in arms, the largeness of territory was a
strength to them, and added forces, added treasures,
added reputation : but when they decayed in arms,
then greatness became a burden. For their protect-
ing forces did corrupt, supplant, and enervate the
natural and proper forces of all their provinces, which
relied and depended upon the succours and directions
of the state above. And when that waxed impotent
and slothful, then the whole state laboured with her
own magnitude, and in the end fell with her own
weight. And that no question was the reason of the
strange inundations of people which both from the east
and north-west overwhelmed the Roman empire in
one age of the world, which a man upon the sudden
would attribute to some constellation or fatal revolu-
tion of time, being indeed nothing else but the decli-
nation of the Roman empire, which having effemi-
nated and made vile the natural strength of the pro-
vinces, and not being able to supply it by the strength
imperial and sovereign, did, as a lure cast abroad,
invite and entice all the nations adjacent, to make
their fortunes upon her decays. And by the same
reason, there cannot but ensue a dissolution to the
state of the Turk, in regard of the largeness of em-
pire, whensoever their martial virtue and discipline
shall be further relaxed, whereof the time seemeth to
approach. For certainly like as great stature in a
natural body is some advantage in youth, but is but
burden in age ; so it is with great territory, which
when a state beginneth to decline, doth make it stoop
and buckle so much the faster.

For the fourth and last, it is true, that there is to
be required and expected as in the parts of a body, so
in the members of a state, rather propriety of service,
than equality of benefit. Some provinces are more
wealthy, some more populous, and some more war-
like ; some situate aptly for the exclusion or expulsion
of foreigners, and some for the annoying and bridling
suspected and tumultuous subjects; some are profit-
able in present, and some may be converted and inv

VOL. in. E e

418 Of the true Greatness of Britain.

proved to profit by plantations and good policy. And
therefore true consideration of estate can hardly find
what to reject, in matter 1 of territory, in any empire,
except it be some glorious acquests obtained some-
times in the bravery of wars, which cannot be kept
without excessive charge and trouble ; of which kind
were the purchases of king Henry VIIL that of Tour-
nay; and that of Bologne ; and of the same kind are
infinite other the like examples almost in every war,
which for the most part upon treaties of peace are

Thus have we now defined where the largeness of
the territory addeth true greatness, and where not.
The application of these positions unto the particular
or supposition of this your majesty's kingdom of Bri-
tain, requireth few words. For, as I professed in the
beginning, I mean not to blazon or amplify, but only
to observe and express matter.

First, Your majesty's dominion and empire compre-
hendeth all the islands of the north-west ocean,
where it is open, until you come to the imbarred or
frozen sea, towards Iceland; in all which tract it
hath no intermixture or interposition of any foreign
land, but only of the sea, whereof you are also abso-
lutely master.

Secondly, the quantity and content of these coun-
tries is far greater than have been the principal or fun-
damental regions of the greatest monarchies, greater
than Persia proper, greater than Macedon, greater
than Italy: So as here is potentially body and stem
enough for Nabuchodonosor's tree, if God should have
so ordained.

Thirdly, the prowess and valour of your subjects is
able to master and wield far more territory than falleth
to their lot. But that followeth to be spoken of in
the proper place.

And lastly, it must be confessed, that whatsoever part
of your countries and regions shall be counted the mean-
est, yet it is not inferior to those countries and regions,
the people whereof some ages since over-ran the world.
We see further by the uniting of the continent of this

Of the true Greatness of Britain. 419

island, and the shutting up of the postern, as it was
not unfitly termed, all entrance of foreigners is exclud-
ed : and we see again, that by the fit situation and
configuration of the north of Scotland toward the north
of Ireland, and the reputation, commodity, and terror
thereof, what good effects have ensued for the better
quieting of the troubles of Ireland. And so we conclude
this first branch touching largeness of territory.

THE second article was,

That there is too much ascribed to treasure or riches
in the balancing of greatness.

Wherein no man can be ignorant of the idolatry that
is generally committed in these degenerate times to
money, as if it could do all things public and private :
but leaving popular errors, this is likewise to be exa-
mined by reason and examples, and such reason, as is
no new conceit or invention, but hath formerly been
discerned by the sounder sort of judgments. For. we
see that Solon, who was no contemplative wise man,
but a statesman and a lawgiver, used a memorable
censure to Croesus, when he shewed him great trea-
sures, and store of gold and silver that he had gather-
ed, telling him, that whensoever another should come
that had better iron than he, he would be master of
all his gold and silver. Neither is the authority of
Machiavel to be despised, especially in a matter
whereof he saw the evident experience before his eyes
in his own times and country, who derideth the receiv-
ed and current opinion and principle of estate taken
first from a speech of Mutianus the lieutenant of Ves-
pasian, That money was the sinews of war , affirming,
that it is a mockery, and that there are no other true
sinews of war, but the sinews and muscles of mens
arms : and that there was never any war, wherein the
more valiant people had to deal with the more wealthy,
but that the war, if it were well conducted, did nou-
rish and pay itself. And had he not reason so to think,
when he saw a needy and ill-provided army of the
French, though needy rather by negligence, than
want of means, as the French manner oftentimes is,

E e 2

Of the trite Greatness of Britain.

make their passage only by the reputation of their
swords by their sides undrawn, thorough the whole
length of Italy, at that time abounding in wealth after
a long peace, and that without resistance, and to
seize and leave what countries and places it pleased
them ? But it was not the experience of that time
alone, but the records of all times that do concur to
falsify that conceit, that wars are decided not by the
sharpest sword, but by the greatest purse. And that
very text or saying of Mutianus which was the original
of this opinion, is misvouched, for his speech was,
Pecuniae sunt nervi belli civilis, which is true, for that
civil wars cannot be between people of differing va-
lour ; and again because in them men are as oft bought
as vanquished. But in case of foreign wars, you shall
scarcely find any of the great monarchies of the world,
but have had their foundations in poverty and con-
temptible beginnings, being in that point also conform
to the heavenly kingdom, of which is is pronounced,
Regjium Dei non venit cum observation. Persia a
mountainous country, and a poor people in comparison
of theMedes and other provinces which they subdued.
The state of Sparta, a state wherein poverty was enact-
ed by law and ordinance ; all use of gold and silver
and rich furniture being interdicted. The state of
Macedonia, a state mercenary and ignoble until the
time of Philip. The state of Rome, a state that had
poor and pastoral beginnings. The state of the Turks,
which hath been since the terror of the world, founded
upon transmigration of some bands of Sarmatian Scythes,
that descended in a vagabond manner upon the pro-
vince that is now termed Turcomannia ; out of the
remnants whereof, after great variety of fortune, sprang
the Otoman family. But never was any position of
estate so visibly and substantially confirmed as this,
touching the pre-eminence, yea and predominancy of
valour above treasure, as by the true descents and
inundations of necessitous and indigent people, the one
from the east, and the other from the west, that of the
Arabians or Saracens, and that of the Goths, Vandals,
and the rest : who, as if they had been the true inhe-

Of the true Greatness of Britain. 421

ritors of the Roman empire, then dying, or at least
grown impotent and aged, entered upon Egypt, Asia,
Grsecia, Africk, Spain, France, coming to these na-
tions, not as to a prey, but as to a patrimony ; not re-
turning with spoil, but seating and planting themselves
in a number of provinces, which continue their pro-
geny, and bear their names till this day. And all these
men had no other wealth but their adventures, nor no
other title but their swords, nor no other press but their
poverty. For it was not with most of these people as
it is in countries reduced to a regular civility, that no
man almost marrieth except he see he have means to
live ; but population went on, howsoever sustentation
followed, and taught by necessity, as some writers re-
port, when they found themselves surcharged with
people, they divided their inhabitants into three parts,
and one third, as the lot fell, was sent abroad and left
to their adventures. Neither is the reason much un-
like, though the effect hath not followed in regard of
a special diversion, in the nation of the Swisses, inha-
biting a country, which in regard of the mountainous
situation, and the popular estate, doth generate faster
than it can sustain. In which people, it well appear-
ed what an authority iron had over gold at the battle of
Granson, at what time one of the principal jewels of
Burgundy was sold for twelve pence, by a poor Swiss,
thatknew no more of a precious stone than did /Esop's
cock. And although this people have made no plan-
tations with their arms, yet we see the reputation of
them such, as not only their forces have been employ-
ed and waged, but their alliance sought and purchas-
ed, by the greatest kings and states of Europe. So as
though fortune, as it fares sometimes with princes to
their servants, hath denied them a grant of lands, yet
she hath granted them liberal pensions, which are made
memorable and renowned to all posterity, by the event
which ensued to Lewis the twelfth ; who, being pres-
sed uncivilly by message from them tor the inhauncing
their pensions, entered into choler and broke out into
these words, " What ! will these villains of the moun-
" tains put a tax upon me ? which words cost him his

Of the true Greatness of Britain.

dutchy of Milan, and utterly ruined his affairs in Italy.
Neither was it indeed possible at this day, that that
nation should subsist without descents and impressions
upon their neighbours, were it not for the great utter-
ance of people which they make into the services of fo-
reign princes and estates, thereby discharging not only
number, but in that number such spirits as are most
stirring and turbulent.

And therefore we may conclude, that as largeness
of territory, severed from military virtue, is but a bur-
den y so that treasure and riches severed from the same,
is but a prey. It resteth therefore to make a reduc-
tion of this error also unto a truth by distinction and
limitation, which will be in this manner :

Treasure and moneys do then add true greatness and
strength to a state, when they are accompanied with
these three conditions :

First, The same condition which hath been annexed
to largeness of territory, that is, that they be joined
with martial prowess and valour.
Secondly, That treasure doth then advance greatness,
when it is rather in mediocrity than in great abun-
dance. And again better, when some part of
the state is poor, than when all parts of it are

And lastly, That treasure in a state is more or less
serviceable, as the hands are in which the wealth
chiefly resteth.

For the first of these, it is a thing that cannot be
denied, that in equality of valour the better purse is an
advantage. For like as in wrestling between man
and man, if there be a great overmatch in strength, it
is to little purpose though one have the better breath ;
but, if the strength be near equal, then he that is
shorter winded will, if the wager consist of many falls,
in the end have the worst : so it is in the wars, if it be
a match between a valiant people and a cowardly, the
advantage of treasure will not serve ; but if they
be near in valour, then the better monied state will be
the better able to continue the war, and so in the end
to prevail. But if any man think that money can make

Of the true Greatness of Britain. 423

those provisions at the first encounters, that no differ-
ence of valour can countervail, let him look back but
into those examples which have been brought, and he
must confess, that all those furnitures whatsoever, are
but shews and mummeries, and cannot shrowd fear
against resolution; For there shall he find companies
armed with armour of proof taken out of the stately
armories of kings who spared no cost, overthrown by
men armed by private bargain and chance as they
could get it : there shall he find armies appointed with
horses bred of purpose, and in choice races, chariots of
war, elephants, and the like terrors, mastered by ar-
mies meanly appointed. So of towns strongly fortified,
basely yielded, and the like ; all being but sheep in a
lion's skin, where valour faileth.

For the second point, that competency of treasure
is better than surfeit, is a matter of common place or
ordinary discourse in regard that excess of riches, nei-
ther in public nor private, ever hath any good effects,
but maketh men either slothful and effeminate, and so
no enterprisers ; or insolent and arrogant, and so over
great embracers ; but most generally cowardly and
fearful to lose, according to the adage, Timidits Plutus;
so as this needeth no further speech. But a part of that
assertion requireth a more deep consideration, being a
matter not so familiar, but yet most assuredly true.
For it is necessary in a state that shall grow and inlarge,
that there be that composition which the poet speaks
of, Multis utile helium : an ill condition of a state, no
question, if it be meant of a civil war, as it was spo-
ken , but a condition proper to a state that shall in-
crease, if it be taken of a foreign war. For except
there be a spur in the state, that shall excite and prick
them on to wars they will but keep their own, and seek
no further. And in all experience and stones you shall
find but three things that prepare and dispose an estate
to war: the ambition of governors, a state of soldiers
professed, and the hard means to live of many subjects.
Whereof the last is the most forcible and the most con-
stant. And this is the true reason of that event which
we observed and rehearsed before, the most of the

Of the true Greatness of Britain.

great kingdoms of the world have sprung out of hard-
ness and scarceness of means, as the strongest herbs
out of the barrenest soils.

For the third point, concerning the placing and dis-
tributing of treasure in a state, the position is simple ;
that then treasure is greatest strength to a state, when
it is so disposed, as it is readiest and easiest to come
by for public service and use : which one position doth
infer three conclusions.

First, that there be quantity sufficient of treasure as
well in the treasury of the crown or state, in the purse
of the private subject.

Secondly, that the wealth of the subject be rather in
many hands than in few.

And thirdly, that it be in those hands, where there
is likesttobe the greatest sparing and increase, and not
in those hands, wherein there useth to be greatest ex-
pence and consumption.

For it is not the abundance of treasure in the sub-
jects hands that can make sudden supply of the want
of a state ; because reason tells us and experience both,
that private persons have least will to contribute when
they have most cause ; for when there is noise or ex-
pectation of wars, then are always the dearest times
for monies, in regard every man restraineth and hold-
eth fast his means for his own comfort and succour,
according as Solomon saith, The riches of a man are
as a stronghold in his oivn imagination ; and therefore
we see by infinite examples, and none more memo-
rable than that of Constantinus the last emperor of the
Greeks, and the citizens of Constantinople, that sub-
jects do often choose rather to be frugal dispensers for
their enemies, than liberal lenders to their prince.
Again, wheresoever the wealth of the subject is en-
grossed into few hands, it is not possible it should be
so respondent and yielding to payments and contribu-
tions for the public, both because the true estimation
of assessment of great wealth is more obscure and un-
certain j and because the burden seemeth lighter when
the charge lieth upon many hands; and further, because
the same greatness of wealth is for the most part not

Of the true Greatness of Britain.

collected and obtained without sucking it from many,
according to the received similitude of the spleen,
which never swelleth but when the rest of the body
pineth and abateth. And lastly, it cannot be that any
wealth should leave a second overplus for the public
that doth not first leave an overplus to the private stock
of him that gathers it ; and therefore nothing is more
certain, than that those states are least able to aid and
defray great charge for wars, or other public disburse-
ments, whose wealth resteth chiefly in the hands of the
nobility and gentlemen. For what by reason of their
magnificence and waste in expence, and what by rea-
son of their desire to advance and make good their own
families, and again upon the coincidence of the former
reason, because they are always the fewest ; small is
the help, as to payments or charge, that can be levied
or expected from them towards the occasions of a state.
Contrary it is of such states whose wealth resteth in the
hands of merchants, butchers, tradesmen, freeholders,
farmers in the country, and the like, whereof we have
a most evident and present example before our eyes,
in our neighbours of the Low-Countries, who could
never have endured and continued so inestimable and
insupportable charge, either by their natural frugality,
or by their mechanical industry, were it not also that
there was a concurrence- in them of this last reason,
which is that their wealth was dispersed in many hands,
and not ingrossed into few ; and those hands were not
much of the nobility, but most and generally of inferior

To make application of this part concerning treasure
to his majesty's kingdoms:

First, I suppose I cannot err, that as to the endow-
ment of your crown, there is not any crown of Europe,
that hath so great a proportion of demesne and land
revenue. Again, he that shall look into your prero-
gative shall find it to have as many streams to feed your
treasury, as the prerogative of any of the said kings,
and yet without oppression or taxing of your people.
For they be things unknown in many other states, that
all rich mines shall be yours, though in the soil of you?

426 Of the true Greatness of Britain.

subjects ; that all wardships should be yours, where a
tenure in chief is, of lands held of your subjects; that
all confiscations and escheats of treason should be yours,
though the tenure be of the subject ; that all actions
popular, and the fines and casualties thereupon may
be informed in your name, and should be due unto you,
and a moiety at the least where the subject himself in-
forms. And further, he that shall look into your
revenues at the ports of the sea, your revenues in courts
of justice, and for the stirring of your seals, the revenues
upon your clergy, and the rest, will conclude, that
the law of England studied how to make a rich crown,
and yet without levies upon your subject. For mer-
chandizing, it is true, it was ever by the kings of this
realm despised, as a thing ignoble and indign for a
king, though it is manifest, the situation and commo-
dities of this island considered, it is infinite, what your
majesty might raise, if you would do as a king of Por-
tugal doth, or a duke of Florence, in matter of mer-
chandise. As for the wealth of the subject* :

To proceed to the articles affirmative, the first was,
That the true greatness of an estate consisteth in the

natural and fit situation of the region or place.
Wherein I mean nothing superstitiously touching the
fortunes or fatal destiny of any places, nor philosophi-
cally touching their configuration with the superior
globe. But I understand proprieties and respects
merely civil and according to the nature of human acti-
ons, and the true considerations of estate. Out' of
which duly weighed, there doth arise a triple distribu-
tion of the fitness of a region for a great monarchy.
First, that it be of hard access. Secondly, that it be
seated in no extreme angle, but commodiously in the
midst of many regions. And thirdly, that it be mari-
time, or at the least upon great navigable rivers ; and
be not inland or mediterrane. And that these are not
conceits, but notes of event, it appeareth manifestly,
that all great monarchies and states have been seated
in such manner, as, if you would place them again, ob-

* Memorandum, Here was a blank side left, to continue the sense.

Of the true Greatness of Britain. 427

serving these three points which I have mentioned,
you cannot place them better ; which shews the pre-
eminence of nature, unto which human industry or
accident cannot be equal, specially in any continuance
of time. Nay, if a man look into these things
more attentively, he shall see divers of these seats of
monarchies, how fortune hath hovered still about the
places, coming and going only in regard of the fixed
reason of the conveniency of the place, which is im-
mutable. And therefore, first we see the excellent
situation of Egypt ; which seemeth to have been the
most ancient monarchy, how conveniently it stands
upon a neck of land commanding both seas on either
side, and embracing as it were with two arms, Asia
and Afric, besides the benefit of the famous river of
Nilus. And therefore we see what'hath been the for-
tune of that country, there having been two mighty
returns of fortune, though at a great distance of time 5
the one in the times of Sesostris, and the other in the
empire of the Mamalukes, besides the middle great-
ness of the kingdom of the Ptolemys, and of the great-
ness of the caliphs and sultans in the latter times. And
this region, we see likewise, is of strait and defen-
sible access, being commonly called of the Romans,
Clanstra Aegypti*. Consider in like manner the situa-*Mem. TO
tion of Babylon, being planted most strongly in regard ^ 3 th e f r ^e
of lakes and overflowing grounds between the two three pro-
great navigable rivers of Euphrates and Tigris, and in P emes -
the very heart of the world ; having regard to the four

Online LibraryFrancis BaconThe works of Francis Bacon, baron of Verulam, viscount St. Alban, and lord high chancellor of England (Volume 3) → online text (page 35 of 45)