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more cheerful. A great and potent nobility addeth majesty to a monarch, but diminisheth power; and putteth life and spirit into the people, but presseth their fortune. It is well when nobles are not too great for sovereignty nor for justice; and yet maintained in that height, as the insolency of inferiors may be broken upon them before it come on too fast upon the majesty of kings. A numerous nobility causeth poverty and inconvenience in a state, for it is a surcharge of expense; and besides, it being of necessity that many of the nobility fall in time to be weak in fortune, it maketh a kind of disproportion between honour and means.
As for nobility in particular persons, it is a reverend thing to see an ancient castle or building not in decay, or to see a fair timber tree sound and perfect; how much more to behold an ancient noble family, which hath stood against the waves and weathers of time? for new nobility is but the act of power, but ancient nobility is the act of time. Those that are first raised to nobility, are commonly more virtuous, but less innocent, than their
descendants; for there is rarely any rising but by a commixture of good and evil arts: but it is reason the memory of their virtues remain to their posterity, and their faults die with themselves. Nobility of birth commonly abateth industry; and he that is not industrious, envieth him that is: besides, noble persons cannot go much higher: and he that standeth at a stay when others rise, can hardly avoid motions of envy. On the other side, nobility extinguisheth the passive envy from others towards them, because they are in possession of honour. Certainly, kings that have able men of their nobility shall find ease in employing them, and a better slide into their business; for people naturally bend to them as born in some sort to command.
Seditions and Troubles.
SHEPHERDS of people had need know the calendars of tempests in state, which are commonly greatest when things grow to equality; as natural tempests are greatest about the equinoctia; and as there are certain hollow blasts of wind and secret swellings of seas, before a tempest, so are there in states:
“ Ille etiam cæcos instare tumultus Sæpe monet, fraudesque et operta tumescere bella.”
Libels and licentious discourses against the state, when they are frequent and open; and in like sort false news often running up and down, to the disadvantage of the state, and hastily embraced, are amongst the signs of troubles. Virgil, giving the pedigree of fame, saith she was sister to the giants :
“ Illam terra parens, ira irritata deorum,
As if fame were the relics of seditions past; but they are no less indeed the preludes of seditions to come.
Howsoever he noteth it right, that seditious tumults and seditious fames differ no more but as brother and sister, masculine and feminine; especially if it come to that, that the best actions of a state, and the most plausible, and which ought to give greatest contentment, are taken in ill sense, and traduced; for that shews the envy great, as Tacitus saith, conflata, magna invidia, seu bene, seu male, gesta premunt.” Neither doth it follow, that because these fames are a sign of troubles, that the suppressing of them with too much severity should be a remedy of troubles; for the despising of them many times checks them best, and the going about to stop them doth but make a wonder longlived. Also that kind of obedience, which Tacitus speaketh of, is to be held suspected: “ Erant in officio, sed tamen qui mallent mandata imperantium interpretari, quam exequi;” disputing, excusing, cavilling upon mandates and directions, is a kind of shaking off the yoke, and assay of disobedience; especially if in those disputings they which
are for the direction speak fearfully and tenderly, and those that are against it audaciously.
Also, as Machiavel noteth well, when princes, that ought to be common parents, make themselves a party, and lean to a side; it is as a boat that is overthrown by uneven weight on the one side: as was well seen in the time of Henry the Third of France; for first himself entered league for the extirpation of the protestants, and presently after the same league was turned upon himself: for when the authority of princes is made but an accessary to a cause, and that there be other bands that tie faster than the band of sovereignty, kings begin to be put almost out of possession.
Also, when discords, and quarrels, and factions, are carried openly and audaciously, it is a sign the reverence of government is lost; for the motions of the greatest persons in a government ought to be as the motions of the planets under“ primum mobile,” (according to the old opinion,) which is, that