Page images

Burgundy was sold for twelve pence, by a poor Swiss, that knew no more a precious stone than did Esop's cock. And although this people have made no plantations with their afms, yet we see the reputation of them such, as not only their forces have been employed and waged, but their alliance sought and purchased, by the greatest kings and states of Europe. So as though for

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 Louis the Twelfth; who, being pressed uncivilly by message from them for the enhancing their pensions, entered into choler, and broke out in these words, "What! will these villains of the mountains put a tax upon me?" which words cost him his Duchy of Milan, and utterly ruined his affairs in Italy. Neither were it indeed possible at this day, that that nation should subsist without descents and impressions upon their neighbours, were it not for the great utterance of people which they make into the services of foreign princes and estates, thereby discharging not only number, but in that number such spirits as are most stirring and turbulent.

decided not by the sharpest sword, but by the estate, doth generate faster than it can sustain. greatest purse. And that very text or saying of In which people it well appeared what an authorMutianus which was the original of this opinion, ity iron hath over gold at the battle of Granson, is misvouched, for his speech was, "Pecuniæ at what time one of the principal jewels of sunt nervi belli civilis," which is true, for that civil wars cannot be between people of differing valour; 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 contemptible beginnings, being in that point also conform to the heavenly kingdom, of which it is pronounced, "Regnum tune, as it fares sometimes with princes to their Dei non venit cum observatione." Persia, a mountainous country, and a poor people in comparison of the Medes and other provinces which they subdued. The state of Sparta, a state wherein poverty was enacted 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 a transmigration of some bands of Sarmatian Scythes, that descended in a vagabond manner upon the province that is now termed Turcomania; out of the remnants whereof, after great variety of fortune, sprang the Ottoman 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 two 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 inheritors of the Roman empire, then dying, or at least grown impotent and aged, entered upon Egypt, Asia, Græcia, Afric, Spain, France, coming to these nations, not as to a prey, but as to a patrimony; not returning with spoil, but seating and planting themselves in a number of provinces, which continue their progeny, 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 report, 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 unlike, though the effect hath not followed in regard of a special diversion, in the nation of the Swisses, inhabiting a country, which in regard of the mountainous situation, and the popular

And, therefore, we may conclude, that as largeness of territory, severed from military virtue, is but a burden; so, that treasure and riches severed from the same, is but a prey. It resteth therefore to make reduction 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 powers and valour.

Secondly, That treasure doth then advance greatness, when it is rather in mediocrity than in great abundance. And again better, when some part of the state is poor, than when all parts of it are rich.

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

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

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

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 moneyed state will be the better able to continue the war, and so in | the end to prevail. But if any man think that And, thirdly, that it be in those hands, where money can make those provisions at the first en- there is likest to be the greatest sparing, and counters, that no difference of valour can counter-increase, and not in those hands, wherein there vail, let him look back but into those examples useth to be greatest expense and consumption. which have been brought, and he must confess, that all those furnitures whatsoever are but shows and mummeries, and cannot shroud 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 armies 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, neither 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 overgreat embracers; but most generally cowardly and fearful to lose, according to the adage, "Timidus 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 enlarge, that there be that composition which the poet speaks of, "Multis utile bellum ;" an ill condition of a state, no question, if it be meant of a civil war, as it was spoken; but a condition proper to a state that shall increase, 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 the wars, they will but keep their own, and seek no further. And in all experience, and stories, 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 constant. And this is the true reason of that event which we observed and rehearsed before, that most of the great kingdoms of the world have sprung out of hardness and scarceness of means, as the strongest herbs out of the barrenest soils.

For the third point, concerning the placing and distributing 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

For it is not the abundance of treasure in the subjects' 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 expectation of wars, then is always the deadest times for moneys, in regard every man restraineth and holdeth fast his means for his own comfort and succour, according as Solomon saith, The riches of a man are as a stronghold in his own imagination: and, therefore, we see by infinite examples, and none more memorable than that of Constantinus the last Emperor of the Greeks, and the citizens of Constantinople, that subjects 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 engrossed into few hands, it is not possible it should be so respondent and yielding to payments and contributions for the public, both because the true estimation or assessment of great wealth is more obscure and uncertain; 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 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 disbursements, whose wealth resteth chiefly in the hands of the nobility and gentlemen. For what by reason of their magnificence and waste in expense, and what by reason of their desire to advance and make great 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, burghers, 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 engrossed into few; and those hands were not much of the nobility, but most and generally of inferior conditions.

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

First, I suppose I cannot err, that as to the endowment 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 prerogative shali 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 should be yours, though in the soil of your 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 informs. 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 merchandising, 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 commodities of this island considered, it is infinite, what your majesty might raise, if you would do as a King of Portugal doth, or a Duke of Florence, in matter of merchandise. As for the wealth of the subject:* To proceed to the articles affirmative, the first


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 philosophically touching their configuration with the superior globe. But I understand proprieties and respects merely civil and according to the nature of human actions, and the true considerations of the estate. Out of which duly weighed, there doth arise a triple distribution 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 any regions. And, thirdly, that it be maritime, 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, observing these three points which I have mentioned, you cannot place them better; which shows the pre-eminence of nature, unto which human industry or accident cannot be equal, especially 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 immutable. 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 fortune of that country, there having been two mighty returns of fortune, though at great distance of time; the one in the times of Sesostris, and the other in the empire of the Mamalukes, besides the middle greatness of the kingdom of the Ptolemys, and of the greatness of the caliphs and sultans in the latter times. And this region, we see likewise, is of strait and defensible access, being commonly called of the Romans," Claustra Egypti." Consider in like manner the situation of Babylon, being planted most strongly in regard of lakes and overflowing grounds between the two great navigable rivers of Euphrates and Tigris, and in the very heart of the world; having regard to the four "cardines" of east and west and northern and southern regions. And, therefore, we see, that although the sovereignty alter, yet the seat still of the monarchy remains in that place. For after the monarchies of the Kings of Assyria, which were natural kings of that place, yet when the foreign Kings of Persia came in, the seat remained. For, although the mansion of the persons of the Kings of Persia were sometimes at Susa, and sometimes at Ecbatana, which were termed their winter and their summer parlours, because of the mildness of the air in the one, and the freshness in the other; yet the city of estate continued to be Babylon. Therefore, we see, that Alexander the Great, according to the advice of Calanus the Indian, that showed him a bladder, which, if it were borne down at one end, would rise at the other, and therefore wished him to keep himself in the middle of his empire, chose accordingly Babylon for his seat, and died there. And, afterwards, likewise in the family of Seleucus and his decendants, kings of the east, although divers of them, for their own glory, were founders of cities of their own names, as Antio

* Memorandum, Here was a blank side left to continue the chia, Seleucia, and divers others, which they


sought by all means to raise and adorn, vet the

greatness still remained according unto nature | to the seas, and in the middle of the world, we with the ancient seat. Nay, further on, the same remained during the greatness of the Kings of Parthia, as appeareth by the verse of Lucan, who wrote in Nero's time.

66 Cumque superba staret Babylon spolianda trophaeis." And after that, again it obtained the seat of the highest caliph or successors of Mahomet. And at this day, that which they call Bagdat, which joins to the ruin of the other, containeth one of the greatest satrapies of the Levant. So again Persia, being a country imbarred with mountains, open

see hath had three memorable revolutions of great monarchies. The first in the time of Cyrus; the second in the time of the new Artaxerxes, who raised himself in the reign of Alexander Severus, Emperor of Rome; and now of late memory, in Ismael the sophy, whose descendants continue in empire and competition with the Turks to this day.

So, again, Constantinople, being one of the most excellentest seats of the world, in the confines of Europe and Asia.





YOUR majesty, of your favour, having made me | other learning, which may give form to matter; privy-counsellor, and continuing me in the place of your attorney-general, which is more than was these hundred years before, I do not understand it to be, that by putting off the dealing in causes between party and party, I should keep holy day the more; but that I should dedicate my time to your service with less distraction. Wherefore, in this plentiful accession of time, which I have now gained, I take it to be my duty, not only to speed your commandments and the business of my place, but to meditate and to excogitate of myself, wherein I may best, by my travels, derive your virtues to the good of your people, and return their thanks and increase of love to you again. And, after I had thought of many things, I could find, in my judgment, none more proper for your majesty as a master, nor for me as a workman, than the reducing and recompiling of the laws of England.

Your majesty is a king blessed with posterity; and these kings sort best with acts of perpetuity, when they do not leave them, instead of children; but transmit both line and merit to future generations. You are a great master in justice and judicature, and it were pity that the fruit of that virtue should die with you. Your majesty also reigneth in learned times: the more, in regard of your own perfections and patronage of learning; and it hath been the mishap of works of this nature, that the less learned time hath wrought upon the more learned, which now will not be so. As for myself, the law is my profession, to which I am a debtor. Some little helps I may have of

and your majesty hath set me in an eminent place, whereby in a work, which must be the work of many, I may the better have coadjutors. Therefore, not to hold your majesty with any long preface, in that which I conceive to be nothing less than words, I will proceed to the matter: which matter itself, nevertheless, requireth somewhat briefly to be said, both of the dignity, and likewise of the safety, and convenience of this work and then to go to the main: that is to say, to show how the work is to be done: which incidently also will best demonstrate, that it is no vast nor speculative thing, but real and feasible. Callisthenes, that followed Alexander's court, and was grown in some displeasure with him, because he could not well brook the Persian adoration; at a supper, which with the Grecians was ever a great part talk, was desired, because he was an eloquent man, to speak of some theme; which he did, and chose for his theme the praise of the Macedonian nation; which though it were but a filling thing to praise men to their faces, yet he did it with such advantage of truth, and avoidance of flattery, and with such life, as the hearers were so ravished with it that they plucked the roses off from their garlands, and threw them upon him; as the manner of applauses then was. Alexander was not pleased with it, and by way of discountenance said, It was easy to be a good orator in a pleasing theme: " But," saith he to Callisthenes, "turn your style, and tell us now of our faults, that we may have the profit, and not you only the praise ;" which he presently did with such a force, and so


piquantly, that Alexander said, The goodness of his theme had made him eloquent before; but now it was the malice of his heart that had inspired him.

1. Sir, I shall not fall into either of those two extremes, concerning the laws of England; they commend themselves best to them that understand them; and your majesty's chief justice of your bench hath in his writings magnified them not without cause: certainly they are wise, they are just and moderate laws; they give to God, they give to Cæsar, they give to the subjects, that which appertaineth. It is true, they are as mixt as our language, compounded of British, Roman, Saxon, Danish, Norman customs. And, as our language is so much the richer, so the laws are the more complete: neither doth this attribute less to them, than those that would have them to have stood out the same in all mutations; for no tree is so good first set, as by transplanting.

2. As for the second extreme, I have nothing to do with it by way of taxing the laws. I speak only by way of perfecting them, which is easiest in the best things: for that which is far amiss hardly receiveth amendment; but that which hath already, to that more may be given. Besides, what I shall propound is not to the matter of the laws, but to the manner of their registry, expression, and tradition: so that it giveth them rather light than any new nature. This being so, for the dignity of the work I know scarcely where to find the like: for, surely, that scale, and those degrees of sovereign honour, are true and rightly marshalled; first, the founders of states; then the lawgivers; then the deliverers and saviours after long calamities; then the fathers of their countries, which are just and prudent princes; and, lastly, conquerors, which honour is not to be received amongst the rest, except it be where there is an addition of more country and territory to a better government, than that was of the conquered. Of these, in my judgment, your majesty may with more truth and flattery, be entitled to the first, because of your uniting of Britain and planting Ireland; both which savour of the founder. That which I now propound to you, may adopt you also into the second: lawgivers have been called "principes perpetui;" because, as Bishop Gardiner said in a bad sense, that he would be bishop a hundred years after his death, in respect of the long leases he made: so lawgivers are still kings and rulers after their decease, in their laws. But this work, shining so in itself, needs no taper. For the safety and convenience thereof, it is good to consider, and to answer those objections, or scruples, which may arise, or be made against this work.

Obj. I. That it is a thing needless; and that the law, as it now is, is in good estate comparable to any foreign law; and, that it is not possible for the wit of man, in respect of the frailty thereof,

to provide against the uncertainties and evasions, or omissions of law.

Resp. For the comparison with foreign laws, it is in vain to speak of it; for men will never agree about it. Our lawyers will maintain for our municipal laws; civilians, scholars, travellers, will be of the other opinion.

But, certain it is, that our laws, as they now stand, are subject to great uncertainties, and variety of opinion, delays, and evasions: whereof ensueth,

1. That the multiplicity and length of suits is great.

2. That the contentious person is armed, and the honest subject wearied and oppressed.

3. That the judge is more absolute; who, in doubtful cases, hath a greater stroke and liberty. 4. That the Chancery Courts are more filled, the remedy of law being often obscure and doubtful.

5. That the ignorant lawyer shroudeth his ignorance of law, in that doubts are so frequent and many.

6. That men's assurances of their lands and estates by patents, deeds, wills, are often subject to question, and hollow; and many the like inconveniences.

It is a good rule and direction, for that all laws, "secundum majus et minus," do participate of uncertainties, that followeth: Mark, whether the doubts that arise, are only in cases not of ordinary experience; or which happen every day. If in the first only, impute it to the frailty of man's foresight, that cannot reach by law to all cases; but, if in the latter, be assured there is a fault in the law. Of this I say no more, but that, to give every man his due, had it not been for Sir Edward Coke's Reports, (which, though they may have errors, and some peremptory and extra-judicial resolutions more than are warranted; yet, they contain infinite good decisions, and rulings over of cases,) the law, by this time, had been almost like a ship without ballast; for that the cases of modern experience are fled from those that are adjudged and ruled in former time.

But the necessity of this work is yet greater in the statute law. For, first, there are a number of ensnaring penal laws, which lie upon the subject; and if, in bad times, they should be awaked, and put in execution, would grind them to powder.

There is a learned civilian that expoundeth the curse of the prophet, "Pluet super eos laqueos," of a multitude of penal laws, which are worse than showers of hail, or tempest upon cattle, for they fall upon men.

There are some penal laws fit to be retained, but their penalty too great; and, it is ever a rule, That any overgreat penalty, besides the acerbity of it, deadens the execution of the law.

There is a further inconvenience of penal laws, obsolete, and out of use; for that it brings a gan

« PreviousContinue »