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great politiques of; like to knee timber, that is good for ships, that are ordained to be tossed; but not for building houses, that shall stand firm. The parts and signs of goodness are many. If a man be gracious and courteous to strangers, it shews he is a citizen of the world, and that his heart is no island cut off from other lands, but a continent that joins to them. If he be compassionate towards the afflictions of others, it shews that his heart is like the noble tree that is wounded itself when it gives the balm. If he easily pardons and remits offences, it shews that his mind is planted above injuries; so that he cannot be shot. If he be thankful for small benefits, it shews that he weighs men's minds, and not their trash. But above all, if he have St. Paul's perfection, that he would wish to be an anathema from Christ for the salvation of his brethren, it shews much of a divine nature, and a kind of conformity with Christ himself.


WE will speak of Nobility first as a portion of an estate; then as a condition of particular persons. A monarchy where there is no nobility at all, is ever a pure and absolute tyranny; as that of the Turks. For nobility attempers sovereignty, and draws the eyes of the people somewhat aside from the line royal. But for democracies, they need it not; and they are commonly more quiet and less subject to sedition, than where there are stirps of nobles. For men's eyes are upon the business, and not upon the persons; or if upon the persons, it is for the business sake, as fittest, and not for flags and pedigree.1 We see the Switzers last well, notwithstanding their diversity of religion and of cantons. For utility is their bond, and not respects.2 The united provinces of the Low Countries in their government excel; for where there is an equality, the consultations are more indifferent, and the payments and tributes 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

1 vel si omnino in personas, id fit tunquam in maxime idoneas rebus gerendis, minime vero ut ratio habeatur insignium aut imaginum.

2 dignitas.

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 2; 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 descendants3; for there is rarely any rising but by a commixture of good and 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.


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.

1illorum reverentiâ, tanquam obice, retundatur.

2 Rursus numerosa nobilitas, quæ plerumque minus potens est, statum prorsus depasperat.

* virtutum claritudine plerumque posteris eminent, sed innocentiâ minime.

♦ That is, born in possession. Eo quod nobiles in honorum possessione nati videntur

5 negotia sua mollius fluere sentient, si eos potissimum adhibeant.

• Prognostica.

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.

[Of troubles imminent and treasons dark

Thence warning comes, and wars in secret gathering]

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, irâ irritata Deorum,

Extremam (ut perhibent) Coo Enceladoque sororem


As if fames 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: [when dislike prevails against the government, good actions and bad offend alike.] 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 long-lived.3 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; [ready to serve, and yet more disposed to construe commands than execute them;] 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.

1 cavos, et veluti a longinquo.

2 So in original. One of the thats should of course be omitted.


nihil aliud fere efficit quam ut durent magis.

Also, as Machiavel' noteth well, when princes, that ought to be common parents, make themselves as 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 every of them is carried swiftly by the highest motion, and softly in their own motion. And therefore, when great ones. in their own particular motion move violently, and, as Tacitus expresseth it well, liberius quam ut imperantium meminissent, [unrestrained by reverence for the government], it is a sign the orbs are out of frame. For reverence is that wherewith princes are girt from God; who threateneth3 the dissolving thereof; Solvam cingula regum: [I will unbind the girdles of kings.]

So when any of the four pillars of government are mainly shaken or weakened (which are Religion, Justice, Counsel, and Treasure), men had need to pray for fair weather. But let us pass from this part of predictions (concerning which, nevertheless, more light may be taken from that which followeth); and let us speak first of the Materials of seditions; then of the Motives of them; and thirdly of the Remedies.

Concerning the Materials of seditions. It is a thing well to be considered; for the surest way to prevent seditions (if the times do bear it) is to take away the matter of them. For if there be fuel prepared, it is hard to tell whence the spark shall come that shall set it on fire. The matter of seditions is of two kinds; much poverty and much discontentment. It is certain,

The Italian translation omits the name of Machiavel, and says only un scrittore. 2 qui rapide quidem circumferuntur secundum motum primi mobilis, leniter autem renituntur in motu proprio.

That is, holds it out as a threat. A manuscript copy of this Essay in an earlier form (which will be given in the Appendix) has, "who threateneth the dissolving thereof as one of his greatest judgments."

so many overthrown estates, so many votes for troubles. Lucan noteth well the state of Rome before the civil war,

Hinc usura vorax, rapidumque in tempore fœnus,

Hinc concussa fides, et multis utile bellum:

[estates eaten up by usurious rates of interest, credit shaken, war a gain to many.]


This same multis utile bellum, is an assured and infallible sign of a state disposed to seditions and troubles. And if this poverty and broken estate in the better sort be joined with a want and necessity in the mean people, the danger is imminent and great. For the rebellions of the belly are the worst. for discontentments', they are in the politic body like to humours in the natural, which are apt to gather a preternatural heat and to inflame. And let no prince measure the danger of them by this, whether they be just or unjust for that were to imagine people to be too reasonable; who do often spurn at their own good: nor yet by this, whether the griefs whereupon they rise be in fact great or small: for they are the most dangerous discontentments where the fear is greater than the feeling: Dolendi modus, timendi non item: [Suffering has its limit, but fears are endless.] Besides, in great oppressions, the same things that provoke the patience, do withal mate the courage; but in fears it is not so. Neither let any prince or state be secure concerning discontentments, because they have been often, or have been long, and yet no peril hath ensued: for as it is true that every vapour or fume doth not turn into a storm; so it is nevertheless true that storms, though they blow over divers times, yet may fall at last; and, as the Spanish proverb noteth well, The cord breaketh at the last by the weakest pull.

The Causes and Motives of seditions are, innovation in religion; taxes; alteration of laws and customs; breaking of privileges; general oppression; advancement of unworthy persons; strangers; dearths; disbanded soldiers; factions grown desperate; and whatsoever, in offending people, joineth and knitteth them in a common cause.

For the Remedies; there may be some general preservatives, whereof we will speak: as for the just cure, it must answer

I alienationes animorum, et tædium rerum præsentium.

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