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[Livy. From an Antique Gem.]
IT cannot be denied but outward accidents conduce much to fortune; favour, opportunity, death of others, occasion fitting virtue: but chiefly, the mould of a man's fortune is in his own hands: "Faber quisque fortunæ "1 saith the poet; and the most frequent of external causes is, that the folly of one man is the fortune of another; for no man prospers so suddenly as by others' errors. "Serpens nisi serpentem comederit non fit draco." 2 Overt and apparent virtues bring forth praise; but there be secret and hidden virtues that bring forth fortune; certain deliveries of a man's self, which have no name. The Spanish name, "disemboltura," partly expresseth them when there be not stonds nor restiveneness in a man's nature, but that the wheels of his mind keep way with the wheels of his fortune; for so Livy (after he had described Cato Major in these words, "In illo viro, tantum robur corporis et animi fuit, ut quocunque loco natus esset, fortunam sibi facturus videretur,") 3 falleth upon that that he had ". tile ingenium:"4 therefore, if a man look
sharply and attentively, he shall see Fortune; for though she be blind, yet she is not invisible. The way of fortune is like the milky way in the sky; which is a meeting, or knot, of a number of small stars, not seen asunder, but giving light together: so are there a number of little and scarce discerned virtues, or rather faculties and customs, that make men fortunate the Italians note some of them, such as a man would little think. When they speak of one that cannot do amiss, they will throw in into his other conditions, that he hath "Poco di matto;" 5 and, certainly, there be not two more fortunate properties, than to have a little of the fool, and not too much of the honest; therefore extreme lovers of their country, or masters, were never fortunate; neither can they be; for when a man placeth his thoughts without himself, he goeth not his own way. A hasty fortune maketh an enterpriser and remover; (the French hath it better, "entreprenant," or "remuant;") but the exercised fortune maketh the able man. tune is to be honoured and respected, and it be but for her daughters, Confidence and Reputation; for those two Felicity breedeth; the first within a man's self, the latter in others towards him. All wise men, to decline the envy of their own virtues, use to ascribe
5 A little of the fool.
them to Providence and Fortune; for so they may the better assume them: and, besides, it is greatness in a man to be the care of the higher powers. So Cæsar said to the pilot in the tempest, "Cæsarem portas, et fortunam ejus." So Sylla chose the name of " Felix," and not of "Magnus :"3 and it hath been noted, that those who ascribe openly too much to their own wisdom and policy, end infortunate. It is written, that Timotheus, the Athenian, after he had, in the account he gave
to the state of his government, often interlaced this speech, "and in this Fortune had no part," never prospered in anything he undertook afterwards. Certainly there be, whose fortunes are like Homer's verses, that have a slide and easiness more than the verses of other poets; as Plutarch saith of Timoleon's fortune in respect of that of Agesilaus or Epaminondas and that this should be, no doubt it is much in a man's self.
XLI. OF USURY.
that the usurer breaketh the first law that was made for mankind after the fall, which was, "in sudore vultûs tui comedes panem tuum;" not, "in sudore vultûs alieni;” that usurers should have orange tawny bonnets, because they do judaize; that it is against nature for money to beget money, and the like. I say this only, that usury is a "concessum propter duritiem cordis :"7 for since there must be borrowing and lending, and men are so hard of heart as they will not lend freely, usury must be permitted. Some others have made suspicious and cunning propositions of banks, discovery of men's estates, and other inventions; but few have spoken of usury usefully. It is good to set before us the incommodities and commodities of usury, that the good may be either weighed out, or culled out; and warily to provide, that, while we make forth to that which is better, we meet not with that which is worse.
1 Thou bearest Cæsar and his fortune too.
The discommodities of usury are, first, that it makes fewer merchants; for were it not for this lazy trade of usury, money would not lie still, but would in great part be employed upon merchandizing, which is the "vena porta " 8 of wealth in a state: the second, that it makes poor merchants; for as a farmer cannot husband his ground so well if he sit at a great rent, so the merchant cannot drive his trade so well, if he sit at great usury: the third is incident to the other two; and that is, the decay of customs of kings, or states, which ebb or flow with merchandizing: the fourth, that it bringeth the treasure of a realm or state into a few hands; for the usurer being at certainties, and others at uncertainties, at the end of the game most of the money will be in the box; and ever a state flourisheth when wealth is more equally spread: the fifth, that it beats down the price of land; for the employment of money is chiefly either merchandizing, or purchasing, and usury waylays both the sixth, that it doth dull and damp all industries, improvements, and new inventions, wherein money would be stirring, if it were not for this slug: the last, that it is the canker and ruin of many men's estates, which in process of time breeds a public poverty.
On the other side the commodities of usury are, first, that howsoever usury in some respect hindereth merchandizing, yet in some other it advanceth it; for it is certain that the greatest part of trade is driven by young merchants upon borrowing at interest; so as if the usurer
8 The large vein, or rather artery, by which blood is conveyed from the heart to the liver.
either call in, or keep back his money, there will ensue presently a great stand of trade: the second is, that, were it not for this easy borrowing upon interest, men's necessities would draw upon them a most sudden undoing, in that they would be forced to sell their means (be it lands or goods), far under foot, and so, whereas usury doth but gnaw upon them, bad markets would swallow them quite up. As for mortgaging or pawning, it will little mend the matter: for either men will not take pawns without use, or if they do, they will look precisely for the forfeiture. I remember a cruel monied man in the country, that would say, "The devil take this usury, it keeps us from forfeitures of mortgages and bonds." The third and last is, that it is a vanity to conceive that there would be ordinary borrowing without profit; and it is impossible to conceive the number of inconveniences that will ensue, if borrowing be cramped: therefore to speak of the abolishing of usury is idle; all states have ever had it in one kind or rate or other; so as that opinion must be sent to Utopia.
To speak now of the reformation and reglement of usury, how the discommodities of it may be best avoided, and the commodities retained. It appears, by the balance of commodities and discommodities of usury, two things are to be reconciled; the one that the tooth of usury be grinded, that it bite not too much; the other that there be left open a means to invite monied men to lend to the merchants, for the continuing and quickening of trade. This cannot be done, except you introduce two several sorts of usury, a less and a greater; for if you reduce usury to one low rate, it will ease the common borrower, but the merchant will be to seek for money and it is to be noted, that the trade of merchandize being the most lucrative, may bear usury at a good rate: other contracts not so.
To serve both intentions, the way would be briefly thus: that there be two rates of usury; the one free and general for all; the other under license only to certain persons, and in certain places of merchandizing. First, therefore, let usury in general be reduced to five in the
hundred, and let that rate be proclaimed to be free and current; and let the state shut itself out to take any penalty for the same; this will preserve borrowing from any general stop or dryness; this will ease infinite borrowers in the country; this will, in good part, raise the price of land, because land purchased at sixteen years' purchase will yield six in the hundred, and somewhat more, whereas this rate of interest yields but five: this by like reason will encourage and edge industrious and profitable improvements, because many will rather venture in that kind, than take five in the hundred, especially having been used to greater profit. Secondly, let there be certain persons licensed to lend to known merchants upon usury, at a higher rate, and let it be with the cautions following: let the rate be, even with the merchant himself, somewhat more easy than that he used formerly to pay; for by that means all borrowers shall have some ease by this reformation, be he merchant, or whosoever; let it be no bank, or common stock, but every man be master of his own money; not that I altogether dislike banks, but they will hardly be brooked, in regard of certain suspicions. Let the state be answered, some small matter for the license, and the rest left to the lender; for if the abatement be but small, it will no whit discourage the lender; for he, for example, that took before ten or nine in the hundred, will sooner descend to eight in the hundred, than give over his trade of usury, and go from certain gains to gains of hazard. Let these licensed lenders be in number indefinite, but restrained to certain principal cities and towns of merchandizing; for then they will be hardly able to colour other men's monies in the country so as the license of nine will not suck away the current rate of five; for no man will lend his monies far off, nor put them into unknown hands.
If it be objected that this doth in a sort authorize usury, which before was in some places but permissive; the answer is, that it is better to mitigate usury by declaration, than to suffer it to rage by connivance.
XLII. OF YOUTH AND AGE.
A MAN that is young in years may be old in hours, if he have lost no time; but that happeneth rarely. Generally, youth is like the first cogitations, not so wise as the second: for there is a youth in thoughts, as well as in ages; and yet the invention of young men is more lively than that of old, and imaginations stream into their minds better, and, as it were, more divinely. Natures that have much heat, and great and violent desires and perturbations, are not ripe for action till they have passed the meridian of their years: as it was with Julius Cæsar and Septimius Severus; of the latter of whom it is said "Juventutem egit erroribus, imo furoribus plenam ;" and yet he was the ablest emperor almost, of all the list; but reposed natures, may do well in youth, as it is seen in Augustus Cæsar, Cosmus, duke of Florence. Gaston de Foix, and others. On the other side, heat and vivacity in age is an excellent composition for business. Young men are fitter to invent than to judge; fitter for execution than for counsel; and fitter for new projects than for settled business; for the experience of age, in things that fall within the compass of it, directeth them: but in new things abuseth them. The errors of young men are the ruin of business; but the errors of aged men amount but to this, that more might have been done, or sooner.
Young men, in the conduct and manage of actions, embrace more than they can hold; stir more than they can quiet; fly to the end, without consideration of the means and degrees; pursue fome few principles which they have chanced upon absurdly; care not to innovate, which draws unknown inconveniences; use extreme remedies at first; and that, which doubleth all errors, will not acknowledge or retract them, like an unready horse, that will not neither stop nor turn. Men of
1 He spent his youth not merely in errors but in madness.
age object too much, consult too long, adventure too little, repent too soon, and seldom drive business home to the full period, but content themselves with a mediocrity of success. Certainly it is good to compound employments of both; for that will be good for the present, because the virtues of either age may correct the defects of both; and good for succession, that young men may be learners, while men in age are actors; and, lastly, good for external accidents, because authority followeth old men, and favour and popularity youth: but, for the moral part, perhaps, youth will have the pre-eminence, as age hath for the politic. A certain rabbin upon the text, "Your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams," inferreth that young men are admitted nearer to God than old, because vision is a clearer revelation than a dream; and, certainly, the more a man drinketh of the world, the more it intoxicateth: and age doth profit rather in the powers of understanding, than in the virtues of the will and affections. There be some have an over-early ripeness in their years, which fadeth betimes: these are, first, such has have brittle wits, the edge whereof as soon turned: such as was Hermogenes the rhetorician, whose books are exceeding subtle, who afterwards waxed stupid: a second sort is of those that have some natural dispositions, which have better grace in youth than in age; such as is a fluent and luxuriant speech; which becomes youth well, but not age: so Tully saith of Hortensius, "Idem manebat, neque idem decebat ;"2 the third is of such as take too high a strain at the first, and are magnanimous more than tract of years can uphold; as with Scipio Africanus, of whom Livy saith, in effect, "Ultima primis cedebant."3
2 He remained the same, though such a course had become unsuitable to the times.
3 The close of his career was not equal to the commencement.
VIRTUE is like a rich stone, best plain set; and surely virtue is best in a body that is comely, though not of delicate features; and that hath rather dignity of presence, than beauty of aspect; neither is it almost seen that very beautiful persons are otherwise of great virtue; as if nature were rather busy not to err, than in labour to produce excellency; and therefore they prove accomplished, but not of great spirit; and study rather behaviour, than virtue. But this holds not always for Augustus Cæsar, Titus Vespasianus, Philip le Belle of France, Edward the Fourth of England, Alcibiades of Athens, Ismael, the sophy of Persia, were all high and great spirits, and yet the most beautiful men of their times. In beauty, that of fafavour, is more than that of colour; and that of decent and gracious motion, more than that of favour. That is the best part of beauty, which a picture cannot express; no, nor the first sight of the life. There is no excellent beauty that hath not some strangeness in the proportion. A man cannot tell whether Apelles or Albert Durer were the more trifler; whereof the one would make a personage by
geometrical proportions: the other, by taking the best parts out of divers faces to make one excellent. Such personages, I think, would please nobody but the painter that made them not but I think a painter may make a better face than ever was; but he must do it by a kind of felicity, (as a musician that maketh an excellent air in music) and not by rule. A man shall see faces, that, if you examine them part by part, you shall find never a good; and yet altogether do well. If it be true that the principal part of beauty is in decent motion, certainly it is no marvel, though persons in years seem many times more amiable; "pulchrorum autumnus pulcher;" for no youth can be comely but by pardon, and considering the youth as to make up the comeliness. Beauty is as summer fruits, which are easy to corrupt and cannot last; and, for the most part, it makes a dissolute youth, and an age a little out of countenance; but yet certainly again, if it light well, it maketh virtues shine, and vices blush.
1 The autumn of the beautiful is beautiful.