Bacon's Essays/Of Seditions and Troubles

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Shepheards of People had need know the Kalenders[1] of Tempests in State, which are commonly greatest, when Things grow to Equality; As Naturall Tempests are greatest about the Æquinoctia. And as there are certaine hollow Blasts of Winde 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[2]

Libels and licentious Discourses against the State, when they are frequent and open, And in like sort false Newes, often running up and downe, to the disadvantage of the State, and hastily embraced, are amongst the Signes of Troubles. Virgil, giving the Pedegre of Fame[3], saith, She was sister to the Giants.

Illam Terra Parens irâ irritata Deorum,
Extremam (ut perhibent) Cæo Enceladoque sororem

As if Fames[5] were the Reliques of Seditions past; But they are no lesse, 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[6], and which ought to give greatest Contentment, are taken in ill Sense, and traduced: For that shewes the Envy great, as Tacitus saith, Conflata magna Invidia, sen benè seu mallè gesta premunt[7]. Neither doth it follow that because these Fames are a signe 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[8] to stop them doth but make a Wonder Long-lived. Also that kinde of Obedience, which Tacitus speaketh of, is to be held suspected; Erant in officio, sed tamen qui mallent mandata Imperantium interpretari quàm exequi[9]; Disputing, Excusing, Cavilling upon Mandates and Directions, is a kinde of shaking off the yoake and Assay of[10] disobedience ; Especially, if in those disputings, they, which are for[11] the direction, speake fearefully and tenderly[12], And those that are against it, audaciously.

Also, as Macciavel noteth well; when Princes, that ought to be Common Parents[13], make themselves as a Party and leane to a side, it is as a Boat that is overthrowen by uneven weight on the one Side; As was well seen, in the time of Henry the third of France; For first, himselfe entred League for the Extirpation of the Protestants, and presently after, the same League was turned upon Himselfe. For when the Authority of Princes is made but an Accessary to a Cause, And that there be other Bands[14] that tie faster then the Band of Soveraignty, Kings begin to be put almost out of Possession.

Also, when Discords and Quarrells and Factions are carried openly and audaciously, it is a Signe the Reverence of[15] 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[16] of them is carried swiftly by the Highest Motion, and softly in their owne Motion. And therfore, when great Ones, in their owne particular Motion, move violently, and, as Tacitus expresseth it well, Liberiùs quam ut Imperantium meminissent[17], It is a Signe the Orbs are out of Frame:[18] For Reverence is that wherwith Princes are girt from God, Who threatneth the dissolving thereof; Solvam cingula Regum.[19]

So when any of the foure Pillars of Government are mainly[20] shaken or weakned (which are Religion, Justice, Counsell, and Treasure,) Men had need to pray for Faire Weather. But let us passe from this Part of Predictions,[21] (Concerning which, neverthelesse, more light may be taken, from that which followeth,) And let us speake first of the Materials of Seditions; Then of the Motives of them; And thirdly of the Remedies.

Concerning the Materialls of Seditions. It is a Thing well to be considered: For the surest way to prevent Seditions, (if the Times doe beare it,[22]) is to take away the Matter of them. For if there be Fuell prepared, it is hard to tell whence the Spark shall come that shall set it on Fire. The Matter of Seditions is of two kindes; Much Poverty and Much Discontentment. It is certaine, so many Overthrowne Estates,[23] so many Votes for Troubles. So Lucan noteth well the State of Rome before the Civill Warre:

Hinc Usura vorax, rapidumque in tempore Fænus,
Hinc concussa Fides, et multis utile Bellum.[24]

This same Multis utile Bellum is an assured and infallible Signe of a State disposed to Seditions and Troubles. And if this Poverty and Broken Estate, in the better Sort, be ioyned with a Want and Necessity in the meane People,[25] the danger is imminent and great. For the Rebellions of the Belly[26] are the worst. As for Discontentments, they are in the Politique Body like to Humours in the Naturall, which are apt to gather a preternaturall Heat and to Enflame. And let no Prince measure the Danger of them by this, whether they be lust, or Uniust? For that were to imagine People to be too reasonable, who doe often spurne at their owne Good; Nor yet by this, whether the Griefes, wherupon they rise,[27] be in fact great or small; For they are the most dangerous Discontentments, where the Feare is greater then the Feeling. Dolendi Modus, Timendi non item.[28] Besides, in great Oppressions, the same Things that provoke the Patience doe withall mate[29] the Courage; But in Feares it is not so. Neither let any Prince or State be secure[30] concerning Discontentments, because they have been often, or have been long, and yet no Perill hath ensued; For as it is true that every Vapor or Fume[31] doth not turne into a Storme, So it is, neverthelesse, true that Stormes, though they blow over divers times, yet may fall at last; And as the Spanish Proverb noteth well; The cord breakdh at the last by the weakest pull.

The Causes and Motives of Seditions are,— Innovation in Religion; Taxes; Alteration of Lawes and Customes; Breaking of Priviledges; Generall Oppression; Advancement of unworthy persons; Strangers; Dearths; Disbanded Souldiers; Factions growne desperate; And whatsoever in offending People ioyneth and knitteth them in a Common Cause.

For[32] the Remedies; There may be some generall Preservatives, whereof wee will speake; As for the iust[33] Cure, it must answer to the Particular Disease; And so be left to Counsell rather then Rule.

The first Remedy or prevention is to remove by all meanes possible that materiall Cause[34] of Sedition, wherof we spake; which is Want and Poverty in the Estate.[35] To which purpose serveth the Opening and well Ballancing of Trade; The Cherishing[36] of Manufactures; the Banishing of Idlenesse; the Repressing of waste and Excesse by Sumptuary Lawes; the Improvement and Husbanding[37] of the Soyle; the Regulating of Prices of things vendible; the Moderating of Taxes and Tributes; And the like. Generally, it is to be foreseene[38] that the Population of a Kingdome, (especially if it be not mowen downe by warrs) doe not exceed the Stock[39] of the Kingdome, which should maintaine them. Neither is the Population to be reckoned onely by number; For a smaller Number, that spend more and earne lesse, doe weare out an Estate sooner then a greater Number, that live lower[40] and gather more. Therefore the Multiplying of Nobilitie and other Degrees of Qualitie,[41] in an over Proportion to the Common People, doth speedily bring a State to Necessitie; And so doth likewise an overgrowne Clergie, For they bring nothing to the Stocke; And in like manner, when more are bred Schollers then Preferments can take off.[42]

It is likewise to be remembred that, for as much as the increase of any Estate[43] must be upon[44] the Forrainer, (for whatsoever is some where gotten is some where lost) There be but three Things which one Nation selleth unto another; The Commoditie as Nature yeeldeth it; The Manufacture; and the Vecture or Carriage. So that if these three wheeles goe, Wealth will flow as in a Spring tide. And it commeth many times to passe that Materiam superabit Opus,[45] That the Worke and Carriage is more worth then the Materiall, and enricheth a State more; As is notably scene in the Low-Countrey-men, who have the best Mines, above ground, in the World.

Above all things, good Policie is to be used, that the Treasure and Moneyes in a State be not gathered into few Hands. For otherwise, a State may have a great Stock and yet starve. And Money is like Muck[46], not good except it be spread. This is done, chiefly, by suppressing, or, at the least, keeping a strait[47] Hand upon the Devouring Trades of Usurie, Ingrossing,[48] great Pasturages, and the like.

For Removing Discontentments, or at least the danger of them; There is in every State (as we know) two Portions of Subiects, The Noblesse and the Commonaltie. When one of these is Discontent,[49] the danger is not great; For Common People are of slow Motion, if they be not excited by the Greater Sort;[50] And the Greater Sort are of small strength, except the Multitude be apt and ready to move of themselves. Then is the danger, when the Greater Sort doe but wait for the Troubling of the Waters amongst the Meaner, that then they may declare themselves. The Poets faigne that the rest of the Gods would have bound Iupiter; which he hearing of, by the Counsell of Pallas sent for Briareus, with his hundred Hands, to come in to his Aid: An Einbleme, no doubt, to shew how safe[51] it is for Monarchs to make sure of the good Will of Common People.

To give moderate Liberty for Griefes and Discontent ments to evaporate, (so[52] it be without too great Insolency or Bravery,[53]) is a safe Way. For he that turneth the Humors backe and maketh the Wound bleed inwards, endangereth[54] maligne Ulcers and pernicious Impostumations.[55]

The Part of Epimetheus mought well become Pro metheus in the case of Discontentments, For there is not a better provision against them. Epimetheus, when Griefes and Evils flew abroad, at last shut the lid, and kept Hope in the Bottome of the Vessell. Certainly, the Politique and Artificiall[56] Nourishing and Entertaining of Hopes, and Carrying Men from Hopes to Hopes, is one of the best Antidotes against the Poyson of Discontentments. And it is a certaine Signe of a wise Government and Proceeding, when it can hold Men's hearts by Hopes, when it cannot by Satisfaction;[57] And when it can handle things in such manner as no Evill shall appeare so peremptory[58] but that it hath some Out-let of Hope; Which is the lesse hard to doe, because both particular Persons[59] and Factions are apt enough to flatter themselves, or at least to brave[60] that, which they beleeve not.

Also, the Foresight, and Prevention, that there be no likely or fit Head whereunto Discontented Persons may resort, and under whom they may ioyne, is a knowne but an excellent Point of Caution. I understand a fit Head to be one that hath Greatnesse and Reputation; That hath Confidence with[61] the Discontented Party; and upon whom they turne their Eyes; And that is thought discontented in his own particular;[62] which kinde of Persons are either to be wonne and reconciled to the State; and that in a fast and true manner; Or to be fronted[63] with some other of the same Party, that may oppose them, and so divide the reputation. Generally, the Dividing and Breaking of all Factions and Combinations that are adverse to the State, and setting them at distance,[64] or at least distrust amongst themselves, is not one of the worst Remedies. For it is a desperate Case, if those that hold with the Proceeding of the State be full of Discord and Faction, And those that are against it be entire and united.

I have noted that some witty[65] and sharpe Speeches, which have fallen from Princes, have given fire to Seditions. Caesar did himselfe infinite Hurt, in that Speech, Sylla nescivit Literas, non potuit dictare:[66] For it did utterly cut off that Hope, which Men had entertained, that he would, at one time or other, give over his Dictatorship. Galba undid himselfe by that Speech, Legi à se Militem, non emi:[67] For it put the Souldiers out of Hope of the Donative. Probus likewise, by that Speech, Si vixero, non opus erit ampliùs Romano Imperio militibus;[68] A Speech of great Despaire for the Souldiers: And many the like. Surely, Princes had need, in tender[69] Matters and Ticklish Times, to beware what they say; Especially in these short Speeches, which flie abroad like Darts, and are thought to be shot out of their secret Intentions. For as for large Discourses, they are flat[70] Things and not so much noted.

Lastly, let Princes, against all Events,[71] not be without some Great Person, one, or rather more, of Military Valour neere unto them, for the Repressing of Seditions in their beginnings. For without that, there useth to be[72] more trepidation in Court upon the first Breaking out of Troubles then were fit. And the State runneth the danger of that which Tacitus saith; Atque is Habitus animorum fuit, ut pessimum facinus auderent Pauci, Plures vellent, Omnes paterentur.[73] But let such Military Persons be Assured,[74] and well reputed of, rather then Factious and Popular;[75] Holding also good Correspondence with[76] the other Great Men in the State, Or else the Remedie is worse then the Disease.

  1. accurate forecasts
  2. The Sun it is who often betrays the stealthy approach of battle alarms, the heavings of treason and concealed rebellion.
  3. Rumour
  4. Earth, her parent, provoked to anger against the gods, brought her forth, they say, the youngest of the family, sister of Coeus and Enceladus.
  5. false rumours
  6. deserving of applause, laudable
  7. When great unpopularity is once aroused, people find fault with acts whether good or bad.
  8. endeavour
  9. They were attentive to their duties, yet in such a way as to show that they were disposed to put their own interpretation on their general's orders rather than to carry them out.
  10. attempt at
  11. in favour of
  12. timidly and wealky
  13. parents to all
  14. bonds
  15. for
  16. every one
  17. more freely than is consistent with respect for their rulers
  18. disordered
  19. I will loose the girdles of kings.
  20. violently
  21. i.e. from this part of the subject, viz. predictions
  22. allow the removal of their causes
  23. fortunes
  24. Hence sprang devouring usury, and interest rapidly becoming due; hence shaken credit, and war that was a boon to many.
  25. lower classes
  26. due to hunger
  27. i.e. rise in rebellion
  28. There is a limit to pain but no limit to fear.
  29. at the same time overpower
  30. careless
  31. smoke
  32. As for
  33. exact
  34. i.e. the cause which is the matter or ground of the sedition
  35. state
  36. encouragement
  37. cultivation
  38. precautions should be taken
  39. produce
  40. more economically
  41. rank
  42. appointments can absorb
  43. state
  44. at the expense of
  45. The workmanship will be worth more than the materials.
  46. manure
  47. strict
  48. monopolizing
  49. discontented
  50. upper classes
  51. salutary
  52. provided that
  53. bravado
  54. runs the risk of
  55. abscesses
  56. artful
  57. by granting their demands
  58. destructive, or inevitable
  59. both individuals
  60. make a parade of
  61. is trusted by
  62. discontented about the position of his own affairs
  63. confronted
  64. at enmity
  65. smart
  66. Sulla did not know his letters and could not 'dictate'.
  67. That it was his practice to levy soldiers, not to buy them.
  68. If I live, the Roman Empire shall have no further need of soldiers
  69. delicate
  70. dull
  71. in case of any emergency
  72. there is usually
  73. Such was the state of men's feelings that, while there were few to venture on a deed so foul, most men wished it done and all acquiesced in it.
  74. trustworthy
  75. popularity-hunters
  76. bearing a due proportion to

This work was published before January 1, 1926, and is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.