The Works of Francis Bacon/Volume 1/Essays/Of a King
OF A KING.
1. A king is a mortal god on earth, unto whom the living God hath lent his own name as a great honour; but withal told him, he should die like a man, lest he should be proud and flatter himself, that God hath with his name imparted unto him his nature also.
2. Of all kind of men, God is the least beholden unto them; for he doth most for them, and they do ordinarily least for him.
3. A king that would not feel his crown too heavy for him, must wear it every day; but if he think it too light, he knoweth not of what metal it is made.
4. He must make religion the rule of govern ment, and not to balance the scale; for he that casteth in religion only to make the scales even, his own weight is contained in those characters,—"Mene, mene, tekel, upharsin,—He is found too light, his kingdom shall be taken from him."
5. And that king that holds not religion the best reason of state, is void of all piety and justice, the supporters of a king.
6. He must be able to give counsel himself, but not rely thereupon; for though happy events justify their counsels, yet it is better that the evil event of good advice be rather imputed to a subject than a sovereign.
7. He is the fountain of honour, which should not run with a waste pipe, lest the courtiers sell the water, and then, as the papists say of their holy wells, it loses the virtue.
8. He is the life of the law, not only as he is "lex loquens" himself, but because he animateth the dead letter, making it active towards all his subjects"præmio et pœna."
9. A wise king must do less in altering his laws than he may; for new government is ever dangerous. It being true in the body politic, as in the corporal, that "omnis subita immutatio est periculosa;" and though it be for the better, yet it is not without a fearful apprehension; for he that changeth the fundamental laws of a kingdom, thinketh there is no good title to a crown, but by conquest.
10. A king that setteth to sale seats of justice, oppresseth the people; for he teacheth his judges to sell justice; and "pretio parata pretio venditur justitia."
11. Bounty and magnificence are virtues very regal, but a prodigal king is nearer a tyrant than a parsimonious: for store at home draweth not his contemplations abroad; but want supplieth itself of what is next, and many times the next way: a king herein must be wise, and know what he may justly do.
12. That king which is not feared, is not loved; and he that is well seen in his craft, must as well study to be feared as loved; yet not loved for fear, but feared for love.
13. Therefore, as he must always resemble Him whose great name he beareth, and that as in manifesting the sweet influence of his mercy on the severe stroke of his justice sometimes, so in this not to suffer a man of death to live; for besides that the land doth mourn, the restraint of justice towards sin doth more retard the affection of love, than the extent of mercy doth inflame it: and sure where love is [ill] bestowed, fear is quite lost.
14. His greatest enemies are his flatterers; for though they ever speak on his side, yet their words still make against him.
15. The love which a king oweth to a weal public; should not be overstrained to any one particular; yet that his more special favour do reflect upon some worthy ones is somewhat necessary, because there are few of that capacity.
16. He must have a special care of five things, if he would not have his crown to be but to him "infelix felicitas."
First, that "simulata sanctitas" be not in the church; for that is "duplex iniquitas."
Secondly, that "inutilis æquitas" sit not in the chancery: for that is "inepta misericordia."
Thirdly, that "utilis iniquitas" keep not the exchequer: for that is "crudele latrocinium."
Fourthly, that "fidelis temeritas" be not his general: for that will bring but "seram pœnitentiam."
Fifthly, that "infidelis prudentia" be not his secretary; for that is "anguis sub viridi herba."
To conclude; as he is of the greatest power, so he is subject to the greatest cares, made the servant of his people, or else he were without a calling at all.
He then that honoureth him not is next an atheist, wanting the fear of God in his heart.
This work was published before January 1, 1928, and is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.