S. Austin Allibone, comp. Prose Quotations from Socrates to Macaulay. 1880.
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 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, for it is a surcharge of expense; and, 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 descendants: for there is rarely any rising but by a commixture of good 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 extinguished 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.
He valued ancient nobility; and he was not disinclined to augment it with new honours. He valued the old nobility and the new, not as an excuse for inglorious sloth, but as an incitement to virtuous activity. He considered it as a sort of cure for selfishness and a narrow mind,conceiving that a man born in an elevated place in himself was nothing, but everything in what went before and what was to come after him. Without much speculation, but by the sure instinct of ingenuous feelings, and by the dictates of plain, unsophisticated, natural understanding, he felt that no great commonwealth could by any possibility long subsist without a body of some kind or other of nobility decorated with honour and fortified by privilege. This nobility forms the chain that connects the ages of a nation, which otherwise (with Mr. Paine) would soon be taught that no one generation can bind another. He felt that no political fabric could be well made, without some such order of things as might, through a series of time, afford a rational hope of securing unity, coherence, consistency, and stability to the state.
Edmund Burke: Letter to a Noble Lord on the Attacks upon his Pension, 1796.
Time hath his revolutions: there must be a period and an end to all temporal thingsfinis reruman end of names and dignities, and whatsoever is terrene;and why not of De Vere?for where is Bohun? Where is Mowbray? Where is Mortimer? Nay, which is more, and most of all, where is Plantagenet? They are entombed in the urns and sepulchres of mortality. Yet let the name of De Vere stand so long as it pleaseth God.
Lord Chief-Justice Crewe: Oxford Peerage Case, A.D. 1625.
We must have kings, we must have nobles; nature is always providing such in every society: only let us have the real instead of the titular. In every society some are born to rule, and some to advise. The chief is the chief all the world over, only not his cap and plume. It is only this dislike of the pretender which makes men sometimes unjust to the true and finished man.
It was not only by the efficacy of the restraints imposed on the royal prerogative that England was advantageously distinguished from most of the neighbouring countries. A peculiarity equally important, though less noticed, was the relation in which the nobility stood here to the community. There was a strong hereditary aristocracy: but it was of all hereditary aristocracies the least insolent and exclusive. It had none of the invidious character of a caste. It was constantly receiving members from the people, and constantly sending down members to mingle with the people. Any gentleman might become a peer. The younger son of a peer was but a gentleman. Grandsons of peers yielded precedence to newly-made knights. The dignity of knighthood was not beyond the reach of any man who could by diligence and thrift realize a good estate, or who could attract notice by his valour in a battle or a siege. It was regarded as no disparagement for the daughter of a Duke, nay, of a royal Duke, to espouse a distinguished commoner. Thus. Sir John Howard married the daughter of Thomas Mowbray, Duke of Norfolk. Sir Richard Pole married the Countess of Salisbury, daughter of George, Duke of Clarence. Good blood was indeed held in high respect: but between good blood and the privileges of peerage there was, most fortunately for our country, no necessary connection. Pedigrees as long, and scutcheons as old, were to be found out of the House of Lords as in it. There were new men who bore the highest titles. There were untitled men well known to be descended from knights who had broken the Saxon ranks at Hastings and scaled the walls of Jerusalem. There were Bohuns, Mowbrays, De Veres, nay, kinsmen of the House of Plantagenet, with no higher addition than that of Esquire, and with no civil privileges beyond those enjoyed by every farmer and shopkeeper. There was therefore here no line like that which in some other countries divided the patrician from the plebeian. The yeoman was not inclined to murmur at dignities to which his own children might rise. The grandee was not inclined to insult a class into which his own children must descend.