Nonfiction > Jean de La Bruyère > Characters
Jean de La Bruyère (1645–1696).  Characters.  1885.
Of the Sovereign and the State
(1.)  WHEN we have cursorily examined all forms of government without partiality to the one of our fatherland, we cannot decide which to choose; they are all a mixture of good and evil; it is, therefore, most reasonable to value that of our native land above all others, and to submit to it.  1
(2.)  Tyranny has no need of arts or sciences, for its policy, which is very shallow and without any refinement, only consists in shedding blood; it prompts us to murder every one whose life is an obstacle to our ambition; and a man naturally cruel has no difficulty in doing this. It is the most detestable and barbarous way of maintaining power and of aggrandisement.  2
(3.)  It is a sure and ancient maxim in politics that to allow the people to be lulled by festivals, spectacles, luxury, pomp, pleasures, vanity, and effeminacy, to occupy their minds with worthless things, and to let them relish trifling frivolities, is efficiently preparing the way for a despotism.  3
(4.)  Under a despotic government the love for one’s native land does not exist; self-interest, glory, and serving the prince supply its place.  4
(5.)  To innovate or introduce any alterations in a state is more a question of time than of action; on some occasions it would be injudicious to attempt anything against the liberties of the people, and on others it is evident that everything may be ventured on. To-day you may subvert the freedom, rights, and privileges of a certain town, and to-morrow you must not so much as think of altering the signboards of their shops.  5
(6.)  In public commotions we cannot understand how the people can ever be appeased, nor in quiet times imagine as little what can disturb them.  6
(7.)  A government connives at certain evils in order to repress or prevent greater ones. There are others which are only evils because they originally sprang from abuses or bad customs, but these are less pernicious in their consequences and practice than would be a juster law or a more reasonable custom. Some kind of evils, which indeed are very dangerous, are curable by novelty and change: other evils are hidden and under ground, as filth in a common sewer; these are buried in shame, secrecy, and obscurity, and cannot be stirred up or raked about, without exhaling poison and infamy; so that the ablest men sometimes doubt whether it be more judicious to take notice of them or to ignore them. The State not seldom tolerates a comparatively great evil to keep out millions of lesser ills and inconveniences which otherwise would be inevitable and without remedy. Some there are, which are greatly complained of by private persons, but which tend to benefit the public, though the public be only an aggregate of those self-same private persons; other ills a person suffers which turn to the good and advantage of every household; others, again, afflict, ruin, and dishonour certain families, but tend to benefit and preserve the working of the machinery of the State and of the government. Finally, there are some which subvert governments and cause fresh ones to arise on their ruins; and instances can be quoted of others which have undermined the foundations of great empires, and utterly destroyed them, merely to diversify and renew the surface of the globe.  7
(8.)  What does the State care whether Ergastes be rich, has a good pack of hounds, invents new fashions in carriages and dress, and wantons in superfluities? Is the interest of a private person to be considered when the interest and convenience of the public are in question? When the burdens of the people weigh a little heavy, it is some comfort for them to know that they relieve their prince and enrich him alone; but they do not think they are obliged to contribute to the fortune of Ergastes.  8
(9.)  Even in the most remote antiquity, and in all ages, war has existed, and has always filled the world with widows and orphans, drained families of heirs, and destroyed several brothers in one and the same battle. Young Soyecourt! I mourn your loss, your modesty, your intelligence, already so developed, so clear, lofty, and communicative; I bewail that untimely death which carried you off, as well as your intrepid brother, and removed you from a court where you had barely time to show yourself; such a misfortune is not uncommon, but nevertheless should be deplored! In every age men have agreed to destroy, burn, kill, and slaughter one another, for some piece of land more or less; and to accomplish this with the greater certainty and ingenuity, they have invented beautiful rules, which they call “strategy.” When any one brings these rules into practice, glory and the highest honours are his reward, whilst every age improves on the method of destroying one another reciprocally. An injustice committed by the first men was the primary occasion for wars, and made the people feel the necessity of giving themselves masters to settle their rights and pretensions. If each man could have been satisfied with his own property and had not infringed on that of his neighbours, the world would have enjoyed uninterrupted peace and liberty.  9
(10.)  They who sit peaceably by their own firesides among their friends, and in the midst of a large town, where there is nothing to fear either for their wealth or their lives, breathe fire and sword, busy themselves with wars, destructions, conflagrations, and massacres, cannot bear patiently that armies are in the field and do not meet; or, if in sight, that they do not engage; or, if they engage, that the fight was not more sanguinary, and that there were scarcely ten thousand men killed on the spot. They are sometimes so infatuated as to forget their dearest interests, their repose and security, for the sake of change, and from a liking for novelty and extraordinary events; some of them would even be satisfied with seeing the enemy at the very gates of Dijon or Corbie, with beholding chains stretched across the streets and barricades thrown up, for the satisfaction of hearing and of communicating the news.  10
(11.)  Demophilus, on my right, is full of lamentations, and exclaims, “Everything is lost; we are on the brink of ruin; how can we resist such a powerful and general league? What can we do, I dare not say to vanquish, but to make head by ourselves against so many and such powerful enemies? There never was anything like it as long as the monarchy has existed! A hero, an Achilles, would have to succumb! Besides,” adds he, “we have committed some very serious blunders; I know what I am talking about, for I have been a soldier myself; I have seen some battles, and have learned a good deal from studying history.” Then he falls to admiring Olivier le Daim and Jacques Cœur, who, according to him, were men after his own heart, and ministers indeed. He retails his news, which is sure to be the most melancholy and disadvantageous that could be invented. Now a party of our soldiers has fallen into an ambush, and are cut to pieces; presently some of our troops, shut up in a castle, surrender at discretion, and are all put to the sword. Should you tell him that such a report is incorrect, and wants confirmation, he will not listen to you, but affirms that a general has been killed; and though it is certain that he has only been slightly wounded, and you tell him so, he deplores his death, is sorry for the widow, the children, and the State, and is even sorry for himself, for he has lost a good friend and an influential patron. He tells you the German horse are invincible, and turns pale if you but name the Imperial cuirassiers. “If we attack such a place,” continues he, “we shall be obliged to raise the siege; we shall have to remain on the defensive without engaging in action, or if we do fight, we shall certainly be beaten, and then the enemy will be upon the frontiers.” Demophilus gives them wings, and brings them presently into the heart of the kingdom; he fancies he already hears the alarm-bells ring in the towns, and thinks of his property and his estate; he does not know where to take his money, his movables, and his family, and whether to escape to the Swiss Cantons or to Venice.  11
  But Basilides, on my left, raises suddenly an army of three hundred thousand men, and will not abate a single troop; he has a list of all the squadrons, battalions, generals, and officers, not omitting the artillery and baggage. All these troops are at his entire disposal; some he sends into Germany, others into Flanders, reserves a certain number for the Alps, a smaller quantity for the Pyrenees, and conveys the rest beyond seas; he knows their marches, he can tell what they will do, and what they will not do; you would think he had the King’s ear, or was the minister’s confidant. If the enemies are beaten, and lose about nine or ten thousand men, he positively avers it was thirty, neither more nor less; for his numbers are always as settled and certain as if he had the best intelligence. Tell him in the morning we have lost a paltry village, he not only puts off a dinner to which the day before he had invited his friends, but does not take any dinner himself on that day; and if he eats a supper it is without appetite. If we besiege a town strong through its natural position, and regularly fortified, well stored with provisions and ammunition, defended by a good garrison, commanded by a brave general, he tells you the town has its weak spots, which are badly fortified, is in want of powder, has a governor who lacks experience, and will capitulate eight days after the trenches are opened. Another time he runs himself quite out of breath, and after he has recovered himself a little he exclaims, “I have some important news for you; our enemies are beaten and totally routed; the general and principal officers, or at least the greater part of them, are all killed, or have perished. What a tremendous slaughter! We certainly have been very lucky!” Then he sits down and takes a rest, after having told us the news, which only wants a trifle more confirmation; for it is certain there has been no battle at all. He assures us further that some prince, dreading our arms, has abandoned the League and left his confederates in the lurch, and that a second is inclined to follow his example; he believes firmly, with the populace, that a third is dead, and names you the place where he is buried; and even when the common people are undeceived, he offers to lay a wager it is true. He knows for a fact that T. K. L. is very successful against the Emperor, that the Grand Turk is making formidable preparations, and will not hear of peace; and that the Vizier will once more show himself before Vienna. He claps his hands and is as delighted as if there were not the smallest doubt about it. The triple alliance is a Cerberus with him, and the enemy only so many monsters to be knocked on the head. He talks of nothing but laurels, palm-branches, triumphs, and trophies; in conversation he speaks of “our august hero, our mighty potentate, our invincible monarch,” and whatever you do, you will not get him to say simply, “The King has a great many enemies; they are powerful, united, and exasperated; he has conquered them, and I hope he will always do so.” This style, too bold and decisive for Demophilus, is not sufficiently pompous or grandiloquent for Basilides; his head is full of other expressions; he is planning inscriptions for triumphal arches and pyramids to adorn the capital when the conqueror will enter it; and as soon as he hears that the armies are in sight of each other, or that a town is invested, he has his clothes hung out and aired, so that they should be ready when a Te Deum is sung in the cathedral.  12
(12.)  A business which has to be discussed by the plenipotentiaries or by the diplomatic agents of crowned heads and republics must needs be unusually intricate and difficult if its conclusion requires a longer time than the settling of the preliminaries, nay, even than the mere regulating of ranks, precedences, and other ceremonies.  13
  A minister or a plenipotentiary is a chameleon or a Proteus; sometimes, like a practised gambler, he hides his temper and character, either to avoid any conjectures or guesses, or to prevent any part of his secret escaping through passion or weakness; and at other times he knows how to assume any character most suited to his designs, or which is required, as it may be his interest artfully to appear to other people as they think he really is. Thus when he intends to conceal that his master is very formidable or very weak, he is resolute and inflexible to prevent any large demands; or he is easy-going, so as to give others an opportunity of making some demands, and so secure the same liberty. At other times he is either diplomatic and disingenuous, so as to veil a truth whilst telling it, because it is of some importance to him to have it divulged but not believed; or else he is free and open, so that when he wishes to conceal what should not be known, people should nevertheless believe that he is acquainted with everything they wish to know, and be convinced that they have been told everything. In like manner he is fluent and verbose to excite others to talk, or prevent their saying what he does not wish or ought not to hear; to speak of many and various things which modify and destroy each other, and leave the mind hovering between confidence and distrust; to make amends for an expedient thoughtlessly proposed by suggesting another; or he is sedate and taciturn to induce others to talk, to listen for a long time, so that he may afterwards obtain the same favour himself, speak with authority and weight, and utter promises or threats which will influence people and produce a strong impression. He begins and speaks first, the better to discover the opposition and contradictions, the intrigues and cabals, of foreign ministers about some proposals he has made, to take his measures and reply to them; and at another meeting he speaks last, that he may be sure not to speak in vain, and to be exact, so as perfectly to be aware on what support he can reckon for his master and his allies, as well as to know what he ought to ask and what he can get. He knows how to be clear and explicit, or still better, how to be ambiguous and obscure, and to use words and phrases with a double meaning, which he can render more or less forcible as the occasion or his interest may require. He asks for a little because he will not grant much; he asks for much to make sure of a little. At first he insists upon getting a few trifling things, which he afterwards pretends to be of small value, so as not to prevent him for asking for one of greater value; he avoids, on the contrary, to gain at first an important point, if it is likely to prevent him from obtaining several others of less importance, but which, when united, exceed the other in value. His demands are extravagant, but he knows beforehand they will be denied, so he is provided with a convenient excuse for refusing those he knows will be made, and which he does not wish to grant; as industrious to aggravate the enormity of these demands, and to let his adversaries admit, if possible, that there may be reasons why they cannot agree, as to weaken those which they pretend to have for not granting him what he solicits so urgently; and as diligent in vaunting and in enlarging upon the little he has to offer as he is in despising openly the little they are willing to grant. He pretends to make some extraordinary proposals which beget distrust, and cause to be rejected what indeed, if accepted, could not be performed; this also serves to colour his exorbitant demands, and throws on his antagonists the responsibility of a refusal. He grants more than is asked, so as to get still more than he gives. You have to pray, entreat, and beseech him for a long time to obtain some trifling favour, so as to destroy all expectations and uproot all thoughts of asking anything more important of him; or, if he is persuaded to grant it, it is always on such conditions that he may share in its profits and advantages. He directly or indirectly espouses the interest of an ally, if he finds it at the same time conducive to the advancing of his own pretensions; he talks of nothing but peace and alliances, the public tranquillity and the public interests, and thinks, indeed, only of his own, or rather of his master’s and the State’s he represents. Sometimes he reconciles some people who were opposed to one another, and sometimes he divides those who were united; he intimidates the powerful and encourages the weak; he draws several weak States into a league against a more powerful one, under the pretence of a balance of power, and then joins the former to turn the scale; but his protection and his alliance are always expensive. He knows how to interest those with whom he treats, and by a dexterous management and by shrewd and subtle subterfuges he makes them perceive what private advantage, profits, and honours they may derive through a certain pliability, which does not in the least clash with their instructions nor with the intentions of their masters. And in order not to be thought impregnable on his side, he betrays some anxiety to better his fortunes, and then receives some proposals which unveil to him the most secret intentions, the most profound designs, and the last resource of his opponents, and which he turns to his own advantage. If sometimes he is a loser by certain stipulations, which have at last been settled, he clamours loudly; and if he is not, he is still louder, and puts the losers on their justification and defence. His court has laid down rules of conduct for his guidance, all his measures are preconcerted, and his smallest advances arranged beforehand; and yet, whilst subjects of the greatest difficulty are treated and certain points are most strenuously contested, he behaves as if his yielding was voluntary, unexpected, and purely a condescension on his part; he dares even pledge his word that a certain proposal will be approved of, and that his master will not disavow his proceedings; he allows false reports to be spread concerning his instructions, which are represented as very limited, but he knows he has some private instructions which he never discloses until obliged to do so, and when it would damage him not to bring them forward. All his intrigues aim at something solid and substantial, for which he always is ready to sacrifice punctilios and imaginary points of honour. He possesses a great deal of coolness, is armed with courage and patience, and wearies and discourages others, but is never weary himself. He takes precautions and is hardened against all delays and procrastination, against all reproaches, suspicions, mistrust, difficulties, and obstacles, convinced that time and circumstances will influence the minds of his opponents, and accomplish the desired end. He goes so far as to pretend he has a secret purpose in breaking off the negotiations, while he passionately desires their continuance; but, on the contrary, when he has strict orders to do his utmost to break them off, he thinks the best way to effect it is to urge they should be continued and speedily despatched. If some important event happens, he affects either haughtiness or affability, as it may be to his advantage or prejudice; and if he is so perspicacious as to foresee it, he hurries it on or temporises according as the state for whom he labours dreads or desires it, and acts according to these emergencies. He shapes his actions to suit time, place, and opportunities, his own strength or weakness, the genius of the nation he has to deal with, and the mood and character of the personages with whom he is negotiating. All his designs and maxims, all the devices of his policy, tend only to prevent his being deceived, and to deceive others.  14
(13.)  The French nation require their sovereign to be grave in his deportment.  15
(14.)  One of the misfortunes of a prince is to be often overburdened with a secret of which the communication would be dangerous; he is fortunate if he can meet with a faithful confidant to whom he can unbosom himself.  16
(15). A prince can get everything he wants except the pleasures of a private life: only the charms of friendship and the fidelity of his friends can console him for such a great loss.  17
(16.)  A monarch who deservedly fills a throne finds it pleasant sometimes to be less grand, to quit the stage, to leave off the theatrical cloak and buskins, and act a more familiar part with a confidant.  18
(17.)  Nothing is more creditable to a prince than the modesty of his favourite.  19
(18.)  No ties of friendship or consanguinity affect a favourite; he may be surrounded on all sides by relatives and friends, but he does not mind them; he is detached from everything, and, as it were, isolated.  20
(19.)  The best thing a man can do who has fallen into disgrace is to retire from the court, for it would be better for him to disappear than to wander about in society as a former favourite, and to act a wholly different part from his first one. If he does this and remains in solitude, his career will be looked upon as marvellous; and though he dies, as it were, before his time, people will only remember his splendour and his kindness.  21
  A favourite who has fallen into disgrace can behave still better than by becoming a hermit and trying to be forgotten, namely, by attempting some lofty and noble deed, if he can do so, for which he will be greatly praised, his reputation exalted, or, at least, confirmed; and by which also it will be clearly proved that he deserved his former favour, so that people will pity his downfall, and partly blame his ill-luck.  22
(20.)  I do not doubt that a favourite who has a sufficiently powerful and lofty mind must often feel embarrassed and abashed at the meanness, littleness, and flattery, at the superfluous cares and frivolous attentions of those who run after him, follow him, and cling to him, like the vile creatures they are; no doubt he laughs and sneers at them in private to make amends for the restraint he has to impose on himself in public.  23
(21.)  Ye who are in office, ministers of state or favourites, give me leave to offer you some advice. Do not trust to your progeny to look after your reputation when you are gone, or expect that they will preserve the lustre of your name; titles pass away, a prince’s favour is evanescent, honours are lost, wealth is spent, and merit degenerates. It is true you have children worthy of you, and I shall even add, capable of maintaining the position you leave them; but can you say the same thing of your grandchildren? Do not believe me, but cast your eyes for once on some men whom you despise, and who are descended from the very persons to whom you succeed, though you are now in such a high position. Be virtuous and humane; and, if you ask what more is necessary, I will tell you: “Humanity and virtue.” Then you can command the future and be independent of posterity; then you can be certain to last as long as the monarchy. And when in ages to come some people will point out the ruins of your castles, and perhaps only the spot where they once existed, the thought of your praiseworthy deeds will still remain fresh in their minds; they will look eagerly at portraits and medallions of you, and will say, “The man whose effigies you behold was one who dared to address his prince forcibly and freely, and was more afraid of injuring than of displeasing him; he did not oppose his being good and generous, nor his speaking of his good cities and of his good people. In this other personage whose portrait you see you will observe strongly marked lineaments and an austere and majestic air; his reputation increases every year, and the greatest politicians cannot compete with him. His chief design was to establish the authority of the prince, and to ensure the lives and property of the people by destroying the power of the great; from this, neither the opposition of various parties, conspiracies, treacheries, the risk of being assassinated, nor his own infirmities, were able to divert him; he accomplished it, and yet he had leisure to commence another enterprise, since continued and completed by the best and greatest of our princes, the extirpation of heresy.”  24
(22.)  The most artful and plausible snare that ever was set for great men by their men of business, or for kings by their ministers, has been the advice of liquidating their debts whilst enriching themselves. Such advice is admirable, such a maxim is useful and productive, and proves a gold mine and a Peru, at least to those who have hitherto had the address to instil it into their masters’ minds.  25
(23.)  Happy indeed is that nation whose prince appoints the very same persons for his confidants and ministers whom the people would have chosen themselves if they could have done so.  26
(24.)  The mastering of the details of business and a diligent application to the smallest necessities of the state are essential to a good administration, though, in truth, too much neglected in these latter times by kings and their ministers; it is a knowledge greatly to be desired in a prince who is ignorant of it, and highly to be valued in him who has acquired it. Indeed, what benefits and what increase of pleasure would accrue to a people by their prince extending the bounds of his empire into the territories of his enemies, by their sovereignties becoming provinces of his kingdom, by his overcoming them in sieges and battles, by neither the plains nor the strongest fortifications affording any security against him, by the neighbouring nations asking aid of one another, and entering into leagues to defend themselves and put a stop to his conquests, by their leagues being in vain, by his continual advances and triumphs, by their last hopes being frustrated by the monarch recovering his health, and thus affording him the pleasure of seeing the young princes, his grandchildren, maintain and enhance his glory, beholding them lead an army into the field, take the strongest fortresses, conquer new states, command old and experienced officers rather by their genius and merit than by the privilege of their noble birth, observing them tread in the footsteps of their victorious father and imitate his goodness, his willingness to learn, his justice, vigilance, and magnanimity. What signifies it to me, in a word, or to any of my fellow-subjects, that my sovereign be successful and overwhelmed with glory, through his own actions as well as through those of his family and servants; that my country is powerful and dreaded, if, sad and uneasy, I have to live oppressed and poor; if, while I am secured against any inroads of the enemy, I am exposed in the public squares or the streets of our cities to the dagger of the assassin; or if rapine and violence are less to be feared in the darkest nights amidst the densest forests than in our streets; if security, order, and cleanliness have not rendered the residing in our cities so delightful, and have not introduced there plenty as well as the pleasures of social intercourse; or if, being weak and defenceless, my property is to be encroached upon by some great man in the neighbourhood; if there is not a provision made to protect me against his injustice; if I have not within reach so many masters, and excellent masters too, to instruct my children in sciences and arts, which will one day raise their fortunes; if the improvement of trade will not facilitate my providing myself with more decent clothing and wholesome food for my sustenance, at a reasonable rate; if, to conclude, through the care my sovereign takes of me, I am not as satisfied with my lot as his virtues must needs make him with his own?  27
(25.)  Eight or ten thousand men are to a prince like money; with their lives he buys a town or a victory; but, if he can obtain either at a cheaper rate, and is sparing of them, he is like a man who is bargaining and knows better than any other the value of money.  28
(26.)  All things succeed in a monarchy where the interests of the state are identical with those of the prince.  29
(27.)  To call a king the father of his people is not so much to eulogise him as to call him by his name and to define what he is.  30
(28.)  There exists a sort of interchange or permutation of duties between a sovereign and his subjects, and between them and him; and I shall not decide which are most obligatory and most difficult. On the one hand, we have to determine what are the bounden duties of reverence, assistance, service, obedience, and dependence, and on the other what are the indispensable obligations of goodness, justice, and protection. To say the prince can dispose of the lives of the people, is to tell us only that through their crimes men have become subjected to the laws and justice which the king administers; to add that he is absolute master of all his subjects’ goods without any considerations, without rendering any accounts, or without discussion, is the language of flattery, the opinion of a favourite who will recant on his deathbed.  31
(29.)  When on a fine evening a numerous flock of sheep is seen on a hill quietly browsing thyme and wild thyme, or nibbling in a meadow the short and tender grass which has escaped the scythe of the reaper, the careful and diligent shepherd is amongst them; he does not lose sight of them, but follows them, leads them, changes their pasture; if they wander, he calls them together; if a hungry wolf approaches, he sets his dog on to beat him off; he keeps them and defends them; and when the sun rises he is already in the fields, which he leaves at its setting. What an amount of care, watchfulness, and assiduity is needed! Which condition seems to you the most delicious and the most unfettered, that of the sheep or of the shepherd? Was the flock made for the shepherd or the shepherd for the flock? This is an artless representation of a nation and its prince, but then the prince must be good.  32
  A gorgeous and sumptuous monarch is like a shepherd adorned with gold and jewels, with a golden crook in his hands, with a collar of gold about his dog’s neck, and a silken and golden string to lead him. What is his flock the better for all this gold, or what avails it against the wolves?  33
(30.)  How happy is that station which every instant furnishes opportunities of doing good to thousands of men! how dangerous is that post which every moment exposes its occupant to injure millions!  34
(31.)  If men in this world cannot feel a more natural, praiseworthy, and sensible pleasure than to know that they are beloved, and if kings are men, can they purchase the hearts of their people at too high a rate?  35
(32.)  There are very few general rules and unvariable regulations for governing well; they depend on times and circumstances, as well as on the prudence and designs of the rulers. A perfect government is, therefore, a masterpiece of the intellect; and perhaps it would be impossible to attain it, if the subjects did not contribute their moiety towards it by their habits of dependence and submission.  36
(33.)  Those persons who, under a very great monarch, fill the highest offices, have no very intricate duties to perform, and they do this without any trouble; everything goes on easily; the authority and the genius of the prince smoothes their way, rids them of all difficulties, and makes everything prosper beyond their expectations; their merit consists in being subordinates.  37
(34.)  If the care of a single family be so burdensome, if a man has enough to do to answer for himself, what a weight, what a heavy load must be the charge of a whole realm! Is a sovereign rewarded for all his anxieties by the pleasures which absolute power seems to afford and by the prostrations of his courtiers? When I think of the difficult, hazardous, and dangerous paths he sometimes is forced to tread to attain public tranquillity; when I think of the extreme but necessary means he often is obliged to employ to compass a good end; when I am aware he is accountable to God for the welfare of his people, that good and evil are in his hands, and that he cannot plead ignorance as an excuse, I cannot forbear asking myself the question if I should like to reign? A man who is tolerably happy as a private individual should not abandon it for a throne, for, even to one who occupies it by hereditary right, it is almost unbearable to be born a monarch.  38
(35.)  How many gifts Heaven must bestow on a prince for him to become a good ruler! He must be of royal blood, have an august and commanding air, a presence to satisfy the curiosity of a crowd anxious to see the prince, as well as to command respect from his courtiers. His temper must be always the same; he must be averse to ill-natured raillery, or, at least, be so sensible as to refrain from it; he must never threaten, reproach, nor give way to passion, yet he must be always obeyed; he should be complacent and engaging, so frank and sincere that all may think they plainly see the bottom of his heart, which will tend to gain him friends, partisans, and allies; yet he must be secret, close, and impenetrable in his motives and plans; he must be very grave and serious in public; be brief, precise, and dignified in his answers to ambassadors, as well as in his expressions in council; be careful in choosing fit objects for his favours, and bestow them with that peculiar charm which enhances them; great must be his sagacity to penetrate into the minds, qualifications, and tempers of men, to nominate them to various posts and places, as well as to select his generals and ministers of state. His opinions should be so settled, sound, and decisive in matters of state, as immediately to point out what is the best and most honest thing to do; his mind ought to be so upright and just as sometimes to decide against himself and in favour of his subjects, allies, or enemies; so comprehensive and ready should be his memory as to remember the necessities of his subjects, their faces, names, and petitions. His capacious intelligence should not only exercise itself on foreign affairs, commerce, maxims of state, political designs, extension of the frontiers by conquering new provinces, and ensuring their safety by numerous and inaccessible forts; but also look after the affairs of his own kingdom, and study them in detail; banish from it a false, insidious, and anti-monarchical sect, if such a one exists; abolish all barbarous and impious customs, if they are to be found there; reform the abuses of laws and usages, for such may have crept in; render his cities more safe and comfortable by establishing new police regulations, more splendid and magnificent by sumptuous edifices; punish severely scandalous vices; increase the influence of religion and virtue by his authority and example; protect the Church and clergy, their rights and liberties; and govern the nation like a father, always intent on relieving it and making the subsidies as light as those levied in the provinces without impoverishing them. He must have great talents for war, be vigilant, diligent, and unwearied, able to command numerous armies, and be composed in the midst of danger; he ought to be sparing of his own life for the good of the state, and prefer its welfare and glory to that very life; his power must be absolute, to leave no room for indirect influence, intrigues and factions, and sometimes to lessen that vast distance which exists between the great and the common people, so that they may be drawn closer together, and obey that power equally; the knowledge of the prince should be extensive, that he may see everything with his own eyes, act immediately and by himself, so that his generals, though at a distance, are but his lieutenants, and his ministers but his ministers; he should be sagacious enough to know when to declare war, when to conquer and make the best use of a victory, when to make peace, and when to break it; when, sometimes, to compel his enemies to accept it, according to the various interests at stake; to set bounds to his vast ambition, and how far to extend his conquests; he should find leisure for games, festivals, and spectacles; cultivate arts and sciences, and erect magnificent structures, even when surrounded by secret and declared enemies. To conclude, he should possess a superior and commanding genius, which renders him beloved by his subjects and feared by strangers, and makes of his court, and even of his entire realm, as it were, one family, governed by one head, living in perfect unison and harmony with one another, and thus formidable to the rest of the world. All these admirable virtues seem to me comprised in the notion of what a sovereign ought to be. It is true we rarely see them all combined in one man, for too many adventitious qualities, such as intelligence, feelings, outward appearances, and natural disposition, must be found at the same time in him; it therefore appears to me that a prince who unites all these in his single person well deserves the name of Great.  39
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