There is no assurance that the Distempers of a State shall be cured by the Wisdom of a Prince.

BUT, says our author, the virtue and wisdom of a prince supplies all. Tho he were of a duller understanding, by use and experience he must needs excel all:[1] Nature, age, or sex, are, as it seems, nothing to the case. A child as soon as he comes to be a king, has experience; the head of a fool is filled with wisdom, as soon as a crown is set upon it, and the most vicious do in a moment become virtuous. This is more strange than that an ass being train'd to a course, should outrun the best Arabian horse; or a hare bred up in an army, become more strong and fierce than a lion; for fortune does not only supply all natural defects in princes, and correct their vices, but gives them the benefit of use and experience, when they have none. Some reasons and examples might have been expected to prove this extraordinary proposition: But according to his laudable custom, he is pleased to trouble himself with neither; and thinks that the impudence of an assertion is sufficient to make that to pass, which is repugnant to experience and common sense, as may appear by the following discourse. I will not insist upon terms; for tho duller understanding signifies nothing, in as much as no understanding is dull, and a man is said to be dull only because he wants it; but presuming he means little understanding, I shall so take it. This defect may possibly be repair'd in time; but to conclude it must be so, is absurd, for no one has this use and experience when he begins to reign. At that time many errors may be committed to the ruin of himself or people, and many have perish'd even in their beginning. Edward the fifth and sixth of England, Francis the second of France, and divers other kings have died in the beginning of their youth: Charles the ninth lived only to add the furies of youth to the follies of his childhood; and our Henry the second, Edward the second, Richard the second, and Henry the sixth, seem to have been little wiser in the last, than in the first year of their reign or life. The present kings of Spain, France, and Sweden, came to the crowns they wear before the sixth year of their age; and if they did then surpass all annual magistrates in wisdom and valour, it was by a peculiar gift of God, which, for anything we know, is not given to every king, and it was not use and experience that made them to excel. If it be pretended that this experience, with the wisdom that it gives, comes in time and by degrees; I may modestly ask, what time is requir'd to render a prince excellent in wisdom who is a child or a fool? and who will give security that he shall live to that time, or that the kingdom shall not be ruin'd in the time of his folly? I may also doubt how our author, who concludes that every king in time must needs become excellent in wisdom, can be reconciled to Solomon, who in preferring a wise child before an old and foolish king that will not be advised, shews that an old king may be a fool, and he that will not be advised is one. Some are so naturally brutish and stupid, that neither education nor time will mend them. 'Tis probable that Solomon took what care he could to instruct his only son Rehoboam; but he was certainly a fool at forty years of age, and we have no reason to believe that he deserved a better name. He seems to have been the very fool his father intended, who tho brayed in a mortar would never leave his folly: He would not be advised, tho the hand of God was against him; ten tribes revolted from him, and the city and temple was pillaged by the Egyptians. Neither experience nor afflictions could mend him, and he is called to this day by his own countrymen stultitia gentium.[2] I might offend tender ears, if I should allege all the examples of princes mentioned in history, or known in our own age, who have lived and died as foolish and incorrigible as he: but no man, I presume, will be scandalized, that the ten last kings of Meroveus his race, whom the French historians call les roys faineants, were so far from excelling other men in understanding, that they liv'd and died more like to beasts than men. Nay, the wisdom and valour of Charles Martel expired in his grandchild Charles the Great; and his posterity grew to be so sottish, that the French nation must have perished under their conduct, if the nobility and people had not rejected them, and placed the crown upon a more deserving head.

This is as much as is necessary to be said to the general proposition; for it is false, if it be not always true; and no conclusion can be made upon it. But I need not be so strict with our author, there being no one sound part in his assertion. Many children come to be kings when they have no experience, and die, or are depos'd before they can gain any. Many are by nature so sottish that they can learn nothing: Others falling under the power of women, or corrupt favorites and ministers, are persuaded and seduced from the good ways to which their own natural understanding or experience might lead them; the evils drawn upon themselves or their subjects, by the errors committed in the time of their ignorance, are often grievous, and sometimes irreparable, tho they should be made wise by time and experience. A person of royal birth and excellent wit, was so sensible of this as to tell me, "That the condition of kings was most miserable, in as much as they never heard truth till they were ruin'd by lies, and then everyone was ready to tell it to them, not by way of advice, but reproach, and rather to vent their own spite, than to seek a remedy to the evils brought upon them and the people." Others attain to crowns when they are of full age, and have experience as men, tho none as kings; and therefore are apt to commit as great mistakes as children: And upon the whole matter all the histories of the world shew, that instead of this profound judgment and incomparable wisdom which our author generally attributes to all kings, there is no sort of men that do more frequently and entirely want it.

But tho kings were always wise by nature, or made to be so by experience, it would be of little advantage to nations under them, unless their wisdom were pure, perfect, and accompanied with clemency, magnanimity, justice, valour and piety. Our author durst hardly have said, that these virtues or graces are gained by experience, or annexed by God to any rank of men or families. He gives them where he pleases without distinction. We sometimes see those upon thrones, who by God and nature seem to have been designed for the most sordid offices; and those have been known to pass their lives in meanness and poverty, who had all the qualities that could be desir'd in princes. There is likewise a kind of ability to dispatch some sort of affairs, that princes who continue long in a throne may to a degree acquire or increase. Some men take this for wisdom, but K. James more rightly called it by the name of kingcraft; and as it principally consists in dissimulation, and the arts of working upon mens' passions, vanities, private interests or vices, to make them for the most part instruments of mischief, it has the advancement or security of their own persons for object, is frequently exercised with all the excesses of pride, avarice, treachery and cruelty; and no men have been ever found more notoriously to deflect from all that deserves praise in a prince, or a gentleman, than those that have most excelled in it. Pharasmenes king of Iberia, is recorded by Tacitus to have been well vers'd in this science. His brother Mithridates king of Armenia had married his daughter, and given his own daughter to Rhadamistus son of Pharasmenes. He had some contests with Mithridates, but by the help of these mutual alliances, nearness of blood, the diligence of Rhadamistus, and an oath, strengthen'd with all the ceremonies that amongst those nations were esteemed most sacred, not to use arms or poison against him, all was compos'd; and by this means getting him into his power, he stifled him with a great weight of clothes thrown upon him, kill'd his children, and not long after his own son Rhadamistus also.[3] Louis the eleventh of France, James the third of Scotland, Henry the seventh of England, were great masters of these arts; and those who are acquainted with history, will easily judge how happy nations would be if all kings did in time certainly learn them.

Our author, as a farther testimony of his judgment, having said that kings must needs excel others in understanding, and grounded his doctrine upon their profound wisdom, imputes to them those base and panick fears which are inconsistent with it, or any royal virtue: and to carry the point higher, tells us, There is no tyrant so barbarously wicked, but his own reason and sense will tell him, that tho he be a god, yet he must die like a man; and that there is not the meanest of his subjects, but may find a means to revenge himself of the injuries offered him; and from thence concludes, that there is no such tyranny as that of a multitude which is subject to no such fears.[4] But if there be such a thing in the world, as a barbarous and wicked tyrant, he is something different from a king, or the same; and his wisdom is consistent or inconsistent with barbarity, wickedness, and tyranny. If there be no difference, the praises he gives, and the rights he ascribes to the one belong also to the other: and the excellency of wisdom may consist with barbarity, wickedness, tyranny, and the panick fears that accompany them; which hitherto have been thought to comprehend the utmost excesses of folly and madness: and I know no better testimony of the truth of that opinion, than that wisdom always distinguishing good from evil, and being seen only in the rectitude of that distinction, in following and adhering to the good, rejecting that which is evil, preferring safety before danger, happiness before misery, and in knowing rightly how to use the means of attaining or preserving the one, and preventing or avoiding the other, there cannot be a more extravagant deviation from reason, than for a man, who in a private condition might live safely and happily, to invade a principality: or if he be a prince, who by governing with justice and clemency might obtain the inward satisfaction of his own mind, hope for the blessing of God upon his just and virtuous actions, acquire the love and praises of men, and live in safety and happiness amongst his safe and happy subjects, to fall into that barbarity, wickedness, and tyranny, which brings upon him the displeasure of God, and detestation of men, and which is always attended with those base and panick fears, that comprehend all that is shameful and miserable. This being perceiv'd by Machiavelli, he could not think that any man in his senses would not rather be a Scipio than a Caesar; or if he came to be a prince, would not rather chuse to imitate Agesilaus, Timoleon, or Dion, than Nabis, Phalaris, or Dionysius; and imputes the contrary choice to madness.[5] Nevertheless 'tis too well known that many of our author's profound wise men in the depth of their judgment, made perfect by use and experience, have fallen into it.

If there be a difference between this barbarous wicked tyrant, and a king, we are to examine who is the tyrant, and who the king; for the name conferred or assumed cannot make a king, unless he be one. He who is not a king, can have no title to the rights belonging to him who is truly a king: so that a people who find themselves wickedly and barbarously oppressed by a tyrant, may destroy him and his tyranny without giving offence to any king.

But 'tis strange that Filmer should speak of the barbarity and wickedness of a tyrant, who looks upon the world to be the patrimony of one man; and for the foundation of his doctrine, asserts such a power in everyone that makes himself master of any part, as cannot be limited by any law. His title is not to be questioned; usurpation and violence confer an incontestable right: the exercise of his power is no more to be disputed than the acquisition: his will is a law to his subjects; and no law can be imposed by them upon his conduct. For if these things be true, I know not how any man could ever be called a tyrant, that name having never been given to any unless for usurping a power that did not belong to him, or an unjust exercise of that which had been conferred upon him, and violating the laws which ought to be a rule to him. 'Tis also hard to imagine how any man can be called barbarous and wicked, if he be obliged by no law but that of his own pleasure; for we have no other notion of wrong, than that it is a breach of the law which determines what is right. If the lives and goods of subjects depend upon the will of the prince, and he in his profound wisdom preserve them only to be beneficial to himself, they can have no other right than what he gives, and without injustice may retain when he thinks fit: If there be no wrong, there can be no just revenge; and he that pretends to seek it, is not a free man vindicating his right, but a perverse slave rising up against his master. But if there be such a thing as a barbarous and wicked tyrant, there must be a rule relating to the acquisition and exercise of the power, by which he may be distinguish'd from a just king; and a law superior to his will, by the violation of which he becomes barbarous and wicked.

Tho our author so far forgets himself, to confess this to be true, he seeks to destroy the fruits of it by such flattery as comprehends all that is most detestable in profaneness and blasphemy, and gives the name of gods to the most execrable of men. He may by such language deserve the name of Heylyn's disciple; but will find few among the heathens so basely servile, or so boldly impious. Tho Claudius Caesar was a drunken sot, and transported with the extravagance of his fortune, he detested the impudence of his predecessor Caligula (who affected that title), and in his rescript to the procurator of Judea, gives it no better name than turpem Can insaniam.[6] For this reason it was rejected by all his pagan successors, who were not as furiously wicked as he: yet Filmer has thought fit to renew it, for the benefit of mankind, and the glory of the Christian religion.

I know not whether these extreme and barbarous errors of our author are to be imputed to wickedness or madness; or whether, to save the pains of a distinction, they may not rightly be said to be the same thing; but nothing less than the excess of both could induce him to attribute anything of good to the fears of a tyrant, since they are the chief causes of all the mischiefs he does. Tertullian says they are metu quam furore saeviores;[7] and Tacitus, speaking of a most wicked king, says, that he did saevitiam ignaviae obtendere;[8] and we do not more certainly find that cowards are the crudest of men, than that wickedness makes them cowards; that every man's fears bear a proportion with his guilt, and with the number, virtue, and strength of those he has offended. He who usurps a power over all, or abuses a trust reposed in him by all, in the highest measure offends all; he fears and hates those he has offended, and to secure himself, aggravates the former injuries: When these are publick, they beget a universal hatred, and every man desires to extinguish a mischief that threatens ruin to all. This will always be terrible to one that knows he has deserved it; and when those he dreads are the body of the people, nothing but a publick destruction can satisfy his rage, and appease his fears.

I wish I could agree with Filmer, in exempting multitudes from fears; for they having seldom committed any injustice, unless through fear, would, as far as human fragility permits, be free from it. Tho the Attick ostracism was not an extreme punishment, I know nothing usually practised in any commonwealth, that did so much favour of injustice: but it proceeded solely from a fear that one man, tho in appearance virtuous, when he came to be raised too much above his fellow citizens, might be tempted to invade the publick liberty. We do not find that the Athenians, or any other free cities, ever injur'd any man, unless through such a jealousy, or the perjury of witnesses, by which the best tribunals that ever were, or can be establish'd in the world, may be misled; and no injustice could be apprehended from any, if they did not fall into such fears.

But tho multitudes may have fears as well as tyrants, the causes and effects of them are very different. A people, in relation to domestick affairs, can desire nothing but liberty, and neither hate or fear any but such as do, or would, as they suspect, deprive them of that happiness: Their endeavours to secure that seldom hurt any except such as invade their rights; and if they err, the mistake is for the most part discovered before it produce any mischief; and the greatest that ever came that way, was the death of one or a few men. Their hatred and desire of revenge can go no farther than the sense of the injury received or feared, and is extinguished by the death or banishment of the persons; as may be gathered from the examples of the Tarquins, decemviri, Cassius, Maelius, and Manlius Capitolinus. He therefore that would know whether the hatred and fear of a tyrant, or of a people, produces the greater mischiefs, needs only to consider, whether it be better that the tyrant destroy the people, or that the people destroy the tyrant: or at the worst, whether one that is suspected of affecting the tyranny should perish, or a whole people, amongst whom very many are certainly innocent; and experience shows that such are always first sought out to be destroy'd for being so: Popular furies or fears, how irregular or unjust soever they may be, can extend no farther; general calamities can only be brought upon a people by those who are enemies to the whole body, which can never be the multitude, for they are that body. In all other respects, the fears that render a tyrant cruel, render a people gentle and cautious; for every single man knowing himself to be of little power, not only fears to do injustice because it may be revenged upon his person, by him, or his friends, kindred and relations that suffers it; but because it tends to the overthrow of the government, which comprehends all publick and private concernments, and which every man knows cannot subsist unless it be so easy and gentle, as to be pleasing to those who are the best, and have the greatest power: and as the publick considerations divert them from doing those injuries that may bring immediate prejudice to the publick, so there are strict laws to restrain all such as would do private injuries. If neither the people nor the magistrates of Venice, Switzerland, and Holland, commit such extravagances as are usual in other places, it does not perhaps proceed from the temper of those nations different from others, but from a knowledge, that whosoever offers an injury to a private person, or attempts a publick mischief, is exposed to the impartial and inexorable power of the law; whereas the chief work of an absolute monarch is to place himself above the law, and thereby rendering himself the author of all the evils that the people suffer, 'tis absurd to expect that he should remove them.

[1] [Patriarcha, ch. 19.]

[2] []

[3] Tacit. An. 1. 11. 12. [Tacitus, Annals, bk. 12, ch. 44-48.]

[4] [Patriarcha, ch. 19.]

[5] Discors. sopra T. Liv. 1. i.e. 10. [Machiavelli, Discourses on Livy, bk. 1, ch. 10.]

[6] [Josephus, Jewish Antiquities, bk. 19, ch. 5, sec. 2.]

[7] []

[8] [Tacitus, Annals, bk. 12, ch. 10.]