Front Page Titles (by Subject) Sect. IX.: Idle Princes seldom come to be able Princes. How much application to business imports them, for their own accomplishment and the good of their Government. - The Works of Tacitus, vol. 3 - Gordon's Discourses II, History (Books 1-2)
Sect. IX.: Idle Princes seldom come to be able Princes. How much application to business imports them, for their own accomplishment and the good of their Government. - Publius Cornelius Tacitus, The Works of Tacitus, vol. 3 - Gordon’s Discourses II, History (Books 1-2) [120 AD]
The Works of Tacitus. In Four Volumes. To which are prefixed, Political Discourses upon that Author by Thomas Gordon. The Second Edition, corrected. (London: T. Woodward and J. Peele, 1737). Vol. 3.
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- To His Royal Highness, Frederic Prince of Wales.
- Political Discourses Upon Tacitus
- The Introduction.
- Discourse I.: Of the Emperors Who Are the Subject of the Ensuing History: of Their Ministers, Their Misfortunes, and the Causes of Their Fall.
- Sect. I.: An Idea of Nero ’s Reign, How Mildly It Began, How Terrible It Grew. the Deceitfulness of Prosperity.
- Sect. II.: The Weakness of Galba, and the Iniquities of His Ministers.
- Sect. III.: The Folly of the Evil Measures Pursued By These Ministers, How Pernicious to Themselves and to the Emperor.
- Sect. IV.: Galba ’s Blindness In Trusting Intirely to His Favourites, Who By Their Wickedness Blasted His Reign, and Their Own Hopes.
- Sect. V.: The Infatuation of Men In Power; They Generally Rely Upon It As Never to End, and Thence Boldly Follow the Bent of Their Passions. Instances of This. Guilty Ministers How Dangerous.
- Sect. VI.: Weak and Evil Princes Rarely Profit By Able Ministers; They Like Flatterers Better: These Frustrate the Good Advice of Others.
- Sect. VII.: How Difficult It Is For a Worthy Man to Serve a Bad Prince, and How Dangerous.
- Sect. VIII.: Under Wicked Princes, How Natural and Common It Is to Wish For a Change. Their Different Treatment Living and Dead. In What a Prince Is Chiefly to Confide.
- Discourse II.: Of Competition Amongst the Ministers of a Prince, and Their Corruption. the Evil Effects of Indolence In a Prince.
- Sect. I.: Discord Between Ministers, How Fatal to Their Masters.
- Sect. II.: An Indolent Prince a Ready Prey to the Falsest and Worst of All Men: These Disgrace His Reign, and Provoke His People. — Their Amazing Corruption.
- Sect. III.: The Reign of an Indolent Prince, How Destructive It May Prove, However Harmless the Man. Into What Contempt He Falls.
- Sect. IV.: A Prince Beset With Evil Counsellors, How Fast He Improves In Evil.
- Discourse III.: Of Public Frugality.
- Sect. I.: The Prodigality of the Emperors; Its Terrible Consequences to the Public, Namely, Tyranny, Murders and Oppression.
- Sect. II.: Only the Worst Men Share In the Bounties of an Extravagant ‘prince, and Carefully Seclude the Best — How Ruinous His Extravagance to Himself and the State.
- Sect. III.: The Waste of Public Money, Its Tendency to Produce Popular Commotions and Civil War. — How Much Men Love Themselves Better Than the Public. — Such Waste Seldom Answers Any End.
- Sect. IV.: The Wisdom of Parsimony In a Prince —— the Certain Distress and Disgrace of Such As Are Prodigal.
- Sect. V.: Public Frugality and Public Profusion Compared In Their Effects. —— Princes Brought By Extravagance Into Distress Have No Resource In the Hearts and Purses of the People.
- Sect. VI.: The Greatest Revenues Insufficient Under Ill Management——how Grievous This to the People, How Baneful to the State. the True Liberality of a Prince, What. the Vile Spirit of Flattering Casuists.
- Sect. VII.: Public Frugality Advantageous to All; Disliked Only By a Few.——public Bounties Ill Bestowed, How Dishonourable.
- Discourse IV.: Of Princes.
- Sect. I.: The Duty of a Prince, What. His Motives to Be Good, and Content With Limited Power: That of the Roman Emperors Bounded.
- Sect. II.: The Wisdom of Governing By Law ——- No Just Power Without Law —— Just Government Requires Sense —— Any Wretch Capable of Tyrannizing —— No Good Man Fond of Boundless Power.
- Sect. III.: How Amiable the Character of a Good Prince, Who Rules By Justice and Law, Who Loves and Relieves His People.
- Sect. IV.: The Miserable Spirit and Infamy of Princes Who Consider Themselves Above Law, and Independent On Their People.
- Sect. V.: Princes Seeking Or Possessing Arbitrary Power, Rarely Exercise Any Themselves: Their Ministers and Creatures Generally Rule All.
- Sect. VI.: The Arbitrary Will of Favourites Often Proves the Only Law of a Bad and Arbitrary Prince — How Apt They Are to Abuse His Power, and At Last to Desert Him.
- Sect. VII.: Princes Guilty of the Oppressions Committed By Their Authority. Their Ministers Are Generally, Like Them, Bad Or Good. a Limited Authority Safest to Kings and Ministers. the Best Ministers Obnoxious to Clamours.
- Sect. VIII.: The Benefit of Standing Laws to Princes and Their Ministers, Further Illustrated. What Regard Princes Should Have to Posthumous Fame, What Dread of Infamy.
- Sect. IX.: Idle Princes Seldom Come to Be Able Princes. How Much Application to Business Imports Them, For Their Own Accomplishment and the Good of Their Government.
- Sect. X.: The Most Wretched and Wicked of All Princes Are Wont to Account Themselves Most Sacred, and to Claim Attributes Divine.
- Discourse V.: The Same Subject Continued.
- Sect. I.: The Example of a Prince Its Efficacy: When Good How Advantageous to His People and Himself.
- Sect. II.: The Character of a Prince to Be Learnt From That of His Company and Favourites, and His Designs By the Opinions Which Become In Fashion About Him.
- Sect. III.: Doctrines In Defence of Lawless Power, and Against Civil Liberty, to Be Punished As Treason Against the Public. How Princes Discover Their Spirit.——they Seldom Take Warning.
- Sect. IV.: Of the Veracity of Princes——the Folly of Falshood——the Worst and Silliest Men Practise It Most —— It Is Inseparable From Tyranny.
- Sect. V.: Princes of Noble and Good Minds Scorn to Deceive: Thence Their Glory and Popularity.
- Sect. VI.: The Consequences of Falshood In a Prince, Scorn and Impotence——it Is the Mark of a Poor and Dishonest Spirit——great and Virtuous Spirits Abhor It.
- Sect. VII.: Tyranny Worse Than Anarchy, Or Rather Nothing But Anarchy.
- Sect. VIII.: Bad Princes Ought to Be Treated With Severity and Abhorrence, In Honour and Justice to the Good —— No Worthy Prince Offended to See a Wicked Prince Exposed.
- Discourse VI.: Of Bigotry In Princes.
- Sect. I.: The Mischief of Bigotry In a Prince: Its Strange Efficacy, and What Chimera’s Govern It.
- Sect. II.: How Easily a Bigotted Prince Is Led Against Reason and Interest: What Ravages He Is Apt to Commit.
- Sect. III.: A Bigotted Prince How Subject to Be Drawn Into Guilt and Folly — the Dictates of Bigotry How Opposite to Those of True Religion.
- Sect. IV.: Further Instances of the Great Mischiefs Occasioned By Bigotry of Princes.
- Discourse VII.: Of Ministers.
- Sect. I.: The Choice of Ministers How Much It Imports Prince and People. of What Sad Consequence to Both, When Bad. the Bad Only Serve Themselves, Not Their Master.
- Sect. II.: A Sure Rule For a Prince to Know When He Is Advised Faithfully. the Duty of a Minister to Warn Princes With Freedom. the Interest of Princes to Hear a Minister Patiently. Few Will Tell Them Truth, When Telling It Is Offensive. a Wise Prince Wil
- Sect. III.: Ministers to Be Narrowly Observed, As Well As Heard. They Sometimes Combine to Nourish Corruption and Blind the Prince. How Nearly It Concerns Him That All About Him Be Uncorrupt.
- Sect. IV.: What Selfish Ends the Counsellors of Princes Sometimes Pursue, Yet Pretend Public Good. They Gratify Private Passion to the Ruin of the State. What a Reproach to a Prince the Corruption of His Servants.
- Sect. V.: Under a Prince Subject to Be Blindly Managed, a Change of Ministers Rarely Mends the Administration He Often Hates His Ministers, Yet Still Employs Them. Ministers Most In Danger Where the Prince Has Most Power.
- Sect. VI.: Ministers Trusted Without Controul, Sometimes Threatening and Perillous to a Prince. How Fatal This Often to Themselves, and to the State.
- Sect. VII.: The Great Mischief of Exalting Favourites Beyond Measure, Especially Such As Command Great Armies.
- Discourse VIII.: The Same Subject Continued.
- Sect. I.: Good Ministers Often Ruined and Destroyed For Their Virtue By a Combination of the Bad. the Spight and Wicked Arts of the Latter. How Ready to Charge Their Own Guilt Upon the Innocent.
- Sect. II.: How Hard It Is For a Good Minister to Support Himself With a Prince Surrounded By Sycophants and Seducers, Or to Preserve Him and His State. Their Execrable Stratagems to Execute Their Malice. How Such Sometimes Abuse the Prince, Mislead Him, D
- Sect. III.: Reflections Upon the Fate of King James the Fifth of Scotland Seduced and Undone By Minions, Who Withdrew Him From the Direction of an Honest Minister.
- Sect. IV.: Where Flattery Is Encouraged, Flatterers Rule, and Sincerity Is Banished. Ministers Sometimes Fall Not Through Guilt But Faction; Yet Always Accused of Guilt.
- Sect. V.: A Minister May Be Disgraced For His Virtue, and Fidelity to His Prince. Mercenary Courtiers Certain Enemies to Upright Ministers. Justice Done to Both By Time and History.
- Discourse IX.: Of the People.
- Sect. I.: The Variable Character of the People: Very Good Or Very Bad, According to Their Education and Government. Hence the Improvement Or Depravation of Their Manners.
- Sect. II.: The People Under Good Government Apt to Be Peaceable and Grateful: Often Patient Under Oppression: Often Moderate In Opposing Oppressors: Inclinable to Justice When Not Misled.
- Sect. III.: The People Generally Fond of Old Names and Habits. the Difference Between the Same People Under Different Governments: How Generous and Friendly When Free; How Vicious and False When Enslaved.
- Sect. IV.: The People When Deceived By Names and Deluders, How Extremely Blind and Cruel, Yet Mean Well.
- Sect. V.: The Power of Delusion Further Illustrated. the Dreadful Wickedness and Impieties Committed Under the Name of Religion. Religious Cheats Surpass All Others.
- Sect. VI.: The People Not Turbulent Unless Seduced Or Oppressed: Slow to Resist Oppressors: Sometimes Mild Even In Their Just Vengeance: Brave In Defence of Their Liberties.
- Discourse X.: The Same Subject Continued.
- Sect. I.: The Infatuation of Men In Power: They Are Much Apter to Oppress, Than the People to Rebel. People Oppressed Rejoice In Public Misfortunes. In Disputes Between Magistrates and People, the Former Generally to Blame.
- Sect. II.: The Gentleness of the People In Their Pursuit of Justice Against Oppressive Magistrates. How Readily Men Who Have Oppressed the Law, Seek the Protection of the Laws. the People Not Revengeful: They Shew Mercy Where They Have Found None.
- Sect. III.: The People Not Hard to Be Governed, Nor Unconstant, Nor Ungrateful, At Least Not So Often As They Are Accused.
- Sect. IV.: The People Falsly Charged With Fickleness, and Ingratitude, and Rebellion In Resisting Oppressors and Tyrants. All Tyrants, All Who Assume Lawless Rule, Are Rebels, and the Greatest.
- Sect. V.: People Who Are Slaves Love Not Their Prince So Affectionately, Nor Can Defend Him So Bravely, As Those Who Are Free.
- Sect. VI.: The Weak and Precarious Condition of the Greatest Prince, Who Is Not Beloved By His People. No Tyrant Can Be, and Why.
- Discourse XI.: Of Nobility.
- Sect. I.: The Political Cause of Nobility. They Are Readily Respected By the People: Apt to Oppress. Nobility Without Virtue, What. the Spirit of Nobility, What It Ought to Be.
- Sect. II.: The Duty of a Nobleman to His Country. In Virtue and Public Spirit He Ought to Surpass Others.
- Sect. III.: A Nobleman Void of Good Qualities, Or Possessed With Bad, a Miserable Character. the Baseness and Corruption of the Roman Nobility; Its Fatal Consequence.
- Sect. IV.: The Beginning of Public Corruption Generally From the Nobility: How Ruinous This to the Public, and to Themselves.
- Sect. V.: The Advantages of Public Liberty to the Nobility. How Fast Tyrants Destroy Them. the Strange Degeneracy of the Roman Nobility: Contemptible, Yet Proud: Subject to Be Degraded For Base Morals Or Poverty.
- Sect. VI.: Public Virtue Justly Due From the Nobility to the Public. They Ought to Be Zealous For Liberty Upon Their Own Account.
- Discourse XII.: Of Public Teaching and Teachers.
- Sect. I.: Whoever Is Head of the State Ought to Be Head of the Religon of the State. the Force of Early Impressions, With Their Use and Abuse.
- Sect. II.: The Ignorance of the People No Pledge of Security to to Their Governors. the Ignorant Rabble Always Most Tumultuous.
- Sect. III.: The Untaught Vulgar, How Liable to Be Seduced. the Great Power of Their Teachers Over Them.
- Sect. IV.: The Deceitfulness of Doctrines Which Are Against Reason and Nature.
- Sect. V.: The Foregoing Reasoning Further Illustrated. How Much It Behoves Rulers That Their Subjects Be Well and Rationally Taught.
- Sect. VI.: Power In the Hands of the Public Teachers How Dangerous to Rulers; and How Ill It Suits With Christianity.
- Sect. VII.: The Absurdity of Implicit Belief In Any Set of Teachers, With Its Mischievous and Monstrous Consequences. the Natural Progress of Persecution.
- Sect. VIII.: The Will of God Not Deposited With Any Set of Men. the Use of Public Teaching, With the Character Necessary to Public Teachers. How Much They Are Corrupted By Pomp and Great Wealth.
- Sect. IX.: Public Teachers Have No Power, No Creation But From the State. Their Folly and Ill Policy In Claiming Any Other.
- Sect. X.: The Fatal and Ungodly Consequences of Allowing Force In Matters of Religion and Conscience; How Inconsistent With the Nature and End of Religious Teaching. the Contempt of Public Teachers, Whence It Arises, and the Cry of Priestcraft How Founded
- Sect. XI.: Power In the Hands of Any Public Teachers, Leads Naturally to Popery, and Is Popery. How Apt They Are to Differ Amongst Themselves, Yet Claim Conformity From All Others. Persuasion and Good Example Their Only Province; the Sanctity of Their Doi
- Sect. XII.: How It Is That Public Teachers Fail of Respect, Or Gain It.
- Sect. XIII.: Excessive Revenues of the Public Teachers, How Pernicious to the World. a Decent and Easy Maintenance to Be Allowed Them.
- Sect. XIV.: An Inquiry Why the Christian Dispensation Has, With All Its Advantages and Excellencies, So Little Mended the World. Whether and How Far Public Teachers Are Chargeable With This.
- Sect. XV.: Of Public Spirit, Its Use and Efficacy. How Little Promoted By Public Teachers. Some Considerations Upon the Importance and Character of Public Spirit.
- The History of Tacitus.
- Book I.
- Book II.
Idle Princes seldom come to be able Princes. How much application to business imports them, for their own accomplishment and the good of their Government.
INDOLENT Princes, such as love not business, or are kept from it, besides their being liable to be abused, scarce ever come to be men of great sufficiency, though they may have good natural parts. It is by the continual exercise of the understanding that the understanding is enlarged. A man of much industry, with moderate parts, will be an overmatch for one who has the greatest, but never exerts them. Attention to business and the affairs of life, fills the mind with ideas and reflections, arms it against mistakes and surprizes, and uses it to judging and deciding. But to a spirit untrained and void of experience, every small matter proves a great difficulty, every small difficulty proves discouraging. A man practised in affairs is seldom startled or at a loss, and for every emergency will be apt to find some expedient; for he is used to emergencies, and to provide for them. Every small Clerk will be apt to despise, every little Lawyer be able to outwit a man just come out of a College or a Cloister, though he may make no mean figure there. Even very silly men will acquit themselves notably in business, where it lies in a road and method, and make dispatch where a very bright man not used to it would be strangely puzzled. I have seen a man of poor natural capacity, but well trained in business, triumph over a man of extraordinary talents destitute of experience. Such as are originally weak may acquire artificial abilities, as others of great genius, applying to nothing, will be good for nothing.
As the business of reigning is the most important upon earth, he who is invested with supreme authority, in order to make himself worthy of it, should be extremely careful to qualify himself for it. He should inform himself assiduously, exert himself diligently, and convince all men, that he who bestows every office, is able to discharge, and therefore fit to bear, the highest. It were indeed preposterous, that authority should be in the hands of one who ought to administer it, but cannot, and leaves it all to be administered by others. This was the character of many of the Cæsars, Idiots in Government, Heroes in Tyranny. So that Pliny had just cause to say, That it seemed highly unworthy, that he should confer all dignities, who could sustain none.
It is a misfortune even in a Country where the Laws govern, to have a weak, or, which is the same thing, an indolent Prince; for the administration of an indolent Prince is generally weak; and where he does too little, those who act for him will be apt to do too much. But under a Government limited by Laws, such weakness or neglect in a Prince can do least harm, nor can his will or his folly be pleaded, as in arbitrary Countries, for the cause or cloak of enormities, since his will and his folly are repugnant to the Laws, and may be opposed by Law. All men know how far his power extends, how far others can extend it for him. In absolute Monarchies, not only his will, his fury, his appetites, are Laws, and Laws irresistible, but so likewise are the appetites, and will, and sury of his Officers, who always alledge that, whatever they perpetrate he commands; and who dares doubt or deny it, or go to Court to enquire?
But let a Prince’s power be ever so cautiously restrained, let the Laws which limit and direct him be ever so plain, he will still find an abundant call for all his industry, in chusing his Officers, in observing their Conduct, in overlooking his Revenue, in executing the Laws, in hearing Petitions, in attending to Treaties and Embassadors, in taking care of the Dignity and Tranquillity of the Nation, and even in governing his Family. What more extensive office would a Prince have, if he mean to perform it with conscience and care? Few men are equal to it; the ablest man cannot be too diligent in it.
Henry the fourth of France had a great understanding, because he had made great use of it. From his childhood he was almost continually exercised in distress and affairs, and forced by the former into the latter. As he was a man of great pleasure, had his Kingdom fallen to him early and easily, it is certain he would not have had equal sufficiency; for sufficiency is to be acquired like a science. He was forced to be industrious, vigilant, inquisitive, and therefore was always improving. Thus he became excellently qualified for Government. Henry the third might have proved so too, had he been obliged from his youth and for a long course of years to have struggled for his Crown. He had shewn what he was capable of, whilst yet very young. In truth so great was his reputation in the camp, such ability he had manifested as a Commander, and such hopes were conceived of him as a Prince, that he was chosen King of Poland before he was twenty years old. But through idleness, and sensuality, and flatterers, he became a most miserable Ruler, infamous and sanguinary.
Princes that do nothing, but leave all things to others, will always be minors, as was our Richard the second. Contemptible is that Prince who holds nothing of Sovereignty but the Pageantry and the Crown. Poor Richard lost even that: Nor can any Prince who takes no care to support his own dignity, be secure that his dignity will not fall. Men who are able and good will be kept carefully from him, at least from serving him. The selfish, the false, the mischievous will always be most numerous about him, perhaps exclude all others, at least will always have the most sway, perhaps the only sway. At last perhaps he will bear no counsel but the worst .
In spight of any human sufficiency or virtue, that a Prince can exert or possess, there will be many abuses growing or creeping in, such as he cannot altogether remove or prevent. But where he is idle, where he is neglectful, disorder will prevail tenfold, corruption walk barefaced, truth and virtue and merit will be brow-beaten or banished, vice and insolence will flourish, the Laws lose their force, the Administration become loose and despised.
Such was the reign of Henry the third of France, such that of Richard the second of England. They minded nothing but pleasure and festivity. Their Government by being neglected, grew corrupt, impotent, scandalous, at last fell to pieces. Yet the former was a capable Prince, indeed capable of great things, and only wanted application; but from his propensity to pleasure he disrelished business and fatigue, and by the pernicious flattery and soothing of Minions and Deceivers, came to drop the reins of Government in their hands, and reserved to himself only the name and danger. Richard the second had the same voluptuous biass, and the like mischievous Leaders. He was not a Natural, nor a Lunatic, nor seems to have wanted a share of sense; but having never been taught, or suffered, or inclined, to exert it, he continued in the state of childhood, simple by habit, foolish for want of industry and experience, and having never discharged the functions of Government, was at last unable to discharge them.