Front Page Titles (by Subject) Sect. I.: The example of a Prince its efficacy: When good how advantageous to his People and himself. - The Works of Tacitus, vol. 3 - Gordon's Discourses II, History (Books 1-2)
Sect. I.: The example of a Prince its efficacy: When good how advantageous to his People and himself. - 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.
The example of a Prince its efficacy: When good how advantageous to his People and himself.
BY the actions of a Prince, the spirit of a Prince is discerned. If he do nothing, it is not he who reigns: If what he does be bad, he had better not reign. One upon whom the felicity of all depends, is under a continual call and obligation to see that none be miserable, that none be wronged or unredressed: and because his own example is of universal influence, beyond that of exhortation, or of precepts, or of preachments, indeed more cogent than Law itself, or penalties, or terrors, it behoves him to shew himself wise and virtuous. How glorious is it for a Prince, when it becomes the glory of all men to imitate him? How scandalous, when he is only their guide to baseness and debauchery? The goodness of his demeanour should vie with the greatness of his power . In vain will he cause vice to be punished, if he himself be vicious: even in his executing of just Laws, he will be accounted unjust, if he himself observe them not; nor will the frowns of Justice be found of such force, as the countenance and pattern of him who holds, or should hold, her scales.
In Peru, during the Government of the Inca’s, when any of the Royal Blood, or of the prime Nobles, violated the Law, they were punished more severely than a common Subject, forfeited all their Privileges, were degraded from their hereditary Honours, and accounted Traitors and Tyrants. It was thought reasonable to debase those who had shewn themselves base, and to make an example of such as by their great figure and credit were likely to draw others after their track. Upon the like motives a criminal Magistrate there was punished according to his character and quality, rather than to that of his crime, from an opinion that in a Minister of Justice the least evil was not to be tolerated, since he was appointed to eradicate evils, and obliged to be more observant of the Laws than his inferiors. It was said of the Inca’s, that they took such an affectionate care of their Subjects, as to merit being stiled rather Fathers of their Country, and Guardians of their Pupils, than Kings over Subjects. They were called by the Indians, Lovers of the Poor. Such should every Prince be, and appear to be. His life and conduct are a perpetual standard: All men see it, most men follow it, and according to the course of his life will be the course of morality or debauchery.
Vespasian in a few years (for he reigned not many) by the practice of frugality made all men frugal, and in that short space stopped a torrent of profusion which had been flowing for a hundred years before. Henry the third debauched all France, as did Richard the second all England. Manners as well as fashions beginning from the Court, the corrupt manners there become quickly universal. The Nobility, especially the young Nobility, perceived and followed the taste and pleasures of the King: The Gentry next, then the Commonalty, fell all into the fashion of their superiors. The reign of the great Queen Elizabeth and that of her Successor, sufficiently shew, how far the example of a virtuous or a voluptuous Prince can go towards making their People riotous or sober, as well as towards ennobling or debasing their spirits. The public Manners are best ascertained by those of public Rulers, and the surest cure for the irregularities of Subjects, is the regularity of Princes; since even Example alone without Authority, goes further than Authority without Example, says Pliny to Trajan, who was indeed a pattern to his Subjects as well as to all succeeding Princes. He adds, that the fear of punishment is but an unsure guide to right morals.
Neither is the Virtue and Morality of a Prince of greater advantage to his People than to himself. Virtuous Subjects are always peaceable, nor will they fail to honour a virtuous Governor. It is the debauched, the riotous, the idle, who are prone to sedition, love public changes, and promote them. Whatsoever particular points a Prince may carry by debauching his People, it cannot be the stability of his Throne, whatever he may think. A People who have abandoned their Virtue will readily abandon their King; nor does he deserve any other, if it was he who first corrupted them. From a vicious People it is madness to hope for virtuous Principles, such as those of just allegiance and fidelity. Where no integrity is left, no honour can be expected; and when they are corrupted so far as to sell or throw away their Liberties, which is the highest degree of corruption, what other or lesser degree will they be ashamed of? Nor can one who has made them universally vile, complain, with a good grace, that they prove vile to him. It is but a part of what he taught them.
It is said of China, that when the Emperor proves licentious and bad, when he neglects his duty and the administration, and falls into enormities and vice, the face of the whole Empire becomes altered, and the People, otherwise sober and wise, grow riotous, unruly, debauched, and tumultuous. So that for his own sake he is obliged to be sober and orderly, obliged to preserve, at least, all the appearances of innocence and virtue. Yet the Monarchy of China is the most compleatly framed of any that the world ever produced, supported by admirable orders and maxims, all settled into reverence and authority by the approbation and usage of numerous ages. But all their admirable maxims and orders are insufficient where the good example of the Prince is wanting to inforce them. The Chinese therefore maintain, that by the virtue of the King the People becomes virtuous, and that he is responsible to Heaven for the wicked manners of his Kingdom. They say, it is a small matter for a Prince to punish crimes; He ought by the example of his own virtue to prevent crimes in others.
The innocence therefore of a Prince’s life is the best guide to his People, and the surest guard of his Person and Diadem. This is what Pliny says to Trajan . Many of the Princes before him, besides their own pestilent examples, had forced the People, and all orders of men, by all the influence and terrors of Tyranny, to be debauched, dishonourable, contemptible, and wicked; that all men being corrupt, they themselves might not be seen worse than the rest, and no man have credit or virtue enough to be terrible to the Tyrants. Their policy was as absurd as it was abominable, and their fate proved a warning to Princes and all men, to avoid following their destructive example. Where God doth not bless, man will not, says Mr. Selden.
By the necessity of setting a good example, I do not mean that a Prince should be debarred from diversions and pleasure, but only from such as tend to corrupt the public Manners. With such pleasures of his as hurt not his People, the People have nothing to do. Most of the greatest Princes, as well as the best that ever reigned, were men of pleasure, which is almost universally the effect of much Genius and Fire. Nor does it avail how much they love it, if they pursue it with decency, and neglect not business and their duty. The Emperor Titus, he who was called the delight of mankind, was a man of gallantry, but his gallantries never interfered with his occupations. It is true, says Tacitus, that his soul, youthful and amorous, was not indifferent to Berenice; but from hence arose no neglect or relaxation in his conducting affairs of Duty and Trust. His father Vespasian had the same turn, loved gay amusements, but governed carefully. Trajan was addicted to wine and other delights, yet an able and faithful Steward of the Empire. Adrian loved diversions, but never neglected affairs. Solon, a very wise man and worthy Lawgiver, never made any scruple to own his fondness for Ladies, Musick and Wine; nor even in his old age had he lost that taste, or was ashamed of it.