Front Page Titles (by Subject) 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 - The Works of Tacitus, vol. 3 - Gordon's Discourses II, History (Books 1-2)
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 - 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.
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, distress him, and murder him.
AS no good Minister can be fafe where such mischievons Minions prevail, so neither can a Prince nor his State. It is not the honour of the Prince, it is not the ease and benefit of the Country that they seek and consider; it is only their own interest and advantage, and this they will pursue, though to the ruin of Prince or State. King James the fifth of Scotland had a fair opportunity of establishing a lasting peace with England. Henry the eighth his Uncle, then at great variance with the Pope, the Emperor and Spain, willing to strengthen himself at home, even desirous to settle the succession upon his Nephew, courted him to an alliance; nay, to an interview and conference at York. Nothing could promise fairer for the advantage of Scotland, for many ages harrassed and desolated by wars with England, nothing prove more honourable and beneficial to the Scotch King than the entail of the English Crown and the support of his Uncle. Henry the eighth had then only a daughter, Mary, and she was declared illegitimate. King James therefore, by the advice of his Council, declared his acceptance of the proposal; the English Embassadors returned highly satisfied, and highly pleased their Master, who made great preparations at York for the entertainment of his Nephew.
But the Scotch King had Minions about him of more prevalence with him than his Council, or his Honour or his Interest, if these two can be parted. To these Minions the Clergy apply, and with large bribes engage them to dissuade the King from keeping his word. Some of the Minions too were Clergymen, and in the name of all laboured to debauch and deceive the King. They frightened and cheated him with the word Heresy. And whatever offended the Clergy, be it man or thing, must surely be an enemy to God and the King, and consequently very bad and terrible. They said, it was grown up in England, and growing fast in Scotland, and shewed him what notable profit would accrue to him from suppressing it, and enriching himself with the estates of such as professed, and of such as favoured it. With this they gave him a list of their names, encouraging him to plunder and burn the best and richest of his subjects.
The King listened to the proposal too greedily, and communicated it to the Laird of Grange his Treasuret. This was an honest and bold Man, who freely shewed his Master the monstrous iniquity and mischief of such counsel, exposed the evil and rapacious hearts of the Bishops, their corrupt practices, unsufferable pride, ambitious designs, and ungodly lives, with their utter unfitness to be trusted in Council, or with any civil concerns; represented, how rashly and perniciously one of his Predecessors, King David, had stripped the Crown of its Patrimony to endow Bishopricks and Abbeys; whence his Majesty was now so poor, the Prelates so rich, so prodigal and assuming, that they strove to be Masters and Directors in all things. Thus he convinced the King, and recovered him to his first reasonable purpose of closing with England; insomuch that his Majesty, next time the Prelates approached him, fell upon them with great bitterness, for having endeavoured to mislead him into such cruelties against so many Noblemen and Barons, to the danger of his own Estate. “Wherefore, said he, gave my Predecessors so many lands and rents to the Kirk? Was it to maintain Hawks, Dogs and Whores to a number of idle Priests? The King of England burns, the King of Denmark beheads you: I shall stick you with this Whingar.” Wherewith, says Sir James Melvil (from whom I quote these words) he drew out his dagger, and they fled from his presence in great fear.
He now fully resolved to keep his promise with his Uncle of England, as tending both to his advancement and honour. But his resolution held not. The Bishops were not easily baulked nor ashamed, nor wont to relax when interest, or dominion, or revenge was in view. Again they assail the Minions, particularly Oliver Sinclair, with store of gold, promised him high honours by their weight and procurement, especially the command of the Army against England, could he bring his Master to violate his Faith, and break with his Uncle. Their next step was to undo the Treasurer, by defaming him to the King: “He was proud, he was a Heretic (an imputation always powerful, however stale and foolish) he carried an English new Testament in his pouch; nay, he was so arrogant, that he would not procure Women for the King, nor prostitute his Son’s Wife to his Majesty’s Pleasure.” For this was one article of the charge against him, and urged by a venerable Prelate. It was usual for these Favourites to furnish the young King with Women, married or unmarried, thus to preserve their favour.
When the King vindicated his Minister, as a plain, frank Gentleman, whom he loved well, and to whom he begrudged no reward; the Prior of Pittenween replied and said, “Sir, the heir (heiress) of Kelly is a lusty fair Lass, and I dare pledge my life, that if your Majesty will send for her presently, he shall refuse to send her to you.” (The Lady was betrothed to the Treasurer’s Son.) A godly proposal, and it took. The King signed an order for the Lady to be brought to him; nay, the Prelates and their Faction contrived that a brother Prelate, the Prior of Pittenween, should carry it, and return with the fair prize. The Treasurer refused to comply, for good reasons: amongst others, the reverend Envoy was his known Enemy, and a known Debauchee. The Prior however who had gained the main point, rejoiced in the denial, and by it enraged the King, nay, from him a warrant was obtained to seize the Treasurer, and commit him to the Castle of Edinburgh.
He was aware of their mischievous devices, and hastened to Court. The King lowered, nor would speak to him. He boldly asked his Majesty, Why such a change, so much displeasure presently after so much favour, and for what offence? The King replied, “Why did thou refuse to send me the maiden whom I wrote for, and gave despiteful language to him I sent for her?” The Treasurer said, that he thought himself meetest to bring her, nor would he trust the Prior, as he knew him to be one infamous for rapes, a man the most notorious of any in Scotland for debauching of women, whether wives or virgins. Such failings, it seems, the holy man had, but was zealous for the Hierarchy against Heretics and his Country. “Hast thou then brought the Gentlewoman with thee?” said the King. Yes, Sir, said the Treasurer. This softened him. “Alas, saith the King, they have set out so many leasings against thee, that they have obtained of me a warrant to put thee in ward: But I shall mend it with a contrary order.”
The Treasurer answered with lamentation; “My life, Sir, or warding is a small matter: but it breaks my heart, that the world should hear of your Majesty’s facility.” For he had learnt, that in his absence they had made the King send to England to contradict his promise, and refuse to meet his Uncle. His lamentations availed not: The worst counsels had swayed him. The Prelates, and other Minions corrupted by them, and subservient to them, rule the King. Harry the eighth rages, vows to revenge so much scorn, and sends away an Army to lay Scotland desolate by fire and sword. The Scotch King too raises forces, but forces without heart, as in a cause undertaken for the pleasure of the Prelates against their Country. This damped their spirits, but what quite finished their dejection and despair was, to see Oliver Sinclair, a Minion and Hireling of the Prelates, declared General of the Army.
The Lords and principal Officers, through indignation that the Court and Country should be governed by such vile instruments as the Bishops and their Creatures, refused to fight under such a worthless Commander; nay, suffered themselves to be all taken prisoners. The whole Army was overthrown, the Kingdom defenceless, and exposed to the ravages of a victorious enemy, and the poor King to anguish and disgrace. Against the Bishops all mouths were open, all men enraged, to see the Country perishing to satiate their fury and ambition: The King heard the general outcry, his eyes were opened, and, in the fulness of his heart, he dropped some expressions of resentment against his ghostly and execrable advisers; for which expressions they soon took severe vengeance.
Such men never retract, never forgive. The Realm was under the spoiling hand of Enemies and Invaders, the Army routed, the Nobility provoked, the People miserable and murmuring, the King distressed, and his Honour lost. Did all this soften the Bishops? No: to accomplish their malice and good services to the Public and their Sovereign, they murder him by poison. For, with their other politics and wholsome severities derived from Rome, they had learnt the art of making an Italian Posset, and with this, administered by some of their faithful villains about him, they shut up the days and reign of James the fifth, first deprived him of his Innocence, next of his honest Counsellors, then of his Peace and Honour, lastly of his Life.
Were not these notable Directors of a Monarch’s power and conscience? Nay, even dying and dead they abused him, as well as they had whilst alive. One of them attending him at his death, dictated a Will for him, and what he himself caused to be written, when the poor King was expiring, he boldly declared to be the King’s Will afterwards. To such an amazing power in wickedness and want of shame had the Clergy then grown by their enormous increase of property. But they were popish Clergy: The Protestant sort thirst not after wealth, and where they have it, are too meek to become proud and abuse it, too conscientious to neglect the cure of souls, and live in luxury, too modest to haunt Courts, too disinterested and sincere to flatter Princes, too just and impartial to preach selfish doctrines tending to raise themselves by the purse, or subserviency, or sufferings of others.