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cozenage and impudenee. It would become justice, and Plato himself, who countenances this manner of proceeding, to furnish me with other means more suitable to my own liking: this is a malicious kind of justice; and I look upon it as no less wounded by itself than by others. I said not long since to some company in discourse, that I should hardly be drawn to betray my prince for a particular man, who should be much ashamed to betray any particular man for my prince; and I do not only hate deceiving myself, but that any one should deceive through me; I will neither afford matter nor occasion to any such thing.
In the little I have had to mediate betwixt our princes! in the divisions and subdivisions by which we are at this time torn to pieces, I have been very careful that they should neither be deceived in me, nor deceive others by me. People of that kind of trading are very reserved, and pretend to be the most moderate imaginable and nearest to the opinions of those with whom they have to do ; I expose myself in my stiff opinion, and after a method the most my own; a tender negotiator, a novice, who had rather fail in the affair than be wanting to myself. And yet it has been hitherto with so good luck (for fortune has doubtless the best share in it), that few things have passed from hand to hand with less suspicion or more favour and privacy. I have a free and open way that easily insinuates itself and obtains belief with those with whom I am to deal, at the first meeting. Sincerity and pure truth, in what age soever, pass for current; and besides, the liberty and freedom of a man who treats without any interest of his own, is never hateful or suspected, and he may very well make use of the answer of Hyperides to the Athenians, who complained of his blunt way of speaking: “My masters, do not consider whether or no I am free, but whether I am so without a bribe, or without any advantage to my own affairs.” My liberty of speaking has also easily cleared me from all suspicion of dissembling by its
1 Between the King of Navarre, afterwards Henry IV., and the Duc de Guise. -See De Thou, De Vita sua, iii. 9.
2 Plutarch, on the Difference between a Flatterer and a Friend,
vehemency, leaving nothing unsaid, how home and bitter soever (so that I could have said no worse behind their backs), and in that it carried along with it a manifest show of simplicity and indifference. I pretend to no other fruit by acting than to act, and add to it no long arguments or propositions; every action plays its own game, win if it
As to the rest, I am not swayed by any passion, either of love or hatred, towards the great, nor have my will captivated either by particular injury or obligation. I look upon our kings with an affection simply loyal and respectful, neither prompted nor restrained by any private interest, and I love myself for it. Nor does the general and just cause attract me otherwise than with moderation, and without heat. I am not subject to those penetrating and close compacts and engagements. Anger and hatred are beyond the duty of justice; and are passions only useful to those who do not keep themselves strictly to their duty by simple reason: “Utatur motu animi, qui uti ratione non potest. Al legitimate and equitable intentions are temperate and equable of themselves; if otherwise, they degenerate into seditious and unlawful. This is it which makes me walk everywhere with my head erect, my face and my heart open.
To confess the truth, and I am not afraid to confess it, I should easily, in case of need, hold up one candle to St. Michael and another to his dragon, like the old woman; I will follow the right side even to the fire, but excluding the fire if I can. Let Montaigne be overwhelmed in the public ruin, if need be; but if there be no need, I should think myself obliged to fortune to save me, and I will make use of all the length of line my duty allows for his preservation. Was it not Atticus,' who being of the just but losing side, preserved himself by his moderation in that universal shipwreck of the world, amongst so many mutations and diversities ? For private man, as he was, it is more easy; and in such kind of work, I think a man may justly not be ambitious to offer and insinuate himself. For a man, indeed, to be wavering and
I “He only enıploys his passion who can make no use of his reason.”_CICERO, Tusc. Quces., iv. 25.
Cornelius Nepos in vita, c. 6.
irresolute, to keep his affection unmoved and without inclination in the troubles of his country and public divisions, I neither think it bandsome nor honest : “Ea non media, sed nulla via est, velut eventum exspectantium, quo fortunæ consilia sua applicent." This may be allowed in
. our neighbours' affairs, and thus Gelo the tyrant of Syracuse o suspended his inclination in the war betwixt the Greeks and barbarians, keeping a resident ambassador with presents at Delphos, to watch and see which way
fortune would incline, and then take fit occasion to fall in with the victors. It would be a kind of treason to proceed after this manner in our own domestic affairs, wherein a man must of necessity be of the one side or the other ; though for a man who has no office or express command to call him out, to sit still, I hold it more excusable (and yet I do not excuse myself upon these terms) than in foreign expeditions, to which, however, according to our laws, no man is pressed against his will. And yet even those who wholly engage themselves in such a war, may behave them. selves with such temper and moderation, that the storm may fly over their heads without doing them any
harm. Had we not reason to hope such an issue in the the late Sieur de Morvilliers, Bishop of Orleans ?3 And I know amongst those who behave themselves most bravely in the present war, some whose manners are so gentle, obliging, and just, that they will certainly stand firm, whatever event Heaven is preparing for us. I am of opinion that it properly belongs to kings only to quarrel with kings; and I laugh at those bully-rooks who, out of wantonness of courage, present themselves to so disproportioned disputes: for a man has never the more parti. cular quarrel with a prince, by marching openly and boldly against him for his own honour and according to his duty; if he does not love such a person, he does better, he esteems him. And notably the cause of the laws and of
1 “That is not a middle way, but no way, to await events, hy which they refer their resolutions to fortune.”—Livy, xxxii. 21.
Herodotus vii. 163. 3 An able negotiator, who, though protected by the Guises, and strongly supporting them, was yet very far from persecuting the Reformists. He died 1577.
the ancient government of a kingdom, has this always annexed to it, that even those, who for their own private interest invade them, excuse, if they do not honour, the defenders.
But we are not, as we nowadays do, to call peevishness and inward discontent, that spring from private interest and passion, duty: nor a treacherous and malicious conduct, courage; they call their propension to mischief and vio. lence, zeal: 'tis not the cause, but their interest, that inflames them; they kindle and begin a war, not because it is just, but because it is war.
A man may very well behave himself commodiously, and loyally too, amongst those of the adverse party; carry yourself, if not with the same equal affection (for that is capable of different measure), at least with an affection moderate, well tempered, and such as shall not so engage you to one party, that it may demand all you are able to do for that side, content yourself with a moderate proportion of their favour and goodwill; and to swim in troubled waters with. out fishing in them.
The other way, of offering a man's self and the utmost service he is able to do, both to one party and the other, has still less of prudence in it than conscience. Does not he to whom you betray another, to whom you were as wel. come as to himself, know that you will at another time do as much for him? He holds you for a villain ; and in the meantime hears what you will say, gathers intelligence from you, and works his own ends out of your disloyalty; double-dealing men are useful for bringing in, but we must have a care they carry out as little as is possible.
I say nothing to one party, that I may not, upon occasion, say to the other, with a little alteration of accent; and report nothing but things either indifferent or known, or what is of common consequence. I cannot permit myself, for any consideration, to tell them a lie. What is intrusted to my secrecy, I religiously conceal; but I take as few trusts of that nature upon me as I can. The secrets of princes are a troublesome burthen to such as are not interested in them. I very willingly bargain that they trust me with little, but confidently rely upon what I tell them. I have ever known more than I desired. One open way of speak.
ing introduces another open way of speaking, and draws out discoveries, like wine and love. Phillipides, in my opinion, answered King Lysimachus very discreetly, who, asking him what of his estate he should bestow upon him ? “ What
will,” said he,“ provided it be none of your secrets. I see every one is displeased if the bottom of the affair be concealed from him wherein he is employed, or that there be any reservation in the thing; for my part, I am content to know no more of the business than what they would have me employ myself in, nor desire that my knowledge should exceed or restrict what I have to say. If I must serve for an instrument of deceit, let it be at least, with a safe conscience; I will not be reputed a. servant either so affectionate, or so loyal, as to be fit to betray anyone: he, who is unfaithful to himself, is excusably so to his master. But they are princes who do not accept men by halves, and despise limited and conditional services : I can. not help it: I frankly tell them how far I can go ; for a slave I should not be, but to reason, and I can hardly submit even to that. And they also are to blame to exact from a freeman the same subjection and obligation to their service that they do from him they have made and bought, or whose fortune particularly and expressly depends upon theirs. The laws have delivered ine from a great anxiety; they have chosen a side for me, and given me a master; all other superiority and obligation ought to be relative to that, and cut off from all other. Yet this is not to say, that if my affection should otherwise me, my
hand should presently obey it; the will and desire are a law to themselves; but actions must receive commission from the public appointment.
All this proceeding of mine is a little dissonant from the ordinary forms; it would produce no great effects, nor be of any long duration ; innocence itself could not, in this age of ours, either negotiate without dissimulation, or traffic without lying; and, indeed, public employments are by no means for my palate : what my profession requires, I perform after the most private manner that I can. Being young, I was engaged up to the ears in business, and it
Plutarch, On Curiosity, c. 4.