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Sir Francis Bacon


Essay 34

Of Riches.   
1 I Cannot call Riches better, then the Baggage of Vertue. The Roman Word is better, Impedimenta. For as the Baggage is to an Army, so is Riches to Vertue. It cannot be spared, nor left behinde, but it hindreth the March; Yea, and the care of it, sometimes, loseth or disturbeth the Victory. Of great Riches, there is no Reall Vse, except it be in the Distribution; The rest is but Conceit. So saith Salomon; Where much is, there are Many to consume it; And what hath the Owner, but the Sight of it, with his Eyes? The Personall Fruition in any Man, cannot reach to feele Great Riches: There is a Custody of them; Or a Power of Dole and Donatiue of them; Or a Fame of them; But no Solid Vse to the Owner. Doe you not see, what fained Prices, are set vpon little Stones, and Rarities? And what Works of Ostentation, are vndertaken, because there might seeme to be, some Vse of great Riches? But then you will say, they may be of vse, to buy Men out of Dangers or Troubles. As Salomon saith; Riches are as a strong Hold, in the Imagination of the Rich Man. But this is excellently expressed, that it is in Imagination, and not alwaies in Fact. For certainly Great Riches, haue sold more Men, then they haue bought out. Seeke not Proud Riches, but such as thou maist get iustly, Vse soberly, Distribute cheerefully, and Leaue contentedly. Yet haue no Abstract nor Friarly Contempt of them. But distinguish, as Cicero saith well of Rabirius Posthumus; In studio rei amplificanda, apparebat, non Auariticæ Prædam, sed Instrumentum Bonitati, quæri. Hearken also to Salomon, and beware of Hasty Gathering of Riches: Qui festinat ad Diuitias, non erit insons. The Poets faigne that when Plutus, (which is Riches,) is sent from Iupiter, he limps, and goes slowly; But when he is sent from Pluto, he runnes, and is Swift of Foot: Meaning, that Riches gotten by Good Meanes, and Iust Labour, pace slowly; But when they come by the death of Others, (As by the Course of Inheritance, Testaments, and the like,) they come tumbling vpon a Man. But it mought be applied likewise to Pluto, taking him for the Deuill. For when Riches come from the Deuill, (as by Fraud, and Oppression, and vniust Meanes, ) they come vpon Speed. The Waies to enrich are many, and most of them Foule. Parsimony is one of the best, and yet is not Innocent: For it with-holdeth Men, from Workes of Liberality, and Charity. The Improuement of the Ground, is the most Naturall Obtaining of Riches; For it is our Great Mothers Blessing, the Earths; But it is slow. And yet, where Men of great wealth, doe stoope to husbandry, it multiplieth Riches exceedingly. I knew a Nobleman in England, that had the greatest Audits, of any Man in my Time: A Great Grasier, A Great Sheepe-Master, A Great Timber Man, A Great Colliar, A Great Corne-Master, A Great LeadMan, and so of Iron, and a Number of the like Points of Husbandry. So as the Earth seemed a Sea to him, in respect of the Perpetuall Importation. It was truly obserued by One, that Himselfe came very hardly to a Little Riches, and very easily to Great Riches. For when a Mans Stocke is come to that, that he can expect the Prime of Markets, and ouercome those Bargaines, which for their greatnesse are few Mens Money, and be Partner in the Industries of Younger Men, he cannot but encrease mainely. The Gaines of Ordinary Trades and Vocations, are honest; And furthered by two Things, chiefly: By Diligence; And By a good Name, for good and faire dealing. But the Gaines of Bargaines, are of a more doubtfull Nature; When Men shall waite vpon Others Necessity, broake by Seruants and Instruments to draw them on, Put off Others cunningly that would be better Chapmen, and the like Practises, which are Crafty and Naught. As for the Chopping of Bargaines, when a Man Buies, not to Hold, but to Sell ouer againe, that commonly Grindeth double, both vpon the Seller, and vpon the Buyer. Sharings, doe greatly Enrich, if the Hands be well chosen, that are trusted. Vsury is the certainest Meanes of Gaine, though one of the worst; As that, whereby a Man doth eate his Bread; In sudore vultûs alieni: And besides, doth Plough vpon Sundaies. But yet Certaine though it be, it hath Flawes; For that the Scriueners and Broakers, doe valew vnsound Men, to serue their owne Turne. The Fortune, in being the First in an Inuention, or in a Priuiledge, doth cause sometimes a wonderfull Ouergrowth in Riches; As it was with the first Sugar Man, in the Canaries: Therefore, if a Man can play the true Logician, to haue as well Iudgement, as Inuention, he may do great Matters; especially if the Times be fit. He that resteth vpon Gaines Certaine, shall hardly grow to great Riches: And he that puts all vpon Aduentures, doth often times breake, and come to Pouerty: It is good therefore, to guard Aduentures with Certainties, that may vphold losses. Monopolies, and Coemption of Wares for Resale, where they are not restrained, are great Meanes to enrich; especially, if the Partie haue intelligence, what Things are like to come into Request, and so store Himselfe before hand. Riches gotten by Seruice, though it be of the best Rise, yet when they are gotten by Flattery, Feeding Humours, and other Seruile Conditions, they may be placed amongst the Worst. As for Fishing for Testaments and Executorships ( as Tacitus saith of Seneca; Testam\-eta et Orbos, t\-aquàm Indagine capi;) It is yet worse; By how much Men submit themselues, to Meaner Persons, then in Seruice. Beleeue not much them, that seeme to despise Riches: For they despise them, that despaire of them; And none Worse, when they come to them. Be not Penny-wise; Riches haue Wings, and sometimes they Fly away of themselues, sometimes they must be set Flying to bring in more. Men leaue their Riches, either to their Kindred; Or to the Publique: And moderate Portions prosper best in both. A great State left to an Heire, is as a Lure to all the Birds of Prey, round about, to seize on him, if he be not the better stablished in Yeares and Iudgement. Likewise Glorious Gifts and Foundations, are like Sacrifices without Salt; And but the Painted Sepulchres of Almes, which soone will putrifie, and corrupt inwardly. Therefore, Measure not thine Aduancements by Quantity, but Frame them by Measure; And Deferre not Charities till Death: For certainly, if a Man weigh it rightly, he that doth so, is rather Liberall of an Other Mans, then of his Owne.

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