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Sir Francis Bacon

Essay 41

Of Vsurie.
1 MAny haue made Wittie Inuectiues against Vsurie. They say, that it is Pitie, the Deuill should haue Gods part, which is the Tithe. That the Vsurer is the greatest Sabbath Breaker, because his Plough goeth euery Sunday. That the Vsurer is the Droane, that Virgil speaketh of: Ignauum Fucos Pecus à præssepibus arc\-et. That the Vsurer breaketh the First Law, that was made for Mankinde, after the Fall; which was, In sudore Vultûs tui comedes Panem tuum; Not, In sudore Vultûs alieni. That Vsurers should haue Orangetawney Bonnets, because they doe Iudaize. That it is against Nature, for Money to beget Money; And the like. I say this onely, that Vsury is a Concessum propter Duritiem Cordis: For since there must be Borrowing and Lending, and Men are so hard of Heart, as they will not lend freely, Vsury must be permitted. Some Others haue made Suspicious, and Cunning Propositions, of Bankes, Discouery of Mens Estates, and other Inuentions. But few haue spoken of Vsury vsefully. It is good to set before vs, the Incommodities, and Commodities of Vsury; That the Good may be, either Weighed out, or Culled out; And warily to prouide, that while we make forth, to that which is better, we meet not, with that which is worse.
2 The Discommodities of Vsury are: First, that it makes fewer Merchants. For were it not, for this Lazie Trade of Vsury, Money would not lie still, but would, in great Part, be Imployed vpon Merchandizing; Which is the Vena Porta of Wealth in a State. The Second, that it makes Poore Merchants. For as a Farmer cannot husband his Ground so well, if he sit at a great Rent; So the Merchant cannot driue his Trade so well, if he sit at great Vsury. The Third is incident to the other two; And that is, the Decay of Customes of Kings or States, which Ebbe or flow with Merchandizing. The Fourth, that it bringeth the Treasure of a Realme or State, into a few Hands. For the Vsurer being at Certainties, and others at Vncertainties, at the end of the Game; Most of the Money will be in the Boxe; And euer a State flourisheth, when Wealth is more equally spread. The Fifth, that it beats downe the Price of Land: For the Employment of Money, is chiefly, either Merchandizing, or Purchasing; And Vsury Way-layes both. The Sixth, that it doth Dull and Dampe all Industries, Improuements, and new Inuentions, wherin Money would be Stirring, if it were not for this Slugge. The Last, that it is the Canker and Ruine of many Mens Estates; Which in processe of Time breeds a Publike Pouertie.
3 On the other side, the Commodities of Vsury are. First, that howsoeuer Vsury in some respect hindereth Merchandizing, yet in some other it aduanceth it: For it is certain, that the Greatest Part of Trade, is driuen by Young Merchants, vpon Borrowing at Interest: So as if the Vsurer, either call in, or keepe backe his Money, there will ensue presently a great Stand of Trade. The Second is, That were it not, for this easie borrowing vpon Interest, Mens necessities would draw vpon them, a most sudden vndoing; In that they would be forced to sell their Meanes (be it Lands or Goods) farre vnder Foot; and so, whereas Vsury doth but Gnaw vpon them, Bad Markets would Swallow them quite vp. As for Mortgaging, or Pawning, it will little mend the matter; For either Men will not take Pawnes without Vse; Or if they doe, they will looke precisely for the Forfeiture. I remember a Cruell Moneyed Man, in the Country, that would say; The Deuill take this Vsury, it keepes vs from Forfeitures, of Mortgages, and Bonds. The third and Last is; That it is a Vanitie to conceiue, that there would be Ordinary Borrowing without Profit; And it is impossible to conceiue, the Number of Inconueniences, that will ensue, if Borrowing be Cramped. Therefore, to speake of the Abolishing of Vsury is Idle. All States haue euer had it, in one Kinde or Rate, or other. So as that Opinion must be sent to Vtopia.
4 To speake now, of the Reformation and Reiglement of Vsury; How the Discommodities of it may be best auoided, and the Commodities retained. It appeares by the Ballance, of Commodities, and Discommodities of Vsury, Two Things are to be Reconciled. The one, that the Tooth of Vsurie be grinded, that it bite not too much: The other, that there bee left open a Meanes, to inuite Moneyed Men, to lend to the Merchants, for the Continuing and Quickning of Trade. This cannot be done, except you introduce, two seuerall Sorts of Vsury; A Lesse, and a Greater. For if you reduce Vsury, to one Low Rate, it will ease the common Borrower, but the Merchant wil be to seeke for Money. And it is to be noted that the Trade of Merchandize, being the most Lucratiue, may beare Vsury at a good Rate; Other Contracts not so.
5 To serue both Intentions, the way would be briefly thus. That there be Two Rates of Vsury, The one Free, and Generall for All; The other vnder Licence only, to Certaine Persons, and in Certaine Places of Merchandizing. First therefore, let Vsury, in generall, be reduced to Fiue in the Hundred; And let that Rate be proclaimed to be Free and Current; And let the State shut it selfe out, to take any Penalty for the same. This will preserue Borrowing from any generall Stop or Drinesse. This will ease infinite Borrowers in the Countrie. This will, in good Part, raise the Price of Land, because Land purchased at Sixteene yeares Purchase, wil yeeld Six in the Hundred, and somewhat more, whereas this Rate of Interest, Yeelds but Fiue. This, by like reason, will Encourage and edge, Industrious and Profitable Improuements; Because Many will rather venture in that kinde, then take Fiue in the Hundred, especially hauing beene vsed to greater Profit. Secondly, let there be Certaine Persons licensed to Lend, to knowne Merchants, vpon Vsury at a Higher Rate; and let it be with the Cautions following. Let the Rate be, euen with the Merchant himselfe, somewhat more easie, then that he vsed formerly to pay: For, by that Meanes, all Borrowers shall haue some ease, by this Reformation, be he Merchant, or whosoeuer. Let it be no Banke or Common Stocke, but euery Man be Master of his owne Money: Not that I altogether Mislike Banks, but they will hardly be brooked, in regard of certain suspicions. Let the State be answered, some small Matter, for the Licence, and the rest left to the Lender: For if the Abatement be but small, it will no whit discourage the Lender. For he, for Example, that tooke before Ten or Nine in the Hundred, wil sooner descend to Eight in the Hundred, then giue ouer his Trade of Vsury; And goe from Certaine Gaines, to Gaines of Hazard. Let these Licenced Lenders be in Number Indefinite, but restrained to Certaine Principall Cities and Townes of Merchandizing: For then they will be hardly able, to Colour other Mens Moneyes, in the Country: So as the Licence of Nine, will not sucke away the current Rate of Fiue: For no Man will send his Moneyes farre off, nor put them into Vnknown Hands.
6 If it be Obiected, that this doth, in a Sort, Authorize Vsury, which before was, in some places, but Permissiue: The Answer is; That it is better, to Mitigate Vsury by Declaration, then to suffer it to Rage by Conniuence.

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