Of Nobility by Francis Bacon

Bacon sheds light on the different types and characteristics of nobility. They are referred to as “monarchy” and “democracy”. He uses the term ‘nobility’ to refer to both ‘nobility of character’ and ‘the aristocracy.’ A monarchy devoid of nobility, in his opinion, is total tyranny. The nobility serves as a check on the sovereign, but it also protects him from arrogance. Utility and equality are valued more than honour in Switzerland and the Low Countries. Switzerland is bound together not by mutual respect or faith, but by mutual value. The government of the Low Countries is outstanding. They have equality, so paying taxes is more joyful. The nobility enhances a monarch’s majesty at the expense of some power. At the expense of some money, the nobility imparts enthusiasm to the masses. The best nobility is that which is subservient to the sovereign and just, but above the common people. In this capacity, they serve as a barrier between the monarch and his subjects, as well as between the monarch and his subjects’ arrogance. There should not be too many nobles because maintaining nobility is costly. Furthermore, once certain nobility fall into poverty, riches and honour are no longer commensurate.

Furthermore, the nobility rarely works and enviously looks down on those who do. To climb through the ranks of nobility, one must be both nice and bad at the same time. Their qualities, however, will be remembered while their flaws will be forgotten. Old nobles can only be the consequence of time, whereas new nobles are the result of power. There is something lovely about an old noble family that has endured the years. A monarch should make use of capable nobles. People generally obey the nobility; it is as if they were born to rule. However, in a democracy, things are different. The nobility is unnecessary here, and while it adds spirit, it is rather expensive. People in a democracy care less about the other person and their position than they do about business, and when they do care about the other person, it is primarily for business purposes. ‘A monarchy, where there is no nobility at all, is ever a pure and absolute tyranny; as that of Turks’ writes Bacon. He implies that if you have a monarch, you must have an aristocracy to balance that powerful figure, otherwise they will have no limits. ‘But for democracies, they need it (noble class) not; and they are commonly more quiet, and less subject to sedition, than where there are strips of nobles.’

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