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20. Of Counsel (continued)
For the last inconvenience, that men will counsel, with an eye to themselves; certainly, non inveniet fidem super terram is meant, of the nature of times, and not of all particular persons. There be, that are in nature faithful, and sincere, and plain, and direct; not crafty and involved; let princes, above all, draw to themselves such natures. Besides, counsellors are not commonly so united, but that one counsellor, keepeth sentinel over another; so that if any do counsel out of faction or private ends, it commonly comes to the king's ear. But the best remedy is, if princes know their counsellors, as well as their counsellors know them:
Principis est virtus maxima nosse suos.
And on the other side, counsellors should not be too speculative into their sovereign's person. The true composition of a counsellor, is rather to be skilful in their master's business, than in his nature; for then he is like to advise him, and not feed his humor. It is of singular use to princes, if they take the opinions of their counsel, both separately and together. For private opinion is more free; but opinion before others, is more reverent. In private, men are more bold in their own humors; and in consort, men are more obnoxious to others' humors; therefore it is good to take both; and of the inferior sort, rather in private, to preserve freedom; of the greater, rather in consort, to preserve respect. It is in vain for princes, to take counsel concerning matters, if they take no counsel likewise concerning persons; for all matters are as dead images; and the life of the execution of affairs, resteth in the good choice of persons. Neither is it enough, to consult concerning persons secundum genera, as in an idea, or mathematical description, what the kind and character of the person should be; for the greatest errors are committed, and the most judgment is shown, in the choice of individuals. It was truly said, optimi consiliarii mortui: books will speak plain, when counsellors blanch.Therefore it is good to be conversant in them, specially the books of such as themselves have been actors upon the stage.
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