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customs of kings, or estates, which ebb or flow with merchandizing: the fourth, that it bringeth the treasure of a realm or state into a few hands; for the usurer being at certainties, and others at uncertainties, at the end of the game most of the money will be in the box; and ever a state flourisheth when wealth is more equally spread : the fifth, that it beats down the price of land; for the employment of money is chiefly either merchandizing, or purchasing, and usury waylays both : the sixth, that it doth dull and damp all industries, improvements, and new inventions, wherein money would be stirring, if it were not for this slug : the last, that it is the canker and ruin of many men's estates, which in process of time breeds a public poverty.
On the other side, the commodities of usury are, first, that howsoever usury in some respect hindereth merchandizing, yet in some other it advanceth it; for it is certain that the greatest part of trade is driven by young merchants upon borrowing at interest; so as if the usurer either call in, or keep back his money there will ensue presently a great stand of trade : the second is, that, were it not for this easy borrowing upon interest, men's necessities would draw upon them a most sudden undoing, in that they would be forced to sell their means, (be it lands or goods), far under foot, and so, whereas usury doth but gnaw upon them, bad markets would swallow them quite up. As for mortgaging or pawning, it will little mend the matter : for either men will not take pawns without use, or if they do, they will look prc
cisely for the forfeiture. I remember a cruel monied man in the country, that would say, “ The devil take this usury,
it keeps us from forfeitures of mortgages and bonds." The third and last is, that it is a vanity to conceive that there would be ordinary borrowing without profit; and it is impossible to conceive the number of inconveniences that will ensue, if borrowing be cramped ; therefore to speak of the abolishing of
usury is idle; all states have ever had it in one kind or rate or other : so as that opinion must be sent to Utopia.
To speak now of the reformation and reglement of usury, how the discommodities of it may be best avoided, and the commodities retained. It appears, by the balance of commodities and discommodities of usury, two things are to be reconciled; the one that the tooth of usury be grinded, that it bite not too much; the other that there be left open a means to invite monied men to lend to the merchants, for the continuing and quickening of trade. This cannot be done, except you introduce two several sorts of usury, a less and a greater; for if
reduce usury to one low rate, it will ease the common borrower, but the merchant will be to seek for money : and it is to be noted, that the trade of merchandize being the most lucrative, may bear usury at a good rate: other contracts not so.
To serve both intentions, the way would be briefly thus ; that there be two rates of usury; the one free and general for all ; the other under licence only to certain persons, and in certain places of merchandizing. First, therefore, let usury in general be reduced to five in the hundred, and let that rate be proclaimed to be free and current; and let the state shut itself out to take any penalty for the same; this will preserve borrowing from any general stop or dryness; this will ease infinite borrowers in the country; this will, in good part, raise the price of land, because land purchased at sixteen years' purchase will yield six in the hundred, and somewhat more, whereas this rate of interest yields but five : this by like reason will encourage and edge industrious and profitable improvements, because many will rather venture in that kind, than take five in the hundred, especially having been used to greater profit. Secondly, let there be certain persons licensed to lend to known merchants upon usury, at a high rate, and let it be with the cautions following: let the rate be, even with the merchant himself, somewhat more easy than that he used formerly to pay; for by that means all borrowers shall have some ease by this reformation, be he merchant, or whosoever ; let it be no bank, or common stock, but every man be master of his own money ; not that I altogether dislike banks, but they will hardly be brooked, in regard of certain suspicions. Let the state be answered some small matter for the license, 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 took before, ten or nine in the hundred, will sooner descend to eight in the hundred, than give over his trade of usury,
from certain gains to gains of hazard. Let these licensed lenders be in number indefinite, but restrained to certain principal cities and towns of merchandizing; for then they will be hardly able to colour other men's monies in the country : so as the license of nine will not suck away the current rate of five ; for no man will lend his monies far off, nor put them into unknown hands.
If it be objected that this doth in a sort authorize usury, which before was in some places but permissive; the answer is, that it is better to mitigate usury by declaration, than to suffer it to rage by connivance.
XLII. OF YOUTH AND AGE. A man that is young in years may be old in hours, if he have lost no time ; but that happeneth rarely.' Generally, youth is like the first cogitations, not so wise as the second : for there is a youth in thoughts, as well as in ages ; and yet the invention of young men, is more lively than that of old, and imaginations stream into their minds better, and, as as it were, more divinely. Natures that have much heat, and great and violent desires and perturbations, are not ripe for action till they have passed the meridian of their years : as it was with Julius Cæsar and Septimius Severus; of the latter of whom it is said, “ juventutem egit, erroribus, imo furoribus “ plenam ;” and yet he was the ablest emperor, almost, of all the list : but reposed natures may do well in youth, as it is seen in Augustus Cæsar, Cosmus, duke of Florence, Gaston de Foix, and others. On the other side, heat and vivacity in age is an excellent composition for business. Young men are fitter to invent, than to judge; fitter for execution than for counsel; and fitter for new projects than for settled business ; for the experience of age, in things that fall within the compass of it, directeth them : but in new things abuseth them. The errors of young men are the ruin of business ; but the errors of aged men amount but to this, that more might have been done, or sooner. Young men, in the conduct and manage of actions, embrace more than they can hold; stir more than they can quiet; fly to the end, without consideration of the means and degrees; pursue some few principles which they have chanced upon absurdly; care not to innovate, which draws unknown inconveniences; use extreme remedies at first; and that, which doubleth all errors, will not acknowledge or retract them, like an unruly horse, that will neither stop nor turn. Men of age object too much, consult too long, adventure too little, repent too soon, and seldom drive business home to the full period, but content themselves with a mediocrity of success. Certainly it is good to compound employments of both; for that will be good for the present, because the virtues of either age may correct the defects of both; and good for succession, that young men may be learners, while men in age are actors; and, lastly, good for external accidents, because authority followeth old men, and favour and popularity youth: