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William Penn. (1644–1718). Fruits of Solitude.
The Harvard Classics. 1909–14.

Part II

The World’s Able Man

14. It is by some thought, the Character of an Able Man, to be Dark and not Understood. But I am sure that is not fair Play.

15. If he be so by Silence, ’t is better; but if by Disguises, ’t is insincere and hateful.

16. Secrecy is one Thing, false Lights is another.

17. The honest Man, that is rather free, than open, is ever to be preferr’d; especially when Sense is at Helm.

18. The Glorying of the other Humor is in a Vice: For it is not Humane to be Cold, Dark, and Unconversable. I was a going to say, they are like Pick-Pockets in a Crowd, where a Man must ever have his Hand on his Purse; or as Spies in a Garrison, that if not prevented betrays it.

19. They are the Reverse of Human Nature, and yet this is the present World’s Wise Man and Politician: Excellent Qualities for Lapland, where, they say, Witches, though not many Conjurors, dwell.

20. Like Highway-Men, that rarely Rob without Vizards, or in the same Wigs and Cloaths, but have a Dress for every Enterprize.

21. At best, he may be a Cunning Man, which is a sort of Lurcher in the Politicks.

22. He is never too hard for the Wise Man upon the Square, for that is out of his Element, and puts him quite by his Skill.

Nor are Wise Men ever catch’d by him, but when they trust him.

23. But as Cold and Close as he seems, he can and will please all, if he gets by it, though it should neither please God nor himself at bottom.

24. He is for every Cause that brings him Gain, but Implacable if disappointed of Success.

25. And what he cannot hinder, he will be sure to Spoil, by over-doing it.

26. None so Zealous then as he, for that which he cannot abide.

27. What is it he will not, or cannot do, to hide his true Sentiments.

28. For his Interest, he refuses no Side or Party; and will take the Wrong by the Hand, when t’other won’t do, with as good a Grace as the Right.

29. Nay, he commonly chooses the Worst, because that brings the best Bribe: His Cause being ever Money.

30. He Sails with all Winds, and is never out of his Way, where any Thing is to be had.

31. A Privateer indeed, and everywhere a very Bird of Prey.

32. True to nothing but himself, and false to all Persons and Parties, to serve his own Turn.

33. Talk with him as often as you please, he will never pay you in good Coin; for ’t is either False or Clipt.

34. But to give a False Reason for any Thing, let my Reader never learn of him, no more than to give a Brass Half-Crown for a good one: Not only because it is not true, but because it Deceives the Person to whom it is given; which I take to be an Immorality.

35. Silence is much more preferable, for it saves the Secret, as well as the Person’s Honor.

36. Such as give themselves the Latitude of saying what they do not mean, come to be errant Jockeys at more Things than one; but in Religion and Politicks, ’t is most pernicious.

37. To hear two Men talk the Reverse of their own Sentiments, with all the good Breeding and Appearance of Friendship imaginable, on purpose to Cozen or Pump each other, is to a Man of Virtue and Honor, one of the Melancholiest, as well as most Nauseous Thing in the World.

38. But that it should be the Character of an Able Man, is to Disinherit Wisdom, and Paint out our Degeneracy to the Life, by setting up Fraud, an errant Impostor, in her Room.

39. The Tryal of Skill between these two is, who shall believe least of what t’other says; and he that has the Weakness, or good Nature to give out first, (viz. to believe any Thing t’other says) is look’d upon to be Trick’d.

40. I cannot see the Policy, any more than the Necessity, of a Man’s Mind always giving the Lye to his Mouth, or his Mouth ever giving the false Alarms of his Mind: For no Man can be long believed, that teaches all Men to distrust him; and since the Ablest have sometimes need of Credit, where lies the Advantage of their Politick Cant or Banter upon Mankind?

41. I remember a Passage of one of Queen Elizabeth’s Great Men, as Advice to his Friend; The Advantage, says he, I had upon others at Court, was, that I always spoke as I thought, which being not believed by them, I both preserv’d a good Conscience, and suffered no Damage from that Freedom: Which, as it shows the Vice to be Older than our Times, so that Gallant Man’s Integrity, to be the best Way of avoiding it.

42. To be sure it is wise as well as Honest, neither to flatter other Men’s Sentiments, nor Dissemble and less Contradict our own.

43. To hold ones Tongue, or speak Truth, or talk only of indifferent Things, is the Fairest Conversation.

44. Women that rarely go Abroad without Vizard-Masks, have none of the best Reputation. But when we consider what all this Art and Disguise are for, it equally heightens the Wise Man’s Wonder and Aversion: Perhaps it is to betray a Father, a Brother, a Master, a Friend, a Neighbor, or ones own Party.

45. A fine Conquest! what Noble Grecians and Romans abhorr’d: As if Government could not subsist without Knavery, and that Knaves were the Usefullest Props to it; tho’ the basest, as well as greatest, Perversion of the Ends of it.

46. But that it should become a Maxim, shows but too grossly the Corruption of the Times.

47. I confess I have heard the Stile of a Useful Knave, but ever took it to be a silly or a knavish Saying; at least an Excuse for Knavery.

48. It is as reasonable to think a Whore makes the best Wife, as a Knave the best Officer.

49. Besides, Employing Knaves, Encourages Knavery instead of punishing it; and Alienates the Reward of Virtue. Or, at least, must make the World believe, the Country yields not honest Men enough, able to serve her.

50. Art thou a Magistrate? Prefer such as have clean Characters where they live, and of Estates to secure a just Discharge of their Trusts; that are under no Temptation to strain Points for a Fortune: For sometimes such may be found, sooner than they are Employed.

51. Art thou a Private Man? Contract thy Acquaintance in a narrow Compass, and chuse Those for the Subjects of it, that are Men of Principles; such as will make full Stops, where Honor will not lead them on; and that had rather bear the disgrace of not being thorow Paced Men, than forfeit their Peace and Reputation by a base Compliance.