The Lion and the Fox

Rule 8. When you cannot wear the skin of a lion don that of a fox.

I first heard this proverb from Disney’s Zorro TV series. Don Diego used this as his reason for taking the name and character of Zorro (Spanish for fox).


Guy Williams as Zorro – Source –

Later on I learned that Baltasar Gracian was the source of this phrase.

When unable to wear the lion’s skin, clothe yourself in the fox’s. To know how to yield to the times, is to stand above them: he who accomplishes his purpose, never endangers his reputation; where force fails, try art; over one road, or another, either the royal one of courage, or the bypath of cunning: more things have been gained by knack, than by knock, and the wise have been victorious many more times than the valorous, and not the other way about; when not possible to attain your end, register your contempt of it.

As Gracian eloquently notes, force doesn’t always yields the best results. People often stiffen when being pushed to do something. Though the act itself may not be distasteful, they dislike the idea of being required to do something by someone else.

grumpy child

Every tried to get a kid to do something they don’t want to? – Source –

A little tact can go a long way, by merely rephrasing a command into a request you can find your will performed quicker. Most people’s ego’s are stroked by the idea of being needed by others, but not by being ordered.

Thomas Jefferson vs. Alexander Hamilton

Both men dominated American politics in the early history of the Nation, but had opposing viewpoints. Jefferson favored the rights of the States over the prerogatives of the Federal Government, whereas Hamilton did his best to expand Federal jurisdiction.

alexander hamilton

Alexander Hamilton – Source –

The two also had opposing methods of exerting their influence. Hamilton was a lion in the political arena, as a lawyer he would drown his opponents in arguments and words. Whereas Jefferson preferred working through others. Hating direct conflict, he would spread his influence through favored newspapers and congressmen.

Both of their methods were effective, however, Hamilton’s political power had ended after John Adams Presidency. Without George Washington’s tempering influence, Hamilton’s lack of discretion quickly caused him to fight with everyone, leading to the degeneration of his political power.

Thomas Jefferson

Thomas Jefferson – Source –

Thomas Jefferson resigned from his position as Secretary of State, but that was not the end to his career. As head of the Republican-Democrat party he became Vice-President, later President. His influence could be felt in the country through the next three Presidents who were proteges of his.


There are times for force, and there are times for cleverness. Prudence is to be used at all times to determine between the two.


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