|Morus meets Raphael Hythloday during a visit to Antwerp|
After we had several times met without coming to an agreement, they went to Brussels for some days to know the Prince's pleasure. And since our business would admit it, I went to Antwerp. While I was there, among many that visited me, there was one that was more acceptable to me than any other, Peter Giles, born at Antwerp, who is a man of great honor, and of a good rank in his town, though less than he deserves; for I do not know if there be anywhere to be found a more learned and a better bred young man: for as he is both a very worthy and a very knowing person, so he is so civil to all men, so particularly kind to his friends, and so full of candor and affection, that there is not perhaps above one or two anywhere to be found that are in all respects so perfect a friend. He is extraordinarily modest, there is no artifice in him; and yet no man has more of a prudent simplicity: his conversation was so pleasant and so innocently cheerful, that his company in a great measure lessened any longings to go back to my country, and to my wife and children, which an absence of four months had quickened very much. One day as I was returning home from mass at St. Mary's, which is the chief church, and the most frequented of any in Antwerp, I saw him by accident talking with a stranger, who seemed past the flower of his age; his face was tanned, he had a long beard, and his cloak was hanging carelessly about him, so that by his looks and habit I concluded he was a seaman.
As soon as Peter saw me, he came and saluted me; and as I was returning his civility, he took me aside, and pointing to him with whom he had been discoursing, he said: "Do you see that man? I was just thinking to bring him to you."
I answered, "He should have been very welcome on your account."
"And on his own too," replied he, "if you knew the man, for there is none alive that can give so copious an account of unknown nations and countries as he can do; which I know you very much desire."
Then said I, "I did not guess amiss, for at first sight I took him for a seaman."
"But you are much mistaken," said he, "for he has not sailed as a seaman,
but as a traveller, or rather a philosopher. This Raphael, who from his
family carries the name of Hythloday, is not ignorant of the Latin tongue,
but is eminently learned in the Greek, having applied himself more particularly
to that than to the former, because he had given himself much to philosophy,
in which he knew that the Romans have left us nothing that is valuable,
except what is to be found in Seneca and Cicero. He is a Portuguese by
birth, and was so desirous of seeing the world that he divided his estate
among his brothers, ran the same hazard as Americus Vespucius, and bore
a share in three of his four voyages, that are now published; only he did
not return with him in his last, but obtained leave of him almost by force,
that he might be one of those twenty-four who were left at the farthest
place at which they touched, in their last voyage to New Castile. The leaving
him thus did not a little gratify one that was more fond of travelling
than of returning home to be buried in his own country; for he used often
to say that the way to heaven was the same from all places; and he that
had no grave had the heaven still over him. Yet this disposition of mind
had cost him dear, if God had not been very gracious to him; for after
he, with five Castilians, had travelled over many countries, at last, by
strange good-fortune, he got to Ceylon, and from thence to Calicut, where
he very happily found some Portuguese ships, and, beyond all men's expectations,
returned to his native country."
|Hythloday tells of his journey to America and from there to Utopia|
But as they went farther, a new scene opened, all things grew milder, the air less burning, the soil more verdant, and even the beasts were less wild: and at last there were nations, towns, and cities, that had not only mutual commerce among themselves, and with their neighbors, but traded both by sea and land, to very remote countries. There they found the conveniences of seeing many countries on all hands, for no ship went any voyage into which he and his companions were not very welcome. The first vessels that they saw were flat-bottomed, their sails were made of reeds and wicker woven close together, only some were of leather; but afterward they found ships made with round keels and canvas sails, and in all respects like our ships; and the seamen understood both astronomy and navigation. He got wonderfully into their favor, by showing them the use of the needle, of which till then they were utterly ignorant. They sailed before with great caution, and only in summer-time, but now they count all seasons alike, trusting wholly to the loadstone, in which they are perhaps more secure than safe; so that there is reason to fear that this discovery, which was thought would prove so much to their advantage, may by their imprudence become an occasion of much mischief to them. But it were too long to dwell on all that he told us he had observed in every place, it would be too great a digression from our present purpose: whatever is necessary to be told, concerning those wise and prudent institutions which he observed among civilized nations, may perhaps be related by us on a more proper occasion. We asked him many questions concerning all these things, to which he answered very willingly; only we made no inquiries after monsters, than which nothing is more common; for everywhere one may hear of ravenous dogs and wolves, and cruel man-eaters; but it is not so easy to find States that are well and wisely governed.
As he told us of many things that were amiss in those new- discovered
countries, so he reckoned up not a few things from which patterns might
be taken for correcting the errors of these nations among whom we live;
of which an account may be given, as I have already promised, at some other
time; for at present I intend only to relate those particulars that he
told us of the manners and laws of the Utopians: but I will begin with
the occasion that led us to speak of that commonwealth.
|Peter Gilles suggests Hythloday should be the adviser to some king or powerful man|
"As for my friends," answered he, "I need not be much concerned, having already done for them all that was incumbent on me; for when I was not only in good health, but fresh and young, I distributed that among my kindred and friends which other people do not part with till they are old and sick, when they then unwillingly give that which they can enjoy no longer themselves. I think my friends ought to rest contented with this, and not to expect that for their sake I should enslave myself to any king whatsoever."
"Soft and fair," said Peter, "I do not mean that you should be a slave to any king, but only that you should assist them, and be useful to them."
"The change of the word," said he, "does not alter the matter."
"But term it as you will," replied Peter, "I do not see any other way in which you can be so useful, both in private to your friends, and to the public, and by which you can make your own condition happier."
"Happier!" answered Raphael; "is that to be compassed in a way so abhorrent to my genius? Now I live as I will, to which I believe few courtiers can pretend. And there are so many that court the favor of great men, that there will be no great loss if they are not troubled either with me or with others of my temper."
Upon this, said I: "I perceive, Raphael, that you neither desire wealth nor greatness; and indeed I value and admire such a man much more than I do any of the great men in the world. Yet I think you would do what would well become so generous and philosophical a soul as yours is, if you would apply your time and thoughts to public affairs, even though you may happen to find it a little uneasy to yourself: and this you can never do with so much advantage, as by being taken into the counsel of some great prince, and putting him on noble and worthy actions, which I know you would do if you were in such a post; for the springs both of good and evil flow from the prince, over a whole nation, as from a lasting fountain. So much learning as you have, even without practice in affairs, or so great a practice as you have had, without any other learning, would render you a very fit counsellor to any king whatsoever."
"You are doubly mistaken," said he, "Mr. More, both in your opinion of me, and in the judgment you make of things: for as I have not that capacity that you fancy I have, so, if I had it, the public would not be one jot the better, when I had sacrificed my quiet to it. For most princes apply themselves more to affairs of war than to the useful arts of peace; and in these I neither have any knowledge, nor do I much desire it: they are generally more set on acquiring new kingdoms, right or wrong, than on governing well those they possess. And among the ministers of princes, there are none that are not so wise as to need no assistance, or at least that do not think themselves so wise that they imagine they need none; and if they court any, it is only those for whom the prince has much personal favor, whom by their fawnings and flatteries they endeavor to fix to their own interests: and indeed Nature has so made us that we all love to be flattered, and to please ourselves with our own notions. The old crow loves his young, and the ape her cubs. Now if in such a court, made up of persons who envy all others, and only admire themselves, a person should but propose anything that he had either read in history or observed in his travels, the rest would think that the reputation of their wisdom would sink, and that their interest would be much depressed, if they could not run it down: and if all other things failed, then they would fly to this, that such or such things pleased our ancestors, and it were well for us if we could but match them. They would set up their rest on such an answer, as a sufficient confutation of all that could be said, as if it were a great misfortune, that any should be found wiser than his ancestors; but though they willingly let go all the good things that were among those of former ages, yet if better things are proposed they cover themselves obstinately with this excuse of reverence to past times. I have met with these proud, morose, and absurd judgments of things in many places, particularly once in England."
"Were you ever there?" said I.
|Hythloday tells of his visit to the court of Cardinal Morton|
|Discussion on the harsh punishment of thieves and their reasons for stealing. The increasing numbers of poor unemployed soldiers and peasants.|
"'There has been care enough taken for that,' said he, 'there are many handicrafts, and there is husbandry, by which they may make a shift to live unless they have a greater mind to follow ill courses.'
"'That will not serve your turn,' said I, 'for many lose their limbs in civil or foreign wars, as lately in the Cornish rebellion, and some time ago in your wars with France, who being thus mutilated in the service of their king and country, can no more follow their old trades, and are too old to learn new ones: but since wars are only accidental things, and have intervals, let us consider those things that fall out every day. There is a great number of noblemen among you, that are themselves as idle as drones, that subsist on other men's labor, on the labor of their tenants, whom, to raise their revenues, they pare to the quick. This indeed is the only instance of their frugality, for in all other things they are prodigal, even to the beggaring of themselves: but besides this, they carry about with them a great number of idle fellows, who never learned any art by which they may gain their living; and these, as soon as either their lord dies or they themselves fall sick, are turned out of doors; for your lords are readier to feed idle people than to take care of the sick; and often the heir is not able to keep together so great a family as his predecessor did. Now when the stomachs of those that are thus turned out of doors grow keen, they rob no less keenly; and what else can they do? for when, by wandering about, they have worn out both their health and their clothes, and are tattered, and look ghastly, men of quality will not entertain them, and poor men dare not do it, knowing that one who has been bred up in idleness and pleasure, and who was used to walk about with his sword and buckler, despising all the neighborhood with an insolent scorn as far below him, is not fit for the spade and mattock: nor will he serve a poor man for so small a hire, and in so low a diet as he can afford to give him.'
"To this he answered: 'This sort of men ought to be particularly cherished, for in them consists the force of the armies for which we have occasion; since their birth inspires them with a nobler sense of honor than is to be found among tradesmen or ploughmen.'
"'You may as well say,' replied I, 'that you must cherish thieves on the account of wars, for you will never want the one as long as you have the other; and as robbers prove sometimes gallant soldiers, so soldiers often prove brave robbers; so near an alliance there is between those two sorts of life. But this bad custom, so common among you, of keeping many servants, is not peculiar to this nation. In France there is yet a more pestiferous sort of people, for the whole country is full of soldiers, still kept up in time of peace, if such a state of a nation can be called a peace: and these are kept in pay upon the same account that you plead for those idle retainers about noblemen; this being a maxim of those pretended statesmen that it is necessary for the public safety to have a good body of veteran soldiers ever in readiness. They think raw men are not to be depended on, and they sometimes seek occasions for making war, that they may train up their soldiers in the art of cutting throats; or as Sallust observed, for keeping their hands in use, that they may not grow dull by too long an intermission. But France has learned to its cost how dangerous it is to feed such beasts.
"'The fate of the Romans, Carthaginians, and Syrians, and many other nations and cities, which were both overturned and quite ruined by those standing armies, should make others wiser: and the folly of this maxim of the French appears plainly even from this, that their trained soldiers often find your raw men prove too hard for them; of which I will not say much, lest you may think I flatter the English. Every day's experience shows that the mechanics in the towns, or the clowns in the country, are not afraid of fighting with those idle gentlemen, if they are not disabled by some misfortune in their body, or dispirited by extreme want, so that you need not fear that those well-shaped and strong men (for it is only such that noblemen love to keep about them, till they spoil them) who now grow feeble with ease, and are softened with their effeminate manner of life, would be less fit for action if they were well bred and well employed. And it seems very unreasonable that for the prospect of a war, which you need never have but when you please, you should maintain so many idle men, as will always disturb you in time of peace, which is ever to be more considered than war. But I do not think that this necessity of stealing arises only from hence; there is another cause of it more peculiar to England.'
"'What is that?' said the cardinal.
"'The increase of pasture,' said I, 'by which your sheep, which are naturally mild, and easily kept in order, may be said now to devour men, and unpeople, not only villages, but towns; for wherever it is found that the sheep of any soil yield a softer and richer wool than ordinary, there the nobility and gentry, and even those holy men the abbots, not contented with the old rents which their farms yielded, nor thinking it enough that they, living at their ease, do no good to the public, resolve to do it hurt instead of good. They stop the course of agriculture, destroying houses and towns, reserving only the churches, and enclose grounds that they may lodge their sheep in them. As if forests and parks had swallowed up too little of the land, those worthy countrymen turn the best inhabited places in solitudes, for when an insatiable wretch, who is a plague to his country, resolves to enclose many thousand acres of ground, the owners as well as tenants are turned out of their possessions, by tricks, or by main force, or being wearied out with ill-usage, they are forced to sell them. By which means those miserable people, both men and women, married and unmarried, old and young, with their poor but numerous families (since country business requires many hands), are all forced to change their seats, not knowing whither to go; and they must sell almost for nothing their household stuff, which could not bring them much money, even though they might stay for a buyer. When that little money is at an end, for it will be soon spent, what is left for them to do, but either to steal and so to be hanged (God knows how justly), or to go about and beg? And if they do this, they are put in prison as idle vagabonds; while they would willingly work, but can find none that will hire them; for there is no more occasion for country labor, to which they have been bred, when there is no arable ground left. One shepherd can look after a flock which will stock an extent of ground that would require many hands if it were to be ploughed and reaped. This likewise in many places raises the price of corn.
"'The price of wool is also so risen that the poor people who were wont
to make cloth are no more able to buy it; and this likewise makes many
of them idle. For since the increase of pasture, God has punished the avarice
of the owners by a rot among the sheep, which has destroyed vast numbers
of them; to us it might have seemed more just had it fell on the owners
themselves. But suppose the sheep should increase ever so much, their price
is not like to fall; since though they cannot be called a monopoly, because
they are not engrossed by one person, yet they are in so few hands, and
these are so rich, that as they are not pressed to sell them sooner than
they have a mind to it, so they never do it till they have raised the price
as high as possible. And on the same account it is, that the other kinds
of cattle are so dear, because many villages being pulled down, and all
country labor being much neglected, there are none who make it their business
to breed them. The rich do not breed cattle as they do sheep, but buy them
lean, and at low prices; and after they have fattened them on their grounds
sell them again at high rates. And I do not think that all the inconveniences
this will produce are yet observed, for as they sell the cattle dear, so
if they are consumed faster than the breeding countries from which they
are brought can afford them, then the stock must decrease, and this must
needs end in great scarcity; and by these means this your island, which
seemed as to this particular the happiest in the world, will suffer much
by the cursed avarice of a few persons; besides this, the rising of corn
makes all people lessen their families as much as they can; and what can
those who are dismissed by them do, but either beg or rob? And to this
last, a man of a great mind is much sooner drawn than to the former.
|Increasing inequalities between rich and poor|
"While I was talking thus, the counsellor who was present had prepared an answer, and had resolved to resume all I had said, according to the formality of a debate, in which things are generally repeated more faithfully than they are answered; as if the chief trial to be made were of men's memories.
"'You have talked prettily for a stranger,' said he, 'having heard of many things among us which you have not been able to consider well; but I will make the whole matter plain to you, and will first repeat in order all that you have said, then I will show how much your ignorance of our affairs has misled you, and will in the last place answer all your arguments. And that I may begin where I promised, there were four things--'
"'Hold your peace,' said the cardinal; 'this will take up too much time;
therefore we will at present ease you of the trouble of answering, and
reserve it to our next meeting, which shall be to- morrow, if Raphael's
affairs and yours can admit of it. But, Raphael,' said he to me, 'I would
gladly know upon what reason it is that you think theft ought not to be
punished by death? Would you give way to it? Or do you propose any other
punishment that will be more useful to the public? For since death does
not restrain theft, if men thought their lives would be safe, what fear
or force could restrain ill men? On the contrary, they would look on the
mitigation of the punishment as an invitation to commit more crimes.'
|Hythloday attacks capital punishment for stealing, suggests the ancient Roman model, or the system of the (fictional) Polylerits allowing thieves to make reparation.|
"'And if this is once admitted, by the same rule men may in all other things put what restrictions they please upon the laws of God. If by the Mosaical law, though it was rough and severe, as being a yoke laid on an obstinate and servile nation, men were only fined and not put to death for theft, we cannot imagine that in this new law of mercy, in which God treats us with the tenderness of a father, he has given us a greater license to cruelty than he did to the Jews. Upon these reasons it is that I think putting thieves to death is not lawful; and it is plain and obvious that it is absurd, and of ill-consequence to the commonwealth, that a thief and a murderer should be equally punished; for if a robber sees that his danger is the same, if he is convicted of theft as if he were guilty of murder, this will naturally incite him to kill the person whom otherwise he would only have robbed, since if the punishment is the same, there is more security, and less danger of discovery, when he that can best make it is put out of the way; so that terrifying thieves too much, provokes them to cruelty.
"But as to the question, What more convenient way of punishment can be found? I think it is much more easier to find out that than to invent anything that is worse; why should we doubt but the way that was so long in use among the old Romans, who understood so well the arts of government, was very proper for their punishment? They condemned such as they found guilty of great crimes, to work their whole lives in quarries, or to dig in mines with chains about them. But the method that I liked best, was that which I observed in my travels in Persia, among the Polylerits, who are a considerable and well-governed people. They pay a yearly tribute to the King of Persia; but in all other respects they are a free nation, and governed by their own laws. They lie far from the sea, and are environed with hills; and being contented with the productions of their own country, which is very fruitful, they have little commerce with any other nation; and as they, according to the genius of their country, have no inclination to enlarge their borders; so their mountains, and the pension they pay to the Persians, secure them from all invasions.
"'Thus they have no wars among them; they live rather conveniently than with splendor, and may be rather called a happy nation, than either eminent or famous; for I do not think that they are known so much as by name to any but their next neighbors. Those that are found guilty of theft among them are bound to make restitution to the owner, and not as it is in other places, to the prince, for they reckon that the prince has no more right to the stolen goods than the thief; but if that which was stolen is no more in being, then the goods of the thieves are estimated, and restitution being made out of them, the remainder is given to their wives and children: and they themselves are condemned to serve in the public works, but are neither imprisoned, nor chained, unless there happened to be some extraordinary circumstances in their crimes. They go about loose and free, working for the public. If they are idle or backward to work, they are whipped; but if they work hard, they are well used and treated without any mark of reproach, only the lists of them are called always at night, and then they are shut up. They suffer no other uneasiness, but this of constant labor; for as they work for the public, so they are well entertained out of the public stock, which is done differently in different places. In some places, whatever is bestowed on them, is raised by a charitable contribution; and though this way may seem uncertain, yet so merciful are the inclinations of that people, that they are plentifully supplied by it; but in other places, public revenues are set aside for them; or there is a constant tax of a poll-money raised for their maintenance. In some places they are set to no public work, but every private man that has occasion to hire workmen goes to the market-places and hires them of the public, a little lower than he would do a freeman: if they go lazily about their task, he may quicken them with the whip.
"'By this means there is always some piece of work or other to be done by them; and beside their livelihood, they earn somewhat still to the public. They all wear a peculiar habit, of one certain color, and their hair is cropped a little above their ears, and a piece of one of their ears is cut off. Their friends are allowed to give them either meat, drink, or clothes so they are of their proper color, but it is death, both to the giver and taker, if they give them money; nor is it less penal for any freeman to take money from them, upon any account whatsoever: and it is also death for any of these slaves (so they are called) to handle arms. Those of every division of the country are distinguished by a peculiar mark; which it is capital for them to lay aside, to go out of their bounds, or to talk with a slave of another jurisdiction; and the very attempt of an escape is no less penal than an escape itself; it is death for any other slave to be accessory to it; and if a freeman engages in it he is condemned to slavery. Those that discover it are rewarded--if freemen, in money; and if slaves, with liberty, together with a pardon for being accessory to it; that so they might find their account, rather in repenting of their engaging in such a design, than in persisting in it.
"'These are their laws and rules in relation to robbery, and it is obvious that they are as advantageous as they are mild and gentle; since vice is not only destroyed, and men preserved, but they treated in such a manner as to make them see the necessity of being honest, and of employing the rest of their lives in repairing the injuries they have formerly done to society. Nor is there any hazard of their falling back to their old customs: and so little do travellers apprehend mischief from them, that they generally make use of them for guides, from one jurisdiction to another; for there is nothing left them by which they can rob, or be the better for it, since, as they are disarmed, so the very having of money is a sufficient conviction: and as they are certainly punished if discovered, so they cannot hope to escape; for their habit being in all the parts of it different from what is commonly worn, they cannot fly away, unless they would go naked, and even then their cropped ear would betray them. The only danger to be feared from them is their conspiring against the government: but those of one division and neighborhood can do nothing to any purpose, unless a general conspiracy were laid among all the slaves of the several jurisdictions, which cannot be done, since they cannot meet or talk together; nor will any venture on a design where the concealment would be so dangerous and the discovery so profitable. None are quite hopeless of recovering their freedom, since by their obedience and patience, and by giving good grounds to believe that they will change their manner of life for the future, they may expect at last to obtain their liberty: and some are every year restored to it, upon the good character that is given of them.'
"When I had related all this, I added that I did not see why such a method might not be followed with more advantage than could ever be expected from that severe justice which the counsellor magnified so much. To this he answered that it could never take place in England without endangering the whole nation. As he said this he shook his head, made some grimaces, and held his peace, while all the company seemed of his opinion, except the cardinal, who said that it was not easy to form a judgment of its success, since it was a method that never yet had been tried.
"'But if,' said he, 'when the sentence of death was passed upon a thief,
the prince would reprieve him for a while, and make the experiment upon
him, denying him the privilege of a sanctuary; and then if it had a good
effect upon him, it might take place; and if it did not succeed, the worst
would be, to execute the sentence on the condemned persons at last. And
I do not see,' added he, 'why it would be either unjust, inconvenient,
or at all dangerous, to admit of such a delay: in my opinion, the vagabonds
ought to be treated in the same manner; against whom, though we have made
many laws, yet we have not been able to gain our end.' When the cardinal
had done, they all commended the motion, though they had despised it when
it came from me; but more particularly commended what related to the vagabonds,
because it was his own observation.
|A jester suggests that the rich monasteries should take care of the elderly poor. A quarrel follows.|
"The cardinal smiled, and approved of it in jest; but the rest liked it in earnest. There was a divine present, who though he was a grave, morose man, yet he was so pleased with this reflection that was made on the priests and the monks, that he began to play with the fool, and said to him, 'This will not deliver you from all beggars, except you take care of us friars.'
"'That is done already,' answered the fool, 'for the cardinal has provided for you, by what he proposed for restraining vagabonds, and setting them to work, for I know no vagabonds like you.'
"This was well entertained by the whole company, who, looking at the cardinal, perceived that he was not ill-pleased at it; only the friar himself was vexed, as may be easily imagined, and fell into such a passion that he could not forbear railing at the fool, and calling him knave, slanderer, backbiter, and son of perdition, and then cited some dreadful threatenings out of the Scriptures against him. Now the jester thought he was in his element, and laid about him freely.
"'Good friar,' said he, 'be not angry, for it is written, "In patience possess your soul."'
"The friar answered (for I shall give you his own words), 'I am not angry, you hangman; at least I do not sin in it, for the Psalmist says, "Be ye angry, and sin not."'
"Upon this the cardinal admonished him gently, and wished him to govern his passions.
"'No, my lord,' said he, 'I speak not but from a good zeal, which I ought to have; for holy men have had a good zeal, as it is said, "The zeal of thy house hath eaten me up;" and we sing in our church, that those, who mocked Elisha as he went up to the house of God, felt the effects of his zeal; which that mocker, that rogue, that scoundrel, will perhaps feel.'
"'You do this perhaps with a good intention,' said the cardinal; 'but in my opinion it were wiser in you, and perhaps better for you, not to engage in so ridiculous a contest with a fool.'
"'No, my lord,' answered he, 'that were not wisely done; for Solomon, the wisest of men, said, "Answer a fool according to his folly;" which I now do, and show him the ditch into which he will fall, if he is not aware of it; for if the many mockers of Elisha, who was but one bald man, felt the effect of his zeal, what will become of one mocker of so many friars, among whom there are so many bald men? We have likewise a bull, by which all that jeer us are excommunicated.'
"When the cardinal saw that there was no end of this matter, he made
a sign to the fool to withdraw, turned the discourse another way, and soon
after rose from the table, and, dismissing us, went to hear causes.
|Hythloday (wrongly) concludes from this episode that it is impossible to give advice to the powerful.|
To this I answered: "You have done me a great kindness in this relation; for as everything has been related by you, both wisely and pleasantly, so you have made me imagine that I was in my own country, and grown young again, by recalling that good cardinal to my thoughts, in whose family I was bred from my childhood: and though you are upon other accounts very dear to me, yet you are the dearer, because you honor his memory so much; but after all this I cannot change my opinion, for I still think that if you could overcome that aversion which you have to the courts of princes, you might, by the advice which it is in your power to give, do a great deal of good to mankind; and this is the chief design that every good man ought to propose to himself in living; for your friend Plato thinks that nations will be happy, when either philosophers become kings or kings become philosophers, it is no wonder if we are so far from that happiness, while philosophers will not think it their duty to assist kings with their councils.
"'They are not so base-minded,' said he, 'but that they would willingly
do it: many of them have already done it by their books, if those that
are in power would but hearken to their good advice.' But Plato judged
right, that except kings themselves became philosophers, they who from
their childhood are corrupted with false notions would never fall in entirely
with the councils of philosophers, and this he himself found to be true
in the person of Dionysius.
|Questions of foreign policy|
"Now when things are in so great a fermentation, and so many gallant men are joining councils, how to carry on the war, if so mean a man as I should stand up, and wish them to change all their councils, to let Italy alone, and stay at home, since the Kingdom of France was indeed greater than could be well governed by one man; that therefore he ought not to think of adding others to it: and if after this, I should propose to them the resolutions of the Achorians, a people that lie on the southeast of Utopia, who long ago engaged in war, in order to add to the dominions of their prince another kingdom, to which he had some pretensions by an ancient alliance. This they conquered, but found that the trouble of keeping it was equal to that by which it was gained; that the conquered people were always either in rebellion or exposed to foreign invasions, while they were obliged to be incessantly at war, either for or against them, and consequently could never disband their army; that in the meantime they were oppressed with taxes, their money went out of the kingdom, their blood was spilt for the glory of their King, without procuring the least advantage to the people, who received not the smallest benefit from it even in time of peace; and that their manners being corrupted by a long war, robbery and murders everywhere abounded, and their laws fell into contempt; while their King, distracted with the care of two kingdoms, was the less able to apply his mind to the interests of either.
"When they saw this, and that there would be no end to these evils, they by joint councils made an humble address to their King, desiring him to choose which of the two kingdoms he had the greatest mind to keep, since he could not hold both; for they were too great a people to be governed by a divided king, since no man would willingly have a groom that should be in common between him and another. Upon which the good prince was forced to quit his new kingdom to one of his friends (who was not long after dethroned), and to be contented with his old one. To this I would add that after all those warlike attempts, the vast confusions, and the consumption both of treasure and of people that must follow them; perhaps upon some misfortune, they might be forced to throw up all at last; therefore it seemed much more eligible that the King should improve his ancient kingdom all he could, and make it flourish as much as possible; that he should love his people, and be beloved of them; that he should live among them, govern them gently, and let other kingdoms alone, since that which had fallen to his share was big enough, if not too big for him. Pray how do you think would such a speech as this be heard?"
"I confess," said I, "I think not very well."
|Questions of taxation and economics|
"Another proposes that the judges must be made sure, that they may declare always in favor of the prerogative, that they must be often sent for to court, that the King may hear them argue those points in which he is concerned; since how unjust soever any of his pretensions may be, yet still some one or other of them, either out of contradiction to others or the pride of singularity or to make their court, would find out some pretence or other to give the King a fair color to carry the point: for if the judges but differ in opinion, the clearest thing in the world is made by that means disputable, and truth being once brought in question, the King may then take advantage to expound the law for his own profit; while the judges that stand out will be brought over, either out of fear or modesty; and they being thus gained, all of them may be sent to the bench to give sentence boldly, as the King would have it; for fair pretences will never be wanting when sentence is to be given in the prince's favor. It will either be said that equity lies on his side, or some words in the law will be found sounding that way, or some forced sense will be put on them; and when all other things fail, the King's undoubted prerogative will be pretended, as that which is above all law; and to which a religious judge ought to have a special regard.
"Thus all consent to that maxim of Crassus, that a prince cannot have treasure enough, since he must maintain his armies out of it: that a king, even though he would, can do nothing unjustly; that all property is in him, not excepting the very persons of his subjects: and that no man has any other property, but that which the King out of his goodness thinks fit to leave him. And they think it is the prince's interest, that there be as little of this left as may be, as if it were his advantage that his people should have neither riches nor liberty; since these things make them less easy and less willing to submit to a cruel and unjust government; whereas necessity and poverty blunt them, make them patient, beat them down, and break that height of spirit, that might otherwise dispose them to rebel. Now what if after all these propositions were made, I should rise up and assert, that such councils were both unbecoming a king, and mischievous to him: and that not only his honor but his safety consisted more in his people's wealth, than in his own; if I should show that they choose a king for their own sake, and not for his; that by his care and endeavors they may be both easy and safe; and that therefore a prince ought to take more care of his people's happiness than of his own, as a shepherd is to take more care of his flock than of himself.
"It is also certain that they are much mistaken that think the poverty
of a nation is a means of the public safety. Who quarrel more than beggars?
Who does more earnestly long for a change, than he that is uneasy in his
present circumstances? And who run to create confusions with so desperate
a boldness, as those who have nothing to lose hope to gain by them? If
a king should fall under such contempt or envy, that he could not keep
his subjects in their duty, but by oppression and ill-usage, and by rendering
them poor and miserable, it were certainly better for him to quit his kingdom,
than to retain it by such methods, as makes him while he keeps the name
of authority, lose the majesty due to it. Nor is it so becoming the dignity
of a king to reign over beggars, as over rich and happy subjects. And therefore
Fabricius, a man of a noble and exalted temper, said, he would rather govern
rich men than be rich himself; since for one man to abound in wealth and
pleasure, when all about him are mourning and groaning, is to a gaoler
and not a king. He is an unskilful physician, that cannot cure one disease
without casting his patient into another: so he that can find no other
way for correcting the errors of his people, but by taking from them the
conveniences of life, shows that he knows not what it is to govern a free
nation. He himself ought rather to shake off his sloth, or to lay down
his pride; for the contempt or hatred that his people have for him, takes
its rise from the vices in himself. Let him live upon what belongs to him,
without wronging others, and accommodate his expense to his revenue. Let
him punish crimes, and by his wise conduct let him endeavor to prevent
them, rather than be severe when he has suffered them to be too common:
let him not rashly revive laws that are abrogated by disuse, especially
if they have been long forgotten, and never wanted; and let him never take
any penalty for the breach of them, to which a judge would not give way
in a private man, but would look on him as a crafty and unjust person for
pretending to it.
|Hythloday cites the example of the (fictional) Macarians|
"If, I say, I should talk of these or such like things, to men that had taken their bias another way, how deaf would they be to all I could say?"
"No doubt, very deaf," answered I; "and no wonder, for one is never to offer at propositions or advice that we are certain will not be entertained. Discourses so much out of the road could not avail anything, nor have any effect on men whose minds were prepossessed with different sentiments. This philosophical way of speculation is not unpleasant among friends in a free conversation, but there is no room for it in the courts of princes where great affairs are carried on by authority."
"That is what I was saying," replied he, "that there is no room for
philosophy in the courts of princes."
|Pragmatic Morus contradicts Hythloday's pessimistic conclusion|
|Hythloday insists that ideals of virtuous living are unacceptable in royal courts|
"The greatest parts of his precepts are more opposite to the lives of the men of this age than any part of my discourse has been; but the preachers seemed to have learned that craft to which you advise me, for they observing that the world would not willingly suit their lives to the rules that Christ has given, have fitted his doctrine as if it had been a leaden rule, to their lives, that so some way or other they might agree with one another. But I see no other effect of this compliance except it be that men become more secure in their wickedness by it. And this is all the success that I can have in a court, for I must always differ from the rest, and then I shall signify nothing; or if I agree with them, I shall then only help forward their madness. I do not comprehend what you mean by your casting about, or by the bending and handling things so dexterously, that if they go not well they may go as little ill as may be; for in courts they will not bear with a man's holding his peace or conniving at what others do. A man must barefacedly approve of the worst counsels, and consent to the blackest designs: so that he would pass for a spy, or possibly for a traitor, that did but coldly approve of such wicked practices: and therefore when a man is engaged in such a society, he will be so far from being able to mend matters by his casting about, as you call it, that he will find no occasions of doing any good: the ill company will sooner corrupt him than be the better for him: or if notwithstanding all their ill company, he still remains steady and innocent, yet their follies and knavery will be imputed to him; and by mixing counsels with them, he must bear his share of all the blame that belongs wholly to others.
"It was no ill simile by which Plato set forth the unreasonableness
of a philosopher's meddling with government. If a man, says he, was to
see a great company run out every day into the rain, and take delight in
being wet; if he knew that it would be to no purpose for him to go and
persuade them to return to their houses, in order to avoid the storm, and
that all that could be expected by his going to speak to them would be
that he himself should be as wet as they, it would be best for him to keep
within doors; and since he had not influence enough to correct other people's
folly, to take care to preserve himself.
|Hythloday attacks property and money and advocates the Utopian system of equality|
"So that there will be two sorts of people among them, who deserve that
their fortunes should be interchanged; the former useless, but wicked and
ravenous; and the latter, who by their constant industry serve the public
more than themselves, sincere and modest men. From whence I am persuaded,
that till property is taken away there can be no equitable or just distribution
of things, nor can the world be happily governed: for as long as that is
maintained, the greatest and the far best part of mankind will be still
oppressed with a load of cares and anxieties. I confess without taking
it quite away, those pressures that lie on a great part of mankind may
be made lighter; but they can never be quite removed. For if laws were
made to determine at how great an extent in soil, and at how much money
every man must stop, to limit the prince that he might not grow too great,
and to restrain the people that they might not become too insolent, and
that none might factiously aspire to public employments; which ought neither
to be sold, nor made burdensome by a great expense; since otherwise those
that serve in them would be tempted to reimburse themselves by cheats and
violence, and it would become necessary to find out rich men for undergoing
those employments which ought rather to be trusted to the wise--these laws,
I say, might have such effects, as good diet and care might have on a sick
man, whose recovery is desperate: they might allay and mitigate the disease,
but it could never be quite healed, nor the body politic be brought again
to a good habit, as long as property remains; and it will fall out as in
a complication of diseases, that by applying a remedy to one sore, you
will provoke another; and that which removes the one ill symptom produces
others, while the strengthening one part of the body weakens the rest."
|Morus challenges his idea, the debate evolves into a request for Hythloday to tell more about Utopia|
"I do not wonder," said he, "that it appears so to you, since you have no notion, or at least no right one, of such a constitution: but if you had been in Utopia with me, and had seen their laws and rules, as I did, for the space of five years, in which I lived among them; and during which time I was so delighted with them, that indeed I should never have left them, if it had not been to make the discovery of that new world to the Europeans; you would then confess that you had never seen a people so well constituted as they."
"You will not easily persuade me," said Peter, "that any nation in that new world is better governed than those among us. For as our understandings are not worse than theirs, so our government, if I mistake not, being more ancient, a long practice has helped us to find out many conveniences of life: and some happy chances have discovered other things to us, which no man's understanding could ever have invented."
"As for the antiquity, either of their government or of ours," said he, "you cannot pass a true judgment of it unless you had read their histories; for if they are to be believed, they had towns among them before these parts were so much as inhabited. And as for those discoveries, that have been either hit on by chance, or made by ingenious men, these might have happened there as well as here. I do not deny but we are more ingenious than they are, but they exceed us much in industry and application. They knew little concerning us before our arrival among them; they call us all by a general name of the nations that lie beyond the equinoctial line; for their chronicle mentions a shipwreck that was made on their coast 1,200 years ago; and that some Romans and Egyptians that were in the ship, getting safe ashore, spent the rest of their days among them; and such was their ingenuity, that from this single opportunity they drew the advantage of learning from those unlooked-for guests, and acquired all the useful arts that were then among the Romans, and which were known to these shipwrecked men: and by the hints that they gave them, they themselves found out even some of those arts which they could not fully explain; so happily did they improve that accident, of having some of our people cast upon their shore.
"But if such an accident has at any time brought any from thence into Europe, we have been so far from improving it, that we do not so much as remember it; as in after-times perhaps it will be forgot by our people that I was ever there. For though they from one such accident made themselves masters of all the good inventions that were among us; yet I believe it would be long before we should learn or put in practice any of the good institutions that are among them. And this is the true cause of their being better governed, and living happier than we, though we come not short of them in point of understanding or outward advantages."
Upon this I said to him: "I earnestly beg you would describe that island very particularly to us. Be not too short, but set out in order all things relating to their soil, their rivers, their towns, their people, their manners, constitution, laws, and, in a word, all that you imagine we desire to know. And you may well imagine that we desire to know everything concerning them, of which we are hitherto ignorant."
"I will do it very willingly," said he, "for I have digested the whole matter carefully; but it will take up some time."
"Let us go then," said I, "first and dine, and then we shall have leisure enough."
He consented. We went in and dined, and after dinner came back and sat down in the same place. I ordered my servants to take care that none might come and interrupt us. And both Peter and I desired Raphael to be as good as his word. When he saw that we were very intent upon it, he paused a little to recollect himself, and began in this manner: