Thomas More

Part 1 out of 2

This etext was prepared by David Price, email ccx074@coventry.ac.uk
from the 1901 Cassell & Co. edition.


by Thomas More


Sir Thomas More, son of Sir John More, a justice of the King's
Bench, was born in 1478, in Milk Street, in the city of London.
After his earlier education at St. Anthony's School, in
Threadneedle Street, he was placed, as a boy, in the household of
Cardinal John Morton, Archbishop of Canterbury and Lord Chancellor.
It was not unusual for persons of wealth or influence and sons of
good families to be so established together in a relation of patron
and client. The youth wore his patron's livery, and added to his
state. The patron used, afterwards, his wealth or influence in
helping his young client forward in the world. Cardinal Morton had
been in earlier days that Bishop of Ely whom Richard III. sent to
the Tower; was busy afterwards in hostility to Richard; and was a
chief adviser of Henry VII., who in 1486 made him Archbishop of
Canterbury, and nine months afterwards Lord Chancellor. Cardinal
Morton--of talk at whose table there are recollections in "Utopia"-
-delighted in the quick wit of young Thomas More. He once said,
"Whoever shall live to try it, shall see this child here waiting at
table prove a notable and rare man."

At the age of about nineteen, Thomas More was sent to Canterbury
College, Oxford, by his patron, where he learnt Greek of the first
men who brought Greek studies from Italy to England--William Grocyn
and Thomas Linacre. Linacre, a physician, who afterwards took
orders, was also the founder of the College of Physicians. In
1499, More left Oxford to study law in London, at Lincoln's Inn,
and in the next year Archbishop Morton died.

More's earnest character caused him while studying law to aim at
the subduing of the flesh, by wearing a hair shirt, taking a log
for a pillow, and whipping himself on Fridays. At the age of
twenty-one he entered Parliament, and soon after he had been called
to the bar he was made Under-Sheriff of London. In 1503 he opposed
in the House of Commons Henry VII.'s proposal for a subsidy on
account of the marriage portion of his daughter Margaret; and he
opposed with so much energy that the House refused to grant it.
One went and told the king that a beardless boy had disappointed
all his expectations. During the last years, therefore, of Henry
VII. More was under the displeasure of the king, and had thoughts
of leaving the country.

Henry VII. died in April, 1509, when More's age was a little over
thirty. In the first years of the reign of Henry VIII. he rose to
large practice in the law courts, where it is said he refused to
plead in cases which he thought unjust, and took no fees from
widows, orphans, or the poor. He would have preferred marrying the
second daughter of John Colt, of New Hall, in Essex, but chose her
elder sister, that he might not subject her to the discredit of
being passed over.

In 1513 Thomas More, still Under-Sheriff of London, is said to have
written his "History of the Life and Death of King Edward V., and
of the Usurpation of Richard III." The book, which seems to
contain the knowledge and opinions of More's patron, Morton, was
not printed until 1557, when its writer had been twenty-two years
dead. It was then printed from a MS. in More's handwriting.

In the year 1515 Wolsey, Archbishop of York, was made Cardinal by
Leo X.; Henry VIII. made him Lord Chancellor, and from that year
until 1523 the King and the Cardinal ruled England with absolute
authority, and called no parliament. In May of the year 1515
Thomas More--not knighted yet--was joined in a commission to the
Low Countries with Cuthbert Tunstal and others to confer with the
ambassadors of Charles V., then only Archduke of Austria, upon a
renewal of alliance. On that embassy More, aged about thirty-
seven, was absent from England for six months, and while at Antwerp
he established friendship with Peter Giles (Latinised AEgidius), a
scholarly and courteous young man, who was secretary to the
municipality of Antwerp.

Cuthbert Tunstal was a rising churchman, chancellor to the
Archbishop of Canterbury, who in that year (1515) was made
Archdeacon of Chester, and in May of the next year (1516) Master of
the Rolls. In 1516 he was sent again to the Low Countries, and
More then went with him to Brussels, where they were in close
companionship with Erasmus.

More's "Utopia" was written in Latin, and is in two parts, of which
the second, describing the place ([Greek text]--or Nusquama, as he
called it sometimes in his letters--"Nowhere"), was probably
written towards the close of 1515; the first part, introductory,
early in 1516. The book was first printed at Louvain, late in
1516, under the editorship of Erasmus, Peter Giles, and other of
More's friends in Flanders. It was then revised by More, and
printed by Frobenius at Basle in November, 1518. It was reprinted
at Paris and Vienna, but was not printed in England during More's
lifetime. Its first publication in this country was in the English
translation, made in Edward's VI.'s reign (1551) by Ralph Robinson.
It was translated with more literary skill by Gilbert Burnet, in
1684, soon after he had conducted the defence of his friend Lord
William Russell, attended his execution, vindicated his memory, and
been spitefully deprived by James II. of his lectureship at St.
Clement's. Burnet was drawn to the translation of "Utopia" by the
same sense of unreason in high places that caused More to write the
book. Burnet's is the translation given in this volume.

The name of the book has given an adjective to our language--we
call an impracticable scheme Utopian. Yet, under the veil of a
playful fiction, the talk is intensely earnest, and abounds in
practical suggestion. It is the work of a scholarly and witty
Englishman, who attacks in his own way the chief political and
social evils of his time. Beginning with fact, More tells how he
was sent into Flanders with Cuthbert Tunstal, "whom the king's
majesty of late, to the great rejoicing of all men, did prefer to
the office of Master of the Rolls;" how the commissioners of
Charles met them at Bruges, and presently returned to Brussels for
instructions; and how More then went to Antwerp, where he found a
pleasure in the society of Peter Giles which soothed his desire to
see again his wife and children, from whom he had been four months
away. Then fact slides into fiction with the finding of Raphael
Hythloday (whose name, made of two Greek words [Greek text] and
[Greek text], means "knowing in trifles"), a man who had been with
Amerigo Vespucci in the three last of the voyages to the new world
lately discovered, of which the account had been first printed in
1507, only nine years before Utopia was written.

Designedly fantastic in suggestion of details, "Utopia" is the work
of a scholar who had read Plato's "Republic," and had his fancy
quickened after reading Plutarch's account of Spartan life under
Lycurgus. Beneath the veil of an ideal communism, into which there
has been worked some witty extravagance, there lies a noble English
argument. Sometimes More puts the case as of France when he means
England. Sometimes there is ironical praise of the good faith of
Christian kings, saving the book from censure as a political attack
on the policy of Henry VIII. Erasmus wrote to a friend in 1517
that he should send for More's "Utopia," if he had not read it, and
"wished to see the true source of all political evils." And to
More Erasmus wrote of his book, "A burgomaster of Antwerp is so
pleased with it that he knows it all by heart."

H. M.


Henry VIII., the unconquered King of England, a prince adorned with
all the virtues that become a great monarch, having some
differences of no small consequence with Charles the most serene
Prince of Castile, sent me into Flanders, as his ambassador, for
treating and composing matters between them. I was colleague and
companion to that incomparable man Cuthbert Tonstal, whom the King,
with such universal applause, lately made Master of the Rolls; but
of whom I will say nothing; not because I fear that the testimony
of a friend will be suspected, but rather because his learning and
virtues are too great for me to do them justice, and so well known,
that they need not my commendations, unless I would, according to
the proverb, "Show the sun with a lantern." Those that were
appointed by the Prince to treat with us, met us at Bruges,
according to agreement; they were all worthy men. The Margrave of
Bruges was their head, and the chief man among them; but he that
was esteemed the wisest, and that spoke for the rest, was George
Temse, the Provost of Casselsee: both art and nature had concurred
to make him eloquent: he was very learned in the law; and, as he
had a great capacity, so, by a long practice in affairs, he was
very dexterous at unravelling them. 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 honour,
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 candour and affection, that there is
not, perhaps, above one or two anywhere to be found, that is 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 Vesputius, 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 heavens 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 Castalians,
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." When Peter had said
this to me, I thanked him for his kindness in intending to give me
the acquaintance of a man whose conversation he knew would be so
acceptable; and upon that Raphael and I embraced each other. After
those civilities were past which are usual with strangers upon
their first meeting, we all went to my house, and entering into the
garden, sat down on a green bank and entertained one another in
discourse. He told us that when Vesputius had sailed away, he, and
his companions that stayed behind in New Castile, by degrees
insinuated themselves into the affections of the people of the
country, meeting often with them and treating them gently; and at
last they not only lived among them without danger, but conversed
familiarly with them, and got so far into the heart of a prince,
whose name and country I have forgot, that he both furnished them
plentifully with all things necessary, and also with the
conveniences of travelling, both boats when they went by water, and
waggons when they trained over land: he sent with them a very
faithful guide, who was to introduce and recommend them to such
other princes as they had a mind to see: and after many days'
journey, they came to towns, and cities, and to commonwealths, that
were both happily governed and well peopled. Under the equator,
and as far on both sides of it as the sun moves, there lay vast
deserts that were parched with the perpetual heat of the sun; the
soil was withered, all things looked dismally, and all places were
either quite uninhabited, or abounded with wild beasts and
serpents, and some few men, that were neither less wild nor less
cruel than the beasts themselves. 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 neighbours, but
traded, both by sea and land, to very remote countries. There they
found the conveniencies 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, afterwards, 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 favour 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 civilised 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; we made no
inquiries after monsters, than which nothing is more common; for
everywhere one may hear of ravenous dogs and wolves, and cruel men-
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. After Raphael
had discoursed with great judgment on the many errors that were
both among us and these nations, had treated of the wise
institutions both here and there, and had spoken as distinctly of
the customs and government of every nation through which he had
past, as if he had spent his whole life in it, Peter, being struck
with admiration, said, "I wonder, Raphael, how it comes that you
enter into no king's service, for I am sure there are none to whom
you would not be very acceptable; for your learning and knowledge,
both of men and things, is such, that you would not only entertain
them very pleasantly, but be of great use to them, by the examples
you could set before them, and the advices you could give them; and
by this means you would both serve your own interest, and be of
great use to all your friends." "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 sakes 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 favour 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 council 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 favour, whom by their fawning and flatteries they
endeavour 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 interests 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. "Yes, I was," answered he, "and stayed some
months there, not long after the rebellion in the West was
suppressed, with a great slaughter of the poor people that were
engaged in it.

"I was then much obliged to that reverend prelate, John Morton,
Archbishop of Canterbury, Cardinal, and Chancellor of England; a
man," said he, "Peter (for Mr. More knows well what he was), that
was not less venerable for his wisdom and virtues than for the high
character he bore: he was of a middle stature, not broken with
age; his looks begot reverence rather than fear; his conversation
was easy, but serious and grave; he sometimes took pleasure to try
the force of those that came as suitors to him upon business by
speaking sharply, though decently, to them, and by that he
discovered their spirit and presence of mind; with which he was
much delighted when it did not grow up to impudence, as bearing a
great resemblance to his own temper, and he looked on such persons
as the fittest men for affairs. He spoke both gracefully and
weightily; he was eminently skilled in the law, had a vast
understanding, and a prodigious memory; and those excellent talents
with which nature had furnished him were improved by study and
experience. When I was in England the King depended much on his
counsels, and the Government seemed to be chiefly supported by him;
for from his youth he had been all along practised in affairs; and,
having passed through many traverses of fortune, he had, with great
cost, acquired a vast stock of wisdom, which is not soon lost when
it is purchased so dear. One day, when I was dining with him,
there happened to be at table one of the English lawyers, who took
occasion to run out in a high commendation of the severe execution
of justice upon thieves, 'who,' as he said, 'were then hanged so
fast that there were sometimes twenty on one gibbet!' and, upon
that, he said, 'he could not wonder enough how it came to pass
that, since so few escaped, there were yet so many thieves left,
who were still robbing in all places.' Upon this, I (who took the
boldness to speak freely before the Cardinal) said, 'There was no
reason to wonder at the matter, since this way of punishing thieves
was neither just in itself nor good for the public; for, as the
severity was too great, so the remedy was not effectual; simple
theft not being so great a crime that it ought to cost a man his
life; no punishment, how severe soever, being able to restrain
those from robbing who can find out no other way of livelihood. In
this,' said I, 'not only you in England, but a great part of the
world, imitate some ill masters, that are readier to chastise their
scholars than to teach them. There are dreadful punishments
enacted against thieves, but it were much better to make such good
provisions by which every man might be put in a method how to live,
and so be preserved from the fatal necessity of stealing and of
dying for it.' '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 labour, on the labour 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 neighbourhood 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 honour 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 dobots! 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 into 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 trick or by
main force, or, being wearied out by 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 labour, 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 likely 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 labour 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. Luxury likewise breaks in apace upon you to set
forward your poverty and misery; there is an excessive vanity in
apparel, and great cost in diet, and that not only in noblemen's
families, but even among tradesmen, among the farmers themselves,
and among all ranks of persons. You have also many infamous
houses, and, besides those that are known, the taverns and ale-
houses are no better; add to these dice, cards, tables, football,
tennis, and quoits, in which money runs fast away; and those that
are initiated into them must, in the conclusion, betake themselves
to robbing for a supply. Banish these plagues, and give orders
that those who have dispeopled so much soil may either rebuild the
villages they have pulled down or let out their grounds to such as
will do it; restrain those engrossings of the rich, that are as bad
almost as monopolies; leave fewer occasions to idleness; let
agriculture be set up again, and the manufacture of the wool be
regulated, that so there may be work found for those companies of
idle people whom want forces to be thieves, or who now, being idle
vagabonds or useless servants, will certainly grow thieves at last.
If you do not find a remedy to these evils it is a vain thing to
boast of your severity in punishing theft, which, though it may
have the appearance of justice, yet in itself is neither just nor
convenient; for if you suffer your people to be ill-educated, and
their manners to be corrupted from their infancy, and then punish
them for those crimes to which their first education disposed them,
what else is to be concluded from this but that you first make
thieves and then punish them?'

"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.' I answered,
'It seems to me a very unjust thing to take away a man's life for a
little money, for nothing in the world can be of equal value with a
man's life: and if it be said, "that it is not for the money that
one suffers, but for his breaking the law," I must say, extreme
justice is an extreme injury: for we ought not to approve of those
terrible laws that make the smallest offences capital, nor of that
opinion of the Stoics that makes all crimes equal; as if there were
no difference to be made between the killing a man and the taking
his purse, between which, if we examine things impartially, there
is no likeness nor proportion. God has commanded us not to kill,
and shall we kill so easily for a little money? But if one shall
say, that by that law we are only forbid to kill any except when
the laws of the land allow of it, upon the same grounds, laws may
be made, in some cases, to allow of adultery and perjury: for God
having taken from us the right of disposing either of our own or of
other people's lives, if it is pretended that the mutual consent of
men in making laws can authorise man-slaughter in cases in which
God has given us no example, that it frees people from the
obligation of the divine law, and so makes murder a lawful action,
what is this, but to give a preference to human laws before the
divine? 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 licence 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 much 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
Persian, secure them from all invasions. Thus they have no wars
among them; they live rather conveniently than with splendour, 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 neighbours. 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 happens to be some
extraordinary circumstance 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 labour; 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 or 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, besides their
livelihood, they earn somewhat still to the public. They all wear
a peculiar habit, of one certain colour, 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 colour; 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 are
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 had 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 neighbourhood can do nothing to any purpose unless a
general conspiracy were laid amongst 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
sentence of death were 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

"I do not know whether it be worth while to tell what followed, for
it was very ridiculous; but I shall venture at it, for as it is not
foreign to this matter, so some good use may be made of it. There
was a Jester standing by, that counterfeited the fool so naturally
that he seemed to be really one; the jests which he offered were so
cold and dull that we laughed more at him than at them, yet
sometimes he said, as it were by chance, things that were not
unpleasant, so as to justify the old proverb, 'That he who throws
the dice often, will sometimes have a lucky hit.' When one of the
company had said that I had taken care of the thieves, and the
Cardinal had taken care of the vagabonds, so that there remained
nothing but that some public provision might be made for the poor
whom sickness or old age had disabled from labour, 'Leave that to
me,' said the Fool, 'and I shall take care of them, for there is no
sort of people whose sight I abhor more, having been so often vexed
with them and with their sad complaints; but as dolefully soever as
they have told their tale, they could never prevail so far as to
draw one penny from me; for either I had no mind to give them
anything, or, when I had a mind to do it, I had nothing to give
them; and they now know me so well that they will not lose their
labour, but let me pass without giving me any trouble, because they
hope for nothing--no more, in faith, than if I were a priest; but I
would have a law made for sending all these beggars to monasteries,
the men to the Benedictines, to be made lay-brothers, and the women
to be nuns.' 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 the
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.

"Thus, Mr. More, I have run out into a tedious story, of the length
of which I had been ashamed, if (as you earnestly begged it of me)
I had not observed you to hearken to it as if you had no mind to
lose any part of it. I might have contracted it, but I resolved to
give it you at large, that you might observe how those that
despised what I had proposed, no sooner perceived that the Cardinal
did not dislike it but presently approved of it, fawned so on him
and flattered him to such a degree, that they in good earnest
applauded those things that he only liked in jest; and from hence
you may gather how little courtiers would value either me or my

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 honour 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 counsels."
"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 counsels of
philosophers, and this he himself found to be true in the person of

"Do not you think that if I were about any king, proposing good
laws to him, and endeavouring to root out all the cursed seeds of
evil that I found in him, I should either be turned out of his
court, or, at least, be laughed at for my pains? For instance,
what could I signify if I were about the King of France, and were
called into his cabinet council, where several wise men, in his
hearing, were proposing many expedients; as, by what arts and
practices Milan may be kept, and Naples, that has so often slipped
out of their hands, recovered; how the Venetians, and after them
the rest of Italy, may be subdued; and then how Flanders, Brabant,
and all Burgundy, and some other kingdoms which he has swallowed
already in his designs, may be added to his empire? One proposes a
league with the Venetians, to be kept as long as he finds his
account in it, and that he ought to communicate counsels with them,
and give them some share of the spoil till his success makes him
need or fear them less, and then it will be easily taken out of
their hands; another proposes the hiring the Germans and the
securing the Switzers by pensions; another proposes the gaining the
Emperor by money, which is omnipotent with him; another proposes a
peace with the King of Arragon, and, in order to cement it, the
yielding up the King of Navarre's pretensions; another thinks that
the Prince of Castile is to be wrought on by the hope of an
alliance, and that some of his courtiers are to be gained to the
French faction by pensions. The hardest point of all is, what to
do with England; a treaty of peace is to be set on foot, and, if
their alliance is not to be depended on, yet it is to be made as
firm as possible, and they are to be called friends, but suspected
as enemies: therefore the Scots are to be kept in readiness to be
let loose upon England on every occasion; and some banished
nobleman is to be supported underhand (for by the League it cannot
be done avowedly) who has a pretension to the crown, by which means
that suspected prince may be kept in awe. Now when things are in
so great a fermentation, and so many gallant men are joining
counsels how to carry on the war, if so mean a man as I should
stand up and wish them to change all their counsels--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 south-east 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 interest of either. When they saw this,
and that there would be no end to these evils, they by joint
counsels 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

"I confess," said I, "I think not very well."

"But what," said he, "if I should sort with another kind of
ministers, whose chief contrivances and consultations were by what
art the prince's treasures might be increased? where one proposes
raising the value of specie when the king's debts are large, and
lowering it when his revenues were to come in, that so he might
both pay much with a little, and in a little receive a great deal.
Another proposes a pretence of a war, that money might be raised in
order to carry it on, and that a peace be concluded as soon as that
was done; and this with such appearances of religion as might work
on the people, and make them impute it to the piety of their
prince, and to his tenderness for the lives of his subjects. A
third offers some old musty laws that have been antiquated by a
long disuse (and which, as they had been forgotten by all the
subjects, so they had also been broken by them), and proposes the
levying the penalties of these laws, that, as it would bring in a
vast treasure, so there might be a very good pretence for it, since
it would look like the executing a law and the doing of justice. A
fourth proposes the prohibiting of many things under severe
penalties, especially such as were against the interest of the
people, and then the dispensing with these prohibitions, upon great
compositions, to those who might find their advantage in breaking
them. This would serve two ends, both of them acceptable to many;
for as those whose avarice led them to transgress would be severely
fined, so the selling licences dear would look as if a prince were
tender of his people, and would not easily, or at low rates,
dispense with anything that might be against the public good.
Another proposes that the judges must be made sure, that they may
declare always in favour 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 colour 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
through 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 favour. It will either be said that
equity lies of 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
willing to submit to a cruel and unjust government. Whereas
necessity and poverty blunts them, makes them patient, beats them
down, and breaks 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 counsels were both
unbecoming a king and mischievous to him; and that not only his
honour, 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 endeavours, 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 mean 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, having
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 make 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 be 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 endeavour 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. To
these things I would add that law among the Macarians--a people
that live not far from Utopia--by which their king, on the day on
which he began to reign, is tied by an oath, confirmed by solemn
sacrifices, never to have at once above a thousand pounds of gold
in his treasures, or so much silver as is equal to that in value.
This law, they tell us, was made by an excellent king who had more
regard to the riches of his country than to his own wealth, and
therefore provided against the heaping up of so much treasure as
might impoverish the people. He thought that moderate sum might be
sufficient for any accident, if either the king had occasion for it
against the rebels, or the kingdom against the invasion of an
enemy; but that it was not enough to encourage a prince to invade
other men's rights--a circumstance that was the chief cause of his
making that law. He also thought that it was a good provision for
that free circulation of money so necessary for the course of
commerce and exchange. And when a king must distribute all those
extraordinary accessions that increase treasure beyond the due
pitch, it makes him less disposed to oppress his subjects. Such a
king as this will be the terror of ill men, and will be beloved by
all the good.

"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 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." "Yes, there is," said I, "but not for this speculative
philosophy, that makes everything to be alike fitting at all times;
but there is another philosophy that is more pliable, that knows
its proper scene, accommodates itself to it, and teaches a man with
propriety and decency to act that part which has fallen to his
share. If when one of Plautus' comedies is upon the stage, and a
company of servants are acting their parts, you should come out in
the garb of a philosopher, and repeat, out of Octavia, a discourse
of Seneca's to Nero, would it not be better for you to say nothing
than by mixing things of such different natures to make an
impertinent tragi-comedy? for you spoil and corrupt the play that
is in hand when you mix with it things of an opposite nature, even
though they are much better. Therefore go through with the play
that is acting the best you can, and do not confound it because
another that is pleasanter comes into your thoughts. It is even so
in a commonwealth and in the councils of princes; if ill opinions
cannot be quite rooted out, and you cannot cure some received vice
according to your wishes, you must not, therefore, abandon the
commonwealth, for the same reasons as you should not forsake the
ship in a storm because you cannot command the winds. You are not
obliged to assault people with discourses that are out of their
road, when you see that their received notions must prevent your
making an impression upon them: you ought rather to cast about and
to manage things with all the dexterity in your power, so that, if
you are not able to make them go well, they may be as little ill as
possible; for, except all men were good, everything cannot be
right, and that is a blessing that I do not at present hope to
see." "According to your argument," answered he, "all that I could
be able to do would be to preserve myself from being mad while I
endeavoured to cure the madness of others; for, if I speak with, I
must repeat what I have said to you; and as for lying, whether a
philosopher can do it or not I cannot tell: I am sure I cannot do
it. But though these discourses may be uneasy and ungrateful to
them, I do not see why they should seem foolish or extravagant;
indeed, if I should either propose such things as Plato has
contrived in his 'Commonwealth,' or as the Utopians practise in
theirs, though they might seem better, as certainly they are, yet
they are so different from our establishment, which is founded on
property (there being no such thing among them), that I could not
expect that it would have any effect on them. But such discourses
as mine, which only call past evils to mind and give warning of
what may follow, leave nothing in them that is so absurd that they
may not be used at any time, for they can only be unpleasant to
those who are resolved to run headlong the contrary way; and if we
must let alone everything as absurd or extravagant--which, by
reason of the wicked lives of many, may seem uncouth--we must, even
among Christians, give over pressing the greatest part of those
things that Christ hath taught us, though He has commanded us not
to conceal them, but to proclaim on the housetops that which He
taught in secret. 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 seem 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,
'were 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.'

"Though, to speak plainly my real sentiments, I must freely own
that as long as there is any property, and while money is the
standard of all other things, I cannot think that a nation can be
governed either justly or happily: not justly, because the best
things will fall to the share of the worst men; nor happily,
because all things will be divided among a few (and even these are
not in all respects happy), the rest being left to be absolutely
miserable. Therefore, when I reflect on the wise and good
constitution of the Utopians, among whom all things are so well
governed and with so few laws, where virtue hath its due reward,
and yet there is such an equality that every man lives in plenty--
when I compare with them so many other nations that are still
making new laws, and yet can never bring their constitution to a
right regulation; where, notwithstanding every one has his
property, yet all the laws that they can invent have not the power
either to obtain or preserve it, or even to enable men certainly to
distinguish what is their own from what is another's, of which the
many lawsuits that every day break out, and are eternally
depending, give too plain a demonstration--when, I say, I balance
all these things in my thoughts, I grow more favourable to Plato,
and do not wonder that he resolved not to make any laws for such as
would not submit to a community of all things; for so wise a man
could not but foresee that the setting all upon a level was the
only way to make a nation happy; which cannot be obtained so long
as there is property, for when every man draws to himself all that
he can compass, by one title or another, it must needs follow that,
how plentiful soever a nation may be, yet a few dividing the wealth
of it among themselves, the rest must fall into indigence. 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 effect 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." "On the contrary," answered I, "it seems to me
that men cannot live conveniently where all things are common. How
can there be any plenty where every man will excuse himself from
labour? for as the hope of gain doth not excite him, so the
confidence that he has in other men's industry may make him
slothful. If people come to be pinched with want, and yet cannot
dispose of anything as their own, what can follow upon this but
perpetual sedition and bloodshed, especially when the reverence and
authority due to magistrates falls to the ground? for I cannot
imagine how that can be kept up among those that are in all things
equal to one another." "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 twelve hundred years ago, and that some Romans and Egyptians
that were in the ship, getting safe ashore, spent the rest of their
days amongst 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
aftertimes 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:-

"The island of Utopia is in the middle two hundred miles broad, and
holds almost at the same breadth over a great part of it, but it
grows narrower towards both ends. Its figure is not unlike a
crescent. Between its horns the sea comes in eleven miles broad,
and spreads itself into a great bay, which is environed with land
to the compass of about five hundred miles, and is well secured
from winds. In this bay there is no great current; the whole coast
is, as it were, one continued harbour, which gives all that live in
the island great convenience for mutual commerce. But the entry
into the bay, occasioned by rocks on the one hand and shallows on
the other, is very dangerous. In the middle of it there is one
single rock which appears above water, and may, therefore, easily
be avoided; and on the top of it there is a tower, in which a
garrison is kept; the other rocks lie under water, and are very
dangerous. The channel is known only to the natives; so that if
any stranger should enter into the bay without one of their pilots
he would run great danger of shipwreck. For even they themselves
could not pass it safe if some marks that are on the coast did not
direct their way; and if these should be but a little shifted, any
fleet that might come against them, how great soever it were, would
be certainly lost. On the other side of the island there are
likewise many harbours; and the coast is so fortified, both by
nature and art, that a small number of men can hinder the descent
of a great army. But they report (and there remains good marks of
it to make it credible) that this was no island at first, but a
part of the continent. Utopus, that conquered it (whose name it
still carries, for Abraxa was its first name), brought the rude and
uncivilised inhabitants into such a good government, and to that
measure of politeness, that they now far excel all the rest of
mankind. Having soon subdued them, he designed to separate them
from the continent, and to bring the sea quite round them. To
accomplish this he ordered a deep channel to be dug, fifteen miles
long; and that the natives might not think he treated them like
slaves, he not only forced the inhabitants, but also his own
soldiers, to labour in carrying it on. As he set a vast number of
men to work, he, beyond all men's expectations, brought it to a
speedy conclusion. And his neighbours, who at first laughed at the
folly of the undertaking, no sooner saw it brought to perfection
than they were struck with admiration and terror.

"There are fifty-four cities in the island, all large and well
built, the manners, customs, and laws of which are the same, and
they are all contrived as near in the same manner as the ground on
which they stand will allow. The nearest lie at least twenty-four
miles' distance from one another, and the most remote are not so
far distant but that a man can go on foot in one day from it to
that which lies next it. Every city sends three of their wisest
senators once a year to Amaurot, to consult about their common
concerns; for that is the chief town of the island, being situated
near the centre of it, so that it is the most convenient place for
their assemblies. The jurisdiction of every city extends at least
twenty miles, and, where the towns lie wider, they have much more
ground. No town desires to enlarge its bounds, for the people
consider themselves rather as tenants than landlords. They have
built, over all the country, farmhouses for husbandmen, which are
well contrived, and furnished with all things necessary for country
labour. Inhabitants are sent, by turns, from the cities to dwell
in them; no country family has fewer than forty men and women in
it, besides two slaves. There is a master and a mistress set over
every family, and over thirty families there is a magistrate.
Every year twenty of this family come back to the town after they
have stayed two years in the country, and in their room there are
other twenty sent from the town, that they may learn country work
from those that have been already one year in the country, as they
must teach those that come to them the next from the town. By this
means such as dwell in those country farms are never ignorant of
agriculture, and so commit no errors which might otherwise be fatal
and bring them under a scarcity of corn. But though there is every
year such a shifting of the husbandmen to prevent any man being
forced against his will to follow that hard course of life too
long, yet many among them take such pleasure in it that they desire
leave to continue in it many years. These husbandmen till the
ground, breed cattle, hew wood, and convey it to the towns either
by land or water, as is most convenient. They breed an infinite
multitude of chickens in a very curious manner; for the hens do not
sit and hatch them, but a vast number of eggs are laid in a gentle
and equal heat in order to be hatched, and they are no sooner out
of the shell, and able to stir about, but they seem to consider
those that feed them as their mothers, and follow them as other
chickens do the hen that hatched them. They breed very few horses,
but those they have are full of mettle, and are kept only for
exercising their youth in the art of sitting and riding them; for
they do not put them to any work, either of ploughing or carriage,
in which they employ oxen. For though their horses are stronger,
yet they find oxen can hold out longer; and as they are not subject
to so many diseases, so they are kept upon a less charge and with
less trouble. And even when they are so worn out that they are no
more fit for labour, they are good meat at last. They sow no corn
but that which is to be their bread; for they drink either wine,
cider or perry, and often water, sometimes boiled with honey or
liquorice, with which they abound; and though they know exactly how
much corn will serve every town and all that tract of country which
belongs to it, yet they sow much more and breed more cattle than
are necessary for their consumption, and they give that overplus of
which they make no use to their neighbours. When they want
anything in the country which it does not produce, they fetch that
from the town, without carrying anything in exchange for it. And
the magistrates of the town take care to see it given them; for
they meet generally in the town once a month, upon a festival day.
When the time of harvest comes, the magistrates in the country send
to those in the towns and let them know how many hands they will
need for reaping the harvest; and the number they call for being
sent to them, they commonly despatch it all in one day.


"He that knows one of their towns knows them all--they are so like
one another, except where the situation makes some difference. I
shall therefore describe one of them, and none is so proper as
Amaurot; for as none is more eminent (all the rest yielding in
precedence to this, because it is the seat of their supreme
council), so there was none of them better known to me, I having
lived five years all together in it.

"It lies upon the side of a hill, or, rather, a rising ground. Its
figure is almost square, for from the one side of it, which shoots
up almost to the top of the hill, it runs down, in a descent for
two miles, to the river Anider; but it is a little broader the
other way that runs along by the bank of that river. The Anider
rises about eighty miles above Amaurot, in a small spring at first.
But other brooks falling into it, of which two are more
considerable than the rest, as it runs by Amaurot it is grown half
a mile broad; but, it still grows larger and larger, till, after
sixty miles' course below it, it is lost in the ocean. Between the
town and the sea, and for some miles above the town, it ebbs and
flows every six hours with a strong current. The tide comes up
about thirty miles so full that there is nothing but salt water in
the river, the fresh water being driven back with its force; and
above that, for some miles, the water is brackish; but a little
higher, as it runs by the town, it is quite fresh; and when the
tide ebbs, it continues fresh all along to the sea. There is a
bridge cast over the river, not of timber, but of fair stone,
consisting of many stately arches; it lies at that part of the town
which is farthest from the sea, so that the ships, without any
hindrance, lie all along the side of the town. There is, likewise,
another river that runs by it, which, though it is not great, yet
it runs pleasantly, for it rises out of the same hill on which the
town stands, and so runs down through it and falls into the Anider.
The inhabitants have fortified the fountain-head of this river,
which springs a little without the towns; that so, if they should
happen to be besieged, the enemy might not be able to stop or
divert the course of the water, nor poison it; from thence it is
carried, in earthen pipes, to the lower streets. And for those
places of the town to which the water of that small river cannot be
conveyed, they have great cisterns for receiving the rain-water,
which supplies the want of the other. The town is compassed with a
high and thick wall, in which there are many towers and forts;
there is also a broad and deep dry ditch, set thick with thorns,
cast round three sides of the town, and the river is instead of a
ditch on the fourth side. The streets are very convenient for all
carriage, and are well sheltered from the winds. Their buildings
are good, and are so uniform that a whole side of a street looks
like one house. The streets are twenty feet broad; there lie
gardens behind all their houses. These are large, but enclosed
with buildings, that on all hands face the streets, so that every
house has both a door to the street and a back door to the garden.
Their doors have all two leaves, which, as they are easily opened,
so they shut of their own accord; and, there being no property
among them, every man may freely enter into any house whatsoever.
At every ten years' end they shift their houses by lots. They
cultivate their gardens with great care, so that they have both
vines, fruits, herbs, and flowers in them; and all is so well
ordered and so finely kept that I never saw gardens anywhere that
were both so fruitful and so beautiful as theirs. And this humour
of ordering their gardens so well is not only kept up by the
pleasure they find in it, but also by an emulation between the
inhabitants of the several streets, who vie with each other. And
there is, indeed, nothing belonging to the whole town that is both
more useful and more pleasant. So that he who founded the town
seems to have taken care of nothing more than of their gardens; for
they say the whole scheme of the town was designed at first by
Utopus, but he left all that belonged to the ornament and
improvement of it to be added by those that should come after him,
that being too much for one man to bring to perfection. Their
records, that contain the history of their town and State, are
preserved with an exact care, and run backwards seventeen hundred
and sixty years. From these it appears that their houses were at
first low and mean, like cottages, made of any sort of timber, and
were built with mud walls and thatched with straw. But now their
houses are three storeys high, the fronts of them are faced either
with stone, plastering, or brick, and between the facings of their
walls they throw in their rubbish. Their roofs are flat, and on
them they lay a sort of plaster, which costs very little, and yet
is so tempered that it is not apt to take fire, and yet resists the
weather more than lead. They have great quantities of glass among
them, with which they glaze their windows; they use also in their
windows a thin linen cloth, that is so oiled or gummed that it both
keeps out the wind and gives free admission to the light.


"Thirty families choose every year a magistrate, who was anciently
called the Syphogrant, but is now called the Philarch; and over
every ten Syphogrants, with the families subject to them, there is
another magistrate, who was anciently called the Tranibore, but of
late the Archphilarch. All the Syphogrants, who are in number two
hundred, choose the Prince out of a list of four who are named by
the people of the four divisions of the city; but they take an
oath, before they proceed to an election, that they will choose him
whom they think most fit for the office: they give him their
voices secretly, so that it is not known for whom every one gives
his suffrage. The Prince is for life, unless he is removed upon
suspicion of some design to enslave the people. The Tranibors are
new chosen every year, but yet they are, for the most part,
continued; all their other magistrates are only annual. The
Tranibors meet every third day, and oftener if necessary, and
consult with the Prince either concerning the affairs of the State
in general, or such private differences as may arise sometimes
among the people, though that falls out but seldom. There are
always two Syphogrants called into the council chamber, and these
are changed every day. It is a fundamental rule of their
government, that no conclusion can be made in anything that relates
to the public till it has been first debated three several days in
their council. It is death for any to meet and consult concerning
the State, unless it be either in their ordinary council, or in the
assembly of the whole body of the people.

"These things have been so provided among them that the Prince and
the Tranibors may not conspire together to change the government
and enslave the people; and therefore when anything of great
importance is set on foot, it is sent to the Syphogrants, who,
after they have communicated it to the families that belong to
their divisions, and have considered it among themselves, make
report to the senate; and, upon great occasions, the matter is
referred to the council of the whole island. One rule observed in
their council is, never to debate a thing on the same day in which
it is first proposed; for that is always referred to the next
meeting, that so men may not rashly and in the heat of discourse
engage themselves too soon, which might bias them so much that,
instead of consulting the good of the public, they might rather
study to support their first opinions, and by a perverse and
preposterous sort of shame hazard their country rather than
endanger their own reputation, or venture the being suspected to
have wanted foresight in the expedients that they at first
proposed; and therefore, to prevent this, they take care that they
may rather be deliberate than sudden in their motions.


"Agriculture is that which is so universally understood among them
that no person, either man or woman, is ignorant of it; they are
instructed in it from their childhood, partly by what they learn at
school, and partly by practice, they being led out often into the
fields about the town, where they not only see others at work but
are likewise exercised in it themselves. Besides agriculture,
which is so common to them all, every man has some peculiar trade
to which he applies himself; such as the manufacture of wool or
flax, masonry, smith's work, or carpenter's work; for there is no
sort of trade that is in great esteem among them. Throughout the
island they wear the same sort of clothes, without any other
distinction except what is necessary to distinguish the two sexes
and the married and unmarried. The fashion never alters, and as it
is neither disagreeable nor uneasy, so it is suited to the climate,
and calculated both for their summers and winters. Every family
makes their own clothes; but all among them, women as well as men,
learn one or other of the trades formerly mentioned. Women, for
the most part, deal in wool and flax, which suit best with their
weakness, leaving the ruder trades to the men. The same trade
generally passes down from father to son, inclinations often
following descent: but if any man's genius lies another way he is,
by adoption, translated into a family that deals in the trade to
which he is inclined; and when that is to be done, care is taken,
not only by his father, but by the magistrate, that he may be put
to a discreet and good man: and if, after a person has learned one
trade, he desires to acquire another, that is also allowed, and is
managed in the same manner as the former. When he has learned
both, he follows that which he likes best, unless the public has
more occasion for the other.

The chief, and almost the only, business of the Syphogrants is to
take care that no man may live idle, but that every one may follow
his trade diligently; yet they do not wear themselves out with
perpetual toil from morning to night, as if they were beasts of
burden, which as it is indeed a heavy slavery, so it is everywhere
the common course of life amongst all mechanics except the
Utopians: but they, dividing the day and night into twenty-four
hours, appoint six of these for work, three of which are before
dinner and three after; they then sup, and at eight o'clock,
counting from noon, go to bed and sleep eight hours: the rest of
their time, besides that taken up in work, eating, and sleeping, is
left to every man's discretion; yet they are not to abuse that
interval to luxury and idleness, but must employ it in some proper
exercise, according to their various inclinations, which is, for
the most part, reading. It is ordinary to have public lectures
every morning before daybreak, at which none are obliged to appear
but those who are marked out for literature; yet a great many, both
men and women, of all ranks, go to hear lectures of one sort or
other, according to their inclinations: but if others that are not
made for contemplation, choose rather to employ themselves at that
time in their trades, as many of them do, they are not hindered,
but are rather commended, as men that take care to serve their
country. After supper they spend an hour in some diversion, in
summer in their gardens, and in winter in the halls where they eat,
where they entertain each other either with music or discourse.
They do not so much as know dice, or any such foolish and
mischievous games. They have, however, two sorts of games not
unlike our chess; the one is between several numbers, in which one
number, as it were, consumes another; the other resembles a battle
between the virtues and the vices, in which the enmity in the vices
among themselves, and their agreement against virtue, is not
unpleasantly represented; together with the special opposition
between the particular virtues and vices; as also the methods by
which vice either openly assaults or secretly undermines virtue;
and virtue, on the other hand, resists it. But the time appointed
for labour is to be narrowly examined, otherwise you may imagine
that since there are only six hours appointed for work, they may
fall under a scarcity of necessary provisions: but it is so far
from being true that this time is not sufficient for supplying them
with plenty of all things, either necessary or convenient, that it
is rather too much; and this you will easily apprehend if you
consider how great a part of all other nations is quite idle.
First, women generally do little, who are the half of mankind; and
if some few women are diligent, their husbands are idle: then
consider the great company of idle priests, and of those that are
called religious men; add to these all rich men, chiefly those that
have estates in land, who are called noblemen and gentlemen,
together with their families, made up of idle persons, that are
kept more for show than use; add to these all those strong and
lusty beggars that go about pretending some disease in excuse for
their begging; and upon the whole account you will find that the
number of those by whose labours mankind is supplied is much less
than you perhaps imagined: then consider how few of those that
work are employed in labours that are of real service, for we, who
measure all things by money, give rise to many trades that are both
vain and superfluous, and serve only to support riot and luxury:
for if those who work were employed only in such things as the
conveniences of life require, there would be such an abundance of
them that the prices of them would so sink that tradesmen could not
be maintained by their gains; if all those who labour about useless
things were set to more profitable employments, and if all they
that languish out their lives in sloth and idleness (every one of
whom consumes as much as any two of the men that are at work) were
forced to labour, you may easily imagine that a small proportion of
time would serve for doing all that is either necessary,
profitable, or pleasant to mankind, especially while pleasure is
kept within its due bounds: this appears very plainly in Utopia;
for there, in a great city, and in all the territory that lies
round it, you can scarce find five hundred, either men or women, by
their age and strength capable of labour, that are not engaged in
it. Even the Syphogrants, though excused by the law, yet do not
excuse themselves, but work, that by their examples they may excite
the industry of the rest of the people; the like exemption is
allowed to those who, being recommended to the people by the
priests, are, by the secret suffrages of the Syphogrants,
privileged from labour, that they may apply themselves wholly to
study; and if any of these fall short of those hopes that they
seemed at first to give, they are obliged to return to work; and
sometimes a mechanic that so employs his leisure hours as to make a
considerable advancement in learning is eased from being a
tradesman and ranked among their learned men. Out of these they
choose their ambassadors, their priests, their Tranibors, and the
Prince himself, anciently called their Barzenes, but is called of
late their Ademus.

"And thus from the great numbers among them that are neither
suffered to be idle nor to be employed in any fruitless labour, you
may easily make the estimate how much may be done in those few
hours in which they are obliged to labour. But, besides all that
has been already said, it is to be considered that the needful arts
among them are managed with less labour than anywhere else. The
building or the repairing of houses among us employ many hands,
because often a thriftless heir suffers a house that his father
built to fall into decay, so that his successor must, at a great
cost, repair that which he might have kept up with a small charge;
it frequently happens that the same house which one person built at
a vast expense is neglected by another, who thinks he has a more
delicate sense of the beauties of architecture, and he, suffering
it to fall to ruin, builds another at no less charge. But among
the Utopians all things are so regulated that men very seldom build
upon a new piece of ground, and are not only very quick in
repairing their houses, but show their foresight in preventing
their decay, so that their buildings are preserved very long with
but very little labour, and thus the builders, to whom that care
belongs, are often without employment, except the hewing of timber
and the squaring of stones, that the materials may be in readiness
for raising a building very suddenly when there is any occasion for
it. As to their clothes, observe how little work is spent in them;
while they are at labour they are clothed with leather and skins,
cut carelessly about them, which will last seven years, and when
they appear in public they put on an upper garment which hides the
other; and these are all of one colour, and that is the natural
colour of the wool. As they need less woollen cloth than is used
anywhere else, so that which they make use of is much less costly;
they use linen cloth more, but that is prepared with less labour,
and they value cloth only by the whiteness of the linen or the
cleanness of the wool, without much regard to the fineness of the
thread. While in other places four or five upper garments of
woollen cloth of different colours, and as many vests of silk, will
scarce serve one man, and while those that are nicer think ten too
few, every man there is content with one, which very often serves
him two years; nor is there anything that can tempt a man to desire
more, for if he had them he would neither be the, warmer nor would
he make one jot the better appearance for it. And thus, since they
are all employed in some useful labour, and since they content
themselves with fewer things, it falls out that there is a great
abundance of all things among them; so that it frequently happens
that, for want of other work, vast numbers are sent out to mend the
highways; but when no public undertaking is to be performed, the
hours of working are lessened. The magistrates never engage the
people in unnecessary labour, since the chief end of the
constitution is to regulate labour by the necessities of the
public, and to allow the people as much time as is necessary for
the improvement of their minds, in which they think the happiness
of life consists.


"But it is now time to explain to you the mutual intercourse of
this people, their commerce, and the rules by which all things are
distributed among them.

"As their cities are composed of families, so their families are
made up of those that are nearly related to one another. Their
women, when they grow up, are married out, but all the males, both
children and grandchildren, live still in the same house, in great
obedience to their common parent, unless age has weakened his
understanding, and in that case he that is next to him in age comes
in his room; but lest any city should become either too great, or
by any accident be dispeopled, provision is made that none of their
cities may contain above six thousand families, besides those of
the country around it. No family may have less than ten and more
than sixteen persons in it, but there can be no determined number
for the children under age; this rule is easily observed by
removing some of the children of a more fruitful couple to any
other family that does not abound so much in them. By the same
rule they supply cities that do not increase so fast from others
that breed faster; and if there is any increase over the whole
island, then they draw out a number of their citizens out of the
several towns and send them over to the neighbouring continent,
where, if they find that the inhabitants have more soil than they
can well cultivate, they fix a colony, taking the inhabitants into
their society if they are willing to live with them; and where they
do that of their own accord, they quickly enter into their method
of life and conform to their rules, and this proves a happiness to
both nations; for, according to their constitution, such care is
taken of the soil that it becomes fruitful enough for both, though
it might be otherwise too narrow and barren for any one of them.
But if the natives refuse to conform themselves to their laws they
drive them out of those bounds which they mark out for themselves,
and use force if they resist, for they account it a very just cause
of war for a nation to hinder others from possessing a part of that
soil of which they make no use, but which is suffered to lie idle
and uncultivated, since every man has, by the law of nature, a
right to such a waste portion of the earth as is necessary for his
subsistence. If an accident has so lessened the number of the
inhabitants of any of their towns that it cannot be made up from
the other towns of the island without diminishing them too much
(which is said to have fallen out but twice since they were first a
people, when great numbers were carried off by the plague), the
loss is then supplied by recalling as many as are wanted from their
colonies, for they will abandon these rather than suffer the towns
in the island to sink too low.

"But to return to their manner of living in society: the oldest
man of every family, as has been already said, is its governor;
wives serve their husbands, and children their parents, and always
the younger serves the elder. Every city is divided into four
equal parts, and in the middle of each there is a market-place.
What is brought thither, and manufactured by the several families,
is carried from thence to houses appointed for that purpose, in
which all things of a sort are laid by themselves; and thither
every father goes, and takes whatsoever he or his family stand in
need of, without either paying for it or leaving anything in
exchange. There is no reason for giving a denial to any person,
since there is such plenty of everything among them; and there is
no danger of a man's asking for more than he needs; they have no
inducements to do this, since they are sure they shall always be
supplied: it is the fear of want that makes any of the whole race
of animals either greedy or ravenous; but, besides fear, there is
in man a pride that makes him fancy it a particular glory to excel
others in pomp and excess; but by the laws of the Utopians, there
is no room for this. Near these markets there are others for all
sorts of provisions, where there are not only herbs, fruits, and
bread, but also fish, fowl, and cattle. There are also, without
their towns, places appointed near some running water for killing
their beasts and for washing away their filth, which is done by
their slaves; for they suffer none of their citizens to kill their
cattle, because they think that pity and good-nature, which are
among the best of those affections that are born with us, are much
impaired by the butchering of animals; nor do they suffer anything
that is foul or unclean to be brought within their towns, lest the
air should be infected by ill-smells, which might prejudice their
health. In every street there are great halls, that lie at an
equal distance from each other, distinguished by particular names.
The Syphogrants dwell in those that are set over thirty families,
fifteen lying on one side of it, and as many on the other. In
these halls they all meet and have their repasts; the stewards of
every one of them come to the market-place at an appointed hour,
and according to the number of those that belong to the hall they
carry home provisions. But they take more care of their sick than
of any others; these are lodged and provided for in public
hospitals. They have belonging to every town four hospitals, that
are built without their walls, and are so large that they may pass
for little towns; by this means, if they had ever such a number of
sick persons, they could lodge them conveniently, and at such a
distance that such of them as are sick of infectious diseases may
be kept so far from the rest that there can be no danger of
contagion. The hospitals are furnished and stored with all things
that are convenient for the ease and recovery of the sick; and
those that are put in them are looked after with such tender and
watchful care, and are so constantly attended by their skilful
physicians, that as none is sent to them against their will, so
there is scarce one in a whole town that, if he should fall ill,
would not choose rather to go thither than lie sick at home.

"After the steward of the hospitals has taken for the sick
whatsoever the physician prescribes, then the best things that are
left in the market are distributed equally among the halls in
proportion to their numbers; only, in the first place, they serve
the Prince, the Chief Priest, the Tranibors, the Ambassadors, and
strangers, if there are any, which, indeed, falls out but seldom,
and for whom there are houses, well furnished, particularly
appointed for their reception when they come among them. At the
hours of dinner and supper the whole Syphogranty being called
together by sound of trumpet, they meet and eat together, except
only such as are in the hospitals or lie sick at home. Yet, after
the halls are served, no man is hindered to carry provisions home
from the marketplace, for they know that none does that but for
some good reason; for though any that will may eat at home, yet
none does it willingly, since it is both ridiculous and foolish for
any to give themselves the trouble to make ready an ill dinner at
home when there is a much more plentiful one made ready for him so
near hand. All the uneasy and sordid services about these halls
are performed by their slaves; but the dressing and cooking their
meat, and the ordering their tables, belong only to the women, all
those of every family taking it by turns. They sit at three or
more tables, according to their number; the men sit towards the
wall, and the women sit on the other side, that if any of them
should be taken suddenly ill, which is no uncommon case amongst
women with child, she may, without disturbing the rest, rise and go
to the nurses' room (who are there with the sucking children),
where there is always clean water at hand and cradles, in which
they may lay the young children if there is occasion for it, and a
fire, that they may shift and dress them before it. Every child is
nursed by its own mother if death or sickness does not intervene;
and in that case the Syphogrants' wives find out a nurse quickly,
which is no hard matter, for any one that can do it offers herself
cheerfully; for as they are much inclined to that piece of mercy,
so the child whom they nurse considers the nurse as its mother.
All the children under five years old sit among the nurses; the
rest of the younger sort of both sexes, till they are fit for
marriage, either serve those that sit at table, or, if they are not
strong enough for that, stand by them in great silence and eat what
is given them; nor have they any other formality of dining. In the
middle of the first table, which stands across the upper end of the
hall, sit the Syphogrant and his wife, for that is the chief and
most conspicuous place; next to him sit two of the most ancient,
for there go always four to a mess. If there is a temple within
the Syphogranty, the Priest and his wife sit with the Syphogrant
above all the rest; next them there is a mixture of old and young,
who are so placed that as the young are set near others, so they
are mixed with the more ancient; which, they say, was appointed on
this account: that the gravity of the old people, and the
reverence that is due to them, might restrain the younger from all
indecent words and gestures. Dishes are not served up to the whole
table at first, but the best are first set before the old, whose
seats are distinguished from the young, and, after them, all the
rest are served alike. The old men distribute to the younger any
curious meats that happen to be set before them, if there is not
such an abundance of them that the whole company may be served

"Thus old men are honoured with a particular respect, yet all the
rest fare as well as they. Both dinner and supper are begun with
some lecture of morality that is read to them; but it is so short
that it is not tedious nor uneasy to them to hear it. From hence
the old men take occasion to entertain those about them with some
useful and pleasant enlargements; but they do not engross the whole
discourse so to themselves during their meals that the younger may
not put in for a share; on the contrary, they engage them to talk,
that so they may, in that free way of conversation, find out the
force of every one's spirit and observe his temper. They despatch
their dinners quickly, but sit long at supper, because they go to
work after the one, and are to sleep after the other, during which
they think the stomach carries on the concoction more vigorously.
They never sup without music, and there is always fruit served up
after meat; while they are at table some burn perfumes and sprinkle
about fragrant ointments and sweet waters--in short, they want
nothing that may cheer up their spirits; they give themselves a
large allowance that way, and indulge themselves in all such
pleasures as are attended with no inconvenience. Thus do those
that are in the towns live together; but in the country, where they
live at a great distance, every one eats at home, and no family
wants any necessary sort of provision, for it is from them that
provisions are sent unto those that live in the towns.


If any man has a mind to visit his friends that live in some other
town, or desires to travel and see the rest of the country, he
obtains leave very easily from the Syphogrant and Tranibors, when
there is no particular occasion for him at home. Such as travel
carry with them a passport from the Prince, which both certifies
the licence that is granted for travelling, and limits the time of
their return. They are furnished with a waggon and a slave, who
drives the oxen and looks after them; but, unless there are women
in the company, the waggon is sent back at the end of the journey
as a needless encumbrance. While they are on the road they carry
no provisions with them, yet they want for nothing, but are
everywhere treated as if they were at home. If they stay in any
place longer than a night, every one follows his proper occupation,
and is very well used by those of his own trade; but if any man
goes out of the city to which he belongs without leave, and is
found rambling without a passport, he is severely treated, he is
punished as a fugitive, and sent home disgracefully; and, if he
falls again into the like fault, is condemned to slavery. If any
man has a mind to travel only over the precinct of his own city, he
may freely do it, with his father's permission and his wife's
consent; but when he comes into any of the country houses, if he
expects to be entertained by them, he must labour with them and
conform to their rules; and if he does this, he may freely go over
the whole precinct, being then as useful to the city to which he
belongs as if he were still within it. Thus you see that there are
no idle persons among them, nor pretences of excusing any from
labour. There are no taverns, no alehouses, nor stews among them,
nor any other occasions of corrupting each other, of getting into
corners, or forming themselves into parties; all men live in full
view, so that all are obliged both to perform their ordinary task
and to employ themselves well in their spare hours; and it is
certain that a people thus ordered must live in great abundance of
all things, and these being equally distributed among them, no man
can want or be obliged to beg.

"In their great council at Amaurot, to which there are three sent
from every town once a year, they examine what towns abound in
provisions and what are under any scarcity, that so the one may be
furnished from the other; and this is done freely, without any sort
of exchange; for, according to their plenty or scarcity, they
supply or are supplied from one another, so that indeed the whole
island is, as it were, one family. When they have thus taken care
of their whole country, and laid up stores for two years (which
they do to prevent the ill consequences of an unfavourable season),
they order an exportation of the overplus, both of corn, honey,
wool, flax, wood, wax, tallow, leather, and cattle, which they send
out, commonly in great quantities, to other nations. They order a
seventh part of all these goods to be freely given to the poor of
the countries to which they send them, and sell the rest at
moderate rates; and by this exchange they not only bring back those
few things that they need at home (for, indeed, they scarce need
anything but iron), but likewise a great deal of gold and silver;
and by their driving this trade so long, it is not to be imagined
how vast a treasure they have got among them, so that now they do
not much care whether they sell off their merchandise for money in
hand or upon trust. A great part of their treasure is now in
bonds; but in all their contracts no private man stands bound, but
the writing runs in the name of the town; and the towns that owe
them money raise it from those private hands that owe it to them,
lay it up in their public chamber, or enjoy the profit of it till
the Utopians call for it; and they choose rather to let the
greatest part of it lie in their hands, who make advantage by it,
than to call for it themselves; but if they see that any of their
other neighbours stand more in need of it, then they call it in and
lend it to them. Whenever they are engaged in war, which is the
only occasion in which their treasure can be usefully employed,
they make use of it themselves; in great extremities or sudden
accidents they employ it in hiring foreign troops, whom they more
willingly expose to danger than their own people; they give them
great pay, knowing well that this will work even on their enemies;
that it will engage them either to betray their own side, or, at
least, to desert it; and that it is the best means of raising
mutual jealousies among them. For this end they have an incredible
treasure; but they do not keep it as a treasure, but in such a
manner as I am almost afraid to tell, lest you think it so
extravagant as to be hardly credible. This I have the more reason
to apprehend because, if I had not seen it myself, I could not have
been easily persuaded to have believed it upon any man's report.

"It is certain that all things appear incredible to us in
proportion as they differ from known customs; but one who can judge
aright will not wonder to find that, since their constitution
differs so much from ours, their value of gold and silver should be
measured by a very different standard; for since they have no use
for money among themselves, but keep it as a provision against
events which seldom happen, and between which there are generally
long intervening intervals, they value it no farther than it
deserves--that is, in proportion to its use. So that it is plain
they must prefer iron either to gold or silver, for men can no more
live without iron than without fire or water; but Nature has marked
out no use for the other metals so essential as not easily to be
dispensed with. The folly of men has enhanced the value of gold
and silver because of their scarcity; whereas, on the contrary, it
is their opinion that Nature, as an indulgent parent, has freely
given us all the best things in great abundance, such as water and
earth, but has laid up and hid from us the things that are vain and

"If these metals were laid up in any tower in the kingdom it would
raise a jealousy of the Prince and Senate, and give birth to that
foolish mistrust into which the people are apt to fall--a jealousy
of their intending to sacrifice the interest of the public to their


Back to Full Books