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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.
Utopia PDF Book by Thomas More
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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.
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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.
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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. Utopia PDF Book
“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. Utopia PDF Book
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 laybrothers, 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.’ Utopia PDF Book
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. Utopia PDF Book
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. Utopia PDF Book Download
“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. Utopia PDF Book Download
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. Utopia PDF Book Download
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. Utopia PDF Book Download
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.
“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. Utopia PDF Book Free
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. Utopia PDF Book Free
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.