Utopian philosophy: Sir Thomas More


As touching leagues they never make one with any nation, putting no trust therein; seeing the more and holier ceremonies the league is knit up with, the sooner it is broken. Who perchance would change their minds if they lived here? But they be of opinion that no man should be counted an enemy who hath done no injury, and that the fellowship of nature is a strong league.

They count nothing so much against glory as glory gotten in war. And though they do daily practise themselves in the discipline of war, they go not to battle but in defence of their own country or their friends, or to right some assured wrong. They be ashamed to win the victory with much bloodshed, but rejoice if they vanquish their enemies by craft. They set a great price upon the life or person of the enemy's prince and of other chief adversaries, counting that they thereby save the lives of many of both parts that had otherwise been slain; and stir up neighbour peoples against them.

They lure soldiers out of all countries to do battle with them and especially a savage and fierce people called the Zapoletes, giving them greater wages than any other nation will. But of their own people they thrust not forth to battle any against his will; yet if women be willing, they do in set field stand every one by her husband's side, and each man is compassed about by his own kinsfolk; and they be themselves stout and hardy and disdainful to be conquered. It is hard to say whether they be craftier in laying ambush or wittier in avoiding the same. Their weapons be arrows, and at handstrokes not swords but pole-axes; and engines for war they devise and invent wondrous wittily.

There be divers kinds of religion. Some worship for God the sun, some the moon; some there be that give worship to a man that was once of the most excellent virtue; some believe that there is a certain godly power unknown, everlasting, incomprehensible; but all believe that there is one God, Maker and Ruler of the whole world. But after they heard us speak of Christ, with glad minds they agreed unto the same.

And this is one of their ancientest laws, that no man shall be blamed for reasoning in the maintenance of his own religion, giving to every man free liberty to believe what he would. Saving that none should conceive so base and vile an opinion as to think that souls do perish with the body, or that the world runneth at all adventures, governed by no divine providence.

They have priests of exceeding holiness, and therefore very few. Both childhood and youth are instructed of them, not more in learning than in good manners.

"This," quoth he, "is that order of the commonwealth which, in my judgement, is not only the best, but also that which alone of good right may claim and take upon it the name of a commonwealth or weal-publique."

THUS when Raphael had made an end of his tale, though many things came to my mind, which in the manners and laws of that people seemed to be instituted and founded of no good reason; yet because I knew he was weary of talking, I said that we would choose another time to weigh and examine the same matters But, in the meantime, I, Thomas More, as I cannot agree and consent to all things that he said, so must I needs confess and grant that many things be in the Utopian weal-publique which in our cities I may rather wish for than hope after.

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