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return of deserting or disbanded soldiers (often utterly demoralised),? should still show itself in the appalling increase of crime. Perhaps it was equally natural that legislators who held the comforts and lives of the labouring poor so cheap, should think that they had provided at once a proper and efficient remedy, when by abolishing benefit of clergy in the case of felons and murderers, and by abridging the privilege of sanctuary, they had multiplied to a terrible extent the number of executions.
If the labouring classes were thus harshly dealt with, so also the mercantile classes did not find their interests very carefully guarded.
The breach of faith with Prince Charles in the matter of the marriage of the Princess Mary had caused a quarrel between England and the Netherlands, and this Parliament of 1515 had followed it up by prohibiting the exportation of Norfolk wool to Holland and Zealand, thus virtually interrupting commercial intercourse with the Hanse towns of Belgium at a time when Bruges was the great mart of the world.
It was not long before the London merchants expressed a very natural anxiety that the commercial intercourse between two countries so essential to each other should be speedily resumed. They saw clearly that whatever military advantage might be gained by the attempt to injure the subjects of Prince Charles by creating a woolfamine in the Netherlands, would be purchased at their expense. It was a game that two could play at, and it was not long before retaliative measures were resorted to on the other side, very injurious to English interests.
When therefore it was rumoured that Henry VIII. was about to send an embassy to Flanders, to settle international disputes between the two countries, it was not surprising that London merchants should complain to the king of their own special grievances, and pray that their interests might not be neglected. It seems that they pressed upon the king to attach “ Young More,” as he still was called, to the embassy, specially to represent themselves. So, according to Roper, it was at the suit and instance of the English merchants, “and with the king's consent,” that in May, 1515, More was sent out on an embassy with Bishop Tunstal, Sampson, and others into Flanders.
The ambassadors were appointed generally to obtain a renewal and continuance of the old treaties of intercourse between the two countries, but More, aided by a John Clifford, “ governor of the English merchants,” was specially charged with the commercial
(1) Brewer, i., Nos. 4019 and 4020.
matters in dispute: Wolsey informing Sampson of this, and Sampson replying that he “is pleased with the honour of being named in the king's commission with Tunstal and · Young More.'” 1
The party were detained in the city of Bruges about four months. They found it by no means easy to allay the bitter feelings which had been created by the prohibition of the export of wool, and other alleged injuries.' In September they moved on to Brussels, and in October to Antwerp, and it was not till towards the end of the year that More having at last successfully terminated his part in the negotiations, was able to return home.
During the absence of More, Wolsey, quit of a Parliament which, however selfish and careless of the true interests of the Commonwealth, had shown some symptoms of grumbling at royal demands, had pushed on more rapidly than ever his schemes of personal ambition. His first step was to procure through the aid of IIenry VIII. a cardinal's hat. Poor Archbishop Warham (who had already quarrelled with him) was compelled to perform in great pomp and state the ceremony of placing this hat upon his head in Westminster Abbey, and Colet was called upon to preach the sermon on this great occasion. He took the opportunity, we are told, to remind Wolsey that the ecclesiastical dignity of cardinal corresponded with the order of the seraphim in the celestial hierarchy, “which continually burneth in the love of the glorious Trinity,” exhorted him “to exccute righteousness to rich and poor," and desired all people to
pray for him.
This happened on the 15th November. On the 22nd December, Warham resigned the great seal into the king's hands, and the Cardinal Archbishop of York assumed the additional title of Lord Chancellor of England. On the same day Parliament, which had met again on the 12th November to grant a further subsidy, was dissolved, and Wolsey commenced to rule the kingdom, according to his own will and pleasure, for eight years, without a Parliament and with but little regard to the opinions of other members of the king's council.
It was while More's keen eye was anxiously watching these gathering clouds upon the political horizon, and during the leisure snatched from the business of his embassy, that he conceived the idea of embodying his notions on social and political questions, in a description of the imaginary commonwealth of the island of
Utopia,” Nusquamam, or “ Nowhere.”
(1) Brewer, ii., 422, 480, and 534; also Roper, 10. j5) Brewer, ii., 1067. : (2) Brewer, ii., 672, 679, 733, 782, 807.
(6) Brewer, ü., 1153. (3) Brewer, ii., 672 and 733.
(7) Brewer, ii., 1335. (4) Brewer, ii., 904 and 922.
(8) Epist. ccli., and lxxxvii, app.
2. THE SECOND BOOK OF THE “ UTOPIA" (1516).
The first book of the “Utopia” was written after the second, under circumstances and for reasons
Ich will in due course be mentioned.
The second book was complete in itself, and contained the description, by Raphael the supposed traveller, of the Utopian commonwealth. Erasmus informs us that More's intention in writing it was to point out where and from what causes European commonwealths were at fault, and he adds that it was written with special reference to English politics, with which More was most familiar.?
Whilst, however, we trace its close connection with the political events passing at the time in England, it must not be supposed that More was so gifted with prescience that he knew what course matters would take. He could not know, for instance, that Wolsey was about to take the reins of government so completely into his own hands, as to dispense with a Parliament for so many years to come. As yet, More and his friends, in spite of Wolsey's ostentation and vanity, which they freely ridiculed, had a high opinion of his. character and powers. Thus More paid a full tribute to the diligence and justice of his administration in the Court of Chancery ; and it was not unnatural that, knowing that Wolsey was a friend to education, and, to some extent, at least, inclined to patronise the projects of Erasmus, they should hope for the best. Hence the satire contained in “ Utopia” was not likely to be directed personally against Wolsey's policy, however much that policy might come for its share of criticism along with the rest.
The point of the “Utopia” consisted in the contrast presented by its ideal commonwealth to the condition and habits of the European commonwealths of the period. This contrast is most often left to be drawn by the reader from his own knowledge of contemporary politics, and hence the peculiar advantage of the choice by More of such a vehicle for the bold satire it contained. Upon any
Upon any other hypothesis than that the evils against which that satire was directed were admitted to be real, the romance of “Utopia ”must be also admitted to be harmless. To pronounce it to be dangerous was to admit its truth.
Take, e.g., the following passage relating to the international policy of the Utopians :
“ While other nations are always entering into leagues, and breaking and renewing them, the Utopians never enter into a league with any nation. For what is the use of a league ? they say. As though there were no natural tie between man and man! and as though any one who despised this natural tie could, forsooth, be made all right by this word ! They hold this opinion all
(1) Erasmus to Hutten, Epist. ccccxlvii. (Eras. op. iii. p. 476 F.)
the more strongly because that in that part of the world the leagues and treaties of princes are not observed as faithfully as they should be. For in Europe, and everywhere where the Christian faith and religion is professed, the sanctity of leagues is held sacred and inviolate; partly owing to the justice and goodness of princes, and partly from their fear and reverence of the authority of the Popes, who, as they themselves never enter into obligations which they do not most religiously perform, command other princes under all circumstances to perform their promises, and punish delinquents by pastoral censure and discipline. For indeed, with good reason, it would be thought a most scandalous thing for those whose peculiar designation is the faithful,' to be wanting in the faithful observance of leagues. But in those distant regions .... no faith is to be placed in leagues, even though confirmed by the most solemn ceremonies. Some flaw is easily found in their wording which is intentionally made ambiguous so as to leave a loophole through which they may break both their league and their faith. Which craft-yes, fraud and deceit—if it were perpetrated with respect to a contract between private parties, they would indignantly denounce as sacrilege and deserving the gallows, whilst those who suggest these very things to princes, glory in being the authors of them. Whence it comes to pass that justice seems altogether a plebeian and vulgar virtue, quite below the dignity of royalty; or at least there must be two kinds of it, the one for common people and the poor, very narrow and contracted, the other, the virtue of princes, much more dignified and free, so that that only is unlawful to them which they don't like. The morals of princes being such in that region, it is not, I think, without reason that the Utopians enter into no leagues at all. Perhaps they would alter their opinion if they lived amongst us.
Read without reference to the international history of the period, these passages appear perfectly harmless. But read in the light of that political history which, during the past few years, had become so mixed up with the personal history of the Oxford reformers, recollecting “how religiously” treaties had been made and broken by almost every sovereign in Europe—Henry VIII. and the Pope included, the words in which the justice and goodness of European princes is so mildly and modestly extolled, become almost as bitter in their tone as the cutting censure of Erasmus in the “ Praise of Folly," or his more recent and open satire upon kings.
Again bearing in mind the wars of Henry VIII., and how evidently the love of military glory was the motive which induced him to engage in them, the following passage contains almost as direct and pointed a censure of the king's passion for war as the sermon preached by Colet in his presence :
“ The Utopians hate war as plainly brutal, although practised more eagerly by man than by any other animal. And contrary to the sentiment of nearly every other nation, they regard nothing more inglorious than glory sought in
Turning from international politics to questions of internal policy, and bearing in mind the hint of Erasmus that More had in view chiefly the politics of his own country, it is impossible not to recognise in the “Utopia” the expression, again and again, of the sense of
(1) Utopia, 1st ed. Louvain, 1516, T. Martin, chap. “De fæderibus."
wrong stirred up in More's heart, as he had witnessed how every interest of the commonwealth had been sacrificed to Henry VIII.'s passion for war; and how, in sharing the burdens it entailed, and dealing with the social evils it brought to the surface, the interests of the poor had been sacrificed to spare the pockets of the rich ; how, whilst the very wages of the labourer had been taxed to support the long-continued war expenditure, a selfish Parliament, under colour of the old statutes of labourers, had attempted to cut down the amount of his wages, and to rob him of that fair rise in the price of his labour which the drain upon the labour market had produced.
It is impossible not to recognise that the recent statute of labourers was the target, against which More's satire was specially directed, in the following paragraph :
“Let any one dare to compare with the even justice which rules in Utopia, the justice of other nations; amongst whom, let me die, if I find any trace at all of equity and justice. For where is the justice, that noblemen, goldsmiths, and usurers, and those classes who either do nothing at all, or, in what they do, are of no great service to the commonwealth, should live a genteel and splendid life in idleness or unproductive labour; whilst in the meantime the servant, the waggoner, the mechanic, and the peasant, toiling almost longer and harder than the horse, in labour so necessary that no commonwealth could endure a year without it, lead a life so wretched that the condition of the horse seems more to be envied; his labour being less constant, his food more delicious to his palate, and his mind disturbed by no fears for the future? ..
“ Is not that Republic unjust and ungrateful which confers such benefits upon the gentry (as they are called) and goldsmiths and others of that class, whilst it cares to do nothing at all for the benefit of peasants, colliers, servants, waggoners, and mechanics, without which no republic could exist? Is not that Republic unjust which, after these men have spent the spring time of their lives in labour, have become burdened with age and disease, and are in want of every comfort, unmindful of all their toil, and forgetful of all their services, rewards them only by a miserable death ? Worse than all, the rich constantly endeavour to rob something further from the daily wages of the poor, not only by private fraud, but even by public laws, so that the already existing injustice (that those from whom the republic derives the most benefit should receive the least reward), is made still more unjust through the enactments of public law ! Thus, after careful reflection, it seems to me, as I hope for mercy, that our modern republics are nothing but a conspiracy of the rich, pursuing their own selfish interests under the name of a republic. They devise and invent all ways and means whereby they may in the first place secure to themselves the possession of what they have amassed by evil means; and in the second place, secure to their own use and profit the work and labour of the poor at the lowest possible price. And so soon as the rich, in the name of the public (of which public the poor form a part!) choose to decide that these schemes shall be adopted, then they become law !”
The whole framework of the Utopian commonwealth bears witness to More's conviction, that what should be aimed at in his own country and elsewhere, was a true community—not a rich and educated aristocracy on the one hand, existing side by side with a poor and