BOOK II (6) : HOW THE UTOPIANS TRAVEL
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 license that is granted for travelling, and limits the time of their return. They are furnished with a wagon, and a slave who drives the oxen and looks after them; but unless there are women in the company, the wagon 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 nothing, but are everywhere treated as if they were at home. If they stay in any place longer than a night, everyone 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 labor with them and conform to their rules: and if he does this, he may freely go over the whole precinct; being thus 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 labor. 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 tasks, 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.
|They sell their surplus produce abroad, earning much gold and silver|
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 neighbors 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 our own 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 useless.
|Their method of keeping their reserves of gold safe and un-valued|
They eat and drink out of vessels of earth, or glass, which make an
agreeable appearance though formed of brittle materials: while they make
their chamber-pots and close-stools of gold and silver; and that not only
in their public halls, but in their private houses: of the same metals
they likewise make chains and fetters for their slaves; to some of which,
as a badge of infamy, they hang an ear- ring of gold, and make others wear
a chain or coronet of the same metal; and thus they take care, by all possible
means, to render gold and silver of no esteem. And from hence it is that
while other nations part with their gold and silver as unwillingly as if
one tore out their bowels, those of Utopia would look on their giving in
all they possess of those metals, when there was any use for them but as
the parting with a trifle, or as we would esteem the loss of a penny. They
find pearls on their coast, and diamonds and carbuncles on their rocks;
they do not look after them, but, if they find them by chance, they polish
them, and with them they adorn their children, who are delighted with them,
and glory in them during their childhood; but when they grow to years,
and see that none but children use such baubles, they of their own accord,
without being bid by their parents, lay them aside; and would be as much
ashamed to use them afterward as children among us, when they come to years,
are of their puppets and other toys.
|The visit of the richly-clothed foreign ambassadors|
It was not unpleasant to see, on the one side, how they looked big, when they compared their rich habits with the plain clothes of the Utopians, who were come out in great numbers to see them make their entry: and, on the other, to observe how much they were mistaken in the impression which they hoped this pomp would have made on them. It appeared so ridiculous a show to all that had never stirred out of their country, and had not seen the customs of other nations, that though they paid some reverence to those that were the most meanly clad, as if they had been the ambassadors, yet when they saw the ambassadors themselves, so full of gold and chains, they looked upon them as slaves, and forbore to treat them with reverence.
You might have seen the children, who were grown big enough to despise their playthings, and who had thrown away their jewels, call to their mothers, push them gently, and cry out, "See that great fool that wears pearls and gems, as if he were yet a child." While their mothers very innocently replied, "Hold your peace; this, I believe, is one of the ambassador's fools." Others censured the fashion of their chains, and observed that they were of no use; for they were too slight to bind their slaves, who could easily break them; and besides hung so loose about them that they thought it easy to throw them away, and so get from them.
But after the ambassadors had stayed a day among them, and saw so vast
a quantity of gold in their houses, which was as much despised by them
as it was esteemed in other nations, and beheld more gold and silver in
the chains and fetters of one slave than all their ornaments amounted to,
their plumes fell, and they were ashamed of all that glory for which they
had formerly valued themselves, and accordingly laid it aside; a resolution
that they immediately took, when on their engaging in some free discourse
with the Utopians, they discovered their sense of such things and their
|Hythloday comments on the value other nations give to 'precious' things and wealth|
That a man of lead, who has no more sense than a log of wood, and is as bad as he is foolish, should have many wise and good men to serve him, only because he has a great heap of that metal; and that if it should happen that by some accident or trick of law (which sometimes produces as great changes as chance itself) all this wealth should pass from the master to the meanest varlet of his whole family, he himself would very soon become one of his servants, as if he were a thing that belonged to his wealth, and so were bound to follow its fortune. But they much more admire and detest the folly of those who, when they see a rich man, though they neither owe him anything nor are in any sort dependent on his bounty, yet merely because he is rich give him little less than divine honors, even though they know him to be so covetous and base-minded that notwithstanding all his wealth he will not part with one farthing of it to them as long as he lives.
These and such like notions has that people imbibed, partly from their
education, being bred in a country whose customs and laws are opposite
to all such foolish maxims, and partly from their learning and studies;
for though there are but few in any town that are so wholly excused from
labor as to give themselves entirely up to their studies, these being only
such persons as discover from their childhood an extraordinary capacity
and disposition for letters; yet their children, and a great part of the
nation, both men and women, are taught to spend those hours in which they
are not obliged to work, in reading: and this they do through the whole
progress of life. They have all their learning in their own tongue, which
is both a copious and pleasant language, and in which a man can fully express
his mind. It runs over a great tract of many countries, but it is not equally
pure in all places.
|Hythloday makes a hostile commentary on modern philosophy, compared to Utopian wisdom|
Yet for all this ignorance of these empty notions, they knew astronomy, and were perfectly acquainted with the motions of the heavenly bodies, and have many instruments, well contrived and divided, by which they very accurately compute the course and positions of the sun, moon, and stars. But for the cheat, of divining by the stars by their oppositions or conjunctions, it has not so much as entered into their thoughts. They have a particular sagacity, founded upon much observation, in judging of the weather, by which they know when they may look for rain, wind, or other alterations in the air; but as to the philosophy of these things, the causes of the saltness of the sea, of its ebbing and flowing, and of the origin and nature both of the heavens and the earth; they dispute of them, partly as our ancient philosophers have done, and partly upon some new hypothesis, in which, as they differ from them, so they do not in all things agree among themselves.
As to moral philosophy, they have the same disputes among them as we
have here: they examine what are properly good both for the body and the
mind, and whether any outward thing can be called truly good, or if that
term belong only to the endowments of the soul. They inquire likewise into
the nature of virtue and pleasure; but their chief dispute is concerning
the happiness of a man, and wherein it consists? Whether in some one thing,
or in a great many? They seem, indeed, more inclinable to that opinion
that places, if not the whole, yet the chief part of a man's happiness
in pleasure; and, what may seem more strange, they make use of arguments
even from religion, notwithstanding its severity and roughness, for the
support of that opinion so indulgent to pleasure; for they never dispute
concerning happiness without fetching some arguments from the principles
of religion, as well as from natural reason, since without the former they
reckon that all our inquiries after happiness must be but conjectural and
|Their fundamental religious and ethical principles in relationship to human happiness|
There is a party among them who place happiness in bare virtue; others think that our natures are conducted by virtue to happiness, as that which is the chief good of man. They define virtue thus, that it is a living according to nature, and think that we are made by God for that end; they believe that a man then follows the dictates of nature when he pursues or avoids things according to the direction of reason; they say that the first dictate of reason is the kindling in us of a love and reverence for the Divine Majesty, to whom we owe both all that we have and all that we can ever hope for. In the next place, reason directs us to keep our minds as free from passion and as cheerful as we can, and that we should consider ourselves as bound by the ties of good-nature and humanity to use our utmost endeavors to help forward the happiness of all other persons; for there never was any man such a morose and severe pursuer of virtue, such an enemy to pleasure, that though he set hard rules for men to undergo much pain, many watchings, and other rigors, yet did not at the same time advise them to do all they could, in order to relieve and ease the miserable, and who did not represent gentleness and good- nature as amiable dispositions. And from thence they infer that if a man ought to advance the welfare and comfort of the rest of mankind, there being no virtue more proper and peculiar to our nature, than to ease the miseries of others, to free from trouble and anxiety, in furnishing them with the comforts of life, in which pleasure consists, nature much more vigorously leads them to do all this for himself.
A life of pleasure is either a real evil, and in that case we ought not to assist others in their pursuit of it, but on the contrary, to keep them from it all we can, as from that which is most hurtful and deadly; or if it is a good thing, so that we not only may, but ought to help others to it, why, then, ought not a man to begin with himself? Since no man can be more bound to look after the good of another than after his own; for nature cannot direct us to be good and kind to others, and yet at the same time to be unmerciful and cruel to ourselves. Thus, as they define virtue to be living according to nature, so they imagine that nature prompts all people on to seek after pleasure, as the end of all they do. They also observe that in order to our supporting the pleasures of life, nature inclines us to enter into society; for there is no man so much raised above the rest of mankind as to be the only favorite of nature who, on the contrary, seems to have placed on a level all those that belong to the same species. Upon this they infer that no man ought to seek his own conveniences so eagerly as to prejudice others; and therefore they think that not only all agreements between private persons ought to be observed, but likewise that all those laws ought to be kept, which either a good prince has published in due form, or to which a people that is neither oppressed with tyranny nor circumvented by fraud, has consented, for distributing those conveniences of life which afford us all our pleasures.
They think it is an evidence of true wisdom for a man to pursue his own advantages as far as the laws allow it. They account it piety to prefer the public good to one's private concerns; but they think it unjust for a man to seek for pleasure by snatching another man's pleasures from him. And on the contrary, they think it a sign of a gentle and good soul, for a man to dispense with his own advantage for the good of others; and that by this means a good man finds as much pleasure one way as he parts with another; for as he may expect the like from others when he may come to need it, so if that should fail him, yet the sense of a good action, and the reflections that he makes on the love and gratitude of those whom he has so obliged, gives the mind more pleasure than the body could have found in that from which it had restrained itself. They are also persuaded that God will make up the loss of those small pleasures, with a vast and endless joy, of which religion easily convinces a good soul.
Thus, upon an inquiry into the whole matter, they reckon that all our
actions, and even all our virtues, terminate in pleasure, as in our chief
end and greatest happiness; and they call every motion or state, either
of body or mind, in which nature teaches us to delight, a pleasure. Thus
they cautiously limit pleasure only to those appetites to which nature
leads us; for they say that nature leads us only to those delights to which
reason as well as sense carries us, and by which we neither injure any
other person nor lose the possession of greater pleasures, and of such
as draw no troubles after them; but they look upon those delights which
men by a foolish though common mistake call pleasure, as if they could
change as easily the nature of things as the use of words; as things that
greatly obstruct their real happiness instead of advancing it, because
they so entirely possess the minds of those that are once captivated by
them with a false notion of pleasure, that there is no room left for pleasures
of a truer or purer kind.
|Hythloday comments satirically on the folly of those Europeans who have wrong standards of value|
The Utopians have no better opinion of those who are much taken with
gems and precious stones, and who account it a degree of happiness, next
to a divine one, if they can purchase one that is very extraordinary; especially
if it be of that sort of stones that is then in greatest request; for the
same sort is not at all times universally of the same value; nor will men
buy it unless it be dismounted and taken out of the gold; the jeweller
is then made to give good security, and required solemnly to swear that
the stone is true, that by such an exact caution a false one might not
be bought instead of a true: though if you were to examine it, your eye
could find no difference between the counterfeit and that which is true;
so that they are all one to you as much as if you were blind. Or can it
be thought that they who heap up a useless mass of wealth, not for any
use that it is to bring them, but merely to please themselves with the
contemplation of it, enjoy any true pleasure in it? The delight they find
is only a false shadow of joy. Those are no better whose error is somewhat
different from the former, and who hide it, out of their fear of losing
it; for what other name can fit the hiding it in the earth, or rather the
restoring it to it again, it being thus cut off from being useful, either
to its owner or to the rest of mankind? And yet the owner having hid it
carefully, is glad, because he thinks he is now sure of it. If it should
be stolen, the owner, though he might live perhaps ten years after the
theft, of which he knew nothing, would find no difference between his having
or losing it; for both ways it was equally useless to him.
|Hythloday criticizes those who enjoy hunting as a sport|
Therefore all this business of hunting is, among the Utopians, turned over to their butchers; and those, as has been already said, are all slaves; and they look on hunting as one of the basest parts of a butcher's work: for they account it both more profitable and more decent to kill those beasts that are more necessary and useful to mankind; whereas the killing and tearing of so small and miserable an animal can only attract the huntsman with a false show of pleasure, from which he can reap but small advantage. They look on the desire of the bloodshed, even of beasts, as a mark of a mind that is already corrupted with cruelty, or that at least by the frequent returns of so brutal a pleasure must degenerate into it.
Thus, though the rabble of mankind look upon these, and on innumerable
other things of the same nature, as pleasures, the Utopians, on the contrary,
observing that there is nothing in them truly pleasant, conclude that they
are not to be reckoned among pleasures: for though these things may create
some tickling in the senses (which seems to be a true notion of pleasure),
yet they imagine that this does not arise from the thing itself, but from
a depraved custom, which may so vitiate a man's taste, that bitter things
may pass for sweet; as women with child think pitch or tallow tastes sweeter
than honey; but as a man's sense when corrupted, either by a disease or
some ill habit, does not change the nature of other things, so neither
can it change the nature of pleasure.
|Utopian notions of pleasure : of body and of mind|
Another kind of bodily pleasure is that which results from an undisturbed and vigorous constitution of body, when life and active spirits seem to actuate every part. This lively health, when entirely free from all mixture of pain, of itself gives an inward pleasure, independent of all external objects of delight; and though this pleasure does not so powerfully affect us, nor act so strongly on the senses as some of the others, yet it may be esteemed as the greatest of all pleasures, and almost all the Utopians reckon it the foundation and basis of all the other joys of life; since this alone makes the state of life easy and desirable; and when this is wanting, a man is really capable of no other pleasure. They look upon freedom from pain, if it does not rise from perfect health, to be a state of stupidity rather than of pleasure.
This subject has been very narrowly canvassed among them; and it has been debated whether a firm and entire health could be called a pleasure or not? Some have thought that there was no pleasure but what was excited by some sensible motion in the body. But this opinion has been long ago excluded from among them, so that now they almost universally agree that health is the greatest of all bodily pleasures; and that as there is a pain in sickness, which is as opposite in its nature to pleasure as sickness itself is to health, so they hold that health is accompanied with pleasure: and if any should say that sickness is not really pain, but that it only carries pain along with it, they look upon that as a fetch of subtilty, that does not much alter the matter. It is all one, in their opinion, whether it be said that health is in itself a pleasure, or that it begets a pleasure, as fire gives heat; so it be granted, that all those whose health is entire have a true pleasure in the enjoyment of it: and they reason thus--what is the pleasure of eating, but that a man's health which had been weakened, does, with the assistance of food, drive away hunger, and so recruiting itself recovers its former vigor? And being thus refreshed, it finds a pleasure in that conflict; and if the conflict is pleasure, the victory must yet breed a greater pleasure, except we fancy that it becomes stupid as soon as it has obtained that which it pursued, and so neither knows nor rejoices in its own welfare. If it is said that health cannot be felt, they absolutely deny it; for what man is in health that does not perceive it when he is awake? Is there any man that is so dull and stupid as not to acknowledge that he feels a delight in health? And what is delight but another name for pleasure?
But of all pleasures, they esteem those to be most valuable that lie in the mind, the chief of which arises out of true virtue, and the witnesses of a good conscience. They account health the chief pleasure that belongs to the body; for they think that the pleasure of eating and drinking, and all the other delights of sense, are only so far desirable as they give or maintain health. But they are not pleasant in themselves, otherwise than as they resist those impressions that our natural infirmities are still making upon us: for as a wise man desires rather to avoid diseases than to take physic, and to be freed from pain, rather than to find ease by remedies; so it is more desirable not to need this sort of pleasure, than to be obliged to indulge it. If any man imagines that there is a real happiness in these enjoyments, he must then confess that he would be the happiest of all men if he were to lead his life in perpetual hunger, thirst, and itching, and by consequence in perpetual eating, drinking, and scratching himself; which anyone may easily see would be not only a base but a miserable state of life. These are indeed the lowest of pleasures, and the least pure; for we can never relish them, but when they are mixed with the contrary pains. The pain of hunger must give us the pleasure of eating; and here the pain out- balances the pleasure; and as the pain is more vehement, so it lasts much longer; for as it begins before the pleasure, so it does not cease but with the pleasure that extinguishes it, and both expire together.
They think, therefore, none of those pleasures is to be valued any further than as it is necessary; yet they rejoice in them, and with due gratitude acknowledge the tenderness of the great Author of nature, who has planted in us appetites, by which those things that are necessary for our preservation are likewise made pleasant to us. For how miserable a thing would life be, if those daily diseases of hunger and thirst were to be carried off by such bitter drugs as we must use for those diseases that return seldomer upon us? And thus these pleasant as well as proper gifts of nature maintain the strength and the sprightliness of our bodies.
They also entertain themselves with the other delights let in at their eyes, their ears, and their nostrils, as the pleasant relishes and seasonings of life, which nature seems to have marked out peculiarly for man; since no other sort of animals contemplates the figure and beauty of the universe; nor is delighted with smells, any further than as they distinguish meats by them; nor do they apprehend the concords or discords of sound; yet in all pleasures whatsoever they take care that a lesser joy does not hinder a greater, and that pleasure may never breed pain, which they think always follows dishonest pleasures. But they think it madness for a man to wear out the beauty of his face, or the force of his natural strength; to corrupt the sprightliness of his body by sloth and laziness, or to waste it by fasting; that it is madness to weaken the strength of his constitution, and reject the other delights of life; unless by renouncing his own satisfaction, he can either serve the public or promote the happiness of others, for which he expects a greater recompense from God. So that they look on such a course of life as the mark of a mind that is both cruel to itself, and ungrateful to the Author of nature, as if we would not be beholden to Him for His favors, and therefore reject all His blessings; as one who should afflict himself for the empty shadow of virtue; or for no better end than to render himself capable of bearing those misfortunes which possibly will never happen.
This is their notion of virtue and of pleasure; they think that no man's
reason can carry him to a truer idea of them, unless some discovery from
heaven should inspire him with sublimer notions. I have not now the leisure
to examine whether they think right or wrong in this matter: nor do I judge
it necessary, for I have only undertaken to give you an account of their
constitution, but not to defend all their principles. I am sure, that whatsoever
may be said of their notions, there is not in the whole world either a
better people or a happier government: their bodies are vigorous and lively;
and though they are but of a middle stature, and have neither the fruitfullest
soil nor the purest air in the world, yet they fortify themselves so well
by their temperate course of life, against the unhealthiness of their air,
and by their industry they so cultivate their soil, that there is nowhere
to be seen a greater increase both of corn and cattle, nor are there anywhere
healthier men and freer from diseases: for one may there see reduced to
practice, not only all the arts that the husbandman employs in manuring
and improving an ill soil, but whole woods plucked up by the roots, and
in other places new ones planted, where there were none before. Their principal
motive for this is the convenience of carriage, that their timber may be
either near their towns or growing on the banks of the sea or of some rivers,
so as to be floated to them; for it is a harder work to carry wood at any
distance over land, than corn.
|The Utopians' thirst for knowldge|
I happened to carry a great many books with me, instead of merchandise, when I sailed my fourth voyage; for I was so far from thinking of soon coming back, that I rather thought never to have returned at all, and I gave them all my books, among which were many of Plato's and some of Aristotle's works. I had also Theophrastus "On Plants," which, to my great regret, was imperfect; for having laid it carelessly by, while we were at sea, a monkey had seized upon it, and in many places torn out the leaves. They have no books of grammar but Lascares, for I did not carry Theodorus with me; nor have they any dictionaries but Hesichius and Dioscorides. They esteem Plutarch highly, and were much taken with Lucian's wit and with his pleasant way of writing. As for the poets, they have Aristophanes, Homer, Euripides, and Sophocles of Aldus's edition; and for historians Thucydides, Herodotus, and Herodian.
One of my companions, Thricius Apinatus, happened to carry with him
some of Hippocrates's works, and Galen's "Microtechne," which they hold
in great estimation; for though there is no nation in the world that needs
physic so little as they do, yet there is not any that honors it so much:
they reckon the knowledge of it one of the pleasantest and most profitable
parts of philosophy, by which, as they search into the secrets of nature,
so they not only find this study highly agreeable, but think that such
inquiries are very acceptable to the Author of nature; and imagine that
as He, like the inventors of curious engines among mankind, has exposed
this great machine of the universe to the view of the only creatures capable
of contemplating it, so an exact and curious observer, who admires His
workmanship, is much more acceptable to Him than one of the herd, who,
like a beast incapable of reason, looks on this glorious scene with the
eyes of a dull and unconcerned spectator.
|The Utopians learn to make paper and print books|
If any man was to go among them that had some extraordinary talent, or that by much travelling had observed the customs of many nations (which made us to be so well received), he would receive a hearty welcome; for they are very desirous to know the state of the whole world. Very few go among them on the account of traffic, for what can a man carry to them but iron or gold or silver, which merchants desire rather to export than import to a strange country: and as for their exportation, they think it better to manage that themselves than to leave it to foreigners, for by this means, as they understand the state of the neighboring countries better, so they keep up the art of navigation, which cannot be maintained but by much practice.