Home >> Encyclopedia Americana, Volume 27 >> Units Of Measurement to Van Der Donck >> Utopia

Utopia

penology, london, lation, morning, public and edition

UTOPIA. Probably nothing illustrates bet ter Lowell's description of a classic as °a com mentary on the morning paper° than the fact that Sir Thomas More's (Utopia,' published just 400 years ago, discusses practically all the important social problems that we are most occupied with at the present time. Almost at the beginning of the book modern penology, that presumedly latest awakening of the social conscience, is introduced with the principle °For if you suffer your people to be ill-educated and their manners to be corrupted from their infancy and then punish them for their crimes to which their first education disposes them, what else is to be concluded from this but that you first make thieves and then punish them?' This is, however, only one phase of the law of practical correction as laid down; for in Utopia they had the indeterminate sentence, prisoners were not housed in a hardening environment, they worked outside and earned their liveli hood, being restored to liberty only upon report of a good character. Above all justice was fostered and the thief was bound to make restitution to the owner before his freedom could be secured.

The other most urgent community prob lems are anticipated as completely as those of penology. Eugenics was consulted by a pre marital investigation; they accustomed them selves to daily military exercises but °engaged in war only to defend themselves or their friends from any unjust aggressors, or out of good nature, or in compassion to assist an op pressed nation Sn shaking off the yoke of tyranny." It would be hard to find a more striking comment on the morning paper than this. The Utopians enjoyed religious toler ance though they required their officials to be lieve in a hereafter of reward and punishment because they thought that added to responsi bility. They believed money the root of evil, dispensed with its use, employed gold an silver for chains on their slaves (these were outcasts of other nations saved from a worse fate) and for slop jars and other necessary utensils.

In this model kingdom every one had to work six hours a day, three before and three after the mid-day meal. They dispatched their mid-day meal, but sat long at supper while music was played and entertainments were pro vided and the children were encouraged to ex hibit their powers of memory and speech. They lived in model houses, each one with its garden where flowers had to be grown as well as vegetables and prises were given to the most successful gardeners. So as not to be spoiled by parental tenderness the children after early years were cared for by public authority. Their hospitals were so well built and organized "that scarce one in a whole town if he should fall ill would not choose rather to go thither than be sick at home?) No wonder that the visitor to Utopia said of Europe as he saw it ((there fore I must say that as I hope for mercy I can have no other notion of all the other gov ernments that I see or know, than that they ..re a conspiracy of the rich who on pretense of managing the public only pursue their private ends." . .. "The rich men not only by private fraud but also by common laws do every day pluck and snatch away from the poor some part of their daily living." The author of 'Utopia) was later to be one of the greatest of England's Lord Chancellors, the only one that ever cleared the docket of the Court of Chancery; and when the choice came between death or his conscience he ac cepted the alternative with a jest on his lips.

'Utopia' (1st ed), Louvain 1516; revised Frobenius, Basel 1518; first English trans lation Ralph Robinson, London 1551; translated also by Gilbert Burnett, 1684; Camelot edition contains sketch and More's other work 'The Pitiful Life of Edward V' besides 'Utopia' (London) ; Morley's edition (Burnett's trans lation), Cassell's National LibraDr.