Utopian Society Thinkers Thomas More Part 2

About the famous religious thinker Thomas More, history and description of his proposed utopian society.


THOMAS MORE (1478-1535)

Henry VIII liked More and gave him several political jobs, including that of lord chancellor, but More was uneasy about the king's fickleness and in 1532 retired from office. It did not save him from trouble. Though he had been able to agree to Henry's divorce from Catherine of Aragon, he could not bring himself to swear to the Act of Succession, which stated that the king was supreme over everyone in the world, even the pope. In retaliation, the king threw More into the Tower of London. Though his wife and daughter begged More to change his mind, he did not, and in 1535 he was sentenced to death. At his execution, he joked with the executioner about the unsteadiness of the scaffold, asked the people watching to pray for him, recited the 51st Psalm, then put his head on the block, arranging his long gray beard so that it wouldn't be chopped off. (It would be, he said, "a pity that should be cut that hath not committed treason.") His body was buried in the Tower and his head exhibited on London Bridge. In 1866 More was named a Catholic saint.

His Utopia: UTOPIA

Utopia was an island 500 mi. around, somewhere in the Pacific Ocean. It was old-fashioned in its monarchistic government, its acceptance of slavery and the submission of women, and its lack of religious toleration. But it was far ahead of its time in its economics (communist), its stance on war (acceptable only when absolutely necessary), and its criminal law (Humane).

Utopia had a patriarchal family system. Before marrying, an engaged man and woman were allowed to examine one another's naked body for physical defects; if any were found, the marriage contract could be annulled.

Every year, each group of 30 families chose a phylarch to govern them. Each 10 phylarchs chose a chief phylarch, who became a member of the national council, which among its other duties, elected the king. The king held office for life.

In Utopia there was no money and therefore, according to More, no love of property and no greed. Every adult worked six hours a day at an occupation which pleased him and met the needs of the community. Each person received from a common store what he needed.

Simplicity was important. Children were given jewelry to play with so that they would associate gewgaws with childishness and would not, as grownups, bedeck themselves with ornaments. Education was universal, with emphasis on vocational subjects.

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