Daily Archives: July 7, 2008

Item of the Day: Utopia (1743)

Full Title: Utopia: or the Happy Republic; a Philosophical Romance, in two books. Book I. Containing Preliminary Discourses on the happiest State of a Commonwealth. –II. Containing a Description of the Island of Utopia, The Town, Magistrates, Mechanic Trades, and Manner of Life of the Utopians, Their Traffick, Travelling, Slaves, Marriages, Military Discipline, Religions. Written in Latin by Sir Thomas More, Lord High Chancellor of England. Translated into English by Gilbert Burnet . . . Glasgow: Printed by Robert Foulis, and sold by him there; and, at Edinburgh, by Mess. Hamilton and Balfour Booksellers, MDCCXLIII. [1743]

The Second BOOK.

THE Island of Utopia, in the Middle of it where it is broadest, is two Hundred Miles broad, and holds almost at the same Breadth over a great Part of it; but it grows narrower towards both Ends. Its figure is not unlike a Crescent: Between its Horns, the Sea comes in eleven Miles broad, and spreads itself into a great Bay, which is environed with Land to the Compass of about five Hundred Miles, and is well secured from Winds: There is no great Current in the Bay, and the whole coast is, as it were, one continued Harbour, which gives all that live in the Island great Convenience for mutual Commerce: But the Entry into the Bay, what by Rocks on one Hand, and Shallows on the other, is very dangerous. In the Middle of it there is one single Rock, which appears above Water, and so is not dangerous; on the Top of it there is a Tower built, in which a Garrison is kept. The other Rocks lie under Water, and are very dangerous. The Channel is known only to the Natives, so that if any Stranger should enter into the Bay, without one of their Pilots, he would run a great Danger of Shipwrack: For even they themselves could not pass it safe, if some Marks that are on their Coast did not direct their Way; and if these should be but a little shifted, any Fleet that might come against them, how great soever it were, would be certainly lost. On the other Side of the Island, there are likewise many Harbours; and the coast is so fortified, both by Nature and Art, that a small number of Men can hinder the Descent of a great Army. But they report (and there remain good Marks of it to make it credible that this was no Island at first, but a part of the Continent. Utopus that conquered it whose Name it still carries, for Abraxa was its first Name) and brought the rude and uncivilized Inhabitants into such a good Government, and to that Measure of Politeness, that they do now far excel all the rest of Mankind; having soon subdued them, he designed to separate them from the Continent, and to bring the Sea quite about them, and in order to that he made a deep Channel to be digged fifteen Miles long: He not only forced the Inhabitants to work at it, but likewise his own Soldiers, that the Natives might not think he treated them like Slaves: and having set vast Numbers of Men to work, he brought it to a speed Conclusion beyond all Men’s Expectations: By this their Neighbours, who laughed at the Folly of the Undertaking at first, were struck with Admiration and Terror when they saw it brought to Perfection. There are Fifty-four Cities in the Island, all large and well built: The Manners, customs, and Laws of all their cities are the same, and they are all contrived as near in the same Manner as the Ground on which they stand will allow: The nearest lie at least Twenty-four Miles Distance from one another, and the most remote are not so far distant, but that a Man can go on Foot in one Day from it, to that which lies next it. Every City sends three of their wisest Senators once a year to Amaurat, for consulting about their common Concerns; for that is the chief Town of the Island, being situated near the Center of it, so that it is the most convenient Place for their Assemblies. Every city has so much Ground set off for its Jurisdiction, that there is twenty Miles of soil round it, assigned to it: And where the Towns lie wider, they have much more Ground: No Town desires to enlarge their Bounds, for they consider themselves rather as Tenants than Landlords of their Soil. They have built over all the Country, Farm-houses for Husbandmen, which are well contrived, and are furnished with all Things necessary for Country Labour. Inhabitants are sent by Turns from the cities to dwell in them; no Country Family has fewer than forty Men and Women in it, besides tow Slaves. There is a Master and a Mistress set over every Family; and over thirty Families there is a Magistrate settled. Every Year twenty of this Family come back to the Town, after they have stayed out two Years in the Country: And in their Room there are other twenty sent from the Town, that they may learn Country Work, from those that have been already one Year in the Country, which they must teach those that come to them the next Year from the Town. By this Means such as dwell in those Country Farms, are never ignorant of Agriculture, and so commit no Errors in it, which might otherwise be fatal to them, and bring them under a Scarcity of Corn. But tho’ there is every Year such a shifting of the Husbandmen, that none may be forced against his Mind to follow that hard Course of Life too long; yet many among them take such Pleasure in it, that they desire Leave to continue many Years in it. These Husbandmen labour the Ground, breed Cattle, hew Wood, and convey it to the Towns, either by Land or Water, as is most convenient. They breed an infinite Multitude of Chickens in a very curious Manner: For the Hens do not sit and hatch them, but they lay vast Numbers of Eggs in a gentle and equal Heat, in which they are hatched; and they are no sooner out of the Shell, and able to stir about, but they seem to follow them as other Chickens do the Hen that hatched them. They breed very few Horses, but those they have, are full of Mettle, and are kept only for exercising thier Yourth in the Art of sitting and riding of them; for they do not put them to any Work, either of Plowing or Carriage, in which they employ Oxen; for tho’ Horses are stronger, yet they find Oxen can hold out longer; and as they are kept upon a less Charge, and with less Trouble: And when they are so worn out, that they are no more fit for Labour, they are good Meat at last. They sow no corn, bu that which is to be their Bread; for they drink either Wine, Cider, or Perry, and often Water, sometimes pure, and sometimes boiled with Honey or Liquorish, with which they abound: and tho’ they know exactly well how much Corn will serve every Town, and all that Tract of Country which belongs to it, yet they sow much more, and breed more Cattle than are necessary for their Consumption: And they give that Overplus of which they make no Use, to their Neighbours. When they want any Thing in the Country which it does not produce, they fetch that from the Town, without carrying any Thing in Exchange for it: And the Magistrates of the Town take Care to see it given them: For they meet generallly in the Town once a Month, upon a Festival Day. When the Time of Harvest comes, the Magistrates in the Country send to those in the Towns, and let them know how many Hands they will need for reaping the Harvest; and the Number they call for being sent to them, they commonly dispatch it all in one Day.



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Filed under 1740's, Philosophy, Posted by Caroline Fuchs, Utopia