Thomas More's Utopia - the prince of Utopia

If any man aspires to any office, he is sure never to compass it; they all live easily together, for none of the magistrates are either insolent or cruel to the people: they affect rather to be called fathers, and by being really so, they well deserve the name; and the people pay them all the marks of honour the more freely, because none are exacted from them. The Prince himself has no distinction, either of garments, or of a crown; but is only distinguished by a sheaf of corn carried before him; as the high priest is also known by his being preceded by a person carrying a wax light.

They have but few laws, and such is their constitution that they need not many. They very much condemn other nations, whose laws, together with the commentaries on them, swell up to so many volumes; for they think it an unreasonable thing to oblige men to obey a body of laws that are both of such a bulk, and so dark as not to be read and understood by every one of the subjects.

They have no lawyers among them, for they consider them as a sort of people whose profession it is to disguise matters, and to wrest the laws; and therefore they think it is much better that every man should plead his own cause, and trust it to the judge, as in other places the client trusts it to a counsellor.

Background

More designed an elaborate form of democracy.

Every group of thirty families elects a magistrate (Syphogrant) to rule over them. Another magistrate called an Archphilarch rules over every ten Syphogrants.

The people of the four divisions of the city choose four candidates for election as Prince. The two hundred Syphogrants choose the Prince from this list.

A Prince is appointed for life, unless he is removed on suspicion of some design to enslave the people. Archphilarchs face election annually and most serve for a number of years. Syphogrants are elected for a year at a time.

Archphilarchs meet every third day - more often if necessary - to consult with the Prince about the affairs of the state and any private differences that may occasionally arise among the people. Two Syphogrants are always called into the council-chamber, and these change every day.

No conclusion about a public matter can be made until it has been debated in council for more than three days. Any independent discussion about the state is?punishable by death, unless the discussion takes place?in an assembly of the whole body of the people.

Any important matter is sent to the Syphogrants for consultation with the families in their division, and then reported to the senate.

On rare occasions a matter can be referred to the council of the whole island.

Image taken from: L'Utopie de Thomas Morus
Creator: Thomas More
Publisher: Pierre van der Aa
Date created: 1715
Copyright: By permission of the British Library Board
Shelfmark: 232.b.20

Taken from: Sir Thomas More's Utopia
Author / Creator: Thomas More (translated by Gilbert Burnet)
Publisher: George Routledge & Sons
Date: 1885
Copyright: By permission of the British Library Board
Shelfmark: 12204.gg.1/23