Thursday, September 25, 2008

Utopia - Sir Thomas More

a king should fall under such contempt or envy that he could not keep his
subjects in their duty but by oppression and ill usage, and by rendering
them poor and miserable, it were certainly better for him to quit his
kingdom than to retain it by such methods as make him, while he keeps the
name of authority, lose the majesty due to it. Nor is it so becoming the
dignity of a king to reign over beggars as over rich and happy subjects.
And therefore Fabricius, a man of a noble and exalted temper, said 'he
would rather govern rich men than be rich himself; since for one man to
abound in wealth and pleasure when all about him are mourning and
groaning, is to be a gaoler and not a king.' He is an unskilful
physician that cannot cure one disease without casting his patient into
another. So he that can find no other way for correcting the errors of
his people but by taking from them the conveniences of life, shows that
he knows not what it is to govern a free nation. He himself ought rather
to shake off his sloth, or to lay down his pride, for the contempt or
hatred that his people have for him takes its rise from the vices in
himself. Let him live upon what belongs to him without wronging others,
and accommodate his expense to his revenue. Let him punish crimes, and,
by his wise conduct, let him endeavour to prevent them, rather than be
severe when he has suffered them to be too common. Let him not rashly
revive laws that are abrogated by disuse, especially if they have been
long forgotten and never wanted. And let him never take any penalty for
the breach of them to which a judge would not give way in a private man,
but would look on him as a crafty and unjust person for pretending to it.
To these things I would add that law among the Macarians--a people that
live not far from Utopia--by which their king, on the day on which he
began to reign, is tied by an oath, confirmed by solemn sacrifices, never
to have at once above a thousand pounds of gold in his treasures, or so
much silver as is equal to that in value. This law, they tell us, was
made by an excellent king who had more regard to the riches of his
country than to his own wealth, and therefore provided against the
heaping up of so much treasure as might impoverish the people. He
thought that moderate sum might be sufficient for any accident, if either
the king had occasion for it against the rebels, or the kingdom against
the invasion of an enemy; but that it was not enough to encourage a
prince to invade other men's rights--a circumstance that was the chief
cause of his making that law. He also thought that it was a good
provision for that free circulation of money so necessary for the course
of commerce and exchange. And when a king must distribute all those
extraordinary accessions that increase treasure beyond the due pitch, it
makes him less disposed to oppress his subjects. Such a king as this
will be the terror of ill men, and will be beloved by all the good.

"Mugabe would profit from these words".

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