Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

mediums of corruption, of gathering in corners, or forming parties. All live in full view, and all are obliged to do their duty and employ well their leisure. And it is certain, that a nation thus regulated must enjoy great abundance of all things ; which being equally distributed, no one can want or be obliged to beg.

At their great council at Amaurot (to which three from every town are sent yearly), they examine what towns abound in provisions, and in which is any scarcity; that the one may be supplied from the other. And this is done without any exchange; for according to their plenty or scarcity, they supply or are supplied, so that the whole island is, as it were, one family.

When they have thus taken care of their country, and laid up store for two years (which they do to prevent the ill consequences of a bad season), they order an exportation of the overplus of corn, honey, wool, fax, wood, wax, tallow, leather, and cattle. These they commonly ship abroad in large quantities, and order a seventh to be given to the poor of those countries, and the rest to be sold at moderate prices. By this mean, they not only import in return the few things they want at home (for indeed they scarcely want any thing beside iron), but also a large quantity of gold and silver ; and it is hardly to be imagined how vast a treasure they have amassed, by driving this trade a long time. So that it is now almost indifferent to them whether they sell their goods for ready money or on credit.

A great part of their property is in bonds; but in their contracts, no individual is bound, but a whole town. These towns collect it from their individual debtors, lay it up in their public chamber, or enjoy the use of it till the Utopians call for it; who prefer leaving the greater part of it in the hands of those who make advantage of it, to calling for it themselves. But if they see that any others stand more in need of it, they call it in and lend it to them.

Whenever they engage in war, which is the only occasion on which this treasure can be usefully employed, they make use of it themselves. On great emergencies, or sudden accidents, they employ it in hiring foreign troops ; whom they more willingly expose to danger than their own people. They pay these mercenaries extravagantly, well knowing the effect it will have, even on their enemies; that it will induce them to betray or desert, and is the best mean of raising mutual jealousies among them. With this view they keep an incredible treasure, which they value not as such, but place it in a light I am almost afraid of describing ; for, had I not seen it myself, I could not have believed it.

All things appear incredible to us, as they differ more or less from our own manners. Yet one who can judge aright will not wonder, that since their constitution differeth so materially from ours, their value of gold and silver also, should be measured by a very different standard. Having no use for money among themselves, but keeping it as a

provision against events which seldom happen, and between which are generally long intervals, they value it no farther than it deserves, that is, in proportion to its use. Thus it is plain, they must prefer iron to either silver or gold. For we want iron nearly as much as fire and water, but nature hath marked out no use so essential for the other metals, that they may not easily be dispensed with. Man's folly hath enhanced the value of gold and silver because of their scarcity; whereas nature, like a kind parent, hath freely given us the best things, such as air, earth, and water, but hath hidden from us those which are vain and useless.

Were these metals to be laid-up in a tower, it would give birth to that foolish mistrust into which the people are apt to fall, and create suspicion that the prince and senate de signed to sacrifice the public interest to their own advantage. Should they work them into vessels or other articles, they fear that the people might grow too fond of plate, and be unwilling to melt it again, if a war made it necessary. To prevent all these inconveniencies, they have fallen upon a plan, which agrees with their other policy, but is very different from ours; and which will hardly gain belief among us who value gold so much and lay it up so carefully.

They eat and drink from earthen ware or glass, which make an agreeable appearance though they be of little value; while their chamber-pots and close-stools are made of gold and silver ; and this not only in their public halls, but in

their private houses. Of the same metals they also make chains and fetters for their slaves ; on some of whom, as a badge of infamy, they hang an ear-ring of gold, and make others wear a chain or a coronet of the same metal. And thus they take care, by all possible means, to render gold and silver of no esteem. Hence it is, that while other countries part with these metals as though one tore-out their bowels, the Utopians would look upon giving-in all they had of them, when occasion required, as parting only with a trifle, or as we should esteem the loss of a penny.

They find pearls on their coast, and diamonds and carbuncles on their rocks. They seek them not, but if they find them by chance, they polish them and give them to their children for ornaments, who delight in them during their childhood. But when they come to years of discretion, and see that none but children use such baubles, they lay them aside of their own accord ; and would be as much ashamed to use them afterward, as grown children among us would be of their toys.

· I never saw a more remarkable instance of the opposite impressions which different manners niake on people, than I observed in the Anemolian ambassadors, who came to Amaurot when I was there. Coming to treat of affairs of great consequence, the deputies from several cities met to await their coming. The ambassadors of countries lying near Utopia, knowing their manners,--that fine clothes are in no esteem with them, that silk is despised, and gold a badge of infamy,-came very modestly clothed. But the Anemolians, who lie at a greater distance, having had little intercourse with them, understanding they were coarsely clothed and all in one dress, took it for granted that they had none of that finery among them, of which they made no use. Being also themselves a vain-glorious rather than a wise people, they resolved on this occasion to assume their grandest appearance, and astonish the poor Utopians with their splendour.

Thus three ambassadors made their entry with 100 attendants, all clad in garments of different colours, and the greater part in silk. The ambassadors themselves, who were of the nobility of their country, were in clothes of gold, adorned with massy chains and rings of gold. Their caps were covered with bracelets, thickly set with pearls and other gems. In a word, they were decorated in those very things, which, among the Utopians, are either badges of slavery, marks of infamy, or play-things for children..

It was pleasant to behold, on one side, how big they looked in comparing their rich habits with the plain clothes of the Utopians, who came out in great numbers to see them make their entry; and on the other, how much they were mistaken in the impression which they expected this pomp would have made. The sight appeared so ridiculous to those who had not seen the customs of other countries, that, though they respected such as were meanly clad (as if they had been the ambassadors), when they saw the am

Vol. II.

M

« VorigeDoorgaan »