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The Five-Foot Shelf of Books 


The Prince 

By Niccolo Machiavelli 


By Sir Thomas More 

Ninety-Five Theses 


By Martin Luther 

With Introductions and Notes 
Volume 36 

P. F. Collier & Son Corporation 


Copyright, ioio 
By P. F. Collier & Son 




The Prince Niccolo Machiavelli 

translated by n. h. thomson 


I. Of the Various Kinds of Princedom, and of the Ways In 

Which They Are Acquired 7 

II. Of Hereditary Princedoms 7 

III. Of Mixed Princedoms 8 

IV. Why the Kingdom of Darius, Conquered by Alexander, 

Did Not, on Alexander's Death, Rebel Against His Suc- 
cessors 15 

V. How Cities or Provinces Which Before Their Acquisition 
Have Lived Under Their Own Laws Are To Be Gov- 
erned 18 

VI. Of New Princedoms Which a Prince Acquires With His 

Own Arms and by Merit 19 

VII. Of New Princedoms Acquired By the Aid of Others and 

By Good Fortune ... 22 

VIII. Of Those Who By Their Crimes Come to Be Princes . . 29 

IX. Of the Civil Princedom 33 

X. How the Strength of All Princedoms Should Be Measured 36 

XI. Of Ecclesiastical Princedoms 38 

XII. How Many Different Kinds of Soldiers There Are, and of 

Mercenaries 40 

XIII. Of Auxiliary, Mixed, and National Arms 45 

XIV. Of the Duty of a Prince In Respect of Military Affairs 48 
XV. Of the Qualities In Respect of Which Men, and Most of all 

Princes, Are Praised or Blamed -5° 

XVI. Of Liberality and Miserliness 52 

XVII. Of Cruelty and Clemency, and Whether It Is Better To Be 

Loved or Feared 54 

XVIII. How Princes Should Keep Faith 57 

XIX. That a Prince Should Seek to Escape Contempt and Hatred 59 




XX. Whether Fortresses, and Certain Other Expedients to 
Which Princes Often Have Recourse, are Profitable or 

Hurtful 68 

XXI. How a Prince Should Bear Himself So As to Acquire 

Reputation 72 

XXII. Of the Secretaries of Princes 75 

XXIII. That Flatterers Should Be Shunned 76 

XXIV. Why the Princes of Italy Have Lost Their States ... 78 
XXV. What Fortune Can Effect in Human Affairs, and How She 

May Be Withstood 80 

XXVI. An Exhortation to Liberate Italy from the Barbarians . 83 

The Life of Sir Thomas More William Roper 89 

Utopia Sir Thomas More 135 

translated by ralph robinson 

The Ninety-five Theses Martin Luther 251 

translated by r. s. grignon 

Address to the Christian Nobility of the German Nation 
Respecting the Reformation of the Christian Estate 

Martin Luther 263 
translated by c. a. buchheim 

Concerning Christian Liberty Martin Luther 336 

translated by r. s. grignon 


Niccolo Machiavelli, one of the most brilliant and versatile intellects 
of the Italian Renaissance, was born at Florence, May 3, 1469. He entered 
the public service as a young man, and between 1500 and 15 12 he was 
employed in a number of diplomatic missions to the other Italian cities, 
to France, and to Germany. When the Medici returned to power in 
Florence in 1512, Machiavelli lost his positions, and suffered imprison- 
ment and torture. On his release in the following year, he retired to the 
country and devoted himself to study and the composition of his most 
famous work, "The Prince." Other writings followed; and in the last 
year of his life we find him again in active life, this time as a soldier. 
He died June 21, 1527. 

A more detailed account of Machiavelli, by Lord Macaulay, will be 
found in the volume of "English Essays" in the Harvard Classics. 

Machiavelli's aim in "The Prince" has been very variously interpreted. 
His motive was probably mainly patriotic; but the exclusion of moral 
considerations in his treatment of politics led, even in his own century, 
to his name's becoming a synonym for all that is diabolical in public and 
private policy. Whatever may be the relation of the methods expounded 
in "The Prince" to his personal ideals, the book remains a most vivid 
and suggestive picture of political conditions in the Italy of the Renais- 

Machiavelli's "Discourses on Livy's Decades" deals on a larger scale 
with many of the topics of "The Prince"; his "Art of War" elaborates 
his views on the military side; and his "History of Florence," his "Life 
of Castruccio Castracani," and his comedy, "Mandragola," are character- 
istic products of an accomplished man of letters who one time was diplo- 
mat and soldier, at another historian, poet, and dramatist. Few men 
represent so thoroughly the extraordinary versatility of that wonderful 

"Of all Machiavelli's writings," says Garnett, " 'The Prince' is the 
most famous, and deservedly, for it is the most characteristic. Few sub- 
jects of literary discussion have occasioned more controversy than the 
purpose of this celebrated book. Some have beheld in it a manual for 
tyrants, like the memoirs of Tiberius, so diligently perused by Domitian; 
others have regarded it as a refined irony upon tyranny, on the sarcastic 
plan of Swift's Directions to Servants, if so humble an analogy be per- 
missible. From various points of view it might alternately pass for either, 



but its purpose is accurately conveyed by neither interpretation. Machia- 
velli was a sincere though too supple a republican, and by no means 
desired the universal prevalence of tyranny throughout Italy. . . . His 
aim probably was to show how to build up a principality capable of 
expelling the foreigner and restoring the independence of Italy. But this 
intention could not be safely expressed, and hence his work seems repul- 
sive, because the reason of state which he propounds as an apology for 
infringing the moral code appears not patriotic, but purely selfish. . . . 
With all his faults and oversights, nothing can deprive Machiavelli of 
the glory of having been the modern Aristotle in politics, the first, or at 
least the first considerable writer who derived a practical philosophy 
from history, and exalted statecraft into science." 

To the Magnificent Lorenzo Di Piero De' Medici 

It is customary for such as seek a Prince's favour, to present themselves 
before him with those things of theirs which they themselves most value, 
or in which they perceive him chiefly to delight. Accordingly, we often 
see horses, armour, cloth of gold, precious stones, and the like costly gifts, 
offered to Princes as worthy of their greatness. Desiring in like manner 
to approach your Magnificence with some token of my devotion, I have 
found among my possessions none that I so much prize and esteem as a 
knowledge of the actions of great men, acquired in the course of a long 
experience of modern affairs and a continual study of antiquity. Which 
knowledge most carefully and patiendy pondered over and sifted by me, 
and now reduced into this little book, I send to your Magnificence. And 
though I deem the work unworthy of your greatness, yet am I bold 
enough to hope that your courtesy will dispose you to accept it, con- 
sidering that I can offer you no better gift than the means of mastering 
in a very brief time, all that in the course of so many years, and at the 
cost of so many hardships and dangers, I have learned, and know. 

This work I have not adorned or amplified with rounded periods, 
swelling and high-flown language, or any other of those extrinsic attrac- 
tions and allurements wherewith many authors are wont to set off and 
grace their writings; since it is my desire that it should either pass wholly 
unhonoured, or that the truth of its matter and the importance of its 
subject should alone recommend it. 

Nor would I have it thought presumption that a person of very mean 
and humble station should venture to discourse and lay down rules con- 
cerning the government of Princes. For as those who make maps of 
countries place themselves low down in the plains to study the character 
of mountains and elevated lands, and place themselves high up on the 
mountains to get a better view of the plains, so in like manner to under- 
stand the People a man should be a Prince, and to have a clear notion 
of Princes he should belong to the People. 

Let your Magnificence, then, accept this little gift in the spirit in which 
I offer it; wherein, if you diligently read and study it, you will recognize 


my extreme desire that you should attain to that eminence which Fortune 
and your own merits promise you. Should you from the height of your 
greatness some time turn your eyes to these humble regions, you will 
become aware how undeservedly I have to endure the keen and unre- 
mitting malignity of Fortune. 


Of the Various Kinds of Princedom, 


A LL the States and Governments by which men are or ever have 
L\ been ruled, have been and are either Republics or Prince- 
A. .m. doms. Princedoms are either hereditary, in which the 
sovereignty is derived through an ancient line of ancestors, or they 
are new. New Princedoms are either wholly new, as that of Milan 
to Francesco Sforza; or they are like limbs joined on to the heredi- 
tary possessions of the Prince who acquires them, as the Kingdom 
of Naples to the dominions of the King of Spain. The States thus 
acquired have either been used to live under a Prince or have been 
free; and he who acquires them does so either by his own arms or 
by the arms of others, and either by good fortune or by merit. 

Of Hereditary Princedoms 

Of Republics I shall not now speak, having elsewhere spoken of 
them at length. Here I shall treat exclusively of Princedoms, and, 
filling in the outline above traced out, shall proceed to examine how 
such States are to be governed and maintained. 

I say, then, that hereditary States, accustomed to the family of 
their Prince, are maintained with far less difficulty than new States, 
since all that is required is that the Prince shall not depart from the 
usages of his ancestors, trusting for the rest to deal with events as 
they arise. So that if an hereditary Prince be of average address, he 
will always maintain himself in his Princedom, unless deprived of 
it by some extraordinary and irresistible force; and even if so de- 
prived will recover it, should any, even the least, mishap overtake the 



usurper. We have in Italy an example of this in the Duke of Fer- 
rara, who never could have withstood the attacks of the Venetians 
in 1484, nor those of Pope Julius in 1510, had not his authority in 
that State been consolidated by time. For since a Prince by birth 
has fewer occasions and less need to give offence, he ought to be 
better loved, and will naturally be popular with his subjects unless 
outrageous vices make him odious. Moreover, the very antiquity 
and continuance of his rule will efface the memories and causes 
which lead to innovation. For one change always leaves a dovetail 
into which another will fit. 

Of Mixed Princedoms 

But in new Princedoms difficulties abound. And, first, if the 
Princedom be not wholly new, but joined on to the ancient domin- 
ions of the Prince, so as to form with them what may be termed a 
mixed Princedom, changes will come from a cause common to all 
new States, namely, that men, thinking to better their condition, 
are always ready to change masters, and in this expectation will 
take up arms against any ruler; wherein they deceive themselves, 
and find afterwards by experience that they are worse off than before. 
This again results naturally and necessarily from the circumstance 
that the Prince cannot avoid giving offence to his new subjects, either 
in respect of the troops he quarters on them, or of some other of the 
numberless vexations attendant on a new acquisition. And in this 
way you may find that you have enemies in all those whom you have 
injured in seizing the Princedom, yet cannot keep the friendship of 
those who helped you to gain it; since you can neither reward them 
as they expect, nor yet, being under obligations to them, use violent 
remedies against them. For however strong you may be in respect 
of your army, it is essential that in entering a new Province you 
should have the good will of its inhabitants. 

Hence it happened that Louis XII of France, speedily gaining 
possession of Milan, as speedily lost it; and that on the occasion of 
its first capture, Lodovico Sforza was able with his own forces only 


to take it from him. For the very people who had opened the gates 
to the French King, when they found themselves deceived in their 
expectations and hopes of future benefits, could not put up with 
the insolence of their new ruler. True it is that when a State rebels 
and is again got under, it will not afterwards be lost so easily. For 
the Prince, using the rebellion as a pretext, will not scruple to secure 
himself by punishing the guilty, bringing the suspected to trial, and 
otherwise strengthening his position in the points where it was weak. 
So that if to recover Milan from the French it was enough on the 
first occasion that a Duke Lodovico should raise alarms on the fron- 
tiers to wrest it from them a second time the whole world had to 
be ranged against them, and their armies destroyed and driven out 
of Italy. And this for the reasons above assigned. And yet, for a 
second time, Milan was lost to the King. The general causes of its 
first loss have been shown. It remains to note the causes of the 
second, and to point out the remedies which the French King had, 
or which might have been used by another in like circumstances to 
maintain his conquest more successfully than he did. 

I say, then, that those States which upon their acquisition are 
joined on to the ancient dominions of the Prince who acquires them, 
are either of the same Province and tongue as the people of these 
dominions, or they are not. When they are, there is a great ease in 
retaining them, especially when they have not been accustomed to 
live in freedom. To hold them securely it is enough to have rooted 
out the line of the reigning Prince; because if in other respects the old 
condition of things be continued, and there be no discordance in 
their customs, men live peaceably with one another, as we see to 
have been the case in Brittany, Burgundy, Gascony, and Normandy, 
which have so long been united to France. For although there be 
some slight difference in their languages, their customs are similar, 
and they can easily get on together. He, therefore, who acquires 
such a State, if he mean to keep it, must see to two things; first, that 
the blood of the ancient line of Princes be destroyed; second, that no 
change be made in respect of laws or taxes; for in this way the 
newly acquired State speedily becomes incorporated with the heredi- 

But when States are acquired in a country differing in language, 


usages, and laws, difficulties multiply, and great good fortune, as 
well as address, is needed to overcome them. One of the best and 
most efficacious methods for dealing with such a State, is for the 
Prince who acquires it to go and dwell there in person, since this 
will tend to make his tenure more secure and lasting. This course 
has been followed by the Turk with regard to Greece, who, had he 
not, in addition to all his other precautions for securing that Prov- 
ince, himself come to live in it, could never have kept his hold of it. 
For when you are on the spot, disorders are detected in their begin- 
nings and remedies can be readily applied; but when you are at a dis- 
tance, they are not heard of until they have gathered strength and 
the case is past cure. Moreover, the Province in which you take up 
your abode is not pillaged by your officers; the people are pleased 
to have a ready recourse to their Prince; and have all the more reason 
if they are well disposed, to love, if disaffected, to fear him. A 
foreign enemy desiring to attack that State would be cautious how 
he did so. In short, where the Prince resides in person, it will be 
extremely difficult to oust him. 

Another excellent expedient is to send colonies into one or two 
places, so that these may become, as it were, the keys of the Prov- 
ince; for you must either do this, or else keep up a numerous force 
of men-at-arms and foot soldiers. A Prince need not spend much on 
colonies. He can send them out and support them at little or no 
charge to himself, and the only persons to whom he gives offence are 
those whom he deprives of their fields and houses to bestow them on 
the new inhabitants. Those who are thus injured form but a small 
part of the community, and remaining scattered and poor can never 
become dangerous. All others being left unmolested, are in conse- 
quence easily quieted, and at the same time are afraid to make a 
false move, lest they share the fate of those who have been deprived 
of their possessions. In few words, these colonies cost less than sol- 
diers, are more faithful, and give less offence, while those who are 
offended, being, as I have said, poor and dispersed, cannot hurt. And 
let it here be noted that men are either to be kindly treated, or utterly 
crushed, since they can revenge lighter injuries, but not graver. 
Wherefore the injury we do to a man should be of a sort to leave no 
fear of reprisals. 


But if instead of colonies you send troops, the cost is vastly greater, 
and the whole revenues of the country are spent in guarding it; so 
that the gain becomes a loss, and much deeper offence is given; since 
in shifting the quarters of your soldiers from place to place the whole 
country suffers hardship, which as all feel, all are made enemies; 
and enemies who remaining, although vanquished, in their own 
homes, have power to hurt. In every way, therefore, this mode of 
defence is as disadvantageous as that by colonizing is useful. 

The Prince who establishes himself in a Province whose laws and 
language differ from those of his own people, ought also to make 
himself the head and protector of his feebler neighbours, and en- 
deavour to weaken the stronger, and must see that by no accident 
shall any other stranger as powerful as himself find an entrance 
there. For it will always happen that some such person will be called 
in by those of the Province who are discontented either through 
ambition or fear; as we see of old the Romans brought into Greece 
by the Aetolians, and in every other country that they entered, in- 
vited there by its inhabitants. And the usual course of things is that 
so soon as a formidable stranger enters a Province, all the weaker 
powers side with him, moved thereto by the ill-will they bear towards 
him who has hitherto kept them in subjection. So that in respect of 
these lesser powers, no trouble is needed to gain them over, for at 
once, together, and of their own accord, they throw in their lot 
with the government of the stranger. The new Prince, therefore, 
has only to see that they do not increase too much in strength, and 
with his own forces, aided by their good will, can easily subdue any 
who are powerful, so as to remain supreme in the Province. He 
who does not manage this matter well, will soon lose whatever he 
has gained, and while he retains it will find in it endless troubles 
and annoyances. 

In dealing with the countries of which they took possession the 
Romans diligently followed the methods I have described. They 
planted colonies, conciliated weaker powers without adding to their 
strength, humbled the great, and never suffered a formidable 
stranger to acquire influence. A single example will suffice to show 
this. In Greece the Romans took the Achaians and Aetolians into 
their pay; the Macedonian monarchy was humbled; Antiochus was 


driven out. But the services of the Achaians and Aetolians never 
obtained for them any addition to their power; no persuasions on 
the part of Philip could induce the Romans to be his friends on 
the condition of sparing him humiliation; nor could all the power 
of Antiochus bring them to consent to his exercising any authority 
within that Province. And in thus acting the Romans did as all 
wise rulers should, who have to consider not only present difficul- 
ties but also future, against which they must use all diligence to 
provide; for these, if they be foreseen while yet remote, admit of 
easy remedy, but if their approach be awaited, are already past cure, 
the disorder having become hopeless; realizing what the physicians 
tell us of hectic fever, that in its beginning it is easy to cure, but hard 
to recognize; whereas, after a time, not having been detected and 
treated at the first, it becomes easy to recognize but impossible 
to cure. 

And so it is with State affairs. For the distempers of a State being 
discovered while yet inchoate, which can only be done by a saga- 
cious ruler, may easily be dealt with; but when, from not being 
observed, they are suffered to grow until they are obvious to every 
one, there is no longer any remedy. The Romans, therefore, fore- 
seeing evils while they were yet far off, always provided against 
them, and never suffered them to take their course for the sake of 
avoiding war; since they knew that war is not so to be avoided, but 
is only postponed to the advantage of the other side. They chose, 
therefore, to make war with Philip and Antiochus in Greece, that 
they might not have to make it with them in Italy, although for a 
while they might have escaped both. This they did not desire, nor 
did the maxim leave it to Time, which the wise men of our own day 
have always on their lips, ever recommend itself to them. What they 
looked to enjoy were the fruits of their own valour and foresight. 
For Time, driving all things before it, may bring with it evil as well 
as good. 

But let us now go back to France and examine whether she has 
followed any of those methods of which I have made mention. I 
shall speak of Louis and not of Charles, because from the former 
having held longer possession of Italy, his manner of acting is more 


plainly seen. You will find, then, that he has done the direct oppo- 
site o£ what he should have done in order to retain a foreign State. 

King Louis was brought into Italy by the ambition of the Vene- 
tians, who hoped by his coming to gain for themselves a half of 
the State of Lombardy. I will not blame this coming, nor the part 
taken by the King, because, desiring to gain a footing in Italy, where 
he had no friends, but on the contrary, owing to the conduct of 
Charles, every door was shut against him, he was driven to accept 
such friendships as he could get. And his designs might easily 
have succeeded had he not made mistakes in other particulars of 

By the recovery of Lombardy, Louis at once regained the credit 
which Charles had lost. Genoa made submission; the Florentines 
came to terms; the Marquis of Mantua, the Duke of Ferrara, the 
Bentivogli, the Countess of Forli, the Lords of Faenza, Pesaro, 
Rimini, Camerino, and Piombino, the citizens of Lucca, Pisa, and 
Siena, all came forward offering their friendship. The Venetians, 
who to obtain possession of a couple of towns in Lombardy had 
made the French King master of two-thirds of Italy, had now cause 
to repent the rash game they had played. 

Let any one, therefore, consider how easily King Louis might have 
maintained his authority in Italy had he observed the rules which I 
have noted above, and secured and protected all those friends of his, 
who being weak, and fearful, some of the Church, some of the 
Venetians, were of necessity obliged to attach themselves to him, and 
with whose assistance, for they were many, he might readily have 
made himself safe against any other powerful State. But no sooner 
was he in Milan than he took a contrary course, in helping Pope 
Alexander to occupy Romagna; not perceiving that in seconding 
this enterprise he weakened himself by alienating friends and those 
who had thrown themselves into his arms, while he strengthened 
the Church by adding great temporal power to the spiritual power 
which of itself confers so mighty an authority. Making this first mis- 
take, he was forced to follow it up, until at last, in order to curb the 
ambition of Pope Alexander, and prevent him becoming master of 
Tuscany, he was obliged to come himself into Italy. 


And as though it were not enough for him to have aggrandized 
the Church and stripped himself of friends, he must needs in his 
desire to possess the Kingdom of Naples, divide it with the King of 
Spain; thus bringing into Italy, where before he had been supreme, 
a rival to whom the ambitious and discontented in that Province 
might have recourse. And whereas he might have left in Naples a 
King willing to hold as his tributary, he displaced him to make way 
for another strong enough to effect his expulsion. The wish to 
acquire is no doubt a natural and common sentiment, and when 
men attempt things within their power, they will always be praised 
rather than blamed. But when they persist in attempts that are 
beyond their power, mishaps and blame ensue. If France, therefore, 
with her own forces could have attacked Naples, she should have 
done so. If she could not, she ought not to have divided it. And 
if her partition of Lombardy with the Venetians may be excused 
as the means whereby a footing was gained in Italy, this other par- 
tition is to be condemned as not justified by the like necessity. 

Louis, then, had made these five blunders. He had destroyed 
weaker States, he had strengthened a Prince already strong, he had 
brought into the country a. very powerful stranger, he had not come 
to reside, and he had not sent colonies. And yet all these blunders 
might not have proved disastrous to him while he lived, had he not 
added to them a sixth in depriving the Venetians of their domin- 
ions. For had he neither aggrandized the Church, nor brought Spain 
into Italy, it might have been at once reasonable and necessary to 
humble the Venetians; but after committing himself to these other 
courses, he should never have consented to the ruin of Venice. For 
while the Venetians were powerful they would always have kept 
others back from an attempt on Lombardy, as well because they 
never would have agreed to that enterprise on any terms save of 
themselves being made its masters, as because others would never 
have desired to take it from France in order to hand it over to them, 
nor would ever have ventured to defy both. And if it be said that 
King Louis ceded Romagna to Alexander, and Naples to Spain in 
order to avoid war, I answer that for the reasons already given, you 
ought never to suffer your designs to be crossed in order to avoid war, 
since war is not so to be avoided, but is only deferred to your dis- 


advantage. And if others should allege the King's promise to the 
Pope to undertake that enterprise on his behalf, in return for the dis- 
solution of his marriage, and for the Cardinal's hat conferred on 
d'Amboise, I answer by referring to what I say further on concerning 
the faith of Princes and how it is to be kept. 

King Louis, therefore, lost Lombardy from not following any one 
of the methods pursued by others who have taken Provinces with 
the resolve to keep them. Nor is this anything strange, but only 
what might reasonably and naturally be looked for. And on this 
very subject I spoke to d'Amboise at Nantes, at the time when Duke 
Valentino, as Cesare Borgia, son to Pope Alexander, was vulgarly 
called, was occupying Romagna. For, on the Cardinal saying to me 
that the Italians did not understand war, I answered that the French 
did not understand statecraft, for had they done so, they never would 
have allowed the Church to grow so powerful. And the event shows 
that the aggrandizement of the Church and of Spain in Italy has 
been brought about by France, and that the ruin of France has been 
wrought by them. Whence we may draw the general axiom, which 
never or rarely errs, that he who is the cause of another's greatness 
is himself undone, since he must work either by address or force, 
each of which excites distrust in the person raised to power. 


Why the Kingdom of Darius, Conquered by Alexander, Did Not, 
on Alexander's Death, Rebel Against His Successors 

Alexander the Great having achieved the conquest of Asia in a 
few years, and dying before he had well entered on possession, it 
might have been expected, having regard to the difficulty of preserv- 
ing newly acquired States, that on his death the whole country would 
rise in revolt. Nevertheless, his successors were able to keep their 
hold, and found in doing so no other difficulty than arose from their 
own ambition and mutual jealousies. 

If any one think this strange and ask the cause, I answer, that all 
the Princedoms of which we have record have been governed in one 
or other of two ways, either by a sole Prince, all others being his 
servants permitted by his grace and favour to assist in governing 


the kingdom as his ministers; or else, by a Prince with his Barons 
who hold their rank, not by the favour of a superior Lord, but by 
antiquity of blood, and who have States and subjects of their own 
who recognize them as their rulers and entertain for them a natural 
affection. States governed by a sole Prince and by his servants vest 
in him a more complete authority; because throughout the land none 
but he is recognized as sovereign, and if obedience be yielded to any 
others, it is yielded as to his ministers and officers for whom per- 
sonally no special love is felt. 

Of these two forms of government we have examples in our own 
days in the Turk and the King of France. The whole Turkish em- 
pire is governed by a sole Prince, all others being his slaves. Divid- 
ing his kingdom into sandja\s, he sends thither different governors 
whom he shifts and changes at his pleasure. The King of France, 
on the other hand, is surrounded by a multitude of nobles of ancient 
descent, each acknowledged and loved by subjects of his own, and 
each asserting a precedence in rank of which the King can deprive 
him only at his peril. 

He, therefore, who considers the different character of these two 
States, will perceive that it would be difficult to gain possession of 
that of the Turk, but that once won it might be easily held. The 
obstacles to its conquest are that the invader cannot be called in by 
a native nobility, nor expect his enterprise to be aided by the defec- 
tion of those whom the sovereign has around him. And this for the 
various reasons already given, namely, that all being slaves and 
under obligations they are not easily corrupted, or if corrupted can 
render little assistance, being unable, as I have already explained, to 
carry the people with them. Whoever, therefore, attacks the Turk 
must reckon on finding a united people, and must trust rather to 
his own strength than to divisions on the other side. But were his 
adversary once overcome and defeated in the field, so that he could 
not repair his armies, no cause for anxiety would remain, except 
in the family of the Prince; which being extirpated, there would be 
none else to fear; for since all beside are without credit with the 
people, the invader, as before his victory he had nothing to hope 
from them, so after it has nothing to dread. 

But the contrary is the case in kingdoms governed like that of 


France, into which, because men who are discontented and desirous 
of change are always to be found, you may readily procure an en- 
trance by gaining over some Baron of the Realm. Such persons, for 
the reasons already given, are able to open the way to you for the 
invasion of their country and to render its conquest easy. But after- 
wards the effort to hold your ground involves you in endless diffi- 
culties, as well in respect of those who have helped you, as of those 
whom you have overthrown. Nor will it be enough to have de- 
stroyed the family of the Prince, since all those other Lords remain 
to put themselves at the head of new movements; whom being un- 
able either to content or to destroy, you lose the State whenever occa- 
sion serves them. 

Now, if you examine the nature of the government of Darius, you 
will find that it resembled that of the Turk, and, consequently, that 
it was necessary for Alexander, first of all, to defeat him utterly and 
strip him of his dominions; after which defeat, Darius having died, 
the country, for the causes above explained, was permanently secured 
to Alexander. And had his successors continued united they might 
have enjoyed it undisturbed, since there arose no disorders in that 
kingdom save those of their own creating. 

But kingdoms ordered like that of France cannot be retained with 
the same ease. Hence the repeated risings of Spain, Gaul, and Greece 
against the Romans, resulting from the number of small Prince- 
doms of which these Provinces were made up. For while the mem- 
ory of these lasted, the Romans could never think their tenure safe. 
But when that memory was worn out by the authority and long 
continuance of their rule, they gained a secure hold, and were able 
afterwards in their contests among themselves, each to carry with 
him some portion of these Provinces, according as each had acquired 
influence there; for these, on the extinction of the line of their old 
Princes, came to recognize no other Lords than the Romans. 

Bearing all this in mind, no one need wonder at the ease where- 
with Alexander was able to lay a firm hold on Asia, nor that Pyrrhus 
and many others found difficulty in preserving other acquisitions; 
since this arose, not from the less or greater merit of the conquerors, 
but from the different character of the States with which they had 
to deal. 



How Cities or Provinces Which Before Their Acquisition Have 
Lived Under Their Own Laws Are To Be Governed 

When a newly acquired State has been accustomed, as I have said, 
to live under its own laws and in freedom, there are three methods 
whereby it may be held. The first is to destroy it; the second, to go 
and reside there in person; the third, to suffer it to live on under 
its own laws, subjecting it to a tribute, and entrusting its govern- 
ment to a few of the inhabitants who will keep the rest your friends. 
Such a Government, since it is the creature of the new Prince, will 
see that it cannot stand without his protection and support, and must 
therefore do all it can to maintain him; and a city accustomed to 
live in freedom, if it is to be preserved at all, is more easily controlled 
through its own citizens than in any other way. 

We have examples of all these methods in the histories of the 
Spartans and the Romans. The Spartans held Athens and Thebes 
by creating oligarchies in these cities, yet lost them in the end. The 
Romans, to retain Capua, Carthage, and Numantia, destroyed them 
and never lost them. On the other hand, when they thought to hold 
Greece as the Spartans had held it, leaving it its freedom and al- 
lowing it to be governed by its own laws, they failed, and had to 
destroy many cities of that Province before they could secure it. For, 
in truth, there is no sure way of holding other than by destroying, 
and whoever becomes master of a City accustomed to live in free- 
dom and does not destroy it, may reckon on being destroyed by it. 
For if it should rebel, it can always screen itself under the name of 
liberty and its ancient laws, which no length of time, nor any bene- 
fits conferred will ever cause it to forget; and do what you will, and 
take what care you may, unless the inhabitants be scattered and dis- 
persed, this name, and the old order of things, will never cease to 
be remembered, but will at once be turned against you whenever 
misfortune overtakes you, as when Pisa rose against the Florentines 
after a hundred years of servitude. 

If, however, the newly acquired City or Province has been accus- 
tomed to live under a Prince, and his line is extinguished, it will be 


impossible for the citizens, used, on the one hand, to obey, and 
deprived, on the other, of their old ruler, to agree to choose a leader 
from among themselves; and as they know not how to live as free- 
men, and are therefore slow to take up arms, a stranger may readily 
gain them over and attach them to his cause. But in Republics there 
is a stronger vitality, a fiercer hatred, a keener thirst for revenge. 
The memory of their former freedom will not let them rest; so 
that the safest course is either to destroy them, or to go and live in 


Of New Princedoms Which a Prince Acquires With His Own 
Arms and by Merit 

Let no man marvel if in what I am about to say concerning 
Princedoms wholly new, both as regards the Prince and the form 
of Government, I cite the highest examples. For since men for the 
most part follow in the footsteps and imitate the actions of others, 
and yet are unable to adhere exactly to those paths which others 
have taken, or attain to the virtues of those whom they would re- 
semble, the wise man should always follow the roads that have been 
trodden by the great, and imitate those who have most excelled, so 
that if he cannot reach their perfection, he may at least acquire some- 
thing of its savour. Acting in this like the skilful archer, who seeing 
that the object he would hit is distant, and knowing the range of his 
bow, takes aim much above the destined mark; not designing that 
his arrow should strike so high, but that flying high it may alight 
at the point intended. 

I say, then, that in entirely new Princedoms where the Prince him- 
self is new, the difficulty of maintaining possession varies with the 
greater or less ability of him who acquires possession. And, because 
the mere fact of a private person rising to be a Prince presupposes 
either merit or good fortune, it will be seen that the presence of one 
or other of these two conditions lessens, to some extent, many difficul- 
ties. And yet, he who is less beholden to Fortune has often in the 
end the better success; and it may be for the advantage of a Prince 
that, from his having no other territories, he is obliged to reside in 
person in the State which he has acquired. 


Looking first to those who have become Princes by their merit and 
not by their good fortune, I say that the most excellent among 
them are Moses, Cyrus, Romulus, Theseus, and the like. And 
though perhaps I ought not to name Moses, he being merely an in- 
strument for carrying out the Divine commands, he is still to be 
admired for those qualities which made him worthy to converse 
with God. But if we consider Cyrus and the others who have ac- 
quired or founded kingdoms, they will all be seen to be admirable. 
And if their actions and the particular institutions of which they 
were the authors be studied, they will be found not to differ from 
those of Moses, instructed though he was by so great a teacher. 
Moreover, on examining their lives and actions, we shall see that 
they were debtors to Fortune for nothing beyond the opportunity 
which enabled them to shape things as they pleased, without which 
the force of their spirit would have been spent in vain; as on the 
other hand, opportunity would have offered itself in vain, had the 
capacity for turning it to account been wanting. It was necessary, 
therefore, that Moses should find the children of Israel in bondage 
in Egypt, and oppressed by the Egyptians, in order that they might 
be disposed to follow him, and so escape from their servitude. It was 
fortunate for Romulus that he found no home in Alba, but was 
exposed at the time of his birth, to the end that he might become 
king and founder of the City of Rome. It was necessary that Cyrus 
should find the Persians discontented with the rule of the Medes, 
and the Medes enervated and effeminate from a prolonged peace. 
Nor could Theseus have displayed his great qualities had he not 
found the Athenians disunited and dispersed. But while it was 
their opportunities that made these men fortunate, it was their own 
merit that enabled them to recognize these opportunities and turn 
them to account, to the glory and prosperity of their country. 

They who come to the Princedom, as these did, by virtuous paths, 
acquire with difficulty, but keep with ease. The difficulties which 
they have in acquiring arise mainly from the new laws and institu- 
tions which they are forced to introduce in founding and securing 
their government. And let it be noted that there is no more deli- 
cate matter to take in hand, nor more dangerous to conduct, nor 
more doubtful in its success, than to set up as a leader in the intro- 


duction of changes. For he who innovates will have for his enemies 
all those who are well off under the existing order of things, and 
only lukewarm supporters in those who might be better off under 
the new. This lukewarm temper arises partly from the fear of ad- 
versaries who have the laws on their side, and partly from the 
incredulity of mankind, who will never admit the merit of anything 
new, until they have seen it proved by the event. The result, how- 
ever, is that whenever the enemies of change make an attack, they 
do so with all the zeal of partisans, while the others defend them- 
selves so feebly as to endanger both themselves and their cause. 

But to get a clearer understanding of this part of our subject, we 
must look whether these innovators can stand alone, or whether they 
depend for aid upon others; in other words, whether to carry out 
their ends they must resort to entreaty, or can prevail by force. In 
the former case they always fare badly and bring nothing to a suc- 
cessful issue; but when they depend upon their own resources and 
can employ force, they seldom fail. Hence it comes that all armed 
Prophets have been victorious, and all unarmed Prophets have been 

For, besides what has been said, it should be borne in mind that 
the temper of the multitude is fickle, and that while it is easy to per- 
suade them of a thing, it is hard to fix them in that persuasion. 
Wherefore, matters should be so ordered that when men no longer 
believe of their own accord, they may be compelled to believe by 
force. Moses, Cyrus, Theseus, and Romulus could never have made 
their ordinances be observed for any length of time had they been 
unarmed, as was the case, in our own days, with the Friar Girolamo 
Savonarola, whose new institutions came to nothing so soon as the 
multitude began to waver in their faith; since he had not the means 
to keep those who had been believers steadfast in their belief, or to 
make unbelievers believe. 

Such persons, therefore, have great difficulty in carrying out their 
designs; but all their difficulties are on the road, and may be over- 
come by courage. Having conquered these, and coming to be held in 
reverence, and having destroyed all who were jealous of their influ- 
ence, they remain powerful, safe, honoured, and prosperous. 

To the great examples cited above, I would add one other, of less 


note indeed, but assuredly bearing some proportion to them, and 
which may stand for all others of a like character. I mean the exam- 
ple of Hiero the Syracusan. He from a private station rose to be 
Prince of Syracuse, and he too was indebted to Fortune only for his 
opportunity. For the Syracusans being oppressed, chose him to be 
their Captain, which office he so discharged as deservedly to be made 
their King. For even while a private citizen his merit was so 
remarkable, that one who writes of him says, he lacked nothing 
that a King should have save the Kingdom. Doing away with the 
old army, he organized a new, abandoned existing alliances and 
assumed new allies, and with an army and allies of his own, was 
able on that foundation to build what superstructure he pleased; 
having trouble enough in acquiring, but none in preserving what he 
had acquired. 


Of New Princedoms acquired By the Aid of Others and By 
Good Fortune 

They who from a private station become Princes by mere good 
fortune, do so with little trouble, but have much trouble to main- 
tain themselves. They meet with no hindrance on their way, being 
carried as it were on wings to their destination, but all their diffi- 
culties overtake them when they alight. Of this class are those on 
whom States are conferred either in return for money, or through 
the favour of him who confers them ; as it happened to many in the 
Greek cities of Ionia and the Hellespont to be made Princes by 
Darius, that they might hold these cities for his security and glory; 
and as happened in the case of those Emperors who, from privacy, 
attained the Imperial dignity by corrupting the army. Such Princes 
are wholly dependent on the favour and fortunes of those who have 
made them great, than which supports none could be less stable or 
secure; and they lack both the knowledge and the power that would 
enable them to maintain their position. They lack the knowledge, 
because unless they have great parts and force of character, it is not to 
be expected that having always lived in a private station they should 


have learned how to command. They lack the power, since they 
cannot look for support from attached and faithful troops. More- 
over, States suddenly acquired, like all else that is produced and that 
grows up rapidly, can never have such root or hold as that the first 
storm which strikes them shall not overthrow them; unless, indeed, 
as I have said already, they who thus suddenly become Princes have 
a capacity for learning quickly how to defend what Fortune has 
placed in their lap, and can lay those foundations after they rise 
which by others are laid before. 

Of each of these methods of becoming a Prince, namely, by merit 
and by good fortune, I shall select an instance from times within my 
own recollection, and shall take the cases of Francesco Sforza and 
Cesare Borgia. By suitable measures and singular ability, Francesco 
Sforza rose from privacy to be Duke of Milan, preserving with little 
trouble what it cost him infinite efforts to gain. On the other hand, 
Cesare Borgia, vulgarly spoken of as Duke Valentino, obtained his 
Princedom through the favourable fortunes of his father, and with 
these lost it, although, so far as in him lay, he used every effort and 
practised every expedient that a prudent and able man should, who 
desires to strike root in a State given him by the arms and fortune 
of another. For, as I have already said, he who does not lay his 
foundations at first, may, if he be of great parts, succeed in laying 
them afterwards, though with inconvenience to the builder and risk 
to the building. And if we consider the various measures taken by 
Duke Valentino, we shall perceive how broad were the foundations 
he had laid whereon to rest his future power. 

These I think it not superfluous to examine, since I know not what 
lessons I could teach a new Prince, more useful than the example 
of his actions. And if the measures taken by him did not profit him 
in the end, it was through no fault of his, but from the extraordinary 
and extreme malignity of Fortune. 

In his efforts to aggrandize the Duke his son, Alexander VI had 
to face many difficulties, both immediate and remote. In the first 
place, he saw no way to make him Lord of any State which was not 
a State of the Church, while, if he sought to take for him a State 
belonging to the Church, he knew that the Duke of Milan and the 
Venetians would withhold their consent; Faenza and Rimini being 


already under the protection of the latter. Further, he saw that the 
arms of Italy, and those more especially of which he might have 
availed himself, were in the hands of men who had reason to fear 
his aggrandizement, that is, of the Orsini, the Colonnesi, and their 
followers. These therefore he could not trust. It was consequently 
necessary that the existing order of things should be changed, and the 
States of Italy thrown into confusion, in order that he might safely 
make himself master of some part of them; and this became easy 
for him when he found that the Venetians, moved by other causes, 
were plotting to bring the French once more into Italy. This design 
he accordingly did not oppose, but furthered by annulling the first 
marriage of the French King. 

King Louis therefore came into Italy at the instance of the Vene- 
tians, and with the consent of Pope Alexander, and no sooner was 
he in Milan than the Pope got troops from him to aid him in his 
enterprise against Romagna, which Province, moved by the reputa- 
tion of the French arms, at once submitted. After thus obtaining 
possession of Romagna, and after quelling the Colonnesi, Duke 
Valentino was desirous to follow up and extend his conquests. Two 
causes, however, held him back, namely, the doubtful fidelity of 
his own forces, and the waywardness of France. For he feared that 
the Orsini, of whose arms he had made use, might fail him, and 
not merely prove a hindrance to further acquisitions, but take from 
him what he had gained, and that the King might serve him the 
same turn. How little he could count on the Orsini was made plain 
when, after the capture of Faenza, he turned his arms against 
Bologna, and saw how reluctantly they took part in that enterprise. 
The King's mind he understood, when, after seizing on the Duke- 
dom of Urbino, he was about to attack Tuscany; from which design 
Louis compelled him to desist. Whereupon the Duke resolved to 
depend no longer on the arms or fortune of others. His first step, 
therefore, was to weaken the factions of the Orsini and Colonnesi in 
Rome. Those of their following who were of good birth, he gained 
over by making them his own gentlemen, assigning them a liberal 
provision, and conferring upon them commands and appointments 
suited to their rank; so that in a few months their old partisan 
attachments died out, and the hopes of all rested on the Duke alone. 


He then awaited an occasion to crush the chiefs of the Orsini, for 
those of the house of Colonna he had already scattered, and a good 
opportunity presenting itself, he turned it to the best account. For 
when the Orsini came at last to see that the greatness of the Duke 
and the Church involved their ruin, they assembled a council at 
Magione in the Perugian territory, whence resulted the revolt of 
Urbino, commotions in Romagna, and an infinity of dangers to the 
Duke, all of which he overcame with the help of France. His credit 
thus restored, the Duke trusting no longer either to the French or 
to any other foreign aid, that he might not have to confront them 
openly, resorted to stratagem, and was so well able to dissemble his 
designs, that the Orsini, through the mediation of Signor Paolo 
(whom he failed not to secure by every friendly attention, furnish- 
ing him with clothes, money, and horses), were so won over as to be 
drawn in their simplicity into his hands at Sinigaglia. When the 
leaders were thus disposed of, and their followers made his friends, 
the Duke had laid sufficiently good foundations for his future power, 
since he held all Romagna together with the Dukedom of Urbino, 
and had ingratiated himself with the entire population of these 
States, who now began to see that they were well off. 

And since this part of his conduct merits both attention and 
imitation, I shall not pass it over in silence. After the Duke had 
taken Romagna, finding that it had been ruled by feeble Lords, who 
thought more of plundering than correcting their subjects, and gave 
them more cause for division than for union, so that the country 
was overrun with robbery, tumult, and every kind of outrage, he 
judged it necessary, with a view to render it peaceful and obedient 
to his authority, to provide it with a good government. Accordingly 
he set over it Messer Remiro d'Orco, a stern and prompt ruler, who 
being entrusted with the fullest powers, in a very short time, and 
with much credit to himself, restored it to tranquillity and order. 
But afterwards apprehending that such unlimited authority might 
become odious, the Duke decided that it was no longer needed, and 
established in the centre of the Province a civil Tribunal, with an 
excellent President, in which every town was represented by its 
advocate. And knowing that past severities had generated ill-feeling 
against himself, in order to purge the minds of the people and gain 


their good-will, he sought to show them that any cruelty which had 
been done had not originated with him, but in the harsh disposition 
of his minister. Availing himself of the pretext which this afforded, 
he one morning caused Remiro to be beheaded, and exposed in the 
market place of Cesena with a block and bloody axe by his side. 
The barbarity of which spectacle at once astounded and satisfied the 

But, returning to the point whence we diverged, I say that the 
Duke, finding himself fairly strong and in a measure secured against 
present dangers, being furnished with arms of his own choosing and 
having to a great extent got rid of those which, if left near him, 
might have caused him trouble, had to consider, if he desired to 
follow up his conquests, how he was to deal with France, since he 
saw he could expect no further support from King Louis, whose 
eyes were at last opened to his mistake. He therefore began to look 
about for new alliances, and to waver in his adherence to the French, 
then occupied with their expedition into the kingdom of Naples 
against the Spaniards, at that time laying siege to Gaeta; his object 
being to secure himself against France; and in this he would soon 
have succeeded had Alexander lived. 

Such was the line he took to meet present exigencies. As regards 
the future, he had to apprehend that a new Head of the Church 
might not be his friend, and might even seek to deprive him of 
what Alexander had given. This he thought to provide against in 
four ways. First, by exterminating all who were of kin to those 
Lords whom he had despoiled of their possessions, that they might 
not become instruments in the hands of a new Pope. Second, by 
gaining over all the Roman nobles, so as to be able with their help 
to put a bridle, as the saying is, in the Pope's mouth. Third, by 
bringing the College of Cardinals, so far as he could, under his con- 
trol. And fourth, by establishing his authority so firmly before his 
father's death, as to be able by himself to withstand the shock of a 
first onset. 

Of these measures, at the time when Alexander died, he had 
already effected three, and had almost carried out the fourth. For of 
the Lords whose possessions he had usurped, he had put to death 
all whom he could reach, and very few had escaped. He had gained 


over the Roman nobility, and had the majority in the College of 
Cardinals on his side. 

As to further acquisitions, his design was to make himself master 
of Tuscany. He was already in possession of Perugia and Piombino, 
and had assumed the protectorship of Pisa, on which city he was 
about to spring; taking no heed of France, as indeed he no longer 
had occasion, since the French had been deprived of the kingdom 
of Naples by the Spaniards under circumstances which made it 
necessary for both nations to buy his friendship. Pisa taken, Lucca 
and Siena would soon have yielded, partly through jealousy of 
Florence, partly through fear, and the position of the Florentines 
must then have been desperate. 

Had he therefore succeeded in these designs, as he was succeeding 
in that very year in which Alexander died, he would have won such 
power and reputation that he might afterwards have stood alone, 
relying on his own strength and resources, without being beholden 
to the power and fortune of others. But Alexander died five years 
from the time he first unsheathed the sword, leaving his son with 
the State of Romagna alone consolidated, with all the rest unsettled, 
between two powerful hostile armies, and sick almost to death. And 
yet such were the fire and courage of the Duke, he knew so well 
how men must either be conciliated or crushed, and so solid were 
the foundations he had laid in that brief period, that had these 
armies not been upon his back, or had he been in sound health, he 
must have surmounted every difficulty. 

How strong his foundations were may be seen from this, that 
Romagna waited for him for more than a month; and that although 
half dead, he remained in safety in Rome, where though the Bag- 
lioni, the Vitelli, and the Orsini came to attack him, they met with 
no success. Moreover, since he was able if not to make whom he 
liked Pope, at least to prevent the election of any whom he disliked, 
had he been in health at the time when Alexander died, all would 
have been easy for him. But he told me himself on the day on 
which Julius II was created, that he had foreseen and provided for 
everything else that could happen on his father's death, but had 
never anticipated that when his father died he too should be at 


Taking all these actions of the Duke together, I can find no fault 
with him; nay, it seems to me reasonable to put him forward, as I 
have done, as a pattern for all such as rise to power by good fortune 
and the help of others. For with his great spirit and high aims he 
could not act otherwise than he did, and nothing but the shortness 
of his father's life and his own illness prevented the success of his 
designs. Whoever, therefore, on entering a new Princedom, judges 
it necessary to rid himself of enemies, to conciliate friends, to pre- 
vail by force or fraud, to make himself feared yet not hated by his 
subjects, respected and obeyed by his soldiers, to crush those who 
can or ought to injure him, to introduce changes in the old order of 
things, to be at once severe and affable, magnanimous and liberal, to 
do away with a mutinous army and create a new one, to maintain 
relations with Kings and Princes on such a footing that they must 
see it for their interest to aid him, and dangerous to offend, can find 
no brighter example than in the actions of this Prince. 

The one thing for which he may be blamed was the creation of 
Pope Julius II, in respect of whom he chose badly. Because, as I 
have said already, though he could not secure the election he desired, 
he could have prevented any other; and he ought never to have 
consented to the creation of any one of those Cardinals whom he 
had injured, or who on becoming Pope would have reason to fear 
him; for fear is as dangerous an enemy as resentment. Those whom 
he had offended were, among others, San Pietro ad Vincula, Colonna, 
San Giorgio, and Ascanio; all the rest, excepting d'Amboise and 
the Spanish Cardinals (the latter from their connexion and obli- 
gations, the former from the power he derived through his relations 
with the French Court), would on assuming the Pontificate have 
had reason to fear him. The Duke, therefore, ought, in the first 
place, to have laboured for the creation of a Spanish Pope; failing 
in which, he should have agreed to the election of d'Amboise, but 
never to that of San Pietro ad Vincula. And he deceives himself who 
believes that with the great, recent benefits cause old wrongs to be 

The Duke, therefore, erred in the part he took in this election; and 
his error was the cause of his ultimate downfall. 


Of Those Who By Their Crimes Come to Be Princes 

But since from privacy a man may also rise to be a Prince in one 
or other of two ways, neither of which can be referred wholly either 
to merit or to fortune, it is fit that I notice them here, though one 
of them may fall to be discussed more fully in treating of Republics. 

The ways I speak of are, first, when the ascent to power is made 
by paths of wickedness and crime; and second, when a private person 
becomes ruler of his country by the favour of his fellow-citizens. 
The former method I shall make clear by two examples, one ancient, 
the other modern, without entering further into the merits of the 
matter, for these, I think, should be enough for any one who is 
driven to follow them. 

Agathocles the Sicilian came, not merely from a private station, 
but from the very dregs of the people, to be King of Syracuse. Son 
of a potter, through all the stages of his fortunes he led a foul life. 
His vices, however, were conjoined with so great vigour both of 
mind and body, that becoming a soldier, he rose through the various 
grades of the service to be Praetor of Syracuse. Once established in 
that post, he resolved to make himself Prince, and to hold by vio- 
lence and without obligation to others the authority which had been 
spontaneously entrusted to him. Accordingly, after imparting his 
design to Hamilcar, who with the Carthaginian armies was at that 
time waging war in Sicily, he one morning assembled the people 
and senate of Syracuse as though to consult with them on matters 
of public moment, and on a preconcerted signal caused his soldiers 
to put to death all the senators, and the wealthiest of the commons. 
These being thus got rid of, he assumed and retained possession of 
the sovereignty without opposition on the part of the people; and 
although twice defeated by the Carthaginians, and afterwards 
besieged, he was able not only to defend his city, but leaving a part 
of his forces for its protection, to invade Africa with the remainder, 
and so in a short time to raise the siege of Syracuse, reducing the 
Carthaginians to the utmost extremities, and compelling them to 


make terms whereby they abandoned Sicily to him and confined 
themselves to Africa. 

Whoever examines this man's actions and achievements will dis- 
cover little or nothing in them which can be ascribed to Fortune, 
seeing, as has already been said, that it was not through the favour 
of any, but by the regular steps of the military service, gained at the 
cost of a thousand hardships and hazards, he reached the princedom 
which he afterwards maintained by so many daring and dangerous 
enterprises. Still, to slaughter fellow-citizens, to betray friends, to be 
devoid of honour, pity, and religion, cannot be counted as merits, 
for these are means which may lead to power, but which confer no 
glory. Wherefore, if in respect of the valour with which he encoun- 
tered and extricated himself from difficulties, and the constancy of 
his spirit in supporting and conquering adverse fortune, there seems 
no reason to judge him inferior to the greatest captains that have 
ever lived, his unbridled cruelty and inhumanity, together with his 
coundess crimes, forbid us to number him with the greatest men; 
but, at any rate, we cannot attribute to Fortune or to merit what he 
accomplished without either. 

In our own times, during the papacy of Alexander VI, Oliverotto 
of Fermo, who some years before had been left an orphan, and had 
been brought up by his maternal uncle Giovanni Fogliani, was 
sent while still a lad to serve under Paolo Vitelli, in the expectation 
that a thorough training under that commander might qualify him 
for high rank as a soldier. After the death of Paolo, he served 
under his brother Vitellozzo, and in a very short time, being of a 
quick wit, hardy and resolute, he became one of the first soldiers 
of his company. But thinking it beneath him to serve under others, 
with the countenance of the Vitelleschi and the connivance of cer- 
tain citizens of Fermo who preferred the slavery to the freedom of 
their country, he formed the design to seize on that town. 

He accordingly wrote to Giovanni Fogliani that after many years 
of absence from home, he desired to see him and his native city 
once more, and to look a little into the condition of his patrimony; 
and as his one endeavour had been to make himself a name, in 
order that his fellow-citizens might see that his time had not been 
mis-spent, he proposed to return honourably attended by a hundred 


horsemen from among his own friends and followers; and he begged 
Giovanni graciously to arrange for his reception by the citizens of 
Fermo with corresponding marks of distinction, as this would be 
creditable not only to himself, but also to the uncle who had brought 
him up. 

Giovanni accordingly, did not fail in any proper attention to his 
nephew, but caused him to be splendidly received by his fellow- 
citizens, and lodged him in his house; where Oliverotto having 
passed some days, and made the necessary arrangements for carry- 
ing out his wickedness, gave a formal banquet, to which he invited 
his uncle and all the first men of Fermo. When the repast and the 
other entertainments proper to such an occasion had come to an 
end, Oliverotto artfully turned the conversation to matters of grave 
interest, by speaking of the greatness of Pope Alexander and Cesare 
his son, and of their enterprises; and when Giovanni and the others 
were replying to what he said, he suddenly rose up, observing that 
these were matters to be discussed in a more private place, and so 
withdrew to another chamber; whither his uncle and all the other 
citizens followed him, and where they had no sooner seated them- 
selves, than soldiers rushing out from places of concealment put 
Giovanni and all the rest to death. 

After this butchery, Oliverotto mounted his horse, rode through 
the streets, and besieged the chief magistrate in the palace, so that 
all were constrained by fear to yield obedience and accept a govern- 
ment of which he made himself the head. And all who from being 
disaffected were likely to stand in his way, he put to death, while 
he strengthened himself with new ordinances, civil and military, to 
such purpose, that for the space of a year during which he retained 
the Princedom, he not merely kept a firm hold of the city, but grew 
formidable to all his neighbours. And it would have been as impos- 
sible to unseat him as it was to unseat Agathocles, had he not let 
himself be overreached by Cesare Borgia on the occasion when, as 
has already been told, the Orsini and Vitelli were entrapped at 
Sinigaglia; where he too being taken, one year after the commission 
of his parricidal crime, was strangled along with Vitellozzo, whom 
he had assumed for his master in villany as in valour. 

It may be asked how Agathocles and some like him, after num- 


berless acts of treachery and cruelty, have been able to live long in 
their own country in safety, and to defend themselves from foreign 
enemies, without being plotted against by their fellow-citizens, 
whereas, many others, by reason of their cruelty, have failed to 
maintain their position even in peaceful times, not to speak of the 
perilous times of war. I believe that this results from cruelty being 
well or ill-employed. Those cruelties we may say are well employed, 
if it be permitted to speak well of things evil, which are done once 
for all under the necessity of self-preservation, and are not afterwards 
persisted in, but so far as possible modified to the advantage of the 
governed. Ill-employed cruelties, on the other hand, are those which 
from small beginnings increase rather than diminish with time. 
They who follow the first of these methods, may, by the grace of 
God and man, find, as did Agathocles, that their condition is not 
desperate; but by no possibility can the others maintain themselves. 

Hence we may learn the lesson that on seizing a state, the usurper 
should make haste to inflict what injuries he must, at a stroke, that 
he may not have to renew them daily, but be enabled by their dis- 
continuance to reassure men's minds, and afterwards win them over 
by benefits. Whosoever, either through timidity or from following 
bad counsels, adopts a contrary course, must keep the sword always 
drawn, and can put no trust in his subjects, who suffering from con- 
tinued and constantly renewed severities, will never yield him their 
confidence. Injuries, therefore, should be inflicted all at once, that 
their ill savour being less lasting may the less offend; whereas, bene- 
fits should be conferred little by little, that so they may be more 
fully relished. 

But, before all things, a Prince should so live with his subjects 
that no vicissitude of good or evil fortune shall oblige him to alter 
his behaviour; because, if a need to change come through adversity, 
it is then too late to resort to severity; while any leniency you may 
use will be thrown away, for it will be seen to be compulsory and 
gain you no thanks. 



Of the Civil Princedom 

I come now to the second case, namely, of the leading citizen 
who, not by crimes or violence, but by the favour of his fellow- 
citizens is made Prince of his country. This may be called a Civil 
Princedom, and its attainment depends not wholly on merit, nor 
wholly on good fortune, but rather on what may be termed a 
fortunate astuteness. I say then that the road to this Princedom 
lies either through the favour of the people or of the nobles. For 
in every city are to be found these two opposed humours having 
their origin in this, that the people desire not to be domineered over 
or oppressed by the nobles, while the nobles desire to oppress and 
domineer over the people. And from these two contrary appetites 
there arises in cities one of three results, a Princedom, or Liberty, 
or Licence. A Princedom is created either by the people or by the 
nobles, according as one or other of these factions has occasion for 
it. For when the nobles perceive that they cannot withstand the 
people, they set to work to magnify the reputation of one of their 
number, and make him, their Prince, to the end that under his 
shadow they may be enabled to indulge their desires. The people, 
on the other hand, when they see that they cannot make head against 
the nobles, invest a single citizen with all their influence and make 
him Prince, that they may have the shelter of his authority. 

He who is made Prince by the favour of the nobles, has greater 
difficulty to maintain himself than he who comes to the Princedom 
by aid of the people, since he finds many about him who think them- 
selves as good as he, and whom, on that account, he cannot guide or 
govern as he would. But he who reaches the Princedom by the 
popular support, finds himself alone, with none, or but a very few 
about him who are not ready to obey. Moreover, the demands of the 
nobles cannot be satisfied with credit to the Prince, nor without 
injury to others, while those of the people well may, the aim of the 
people being more honourable than that of the nobles, the latter 
seeking to oppress, the former not to be oppressed. Add to this, that 


a Prince can never secure himself against a disaffected people, their 
number being too great, while he may against a disaffected nobility, 
since their number is small. The worst that a Prince need fear from 
a disaffected people is, that they may desert him, whereas when the 
nobles are his enemies he has to fear not only that they may desert 
him, but also that they may turn against him; because, as they have 
greater craft and foresight, they always choose their time to suit their 
safety, and seek favour with the side they think will win. Again, a 
Prince must always live with the same people, but need not always 
live with the same nobles, being able to make and unmake these 
from day to day, and give and take away their authority at his 

But to make this part of the matter clearer, I say that as regards 
the nobles there is this first distinction to be made. They either 
so govern their conduct as to bind themselves wholly to your for- 
tunes, or they do not. Those who so bind themselves, and who are 
not grasping, should be loved and honoured. As to those who do 
not so bind themselves, there is this further distinction. For the 
most part they are held back by pusillanimity and a natural defect 
of courage, in which case you should make use of them, and of those 
among them more especially who are prudent, for they will do you 
honour in prosperity, and in adversity give you no cause for fear. 
But where they abstain from attaching themselves to you of set 
purpose and for ambitious ends, it is a sign that they are thinking 
more of themselves than of you, and against such men a Prince 
should be on his guard, and treat them as though they were declared 
enemies, for in his adversity they will always help to ruin him. 

He who becomes a Prince through the favour of the people should 
always keep on good terms with them; which it is easy for him to 
do, since all they ask is not to be oppressed. But he who against the 
will of the people is made a Prince by the favour of the nobles, must, 
above all things, seek to conciliate the people, which he readily may 
by taking them under his protection. For since men who are well 
treated by one whom they expected to treat them ill, feel the more 
beholden to their benefactor, the people will at once become better 
disposed to such a Prince when he protects them, than if he owed 
his Princedom to them. 


There are many ways in which a Prince may gain the good-will 
of the people, but, because these vary with circumstances, no certain 
rule can be laid down respecting them, and I shall, therefore, say no 
more about them. But this is the sum of the matter, that it is essen- 
tial for a Prince to be on a friendly footing with his people, since, 
otherwise, he will have no resource in adversity. Nabis, Prince of 
Sparta, was attacked by the whole hosts of Greece, and by a Roman 
army flushed with victory, and defended his country and crown 
against them; and when danger approached, there were but few of 
his subjects against whom he needed to guard himself, whereas had 
the people been hostile, this would not have been enough. 

And what I affirm let no one controvert by citing the old saw that 
'he who builds on the people builds on mire,' for that may be true 
of a private citizen who presumes on his favour with the people, and 
counts on being rescued by them when overpowered by his enemies 
or by the magistrates. In such cases a man may often find himself 
deceived, as happened to the Gracchi in Rome, and in Florence to 
Messer Giorgio Scali. But when he who builds on the people is a 
Prince capable of command, of a spirit not to be cast down by ill- 
fortune, who, while he animates the whole community by his cour- 
age and bearing, neglects no prudent precaution, he will not find 
himself betrayed by the people, but will be seen to have laid his 
foundations well. 

The most critical juncture for Princedoms of this kind, is at the 
moment when they are about to pass from the popular to the abso- 
lute form of government: and as these Princes exercise their author- 
ity either directly or through the agency of the magistrates, in the 
latter case their position is weaker and more hazardous, since they 
are wholly in the power of those citizens to whom the magistracies 
are entrusted, who can, and especially in difficult times, with the 
greatest ease deprive them of their authority, either by opposing, or 
by not obeying them. And in times of peril it is too late for a Prince 
to assume to himself an absolute authority, for the citizens and 
subjects who are accustomed to take their orders from the magis- 
trates, will not when dangers threaten take them from the Prince, 
so that at such seasons there will always be very few in whom he 
can trust. Such Princes, therefore, must not build on what they see 


in tranquil times when the citizens feel the need of the State. For 
then every one is ready to run, to promise, and, danger of death 
being remote, even to die for the State. But in troubled times, when 
the State has need of its citizens, few of them are to be found. And 
the risk of the experiment is the greater in that it can only be made 
once. Wherefore, a wise Prince should devise means whereby his 
subjects may at all times, whether favourable or adverse, feel the 
need of the State and of him, and then they will always be faithful 
to him. 


How the Strength of All Princedoms Should Be Measured 

In examining the character of these Princedoms, another circum- 
stance has to be considered, namely, whether the Prince is strong 
enough, if occasion demands, to stand alone, or whether he needs 
continual help from others. To make the matter clearer, I pronounce 
those to be able to stand alone who, with the men and money at their 
disposal, can get together an army fit to take the field against any 
assailant; and, conversely, I judge those to be in constant need of 
help who cannot take the field against their enemies, but are obliged 
to retire behind their walls, and to defend themselves there. Of the 
former I have already spoken, and shall speak again as occasion may 
require. As to the latter there is nothing to be said, except to exhort 
such Princes to strengthen and fortify the towns in which they 
dwell, and take no heed of the country outside. For whoever has 
thoroughly fortified his town, and put himself on such a footing 
with his subjects as I have already indicated and shall hereafter 
speak of, will always be attacked with much circumspection; for 
men are always averse to enterprises that are attended with difficulty, 
and it is impossible not to foresee difficulties in attacking a Prince 
whose town is strongly fortified and who is not hated by his subjects. 

The towns of Germany enjoy great freedom. Having little terri- 
tory, they render obedience to the Emperor only when so disposed, 
fearing neither him nor any other neighbouring power. For they 
are so fortified that it is plain to every one that it would be a tedious 
and difficult task to reduce them, since all of them are protected by 


moats and suitable ramparts, are well supplied with artillery, and 
keep their public magazines constantly stored with victual, drink 
and fuel, enough to last them for a year. Besides which, in order to 
support the poorer class of citizens without public loss, they lay in 
a common stock of materials for these to work on for a year, in the 
handicrafts which are the life and sinews of such cities, and by 
which the common people live. Moreover, they esteem military 
exercises and have many regulations for their maintenance. 

A Prince, therefore, who has a strong city, and who does not make 
himself hated, can not be attacked, or should he be so, his assailant 
will come badly off; since human affairs are so variable that it is 
almost impossible for any one to keep an army posted in leaguer 
for a whole year without interruption of some sort. Should it be 
objected that if the citizens have possessions outside the town, and 
see them burned, they will lose patience, and that self-interest, 
together with the hardships of a protracted siege, will cause them to 
forget their loyalty; I answer that a capable and courageous Prince 
will always overcome these difficulties, now, by holding out hopes 
to his subjects that the evil will not be of long continuance; now, by 
exciting their fears of the enemy's cruelty; and, again, by dexterously 
silencing those who seem to him too forward in their complaints. 
Moreover, it is to be expected that the enemy will burn and lay 
waste the country immediately on their arrival, at a time when men's 
minds are still heated and resolute for defence. And for this very 
reason the Prince ought the less to fear, because after a few days, 
when the first ardour has abated, the injury is already done and 
suffered, and cannot be undone; and the people will now, all the 
more readily, make common cause with their Prince from his seem- 
ing to be under obligations to them, their houses having been burned 
and their lands wasted in his defence. For it is the nature of men to 
incur obligation as much by the benefits they render as by those they 

Wherefore, if the whole matter be well considered, it ought not to 
be difficult for a prudent Prince, both at the outset and afterwards, 
to maintain the spirits of his subjects during a siege; provided always 
that victuals and other means of defence do not run short. 


Of Ecclesiastical Princedoms 

It now only remains for me to treat of Ecclesiastical Princedoms, 
all the difficulties in respect of which precede their acquisition. For 
they are acquired by merit or good fortune, but are maintained with- 
out either; being upheld by the venerable ordinances of Religion, 
which are all of such a nature and efficacy that they secure the 
authority of their Princes in whatever way they may act or live. 
These Princes alone have territories which they do not defend, and 
subjects whom they do not govern; yet their territories are not taken 
from them through not being defended, nor are their subjects con- 
cerned at not being governed, or led to think of throwing off their 
allegiance; nor is it in their power to do so. Accordingly these 
Princedoms alone are secure and happy. But inasmuch as they are 
sustained by agencies of a higher nature than the mind of man can 
reach, I forbear to speak of them: for since they are set up and 
supported by God himself, he would be a rash and presumptuous 
man who should venture to discuss them. 

Nevertheless, should any one ask me how it comes about that the 
temporal power of the Church, which before the time of Alexander 
was looked on with contempt by all the Potentates of Italy, and not 
only by those so styling themselves, but by every Baron and Lordling 
however insignificant, has now reached such a pitch of greatness 
that the King of France trembles before it, and that it has been able 
to drive him out of Italy and to crush the Venetians; though the 
causes be known, it seems to me not superfluous to call them in some 
measure to recollection. 

Before Charles of France passed into Italy, that country was under 
the control of the Pope, the Venetians, the King of Naples, the 
Duke of Milan, and the Florentines. Two chief objects had to be 
kept in view by all these powers: first, that no armed foreigner 
should be allowed to invade Italy; second, that no one of their own 
number should be suffered to extend his territory. Those whom it 
was especially needed to guard against, were the Pope and the Vene- 
tians. To hold back the Venetians it was necessary that all the other 


States should combine, as was done for the defence of Ferrara; while 
to restrain the Pope, use was made of the Roman Barons, who being 
divided into two factions, the Orsini and Colonnesi, had constant 
cause for feud with one another, and standing with arms in their 
hands under the very eyes of the Pontiff, kept the Popedom feeble 
and insecure. 

And although there arose from time to time a courageous Pope 
like Sixtus, neither his prudence nor his good fortune could free 
him from these embarrassments. The cause whereof was the short- 
ness of the lives of the Popes. For in the ten years, which was the 
average duration of a Pope's life, he could barely succeed in hum- 
bling one of these factions; so that if, for instance, one Pope had 
almost exterminated the Colonnesi, he was followed by another, 
who being the enemy of the Orsini had no time to rid himself of 
them, but so far from completing the destruction of the Colonnesi, 
restored them to life. This led to the temporal authority of the Popes 
being little esteemed in Italy. 

Then came Alexander VI, who more than any of his predecessors 
showed what a Pope could effect with money and arms, achieving 
by the instrumentality of Duke Valentino, and by taking advantage 
of the coming of the French into Italy, all those successes which I 
have already noticed in speaking of the actions of the Duke. And 
although his object was to aggrandize, not the Church but the Duke, 
what he did turned to the advantage of the Church, which after his 
death, and after the Duke had been put out of the way, became the 
heir of his labours. 

After him came Pope Julius, who found the Church strengthened 
by the possession of the whole of Romagna, and the Roman Barons 
exhausted and their factions shattered under the blows of Pope 
Alexander. He found also a way opened for the accumulation of 
wealth, which before the time of Alexander no one had followed. 
These advantages Julius not only used but added to. He undertook 
the conquest of Bologna, the overthrow of the Venetians, and the 
expulsion of the French from Italy; in all which enterprises he suc- 
ceeded, and with the greater glory to himself in that whatever he 
did, was done to strengthen the Church and not to aggrandize any 
private person. He succeeded, moreover, in keeping the factions of 


the Orsini and Colonnesi within the same limits as he found them; 
and, though some seeds of insubordination may still have been left 
among them, two causes operated to hold them in check; first, the 
great power of the Church, which overawed them, and second, their 
being without Cardinals, who had been the cause of all their dis- 
orders. For these factions while they have Cardinals among them 
can never be at rest, since it is they who foment dissension both in 
Rome and out of it, in which the Barons are forced to take part, the 
ambition of the Prelates thus giving rise to tumult and discord 
among the Barons. 

His Holiness, Pope Leo, has consequently found the Papacy most 
powerful; and from him we may hope, that as his predecessors made 
it great with arms, he will render it still greater and more venerable 
by his benignity and other countless virtues. 


How Many Different Kinds of Soldiers There Are, and 
of Mercenaries 

Having spoken particularly of all the various kinds of Princedom 
whereof at the outset I proposed to treat, considered in some measure 
what are the causes of their strength and weakness, and pointed out 
the methods by which men commonly seek to acquire them, it now 
remains that I should discourse generally concerning the means for 
attack and defence of which each of these different kinds of Prince- 
dom may make use. 

I have already said that a Prince must lay solid foundations, since 
otherwise he will inevitably be destroyed. Now the main founda- 
tions of all States, whether new, old, or mixed, are good laws and 
good arms. But since you cannot have the former without the latter, 
and where you have the latter, are likely to have the former, I shall 
here omit all discussion on the subject of laws, and speak only of 

I say then that the arms wherewith a Prince defends his State are 
either his own subjects, or they are mercenaries, or they are auxil- 
iaries, or they are partly one and partly another. Mercenaries and 


auxiliaries are at once useless and dangerous, and he who holds his 
State by means of mercenary troops can never be solidly or securely 
seated. For such troops are disunited, ambitious, insubordinate, 
treacherous, insolent among friends, cowardly before foes, and with- 
out fear of God or faith with man. Whenever they are attacked 
defeat follows; so that in peace you are plundered by them, in war by 
your enemies. And this because they have no tie or motive to keep 
them in the field beyond their paltry pay, in return for which it 
would be too much to expect them to give their lives. They are 
ready enough, therefore, to be your soldiers while you are at peace, 
but when war is declared they make off and disappear. I ought to 
have little difficulty in getting this believed, for the present ruin of 
Italy is due to no other cause than her having for many years trusted 
to mercenaries, who though heretofore they may have helped the 
fortunes of some one man, and made a show of strength when 
matched with one another, have always revealed themselves in their 
true colours so soon as foreign enemies appeared. Hence it was 
that Charles of France was suffered to conquer Italy with chalky', 
and he who said our sins were the cause, said truly, though it was 
not the sins he meant, but those which I have noticed. And as these 
were the sins of Princes, they it is who have paid the penalty. 

But I desire to demonstrate still more clearly the untoward char- 
acter of these forces. Captains of mercenaries are either able men 
or they are not. If they are, you cannot trust them, since they will 
always seek their own aggrandizement, either by overthrowing you 
who are their master, or by the overthrow of others contrary to your 
desire. On the other hand, if your captain be not an able man the 
chances are you will be ruined. And if it be said that whoever has 
arms in his hands will act in the same way whether he be a mer- 
cenary or no, I answer that when arms have to be employed by a 
Prince or a Republic, the Prince ought to go in person to take com- 
mand as captain, the Republic should send one of her citizens, and 
if he prove incapable should change him, but if he prove capable 
should by the force of the laws confine him within proper bounds. 
And we see from experience that both Princes and Republics when 
they depend on their own arms have the greatest success, whereas 
from employing mercenaries nothing but loss results. Moreover, a 


Republic trusting to her own forces, is with greater difficulty than 
one which relies on foreign arms brought to yield obedience to a 
single citizen. Rome and Sparta remained for ages armed and free. 
The Swiss are at once the best armed and the freest people in the 

Of mercenary arms in ancient times we have an example in the 
Carthaginians, who at the close of their first war with Rome, were 
well-nigh ruined by their hired troops, although these were com- 
manded by Carthaginian citizens. So too, when, on the death of 
Epaminondas, the Thebans made Philip of Macedon captain of their 
army, after gaining a victory for them, he deprived them of their 
liberty. The Milanese, in like manner, when Duke Filippo died, 
took Francesco Sforza into their pay to conduct the war against 
the Venetians. But he, after defeating the enemy at Caravaggio, 
combined with them to overthrow the Milanese, his masters. His 
father too while in the pay of Giovanna, Queen of Naples, suddenly 
left her without troops, obliging her, in order to save her kingdom, 
to throw herself into the arms of the King of Aragon. 

And if it be said that in times past the Venetians and the Floren- 
tines have extended their dominions by means of these arms, and 
that their captains have served them faithfully, without seeking to 
make themselves their masters, I answer that in this respect the 
Florentines have been fortunate, because among those valiant cap- 
tains who might have given them cause for fear, some have not 
been victorious, some have had rivals, and some have turned their 
ambition in other directions. 

Among those not victorious, was Giovanni Acuto, whose fidelity, 
since he was unsuccessful, was not put to the proof: but any one may 
see, that had he been victorious the Florentines must have been 
entirely in his hands. The Sforzas, again, had constant rivals in the 
Bracceschi, so that the one following was a check upon the other; 
moreover, the ambition of Francesco was directed against Milan, 
while that of Braccio was directed against the Church and the king- 
dom of Naples. Let us turn, however, to what took place lately. 
The Florentines chose for their captain Paolo Vitelli, a most prudent 
commander, who had raised himself from privacy to the highest 
renown in arms. Had he been successful in reducing Pisa, none 


can deny that the Florentines would have been completely in his 
power, for they would have been ruined had he gone over to their 
enemies, while if they retained him they must have submitted to 
his will. 

Again, as to the Venetians, if we consider the growth of their 
power, it will be seen that they conducted their affairs with glory 
and safety so long as their subjects of all ranks, gentle and simple 
alike, valiantly bore arms in their wars; as they did before they 
directed their enterprises landwards. But when they took to making 
war by land, they forsook those methods in which they excelled 
and were content to follow the customs of Italy. 

At first, indeed, in extending their possessions on the mainland, 
having as yet but little territory and being held in high repute, they 
had not much to fear from their captains; but when their territories 
increased, which they did under Carmagnola, they were taught their 
mistake. For as they had found him a most valiant and skilful 
leader when, under his command, they defeated the Duke of Milan, 
and, on the other hand, saw him slack in carrying on the war, they 
made up their minds that no further victories were to be had under 
him; and because, through fear of losing what they had gained, they 
could not discharge him, to secure themselves against him they 
were forced to put him to death. After him they have had for cap- 
tains, Bartolommeo of Bergamo, Roberto of San Severino, the 
Count of Pitigliano, and the like, under whom their danger has not 
been from victories, but from defeats; as, for instance, at Vaila, 
where they lost in a single day what it had taken the efforts of eight 
hundred years to acquire. For the gains resulting from mercenary 
arms are slow, and late, and inconsiderable, but the losses sudden 
and astounding. 

And since these examples have led me back to Italy, which for 
many years past has been defended by mercenary arms, I desire to 
go somewhat deeper into the matter, in order that the causes which 
led to the adoption of these arms being seen, they may the more 
readily be corrected. You are to understand, then, that when in these 
later times the Imperial control began to be rejected by Italy, and the 
temporal power of the Pope to be more thought of, Italy suddenly 
split up into a number of separate States. For many of the larger 


cities took up arms against their nobles, who, with the favour of 
the Emperor, had before kept them in subjection, and were sup- 
ported by the Church with a view to add to her temporal authority : 
while in many others of these cities, private citizens became rulers. 
Hence Italy, having passed almost entirely into the hands of the 
Church and of certain Republics, the former made up of priests, the 
latter of citizens unfamiliar with arms, began to take foreigners into 
her pay. 

The first who gave reputation to this service was Alberigo of 
Conio in Romagna, from whose school of warlike training 
descended, among others, Braccio and Sforza, who in their time were 
the arbiters of Italy; after whom came all those others who down to 
the present hour have held similar commands, and to whose merits 
we owe it that our country has been overrun by Charles, plundered 
by Louis, wasted by Ferdinand, and insulted by the Swiss. 

The first object of these mercenaries was to bring foot soldiers into 
disrepute, in order to enhance the merit of their own followers; and 
this they did, because lacking territory of their own and depending 
on their profession for their support, a few foot soldiers gave them 
no importance, while for a large number they were unable to pro- 
vide. For these reasons they had recourse to horsemen, a less retinue 
of whom was thought to confer distinction, and could be more easily 
maintained. And the matter went to such a length, that in an army 
of twenty thousand men, not two thousand foot soldiers were to be 
found. Moreover, they spared no endeavour to relieve themselves 
and their men from fatigue and danger, not killing one another in 
battle, but making prisoners who were afterwards released without 
ransom. They would attack no town by night; those in towns would 
make no sortie by night against a besieging army. Their camps were 
without rampart or trench. They had no winter campaigns. All 
which arrangements were sanctioned by their military rules, con- 
trived by them, as I have said already, to escape fatigue and danger; 
but the result of which has been to bring Italy into servitude and 



Of Auxiliary, Mixed, and National Arms 

The second sort of unprofitable arms are auxiliaries, by whom I 
mean, troops brought to help and protect you by a potentate whom 
you summon to your aid; as when in recent times, Pope Julius II 
observing the pitiful behaviour of his mercenaries at the enterprise of 
Ferrara, betook himself to auxiliaries, and arranged with Ferdinand 
of Spain to be supplied with horse and foot soldiers. 

Auxiliaries may be excellent and useful soldiers for themselves, 
but are always hurtful to him who calls them in; for if they are 
defeated, he is undone, if victorious, he becomes their prisoner. 
Ancient histories abound with instances of this, but I shall not pass 
from the example of Pope Julius, which is still fresh in men's minds. 
It was the height of rashness for him, in his eagerness to gain Ferrara, 
to throw himself without reserve into the arms of a stranger. Never- 
theless, his good fortune came to his rescue, and he had not to reap the 
fruits of his ill-considered conduct. For after his auxiliaries were 
defeated at Ravenna, the Swiss suddenly descended and, to their 
own surprise and that of every one else, swept the victors out of the 
country, so that, he neither remained a prisoner with his enemies, 
they being put to flight, nor with his auxiliaries, because victory was 
won by other arms than theirs. The Florentines, being wholly with- 
out soldiers of their own, brought ten thousand French men-at- 
arms to the siege of Pisa, thereby incurring greater peril than at any 
previous time of trouble. To protect himself from his neighbours, 
the Emperor of Constantinople summoned ten thousand Turkish 
soldiers into Greece, who, when the war was over, refused to leave, 
and this was the beginning of the servitude of Greece to the Infidel. 

Let him, therefore, who would deprive himself of every chance of 
success, have recourse to auxiliaries, these being far more dangerous 
than mercenary arms, bringing ruin with them ready made. For 
they are united, and wholly under the control of their own officers; 
whereas, before mercenaries, even after gaining a victory, can do you 
hurt, longer time and better opportunities are needed; because, as 
they are made up of separate companies, raised and paid by you, he 


whom you place in command cannot at once acquire such authority 
over them as will be injurious to you. In short, with mercenaries 
your greatest danger is from their inertness and cowardice, with 
auxiliaries from their valour. Wise Princes, therefore, have always 
eschewed these arms, and trusted rather to their own, and have pre- 
ferred defeat with the latter to victory with the former, counting 
that as no true victory which is gained by foreign aid. 

I shall never hesitate to cite the example of Cesare Borgia and his 
actions. He entered Romagna with a force of auxiliaries, all of them 
French men-at-arms, with whom he took Imola and Forli. But it 
appearing to him afterwards that these troops were not to be trusted, 
he had recourse to mercenaries from whom he thought there would 
be less danger, and took the Orsini and Vitelli into his pay. But 
finding these likewise while under his command to be fickle, false, 
and treacherous, he got rid of them, and fell back on troops of his 
own raising. And we may readily discern the difference between 
these various kinds of arms, by observing the different degrees of 
reputation in which the Duke stood while he depended upon the 
French alone, when he took the Orsini and Vitelli into his pay, and 
when he fell back on his own troops and his own resources; for we 
find his reputation always increasing, and that he was never so well 
thought of as when every one perceived him to be sole master of his 
own forces. 

I am unwilling to leave these examples, drawn from what has taken 
place in Italy and in recent times; and yet I must not omit to notice 
the case of Hiero of Syracuse, who is one of those whom I have 
already named. He, as I have before related, being made captain of 
their armies by the Syracusans, saw at once that a force of mercenary 
soldiers, supplied by men resembling our Italian condottieri, was 
not serviceable; and as he would not retain and could not disband 
them, he caused them all to be cut to pieces, and afterwards made 
war with native soldiers only, without other aid. 

And here I would call to mind a passage in the Old Testament as 
bearing on this point. When David offered himself to Saul to go 
forth and fight Goliath the Philistine champion, Saul to encourage 
him armed him with his own armour, which David, so soon as he 
had put it on, rejected, saying that with these untried arms he could 


not prevail, and that he chose rather to meet his enemy with only 
his sling and his sword. In a word, the armour of others is too wide, 
or too strait for us; it falls off us, or it weighs us down. 

Charles VII, the father of Louis XI, who by his good fortune and 
valour freed France from the English, saw this necessity of strength- 
ening himself with a national army, and drew up ordinances regu- 
lating the service both of men-at-arms and of foot soldiers throughout 
his kingdom. But afterwards his son, King Louis, did away with 
the national infantry, and began to hire Swiss mercenaries. Which 
blunder having been followed by subsequent Princes, has been the 
cause, as the result shows, of the dangers into which the kingdom of 
France has fallen; for, by enhancing the reputation of the Swiss, 
the whole of the national troops of France have been deteriorated. 
For from their infantry being done away with, their men-at-arms 
are made wholly dependent on foreign assistance, and being accus- 
tomed to co-operate with the Swiss, have grown to think they can 
do nothing without them. Hence the French are no match for the 
Swiss, and without them cannot succeed against others. 

The armies of France, then, are mixed, being partly national and 
partly mercenary. Armies thus composed are far superior to mere 
mercenaries or mere auxiliaries, but far inferior to forces purely 
national. And this example is in itself conclusive, for the realm of 
France would be invincible if the military ordinances of Charles 
VII had been retained and extended. But from want of foresight 
men make changes which relishing well at first do not betray their 
hidden venom, as I have already observed respecting hectic fever. 
Nevertheless, the ruler is not truly wise who cannot discern evils 
before they develop themselves, and this is a faculty given to few. 

If we look for the causes which first led to the overthrow of the 
Roman Empire, they will be found to have had their source in the 
employment of Gothic mercenaries, for from that hour the strength 
of the Romans began to wane and all the virtue which went from 
them passed to the Goths. And, to be brief, I say that without 
national arms no Princedom is safe, but on the contrary is wholly 
dependent on Fortune, being without the strength that could defend 
it in adversity. And it has always been the deliberate opinion of the 
wise, that nothing is so infirm and fleeting as a reputation for power 


not founded upon a national army, by which I mean one composed 
of subjects, citizens, and dependents, all others being mercenary or 

The methods to be followed for organizing a national army may 
readily be ascertained, if the rules above laid down by me, and by 
which I abide, be well considered, and attention be given to the 
manner in which Philip, father of Alexander the Great, and many 
other Princes and Republics have armed and disposed their forces. 

Of the Duty of a Prince In Respect of Military Affairs 

A Prince, therefore, should have no care or thought but for war, 
and for the regulations and training it requires, and should apply 
himself exclusively to this as his peculiar province; for war is the 
sole art looked for in one who rules, and is of such efficacy that it 
not merely maintains those who are born Princes, but often enables 
men to rise to that eminence from a private station; while, on the 
other hand, we often see that when Princes devote themselves rather 
to pleasure than to arms, they lose their dominions. And as neglect 
of this art is the prime cause of such calamities, so to be a proficient 
in it is the surest way to acquire power. Francesco Sforza, from his 
renown in arms, rose from privacy to be Duke of Milan, while his 
descendants, seeking to avoid the hardships and fatigues of military 
life, from being Princes fell back into privacy. For among other 
causes of misfortune which your not being armed brings upon you, 
it makes you despised, and this is one of those reproaches against 
which, as shall presently be explained, a Prince ought most care- 
fully to guard. 

Between an armed and an unarmed man no proportion holds, 
and it is contrary to reason to expect that the armed man should 
voluntarily submit to him who is unarmed, or that the unarmed 
man should stand secure among armed retainers. For with con- 
tempt on one side, and distrust on the other, it is impossible that men 
should work well together. Wherefore, as has already been said, a 
Prince who is ignorant of military affairs, besides other disadvan- 


tages, can neither be respected by his soldiers, nor can he trust them. 
A Prince, therefore, ought never to allow his attention to be diverted 
from warlike pursuits, and should occupy himself with them even 
more in peace than in war. This he can do in two ways, by practice 
or by study. 

As to the practice, he ought, besides keeping his soldiers well 
trained and disciplined, to be constantly engaged in the chase, that 
he may inure his body to hardships and fatigue, and gain at the same 
time a knowledge of places, by observing how the mountains slope, 
the valleys open, and the plains spread; acquainting himself with the 
characters of rivers and marshes, and giving the greatest attention to 
this subject. Such knowledge is useful to him in two ways; for first, 
he learns thereby to know his own country, and to understand better 
how it may be defended; and next, from his familiar acquaintance 
with its localities, he readily comprehends the character of other 
districts when obliged to observe them for the first time. For the 
hills, valleys, plains, rivers, and marshes of Tuscany, for example, 
have a certain resemblance to those elsewhere; so that from a knowl- 
edge of the natural features of that province, similar knowledge in 
respect of other provinces may readily be gained. The Prince who is 
wanting in this kind of knowledge, is wanting in the first qualifica- 
tion of a good captain, for by it he is taught how to surprise an 
enemy, how to choose an encampment, how to lead his army on a 
march, how to array it for battle, and how to post it to the best 
advantage for a siege. 

Among the commendations which Philopoemon, Prince of the 
Achaians, has received from historians is this — that in times of peace 
he was always thinking of methods of warfare, so that when walking 
in the country with his friends he would often stop and talk with 
them on the subject. 'If the enemy,' he would say, 'were posted on 
that hill, and we found ourselves here with our army, which of us 
would have the better position ? How could we most safely and in 
the best order advance to meet them? If we had to retreat, what 
direction should we take? If they retired, how should we pursue?' 
In this way he put to his friends, as he went along, all the con- 
tingencies that can befall an army. He listened to their opinions, 
stated his own, and supported them with reasons; and from his 


being constantly occupied with such meditations, it resulted, that 
when in actual command no complication could ever present itself 
with which he was not prepared to deal. 

As to the mental training of which we have spoken, a Prince 
should read histories, and in these should note the actions of great 
men, observe how they conducted themselves in their wars, and 
examine the causes of their victories and defeats, so as to avoid the 
latter and imitate them in the former. And above all, he should, as 
many great men of past ages have done, assume for his models those 
persons who before his time have been renowned and celebrated, 
whose deeds and achievements he should constantly keep in mind, 
as it is related that Alexander the Great sought to resemble Achilles, 
Caesar Alexander, and Scipio Cyrus. And any one who reads the 
life of this last-named hero, written by Xenophon, recognizes after- 
wards in the life of Scipio, how much this imitation was the source 
of his glory, and how nearly in his chastity, affability, kindliness, and 
generosity, he conformed to the character 1 of Cyrus as Xenophon 
describes it. 

A wise Prince, therefore, should pursue such methods as these, 
never resting idle in times of peace, but strenuously seeking to turn 
them to account, so that he may derive strength from them in the 
hour of danger, and find himself ready should Fortune turn against 
him, to resist her blows. 


Of the Qualities In Respect of Which Men, and Most of All 
Princes, Are Praised or Blamed 

It now remains for us to consider what ought to be the conduct 
and bearing of a Prince in relation to his subjects and friends. And 
since I know that many have written on this subject, I fear it may 
be thought presumptuous in me to write of it also; the more so, 
because in my treatment of it, I depart from the views that others 
have taken. 

But since it is my object to write what shall be useful to whoso- 
ever understands it, it seems to me better to follow the real truth 
of things than an imaginary view of them. For many Republics and 


Princedoms have been imagined that were never seen or known to 
exist in reality. And the manner in which we live, and that in which 
we ought to live, are things so wide asunder, that he who quits the 
one to betake himself to the other is more likely to destroy than 
to save himself; since any one who would act up to a perfect standard 
of goodness in everything, must be ruined among so many who are 
not good. It is essential, therefore, for a Prince who desires to main- 
tain his position, to have learned how to be other than good, and to 
use or not to use his goodness as necessity requires. 

Laying aside, therefore, all fanciful notions concerning a Prince, 
and considering those only that are true, I say that all men when 
they are spoken of, and Princes more than others from their being 
set so high, are characterized by some one of those qualities which 
attach either praise or blame. Thus one is accounted liberal, another 
miserly (which word I use, rather than avaricious, to denote the 
man who is too sparing of what is his own, avarice being the dispo- 
sition to take wrongfully what is another's); one is generous, 
another greedy; one cruel, another tender-hearted; one is faithless, 
another true to his word; one effeminate and cowardly, another 
high-spirited and courageous; one is courteous, another haughty; 
one impure, another chaste; one simple, another crafty; one firm, 
another facile; one grave, another frivolous; one devout, another 
unbelieving; and the like. Every one, I know, will admit that it 
would be most laudable for a Prince to be endowed with all of the 
above qualities that are reckoned good; but since it is impossible for 
him to possess or constantly practise them all, the conditions of 
human nature not allowing it, he must be discreet enough to know 
how to avoid the infamy of those vices that would deprive him of 
his government, and, if possible, be on his guard also against those 
which might not deprive him of it; though if he cannot wholly 
restrain himself, he may with less scruple indulge in the latter. He 
need never hesitate, however, to incur the reproach of those vices 
without which his authority can hardly be preserved; for if he well 
consider the whole matter, he will find that there may be a line of 
conduct having the appearance of virtue, to follow which would be 
his ruin, and that there may be another course having the appearance 
of vice, by following which his safety and well-being are secured. 


Of Liberality and Miserliness 

Beginning, then, with the first of the qualities above noticed, I say 
that it may be a good thing to be reputed liberal, but, nevertheless, 
that liberality without the reputation of it is hurtful; because, though 
it be worthily and rightly used, still if it be not known, you escape 
not the reproach of its opposite vice. Hence, to have credit for 
liberality with the world at large, you must neglect no circumstance 
of sumptuous display; the result being, that a Prince of a liberal 
disposition will consume his whole substance in things of this sort, 
and, after all, be obliged, if he would maintain his reputation for 
liberality, to burden his subjects with extraordinary taxes, and to 
resort to confiscations and all the other shifts whereby money is 
raised. But in this way he becomes hateful to his subjects, and grow- 
ing impoverished is held in little esteem by any. So that in the end, 
having by his liberality offended many and obliged few, he is worse 
off than when he began, and is exposed to all his original dangers. 
Recognizing this, and endeavouring to retrace his steps, he at once 
incurs the infamy of miserliness. 

A Prince, therefore, since he cannot without injury to himself 
practise the virtue of liberality so that it may be known, will not, if 
he be wise, greatly concern himself though he be called miserly. 
Because in time he will come to be regarded as more and more 
liberal, when it is seen that through his parsimony his revenues are 
sufficient; that he is able to defend himself against any who make 
war on him; that he can engage in enterprises against others with- 
out burdening his subjects; and thus exercise liberality towards all 
from whom he does not take, whose number is infinite, while he is 
miserly in respect of those only to whom he does not give, whose 
number is few. 

In our own days we have seen no Princes accomplish great results 
save those who have been accounted miserly. All others have been 
ruined. Pope Julius II, after availing himself of his reputation for 
liberality to arrive at the Papacy, made no effort to preserve that 
reputation when making war on the King of France, but carried 


on all his numerous campaigns without levying from his subjects a 
single extraordinary tax, providing for the increased expenditure out 
of his long-continued savings. Had the present King of Spain been 
accounted liberal, he never could have engaged or succeeded in so 
many enterprises. 

A Prince, therefore, if he is enabled thereby to forbear from 
plundering his subjects, to defend himself, to escape poverty and con- 
tempt, and the necessity of becoming rapacious, ought to care little 
though he incur the reproach of miserliness, for this is one of those 
vices which enable him to reign. 

And should any object that Caesar by his liberality rose to power, 
and that many others have been advanced to the highest dignities 
from their having been liberal and so reputed, I reply, 'Either you 
are already a Prince or you seek to become one; in the former case 
liberality is hurtful, in the latter it is very necessary that you be 
thought liberal; Caesar was one of those who sought the sovereignty 
of Rome; but if after obtaining it he had lived on without retrench- 
ing his expenditure, he must have ruined the Empire.' And if it be 
further urged that many Princes reputed to have been most liberal 
have achieved great things with their armies, I answer that a Prince 
spends either what belongs to himself and his subjects, or what 
belongs to others; and that in the former case he ought to be sparing, 
but in the latter ought not to refrain from any kind of liberality. 
Because for a Prince who leads his armies in person and maintains 
them by plunder, pillage, and forced contributions, dealing as he 
does with the property of others this liberality is necessary, since 
otherwise he would not be followed by his soldiers. Of what does 
not belong to you or to your subjects you should, therefore, be a 
lavish giver, as were Cyrus, Csesar, and Alexander; for to be liberal 
with the property of others does not take from your reputation, but 
adds to it. What injures you is to give away what is your own. And 
there is no quality so self-destructive as liberality; for while you 
practise it you lose the means whereby it can be practised, and 
become poor and despised, or else, to avoid poverty, you become 
rapacious and hated. For liberality leads to one or other of these 
two results, against which, beyond all others, a Prince should guard. 

Wherefore it is wiser to put up with the name of being miserly, 


which breeds ignominy, but without hate, than to be obliged, from 
the desire to be reckoned liberal, to incur the reproach of rapacity, 
which breeds hate as well as ignominy. 


Of Cruelty and Clemency, and Whether It Is Better To Be 
Loved or Feared 

Passing to the other qualities above referred to, I say that every 
Prince should desire to be accounted merciful and not cruel. Never- 
theless, he should be on his guard against the abuse of this quality 
of mercy. Cesare Borgia was reputed cruel, yet his cruelty restored 
Romagna, united it, and brought it to order and obedience; so that 
if we look at things in their true light, it will be seen that he was in 
reality far more merciful than the people of Florence, who, to avoid 
the imputation of cruelty, suffered Pistoja to be torn to pieces by 

A Prince should therefore disregard the reproach of being thought 
cruel where it enables him to keep his subjects united and obedient. 
For he who quells disorder by a very few signal examples will in 
the end be more merciful than he who from too great leniency per- 
mits things to take their course and so to result in rapine and blood- 
shed; for these hurt the whole State, whereas the severities of the 
Prince injure individuals only. 

And for a new Prince, of all others, it is impossible to escape a 
name for cruelty, since new States are full of dangers. Wherefore 
Virgil, by the mouth of Dido, excuses the harshness of her reign on 
the plea that it was new, saying: — 

'A fate unkind, and newness in my reign 
Compel me thus to guard a wide domain.' 

Nevertheless, the new Prince should not be too ready of belief, 
nor too easily set in motion; nor should he himself be the first to 
raise alarms; but should so temper prudence with kindliness that 
too great confidence in others shall not throw him off his guard, nor 
groundless distrust render him insupportable. 


And here comes in the question whether it is better to be loved 
rather than feared, or feared rather than loved. It might perhaps be 
answered that we should wish to be both; but since love and fear 
can hardly exist together, if we must choose between them, it is far 
safer to be feared than loved. For of men it may generally be 
affirmed that they are thankless, fickle, false, studious to avoid 
danger, greedy of gain, devoted to you while you are able to confer 
benefits upon them, and ready, as I said before, while danger is 
distant, to shed their blood, and sacrifice their property, their lives, 
and their children for you; but in the hour of need they turn against 
you. The Prince, therefore, who without otherwise securing him- 
self builds wholly on their professions is undone. For the friendships 
which we buy with a price, and do not gain by greatness and nobility 
of character, though they be fairly earned are not made good, but 
fail us when we have occasion to use them. 

Moreover, men are less careful how they offend him who makes 
himself loved than him who makes himself feared. For love is held 
by the tie of obligation, which, because men are a sorry breed, is 
broken on every whisper of private interest; but fear is bound by 
the apprehension of punishment which never relaxes its grasp. 

Nevertheless a Prince should inspire fear in such a fashion that if 
he do not win love he may escape hate. For a man may very well 
be feared and yet not hated, and this will be the case so long as 
he does not meddle with the property or with the women of his 
citizens and subjects. And if constrained to put any to death, he 
should do so only when there is manifest cause or reasonable justifica- 
tion. But, above all, he must abstain from the property of others. 
For men will sooner forget the death of their father than the loss 
of their patrimony. Moreover, pretexts for confiscation are never to 
seek, and he who has once begun to live by rapine always finds 
reasons for taking what is not his; whereas reasons for shedding 
blood are fewer, and sooner exhausted. 

But when a Prince is with his army, and has many soldiers under 
his command, he must needs disregard the reproach of cruelty, for 
without such a reputation in its Captain, no army can be held 
together or kept under any kind of control. Among other things 
remarkable in Hannibal this has been noted, that having a very 


great army, made up of men of many different nations and brought 
to fight in a foreign country, no dissension ever arose among the 
soldiers themselves, nor any mutiny against their leader, either in his 
good or in his evil fortunes. This we can only ascribe to the trans- 
cendent cruelty, which, joined with numberless great qualities, 
rendered him at once venerable and terrible in the eyes of his sol- 
diers; for without this reputation for cruelty these other virtues 
would not have produced the like results. 

Unreflecting writers, indeed, while they praise his achievements, 
have condemned the chief cause of them; but that his other merits 
would not by themselves have been so efficacious we may see from 
the case of Scipio, one of the greatest Captains, not of his own time 
only but of all times of which we have record, whose armies rose 
against him in Spain from no other cause than his too great leniency 
in allowing them a freedom inconsistent with military strictness. 
With which weakness Fabius Maximus taxed him in the Senate 
House, calling him the corrupter of the Roman soldiery. Again, 
when the Locrians were shamefully outraged by one of his lieu- 
tenants, he neither avenged them, nor punished the insolence of his 
officer; and this from the natural easiness of his disposition. So that 
it was said in the Senate by one who sought to excuse him, that there 
were, many who knew better how to refrain from doing wrong 
themselves than how to correct the wrong-doing of others. This 
temper, however, must in time have marred the name and fame 
even of Scipio, had he continued in it, and retained his command. 
But living as he did under the control of the Senate, this hurtful 
quality was not merely disguised, but came to be regarded as a glory. 

Returning to the question of being loved or feared, I sum up by 
saying, that since his being loved depends upon his subjects, while 
his being feared depends upon himself, a wise Prince should build on 
what is his own, and not on what rests with others. Only, as I have 
said, he must do his utmost to escape hatred. 


How Princes Should Keep Faith 

Every one understands how praiseworthy it is in a Prince to keep 
faith, and to live uprightly and not craftily. Nevertheless, we see 
from what has taken place in our own days that Princes who have 
set little store by their word, but have known how to overreach men 
by their cunning, have accomplished great things, and in the end 
got the better of those who trusted to honest dealing. 

Be it known, then, that there are two ways of contending, one in 
accordance with the laws, the other by force; the first of which is 
proper to men, the second to beasts. But since the first method is 
often ineffectual, it becomes necessary to resort to the second. A 
Prince should, therefore, understand how to use well both the man 
and the beast. And this lesson has been covertly taught by the ancient 
writers, who relate how Achilles and many others of these old 
Princes were given over to be brought up and trained by Chiron the 
Centaur; since the only meaning of their having for instructor one 
who was half man and half beast is, that it is necessary for a Prince 
to know how to use both natures, and that the one without the other 
has no stability. 

But since a Prince should know how to use the beast's nature 
wisely, he ought of beasts to choose both the lion and the fox; for 
the lion cannot guard himself from the toils, nor the fox from 
wolves. He must therefore be a fox to discern toils, and a lion to 
drive off wolves. 

To rely wholly on the lion is unwise; and for this reason a prudent 
Prince neither can nor ought to keep his word when to keep it is 
hurtful to him and the causes which led him to pledge it are 
removed. If all men were good, this would not be good advice, but 
since they are dishonest and do not keep faith with you, you, in 
return, need not keep faith with them; and no prince was ever at a 
loss for plausible reasons to cloak a breach of faith. Of this num- 
berless recent instances could be given, and it might be shown 
how many solemn treaties and engagements have been rendered 


inoperative and idle through want of faith in Princes, and that he 
who was best known to play the fox has had the best success. 

It is necessary, indeed, to put a good colour on this nature, and to 
be skilful in simulating and dissembling. But men are so simple, 
and governed so absolutely by their present needs, that he who 
wishes to deceive will never fail in finding willing dupes. One 
recent example I will not omit. Pope Alexander VI had no care or 
thought but how to deceive, and always found material to work on. 
No man ever had a more effective manner of asseverating, or made 
promises with more solemn protestations, or observed them less. 
And yet, because he understood this side of human nature, his frauds 
always succeeded. 

It is not essential, then, that a Prince should have all the good 
qualities which I have enumerated above, but it is most essential 
that he should seem to have them; I will even venture to affirm that 
if he has and invariably practises them all, they are hurtful, whereas 
the appearance of having them is useful. Thus, it is well to seem 
merciful, faithful, humane, religious, and upright, and also to be 
so; but the mind should remain so balanced that were it needful 
not to be so, you should be able and know how to change to the 

And you are to understand that a Prince, and most of all a new 
Prince, cannot observe all those rules of conduct in respect whereof 
men are accounted good, being often forced, in order to preserve his 
Princedom, to act in opposition to good faith, charity, humanity, and 
religion. He must therefore keep his mind ready to shift as the 
winds and tides of Fortune turn, and, as I have already said, he 
ought not to quit good courses if he can help it, but should know 
how to follow evil courses if he must. 

A Prince should therefore be very careful that nothing ever 
escapes his lips which is not replete with the five qualities above 
named, so that to see and hear him, one would think him the embodi- 
ment of mercy, good faith, integrity, humanity, and religion. And 
there is no virtue which it is more necessary for him to seem to 
possess than this last; because men in general judge rather by the eye 
than by the hand, for every one can see but few can touch. Every 
one sees what you seem, but few know what you are, and these few 


dare not oppose themselves to the opinion of the many who have 
the majesty of the State to back them up. 

Moreover, in the actions of all men, and most of all of Princes, 
where there is no tribunal to which we can appeal, we look to results. 
Wherefore if a Prince succeeds in establishing and maintaining his 
authority, the means will always be judged honourable and be ap- 
proved by every one. For the vulgar are always taken by appearances 
and by results, and the world is made up of the vulgar, the few only 
finding room when the many have no longer ground to stand on. 

A certain Prince of our own days, whose name it is as well not 
to mention, is always preaching peace and good faith, although the 
mortal enemy of both; and both, had he practised them as he 
preaches them, would, oftener than once, have lost him his kingdom 
and authority. 

That a Prince Should Seek To Escape Contempt and Hatred 

Having now spoken of the chief of the qualities above referred 
to, the rest I shall dispose of briefly with these general remarks, 
that a Prince, as has already in part been said, should consider how 
he may avoid such courses as would make him hated or despised; 
and that whenever he succeeds in keeping clear of these, he has per- 
formed his part, and runs no risk though he incur other infamies. 

A Prince, as I have said before, sooner becomes hated by being 
rapacious and by interfering with the property and with the women 
of his subjects, than in any other way. From these, therefore, he 
should abstain. For so long as neither their property nor their 
honour is touched, the mass of mankind live contentedly, and the 
Prince has only to cope with the ambition of a few, which can in 
many ways and easily be kept within bounds. 

A Prince is despised when he is seen to be fickle, frivolous, effem- 
inate, pusillanimous, or irresolute, against which defects he ought 
therefore most carefully to guard, striving so to bear himself that 
greatness, courage, wisdom, and strength may appear in all his 
actions. In his private dealings with his subjects his decisions should 


be irrevocable, and his reputation such that no one would dream 
of overreaching or cajoling him. 

The Prince who inspires such an opinion of himself is greatly 
esteemed, and against one who is greatly esteemed, conspiracy is 
difficult; nor, when he is known to be an excellent Prince and held 
in reverence by his subjects, will it be easy to attack him. For a 
Prince is exposed to two dangers, from within in respect of his 
subjects, from without in respect of foreign powers. Against the 
latter he will defend himself with good arms and good allies, and 
if he have good arms he will always have good allies; and when 
things are settled abroad, they will always be settled at home, unless 
disturbed by conspiracies; and even should there be hostility from 
without, if he has taken those measures, and has lived in the way 
I have recommended, and if he never abandons hope, he will with- 
stand every attack; as I have said was done by Nabis the Spartan. 

As regards his own subjects, when affairs are quiet abroad, he 
has to fear they may engage in secret plots; against which a Prince 
best secures himself when he escapes being hated or despised, and 
keeps on good terms with his people; and this, as I have already 
shown at length, it is essential he should do. Not to be hated or 
despised by the body of his subjects, is one of the surest safeguards 
that a Prince can have against conspiracy. For he who conspires 
always reckons on pleasing the people by putting the Prince to death; 
but when he sees that instead of pleasing he will offend them, he 
cannot summon courage to carry out his design. For the difficulties 
that attend conspirators are infinite, and we know from experience 
that while there have been many conspiracies, few of them have 

He who conspires cannot do so alone, nor can he assume as his 
companions any save those whom he believes to be discontented; 
but so soon as you impart your design to a discontented man, you 
supply him with the means of removing his discontent, since by 
betraying you he can procure for himself every advantage; so that 
seeing on the one hand certain gain, and on the other a doubtful 
and dangerous risk, he must either be a rare friend to you, or the 
mortal enemy of his Prince, if he keep your secret. 

To put the matter shortly, I say that on the side of the conspirator 


there are distrust, jealousy, and dread of punishment to deter him, 
while on the side of the Prince there are the laws, the majesty of the 
throne, the protection of friends and of the government to defend 
him; to which if the general good-will of the people be added, it is 
hardly possible that any should be rash enough to conspire. For 
while in ordinary cases, the conspirator has ground for fear only 
before the execution of his villainy, in this case he has also cause 
to fear after the crime has been perpetrated, since he has the people 
for his enemy, and is thus cut off from every hope of shelter. 

Of this, endless instances might be given, but I shall content myself 
with one that happened within the recollection of our fathers. 
Messer Annibale Bentivoglio, Lord of Bologna and grandfather of 
the present Messer Annibale, was conspired against and murdered 
by the Canneschi, leaving behind none belonging to him save 
Messer Giovanni, then an infant in arms. Immediately upon the 
murder, the people rose and put all the Canneschi to death. This 
resulted from the general goodwill with which the House of the 
Bentivogli was then regarded in Bologna; which feeling was so 
strong, that when upon the death of Messer Annibale no one was 
left who could govern the State, there being reason to believe that 
a descendant of the family (who up to that time had been thought 
to be the son of a smith), was living in Florence, the citizens of 
Bologna came there for him, and entrusted him with the govern- 
ment of their city; which he retained until Messer Giovanni was old 
enough to govern. 

To be brief, a Prince has little to fear from conspiracies when his 
subjects are well disposed towards him; but when they are hostile 
and hold him in detestation, he has then reason to fear everything 
and every one. And well ordered States and wise Princes have pro- 
vided with extreme care that the nobility shall not be driven to des- 
peration, and that the commons shall be kept satisfied and con- 
tented; for this is one of the most important matters that a Prince has 
to look to. 

Among the well ordered and governed Kingdoms of our day is 
that of France, wherein we find an infinite number of wise insti- 
tutions, upon which depend the freedom and the security of the 
King, and of which the most important are the Parliament and its 


authority. For he who gave its constitution to this Realm, knowing 
the ambition and arrogance of the nobles, and judging it necessary 
to bridle and restrain them, and on the other hand knowing the 
hatred, originating in fear, entertained against them by the com- 
mons, and desiring that they should be safe, was unwilling that 
the responsibility for this should rest on the King; and to relieve 
him of the ill-will which he might incur with the nobles by favouring 
the commons, or with the commons by favouring the nobles, ap- 
pointed a third party to be arbitrator, who without committing the 
King, might depress the nobles and uphold the commons. Nor 
could there be any better, wiser, or surer safeguard for the King 
and the Kingdom. And hence we may draw another notable lesson, 
namely, that Princes should devolve on others those matters that 
entail responsibility, and reserve to themselves those that relate to 
grace and favour. And again I say that a Prince should esteem the 
great, but must not make himself odious to the people. 

To some it may perhaps appear, that if the lives and deaths of 
many of the Roman Emperors be considered, they offer examples 
opposed to the views expressed by me; since we find that some 
among them who had always lived good lives, and shown them- 
selves possessed of great qualities, were nevertheless deposed and 
even put to death by their subjects who had conspired against them. 

In answer to such objections, I shall examine the characters of 
several Emperors, and show that the causes of their downfall were 
in no way different from those which I have indicated. In doing 
this I shall submit for consideration such matters only as must strike 
every one who reads the history of these times; and it will be enough 
for my purpose to take those Emperors who reigned from the time 
of Marcus the Philosopher to the time of Maximinus, who were, 
inclusively, Marcus, Commodus his son, Pertinax, Julianus, Sev- 
erus, Caracalla his son, Macrinus, Heliogabalus, Alexander, and 

In the first place, then, we have to note that while in other Prince- 
doms the Prince has only to contend with the ambition of the 
nobles and the insubordination of the people, the Roman Em- 
perors had a further difficulty to encounter in the cruelty and 
rapacity of their soldiers, which were so distracting as to cause the 


ruin of many of these Princes. For it was hardly possible for them 
to satisfy both the soldiers and the people; the latter loving peace 
and therefore preferring sober Princes, while the former preferred 
a Prince of a warlike spirit, however harsh, haughty, or rapacious; 
being willing that he should exercise these qualities against the 
people, as the means of procuring for themselves double pay, and 
indulging their greed and cruelty. 

Whence it followed that those Emperors who had not inherited 
or won for themselves such authority as enabled them to keep both 
people and soldiers in check, were always ruined. The most of them, 
and those especially who came to the Empire new and without 
experience, seeing the difficulty of dealing with these conflicting 
humours, set themselves to satisfy the soldiers, and made little ac- 
count of offending the people. And for them this was a necessary 
course to take; for as Princes cannot escape being hated by some, they 
should, in the first place, endeavour not to be hated by a class; failing 
in which, they must do all they can to escape the hatred of that 
class which is the stronger. Wherefore those Emperors who, by 
reason of their newness, stood in need of extraordinary support, sided 
with the soldiery rather than with the people; a course which turned 
out advantageous or otherwise, according as the Prince knew, or 
did not know, how to maintain his authority over them. 

From the causes indicated it resulted that Marcus, Pertinax, and 
Alexander, being Princes of a temperate disposition, lovers of jus- 
tice, enemies of cruelty, gentle, and kindly, had all, save Marcus, an 
unhappy end. Marcus alone lived and died honoured in the highest 
degree; and this because he had succeeded to the Empire by right 
of inheritance, and not through the favour either of the soldiery 
or of the people; and also because, being endowed with many virtues 
which made him revered, he kept, while he lived, both factions 
within bounds, and was never either hated or despised. 

But Pertinax was chosen Emperor against the will of the soldiery, 
who being accustomed to a licentious life under Commodus, could 
not tolerate the stricter discipline to which his successor sought to 
bring them back. And having thus made himself hated, and being 
at the same time despised by reason of his advanced age, he was 
ruined at the very outset of his reign. 


And here it is to be noted that hatred is incurred as well on 
account of good actions as of bad; for which reason, as I have 
already said, a Prince who would maintain his authority is often 
compelled to be other than good. For when the class, be it the 
people, the soldiers, or the nobles, on whom you judge it necessary 
to rely for your support, is corrupt, you must needs adapt yourself 
to its humours, and satisfy these, in which case virtuous conduct will 
only prejudice you. 

Let us now come to Alexander, who was so just a ruler that 
among the praises ascribed to him it is recorded, that, during the 
fourteen years he held the Empire, no man was ever put to death 
by him without trial. Nevertheless, being accounted effeminate, and 
thought to be governed by his mother, he fell into contempt, and 
the army conspiring against him, slew him. 

When we turn to consider the characters of Commodus, Severus, 
and Caracalla, we find them all to have been most cruel and rapa- 
cious Princes, who to satisfy the soldiery, scrupled not to inflict every 
kind of wrong upon the people. And all of them, except Severus, 
came to a bad end. But in Severus there was such strength of char- 
acter, that, keeping the soldiers his friends, he was able, although 
he oppressed the people, to reign on prosperously to the last; be- 
cause his great qualities made him so admirable in the eyes both 
of the people and the soldiers, that the former remained in a man- 
ner amazed and awestruck, while the latter were respectful and con- 

And because his actions, for one who was a new Prince, were thus 
remarkable, I will point out shortly how well he understood to play 
the part both of the lion and of the fox, each of which natures, as I 
have observed before, a Prince should know how to assume. 

Knowing the indolent disposition of the Emperor Julianus, Sev- 
erus persuaded the army which he commanded in Illyria that it was 
their duty to go to Rome to avenge the death of Pertinax, who had 
been slain by the Pretorian guards. Under this pretext, and without 
disclosing his design on the Empire, he put his army in march, and 
reached Italy before it was known that he had set out. On his arrival 
in Rome, the Senate, through fear, elected him Emperor and put 
Julianus to death. After taking this first step, two obstacles still 


remained to his becoming sole master of the Empire; one in Asia, 
where Niger who commanded the armies of the East had caused 
himself to be proclaimed Emperor; the other in the West, where 
Albinus, who also aspired to the Empire, was in command. And 
as Severus judged it dangerous to declare open war against both, 
he resolved to proceed against Niger by arms, and against Albinus 
by artifice. To the latter, accordingly, he wrote, that having been 
chosen Emperor by the Senate, he desired to share the dignity with 
him; that he therefore sent him the title of Caesar, and in accordance 
with a resolution of the Senate assumed him as his colleague. All 
which statements Albinus accepted as true. But so soon as Severus 
had defeated and slain Niger, and restored tranquillity in the East, 
returning to Rome he complained in the Senate that Albinus, all 
unmindful of the favours he had received from him, had treacher- 
ously sought to destroy him; for which cause he was compelled to 
go and punish his ingratitude. Whereupon he set forth to seek 
Albinus in Gaul, where he at once deprived him of his dignities 
and his life. 

Whoever, therefore, examines carefully the actions of this Em- 
peror, will find in him all the fierceness of the lion and all the craft 
of the fox, and will note how he was feared and respected by the 
people, yet not hated by the army, and will not be surprised that 
though a new man, he was able to maintain his hold of so great 
an Empire. For the splendour of his reputation always shielded 
him from the odium which the people might otherwise have con- 
ceived against him by reason of his cruelty and rapacity. 

Caracalla, his son, was likewise a man of great parts, endowed 
with qualities that made him admirable in the sight of the people, 
and endeared him to the army, being of a warlike spirit, most patient 
of fatigue, and contemning all luxury in food and every other effem- 
inacy. Nevertheless, his ferocity and cruelty were so extravagant 
and unheard of (he having put to death a vast number of the inhabi- 
tants of Rome at different times, and the whole of those of Alex- 
andria at a stroke), that he came to be detested by all the world, and 
so feared even by those whom he had about him, that at the last he 
was slain by a centurion in the midst of his army. 

And here let it be noted that deaths like this which are the result 


of a deliberate and fixed resolve, cannot be escaped by Princes, since 
any one who disregards his own life can effect them. A Prince, how- 
ever, needs the less to fear them as they are seldom attempted. The 
only precaution he can take is to avoid doing grave wrong to any 
of those who serve him, or whom he has near him as officers of his 
Court, a precaution which Caracalla neglected in putting to a shame- 
ful death the brother of this centurion, and in using daily threats 
against the man himself, whom he nevertheless retained as one of 
his bodyguard. This, as the event showed, was a rash and fatal 

We come next to Commodus, who, as he took the Empire by 
hereditary right, ought to have held it with much ease. For being 
the son of Marcus, he had only to follow in his father's footsteps 
to content both the people and the soldiery. But being of a cruel 
and brutal nature, to sate his rapacity at the expense of the people, 
he sought support from the army, and indulged it in every kind of 
excess. On the other hand, by an utter disregard of his dignity, in 
frequently descending into the arena to fight with gladiators, and 
by other base acts wholly unworthy of the Imperial station, he be- 
came contemptible in the eyes of the soldiery; and being on the 
one hand hated, on the other despised, was at last conspired against 
and murdered. 

The character of Maximinus remains to be touched upon. He 
was of a very warlike disposition, and on the death of Alexander, of 
whom we have already spoken, was chosen Emperor by the army 
who had been displeased with the effeminacy of that Prince. But 
this dignity he did not long enjoy, since two causes concurred to 
render him at once odious and contemptible; the one the baseness 
of his origin, he having at one time herded sheep in Thrace, a fact 
well known to all, and which led all to look on him with disdain; 
the other that on being proclaimed Emperor, delaying to repair to 
Rome and enter on possession of the Imperial throne, he incurred 
the reputation of excessive cruelty by reason of the many atrocities 
perpetrated by his prefects in Rome and other parts of the Empire. 
The result was that the whole world, stirred at once with scorn of 
his mean birth and with the hatred which the dread of his ferocity 
inspired, combined against him, Africa leading the way, the Senate 


and people of Rome and the whole of Italy following. In which 
conspiracy his own army joined. For they, being engaged in the 
siege of Aquileja and finding difficulty in reducing it, disgusted 
with his cruelty, and less afraid of him when they saw so many 
against him, put him to death. 

I need say nothing of Heliogabalus, Macrinus, or Julianus, all of 
whom being utterly despicable, came to a speedy downfall, but 
shall conclude these remarks by observing, that the Princes of our 
own days are less troubled with the difficulty of having to make 
constant efforts to keep their soldiers in good humour. For though 
they must treat them with some indulgence, the need for doing so 
is soon over, since none of these Princes possesses a standing army 
which, like the armies of the Roman Empire, has strengthened with 
the growth of his government and the administration of his State. 
And if it was then necessary to satisfy the soldiers rather than the 
people, because the soldiers were more powerful than the people, 
now it is more necessary for all Princes, except the Turk and the 
Soldan, to satisfy the people rather than the soldiery, since the former 
are more powerful than the latter. 

I except the Turk because he has always about him some twelve 
thousand foot soldiers and fifteen thousand horse, on whom depend 
the security and strength of his kingdom, and with whom he must 
needs keep on good terms, all regard for the people being subordi- 
nate. The government of the Soldan is similar, so that he too being 
wholly in the hands of his soldiers, must keep well with them 
without regard to the people. 

And here you are to note that the State of the Soldan, while it is 
unlike all other Princedoms, resembles the Christian Pontificate in 
this, that it can neither be classed as new, nor as hereditary. For 
the sons of a Soldan who dies do not succeed to the kingdom as 
his heirs, but he who is elected to the post by those who have 
authority to make such elections. And this being the ancient and 
established order of things, the Princedom cannot be accounted new, 
since none of the difficulties that attend new Princedoms are found 
in it. For although the Prince be new, the institutions of the State are 
old, and are so contrived that the elected Prince is accepted as though 
he were an hereditary Sovereign. 


But returning to the matter in hand, I say that whoever reflects 
on the above reasoning will see that either hatred or contempt was 
the ruin of the Emperors whom I have named; and will also under- 
stand how it happened that some taking one way and some the 
opposite, one only by each of these roads came to a happy, and all 
the rest to an unhappy end. Because for Pertinax and Alexander, 
they being new Princes, it was useless and hurtful to try to imitate 
Marcus, who was an hereditary Prince; and similarly for Caracalla, 
Commodus, and Maximinus it was a fatal error to imitate Severus, 
since they lacked the qualities that would have enabled them to 
tread in his footsteps. 

In short, a Prince new to the Princedom cannot imitate the actions 
of Marcus, nor is it necessary that he should imitate all those of 
Severus; but he should borrow from Severus those parts of his con- 
duct which are needed to serve as a foundation for his government, 
and from Marcus those suited to maintain it, and render it glorious 
when once established. 


Whether Fortresses, and Certain Other Expedients to Which 
Princes Often Have Recourse, are Profitable or Hurtful 

To govern more securely some Princes have disarmed their sub- 
jects, others have kept the towns subject to them divided by factions; 
some have fostered hostility against themselves, others have sought 
to gain over those who at the beginning of their reign were looked 
on with suspicion; some have built fortresses, others have disman- 
tled and destroyed them; and though no definite judgment can be 
pronounced respecting any of these methods, without regard to the 
special circumstances of the State to which it is proposed to apply 
them, I shall nevertheless speak of them in as comprehensive a way 
as the nature of the subject will admit. 

It has never chanced that any new Prince has disarmed his sub- 
jects. On the contrary, when he has found them unarmed he has 
always armed them. For the arms thus provided become yours, 
those whom you suspected grow faithful, while those who were 


faithful at the first, continue so, and from your subjects become 
your partisans. And though all your subjects cannot be armed, yet 
if those of them whom you arm be treated with marked favour, you 
can deal more securely with the rest. For the difference which those 
whom you supply with arms perceive in their treatment, will bind 
them to you, while the others will excuse you, recognizing that those 
who incur greater risk and responsibility merit greater rewards. But 
by disarming, you at once give offence, since you show your sub- 
jects that you distrust them, either as doubting their courage, or as 
doubting their fidelity, each of which imputations begets hatred 
against! you. Moreover, as you cannot maintain yourself without 
arms you must have recourse to mercenary troops. What these are 
I have already shown, but even if they were good, they could never 
avail to defend you, at once against powerful enemies abroad and 
against subjects whom you distrust. Wherefore, as I have said al- 
ready, new Princes in new Princedoms have always provided for 
their being armed; and of instances of this History is full. 

But when a Prince acquires a new State, which thus becomes 
joined on like a limb to his old possessions, he must disarm its inhabi- 
tants, except such of them as have taken part with him while he 
was acquiring it; and even these, as time and occasion serve, he 
should seek to render soft and effeminate; and he must so manage 
matters that all the arms of the new State shall be in the hands of 
his own soldiers who have served under him in his ancient do- 

Our forefathers, even such among them as were esteemed wise, 
were wont to say that 'Pistoja was to be held by feuds, and Pisa by 
fortresses' and on this principle used to promote dissensions in 
various subject towns with a view to retain them with less effort. 
At a time when Italy was in some measure in equilibrium, this 
may have been a prudent course to follow; but at the present day 
it seems impossible to recommend it as a general rule of policy. For 
I do not believe that divisions purposely caused can ever lead to good; 
on the contrary, when an enemy approaches, divided cities are lost at 
once, for the weaker faction will always side with the invader, and 
the other will not be able to stand alone. 

The Venetians, influenced as I believe by the reasons above men- 


tioned, fostered the factions of Guelf and Ghibelline in the cities 
subject to them; and though they did not suffer blood to be shed, 
fomented their feuds, in order that the citizens having their minds 
occupied with these disputes might not conspire against them. But 
this, as we know, did not turn out to their advantage, for after their 
defeat at Vaila, one of the two factions, suddenly taking courage, 
deprived them of the whole of their territory. 

Moreover methods like these argue weakness in a Prince, for 
under a strong government such divisions would never be per- 
mitted, since they are profitable only in time of peace as an expe- 
dient whereby subjects may be more easily managed; but when 
war breaks out their insufficiency is demonstrated. 

Doubtless, Princes become great by vanquishing difficulties and 
opposition, and Fortune, on that account, when she desires to ag- 
grandize a new Prince, who has more need than an hereditary 
Prince to win reputation, causes enemies to spring up, and urges 
them on to attack him, to the end that he may have opportunities to 
overcome them, and make his ascent by the very ladder which they 
have planted. For which reason, many are of the opinion that a 
wise Prince, when he has the occasion, ought dexterously to promote 
hostility to himself in certain quarters, in order that his greatness 
may be enhanced by crushing it. 

Princes, and new Princes especially, have found greater fidelity 
and helpfulness in those whom, at the beginning of their reign, they 
have held in suspicion, than in those who at the outset have enjoyed 
their confidence; and Pandolfo Petrucci, Lord of Siena, governed his 
State by the instrumentality of those whom he had at one time dis- 
trusted, in preference to all others. But on this point it is impossible 
to lay down any general rule, since the course to be followed varies 
with the circumstances. This only I will say, that those men who 
at the beginning of a reign have been hostile, if of a sort requiring 
support to maintain them, may always be won over by the Prince 
with much ease, and are the more bound to serve him faithfully 
because they know that they have to efface by their conduct the 
unfavourable impression he had formed of them; and in this way a 
Prince always obtains better help from them, than from those who 
serving him in too complete security neglect his affairs. 


And since the subject suggests it, I must not fail to remind the 
Prince who acquires a new State through the favour of its inhabi- 
tants, to weigh well what were the causes which led those who 
favoured him to do so; and if it be seen that they have acted not 
from any natural affection for him, but merely out of discontent 
with the former government, that he will find the greatest difficulty 
in keeping them his friends, since it will be impossible for him to 
content them. Carefully considering the cause of this, with the aid of 
examples taken from times ancient and modern, he will perceive 
that it is far easier to secure the friendship of those who being satis- 
fied with things as they stood, were for that very reason his ene- 
mies, than of those who sided with him and aided him in his 
usurpation only because they were discontented. 

It has been customary for Princes, with a view to hold their do- 
minions more securely, to build fortresses which might serve as a 
curb and restraint on such as have designs against them, and as a 
safe refuge against a first onset. I approve this custom, because it 
has been followed from the earliest times. Nevertheless, in our own 
days, Messer Niccolo Vitelli thought it prudent to dismantle two 
fortresses in Citta di Castello in order to secure that town: and 
Guido Ubaldo, Duke of Urbino, on returning to his dominions, 
whence he had been driven by Cesare Borgia, razed to their founda- 
tions the fortresses throughout the Dukedom, judging that if these 
were removed, it would not again be so easily lost. A like course 
was followed by the Bentivogli on their return to Bologna. 

Fortresses, therefore, are useful or no, according to circumstances, 
and if in one way they benefit, in another they injure you. We may 
state the case thus: the Prince who is more afraid of his subjects 
than of strangers ought to build fortresses, while he who is more 
afraid of strangers than of his subjects, should leave them alone. The 
citadel built by Francesco Sforza in Milan, has been, and will here- 
after prove to be, more dangerous to the House of Sforza than any 
other disorder of that State. So that, on the whole, the best fortress 
you can have, is in not being hated by your subjects. If they hate you 
no fortress will save you; for when once the people take up arms, 
foreigners are never wanting to assist them. 

Within our own time it does not appear that fortresses have been 


of service to any Prince, unless to the Countess of Forli after her 
husband Count Girolamo was murdered; for by this means she was 
able to escape the first onset of the insurgents, and awaiting succour 
from Milan, to recover her State; the circumstances of the times not 
allowing any foreigner to lend assistance to the people. But after- 
wards, when she was attacked by Cesare Borgia, and the people, out 
of hostility to her, took part with the invader, her fortresses were 
of little avail. So that, both on this and on the former occasion, it 
would have been safer for her to have had no fortresses, than to have 
had her subjects for enemies. 

All which considerations taken into account, I shall applaud him 
who builds fortresses, and him who does not; but I shall blame him 
who, trusting in them, reckons it a light thing to be held in hatred 
by his people. 


How a Prince Should Bear Himself So As to Acquire 

Nothing makes a Prince so well thought of as to undertake great 
enterprises and give striking proofs of his capacity. 

Among the Princes of our time Ferdinand of Aragon, the present 
King of Spain, may almost be accounted a new Prince, since from 
one of the weakest he has become, for fame and glory, the foremost 
King in Christendom. And if you consider his achievements you 
will find them all great and some extraordinary. 

In the beginning of his reign he made war on Granada, which 
enterprise was the foundation of his power. At first he carried on 
the war leisurely, without fear of interruption, and kept the atten- 
tion and thoughts of the Barons of Castile so completely occupied 
with it, that they had no time to think of changes at home. Mean- 
while he insensibly acquired reputation among them and authority 
over them. With the money of the Church and of his subjects he 
was able to maintain his armies, and during the prolonged contest 
to lay the foundations of that military discipline which afterwards 
made him so famous. Moreover, to enable him to engage in still 
greater undertakings, always covering himself with the cloak of 


religion, he had recourse to what may be called pious cruelty, in 
driving out and clearing his Kingdom of the Moors; than which 
exploit none could be more wonderful or uncommon. Using the 
same pretext he made war on Africa, invaded Italy, and finally at- 
tacked France; and being thus constantly busied in planning and 
executing vast designs, he kept the minds of his subjects in suspense 
and admiration, and occupied with the results of his actions, which 
arose one out of another in such close succession as left neither time 
nor opportunity to oppose them. 

Again, it greatly profits a Prince in conducting the internal gov- 
ernment of his State, to follow striking methods, such as are re- 
corded of Messer Bernabo of Milan, whenever the remarkable actions 
of any one in civil life, whether for good or for evil, afford him 
occasion; and to choose such ways of rewarding and punishing as 
cannot fail to be much spoken of. But above all, he should strive 
by all his actions to inspire a sense of his greatness and goodness. 

A Prince is likewise esteemed who is a stanch friend and a 
thorough foe, that is to say, who without reserve openly declares for 
one against another, this being always a more advantageous course 
than to stand neutral. For supposing two of your powerful neigh- 
bours come to blows, it must either be that you have, or have not, 
reason to fear the one who comes off victorious. In either case it 
will always be well for you to declare yourself, and join in frankly 
with one side or other. For should you fail to do so you are certain, 
in the former of the cases put, to become the prey of the victor to the 
satisfaction and delight of the vanquished, and no reason or circum- 
stance that you may plead will avail to shield or shelter you; for the 
victor dislikes doubtful friends, and such as will not help him at a 
pinch; and the vanquished will have nothing to say to you, since 
you would not share his fortunes sword in hand. 

When Antiochus, at the instance of the Aetolians, passed into 
Greece in order to drive out the Romans, he sent envoys to the 
Achaians, who were friendly to the Romans, exhorting them to stand 
neutral. The Romans, on the other hand, urged them to take up 
arms on their behalf. The matter coming to be discussed in the 
Council of the Achaians, the legate of Antiochus again urged neu- 
trality, whereupon the Roman envoy answered — 'Nothing can be 


less to your advantage than the course which has been recommended 
as the best and most useful for your State, namely, to refrain from 
taking any part in our war, for by standing aloof you will gain 
neither favour nor fame, but remain the prize of the victor.' And 
it will always happen that he who is not your friend will invite 
you to neutrality, while he who is your friend will call on you 
to declare yourself openly in arms. Irresolute Princes, to escape 
immediate danger, commonly follow the neutral path, in most in- 
stances to their destruction. But when you pronounce valiantly in 
favour of one side or other, if he to whom you give your adherence 
conquers, although he be powerful and you are at his mercy, still he 
is under obligations to you, and has become your friend; and none 
are so lost to shame as to destroy with manifest ingratitude, one 
who has helped them. Besides which, victories are never so complete 
that the victor can afford to disregard all considerations whatsoever, 
more especially considerations of justice. On the other hand, if he 
with whom you take part should lose, you will always be favourably 
regarded by him; while he can he will aid you, and you become 
his companion in a cause which may recover. 

In the second case, namely, when both combatants are of such 
limited strength that whichever wins you have no cause to fear, it 
is all the more prudent for you to take a side, for you will then be 
ruining the one with the help of the other, who were he wise 
would endeavour to save him. If he whom you help conquers, he 
remains in your power, and with your aid he cannot but conquer. 

And here let it be noted that a Prince should be careful never to 
join with one stronger than himself in attacking others, unless, as 
already said, he be driven to it by necessity. For if he whom you 
join prevails, you are at his mercy; and Princes, so far as in them 
lies, should avoid placing themselves at the mercy of others. The 
Venetians, although they might have declined the alliance, joined 
with France against the Duke of Milan, which brought about their 
ruin. But when an alliance cannot be avoided, as was the case with 
the Florentines when the Pope and Spain together led their armies 
to attack Lombardy, a Prince, for the reasons given, must take a 
side. Nor let it be supposed that any State can choose for itself a 
perfecdy safe line of policy. On the contrary, it must reckon on 


every course which it may take being doubtful; for it happens in all 
human affairs that we never seek to escape one mischief without 
falling into another. Prudence therefore consists in knowing how 
to distinguish degrees of disadvantage, and in accepting a less evil 
as a good. 

Again, a Prince should show himself a patron of merit, and should 
honour those who excel in every art. He ought accordingly to 
encourage his subjects by enabling them to pursue their callings, 
whether mercantile, agricultural, or any other, in security, so that 
this man shall not be deterred from beautifying his possessions from 
the apprehension that they may be taken from him, or that other 
refrain from opening a trade through fear of taxes; and he should 
provide rewards for those who desire so to employ themselves, and 
for all who are disposed in any way to add to the greatness of his 
City or State. 

He ought, moreover, at suitable seasons of the year to entertain 
the people with festivals and shows. And because all cities are 
divided into guilds and companies, he should show attention to 
these societies, and sometimes take part in their meetings; offering 
an example of courtesy and munificence, but always maintaining the 
dignity of his station, which must under no circumstances be com- 

Of the Secretaries of Princes 

The choice of Ministers is a matter of no small moment to a 
Prince. Whether they shall be good or no depends on his prudence, 
so that the readiest conjecture we can form of the character and 
sagacity of a Prince, is from seeing what sort of men he has about 
him. When they are at once capable and faithful, we may always 
account him wise, since he has known to recognize their merit and 
to retain their fidelity. But if they be otherwise, we must pronounce 
unfavourably of him, since he has committed a first fault in making 
this selection. 

There was none who knew Messer Antonio of Venafro, as Min- 
ister of Pandolfo Petrucci, Lord of Siena, but thought Pandolfo a 


most prudent ruler in having him for his servant. And since there 
are three scales of intelligence, one which understands by itself, a 
second which understands what is shown it by others, and a third 
which understands neither by itself nor on the showing of others, 
the first of which is most excellent, the second good, but the third 
worthless, we must needs admit that if Pandolfo was not in the 
first of these degrees, he was in the second; for when one has the 
judgment to discern the good from the bad in what another says or 
does, though he be devoid of invention, he can recognize the merits 
and demerits of his servant, and will commend the former while he 
corrects the latter. The servant cannot hope to deceive such a master, 
and will continue good. 

As to how a Prince is to know his Minister, this unerring rule 
may be laid down. When you see a Minister thinking more of 
himself than of you, and in all his actions seeking his own ends, that 
man can never be a good Minister or one that you can trust. For he 
who has the charge of the State committed to him, ought not to 
think of himself, but only of his Prince, and should never bring 
to the notice of the latter what does not directly concern him. On 
the other hand, to keep his Minister good, the Prince should be con- 
siderate of him, dignifying him, enriching him, binding him to 
himself by benefits, and sharing with him the honours as well as 
the burthens of the State, so that the abundant honours and wealth 
bestowed upon him may divert him from seeking them at other 
hands; while the great responsibilities wherewith he is charged 
may lead him to dread change, knowing that he cannot stand alone 
without his master's support. When Prince and Minister are upon 
this footing they can mutually trust one another; but when the 
contrary is the case, it will always fare ill with one or other of them. 

That Flatterers Should Be Shunned 

One error into which Princes, unless very prudent or very for- 
tunate in their choice of friends, are apt to fall, is of so great impor- 
tance that I must not pass it over. I mean in respect of flatterers. 


These abound in Courts, because men take such pleasure in their 
own concerns, and so deceive themselves with regard to them, that 
they can hardly escape this plague; while even in the effort to escape 
it there is risk of their incurring contempt. 

For there is no way to guard against flattery but by letting it be 
seen that you take no offence in hearing the truth: but when every 
one is free to tell you the truth respect falls short. Wherefore a pru- 
dent Prince should follow a middle course, by choosing certain dis- 
creet men from among his subjects, and allowing them alone free 
leave to speak their minds on any matter on which he asks their 
opinion, and on none other. But he ought to ask their opinion on 
everything, and after hearing what they have to say, should reflect 
and judge for himself. And with these counsellors collectively, and 
with each of them separately, his bearing should be such, that each 
and all of them may know that the more freely they declare their 
thoughts the better they will be liked. Besides these, the Prince 
should hearken to no others, but should follow the course deter- 
mined on, and afterwards adhere firmly to his resolves. Whoever 
acts otherwise is either undone by flatterers, or from continually 
vacillating as opinions vary, comes to be held in light esteem. 

With reference to this matter, I shall cite a recent instance. Father 
Luke, who is attached to the Court of the present Emperor Maxi- 
milian, in speaking of his Majesty told me, that he seeks advice from 
none, yet never has his own way; and this from his following a 
course contrary to that above recommended. For being of a secret 
disposition, he never discloses his intentions to any, nor asks their 
opinion; and it is only when his plans are to be carried out that they 
begin to be discovered and known, and at the same time they begin 
to be thwarted by those he has about him, when he being facile 
gives way. Hence it happens that what he does one day, he undoes 
the next; that his wishes and designs are never fully ascertained; and 
that it is impossible to build on his resolves. 

A Prince, therefore, ought always to take counsel, but at such times 
and seasons only as he himself pleases, and not when it pleases 
others; nay, he should discourage every one from obtruding advice 
on matters on which it is not sought. But he should be free in ask- 
ing advice, and afterwards, as regards the matters on which he has 


asked it, a patient hearer of the truth, and even displeased should 
he perceive that any one, from whatever motive, keeps it back. 

But those who think that every Prince who has a name for pru- 
dence owes it to the wise counsellors he has around him, and not 
to any merit of his own, are certainly mistaken; since it is an unerr- 
ing rule and of universal application that a Prince who is not wise 
himself cannot be well advised by others, unless by chance he sur- 
render himself to be wholly governed by some one adviser who hap- 
pens to be supremely prudent; in which case he may, indeed, be 
well advised; but not for long, since such an adviser will soon de- 
prive him of his Government. If he listen to a multitude of ad- 
visers, the Prince who is not wise will never have consistent counsels, 
nor will he know of himself how to reconcile them. Each of his 
counsellors will study his own advantage, and the Prince will be 
unable to detect or correct them. Nor could it well be otherwise, for 
men will always grow rogues on your hands unless they find them- 
selves under a necessity to be honest. 

Hence it follows that good counsels, whencesoever they come, have 
their origin in the prudence of the Prince, and not the prudence of 
the Prince in wise counsels. 

Why the Princes of Italy Have Lost Their States 

The lessons above taught if prudently followed will make a new 
Prince seem like an old one, and will soon seat him in his place more 
firmly and securely than if his authority had the sanction of time. 
For the actions of a new Prince are watched much more closely than 
those of an hereditary Prince; and when seen to be good are far 
more effectual than antiquity of blood in gaining men over and at- 
taching them to his cause. For men are more nearly touched by 
things present than by things past, and when they find themselves 
well off as they are, enjoy their felicity and seek no further; nay, are 
ready to do their utmost in defence of the new Prince, provided he be 
not wanting to himself in other respects. In this way there accrues 
to him a twofold glory, in having laid the foundations of the new 


Princedom, and in having strengthened and adorned it with good 
laws and good arms, with faithful friends and great deeds; as, on 
the other hand, there is a double disgrace in one who has been born 
to a Princedom losing it by his own want of wisdom. 

And if we contemplate those Lords who in our own times have 
lost their dominions in Italy, such as the King of Naples, the Duke 
of Milan, and others, in the first place we shall see, that in respect 
of arms they have, for reasons already dwelt on, been all alike defec- 
tive; and next, that some of them have either had the people against 
them, or if they have had the people with them, have not known 
how to secure themselves against their nobles. For without such de- 
fects as these, States powerful enough to keep an army in the field are 
never overthrown. 

Philip of Macedon, not the father of Alexander the Great, but he 
who was vanquished by Titus Quintius, had no great State as com- 
pared with the strength of the Romans and Greeks who attacked 
him. Nevertheless, being a Prince of a warlike spirit, and skilful in. 
gaining the good will of the people and in securing the fidelity of 
the nobles, he maintained himself for many years against his assail- 
ants, and in the end, though he lost some towns, succeeded in saving 
his Kingdom. 

Let those Princes of ours, therefore, who, after holding them for a 
length of years, have lost their dominions, blame not Fortune but 
their own inertness. For never having reflected in tranquil times that 
there might come a change (and it is human nature when the sea 
is calm not to think of storms), when adversity overtook them, they 
thought not of defence but only of escape, hoping that their people, 
disgusted with the arrogance of the conqueror, would some day 
recall them. 

This course may be a good one to follow when all others fail, but 
it were the height of folly, trusting to it, to abandon every other; 
since none would wish to fall on the chance of some one else being 
found to lift him up. It may not happen that you are recalled by 
your people, or if it happen, it gives you no security. It is an ignoble 
resource, since it does not depend on you for its success; and those 
modes of defence are alone good, certain and lasting, which depend 
upon yourself and your own worth. 



What Fortune Can Effect in Human Affairs, and How She 
May Be Withstood 

I am not ignorant that many have been and are of the opinion that 
human affairs are so governed by Fortune and by God, that men 
cannot alter them by any prudence of theirs, and indeed have no rem- 
edy against them; and for this reason have come to think that it is 
not worth while to labour much about anything, but that they must 
leave everything to be determined by chance. 

Often when I turn the matter over, I am in part inclined to agree 
with this opinion, which has had the readier acceptance in our own 
times from the great changes in things which we have seen, and 
every day see happen contrary to all human expectation. Neverthe- 
less, that our free will be not wholly set aside, I think it may be the 
case that Fortune is the mistress of one half our actions, and yet 
leaves the control of the other half, or a little less, to ourselves. And 
I would liken her to one of those wild torrents which, when angry, 
overflow the plains, sweep away trees and houses, and carry off soil 
from one bank to throw it down upon the other. Every one flees 
before them, and yields to their fury without the least power to resist. 
And yet, though this be their nature, it does not follow that in sea- 
sons of fair weather, men cannot, by constructing weirs and moles, 
take such precautions as will cause them when again in flood to 
pass off by some artificial channel, or at least prevent their course 
from being so uncontrolled and destructive. And so it is with For- 
tune, who displays her might where there is no organized strength 
to resist her, and directs her onset where she knows that there is 
neither barrier nor embankment to confine her. 

And if you look at Italy, which has been at once the seat of these 
changes and their cause, you will perceive that it is a field without 
embankment or barrier. For if, like Germany, France, and Spain, it 
had been guarded with sufficient skill, this inundation, if it ever 
came upon us, would never have wrought the violent changes which 
we have witnessed. 

This I think enough to say generally touching resistance to For- 


tune. But confining myself more closely to the matter in hand, I 
note that one day we see a Prince prospering and the next day over- 
thrown, without detecting any change in his nature or character. 
This, I believe, comes chiefly from a cause already dwelt upon, 
namely, that a Prince who rests wholly on Fortune is ruined when 
she changes. Moreover, I believe that he will prosper most whose 
mode of acting best adapts itself to the character of the times; and 
conversely that he will be unprosperous, with whose mode of acting 
the times do not accord. For we see that men in these matters which 
lead to the end that each has before him, namely, glory and wealth, 
proceed by different ways, one with caution, another with impetu- 
osity, one with violence, another with subtlety, one with patience, 
another with its contrary; and that by one or other of these differ- 
ent courses each may succeed. 

Again, of two who act cautiously, you shall find that one attains 
his end, the other not, and that two of different temperament, the 
one cautious, the other impetuous, are equally successful. All which 
happens from no other cause than that the character of the times 
accords or does not accord with their methods of acting. And hence 
it comes, as I have already said, that two operating differently arrive 
at the same result, and two operating similarly, the one succeeds 
and the other not. On this likewise depend the vicissitudes of For- 
tune. For if to one who conducts himself with caution and patience, 
time and circumstances are propitious, so that his method of acting 
is good, he goes on prospering; but if these change he is ruined, be- 
cause he does not change his method of acting. 

For no man is found so prudent as to know how to adapt himself 
to these changes, both because he cannot deviate from the course to 
which nature inclines him, and because, having always prospered 
while adhering to one path, he cannot be persuaded that it would 
be well for him to forsake it. And so when occasion requires the 
cautious man to act impetuously, he cannot do so and is undone: 
whereas, had he changed his nature with time and circumstances, his 
fortune would have been unchanged. 

Pope Julius II proceeded with impetuosity in all his undertakings, 
and found time and circumstances in such harmony with his mode 
of acting that he always obtained a happy result. Witness his first 


expedition against Bologna, when Messer Giovanni Bentivoglio was 
yet living. The Venetians were not favourable to the enterprise; 
nor was the King of Spain. Negotiations respecting it with the 
King of France were still open. Nevertheless, the Pope with his 
wonted hardihood and impetuosity marched in person on the expe- 
dition, and by this movement brought the King of Spain and the 
Venetians to a check, the latter through fear, the former from his 
eagerness to recover the entire Kingdom of Naples; at the same time, 
he dragged after him the King of France, who, desiring to have 
the Pope for an ally in humbling the Venetians, on finding him 
already in motion saw that he could not refuse him his soldiers 
without openly offending him. By the impetuosity of his move- 
ments, therefore, Julius effected what no other Pontiff endowed with 
the highest human prudence could. For had he, as any other Pope 
would have done, put off his departure from Rome until terms had 
been settled and everything duly arranged, he never would have 
succeeded. For the King of France would have found a thousand 
pretexts to delay him, and the others would have menaced him 
with a thousand alarms. I shall not touch upon his other actions, 
which were all of a like character, and all of which had a happy 
issue, since the shortness of his life did not allow him to experience 
reverses. But if times had overtaken him, rendering a cautious line 
of conduct necessary, his ruin must have ensued, since he never 
could have departed from those methods to which nature inclined 

To be brief, I say that since Fortune changes and men stand fixed 
in their old ways, they are prosperous so long as there is congruity 
between them, and the reverse when there is not. Of this, however, 
I am well persuaded, that it is better to be impetuous than cautious. 
For Fortune is a woman who to be kept under must be beaten 
and roughly handled; and we see that she suffers herself to be more 
readily mastered by those who so treat her than by those who are 
more timid in their approaches. And always, like a woman, she 
favours the young, because they are less scrupulous and fiercer, and 
command her with greater audacity. 


An Exhortation to Liberate Italy from the Barbarians 

Turning over in my mind all the matters which have above been 
considered, and debating with myself whether in Italy at the present 
hour the times are such as might serve to confer honour on a new 
Prince, and whether a fit opportunity now offers for a prudent and 
valiant leader to bring about changes glorious for himself and bene- 
ficial to the whole Italian people, it seems to me that so many condi- 
tions combine to further such an enterprise, that I know of no time 
so favourable to it as the present. And if, as I have said, it was nec- 
essary in order to display the valour of Moses that the children of 
Israel should be slaves in Egypt, and to know the greatness and 
courage of Cyrus that the Persians should be oppressed by the Medes, 
and to illustrate the excellence of Theseus that the Athenians should 
be scattered and divided, so at this hour, to prove the worth of some 
Italian hero, it was required that Italy should be brought to her 
present abject condition, to be more a slave than the Hebrew, more 
oppressed than the Persian, more disunited than the Athenian, with- 
out a head, without order, beaten, spoiled, torn in pieces, over-run 
and abandoned to destruction in every shape. 

But though, heretofore, glimmerings may have been discerned 
in this man or that, whence it might be conjectured that he was 
ordained by God for her redemption, nevertheless it has afterwards 
been seen in the further course of his actions that Fortune has dis- 
owned him; so that our country, left almost without life, still waits 
to know who it is that is to heal her bruises, to put an end to the 
devastation and plunder of Lombardy, to the exactions and imposts 
of Naples and Tuscany, and to stanch those wounds of hers which 
long neglect has changed into running sores. 

We see how she prays God to send some one to rescue her from 
these barbarous cruelties and oppressions. We see too how ready 
and eager she is to follow any standard were there only some one 
to raise it. But at present we see no one except in your illustrious 
House (pre-eminent by its virtues and good fortune, and favoured 


by God and by the Church whose headship it now holds), who 
could undertake the part of a deliverer. 

But for you this will not be too hard a task, if you keep before your 
eyes the lives and actions of those whom I have named above. For 
although these men were singular and extraordinary, after all they 
were but men, not one of whom had so great an opportunity as now 
presents itself to you. For their undertakings were not more just 
than this, nor more easy, nor was God more their friend than yours. 
The justice of the cause is conspicuous; for that war is just which 
is necessary, and those arms are sacred from which we derive our only 
hope. Everywhere there is the strongest disposition to engage in this 
cause; and where the disposition is strong the difficulty cannot be 
great, provided you follow the methods observed by those whom I 
have set before you as models. 

But further, we see here extraordinary and unexampled proofs of 
Divine favour. The sea has been divided; the cloud has attended 
you on your way; the rock has flowed with water; the manna has 
rained from heaven; everything has concurred to promote your 
greatness. What remains to be done must be done by you; since in 
order not to deprive us of our free will and such share of glory as 
belongs to us, God will not do everything himself. 

Nor is to be marvelled at if none of those Italians I have named 
has been able to effect what we hope to see effected by your illus- 
trious House; or that amid so many revolutions and so many warlike 
movements it should always appear as though the military virtues 
of Italy were spent; for this comes from her old system being de- 
fective, and from no one being found among us capable to strike 
out a new. Nothing confers such honour on the reformer of a State, 
as do the new laws and institutions which he devises; for these when 
they stand on a solid basis and have a greatness in their scope, make 
him admired and venerated. And in Italy material is not wanting 
for improvement in every form. If the head be weak the limbs are 
strong, and we see daily in single combats, or where few are engaged, 
how superior are the strength, dexterity, and intelligence of Italians. 
But when it comes to armies, they are nowhere, and this from no 
other reason than the defects of their leaders. For those who are 


skilful in arms will not obey, and every one thinks himself skilful, 
since hitherto we have had none among us so raised by merit or by 
fortune above his fellows that they should yield him the palm. And 
hence it happens that for the long period of twenty years, during 
which so many wars have taken place, whenever there has been an 
army purely Italian it has always been beaten. To this testify, first 
Taro, then Alessandria, Capua, Genoa, Vaila, Bologna, Mestri. 

If then your illustrious House should seek to follow the example 
of those great men who have delivered their country in past ages, 
it is before all things necessary, as the true foundation of every such 
attempt, to be provided with national troops, since you can have no 
braver, truer, or more faithful soldiers; and although every single 
man of them be good, collectively they will be better, seeing them- 
selves commanded by their own Prince, and honoured and esteemed 
by him. That you may be able, therefore, to defend yourself against 
the foreigner with Italian valour, the first step is to provide yourself 
with an army such as this. 

And although the Swiss and the Spanish infantry are each es- 
teemed formidable, there are yet defects in both, by reason of which 
troops trained on a different system might not merely withstand 
them, but be certain of defeating them. For the Spaniards cannot 
resist cavalry and the Swiss will give way before infantry if they 
find them as resolute as themselves at close quarters. Whence it has 
been seen, and may be seen again, that the Spaniards cannot sustain 
the onset of the French men-at-arms and that the Swiss are broken 
by the Spanish foot. And although of this last we have no complete 
instance, we have yet an indication of it in the battle of Ravenna, 
where the Spanish infantry confronted the German companies who 
have the same discipline as the Swiss; on which occasion the Span- 
iards by their agility and with the aid of their bucklers forced their 
way under the pikes, and stood ready to close with the Germans, 
who were no longer in a position to defend themselves; and had they 
not been charged by cavalry, they must have put the Germans to 
utter rout. Knowing, then, the defects of each of these kinds of 
troops, you can train your men on some different system, to with- 
stand cavalry and not to fear infantry. To effect this, will not require 


the creation of any new forces, but simply a change in the discipline 
of the old. And these are matters in reforming which the new Prince 
acquires reputation and importance. 

This opportunity then, for Italy at last to look on her deliverer, 
ought not to be allowed to pass away. With what love he would 
be received in all those Provinces which have suffered from the for- 
eign inundation, with what thirst for vengeance, with what fixed 
fidelity, with what devotion, and what tears, no words of mine can 
declare. What gates would be closed against him? What people 
would refuse him obedience? What jealousy would stand in his 
way? What Italian but would yield him homage? This barbarian 
tyranny stinks in all nostrils. 

Let your illustrious House therefore take upon itself this enter- 
prise with all the courage and all the hopes with which a just cause 
is undertaken; so that under your standard this our country may be 
ennobled, and under your auspices be fulfilled the words of 
Petrarch : — 

'Brief will be the strife 
When valour arms against barbaric rage; 
For the bold spirit of the bygone age 
Still warms Italian hearts with life.' 






The accompanying intimate account of the life of Sir Thomas More 
by his son-in-law, William Roper, renders a biographical sketch 

While More was a young law student in Lincoln's Inn, he is known to 
have delivered in the church of St. Lawrence a course of lectures on 
Saint Augustine's "City of God"; and some have supposed that it was 
this that suggested to him the composition of the "Utopia." The book 
itself was begun in Antwerp in 1515, when More was in Flanders 
engaged in negotiations on behalf of the English wool merchants, and 
results of his observations among the towns of the Low Countries are 
evident in some of the details of his imaginary state. The framework 
seems to have been suggested by an incident related in the narrative of 
the fourth voyage of Amerigo Vespucci, in whose company Raphael 
Hythloday is represented as having sailed. 

In the elaborating of his model society, More drew on Plato's "Repub- 
lic" and on Saint Augustine for a number of important features. But the 
work as a whole is the outcome of the author's own political thinking 
and observation; though it is not to be supposed that he believed in all 
the institutions and customs which he describes. In ordinary intercourse, 
More was fond of a jest, and many, we are told, found it hard to know 
when he spoke seriously. Much of this whimsical humor is implicit in 
the "Utopia"; and while it contains elements in which he had a firm 
belief, it is more than probable that much of it was in the highest degree 
tentative, and some of it consciously paradoxical. 

In spite of this uncertainty as to More's attitude, the influence of the 
book, both in imaginative literature and in social theory, has been con- 
siderable; and it is the ancestor of a long line of ideal commonwealths. 
Modern reformers are still finding in its pages suggestions for the society 
of the future. 


In hoc hj< signo vinccs. 

FORASMUCH as Sir Thomas More, Knight sometime Lord 
Chancellor of England, a man of singular virtue and of a 
clear unspotted conscience, (as witnesseth Erasmus), more 
pure and white than the whitest snow, and of such an angelical 
wit, as England, he saith, never had the like before, nor never shall 
again, universally, as well in the laws of our Realm (a study in 
effect able to occupy the whole life of a man) as in all other sciences, 
right well studied, was in his days accounted a man worthy famous 
memory; I William Roper (though most unworthy) his son-in-law 
by marriage of his eldest daughter, knowing no one man that of 
him and of his doings understood so much as myself for that I was 
continually resident in his house by the space of sixteen years and 
more, thought it therefore my part to set forth such matters touching 
his life as I could at this present call to remembrance. Among which 
very many notable things not meet to have been forgotten, through 
negligence and long continuance of time, are slipped out of my 
mind. Yet to the intent the same shall not all utterly perish, I have 
at the desire of divers worshipful friends of mine, though very far 
from the grace and worthiness of them, nevertheless as far forth as 
my mean wit, memory and learning would serve me, declared so 
much thereof as in my poor judgment seemed worthy to be re- 

This Sir Thomas More after he had been brought up in the Latin 
tongue at St. Anthony's in London, he was, by his father's pro- 
curement received into the house of the right reverend, wise and 
learned prelate Cardinal Morton, where (though he was young of 
years, yet) would he at Christmastide suddenly sometimes step in 
among the players, and never studying for the matter, make a part 



of his own there presently among them, which made the lookers-on 
more sport than all the players beside. In whose wit and towardness 
the Cardinal much delighting, would often say of him unto the 
nobles that divers times dined with him, "This child here waiting 
at the table, whosoever shall live to see it, will prove a marvellous 
man." Whereupon for his learning he placed him at Oxford, where 
when he was both in the Greek and Latin tongue sufficiently in- 
structed, he was then for the study of the law of the Realm put to 
an Inn of the Chancery, called New Inn, where for his time, he very 
well prospered. And from thence was committed to Lincoln's Inn, 
with very small allowance, continuing there hjs study until he was 
made and accounted a worthy utter barrister. After this, to his 
great commendation, he read for a good space a public lecture of 
St. Augustine de Civitate Dei in the church of St. Laurence in the 
Old Jewry, whereunto there resorted Doctor Grocyn, an excellent 
cunning man, and all the chief learned of the city of London. Then 
was he made Reader of Furnival's Inn, so remaining by the space 
of three years and more. After which time he gave himself to devo- 
tion and prayer in the Charterhouse of London, religiously living 
there without vow about four years, until he resorted to the house 
of one Mr. Colt, a gentleman of Essex that had oft invited him 
thither, having three daughters whose honest conversation and vir- 
tuous education provoked him there especially to set his affection. 
And albeit his mind most served him to the second daughter, for 
that he thought her the fairest and best favoured, yet when he con- 
sidered that it would be both great grief and some shame also to 
the eldest to see her younger sister in marriage preferred before her, 
he then of a certain pity framed his fancy towards her, and soon 
after married her, nevertheless not discontinuing his study of the law 
at Lincoln's Inn, but applying still the same until he was called to 
the Bench, and had read twice, which is as often as any judge of the 
law doth read. 

Before which time he had placed himself and his wife at Buckles- 
bury in London, where he had by her three daughters in virtue and 
learning brought up from their youth, whom he would often exhort 
to take virtue and learning for their meat, and play but for their 


Who ere ever he had been reader in Court was in the latter time 
of King Henry the Seventh made a Burgess in the Parliament, 
wherein there were by the King demanded (as I have heard it re- 
ported) about three-fifteenths for the marriage of his eldest daughter, 
that then should be the Scottish Queen. At the last debating whereof 
he made such arguments and reasons there against, that the King's 
demands were thereby overthrown. So that one of the King's privy 
chamber, named Mr. Tyler, being present thereat, brought word to 
the King out of the Parliament house, that a beardless boy had dis- 
appointed all his purposes. Whereupon the King conceiving great 
indignation towards him could not be satisfied until he had some 
way revenged it. And forasmuch as he nothing having, nothing 
could lose, his grace devised a causeless quarrel against his Father, 
keeping him in the Tower until he had paid him an hundred pounds 
fine. Shortly hereupon it fortuned that this Sir Thomas More com- 
ing in a suit to Dr. Fox, Bishop of Winchester, one of the King's 
privy council, they called him aside, and pretending great favour 
towards him, promised him that if he would be ruled by him, he 
would not fail but into the King's favour again to restore him, mean- 
ing, as it was after conjectured, to cause him thereby to confess his 
offence against the King, whereby his Highness might with better 
colour have occasion to revenge his displeasure against him. But 
when he came from the Bishop, he fell in communication with one 
Mr. Witford, his familiar friend, then chaplain to that Bishop and 
after a Father of Sion, and showed him what the Bishop had said 
unto him, desiring to have his advice therein, who for the passion 
of God prayed him in no wise to follow his counsel "for my Lord 
my Master (quoth he) to serve the King's turn will not stick to 
agree to his own father's death." So Sir Thomas More returned to 
the Bishop no more. And had not the King soon after died, he was 
determined to have gone over the sea, thinking that being in the 
King's indignation he could not live in England without great 
danger. After he was made one of the under-sheriffs of London, 
by which office and his learning together as I have heard him say, 
he gained without grief not so little as four hundred pounds by the 
year; since there was at that time in none of the Prince's courts of the 
laws of this realm any matter of importance in controversy wherein 


he was not with the one party of counsel. Of whom, for his learn- 
ing, wisdom, and knowledge and experience, men had him in such 
estimation, that before he was come to the service of King Henry 
the Eighth, at the suit and instance of the English Merchants, he 
was, by the King's consent, made twice Ambassador in certain great 
causes between them and the Merchants of the Stilliard, whose wise 
and discreet dealing therein to his high commendation, coming to 
the King's understanding, provoking his Highness to cause Cardinal 
Wolsey (then Lord Chancellor) to procure him to his service. And 
albeit the Cardinal according to the King's request earnestly trav- 
ailed with him therefore, among many other his persuasions alleg- 
ing unto him, how dear his service must needs be unto his Majesty, 
which could not of his honour with less than he should yearly lose 
thereby seem to recompense him, yet he, loath to change his estate, 
made such means to the King by the Cardinal to the contrary, that 
his Grace for that time was well satisfied. Now happened there after 
this a great ship of his that then was Pope to arrive at Southampton, 
which the King claiming for a forfeiture, the Pope's Ambassador 
by suit unto his Grace obtained, that he might for his Master the 
Pope have counsel learned in the Laws of this realm, and the matter 
in his own presence (being himself a singular civilian) in some 
public place to be openly heard and discussed. At which time there 
could none of our law be found so meet to be of counsel with this 
Ambassador as Sir Thomas More, who could report to the Ambas- 
sador in Latin all the reasons and arguments by the learned counsel 
on both sides alleged. Upon this the Councillors on either party in 
presence of the Lord Chancellor, and other the judges in the Star 
Chamber, had audience accordingly. Where Sir Thomas More not 
only declared to the Ambassador the whole effect of all their opin- 
ions, but also in defence on the Pope's side argued so learnedly 
himself, that both was the foresaid forfeiture to the Pope restored, 
and himself among all the hearers, for his upright and commendable 
demeanour therein, so greatly renowned, that for no entreaty would 
the King from henceforth be induced any longer to forbear his 
service. At whose first entry thereunto he made him Master of the 
Requests, having then no better room void, and within a month 
after, knight and one of his Privy Council, and so from time to time 


was by the Prince advanced, continuing in his singular favour and 
trusty service twenty years and above, a good part whereof used 
the King upon holidays, when he had done his own devotions to 
send for him into his private room, and there some time in matters 
of Astronomy, Geometry, Divinity, and such other Faculties, and 
some time in his worldly affairs, to sit and confer with him, and 
other whiles would he in the night have him up into the leads, there 
to consider with him the diversities, courses, motions, and opera- 
tions of the stars and planets. And because he was of a pleasant 
disposition, it pleased the King and Queen, after the Council had 
supped, at the time of their supper for their pleasure commonly to 
call for him, and to be merry with them. When he perceived so 
much in his talk to delight, that he could not once in a month get 
leave to go home to his wife and children (whose company he most 
desired) and to be absent from the Court two days together, but 
that he should be thither sent for again, he much misliking this re- 
straint of liberty, began thereupon somewhat to dissemble his na- 
ture, and so by little and little from his former mirth to disuse him- 
self, that he was of them from thenceforth no more so ordinarily sent 
for. Then died one Mr. Weston, Treasurer of the Exchequer, whose 
office after his death the King of his own offer, without any asking, 
freely gave unto Sir Thomas More. In the fourteenth year of his 
Grace's Reign was there a Parliament holden, whereof Sir Thomas 
More was chosen Speaker, who being very loath to take that Room 
upon him, made an oration, not now extant, to the King's Highness 
for his discharge thereof. Whereunto when the King would not 
consent, he spake unto his Grace in form following: "Since I per- 
ceive (most redoubted sovereign)' that it standeth not with your 
Highness' pleasure to reform this election, and cause it to be changed, 
but have, by the mouth of the Right Reverend Father in God the 
Legate your Highness' Chancellor, thereunto given your most royal 
consent, and have of your benignity determined, far above that I 
may bear, to enable me, and for this office to repute me meet, rather 
than ye should seem to impute unto your Commons that they had 
unmeetly chosen, I am therefore, and always shall be, ready obe- 
diently to conform myself to the accomplishment of your high 
commandment. In my most humble wise beseeching your most 


noble Majesty, that I may, with your Grace's favour, before I farther 
enter thereunto, make mine humble intercession unto your High- 
ness for two lowly petitions, the one privately concerning myself, 
the other the whole assembly of your Common House. And for 
myself (Gracious Sovereign) that if it mishap me in anything here- 
after, that is in the behalf of your Commons in your high presence 
to be declared, to mistake my message, and for lack of good utter- 
ance by me misrehearsed, to pervert or impair the prudent instruc- 
tions, that it may then like your most noble Majesty of your abun- 
dant grace, with the eye of your accustomed pity, to pardon my 
simplicity, giving me leave again to repair to the Common House, 
and there to confer with them, and to take their substantial advice, 
what thing, and in what wise I shall on their behalf utter and speak 
before your noble Grace: to the intent their prudent advices and 
affairs be not by my simpleness and folly hindered or impaired. 
Which thing if it should so hap, as it were well likely to mishap in 
me (if your Grace's benignity relieved not my oversight) it could not 
fail to be, during my life, a perpetual grudge and heaviness to my 
heart. The help and remedy whereof in manner aforesaid remem- 
bered, is (most Gracious Sovereign) my first lowly suit and humble 
petition unto your most noble Grace. Mine other humble request, 
most excellent Prince, is this. Forasmuch as there be of your Com- 
mons here, by your high commandment assembled for your Parlia- 
ment, a great number which are after the accustomed manner ap- 
pointed in the Common House to treat and advise of the common 
affairs among themselves apart: and albeit (my liege Lord) that, 
according to your prudent advice, by your honourable writs every- 
where declared, there hath been as due diligence used in sending 
up to your Highness' Court of Parliament the most discreet persons 
out of every quarter, that men could esteem meet thereto, whereby 
it is not to be doubted but that there is a very substantial assembly 
of right wise and politic persons: yet (most victorious Prince) since 
among so many wise men, neither is every man wise alike, nor 
among so many men like well witted, every man like well spoken; 
and it often happeneth, that likewise as much folly is uttered with 
painted polished speeches, so many boisterous and rude in language 
see deep indeed, and give right substantial counsel: and since also 


in matters of great importance the mind is often so occupied in the 
matter, that a man rather studieth what to say, than how; by what 
reason whereof the wisest man and best spoken in a country fortun- 
eth among, while his mind is fervent on the matter, somewhat to 
speak in such wise, as he would afterward wish to have been uttered 
otherwise, and yet no worse will had when he spake it, than he hath 
when he would so gladly change it: Therefore (most Gracious 
Sovereign) considering that in all your high Courts of Parliament 
is nothing entreated but of matters of weight and importance con- 
cerning your Realm, and your own Royal estate, it could not fail to 
let and put to silence from the giving of their advice and counsel 
many of your discreet Commons [except they] were utterly dis- 
charged of all doubt and fear how anything that should happen 
them to speak, should happen of your Highness to be taken: and in 
this point your well-known benignity putteth every man in right 
good hope. Yet such is the weight of the matter, such is the rev- 
erend dread that the timorous hearts of your natural subjects con- 
ceive towards your high Majesty (our most redoubted King and 
undoubted Sovereign) that they cannot in this point find themselves 
satisfied, except your gracious bounty herein declared put away the 
scruple of their timorous minds, and animate and encourage them 
out of doubt. It may therefore like your most abundant Grace (our 
most gracious King) to give to all your Commons here assembled, 
your most gracious licence and pardon freely, without doubt of your 
dreadful displeasure, every man to discharge his conscience, and 
boldly in everything incident among, declare his advice, and what- 
soever happeneth any man to say, it may like your noble Majesty 
of your inestimable goodness to take all in good part, interpreting 
every man's words, how uncunningly soever they be couched, to 
proceed yet of a good zeal towards the profit of your Realm and 
honour of your Royal person, the prosperous estate and preservation 
whereof (most excellent Sovereign) is the thing which we all your 
most humble loving subjects, according to the most bounden duty 
of our natural allegiance, most highly desired and pray for." At 
this Parliament, Cardinal Wolsey found himself much grieved with 
the Burgesses thereof, for that nothing was so soon done or spoken 
therein, but that it was immediately blown abroad in every alehouse. 


It fortuned at that Parliament a very great subsidy to be demanded, 
which the Cardinal fearing it would not pass the Common House, 
determined for the furtherance thereof, to be there present himself; 
before whose coming after long debating there, whether it were 
better but with a few of his Lords (as the most opinion of the house 
was) or with a whole train royally to receive him there amongst 
them, "Masters," quoth Sir Thomas More, "forasmuch as my Lord 
Cardinal lately, you note well, laid to our charge the lightness of our 
tongues for things uttered out of this house, it shall not be amiss in 
my mind to receive him with all his pomp, with his maces, his 
pillars, his pollaxes, his crosses, his hat, and great seal too; to the 
intent that if he find the like fault with us hereafter, we may be the 
bolder from ourselves to lay the blame upon those that his Grace 
bringeth with him." Whereunto the House wholly agreeing, he was 
received accordingly. Where after he had in a solemn oration by 
many reasons proved how necessary it was the demands there moved 
to be granted, and further said that less would not serve the King's 
purpose; he seeing the company still silent, and thereunto nothing 
answering, and contrary to his expectation showing in themselves 
towards his requests no towardness of inclination, said unto them: 
"Masters, ye have many wise and learned men among you, and see- 
ing I am from the King's own person sent hither unto you for the 
preservation of yourselves and all the Realm, I think it meet you 
give me a reasonable answer." Whereat every man holding his 
peace, then began he to speak to one Mr. Marney, who making him 
no answer neither, he severally asked the same question of divers 
others accounted the wisest of the company. To whom when none 
of them all would give so much as one word, being before agreed, 
as the custom was, by their speaker to make answer: "Masters," 
quoth the Cardinal, "unless it be the manner of your house (as of 
likelihood it is) in such causes to utter your minds by the mouth 
of your speaker, whom ye have chosen for trusty and wise (as indeed 
he is) here is without doubt a marvellous obstinate silence;" and 
thereupon required the answer of Mr. Speaker, who reverently upon 
his. knees excusing the silence of the house, abashed at the presence 
of so noble a personage, able to amaze the wisest and best learned 
in a realm, and after by many reasons proving, that for them to 


make answer was it neither expedient, nor agreeable with the ancient 
liberty of the House; in conclusion for himself showed, that though 
they had all with their voices trusted him, yet except every of them 
could put into his own head all their several wits, he alone in so 
weighty a matter was unmeet to make his Grace answer, whereupon 
the Cardinal displeased with Sir Thomas More, that had not in this 
Parliament in all things satisfied his desire, suddenly arose and de- 
parted: and after the Parliament ended, uttered unto him all his 
griefs, saying, "Would to God you had been at Rome, Mr. More, 
when I made you Speaker." "Your Grace not offended, so would I 
too, my Lord," quoth he, and to wind such quarrels out of the Car- 
dinal's head, he began to talk of that gallery at Hampton Court, 
wherewith so wisely brake he off the Cardinal's displeasant talk, 
the Cardinal at that present, as it seemed, wist not what more to 
say to him, but for revengement of his displeasure counselled the 
King to send him Ambassador into Spain, commending unto his 
Highness his wisdom, learning and meetness for that voyage, and 
the difficulty of the cause considered, none was there so well able, he 
said, to serve his Grace therein. Which when the King had broken 
to Sir Thomas More, and that he had declared unto his Grace, how 
unfit a journey it was for him, the nature of the country and dispo- 
sition of his complexion so disagreeing together, that he should never 
be likely to do his Grace acceptable service therein, knowing right 
well that if his Grace sent him thither, he should send him to his 
grave; but showing himself nevertheless ready according to his 
duty, albeit with the loss of his life, to fulfil his Grace's pleasure 
therein, the King allowing well his answer, said unto him, "It is not 
our meaning, Mr. More, to do you hurt, but to do you good we 
would be glad. We therefore for this purpose will devise upon some 
other, and employ your service otherwise." And such entire favour 
did the King bear him, that he made him Chancellor of the Duchy 
of Lancaster, upon the death of Sir Richard Winfield, who had that 
office before. And for the pleasure he took in his company, would 
his Grace suddenly sometimes come home to his house at Chelsea to 
be merry with him, whither on a time unlooked for he came to 
dinner, and after dinner in a fair garden of his walked with him 
by the space of an hour holding his arm about his neck. As soon as 


his Grace was gone, I rejoicing, told Sir Thomas More, how happy 
he was, whom the King had so familiarly entertained, as I had never 
seen him do to any before, except Cardinal Wolsey, whom I saw his 
Grace once walk with arm in arm. "I thank our Lord, son," quoth 
he, "I find his Grace my very good lord indeed, and I do believe he 
doth as singularly favour me as any subject within this Realm. 
Howbeit (son Roper) I may tell thee, I have no cause to be proud 
thereof. For if my head would win him a castle in France (for then 
there was wars between us) it should not fail to go." This Sir 
Thomas More, among all other his virtues, was of such meekness, 
that if it had fortuned him with any learned man resorting to him 
from Oxford, Cambridge, or elsewhere, as there did divers, some 
for the desire of his acquaintance, some for the famous report of his 
learning and wisdom, and some for suits of the Universities, to have 
entered into argument, wherein few were comparable to him, and 
so far to have discoursed with them therein, that he might perceive 
they could not, without some inconvenience, hold out much further 
disputation against him: then, least he should discomfort them, as 
he that sought not his own. glory, but rather would seem conquered 
than to discourage students in their studies, ever showing himself 
more desirous to learn than to teach, would he by some witty device 
courteously break off into some other matters and give over. Of 
whom for his wisdom and learning had the King such an opinion, 
that at such time as he attended upon his Highness, taking his 
progress either to Oxford or Cambridge, where he was received 
with very eloquent orations, his Grace would always assign him (as 
one that was most prompt, and ready therein) ex tempore to make 
answer thereunto; whose manner was, whensoever he had any 
occasion, either here or beyond the sea to be in any University, not 
only to be present at the reading and disputations there commonly 
used, but also learnedly to dispute among them himself. Who being 
Chancellor of the Duchy, was made ambassador twice; joined in 
commission with Cardinal Wolsey once to the Emperor Charles into 
Flanders, the other time to the French King into France. Not long 
after this the Water Bailiff of London (sometime his servant) hear- 
ing, where he had been at dinner, certain merchants liberally to rail 
against his old master, waxed so discontented therewith, that he 


hastily came to him, and told him what he had heard: "and were 
I, Sir" (quoth he) "in such favour and authority with my Prince as 
you are, such men surely should not be suffered so villainously and 
falsely to mis-report and slander me. Wherefore I would wish you 
to call them before you, and, to their shame for their lewd malice to 
punish them." Who smiling upon him said, "Mr. Water Bailiff, 
would you have me punish them by whom I receive more benefit 
than by you all that be my friends? Let them a God's name speak 
as lewdly as they list of me, and shoot never so many arrows at me, 
so long as they do not hit me, what am I the worse? But if they 
should once hit me, then would it a little trouble me: howbeit, I trust, 
by God's help, there shall none of them all be able once to touch me. 
I have more cause, Mr. Water Bailiff (I assure thee) to pity them, 
than to be angry with them." Such fruitful communication had he 
oftentimes with his familiar friends. So on a time walking along the 
Thames side with me at Chelsea, in talking of other things, he said 
to me, "Now would to God, son Roper, upon condition three things 
were well established in Christendom I were put in a sack, and here 
presently cast into the Thames." "What great things be these, Sir," 
quoth I, "that should move you so to wish?" "Wouldest thou know, 
son Roper, what they be?" quoth he. "Yea marry, Sir, with a good 
will if it please you," quoth I. "I faith, they be these, son," quoth he. 
"The first is, that whereas the most part of Christian princes be at 
mortal wars, they were at universal peace. The second, that where 
the Church of ChrisD is at this present sore afflicted with many 
heresies and errors, it were well settled in an uniformity of religion. 
The third, that where the King's matter of his marriage is now 
come into question, it were to the glory of God and quietness of 
all parties brought to a good conclusion:" whereby, as I could gather, 
he judged, that otherwise it would be a disturbance to a great part 
of Christendom. Thus did it by his doings throughout the whole 
course of his life appear, that all his travails and pains, without 
respect of earthly commodities, either to himself or any of his, were 
only upon the service of God, the Prince and the Realm, wholly 
bestowed and employed; whom in his latter time I heard to say, that 
he never asked of the King himself the value of one penny. As Sir 
Thomas More's custom was daily, if he were at home, besides his 

100 ROPER 

private prayers with his children, to say the seven psalms, litany, and 
suffrages following, was his guise nightly, before he went to bed, 
with his wife, children, and household to go to his chapel, and there 
upon his knees ordinarily to say certain psalms and collects with 
them: and because he was desirous for godly purposes some time to 
be solitary, and sequester himself from worldly company; a good 
distance from his mansion house builded he a place, called the new 
building, wherein was a chapel, a library, and a gallery, in which as 
his use was upon other days to occupy himself in prayer and study 
together, so on the Fridays there usually continued he from morning 
unto evening, spending his time duly in devout prayers, and spiritual 
exercises; and to provoke his wife and children to the desire of 
heavenly things, he would sometimes use these words unto them. 
"It is now no mastery for you children to go to heaven. For every- 
body giveth you good counsel, everybody giveth you good example. 
You see virtue rewarded, and vice punished, so that you are carried 
up to heaven even by the chins. But if you live in the time, that no 
man will give you good counsel, nor no man will give you good 
example, when you shall see virtue punished, and vice rewarded, if 
you will then stand fast, and firmly stick to God upon pain of life, 
if you be but half good, God will allow you for whole good." If his 
wife or any of his children had been diseased, or troubled, he would 
say to them, "We may not look at our pleasure to go to heaven in 
feather beds, it is not the way. For our Lord himself went thither 
with great pain, and by many tribulations, which is the path wherein 
he walked thither, and the servant may not look to be in better case 
than his Master." And as he would in this sort persuade them to 
take their troubles patiently, so would he in like case teach them to 
withstand the devil and his temptations, valiantly saying, "Who- 
soever will mark the devil and his temptations shall find him therein 
much like to an ape. For as an ape not well looked to will be busy 
and bold to do shrewd turns, and contrariwise being spied will 
suddenly leap back and adventure no farther: so the devil, seeing a 
man idle, slothful, and without resistance ready to receive his temp- 
tations, waxeth so hardy that he will not fail still to continue with 
him, until to his purpose he hath brought him : but on the other side, 
if he see a man with diligence present to prevent and withstand his 


temptations, he waxeth so weary, that in conclusion he forsaketh 
him. For as much as the devil by disposition is a spirit of nature so 
envious, that he feareth any more to assault him, lest that he should 
thereby not only catch a foul fall himself, but also minister to the 
man more matter of merit." Thus delighted he evermore not only 
in virtuous exercises to be occupied himself, but also to exhort his 
wife, and children, and household to embrace and follow the same. 
To whom for his notable virtue and godliness God showed, as he 
seemed, a manifest miraculous token of his special favour towards 
him, at such time as my wife (as many others that year were) was 
sick of the sweating sickness, who lying in so great extremity of that 
disease, as by no invention or devices, that physicians in such case 
commonly use (of whom she had divers, both expert, wise, and well 
learned, then continually attendant upon her) she could be kept 
from sleep: so that both physicians and all others despaired her 
health and recovery, and gave her over: her father (as he that most 
entirely tendered her) being in no small heaviness for her, by prayer 
at God his hands sought to get remedy, whereupon after his usual 
manner going up into his new lodging, there in his chapel upon his 
knees with tears most devoutly besought Almighty God, that it 
would be like his goodness, unto whom nothing was impossible, if 
it were his blessed will, at his mediation to vouchsafe graciously to 
hear his petition; where incontinent came into his mind, that a 
glister should be the only way to help her, which when he had told 
the physicians, they by-and-by confessed, that if there were any 
hope of health, that it was the very best help indeed, much marvel- 
ling of themselves, that they had not afore remembered it. Then it 
was immediately ministered unto her sleeping, which she could by 
no means have been brought unto waking, and albeit after she was 
thereby thoroughly awaked, God's marks, evident undoubted token 
of death, plainly appeared upon her, yet she (contrary to all their 
expectation) was (as it was thought) by her father's fervent prayer 
miraculously recovered, and at length again to perfect health restored, 
whom if it had pleased God at that time to have taken to his mercy, 
her father said he would never have meddled with worldly matters 
after. Now while Sir Thomas More was Chancellor of the Duchy, 
the See of Rome chanced to be void, which was cause of much 

102 ROPER 

trouble. For Cardinal Wolsey, a man very ambitious, and desirous 
(as good hope, and likelihood he had) to aspire unto that dignity, 
perceiving himself of his expectation disappointed by means of the 
Emperor Charles, so highly commending one Cardinal Adrian, 
sometime his schoolmaster, to the Cardinals of Rome, in the time of 
their election for his virtue and worthiness, that thereupon was he 
chosen Pope, who from Spain (where he was then resident) coming 
on foot to Rome, before his entry into that city did put off his hose 
and shoes, barefooted and barelegged passing through the streets 
towards his palace with such humbleness, that all the people had 
him in great reverence. Cardinal Wolsey waxed so woe therewith, 
that he studied to invent all ways of revengement of his grief against 
the Emperor, which as it was the beginning of a lamentable tragedy, 
so some part thereof not impertinent to my present purpose I 
reckoned requisite here to put in remembrance. This Cardinal there- 
fore, not ignorant of the King's unconstant and mutable disposition, 
soon inclined to withdraw his devotion from his own most noble 
and virtuous wife Queen Katherine, aunt to the Emperor, upon 
every light occasion; and upon other, to her in nobility, wisdom, 
virtue, favour and beauty far incomparable to fix his affection, 
meaning to make his so light disposition an instrument to bring 
about this his ungodly intent, devised to allure the King (then 
already contrary to his mind nothing less looking for than falling 
in love with the Lady Anne Bullen) to cast fancy to one of the 
French Sisters, which thing, because of enmity and war was at 
that time between the French King and the Emperor (whom, for 
the cause afore remembered, he mortally maligned) he was desirous 
to procure, and for the better achieving thereof requested Langland, 
Bishop of Lincoln, and ghostly father to the King, to put a scruple 
into the King's head, that it was not lawful for him to marry his 
brother's wife; which the King not sorry to hear of, opened it first 
to Sir Thomas More, whose counsel he required therein, showing 
him certain places of Scripture, that somewhat seemed to serve his 
appetite, which when he had perused, and thereupon, as one that 
never had professed the study of Divinity himself, excused to be 
unmeet many ways to meddle with such matters; the King, not 
satisfied with this answer, so sore still pressed upon him, therefore, 


in conclusion he condescended to his Grace his motion, and further, 
that the matter was of such importance as needed good advice and 
deliberation, he besought his Grace of sufficient respect advisedly to 
consider of it; wherewith the King well contented said unto him; 
Tunstall and Clarke, Bishops of Durham and Bath, with other 
learned of his Privy Council should also be dealers therein. So Sir 
Thomas More departing, conferred those places of Scripture with 
the exposition of divers of the old holy doctors, and at his coming to 
the Court, in talking with his Grace of the foresaid matter, he said, 
"To be plain with your Grace, neither my Lord of Durham, nor 
my Lord of Bath, though I know them both to be wise, virtuous, and 
learned, and honourable prelates, nor myself with the rest of your 
Council, being all your Grace's own servants, for your manifold 
benefits daily bestowed on us, so most bounden unto you, be in my 
judgment meet counsellors for your Grace herein; but if your Grace 
minds to understand the truth, such counsellors may you have 
devised, as neither for respect of their own worldly commodity, nor 
for fear of your princely authority, will be inclined to deceive you." 
To whom he named St. Jerome, St. Augustine, and divers other 
holy doctors, both Greeks and Latins: and moreover showed him 
what authority he had gathered out of them, which although the 
King did not very well like of (as disagreeable to his Grace's desire), 
yet were they by Sir Thomas More (who in all his communication 
with the King in that matter had always most wisely behaved him- 
self) so wisely tempered, that he both presently took them in good 
part, and oftentimes had thereof conference with him again. After 
this were there certain questions proposed among his Council, 
whether the King needed, in this case, to have any scruple at all, and 
if he had, what way were best to deliver him of it? the most part 
of whom were of the opinion, that there was good cause, and that, 
for discharging of it, suit were meet to be made to the See of Rome, 
where the King, hoping by liberality to obtain his purpose, wherein 
(as after it appeared) he was far deceived, then was there, for the 
trial and examination of this matrimony, procured from Rome a 
Commission, in which Cardinal Campegines and Cardinal Wolsey 
were joined Commissioners, who, for the determination thereof, sat 
at the Blackfriars in London. Where a libel was put in for the 

104 ROPER 

admitting of the said matrimony, alleging the said marriage between 
the King and the Queen to be unlawful, and, for proof of the mar- 
riage to be lawful, was there brought in a dispensation; in which, 
after divers disputations thereupon holden, there appeared an imper- 
fection, which by an instrument or brief, upon search found in the 
treasury of Spain, and sent to the Commissioners into England, was 
supplied, and so should judgment have been given by the Pope 
accordingly, had not the King, upon intelligence thereof, before the 
same judgment, appealed to the next general Council. After whose 
appellation the Cardinal upon that matter sat no longer. It fortuned 
before the matter of the said matrimony brought in question, when 
I, in talk with Sir Thomas More, of a certain joy commended unto 
him the happy estate of this realm, that had so catholic a Prince, that 
no heretic durst show his face, so virtuous and learned a clergy, so 
grave and sound a nobility, so loving and obedient subjects, all in 
one faith agreeing together: "True it is indeed (son Roper)," quoth 
he, and in commending all degrees and estates of the same went far 
beyond me, "and yet (son Roper) I pray God," said he, "that some 
of us, as high as we seem to sit upon the mountains, treading heretics 
under our feet like ants, live not the day, that we gladly would wish 
to be at league and composition with them, to let them have their 
churches quietly to themselves; so that they would be content to let 
us have ours quietly to ourselves." After that I had told him many 
considerations, why he had no cause to say so, "Well, well," said he, 
"I pray God (son Roper) some of us live not till that day," showing 
me no reason why I should put any doubt therein. To whom I said, 
"By my troth, Sir, it is very desperately spoken," that vile term 
(I cry God mercy) did I give him, who by these words perceiving 
me in a fume, said merrily unto me, "Well, son Roper, it shall not be 
so, it shall not be so." Whom in sixteen years and more, being in his 
house conversant with him, I could never perceive him so much as 
once to fume. But now to return again where I left: After supply- 
ing of imperfections of the dispensation sent (as before is rehearsed) 
to the Commissioners into England, the King taking the matter 
for ended, and then meaning no further to proceed in that matter, 
assigned the Bishop of Durham, and Sir Thomas More to go ambas- 
sadors to Cambray, a place neither Imperial nor French, to treat a 


peace between the French King, the Emperor, and him, in the con- 
cluding whereof Sir Thomas More so worthily handled himself 
(procuring in our league far more benefits unto his realm, than at 
that time by the King and Council was possible to be compassed), 
that for his good service in that voyage, the King, when he after 
made him Lord Chancellor, caused the Duke of Norfolk openly to 
declare unto the people (as you shall hear hereafter more at large) 
how much all England was bound unto him. Now, upon the coming 
home of the Bishop of Durham and Sir Thomas More from Cam- 
bray, the King was as earnest in persuading Sir Thomas More to 
agree unto the matter of his marriage as before, by many and divers 
ways provoking him thereunto. For which cause (as it was thought) 
he, the rather soon after made him Lord Chancellor, and further 
declared unto him, that though at his going over the sea to Cam- 
bray, he was in utter despair thereof, yet he had conceived since 
some good hope to compass it. For albeit his marriage, being against 
the positive law of the Church, and the written law of God, was 
holden by the dispensation, yet was there another thing found out 
of late, he said, whereby his marriage appeared to be so directly 
against the laws of nature, that it could in no wise by the Church 
be dispensable, as Dr. Stoksely (whom he had then newly pre- 
ferred to be Bishop of London, and in that case chiefly credited) was 
able to instruct him, with whom he prayed him in that point to 
confer. But for all his conference with him, he saw nothing of such 
force, as could induce him to change his opinion therein; which not- 
withstanding the bishop showed himself in his report of him to the 
King's highness so good and favourable, that he said, he found him 
in his Grace's cause very toward, and desirous to find some good 
matter wherewith he might truly serve his Grace to his contentation. 
This Bishop Stoksely being by the Cardinal not long before in the 
Star Chamber openly put to rebuke, and awarded to the Fleet, not 
brooking his contumelious usage, and thinking, that forasmuch as 
the Cardinal, for lack of such forwardness in setting first the King's 
divorce as his Grace looked for, was out of his Highness' favour, he 
had now a good occasion offered him to revenge his quarrel against 
him — further to incense the King's displeasure towards him, busily 
travailed to invent some colourable device for the King's furtherance 

106 ROPER 

in that behalf. Which (as before is mentioned) he to his Grace 
revealed, hoping thereby to bring the King to the better liking of 
himself, and the more misliking of the Cardinal. His Highness 
therefore was soon after of his office displaced, and to Sir Thomas 
More (the rather to move him to incline to his side) the same in his 
stead committed. Who between Dukes of Norfolk and Suffolk being 
brought through Westminster Hall to his place in the Chancery, the 
Duke of Norfolk, in audience of all the people there assembled, 
showed, that he was from the King himself straightly charged by 
special commission there openly, in the presence of all, to make decla- 
ration, how much all England was beholden to Sir Thomas More for 
his good service, and how worthy he was to have the highest room in 
the Realm, and how dearly his Grace loved and trusted him; for 
which, said the Duke, he had great cause to rejoice. Whereunto Sir 
Thomas More, among many other his humble and wise sayings (not 
now in my memory) answered, "That although he had good cause 
to rejoice of his Highness' singular favour towards him, that he had 
far above his deserts so highly commended him, yet nevertheless he 
must for his own part needs confess, that in all things by his Grace 
alleged he had done no more than was his duty. And further disabled 
himself as unmeet for that room, wherein, considering how wise and 
honourable a prelate had lately before taken so great a fall, he had," 
he said, "thereof no cause to rejoice." And as they on the King's 
behalf charged him uprightly to minister indifferent justice to the 
people without corruption or affection, so did he likewise charge them 
again, that if they saw him at any time in anything digress from any 
part of his duty, in that honourable office, then, as they would dis- 
charge their own duty and fidelity to God and the King, so should 
they not fail to disclose it to his Grace, who otherwise might have just 
occasion to lay his fault wholly to their charge. While he was Lord 
Chancellor (being at leisure, as seldom he was) one of his sons-in- 
law on a time said merrily unto him, "When Cardinal Wolsey was 
Lord Chancellor, not only divers of his privy chamber, but such also 
as were his door keepers got great gain, and since he had married 
one of his daughters, and gave still attendance upon him, he thought 
he might of reason look for somewhat, where he indeed, because he 
was ready himself to hear every man, poor and rich, and keep no 


doors shut from them, could find none, which was to him a great 
discouragement. And whereas else some for friendship, some for 
kindred, and some for profit, would gladly have his furtherance in 
bringing them to his presence, if he should now take anything of 
them he knew" (he said), "he should do them great wrong, for that 
they might do as much for themselves, as he could do for them: 
which condition although he thought in Sir Thomas More very 
commendable, yet to him" (said he) "being his son he found it 
nothing profitable." When he had told him this tale, "You say 
well, son" (quoth he), "I do not mislike that you are of conscience 
so scrupulous, but many other ways be there (son), that I may do 
both yourself good, and pleasure your friend also. For sometimes 
may I in words, stand your friend in stead, and sometime may I 
by my letter help you and him, or if he have a cause depending 
before me, at your request I may hear him before another, or if his 
cause be not all the best, yet may I move the parties to fall to some 
reasonable end by arbitrament; howbeit, this one thing I assure thee 
on my faith, that if the parties will at my hand call for justice, then 
were it my father stood on the one side and the devil on the other 
side (his cause being good) the devil should have right. So offered 
he his son (as he thought" he said) "as much favour as with reason 
he could require." And that he would for no respect digress from 
justice well appeared by a plain example of another of his sons-in- 
law, Mr. Heron. For when he, having a matter before him in the 
Chancery, presuming too much of his favour, would by him in no 
wise be persuaded to agree to any indifferent order, then made he 
in conclusion a flat decree against him. This Lord Chancellor used 
commonly every afternoon to sit in his open hall, to the intent, if 
any person had any suit unto him, they might the more boldly come 
to his presence, and there open complaints before him. Whose man- 
ner was also to read every bill himself, ere he would award any 
subpoena, which bearing matter sufficient worthy a subpoena, would 
he set his hand unto, or else cancel it. Whensoever he passed through 
Westminster Hall to his place in the Chancery by the Court of the 
King's Bench, if his father, one of the judges there, had been sat ere 
he came, he would go into the same court, and there reverently 
kneeling down in the sight of them all duly ask his father's blessing. 

108 ROPER 

And if it fortuned that his father and he at readings in Lincoln's Inn 
met together (as they sometime did) notwithstanding his high office, 
he would offer in argument the pre-eminence to his father, though 
he for his office sake would refuse to take it. And for the better 
declaration of his natural affection towards his father, he not only 
(when he lay on his death-bed) according to his duty ofttimes with 
comfortable words most kindly came to visit him; but also at his 
departure out of this world, with tears taking him about the neck, 
most lovingly kissed and embraced him, commending into the 
merciful hands of Almighty God, and so departed from him. And 
as few injunctions as he granted while he was Lord Chancellor, yet 
were they by some of the judges of the law misliked, which I 
understanding, declared the same unto Sir Thomas More, who 
answered me, that they have little cause to find fault with him 
therefore. And thereupon caused he one Mr. Crooke, chief of the 
six clerks, to make a docket, containing the whole number and causes 
of all such injunctions, as either in his time had already passed, or at 
that present time depended in any of the King's Courts at West- 
minster before him. Which done he invited all the judges to dinner 
with him in the Council Chamber at Westminster, where after 
dinner when he had broken with them what complaints he had 
heard of his injunctions, and moreover showed them both the num- 
ber and causes of every of them in order so plainly, that, upon full 
debating of those matters, they were all enforced to confess, that 
they, in like case, could have done no otherwise themselves, then 
offered he this unto them, that if the justices of every court, unto 
whom the reformation of rigour of the law, by reason of their office, 
most specially appertained, would, upon reasonable considerations, 
by their own discretions (as they were, as he thought, in conscience 
bound) mitigate and reform the rigour of the law themselves, there 
should from thenceforth by him no more injunctions be granted. 
Whereupon when they refused to condescend, then said he unto 
them : "Forasmuch as yourselves, my lords, drive me to that necessity 
for awarding our injunctions to relieve the people's injury, you can- 
not hereafter any more justly blame me;" after that he had said 
secretly unto me: "I perceive, son, why they like not so to do. For 
they see, that they may, by the verdict of the jury, cast off all quarrels 


from themselves upon them, which they account their chief defence, 
and therefore am I compelled to abide the adventure of all such 
reports." And as little leisure as he had to be occupied in the study 
of Holy Scripture, and controversies upon religion, and such other 
like virtuous exercises, being in. manner continually busied about 
the affairs of the King and the Realm, yet such watch and pain in 
setting forth of divers profitable works in defence of the true 
Catholic religion against heresies, secretly sown abroad in the 
Realm, assuredly sustained he, that the bishops, to whose pastoral 
cure the reformation thereof principally appertained, thinking them- 
selves by his travail (wherein, by their own confession, with him 
they were not able to make comparison) of their duty discharged, 
and considering that, for all his pains, and prince's favour, he was no 
rich man, nor in yearly revenues advanced as his worthiness deserved, 
therefore at a convocation among themselves and other of the clergy, 
they agreed together, and concluded upon a sum of four or five 
thousand pounds at the least (to my remembrance) for his pains 
to recompense him. To the payment whereof every bishop, abbot, 
and the rest of the clergy were after the rate of their abilities liberal 
contributaries, hoping this portion should be to his contentation. 
Whereupon Tunstall bishop of Durham, Clarke bishop of Bath, and 
(as far as I can call to mind) Vaysie bishop of Exeter, repaired unto 
him, declaring how thankfully for his travails to their discharge in 
God's cause bestowed, they reckoned themselves bound to consider 
him. And that albeit, they could not according to his deserts so 
worthily as they gladly would requite him therefore, but reserve that 
only to the goodness of God, yet for a small part of recompense, in 
respect of his estate, so unequal to his worthiness, in the name of their 
whole Convocation, they presented unto him that sum, which they 
desired him to take in good part, who forsaking it, said, "That like as 
it were no small comfort unto him, that so wise and learned men so 
well accepted his simple doing, for which he intended never to 
receive reward but at the hands of God only, to whom alone was 
thanks thereof chiefly to be ascribed : so gave he most humble thanks 
unto their honours all for their bountiful consideration." When they 
for all their importune pressing upon him, that few would have 
went he could have refused it, could by no means make him to take 

110 ROPER 

it, then they besought him be content, yet that they might bestow 
it upon his wife and children; "Not so, my Lords" (quoth he), "I 
had liever see it all cast into the Thames, than I, or any of mine 
should have thereof the worth of one penny. For though your offer, 
my Lords, be indeed very friendly and honourable, yet set I so much 
by my pleasure, and so little by my profit, that I would not (in good 
faith) for so much, and much more to have lost the rest ot so many 
a night's sleep, as was spent upon the same. And yet wish I would, 
for all that, upon conditions that all heresies were suppressed, that 
all my books were burned, and my labour utterly lost." Thus 
departing, were they fain to restore to every man his own again. 
This Lord Chancellor albeit he was to God and the world well 
known of notable virtue, though not so of every man considered, yet 
for the avoidance of singularity would he appear no otherwise than 
other men in his apparel and other outward behaviour. And albeit 
he appeared honourable outwardly, and like one of his calling, yet 
inwardly he no such vanities esteeming, secretly next his body wore 
a shirt of hair, which my sister More, a young gentlewoman in the 
summer, as he sat at supper singly in his doublet and hose, wearing 
thereupon a plain shirt without ruff or collar, chancing to espy, began 
to laugh at it. My wife not ignorant of his manner, perceiving the 
same privily told him of it, and he being sorry that she saw it, 
presently amended it. He used also sometimes to punish his body 
with whips, the cords knotted, which was known only to my wife 
his eldest daughter, whom for her secrecy above all other he specially 
trusted, caused her, as need required, to wash the same shirt of hair. 
Now shortly upon his entry into the high office of the Chancellorship, 
the King oftsoons again moved him to weigh and consider his 
greatest matter, who falling down upon his knees, humbly besought 
his Highness to stand his gracious Sovereign, as ever since his entry 
into his gracious service he had found him, saying, "There was 
nothing in the world had been so grievous to his heart as to remem- 
ber he was not able, as he willingly would, with the loss of one of 
his limbs, for that matter to find anything whereby he could serve 
his Grace's contentment, as he that always bare in mind the most 
godly words, that his Highness spake unto him at his first coming 
into his noble service, the most virtuous lesson that ever prince 


taught his servant, willing him first to look unto God, and after God 
to him, as in good faith," he said, "he did, or else might his Grace 
well account him his most unworthy servant." To this the King 
answered, "that if he could not with his conscience serve him, he 
was content to accept his service otherwise, and use the advice of 
other his learned Council, whose consciences could well enough 
agree thereto, he would nevertheless continue his gracious favour 
towards him, and never with that matter molest his conscience after." 
But Sir Thomas More, in process of time, seeing the King fully 
determined to proceed forth in the marriage of Queen Anne, and 
when he with the bishops and nobles of the Higher House of Parlia- 
ment, were, or the furtherance of that marriage, commanded by the 
King to go down to the Common House to show to them both what 
the Universities as well of other parts beyond the seas, as at Oxford 
and Cambridge had done in that behalf, and their seals also testify- 
ing the same : all which matters, at the King's request (not showing 
of what mind himself was therein), he opened to the Lower House 
of the Parliament: nevertheless doubting lest further attempts should 
after follow, which, contrary to his conscience, by reason of his office 
he was likely to be put unto, he made suit to the Duke of Norfolk, 
his singular dear friend, to be a mean to the King, that he might, 
with his Grace's favour, be discharged of that chargeable room of 
Chancellorship, wherein for certain infirmities of his body, he pre- 
tended himself unable any longer to serve. This Duke coming on a 
time to Chelsea to dine with him, fortuned to find him at church 
singing in the choir with a surplice on his back; to whom after 
service, as they went home together arm in arm, the Duke said, 
"God body, God body (my Lord Chancellor) a parish clerk, a parish 
clerk, you dishonour the King and his office." "Nay," quoth Sir 
Thomas More, smiling upon the Duke, "your Grace may not think, 
that the King, your master and mine, will with me for serving God 
his Master be offended, or thereby count his office dishonoured." 
When the Duke, being thereunto solicited by importunate suit, had at 
length obtained for Sir Thomas More a clear discharge of his office, 
then at a time convenient, by his Highness' appointment, repaired 
he to his Grace, to yield up unto him the great seal, which, as his 
Grace with thanks and praise for his worthy service in that office 

112 ROPER 

courteously at his hands received, so pleased it his Highness to say 
more unto him, that for the good service he before had done him in 
any suit which he should after have unto him, that either should 
concern his honour (for that word it liked his Highness to use unto 
him) or that should appertain unto his profit, he would find his 
Highness a good and gracious lord unto him. After he had thus 
given over his Chancellorship, and placed all his gentlemen and 
yeomen with bishops and noblemen, and his eight watermen with 
the Lord Audley, that after in the same office succeeded him, to 
whom also he gave his great barge, then calling us that were his 
children unto him, and asking our advice, how we might now, in 
this decay of his ability, by the surrender of his office so impaired, 
that he could not, as he was wont, and gladly would bear out the 
whole charges of them all himself, from henceforth be able to live and 
continue together, as he wished we should; when he saw us all silent, 
and in that case not ready to show our opinions unto him, "Then 
will I" (said he) "show my poor mind unto you. I have been 
brought up at Oxford, at an Inn of Chancery, at Lincoln's Inn, and 
in the King's Court, so forth from the lowest degree to the highest, 
and yet have I in yearly revenues little more than one hundred 
pounds by the year at this present left me. So that we must here- 
after, if we like to live together. But by my counsel it shall not be 
best for us to fall to the lowest fare first. We will not therefore 
descend to Oxford fare, nor to the fare of New Inn, but we will 
begin with Lincoln's Inn diet, where many right worshipful and of 
good years do live full well, which if we find not ourselves the first 
year able to maintain, then will we the next year after go one step 
down to New Inn fare, wherewith many an honest man is well con- 
tented. If that exceed our ability too, then will we the next year after 
descend to Oxford fare, where many grave, ancient, and learned 
Fathers be conversant continually, which if our ability stretch not 
to maintain neither, then may we yet with bags and wallets go 
a-begging together, and hoping that for pity some good folks will 
give their charity at every man's door to sing salve Regina, and so 
still keep company merrily together." And whereas you have heard 
before he was by the King from a very worshipful living taken unto 
his Grace's service, with whom all the great and weighty causes that 


concerned his Highness, of the Realm, he consumed and spent with 
painful cares, travail, and trouble as well beyond the seas, as within 
the Realm, in effect the whole substance of his life, yet with all the 
gain he got thereby (being never no wasteful spender thereof) was 
he not able, after the resignation of his office of the Lord Chancellor, 
for the maintenance of himself, and such as necessarily belonged 
unto him, sufficiently to find meat, drink, fuel, apparel, and such 
other necessary charges. All the land that ever he purchased before 
he was Lord Chancellor, was not, I am well assured, above the 
value of twenty marks by the year, and after his debts paid he had 
not I know (his chain excepted) in gold and silver left him the 
worth of one hundred pounds. And whereas, upon the holidays, 
during High Chancellorship, one of his gentlemen, when service at 
the church was down, ordinarily used to come to my Lady, his 
wife's pew and say, "Madam, my Lord is gone," the next holiday 
after the surrender of his office, and departure of his gentlemen he 
came unto my Lady, his wife's pew, himself, and making a low 
curtsey, said unto her, "Madam, my Lord is gone." In the time 
somewhat before his trouble, he would talk with his wife and 
children of the joys of heaven and the pains of hell, of the lives of 
holy martyrs, and of their grievous martyrdom, of their marvel- 
lous patience, and of their passions and deaths, that they suffered 
rather than they would offend God, and what an happy and a 
blessed thing it was for the love of God to suffer loss of goods, 
imprisonment, loss of lands, and life also. He would further say 
unto them, that upon his faith, if he might perceive his wife and 
children would encourage him to die in a good cause, it should so 
comfort him, that for very joy thereof, it would make him merrily 
to run to death. He showed them afore what trouble might fall 
unto him wherewith, and the like virtuous talk he had so long 
before his trouble encouraged them, that when he after fell in the 
trouble indeed, his trouble to him was a great deal the less, quia 
spicula prcevisa minus Icedunt. Now upon this resignment of his 
office came Sir Thomas Cromwell (then in the King's high favour) 
to Chelsea to him on a message from the King, wherein when they 
had throughly communed together, "Mr. Cromwell" (quoth he), 
"you are now entered into the service of a most noble, wise, and 

114 ROPER 

liberal prince; if you will follow my poor advice you shall, in council 
giving unto his Grace, ever tell him what he ought to do, but never 
tell him what he is able to do, so shall you show yourself a true 
faithful servant, and a right worthy Councillor. For if the lion 
knew his own strength, hard were it for any man to rule him." 
Shortly thereupon was there a commission directed to Cranmer, 
then Archbishop of Canterbury, to determine the matter of the 
matrimony between the King and Queen Katherine at St. Alban's, 
where according to the King's mind that was throughly finished, 
who pretending that he had no justice at the Pope's hands, from 
thenceforth sequestered himself from the See of Rome, and so 
married the Lady Anne Bullen, which Sir Thomas More under- 
standing, said unto me, "God give grace, son, that these matters 
within a while be not confirmed with oaths." I, at that time, seeing 
no likelihood thereof, yet fearing lest for his forespeaking that would 
the sooner come to pass, waxed therefore for his saying much 
offended with him. It fortuned not long before the coming of the 
Queen Anne through the streets of London from the Tower to 
Westminster to her Coronation, that he received a letter from the 
Bishops of Durham, Bath, and Winchester, requesting him to bear 
them company from the Tower to the Coronation and also to take 
^20 that by the bearer thereof they had sent him to buy a gown 
with, which he thankfully received, and at home still tarrying, at 
their next meeting said merrily unto them, "My Lords, in the 
letters which you lately sent me, you required two things of me, the 
one whereof since I was so well contented to grant you, the other 
therefore I thought I might be the bolder to deny you." 

In continuance when the King saw that he could by no manner 
of benefits win him to his side, then went he about by terrors and 
threats to drive him thereunto, the beginning of which trouble grew 
by occasion of a certain nun dwelling in Canterbury, for her virtue 
and holiness among the people not a little esteemed, unto whom for 
that cause many religious persons, Doctors of Divinity, and divers 
other of good worship of the laity used to resort, who affirming that 
she had revelations from God to give the King warning of his 
wicked life, and of the abuses of the sword and authority committed 
to him by God, and understanding my Lord of Rochester, Bishop 


Fisher, to be a man o£ notable virtuous living and learning, repaired 
to Rochester, and there disclosed unto him all her revelations, desiring 
his advice and counsel therein, which the Bishop perceiving might 
well stand with the laws of God and his Church advised her (as she 
before had warning and intended) to go to the King herself, and to 
let him understand the whole circumstance thereof, whereupon she 
went unto the King, and told him all her revelations, and returned 
home again. And in short space after, she making a voyage to the 
Nun of Sion by the means of one Mr. Reynolds, a father of that 
house there fortuned concerning such secrets as she had revealed 
unto her, some part whereof seemed to touch the matter of the King's 
supremacy and marriage (which shortly thereupon followed) to 
enter into talk with Sir Thomas More; who notwithstanding he 
might well at that time without danger of any law (though after, as 
himself had prognosticated before, those matters were established 
by statutes and confirmed by oaths) freely and safely have talked 
with her therein; nevertheless, in all the communication between 
them (as in process of time it appeared) had always so discreetly 
demeaned himself, that he deserved not to be blamed, but contrari- 
wise to be commended and praised. And had he not been one that in 
all his great office, and doings for the King and Realm together, had 
from all corruption of wrong doing, or bribes taking, kept himself 
so clear; that no man was able therewith to blemish him, it would 
without doubt (in this troublesome time of the King's wrath and 
indignation towards him) have been deeply laid to his charge, and 
of the King's Highness favourably accepted, as in the case of one 
Parnell that most manifestly appeared: against whom Sir Thomas 
More while he was Lord Chancellor, at the suit of one Vaughan his 
adversary had made a decree. This Parnell to the King's Highness 
had grievously complained that Sir Thomas More, for making the 
decree, had of the same Vaughan (unable for the gout to travel 
abroad himself) by the hands of his wife taken a fair great gilt cup 
for a bribe, who thereupon by the King's appointment being called 
before the Council, where that matter was heinously laid to his 
charge, forthwith confessed, that forasmuch as that cup was long 
after the aforesaid decree brought unto him for a new year's gift, he 
upon her importunate pressing upon him, therefore of courtesy re- 


fused not to take it. Then the Lord of Wiltshire (for hatred of his 
religion preferrer of this suit) with which rejoicing said unto the 
Lords, "Lo my Lords, lo, did I not tell you that you should find this 
matter true?" Whereupon Sir Thomas More desired their worships, 
that as they had courteously heard him tell the one part of his tale, so 
they would vouchsafe of their honours indifferently to hear the other, 
after which obtained, he further declared unto them, that albeit 
indeed, he had with much work received that cup, yet immediately 
thereupon he caused his butler to fill that with wine, and of that cup 
drank to her, and that when she had pledged him, then as freely as 
her husband had given it unto him, even so freely gave he the same 
unto her again, to give unto her husband for his new year's gift, 
which at his instant request, though much against her will, yet at 
length she was fain to receive, as herself and certain other there 
presently deposed before them. Thus was the great mountain turned 
scarce unto a mole-hill. So I remember that another time on a new 
year's day there came unto him one Mrs. Crocker, a rich widow 
(for whom with no small pains he had made a decree in the 
Chancery against the Lord of Arundel) to present him with a pair 
of gloves and ^40 in angels in them for a New Year's gift, of whom 
he thankfully received the gloves, but refusing the money said unto 
her, "Mistress, since that were against good manners to forsake a 
gentlewoman's New Year's gift, I am content to receive your gloves, 
but as for your money I utterly refuse:" so much against her mind 
enforced he her to take her gold again. And one Mr. Gresham 
likewise having a cause depending in the Chancery against him, 
sent him for a New Year's gift a fair gilt cup the fashion whereof he 
very well liking caused one of his own (though not in his fantasy 
of so good a fashion) yet better in value, to be brought out of his 
chamber, which he willed the messenger to deliver to his mistress 
in recompense, and under other conditions would he in no wise 
receive it. Many things more of like effect for the declaration of his 
innocence and clearness from corruption, or evil affection, could I 
here rehearse besides, which for tediousness omitting, I refer to the 
readers by these few fore-remembered examples with their own 
judgments wisely to consider. At this Parliament was there put 
into the Lords' House a bill to attaint the nun, and divers other 


religious persons of high treason; and the Bishop of Rochester, Sir 
Thomas More, and certain others of misprision of treason: the King 
presupposing of likelihood this bill would be to Sir Thomas More so 
troublous and terrible, that that would force him to relent and con- 
descend to his request, wherein his Grace was much deceived. To 
which bill Sir Thomas More was a suitor personally to be received 
in his own defence to make answer, but the King not liking that, 
assigned the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Lord Chancellor, the 
Duke of Norfolk, and Mr. Cromwell, at a day and place appointed 
to call Sir Thomas More before them, at which time I thinking I 
had good opportunity, earnestly advised him to labour unto these 
Lords for the help of his discharge out of the Parliament Bill; who 
answered me, he would: and at his coming before them according to 
their appointment, they entertained him very friendly, willing him 
to sit down with them, which in no wise he would. Then began the 
Lord Chancellor to declare unto him how many ways the King had 
showed his love and favour toward him, how fain he would have 
had him continue in his office, how glad he would have been to have 
heaped more benefits upon him, and finally, how he could ask no 
worldly honour, or profit at his Highness' hands, that were likely to 
be denied him; hoping by the declaration of the King's kindness and 
favour towards him to provoke him to recompense his Grace with 
the like again, and unto those things that the Parliament, the Bishops, 
and Universities had already passed to yield his consent. To this Sir 
Thomas More mildly answered saying, "No man living is there (my 
Lords) that would with better will do the thing that should be 
acceptable to the King's Highness than I, which must needs confess 
his manifold benefits, and bountiful goodness most benignly 
bestowed on me. Howbeit I verily hoped that I should never have 
heard of this matter more, considering that I have from time to 
time always from the beginning so plainly and truly declared my 
mind unto his Grace, which his Highness to me ever seemed, like 
a most gracious prince, very well to accept, never minding, as he said, 
to molest me more therewith. Since which time any further thing 
that was able to move me to any change could I never find, and if I 
could, there is none in all the world that could have been gladder 
of it than I." Many things more were there of like sort on both 


sides uttered. But in the end when they saw they could by no means 
of persuasions remove him from his former determinations, then 
began they more terribly to touch him, telling him that the King's 
Highness had given them in commandment (if they could by no 
gentleness win him) in his name with his great ingratitude to charge 
him, that never was there servant to his master so villainous, nor 
subject to his prince so traitorous as he. For he by his subtle sinister 
sleights, most unnaturally procuring and provoking him to set forth 
a book of the assertion of Seven Sacraments, and in maintenance of 
the Pope's authority, had caused him to his dishonour throughout all 
Christendom to put a sword in the Pope's hands to fight against 
himself. When they had thus laid forth all the terrors they could 
imagine against him: "My Lords" (quoth he) "These terrors be 
the arguments for children, and not for me. But to answer that 
wherewith you do chiefly burden me, I believe the King's Highness 
of his honour will never lay that to my charge. For none is there 
that in that point can say more in mine excuse than his Highness 
himself, who right well knoweth that I was never procurer or 
councillor of his Majesty thereunto but after that it was finished, by 
his Grace's appointment, and consent of the makers of the same, only 
a sorter out, and placer of the principal matters therein contained; 
wherein when I found the Pope's authority highly advanced, and 
with strong arguments mightily defended, I said unto his Grace, / 
must put your Grace in remembrance of one thing, and that is this, 
The Pope ( as your Grace knoweth) is a Prince as you are, and in 
league with all other Christian Princes, that may hereafter so fall 
out, that your Grace and he may vary upon some points of the- 
league, whereupon may grow some breach of amity and war between 
you both; I thinly it best therefore that that place be amended, and 
his authority more slenderly touched. Nay (quoth his Grace) that it 
shall not, we are so much bounden unto the See of Rome, that we 
cannot do too much honour unto it. Then did I put him further in 
remembrance of the statute of Praemunire, whereby a good part of 
the Pope's pastoral cure here was paid away. To that answered his 
Highness, whatsoever impediment be to the contrary, we will set 
forth that authority to the uttermost. For we received from that See 
our Crown Imperial; which till his Grace with his own mouth told 


me I never heard of before. So that I trust when his Grace shall be 
truly informed of this, and call to his gracious remembrance my 
doings in that behalf, his Highness will never speak of it more, but 
clear me throughly therein himself." And thus displeasantly 
departed they. Then took Sir Thomas More his boat towards his 
house at Chelsea, wherein by the way he was very merry, and for 
that was I nothing sorry, hoping that he had gotten himself dis- 
charged out of the Parliament Bill. When he was come home, then 
walked we two alone into his garden together, where I desirous to 
know how he had sped, said, "Sir, I trust all is well, because you are 
so merry." "That is so, indeed (son Roper) I thank God" (quoth 
he). "Are you put out of the Parliament Bill then?" said I. "By 
my troth (son Roper)," quoth he, "I never remembered it." "Never 
remembered it, Sir?" quoth I. "A case that toucheth yourself so 
near, and us all for your sake. I am sorry to hear it. For I verily 
trusted when I saw you so merry, that all had been well." Then said 
he, "Wilt thou know, son Roper, why I was so merry?" "That 
would I gladly, Sir," quoth I. "In good faith I rejoice, son," (quoth 
he), "that I had given the devil so foul a fall, and that with those 
Lords I had gone so far, as without great shame, I could never go 
back again." At which words waxed I very sad. For though him- 
self liked it well, yet liked it me but a little. Now upon the report 
made by the Lord Chancellor, and the other Lords unto the King 
of all their whole discourse had with Sir Thomas More, the King 
was so highly offended with him, that he plainly told them he was 
fully determined the said Parliament Bill should undoubtedly pro- 
ceed forth against him. To whom my Lord Chancellor and the rest 
of the Lords said, that they perceived the Lords of the Upper House 
so precisely bent to hear him, in his own case, make answer for him- 
self, that if he were not put out of the Parliament Bill, it would 
without fail be utterly an overthrow of all. But for all this needs 
would the King have his own will therein, or else he said that at the 
passing thereof he would be personally present himself. Then the 
Lord Audley and the rest, seeing him so vehemently set thereupon, 
on their knees most humbly besought his Majesty to forbear the 
same, considering, that if he should in his own presence receive an 
overthrow, it would not only encourage his subjects ever after to 

120 ROPER 

contemn him, but also throughout all Christendom, redound to his 
dishonour for ever adding thereunto, that they mistrusted not in 
time to find some meet matter to serve his Grace's turn better. For 
in this case of the nun he was accounted so innocent and clear, that 
for his dealing therein men reckoned him worthier of praise than 
reproof. Whereupon at length through their earnest persuasion, he 
was content to condescend to their petition. And on the morrow 
after, Mr. Cromwell meeting me in the Parliament House willed me 
to tell my father, that he was put out of the Parliament Bill. But 
because I had appointed to dine that day in London, I sent the 
message by my servant to my wife at Chelsea, whereof she informed 
her father, "in faith Meg" (quoth he) "Quod defertur, non aujertur." 
After this as the Duke of Norfolk and Sir Thomas More chanced to 
fall in familiar talk together, the Duke said unto him, "By the Mass 
(Mr. More) it is perilous striving with Princes and therefore 1 
would wish you somewhat to incline to the King's pleasure. For by 
God's body (Mr. More) Indignatio principis mors est." "Is that all, 
my Lord?" (quoth he). "Is there (in good faith) no more dif- 
ference between your Grace and me, but that I shall die to-day and 
you to-morrow?" So fell it out within a month or thereabout after 
the making of the Statute for the oath of Supremacy and Matrimony, 
that all the priests of London and Westminster, and no temporal 
men but he were sent to appear at Lambeth before the Bishop of 
Canterbury, the Lord Chancellor, and Secretary Cromwell, Com- 
missioners, there, to tender the oath unto them. Then Sir Thomas 
More, as his accustomed manner was always ere he entered into any 
matter of importance (as when he was first chosen of the King's 
Privy Council, when he was sent Ambassador, appointed Speaker 
of the Parliament, made Lord Chancellor, or when he took any like 
weighty matter upon him) to go to the church, and to be confessed, 
to hear mass, and be housled; so did he likewise in the morning 
early the selfsame day, that he was summoned to appear before the 
Lords at Lambeth. And whereas he used evermore before, at his 
departure from his house and children (whom he loved tenderly) 
to have them bring him to his boat, and there to kiss them all, and 
bid them farewell, then would he suffer none of them forth of the 
gate to follow him, but pulled the wicket after him, and shut them 


all from him, and with an heavy heart (as by his countenance it 
appeared) with me, and our four servants, there took his boat 
towards Lambeth. Wherein sitting still sadly awhile, at the last he 
rounded me in the ear and said, "Son Roper, I thank our Lord, the 
field is won." What he meant thereby, then, I wist not. Yet loath 
to seem ignorant I answered, "Sir, I am thereof very glad." But as 
I conjectured afterwards it was for that the love he had to God 
wrought in him so effectually, that it conquered in him all his 
carnal affectations utterly. At his coming to Lambeth, how wisely he 
behaved himself before the Commissioners, at the ministration of 
the oath unto him, may be found in certain letters of his (sent to 
my wife) remaining in a great book of his works: where by the 
space of four days, he was betaken to the custody of the Abbot of 
Westminster, during which time the King consulted with his Coun- 
cil what order were meet to be taken with him. And albeit in the 
beginning they were resolved, that with an oath not to be known 
whether he had to the supremacy been sworn, or what he thought 
thereof, he should be discharged, yet did Queen Anne, by her impor- 
tunate clamour, so sore exasperate the King against him, that, con- 
trary to his former resolution, he caused the oath of the supremacy 
to be ministered unto him, who, albeit he made a discreet qualified 
answer, nevertheless was forthwith committed to the Tower, who as 
he was going thitherward, wearing, as he commonly did, a chain 
of gold about his neck, Sir Richard Cromwell (that had the charge 
of his conveyance thither) advised him to send home his chain to his 
wife, or some of his children, "Nay, Sir (quoth he), that will I not. 
For if I were taken in the field by my enemies, I would they should 
somewhat fare the better by me." At whose landing Mr. Lieutenant 
at the Tower gate was ready to receive him, where the porter 
demanded of him his upper garment. "Mr. Porter" (quoth he) 
"here it is," and took off his cap and delivered him, saying, "I am 
very sorry it is no better for you." "Nay, Sir" (quoth the Porter), 
"I must have your gown," and so was he by Mr. Lieutenant con- 
veyed into his lodging, where he called unto him one John Awood 
his own servant there appointed to attend upon him, who could 
neither write nor read, and swore him before the Lieutenant that if 
he should hear, or see him at any time, speak or write any manner of 

122 ROPER 

thing against the King, the Council, or the state of the Realm, he 
should open it to the Lieutenant, that the Lieutenant might incon- 
tinent reveal it to the Council. Now when Sir Thomas More had 
remained in the Tower a little more than a month, my wife, longing 
to see her father, by her earnest suit at length gat leave to go to 
him. At whose coming (after the seven psalms and litany said, 
which whensoever she came to him, ere he fell in talk of any worldly 
matters, he used accustomably to say with her) among other com- 
munication he said unto her, "I believe (Meg) that they that have 
put me here, ween they have done me a high displeasure. But I 
assure you on my faith, mine own dear daughter, if it had not been 
for my wife and you that be my children, whom I account the chief 
part of my charge, I would not have failed, long ere this, to have 
closed myself in as strait a room and straiter too. But since I come 
hither without mine own desert, I trust that God of his goodness 
will discharge me of my care, and with his gracious help supply my 
want among you. I find no cause (I thank God, Meg) to reckon 
myself in worse case here, than in mine own house. For methinketh 
God maketh me a wanton, and setteth me on his lap and dandleth 
me." Thus by his gracious demeanour in tribulations appeared it, 
that all the troubles that ever chanced unto him by his patient suf- 
ferance thereof were to him no painful punishment, but of his 
patience profitable exercises. And at another time, when he had first 
questioned with my wife a while of the order of his wife and chil- 
dren, and state of his house in his absence, he asked her how Queen 
Anne did: "In faith, father" (quoth she), "never better." "Never 
better, Meg?" quoth he. "Alas (Meg) alas, it pitieth me to remem- 
ber, in what misery she (poor soul) shortly shall come." After this 
Mr. Lieutenant coming into his chamber to visit him, rehearsed the 
benefits and friendships that he had many times received at his 
hands, and how much bounden he was therefore friendly to enter- 
tain him and make him good cheer, which since (the case standing 
as it did) he could not do without the King's indignation, he trusted 
(he said) he would accept his good will, and such poor cheer as he 
had. "Mr. Lieutenant" (quoth he again), "I verily believe, as you 
may, so are you my good friends indeed, and would (as you say) 
with your best cheer entertain me, for the which I most heartily 


thank you. And assure yourself (Mr. Lieutenant)," quote he, "I do 
not mislike my cheer, but whensoever I do so, then thrust me out of 
your doors." Whereas the oath confirming the supremacy and matri- 
mony was by the first statute comprised in few words, the Lord 
Chancellor and Mr. Secretary did of their own heads add more 
words unto it, to make it appear to the King's ears more pleasant 
and plausible. And that oath so amplified caused they to be minis- 
tered to Sir Thomas More and to all other throughout the Realm, 
which Sir Thomas perceiving said unto my wife: "I may tell thee 
(Meg) they that have committed me hither for refusing of the oath, 
not agreeable with the statute, are not able by their own law to 
justify my imprisonment. And surely (daughter) it is a great pity 
that a Christian prince should (by a flexible council ready to follow 
his affections, and by a weak clergy lacking grace constantly to stand 
to their learning) with flattery so shameful to be abused." But at 
length the Lord Chancellor and Mr. Secretary, espying their over- 
sight in that behalf, were fain afterwards to find the means that 
another statute should be made for the confirmation of the oath so 
amplified with their additions. After Sir Thomas More had given 
over his office and all other worldly doings therewith, to the intent 
he might from thenceforth the more quietly set himself to the 
service of God, then made he a conveyance for the disposition of his 
lands, reserving for himself an estate thereof only for the term of his 
life, and after his decease assuring some part of the same to his 
wife, some to his son's wife for a jointure, in consideration that she 
was an inheritrix in possession of more than an hundred pounds land 
by the year, and some to me and my wife in recompense of our 
marriage money with divers remainders over, all which conveyance 
and assurance was perfectly finished long before that matter, where- 
upon she was attainted, was made an offence, and yet after by statute 
clearly voided; and so were all his lands, that he had to his wife and 
children by the said conveyance in such sort assured, contrary to the 
order of law, taken away from them, and brought into the King's 
hands, saving that portion that he had appointed to my wife and me, 
which although he had in the foresaid conveyance reserved, as he 
did the rest, for term of his life unto himself, nevertheless, upon fur- 
ther consideration after by another conveyance he gave that same 

124 ROPER 

immediately to me, and my wife in possession. And so because the 
statute had undone only the first conveyance, giving no more to the 
King but so much as passed by that, the second conveyance, where- 
by it was given unto my wife and me, being dated two days after 
was without the compass of the statute, and so was our portion to 
us by that means clearly reserved. As Sir Thomas More in the 
Tower chanced on a time looking out of his window to behold one 
Mr. Reynolds, a religious, learned and virtuous father of Sion, and 
three monks of the Charterhouse for the matter of the supremacy 
going out of the Tower to execution, he, as one longing in that 
journey to have accompanied them, said unto my wife, then stand- 
ing there beside him, "Lo, dost thou not see (Meg) that these 
blessed fathers be now as cheerful going to their deaths, as bride- 
grooms to their marriages? Wherefore thereby mayest thou see 
(mine own good daughter) what a difference there is between such 
as have in effect spent all their days in a strait, hard, penitential, and 
painful life religiously, and such as have in the world, like worldly 
wretches, as thy poor father hath done, consumed all the time in 
pleasure and ease licentiously. For God, considering their long- 
continued life in most sore and grievous penance, will not longer 
suffer them to remain here in this vale of misery, and iniquity, but 
speedily hence take them to the fruition of his everlasting deity: 
whereas thy silly father (Meg) that, like a most wicked caitiff, hath 
passed forth the whole course of his miserable life most pitifully, 
God, thinking him not worthy so soon to come to that eternal 
felicity, leaveth him here yet, still in the world further to be plunged 
and turmoiled with misery." Within a while after Mr. Secretary 
(coming to him into the Tower from the King) pretended much 
friendship towards him, and for his comfort told him, that the 
King's Highness was his good and gracious lord and minded not 
with any matter, wherein he should have any cause of scruple, from 
henceforth to trouble his conscience. As soon as Mr. Secretary was 
gone, to express what comfort he conceived of his words, he wrote 
with a coal (for ink then he had none) these verses following: — 

"Ay flattering fortune loo\ you never so fair, 
Nor never so pleasantly begin to smile, 
As though thou wouldst my ruins all repair 


During my life thou shalt not me beguile, 
Trust I shall, God, to enter in a while 
Thy haven of heaven sure and uniform. 
Ever after thy calm loo\ I for no storm!' 

When Sir Thomas More had continued a good while in the Tower, 
my lady his wife obtained licence to see him, who at her first coming 
like a simple woman, and somewhat worldly too, with this manner 
of salutations bluntly saluted him, "What the good year, Mr. More," 
quoth she, "I marvel that you, that have been always hitherunto taken 
for so wise a man, will now so play the fool to lie here in this close 
filthy prison, and be content to be shut up among mice and rats, 
when you might be abroad at your liberty, and with the favour and 
good will both of the King and his Council, if you would but do as 
all the bishops and best learned of this Realm have done. And seeing 
you have at Chelsea a right fair house, your library, your books, 
your gallery, your garden, your orchards, and all other necessaries 
so handsomely about you, where you might, in the company of me 
your wife, your children, and household be merry, I muse what a 
God's name you mean here still thus fondly to tarry." After he had 
a while quietly heard her, with a cheerful countenance he said unto 
her, "I pray thee good Mrs. Alice, tell me, tell me one thing." "What 
is that?" (quoth she). "Is not this house as nigh heaven as mine 
own?" To whom she, after her accustomed fashion, not liking such 
talk, answered, "Tille valle, tille valle." "How say you, Mrs. Alice, 
is it not so?" He quoth. "Bone Deus, bone Deus, man, will this gear 
never be left?" quoth she. "Well then, Mrs. Alice, if it be so, it is 
very well. For I see no great cause why I should much joy of my 
gay house, or of anything belonging thereunto, when, if I should but 
seven years lie buried under the ground, and then arise and come 
thither again, I should not fail to find some therein that would bid 
me get out of the doors, and tell me that were none of mine. What 
cause have I then to like such an house as would so soon forget his 
master?" So her persuasions moved him but a little. Not long after 
came there to him the Lord Chancellor, the Dukes of Norfolk and 
Suffolk, with Mr. Secretary, and certain others of the Privy Council 
at two separate times, by all policies possible procuring him either 
precisely to confess the supremacy, or precisely to deny it. Where- 

126 ROPER 

unto (as appeareth by his examination in the said great book) they 
could never bring him. Shortly hereupon Mr. Rich (afterwards Lord 
Rich) then newly the King's Solicitor, Sir Richard Southwell, and 
Mr. Palmer, servant to the Secretary, were sent to Sir Thomas More 
into the Tower, to fetch away his books from him. And while Sir 
Richard Southwell and Mr. Palmer were busy in trussing up of his 
books, Mr. Rich pretending friendly talk with him, among other 
things of a set course, as it seemed, said thus unto him : "Forasmuch 
as it is well known (Mr. More) that you are a man both wise and 
well learned, as well in the laws of the Realm, as otherwise, I pray 
you therefore, Sir, let me be so bold as of good will to put unto 
you this case. Admit there were, Sir," quoth he, "an Act of Parlia- 
ment, that all the Realm should take me for the King, would not 
you (Mr. More) take me for the King?" "Yes, Sir," quoth Sir 
Thomas More, "that would I." "I put the case further" (quoth Mr. 
Rich) "that there were an Act of Parliament that all the Realm 
should take me for the Pope; would then not you, Mr. More, take 
me for the Pope?" "For answer," quoth Sir Thomas More, "to your 
first case, the Parliament may well (Mr. Rich) meddle with the 
state of temporal princes;, but to make answer to your second case, 
I will put you this case. Suppose the Parliament would make a law, 
that God should not be God, would you then, Mr. Rich, say God 
were not God?" "No, Sir," quoth he, "that would I not, since no 
Parliament may make any such law." "No more" (said Sir Thomas 
More, as Mr. Rich reported of him) "could the Parliament make the 
King supreme head of the Church." Upon whose only report was 
Sir Thomas More indicted of treason upon the Statute in which it 
was made treason to deny the King to be supreme head of the 
Church, into which indictment were put these words, maliciously, 
traitorously, and diabolically. When Sir Thomas More was brought 
from the Tower to Westminster Hall to answer the indictment, and 
at the King's Bench bar before the judges thereupon arraigned, he 
openly told them that he would upon that indictment have abiden in 
law, but he thereby should have been driven to confess of himself 
the matter indeed, which was the denial of the King's supremacy, 
which he protested was untrue, wherefore thereto he pleaded not 
guilty, and so reserved unto himself advantage to be taken of the 


body of the matter after verdict, to avoid that indictment. And 
moreover added, "if those only odious terms, maliciously, traitor- 
ously, and diabolically were put out of the indictment, he saw noth- 
ing therein justly to charge him." And for proof to the jury that 
Sir Thomas More was guilty to this treason, Mr. Rich was called 
by them to give evidence unto them, as he did; against whom Sir 
Thomas More began in this wise to say: "If I were a man (my 
Lords) that did not regard an oath, I need not (as it is well known) 
in this place, at this time, nor in this case to stand as an accused 
person. And if this oath of yours (Mr. Rich) be true, then pray I 
that I may never see God in the face, which I would not say, were 
it otherwise, to win the whole world." Then recited he unto the 
discourse of all their communication in the Tower according to the 
truth, and said, "In faith, Mr. Rich, I am sorrier for your perjury 
than for mine own peril, and you shall understand that neither I, 
nor no man else to my knowledge ever took you to be a man of 
such credit as in any matter of importance I, or any other would at 
any time vouchsafe to communicate with you. And (as you know) 
of no small while I have been acquainted with you and your con- 
versation, who have known you from your youth hitherto. For we 
long dwelled both in one parish together, where, as yourself can 
tell (I am sorry you compel me so to say) you were esteemed very 
light of your tongue, a great dicer, and of not commendable fame. 
And so in your house at the Temple (where hath been your chief 
bringing up) were you likewise accounted. Can it therefore seem 
likely unto your honourable Lordships, that I would, in so weighty 
a cause, so far overshoot myself, as to trust Mr. Rich (a man of me 
always reputed for one of so little truth, as your Lordships have 
heard) so far above my sovereign Lord the King, or any of his noble 
councillors, that I would unto him utter the secrets of my conscience 
touching the King's supremacy, the special point and only mark 
at my hands so long sought for? A thing which I never did, nor 
never would, after the Statute thereof made, reveal it, either to the 
King's Highness himself, or to any of his honourable councillors, as 
it is not unknown unto your house, at sundry times, and several, 
sent from his Grace's own person unto the Tower to me for none 
other purpose. Can this in your judgments (my Lords) seem likely 

128 ROPER 

to be true? And if I had so done indeed, my Lords, as Mr. Rich 
hath sworn, seeing it was spoke but in familiar secret talk, nothing 
affirming, and only in putting of cases, without other displeasant 
circumstances, it cannot justly be taken to be spoken maliciously. 
And where there is no malice there can be no offence. And over 
this I can never think (my Lords) that so many worthy bishops, so 
many honourable personages, and many other worshipful, virtuous, 
wise, and well-learned men, as at the making of that law were in the 
Parliament assembled, ever meant to have any man punished by 
death, in whom there could be found no malice, taking malitia pro 
malevolentia. For if malitia be generally taken for sin, no man is 
there then that can thereof excuse himself. Quia si dixerimus quod 
peccatum non habemus, nosmetipsos seducimus, et Veritas in nobis 
non est. And only this word maliciously is in the Statute material, as 
this term forcible is in the statute of forcible entries; by which 
statute if a man enter peaceably, and put not his adversary out forci- 
bly, it is no offence, but if he put him out forcibly, then by that 
statute it is an offence. And so shall he be punished by this term 
forcible. Besides this, the manifold goodness of my sovereign Lord 
the King's Highness himself that hath been so many ways my 
singular good Lord and Gracious Sovereign, that hath so dearly 
loved me, and trusted me even at my first coming into his noble 
service with the dignity of his honourable Privy Council, vouch- 
safing to admit me to offices of great credit, and worship most 
liberally advanced me, and finally with that weighty room of his 
Grace's high Chancellorship (the like whereof he never did to tem- 
poral men before) next to his own royal person the highest officer 
in this noble realm, so far above my merits or qualities able and meet 
therefore, of his incomparable benignity honoured and exalted me 
by the space of twenty years and more, showing his continual favour 
towards me; and (until, at mine own poor suit, it pleased his High- 
ness, giving me licence, with his Majesty's favour, to bestow the 
residue of my life wholly for the provision of my soul in the service 
of God, of his special goodness thereof to discharge and unburden 
me) most benignly heaped honours more and more upon me; all 
this his Highness' goodness, I say, so long continued towards me, 
were, in my mind (my Lords), matter sufficient to convince this 


slanderous surmise (by this man) so wrongfully imagined against 
me." Mr. Rich seeing himself so disproved, and his credit so foully 
defaced, caused Sir Richard Southwell and Mr. Palmer, that at that 
time of their communication were in the chamber, to be sworn what 
words had passed betwixt them. Whereupon Mr. Palmer on his 
deposition said, that he was so busy about the trussing up Sir Thomas 
More's books in a sack, that he took no heed to their talk. Sir 
Richard Southwell likewise upon his deposition said, that because 
he was appointed only to look to the conveyance of his books, he 
gave no ear unto them. After this, were there many other reasons 
(not now in my rememberance) by Sir Thomas More in his own 
defence alleged, to the discredit of Mr. Rich his foresaid evidence, 
and proof of the clearness of his own conscience. All which not- 
withstanding the jury found him guilty, and incontinent upon the 
verdict the Lord Chancellor (for that matter chief commissioner) 
beginning in judgment against him, Sir Thomas More said to him, 
"My Lord, when I was towards the law, the manner in such case 
was to ask the prisoner before judgment, why judgment should not 
be given against him?" Whereupon the Lord Chancellor staying his 
judgment, wherein he had partly proceeded, demanded of him what 
he was able to say to the contrary? Who then in this sort mildly 
made answer: "Forasmuch as, my Lord" (quoth he), "this indict- 
ment is grounded upon an Act of Parliament, directly oppugnant to 
the laws of God and his holy Church, the supreme government of 
which, or of any part thereof, may no temporal prince presume by 
any law to take upon him as rightfully belonging to the See of 
Rome, a spiritual pre-eminence by the mouth of our Saviour himself, 
personally present upon the earth, to St. Peter and his successors, 
bishops of the same see, by special prerogative, granted, it is there- 
fore in law amongst Christian men insufficient to charge any 
Christian." And for proof thereof like as amongst divers other 
reasons and authorities he declared that this Realm, being but one 
member and small part of the Church, might not make a particular 
law dischargeable with the general law of Christ's holy Catholic 
Church, no more than the City of London, being but one poor mem- 
ber in respect of the whole Realm, might make a law against an 
Act of Parliament to bind the whole Realm unto: so further showed 

130 ROPER 

he, that it was contrary both to the laws and statutes of this land, 
yet unrepealed, as they might evidently perceive in Magna charta, 
Quod Ecclesia Anglicana libera sit et habeat omnia jura sua integra, 
at libertates suas illcesas, and contrary to that sacred oath which the 
King's Highness himself, and every other Christian prince always 
at their coronations received, alleging moreover, that no more might 
this Realm of England refuse obedience to the See of Rome, than 
might the child refuse obedience to his natural father. For as St. 
Paul said of the Corinthians, "I have regenerated you my children in 
Christ," so might St. Gregory Pope of Rome (of whom by St. 
Augustine his messenger we first received the Christian faith) of us 
English men truly say, "You are my children, because I have given 
to you everlasting salvation, a far better inheritance than any carnal 
father can leave unto his child, and by spiritual generation have made 
you my spiritual children in Christ." Then was it thereunto by the 
Lord Chancellor answered, that seeing all the bishops, universities, 
and best learned men of the Realm had to this Act agreed, it was 
much marvelled that he alone against them all would so stiffly stick 
and vehemently argue there against. To that Sir Thomas More 
replied saying, "If the number of bishops and universities be so 
material, as your Lordships seemeth to take it, then see I little cause 
(my Lords) why that thing in my conscience should make any 
change. For I nothing doubt, but that though not in this Realm, 
yet in Christendom about they be not the least part, that be of my 
mind therein. But if I should speak of those that be already dead 
(of whom many be now saints in heaven) I am very sure it is the 
far greater part of them, that all the while they lived, thought in 
this case that way that I think now. And therefore am I not bound 
(my Lords) to conform my conscience to the council of one realm 
against the General Council of Christendom." Now when Sir 
Thomas More, for the avoiding of the indictment, had taken as 
many exceptions as he thought meet and more reasons than I can 
now remember alleged, the Lord Chancellor, loath to have the 
burden of the judgment wholly to depend upon himself, then openly 
asked the advice of the Lord Fitz- James, then the Lord Chief Justice 
of the King's Bench, and joined in commission with him, whether 
this indictment were sufficient or not? Who like a wise man 


answered, "My Lords all, by St. Julian" (that was ever his oath) "I 
must needs confess, that if the Act of Parliament be not unlawful, 
then is not the indictment in my conscience insufficient." Where- 
upon the Lord Chancellor said to the rest of the Lords, "Lo, my 
Lords, lo, you hear what my Lord Chief Justice saith," and so imme- 
diately gave the judgment against him. After which ended, the com- 
missioners yet courteously offered him, if he had anything else to 
allege for his defence to grant him favourable audience, who 
answered, "More have I not to say (my Lords) but like as the blessed 
Apostle St. Paul, as we read in the Acts of the Apostles, was present, 
and consented to the death of St. Stephen, and kept their clothes that 
stoned him to death, and yet be they now both twain holy saints in 
heaven, and shall continue there friends for ever, so I verily trust 
and shall therefore right heartily pray, that though your Lordships 
have now in earth been judges to my condemnation, we may yet 
hereafter in heaven merrily all meet together to our everlasting 
salvation." Thus much touching Sir Thomas More's arraignment, 
being not thereat present myself, have I by the credible report of Sir 
Anthony Sumtleger Knight, and partly of Sir Richard Heywood, 
and John Webb Gentleman, with others of good credit, at the 
hearing thereof present themselves, as far forth as my poor wit and 
memory would serve me, here truly rehearsed unto you. Now after 
this arraignment departed he from the bar to the Tower again, led 
by Sir William Kingston, a tall, strong, and comely knight, Con- 
stable of the Tower, his very dear friend, who, when he had brought 
him from Westminster to the Old Swan towards the Tower, there 
with a heavy heart, the tears running down his cheeks, bade him 
farewell. Sir Thomas More seeing him so sorrowful, comforted 
him with as good words as he could, saying, "Good Mr. Kingston, 
trouble not yourself, but be of good cheer. For I will pray for you, 
and my good Lady your wife, that we may meet in heaven together, 
where we shall be merry for ever and ever." Soon after Sir William 
Kingston talking with me of Sir Thomas More, said, "In faith Mr. 
Roper I was ashamed of myself, that at my departure from your 
father, I found my heart so feeble, and his so strong, that he was 
fain to comfort me which should rather have comforted him." When 
Sir Thomas More came from Westminster to the Towerward again 

132 ROPER 

his daughter my wife, desirous to see her father, whom she thought 
she should never see in this world after, and also to have his final 
blessing, gave attendance about the Tower wharf, where she knew 
he should pass by, ere he could enter into the Tower. There tarrying 
for his coming home, as soon as she saw him, after his blessings on 
her knees reverently received, she, hasting towards, without con- 
sideration of care of herself, pressing in amongst the midst of the 
throng and the Company of the Guard, that with halbards and bills 
were round about him, hastily ran to him, and there openly in the 
sight of all them embraced and took him about the neck and kissed 
him, who well liking her most daughterly love and affection towards 
him, gave her his fatherly blessing, and many godly words of com- 
fort besides, from whom after she was departed, she not satisfied with 
the former sight of her dear father, having respect neither to her- 
self, nor to the press of the people and multitude that were about 
him, suddenly turned back again, and ran to him as before, took 
him about the neck, and divers times together most lovingly kissed 
him, and at last with a full heavy heart was fain to depart from 
him; the beholding whereof was to many of them that were present 
thereat so lamentable, that it made them for very sorrow to mourn 
and weep. So remained Sir Thomas More in the Tower more than 
a sevennight after his judgment. From whence the day before he 
suffered he sent his shirt of hair, not willing to have it seen, to my 
wife, his dearly beloved daughter, and a letter, written with a coal, 
contained in the foresaid book of his works, plainly expressing the 
fervent desire he had to suffer on the morrow in these words: "I 
cumber you, good Margaret, much, but I would be sorry if it should 
be any longer than to-morrow. For to-morrow is St. Thomas' even, 
and the Octave of St. Peter, and therefore to-morrow long I to go to 
God, that were a day very meet and convenient for me. And I 
never liked your manners better, than when you kissed me last. 
For I like when daughterly love, and dear charity hath no leisure to 
look to worldly courtesy." And so upon the next morning, being 
Tuesday, St. Thomas' even, and the Octave of St. Peter in the year 
of our Lord God 1537, according as he in his letter the day before 
had wished, early in the morning came to him Sir Thomas Pope, 
his singular friend, on message from the King and his Council, that 


he should before nine of the clock in the same morning suffer death, 
and that therefore forthwith he should prepare himself thereto. "Mr. 
Pope," saith he, "for your good tidings I most heartily thank you. 
I have been always bounden much to the King's Highness for the 
benefits and honours which he hath still from time to time most 
bountifully heaped upon me, and yet more bounded I am to his 
Grace for putting me into this place, where I have had convenient 
time and space to have remembrance of my end, and so help me God 
most of all, Mr. Pope, am I bound to his Highness, that it pleased 
him so shortly to rid me of the miseries of this wretched world. 
And therefore will I not fail most earnestly to pray for his Grace 
both here, and also in another world." "The King's pleasure is 
further," quoth Mr. Pope, "that at your execution you shall not use 
many words." "Mr. Pope" (quoth he), "you do well that you give 
me warning of his Grace's pleasure. For otherwise, had I purposed 
at that time somewhat to have spoken, but of no matter wherewith 
his Grace, or any other should have had cause to be offended. 
Nevertheless, whatsoever I intend I am ready obediently to con- 
form myself to his Grace's commandment. And I beseech you, good 
Mr. Pope, to be a mean unto his Highness, that my daughter 
Margaret may be present at my burial." "The King is well contented 
already" (quoth Mr. Pope) "that your wife, children, and other 
friends shall have free liberty to be present thereat." "O how much 
beholden," then said Sir Thomas More, "am I to his Grace, that 
unto my poor burial vouchsafeth to have so gracious consideration." 
Wherewithal Mr. Pope taking his leave of him could not refrain 
from weeping, which Sir Thomas More perceiving, comforted him 
in this wise, "Quiet yourself, good Mr. Pope, and be not discom- 
forted. For I trust that we shall once in heaven see each other full 
merrily, where we shall be sure to live and love together in joyful 
bliss eternally." Upon whose departure Sir Thomas More, as one 
that had been invited to a solemn feast, changed himself into his 
best apparel; which Mr. Lieutenant espying, advised him to put it 
off, saying, That he that should have it was but a worthless fellow. 
"What Mr. Lieutenant" (quoth he), "shall I account him a worth- 
less fellow, that will do me this day so singular a benefit? Nay, I 
assure you, were it cloth of gold I would account it well bestowed on 

134 ROPER 

him, as St. Cyprian did, who gave his executioner thirty pieces of 
gold." And albeit at length, through Mr. Lieutenant's persuasions, 
he altered his apparel, yet, after the example of that holy martyr St. 
Cyprian, did he of that little money that was left him, send one angel 
of gold to his executioner. And so was he brought by Mr. Lieutenant 
out of the Tower, and from thence led towards the place of execu- 
tion, where going up the scaffold, which was so weak that it was 
ready to fall, he said to Mr. Lieutenant, "I pray you, I pray you, Mr. 
Lieutenant, see me safe up, and for my coming down let me shift 
for myself." Then desired he all the people thereabouts to pray for 
him, and to bear witness with him, that he should then suffer death 
in and for the faith of the holy Catholic Church, which done he 
kneeled down, and after his prayers said, he turned to the execu- 
tioner, and with a cheerful countenance spake unto him. "Pluck up 
thy spirits, man, and be not afraid to do thine office, my neck is very 
short. Take heed therefore thou shoot not awry for saving thine 
honesty." So passed Sir Thomas More out of this world to God upon 
the very same day in which himself had most desired. Soon after 
whose death came intelligence thereof to the Emperor Charles, 
whereupon he sent for Sir Thomas Eliott, our English Ambassador, 
and said unto him, "My Lord Ambassador, we understand that the 
King your master hath put his faithful servant and grave wise coun- 
cillor Sir Thomas More to death." Whereunto Sir Thomas Eliott 
answered, that he understood nothing thereof. "Well," said the Em- 
peror, "it is very true, and this will we say, that if we had been master 
of such a servant, of whose doings ourselves have had these many 
years no small experience, we would rather have lost the best city 
of our dominions, than have lost such a worthy councillor." Which 
matter was by Sir Thomas Eliott to myself, to my wife, to Mr. Cle- 
ment and his wife, to Mr. John Haywood and his wife, and divers 
others of his friends accordingly reported. 


The First Book of the Communication 

of Raphael Hythloday, 

Concerning the Best State of a Commonwealth 

THE most victorious and triumphant King of England, 
Henry the Eighth of that name, in all royal virtues, prince 
most peerless, had of late in controversy with the right high 
and mighty King of Castile, weighty matters and of great impor- 
tance. For the debatement and final determination whereof, the 
King's Majesty sent me ambassador into Flanders, joined in com- 
mission with Cuthbert Tunstall, a man doubtless out of comparison, 
and whom the King's Majesty of late, to the great rejoicing of all 
men, did prefer to the office of Master of the Rolls. 

But of this man's praises I will say nothing, not because I do fear 
that small credence shall be given to the testimony that cometh out 
of a friend's mouth: but because his virtue and learning be greater, 
and of more excellency, than that I am able to praise them : and also 
in all places so famous and so perfectly well known, that they need 
not, nor ought not of me to be praised, unless I would seem to show 
and set forth the brightness of the sun with a candle, as the proverb 
saith. There met us at Bruges (for thus it was before agreed) they 
whom their Prince had for that matter appointed commissioners: 
excellent men all. The chief and the head of them was the Margrave 
(as they call him) of Bruges, a right honourable man: but the wisest 
and the best spoken of them was George Temsice, provost of Cassel, 
a man, not only by learning, but also by nature of singular eloquence, 
and in the laws profoundly learned: but in reasoning and debating 
of matters, what by his natural wit, and what by daily exercise, surely 
he had few fellows. After that we had once or twice met, and upon 
certain points or articles could not fully and thoroughly agree, they 
for a certain space took their leave of us, and departed to Brussels, 



there to know their Prince's pleasure. I in the meantime (for so my 
business lay) went straight thence to Antwerp. Whiles I was there 
abiding, oftentimes among other, but which to me was more wel- 
come than any other, did visit me one Peter Giles, a citizen of Ant- 
werp, a man there in his country of honest reputation, and also pre- 
ferred to high promotions, worthy truly of the highest. For it is hard 
to say, whether the young man be in learning, or in honesty more 
excellent. For he is both of wonderful virtuous conditions, and also 
singularly well learned, and towards all sorts of people exceeding 
gentle : but towards his friends so kind-hearted, so loving, so faithful, 
so trusty, and of so earnest affection, that it were very hard in any 
place to find a man, that with him in all points of friendship may be 
compared. No man can be more lowly or courteous. No man useth 
less simulation or dissimulation, in no man is more prudent sim- 
plicity. Besides this, he is in his talk and communication so merry 
and pleasant, yea and that without harm, that through his gentle 
entertainment, and his sweet and delectable communication, in me 
was greatly abated and diminished the fervent desire, that I had to 
see my native country, my wife and my children, whom then I did 
much long and covet to see, because that at that time I had been 
more than four months from them. Upon a certain day when I had 
heard the divine service in our Lady's church, which is the fairest, 
the most gorgeous and curious church of building in all the city and 
also most frequented of people, and, the service being done, was 
ready to go home to my lodging, I chanced to espy this foresaid 
Peter talking with a certain stranger, a man well stricken in age, 
with a black sunburned face, a long beard, and a cloak cast homely 
about his shoulders, whom by his favour and apparel forthwith I 
judged to be a mariner. But when this Peter saw me, he cometh to 
me and saluteth me. 

And as I was about to answer him : see you this man, saith he (and 
therewith he pointed to the man, that I saw him talking with be- 
fore); I was minded, quoth he, to bring him straight home to 

He should have been very welcome to me, said I, for your sake. 

Nay (quoth he) for his own sake, if you knew him : for there is 
no man this day living, that can tell you of so many strange and un- 


known peoples, and countries, as this man can. And I know well 
that you be very desirous to hear of such news. 

Then I conjectured not far amiss (quoth I) for even at the first 
sight I judged him to be a mariner. 

Nay (quoth he) there ye were greatly deceived: he hath sailed 
indeed, not as the mariner Palinure, but as the expert and prudent 
prince Ulysses : yea, rather as the ancient and sage philosopher Plato. 
For this same Raphael Hythloday (for this is his name) is very well 
learned in the Latin tongue: but profound and excellent in the Greek 
tongue. Wherein he ever bestowed more study than in the Latin, 
because he had given himself wholly to the study of philosophy. 
Whereof he knew that there is nothing extant in the Latin tongue 
that is to any purpose, saving a few of Seneca's, and Cicero's doings. 
His patrimony that he was born unto, he left to his brethren (for he 
is a Portugal born) and for the desire that he had to see, and know 
the far countries of the world, he joined himself in company with 
Amerigo Vespucci, and in the three last voyages of those four that 
be now in print and abroad in every man's hands, he continued still 
in his company, saving that in the last voyage he came not home 
again with him. For he made such means and shift, what by en- 
treatance, and what by importune suit, that he got licence of master 
Amerigo (though it were sore against his will) to be one of the 
twenty-four which in the end of the last voyage were left in the 
country of Gulike. He was therefore left behind for his mind sake, 
as one that took more thought and care for travelling than dying: 
having customably in his mouth these sayings: he that hath no 
grave, is covered with the sky: and, the way to heaven out of all 
places is of like length and distance. Which fantasy of his (if God 
had not been his better friend) he had surely bought full dear. But 
after the departing of master Vespucci, when he had travelled 
through and about many countries with five of his companions 
Gulikians, at the last by marvellous chance he arrived in Taprobane, 
from whence he went to Caliquit, where he chanced to find certain 
of his country ships, wherein he returned again into his country, 
nothing less than looked for. 

All this when Peter had told me, I thanked him for his gentle 
kindness, that he had vouchsafed to bring me to the speech of that 


man, whose communication he thought should be to me pleasant 
and acceptable. And therewith I turned me to Raphael. And when 
we had saluted each other, and had spoken these common words, 
that be customably spoken at the first meeting and acquaintance of 
strangers, we went thence to my house, and there in my garden upon 
a bench covered with green turf we sat down talking together. There 
he told us, how that after the departing of Vespucci, he and his fel- 
lows, that tarried behind in Gulike, began by little and little, through 
fair and gentle speech, to win the love and favour of the people of 
that country, insomuch that within short space, they did dwell 
amongst them, not only harmless, but also occupied with them very 
familiarly. He told us also, that they were in high reputation and 
favour with a certain great man (whose name and country is now 
quite out of my remembrance) which of his mere liberality did bear 
the costs and charges of him and his five companions. And besides 
that gave them a trusty guide to conduct them in their journey 
(which by water was in boats, and by land in waggons) and to bring 
them to other princes, with very friendly commendations. Thus after 
many days' journeys, he said, they found towns and cities and weal 
publics, full of people, governed by good and wholesome laws. For 
under the line equinoctial, and of both sides of the same, as far as 
the sun doth extend his course, lieth (quoth he) great and wide 
deserts and wildernesses, parched, burned, and dried up with con- 
tinual and intolerable heat. All things be hideous, terrible, loath- 
some, and unpleasant to behold: all things out of fashion and 
comeliness, inhabited with wild beasts and serpents, or at the least- 
wise, with people, that be no less savage, wild and noisome, than 
the very beasts themselves be. But a little farther beyond that, 
all things begin by little and little to wax pleasant; the air soft, tem- 
perate, and gentle; the ground covered with green grass; less wild- 
ness in the beasts. At the last shall ye come again to people, cities, 
and towns wherein is continual intercourse and occupying of mer- 
chandise and chaffer, not only among themselves and with their 
borderers, but also with merchants of far countries, both by land and 
water. There I had occasion (said he) to go to many countries of 
every side. For there was no ship ready to any voyage or journey, 
but I and my fellows were into it very gladly received. The ships 
that they found first were made plain, flat and broad in the bottom, 


trough-wise. The sails were made of great rushes, or of wickers, and 
in some places, of leather. Afterward they found ships with ridged 
keels, and sails of canvas, yea, and shortly after, having all things 
like ours. The shipmen also very expert and cunning, both in the 
sea and in the weather. But he said that he found great favour and 
friendship among them, for teaching them the feat and use of the 
load-stone, which to them before that time was unknown. And 
therefore they were wont to be very timorous and fearful upon the 
sea; nor to venture upon it, but only in the summer time. But 
now they have such a confidence in that stone, that they fear not 
stormy winter: in so doing farther from care than jeopardy; inso- 
much, that it is greatly to be doubted, lest that thing, through their 
own foolish hardiness, shall turn them to evil and harm, which 
at the first was supposed should be to them good and commo- 

But what he told us that he saw in every country where he came, 
it were very long to declare; neither is it my purpose at this time to 
make rehearsal thereof. But peradventure in another place I will 
speak of it, chiefly such things as shall be profitable to be known, as 
in special be those decrees and ordinances, that he marked to be well 
and wisely provided and enacted among such peoples, as do live 
together in a civil policy and good order. For of such things did we 
busily inquire and demand of him, and he likewise very willingly 
told us of the same. But as for monsters, because they be no news, 
of them we were nothing inquisitive. For nothing is more easy to be 
found, then be barking Scyllas, ravening Celenos, and Lcestrygonians 
devourers of people, and such like great, and incredible monsters. 
But to find citizens ruled by good and wholesome laws, that is an 
exceeding rare, and hard thing. But as he marked many fond, and 
foolish laws in those new found lands, so he rehearsed many acts, 
and constitutions, whereby these our cities, nations, countries, and 
kingdoms may take example to amend their faults, enormities, and 
errors. Whereof in another place (as I said) I will treat. 

Now at this time I am determined to rehearse only that he told us 
of the manners, customs, laws, and ordinances of the Utopians. But 
first I will repeat our former communication by the occasion, and 
(as I might say) the drift whereof, he was brought into the mention 
of that weal public. 


For, when Raphael had very prudently touched divers things that 
be amiss, some here and some there, yea, very many of both parts; 
and again had spoken of such wise and prudent laws and decrees, 
as be established and used, both here among us and also there among 
them, as a man so cunning, and expert in the laws, and customs of 
every several country, as though into what place soever he came 
guestwise, there he had led all his life: then Peter much marvelling 
at the man: Surely Master Raphael (quoth he) I wonder greatly, 
why you get you not into some king's court. For I am sure there is 
no prince living, that would not be very glad of you, as a man not 
only able highly to delight him with your profound learning, and 
this your knowledge of countries, and peoples, but also are meet to 
instruct him with examples, and help him with counsel. And thus 
doing, you shall bring yourself in a very good case, and also be in 
ability to help all your friends and kinsfolk. 

As concerning my friends and kinsfolk (quoth he) I pass not 
greatly for them. For I think I have sufficiently done my part 
towards them already. For these things, that other men do not de- 
part from, until they be old and sick, yea, which they be then very 
loath to leave, when they, can no longer keep, those very same things 
did I being not only lusty and in good health, but also in the flower 
of my youth, divide among my friends and kinsfolks. Which I think 
with this my liberality ought to hold them contented, and not to 
require nor to look that besides this, I should for their sakes give 
myself in bondage to kings. 

Nay, God forbid (quoth Peter), it is not my mind that you should 
be in bondage to kings, but as a retainer to them at your pleasure. 
Which surely I think is the nighest way that you can devise how to 
bestow your time fruitfully, not only for the private commodity of 
your friends and for the general profit of all sorts of people, but also 
for the advancement of yourself to a much wealthier state and con- 
dition, than you be now in. 

To a wealthier condition (quoth Raphael) by that means, that 
my mind standeth clean against ? Now I live at liberty after my own 
mind and pleasure, which I think very few of these great states 
and peers of realms can say. Yea and there be enough of them that 
seek for great men's friendships: and therefore think it no great 


hurt, if they have not me, nor two or three such other as I 

Well, I perceive plainly friend Raphael (quoth I) that you be 
desirous neither of riches nor of power. And truly I have in no less 
reverence and estimation a man that is of your mind, than any of 
them all that be so high in power and authority. But you shall do as 
it becometh you: yea, and according to this wisdom, and this high 
and free courage of yours, if you can find in your heart so to appoint 
and dispose yourself, that you may apply your wit and diligence to 
the profit of the weal public, though it be somewhat to your own 
pain and hindrance. And this shall you never so well do, nor with 
so great profit perform, as if you be of some great prince's council, 
and put into his head (as I doubt not but you will) honest opinions 
and virtuous persuasions. For from the prince, as from a perpetual 
well spring, cometh among the people the flood of all that is good or 
evil. But in you is so perfect learning, that without any experience, 
and again so great experience, that without any learning you may 
well be any king's councillor. 

You be twice deceived, Master More (quoth he), first in me, and 
again in the thing itself. For neither is in me that ability that you 
force upon me, and if it were never so much, yet in disquieting mine 
own quietness I should nothing further the weal public. For first 
of all, the most part of all princes have more delight in warlike mat- 
ters and feats of chivalry (the knowledge whereof I neither have nor 
desire) than in the good feats of peace: and employ much more 
study, how by right or by wrong to enlarge their dominions, than 
how well and peaceably to rule and govern that they have already. 
Moreover, they that be councillors to kings, every one of them either 
is of himself so wise indeed, that he need not, or else he thinketh him- 
self so wise, that he will not allow another man's counsel, saving that 
they do shamefully and flatteringly give assent to the fond and fool- 
ish sayings of certain great men. Whose favours, because they be in 
high authority with their prince, by assentation and flattery they 
labour to obtain. And verily it is naturally given to all men to 
esteem their own inventions best. So both the raven and the ape 
think their own young ones fairest. Then if a man in such a com- 
pany, where some disdain and have despite at other men's inventions, 


and some count their own best, if among such men (I say) a man 
should bring forth anything, that he hath read done in times past, or 
that he hath seen done in other places: there the hearers fare as 
though the whole existimation of their wisdom were in jeopardy to 
be overthrown, and that ever after they should be counted for very 
fools, unless they could in other men's inventions pick out matter to 
reprehend, and find fault at. If all other poor helps fail, then this is 
their extreme refuge. These things (say they) pleased our forefathers 
and ancestors; would God we could be so wise as they were: and as 
though they had wittily concluded the matter, and with this answer 
stopped every man's mouth, they sit down again. As who should 
say, it were a very dangerous matter, if a man in any point should 
be found wiser than his forefathers were. 

And yet be we content to suffer the best and wittiest of their de- 
crees to lie unexecuted : but if in anything a better order might have 
been taken, than by them was, there we take fast hold, and find many 
faults. Many times have I chanced upon such proud, lewd, over- 
thwart and wayward judgments, yea, and once in England. 

I pray you sir (quoth I) have you been in our country? 

Yea forsooth (quoth he) and there I tarried for the space of four 
or five months together, not long after the insurrection, that the 
western Englishmen made against their king, which by their own 
miserable and pitiful slaughter was suppressed and ended. In the 
mean season I was much bound and beholden to the right reverend 
father, John Morton, Archbishop and Cardinal of Canterbury, and 
at that time also Lord Chancellor of England: a man, Master Peter 
(for Master More knoweth already that I will say), not more hon- 
ourable for his authority, than for his prudence and virtue. He was 
of a mean stature, and though stricken in age, yet bare he his body 
upright. In his face did shine such an amiable reverence, as was 
pleasant to behold, gende in communication, yet earnest, and sage. 
He had great delight many times with rough speech to his suitors, 
to prove, but without harm, what prompt wit and what bold spirit 
were in every man. In the which, as in a virtue much agreeing with 
his nature, so that therewith were not joined impudence, he took 
great delectation. And the same person, as apt and meet to have an 
administration in the weal public, he did lovingly embrace. In his 


speech he was fine, eloquent, and pithy. In the law he had profound 
knowledge, in wit he was incomparable, and in memory wonderful 
excellent. These qualities, which in him were by nature singular, 
he by learning and use had made perfect. The king put much trust 
in his counsel, the weal public also in a manner leaned unto him, 
when I was there. For even in the chief of his youth he was taken 
from school into the court, and there passed all his time in much 
trouble and business, and was continually tumbled and tossed in the 
waves of divers misfortunes and adversities. And so by many and 
great dangers he learned the experience of the world, which so being 
learned can not easily be forgotten. It chanced on a certain day, 
when I sat at his table, there was also a certain layman cunning in 
the laws of your realm. Which, I cannot tell whereof taking occa- 
sion, began diligently and busily to praise that strait and rigorous 
justice, which at that time was there executed upon felons, who, as 
he said, were for the most part twenty hanged together upon one 
gallows. And, seeing so few escaped punishment, he said he could 
not choose, but greatly wonder and marvel, how and by what evil 
luck it should so come to pass, that thieves nevertheless were in every 
place so rife and rank. Nay, sir, quoth I (for I durst boldly speak my 
mind before the Cardinal), marvel nothing hereat: for this punish- 
ment of thieves passeth the limits [of] justice, and is also very hurtful 
to the weal public. For it is too extreme and cruel a punishment 
for theft, and yet not sufficient to refrain men from theft. For simple 
theft is not so great an offence, that it ought to be punished with 
death. Neither there is any punishment so horrible, that it can keep 
them from stealing, which have no other craft, whereby to get their 
living. Therefore in this point, not you only, but also the most part of 
the world, be like evil schoolmasters, which be readier to beat, than 
to teach their scholars. For great and horrible punishments be ap- 
pointed for thieves, whereas much rather provision should have been 
made, that there were some means, whereby they might get their 
living, so that no man should be driven to this extreme necessity, first 
to steal, and then to die. Yes (quoth he) this matter is well enough 
provided for already. There be handicrafts, there is husbandry to 
get their living by, if they would not willingly be nought. Nay, 
quoth I, you shall not 'scape so: for first of all, I will speak nothing 


of them, that come home out of war, maimed and lame, as not long 
ago, out of Blackheath field, and a little before that, out of the wars 
in France: such, I say, as put their lives in jeopardy for the weal pub- 
lic's or the king's sake, and by the reason of weakness and lameness 
be not able to occupy their old crafts, and be too aged to learn new: 
of them I will speak nothing, because war like the tide ebbeth and 
floweth. But let us consider those things that chance daily before 
our eyes. First there is a great number of gentlemen, which cannot 
be content to live idle themselves, like drones, of that which other 
have laboured for: their tenants I mean, whom they poll and shave 
to the quick by raising their rents (for this only point of frugality 
do they use, men else through their lavish and prodigal spending, 
able to bring themselves to very beggary) these gentlemen, (I say), do 
not only live in idleness themselves, but also carry about with them 
at their tails a great flock or train of idle and loitering serving-men, 
which never learned any craft whereby to get their livings. These 
men as soon as their master is dead, or be sick themselves, be incon- 
tinent thrust out of doors. For gentlemen had rather keep idle per- 
sons, than sick men, and many times the dead man's heir is not able 
to maintain so great a house, and keep so many serving-men as his 
father did. Then in the mean season they that be thus destitute of 
service, either starve for hunger, or manfully play the thieves. For 
what would you have them to do? When they have wandered 
abroad so long, until they have worn threadbare their apparel, and 
also impaired their health, then gentlemen because of their pale and 
sick faces, and patched coats, will not take them into service. And 
husbandmen dare not set them a work, knowing well enough that he 
is nothing meet to do true and faithful service to a poor man with a 
spade and a mattock for small wages and hard fare, which being 
daintily and tenderly pampered up in idleness and pleasure, was 
wont with a sword and a buckler by his side to strut through the 
street with a bragging look, and to think himself too good to be any 
man's mate. Nay, by Saint Mary, sir (quoth the lawyer) not so. 
For this kind of men must we make most of. For in them as men 
of stouter stomachs, bolder spirits, and manlier courages than handi- 
craftsmen and ploughmen be, doth consist the whole power, strength, 
and puissance of our host, when we must fight in battle. Forsooth, 


sir, as well you might say (quoth I) that for war's sake you must 
cherish thieves. For surely you shall never lack thieves, whiles you 
have them. No, nor thieves be not the most false and faint-hearted 
soldiers, nor soldiers be not the cowardliest thieves: so well these 
two crafts agree together. But this fault, though it be much used 
among you, yet is it not peculiar to you only, but common also 
almost to all nations. Yet France besides this is troubled and in- 
fected with a much sorer plague. The whole realm is filled and 
besieged with hired soldiers in peace time (if that be peace) which 
be brought in under the same colour and pretence that hath per- 
suaded you to keep these idle serving-men. For these wise fools and 
very archdolts thought the wealth of the whole country herein to 
consist, if there were ever in a readiness a strong and a sure garrison, 
specially of old practiced soldiers, for they put no trust at all in men 
unexercised. And therefore they must be fain to seek for war, to the 
end they may ever have practiced soldiers and cunning manslayers, 
lest that (as it is prettily said of Sallust) their hands and their minds 
through idleness or lack of exercise should wax dull. But how per- 
nicious and pestilent a thing it is to maintain such beasts, the French- 
men, by their own harms have learned, and the examples of the 
Romans, Carthaginians, Syrians, and of many other countries do 
manifestly declare. For not only the empire but also the fields and 
cities of all these, by divers occasions have been overrun and de- 
stroyed of their own armies beforehand had in a readiness. Now how 
unnecessary a thing this is, hereby it may appear: that the French 
soldiers, which from their youth have been practiced and inured in 
feats of arms, do not crack nor advance themselves to have very 
often got the upper hand and mastery of your new-made and un- 
practiced soldiers. But in this point I will not use many words, lest 
perchance I may seem to natter you. No, nor those same handi- 
craftsmen of yours in cities, nor yet the rude and uplandish plough- 
men of the country, are not supposed to be greatly afraid of your 
gentlemen's idle serving-men, unless it be such as be not of body or 
stature correspondent to their strength and courage, or else whose 
bold stomachs be discouraged through poverty. Thus you may see, 
that it is not to be feared lest they should be effeminated, if they were 
brought up in good crafts and laboursome works, whereby to get 


their living, those stout and sturdy bodies (for gentlemen vouchsafe 
to corrupt and spoil none but picked and chosen men) now either 
by reason of rest and idleness be brought to weakness: or else by 
too easy and womanly exercises be made feeble and unable to endure 
hardness. Truly, howsoever the case standeth, this methinketh is 
nothing available to the weal public, for war's sake, which you never 
have, but when you will yourselves, to keep and maintain an in- 
numerable flock of that sort of men, that be so troublesome and an- 
noyous in peace, whereof you ought to have a thousand times more 
regard than of war. But yet this is not only the necessary cause 
of stealing. There is another, which, as I suppose, is proper and 
peculiar to you Englishmen alone. What is that, quoth the Cardi- 
nal? forsooth (quoth I) your sheep that were wont to be so meek 
and tame, and so small eaters, now, as I hear say, be become so great 
devourers and so wild, that they eat up, and swallow down the very 
men themselves. They consume, destroy, and devour whole fields, 
houses, and cities. For look in what parts of the realm doth grow 
the finest and therefore dearest wool, there noblemen and gentlemen, 
yea and certain abbots, holy men God wot not contenting them- 
selves with the yearly revenues and profits, that were wont to grow 
to their forefathers and predecessors of their lands, nor being content 
that they live in rest and pleasure nothing profiting, yea much an- 
noying the weal public, leave no ground for tillage, they inclose 
all in pastures; they throw down houses; they pluck down towns, 
and leave nothing standing, but only the church to make of it a 
sheep-house. And as though you lost no small quantity of ground 
by forests, chases, lawns, and parks, those good holy men turn all 
dwelling-places and all glebeland into desolation and wilderness. 
Therefore that one covetous and insatiable cormorant and very 
plague of his native country may compass about and inclose many 
thousand acres of ground together within one pale or hedge, the 
husbandmen be thrust out of their own, or else either by cunning 
and fraud, or by violent oppression they be put besides it, or by 
wrongs and injuries they be so wearied, that they be compelled to 
sell all : by one means therefore or by other, either by hook or crook 
they must needs depart away, poor, silly, wretched souls, men, 
women, husbands, wives, fatherless children, widows, woeful moth- 


ers, with their young babes, and their whole households small in 
substance and much in number, as husbandry requireth many hands. 
Away they trudge, I say, out of their known and accustomed houses, 
finding no places to rest in. All their household stuff, which is very 
little worth, though it might well abide the sale: yet being suddenly 
thrust out, they be constrained to sell it for a thing of nought. And 
when they, have wandering about, soon spent that, what can they 
else do but steal, and then justly, God wot, be hanged, or else go 
about a begging. And yet then also they be cast in prison as vaga- 
bonds, because they go about and work not: whom no man will set 
a work, though they never so willingly offer themselves thereto. For 
one shepherd or herdsman is enough to eat up that ground with 
cattle, to the occupying whereof about husbandry many hands were 
requisite. And this is also the cause that victuals be now in many 
places dearer. Yea, besides this the price of wool is so risen, that 
poor folks, which were wont to work it and make cloth of it, be 
now able to buy none at all. And by this means very many be fain 
to forsake work, and to give themselves to idleness. For after that 
so much ground was inclosed for pasture, an infinite multitude of 
sheep died of the rot, such vengeance God took of their inordinate 
and insatiable covetousness, sending among the sheep that pestifer- 
ous murrain, which much more justly should have fallen on the 
sheepmasters' own heads. And though the number of sheep increase 
never so fast, yet the price falleth not one mite, because there be so 
few sellers. For they be almost all come into a few rich men's 
hands, whom no need driveth to sell before they lust, and they lust 
not before they may sell as dear as they lust. Now the same cause 
bringeth in like dearth of the other kinds of cattle, yea and that so 
much the more, because that after farms plucked down and hus- 
bandry decayed, there is no man that passeth for the breeding of 
young store. For these rich men bring not up the young ones of 
great cattle as they do lambs. But first they buy them abroad very 
cheap and afterward, when they be fatted in their pastures, they 
sell them again exceeding dear. And therefore (as I suppose) the 
whole incommodity hereof is not yet felt. For yet they make dearth 
only in those places where they sell. But when they shall fetch them 
away from thence where they be bred faster than they can be brought 


up: then shall there also be felt great dearth, when store beginneth 
to fail, there where the ware is brought. Thus the unreasonable 
covetousness of a few hath turned that thing to the utter undoing 
of your island, in the which thing the chief felicity of your realm did 
consist. For this great dearth of victuals causeth every man to keep 
as little houses and as small hospitality as he possible may, and to 
put away their servants: whether, I pray you, but a begging: or else 
(which these gentle bloods and stout stomachs will sooner set their 
minds unto) a stealing? Now to amend the matters, to this 
wretched beggary and miserable poverty is joined great wantonness, 
importunate superfluity, and excessive riot. For not only gentlemen's 
servants, but also handicraftsmen: yea and almost the ploughmen of 
the country, with all other sorts of people, use much strange and 
proud newfangleness in their apparel, and too much prodigal riot 
and sumptuous fare at their table. Now bawds, queans, whores, har- 
lots, strumpets, brothel-houses, stews, and yet another stews, wine- 
taverns, ale houses and tippling houses, with so many naughty, lewd, 
and unlawful games, as dice, cards, tables, tennis, bowls, quoits, do 
not all these send the haunters of them straight a stealing when their 
money is gone ? Cast out these pernicious abominations, make a law, 
that they, which plucked down farms and towns of husbandry, shall 
build them up again, or else yield and uprender the possession of 
them to such as will go to the cost of building them anew. Surfer 
not these rich men to buy up all, to engross and forestall, and with 
their monopoly to keep the market alone as please them. Let not so 
many be brought up in idleness, let husbandry and tillage be restored 
again, let clothworking be renewed, that there may be honest labours 
for this idle sort to pass their time in profitably, which hitherto either 
poverty hath caused to be thieves, or else now be either vagabonds, 
or idle serving men, and shortly will be thieves. Doubtless unless you 
find a remedy for these enormities, you shall in vain advance your- 
selves of executing justice upon felons. For this justice is more beau- 
tiful than just or profitable. For by suffering your youth wantonly 
and viciously to be brought up, and to be infected, even from their 
tender age, by little and little with vice: then a God's name to be 
punished, when they commit the same faults after they be come to 
man's state, which from their youth they were ever like to do: In 


this point, I pray you, what other thing do you, than make thieves 
and then punish them? Now as I was thus speaking, the lawyer 
began to make himself ready to answer, and was determined with 
himself to use the common fashion and trade of disputers, which be 
more diligent in rehearsing than answering, as thinking the memory 
worthy of the chief praise. Indeed, sir, quoth he, you have said well, 
being but a stranger and one that might rather hear something of 
these matters, than have any exact or perfect knowledge of the same, 
as I will incontinent by open proof make manifest and plain. For 
first I will rehearse in order all that you have said: then I will de- 
clare in what thing you be deceived, through lack of knowledge, in 
all our fashions, manners and customs: and last of all I will answer 
to your arguments and confute them every one. First therefore, I 
will begin where I promised. Four things you seemed to me. Hold 
your peace, quoth the Cardinal: for be like you will make no short 
answer, which make such a beginning. Wherefore at this time you 
shall not take the pains to make your answer, but keep it to your next 
meeting, which I would be right glad, that it might be even to- 
morrow next, unless either you or Master Raphael have any earnest 
let. But now, Master Raphael, I would very gladly hear of you, why 
you think theft not worthy to be punished with death, or what other 
punishment you can devise more expedient to the weal public. For 
I am sure you are not of that mind, that you would have theft escape 
unpunished. For if now the extreme punishment of death cannot 
cause them to leave stealing, then if ruffians and robbers should be 
sure of their lives; what violence, what fear were able to hold their 
hands from robbing, which would take the mitigation of the punish- 
ment, as a very provocation to the mischief? Surely my lord, quoth 
I, I think it not right nor justice, that the loss of money should cause 
the loss of man's life. For mine opinion is, that all the goods in the 
world are not able to countervail man's life. But if they would 
thus say: that the breaking of justice, and the transgression of the 
laws is recompensed with this punishment, and not the loss of the 
money, then why may not this extreme justice well be called extreme 
injury? For neither so cruel governance, so strait rules, and un- 
merciful laws be allowable, that if a small offence be committed, by- 
and-by the sword should be drawn: nor so stoical ordinances are to 


be borne withal, as to count all offences of such equality that the 
killing of a man, or the taking of his money from him were both a 
matter, and the one no more heinous offence than the other : between 
the which two, if we have any respect to equity, no similitude or 
equality consisteth. God commandeth us that we shall not kill. 
And be we then so hasty to kill a man for taking a little money? 
And if any man would understand killing by this commandment of 
God to be forbidden after no larger wise, than man's constitutions 
define killing to be lawful, then why may it not likewise by man's 
constitutions be determined after what sort whoredom, fornication 
and perjury may be lawful? For whereas, by the permission of God, 
no man hath power to kill neither himself, nor yet any other man: 
then if a law made by the consent of men, concerning slaughter of 
men, ought to be of such strength, force and virtue, that they which, 
contrary to the commandment of God, have killed those, whom this 
constitution of man commanded to be killed, be clean quit and ex- 
empt out of the bonds and danger of God's commandment : shall it 
not then by this reason follow, that the power of God's command- 
ment shall extend no further than man's law doth define, and permit ? 
And so shall it come to pass, that in like manner man's constitutions 
in all things shall determine how far the observation of all God's 
commandments shall extend. To be short, Moses' law, though it 
were ungentle and sharp, as a law that was given to bondmen; yea, 
and them very obstinate, stubborn, and stiff-necked; yet it punished 
theft by the purse, and not with death. And let us not think that 
God in the new law of clemency and mercy, under the which he 
ruleth us with fatherly gentleness, as his dear children, hath given 
us greater scope and license to execute cruelty, one upon another. 
Now, ye have heard the reasons whereby I am persuaded that this 
punishment is unlawful. Furthermore I think there is nobody that 
knoweth not how unreasonable, yea, how pernicious a thing it is to 
the weal public, that a thief and an homicide or murderer, should 
suffer equal and like punishment. For the thief seeing that man, 
that is condemned for theft in no less jeopardy, nor judged to no less 
punishment, than him that is convict of manslaughter; through this 
cogitation only he is strongly and forcibly provoked, and in a manner 
constrained to kill him whom else he would have but robbed. For 


the murder once done, he is in less care, and in more hope that the 
deed shall not be bewrayed or known, seeing the party is now dead 
and rid out of the way, which only might have uttered and disclosed 
it. But if he chance to be taken and discrived, yet he is in no more 
danger and jeopardy, than if he had committed but single felony. 
Therefore whiles we go about with such cruelty to make thieves 
afraid, we provoke them to kill good men. Now as touching this 
question, what punishment were more commodious and better; that 
truly in my judgment is easier to be found than what punishment 
were worse. For why should we doubt that to be a good and a 
profitable way for the punishment of offenders, which we know did 
in times past so long please the Romans, men in the administration 
of a weal public most expert, politic, and cunning? Such as among 
them were convict of great and heinous trespasses, them they con- 
demned into stone quarries, and into mines to dig metal, there to 
be kept in chains all the days of their life. But as concerning this 
matter, I allow the ordinance of no nation so well as that I saw, whiles 
I travelled abroad about the world, used in Persia among the people 
that commonly be called the Polylerites. Whose land is both large 
and ample, and also well and wittily governed: and the people in 
all conditions free and ruled by their own laws, saving that they pay 
a yearly tribute to the great king of Persia. But because they be 
far from the sea, compassed and closed in almost round about with 
high mountains, and do content themselves with the fruits of their 
own land, which is of itself very fertile and fruitful: for this cause 
neither they go to other countries, nor other come to them. And 
according to the old custom of the land, they desire not to enlarge 
the bounds of their dominions: and those that they have, by reason 
of the high hills be easily defended: and the tribute which they pay 
to their chief lord and king setteth them quiet and free from war- 
fare. Thus their life is commodious rather than gallant, and may 
better be called happy or lucky, than notable or famous. For they 
be not known as much as by name, I suppose, saving only to their 
next neighbours and borderers. They that in this land be attainted 
and convict of felony, make restitution of that they stole, to the right 
owner, and not (as they do in other lands) to the king: whom they 
think to have no more right to the thief-stolen thing, than the thief 


himself hath. But if the thing be lost or made away, then the value 
of it is paid of the goods of such offenders, which else remaineth all 
whole to their wives and children. And they themselves be con- 
demned to be common labourers, and, unless the theft be very 
heinous, they be neither locked in prison nor fettered in gyves, but 
be untied and go at large, labouring in the common works. They 
that refuse labour, or go slowly and slackly to their work, be not 
only tied in chains, but also pricked forward with stripes. They that 
be diligent about their work live without check or rebuke. Every 
night they be called in by name, and be locked in their chambers. 
Beside their daily labour, their life is nothing hard or incommodious. 
Their fare is indifferent good, borne at the charges of the weal pub- 
lic, because they be common servants to the commonwealth. But their 
charges in all places of the land is not borne alike. For in some parts 
that is bestowed upon them is gathered of alms. And though that 
way be uncertain, yet the people be so full of mercy and pity, that 
none is found more profitable or plentiful. In some places certain 
lands be appointed hereunto, of the revenues whereof they be main- 
tained. And in some places every man giveth a certain tribute for 
the same use and purpose. Again in some parts of the land these 
serving-men (for so be these condemned persons called) do no com- 
mon work, but as every private man needeth labourers, so he cometh 
into the market place, and there hireth some of them for meat and 
drink, and a certain limited wages by the day, somewhat cheaper 
than he should hire a free man. It is also lawful for them to chastise 
the sloth of these serving-men with stripes. By this means they never 
lack work, and besides their meat and drink, every one of them 
bringeth daily something into the common treasury. All and every 
one of them be apparelled in one colour. Their heads be not polled or 
shaven, but rounded a little above the ears. And the tip of the one ear 
is cut off. Every one of them may take meat and drink of their 
friends, and also a coat of their own colour : but to receive money is 
death, as well to the giver, as to the receiver. And no less jeopardy 
it is for a free man to receive money of a serving-man for any man- 
ner of cause: and likewise for serving-men to touch weapons. The 
serving-men of every several shire be distinct and known from other 
by their several and distinct badges: which to cast away is death: as 


it is also to be seen out of the precincts of their own shire, or to talk 
with a serving-man of another shire. And it is no less danger to 
them, for to intend to run away than to do it indeed. Yea and to 
conceal such an enterprise in a serving-man it is death, in a free 
man servitude. Of the contrary part, to him that openeth and utter- 
eth such counsels, be decreed large gifts; to a free man a great sum 
of money, to a serving-man freedom: and to them both forgiveness 
and pardon of that they were of counsel in that pretence. So that it 
can never be so good for them to go forward in their evil purpose, as 
by repentance to turn back. This is the law and order in this behalf, 
as I have showed you. Wherein what humanity is used, how far it 
is from cruelty, and how commodious it is, you do plainly perceive: 
forasmuch as the end of their wrath and punishment intendeth noth- 
ing else, but the destruction of vices, and saving of men: with so 
using and ordering them, that they cannot choose but be good, and 
what harm soever they did before, in the residue of their life to make 
amends for the same. Moreover it is so little feared, that they should 
turn again to their vicious conditions, that wayfaring men will for 
their safeguard choose them to their guides before any other, 
in every shire changing and taking new. For if they would commit 
robbery, they have nothing about them meet for that purpose. They 
may touch no weapons: money found about them should betray the 
robbery. They should be no sooner taken with the manner, but forth- 
with they should be punished. Neither they can have any hope at 
all to 'scape away by flying. For how should a man, that in no part 
of his apparel is like other men, fly privily and unknown, unless 
he would run away naked? Howbeit so also flying he should be 
discrived by his rounding and his ear-mark. But it is a thing to be 
doubted, that they will lay their heads together, and conspire against 
the weal public. No, no, I warrant you. For the serving-men of one 
shire alone could never hope to bring to pass such an enterprise, 
without soliciting, enticing, and alluring the serving-men of many 
other shires to take their parts. Which thing is to them so impossible, 
that they may not as much as speak or talk together, or salute one 
another. No, it is not to be thought that they would make their own 
countrymen and companions of their counsel in such a matter which 
they know well should be jeopardy to the concealer thereof, and 


great commodity and goodness to the opener of the same. Whereas 
on the other part, there is none of them all hopeless or in despair to 
recover again his freedom, by humble obedience, by patient suffer- 
ing and by giving good tokens and likelihood of himself, that he 
will, ever after that, live like a true and an honest man. For every 
year divers be restored again to their freedom: through the com- 
mendation of their patience. When I had thus spoken, saying more- 
over that I could see no cause why this order might not be had in 
England with much more profit, than the justice which the lawyer 
so highly praised: Nay, quoth the lawyer, this could never be so 
established in England, but that it must needs bring the weal public 
into great jeopardy and hazard. And as he was thus saying, he shaked 
his head, and made a wry mouth, and so held his peace. And all 
that were there present, with one assent agreed to his saying. Well, 
quoth the Cardinal, yet it were hard to judge without a proof, 
whether this order would do well here or no. But when the sentence 
of death is given, if then the king should command execution to be 
deferred and spared, and would prove this order and fashion : taking 
away the privileges of all sanctuaries: if then the proof would de- 
clare the thing to be good.and profitable, then it were well done that 
it were established; else the condemned and reprieved persons may 
as well and as justly be put to death after this proof, as when they 
were first cast. Neither any jeopardy can in the mean space grow 
hereof. Yea, and methinketh that these vagabonds may very well be 
ordered after the same fashion, against whom we have hitherto 
made so many laws, and so little prevailed. When the Cardinal had 
thus said, then every man gave great praise to my sayings, which a 
little before they had disallowed. But most of all was esteemed that 
which was spoken of vagabonds, because it was the Cardinal's own 
addition. I cannot tell whether it were best to rehearse the com- 
munication that followed, for it was not very sad. But yet you shall 
hear it, for there was no evil in it, and partly it pertained to the mat- 
ter beforesaid. There chanced to stand by a certain jesting parasite, 
or scoffer, which would seem to resemble and counterfeit the fool. 
But he did in such wise counterfeit, that he was almost the very same 
indeed that he laboured to represent: he so studied with words and 
sayings brought forth so out of time and place to make sport and 


move laughter, that he himself was oftener laughed at than his jests 
were. Yet the foolish fellow brought out now and then such indif- 
ferent and reasonable stuff, that he made the proverb true, which 
saith: he that shooteth oft at the last shall hit the mark. So that 
when one of the company said, that through my communication a 
good order was found for thieves, and that the Cardinal also had 
well provided for vagabonds, so that only remained some good pro- 
vision to be made for them that through sickness and age were fallen 
into poverty, and were become so impotent and unwieldy, that they 
were not able to work for their living: Tush (quoth he) let me alone 
with them: you shall see me do well enough with them. For I had 
rather than any good, that this kind of people were driven some 
whether out of my sight, they have so sore troubled me many times 
and oft, when they have with their lamentable tears begged money 
of me: and yet they could never to my mind so tune their song, that 
thereby they ever got of me one farthing. For evermore the one of 
these two chanced : either that I would not, or else that I could not, 
because I had it not. Therefore now they be waxed wise. When they 
see me go by, because they will not lose their labour, they let me go 
and say not one word to me. So they look for nothing of me, no in 
good sooth no more, than if I were a priest. But I will make a 
law, that all these beggars shall be distributed and bestowed into 
houses of religion. The men shall be made lay brethren, as they call 
them, and the women nuns. Hereat the Cardinal smiled, and allowed 
it in jest, yea and all the residue in good earnest. But a certain friar, 
graduate in divinity, took such pleasure and delight in this jest of 
priests and monks, that he also being else a man of grisly and stern 
gravity, began merrily and wantonly to jest and taunt. Nay, quoth 
he, you shall not so be rid and despatched of beggars, unless you 
make some provision also for us friars. Why, quoth the jester, that 
is done already, for my lord himself set a very good order for you, 
when he decreed that vagabonds should be kept strait and set to 
work: for you be the greatest and veriest vagabonds that be. This 
jest also, when they saw the Cardinal not disprove it, every man 
took it gladly, saving only the friar. For he (and that no marvel) 
when he was thus touched on the quick, and hit on the gall, so 
fret, so fumed, and chafed at it, and was in such a rage, that he could 


not refrain himself from chiding, scolding, railing and reviling. He 
called the fellow ribald, villain, javel, back-biter, slanderer, and the 
son of perdition: citing therewith terrible threatening out of Holy 
Scripture. Then the jesting scoffer began to play the scoffer indeed, 
and verily he was good at it, for he could play a part in that play 
no man better. Patient yourself, good master friar, quoth he, and be 
not angry, for Scripture saith: in your patience you shall save your 
souls. Then the friar (for I will rehearse his own very words), No, 
gallows wretch, I am not angry (quoth he) or at the leastwise, I do 
not sin: for the Psalmist saith, be you angry, and sin not. Then the 
Cardinal spake gently to the friar, and desired him to quiet himself. 
No my lord, quoth he, I speak not but of a good zeal as I ought : for 
holy men had a good zeal. Wherefore it is said: the zeal of the 
house hath eaten me. And it is sung in the church, the scorners of 
Helizeus, whiles he went up into the house of God, felt the zeal of 
the bald, as peradventure this scorning villain ribald shall feel. You 
do it (quoth the Cardinal) perchance of a good mind and affection: 
but methinketh you should do, I cannot tell whether more holily, 
certes more wisely, if you would not set your wit to a fool's wit, 
and with a fool take in hand a foolish contention. No forsooth, my 
lord (quoth he) I should not do more wisely. For Solomon the 
wise saith: Answer a fool according to his foolishness, like as I do 
now, and do show him the pit that he shall fall into, if he take not 
heed. For if many scorners of Helizeus, which was but one bald 
man, felt the zeal of the bald, how much more shall one scorner of 
many friars feel, among whom be many bald men? And we have 
also the pope's bulls, whereby all that mock and scorn us be excom- 
municate, suspended and accursed. The Cardinal, seeing that none 
end would be made, sent away the jester by a privy beck, and turned 
the communication to another matter. Shortly after, when he was 
risen from the table, he went to hear his suitors, and so dismissed 
us. Look, Master More, with how long and tedious a tale I have 
kept you, which surely I would have been ashamed to have done, 
but that you so earnestly desired me, and did after such a sort give 
ear unto it, as though you would not that any parcel of that com- 
munication should be left out. Which though I have done some- 
what briefly, yet could I not choose but rehearse it, for the judg- 


ment of them, which when they had improved and disallowed 
my sayings, yet incontinent, hearing the Cardinal allow them, did 
themselves also approve the same : so impudently flattering him, that 
they were nothing ashamed to admit, yea almost in good earnest, 
his jester's foolish inventions: because that he himself by smiling at 
them did seem not to disprove them. So that hereby you may right 
well perceive how little the courtiers would regard and esteem me 
and my sayings. 

I ensure you, Master Raphael, quoth I, I took great delectation in 
hearing you : all things that you said were spoken so wittily and so 
pleasantly. And me thought myself to be in the meantime, not 
only at home in my country, but also through the pleasant remem- 
brance of the Cardinal, in whose house I was brought up of a child, 
to wax a child again. And, friend Raphael, though I did bear very 
great love towards you before, yet seeing you do so earnestly favour 
this man, you will not believe how much my love towards you is 
now increased. But yet, all this notwithstanding, I can by no means 
change my mind, but that I must needs believe, that you, if you be 
disposed, and can find in your heart to follow some prince's court, 
shall with your good counsels greatly help and further the common- 
wealth. Wherefore there is nothing more appertaining to your duty, 
that is to say, to the duty of a good man. For whereas your Plato 
judgeth that weal publics shall by this means attain perfect felicity, 
either if philosophers be kings, or else if kings give themselves to the 
study of philosophy, how far I pray you, shall commonwealths then 
be from this felicity, if philosophers will [not] vouchsafe to instruct 
kings with their good counsel? 

They be not so unkind (quoth he) but they would gladly do it, 
yea, many have done it already in books that they have put forth, if 
kings and princes would be willing and ready to follow good counsel. 
But Plato doubtless did well foresee, unless kings themselves would 
apply their minds to the study of Philosophy, that else they would 
never thoroughly allow the counsel of philosophers, being themselves 
before even from their tender age infected, and corrupt with per- 
verse and evil opinions. Which thing Plato himself proved true in 
King Dionysius. If I should propose to any king wholesome decrees, 
doing my endeavour to pluck out of his mind the pernicious original 


causes of vice and naughtiness, think you not that I should forthwith 
either be driven away, or else made a laughing stock? Go to, 
suppose that I were with the French king, and there sitting in his 
council, whiles that in that most secret consultation, the king him- 
self there being present in his own person, they beat their brains and 
search the very bottoms of their wits to discuss by what craft and 
means the king may still keep Milan, and draw to him again fugitive 
Naples, and then how to conquer the Venetians, and how to bring 
under his jurisdiction all Italy, then how to win the dominion of 
Flanders, Brabant, and of all Burgundy: with divers other lands, 
whose kingdoms he hath long ago in mind and purpose invaded. 
Here whiles one counselleth to conclude a league of peace with the 
Venetians, which shall so long endure, as shall be thought meet and 
expedient for their purpose, and to make them also of their counsel, 
yea, and besides that to give them part of the prey, which afterward, 
when they have brought their purpose about after their own minds, 
they may require and claim again. Another thinketh best to hire 
the Germans. Another would have the favour of the Swiss won with 
money. Another's advice is to appease the puissant power of the 
Emperor's majesty with gold, as with a most pleasant and acceptable 
sacrifice. Whiles another giveth counsel to make peace with the 
King of Arragon, and to restore unto him his own kingdom of 
Navarre, as a full assurance of peace. Another cometh in with his 
five eggs, and adviseth to hook in the King of Castile with some 
hope of affinity or alliance, and to bring to their part certain peers 
of his court for great pensions. Whiles they all stay at the chiefest 
doubt of all, what to do in the meantime with England, and yet 
agree all in this to make peace with the Englishmen, and with most 
sure and strong bonds to bind that weak and feeble friendship, so 
that they must be called friends, and had in suspicion as enemies. 
And that therefore the Scots must be had in a readiness, as it were 
in a standing, ready at all occasions, if peradventure the Englishmen 
should stir never so little, incontinent to set upon them. And more- 
over privily and secretly (for openly it may not be done by the truce 
that is taken) privily therefore I say to make much of some peer of 
England that is banished his country, which must claim title to the 
crown of the realm, and affirm himself just inheritor thereof, that by 


this subtle means they may hold to them the king, in whom else they 
have but small trust and affiance. Here I say, where so great and 
high matters be in consultation, where so many noble and wise men 
counsel their king only to war, here if I silly man should rise up and 
will them to turn over the leaf, and learn a new lesson, saying that 
my counsel is not to meddle with Italy, but to tarry still at home, 
and that the kingdom of France alone is almost greater, than that it 
may well be governed of one man : so that the king should not need 
to study how to get more; and then should propose unto them the 
decrees of the people that be called the Achoriens, which be situate 
over against the island of Utopia on the southeast side. These 
Achoriens once made war in their king's quarrel for to get him 
another kingdom, which he laid claim unto, and advanced himself 
right inheritor to the crown thereof, by the title of an old alliance. 
At the last when they had gotten it, and saw that they had even as 
much vexation and trouble in keeping it, as they had in getting it, 
and that either their new conquered subjects by sundry occasions 
were making daily insurrections to rebel against them, or else that 
other countries were continually with divers inroads and foragings 
invading them: so that they were ever fighting either for them, or 
against them, and never could break up their camps: seeing them- 
selves in the mean season pilled and impoverished: their money 
carried out of the realm: their own men killed to maintain the glory 
of another nation; when they had no war, peace nothing better than 
war, by reason that their people in war had inured themselves to 
corrupt and wicked manners, that they had taken a delight and 
pleasure in robbing and stealing: that through manslaughter they 
had gathered boldness to mischief: that their laws were had in con- 
tempt, and nothing set by or regarded : that their king being troubled 
with the charge and governance of two kingdoms, could not nor was 
not able perfectly to discharge his office towards them both: seeing 
again that all these evils and troubles were endless: at the last laid 
their heads together, and like faithful and loving subjects gave to 
their king free choice and liberty to keep still the one of these two 
kingdoms whether he would: alleging that he was not able to keep 
both, and that they were more than might well be governed of half 
a king: forasmuch as no man would be content to take him for his 


muleteer, that keepeth another man's mules besides his. So this 
good prince was constrained to be content with his old kingdom and 
to give over the new to one of his friends. Which shortly after was 
violently driven out. Furthermore if I should declare unto them, 
that all this busy preparance to war, whereby so many nations for 
his sake should be brought into a troublesome hurly-burly, when all 
his coffers were emptied, his treasures wasted and his people 
destroyed, should at the length through some mischance be in vain 
and to none effect: and that therefore it were best for him to content 
himself with his own kingdom of France, as his forefathers and 
predecessors did before him; to make much of it, to enrich it, and 
to make it as flourishing as he could, to endeavour himself to love 
his subjects, and again to be beloved of them, willingly to live with 
them, peaceably to govern them, and with other kingdoms not to 
meddle, seeing that which he hath already is even enough for him, 
yea, and more than he can well turn him to: this mine advice, 
Master More, how think you it would be heard and taken ? 

So God help me not very thankfully, quoth I. 

Well let us proceed then, quoth he. Suppose that some king and 
his council were together whetting their wits, and devising what 
subtle craft they might invent to enrich the king with great treas- 
ures of money. First one counselleth to raise and enhance the valua- 
tion of money when the king must pay any : and again to call down 
the value of coin to less than it is worth, when he must receive or 
gather any. For thus great sums shall be paid with a little money, 
and where little is due much shall be received. Another counselleth 
to feign war, that when under this colour and pretence the king 
hath gathered great abundance of money, he may, when it shall 
please him, make peace with great solemnity and holy ceremonies, 
to blind the eyes of the poor commonalty, as taking pity and com- 
passion God wot upon man's blood, like a loving and a merciful 
prince. Another putteth the king in remembrance of certain old and 
moth-eaten laws, that of long time have not been put in execution, 
which because no man can remember that they were made, every 
man hath transgressed. The fines of these laws he counselleth the 
king to require: for there is no way so profitable nor more honour- 
able, as the which hath a show and colour of justice. Another 

UTOPIA 1 6 1 

adviseth him to forbid many things under great penalties and fines, 
specially such things as is for the people's profit not to be used, and 
afterward to dispense for money with them, which by this pro- 
hibition sustain loss and damage. For by this means the favour of 
the people is won, and profit riseth two ways. First by taking for- 
feits of them whom covetousness of gains hath brought in danger 
of this statute, and also by selling privileges and licenses, which the 
better that the prince is, forsooth the dearer he selleth them : as one 
that is loath to grant to any private person anything that is against 
the profit of his people. And therefore may sell none but at an 
exceeding dear price. Another giveth the king counsel to endanger 
unto his grace the judges of the realm, that he may have them ever 
on his side, which must in every matter dispute and reason for the 
king's right. And they must be called into the king's palace and be 
desired to argue and discuss his matters in his own presence. So there 
shall be no matter of his so openly wrong and unjust, wherein one or 
other of them, either because he will have something to allege and 
object, or that he is ashamed to say that which is said already, or else 
to pick a thank with his prince, will not find some hole open to set 
a snare in, wherewith to take the contrary part in a trip. Thus whiles 
the judges cannot agree among themselves, reasoning and arguing of 
that which is plain enough, and bringing the manifest truth in 
doubt: in the mean season the king may take a fit occasion to under- 
stand the law as shall most make for his advantage, whereunto all 
other for shame, or for fear will agree. Then the judges may be 
bold to pronounce of the king's side. For he that giveth sentence 
for the king, cannot be without a good excuse. For it shall be 
sufficient for him to have equity of his part, or the bare words of the 
law, or a writhen and wrested understanding of the same, or else 
(which with good and just judges is of greater force than all laws 
be) the king's indisputable prerogative. To conclude, all the coun- 
cillors agree and consent together with the rich Crassus, that no 
abundance of gold can be sufficient for a prince, which must keep 
and maintain an army: furthermore that a king, though he would, 
can do nothing unjustly. For all that all men have, yea also the men 
themselves be all his. And that every man hath so much of his own, 
as the king's gentleness hath not taken from him. And that it 


shall be most for the king's advantage, that his subjects have very 
little or nothing in their possession, as whose safeguard doth herein 
consist, that his people do not wax wanton and wealthy through 
riches and liberty, because where these things be, there men be 
not wont patiently to obey hard, unjust, and unlawful command- 
ments; whereas on the other part need and poverty doth hold down 
and keep under stout courages, and maketh them patient perforce, 
taking from them bold and rebelling stomachs. Here again if I 
should rise up, and boldly affirm that all these counsels be to the king 
dishonour and reproach, whose honour and safety is more and 
rather supported and upholden by the wealth and riches of his people, 
than by his own treasures : and if I should declare that the common- 
alty chooseth their king for their own sake and not for his sake: 
for this intent, that through his labour and study they might all live 
wealthily, safe from wrongs and injuries: and that therefore the 
king ought to take more care for the wealth of his people, than for 
his own wealth, even as the office and duty of a shepherd is in that he 
is a shepherd, to feed his sheep rather than himself. For as touching 
this, that they think the defence and maintenance of peace to consist 
in the poverty of the people, the thing itself showeth that they be 
far out of the way. For where shall a man find more wrangling, 
quarrelling, brawling, and chiding, than among beggars? Who be 
more desirous of new mutations and alterations, than they that be 
not content with the present state of their life? Or finally who be 
bolder stomached to bring all in hurly-burly (thereby trusting to get 
some windfall) than they that have now nothing to lose? And if 
so be that there were any king that were so smally regarded, so 
behated of his subjects, that other ways he could not keep them in 
awe, but only by open wrongs, by polling and shaving, and by 
bringing them to beggary, surely it were better for him to forsake 
his kingdom, than to hold it by this means: whereby though the 
name of a king be kept, yet the majesty is lost. For it is against the 
dignity of a king to have rule over beggars, but rather over rich and 
wealthy men. Of this mind was the hardy and courageous Fabricius, 
when he said, that he had rather be a ruler of rich men, than be rich 
himself. And verily one man to live in pleasure and wealth, whiles 
all other weep and smart for it, that is the part, not of a king, but o£ 


a jailer. To be short, as he is a foolish physician, that cannot cure his 
patient's disease, unless he cast him in another sickness, so he that 
cannot amend the lives of his subjects, but by taking from them the 
wealth and commodity of life, he must needs grant that he knoweth 
not the feat how to govern free men. But let him rather amend his 
own life, renounce unhonest pleasures, and forsake pride. For these 
be the chief vices that cause him to run in the contempt or hatred of 
his people. Let him live of his own, hurting no man. Let him do 
cost not above his power. Let him restrain wickedness. Let him pre- 
vent vices, and take away the occasions of offences by well ordering 
his subjects, and not by suffering wickedness to increase afterward 
to be punished. Let him not be too hasty in calling again laws, 
which a custom hath abrogated: specially such as have been long 
forgotten, and never lacked nor needed. And let him never under 
the cloak and pretence of transgression take such fines and forfeits, 
as no judge will suffer a private person to take, as unjust and full of 
guile. Here if I should bring forth before them the law of the 
Macariens, which be not far distant from Utopia : whose king the day 
of his coronation is bound by a solemn oath, that he shall never at 
any time have in his treasure above a thousand pounds of gold or 
silver. They say a very good king, which took more care for the 
wealth and commodity of his country, than for the enriching of him- 
self, made this law to be a stop and a bar to kings for heaping and 
hoarding up so much money as might impoverish their people. For 
he foresaw that this sum of treasure would suffice to support the king 
in batde against his own people, if they should chance to rebel : and 
also to maintain his wars against the invasions of his foreign enemies. 
Again he perceived the same stock of money to be too little and 
insufficient to encourage and enable him wrongfully to take away 
other men's goods: which was the chief cause why the law was 
made. Another cause was this. He thought that by this provision 
his people should not lack money, wherewith to maintain their daily 
occupying and chaffer. And seeing the king could not choose but 
lay out and bestow all that came in above the prescript sum of his 
stock, he thought he would seek no occasions to do his subjects 
injury. Such a king shall be feared of evil men, and loved of good 
men. These, and such other informations, if I should use among 


men wholly inclined and given to the contrary part, how deaf hearers 
think you should I have? 

Deaf hearers doubtless (quoth I) and in good faith no marvel. 
And to speak as I think, truly I cannot allow that such communica- 
tion shall be used, or such counsel given, as you be sure shall never 
be regarded nor received. For how can so strange informations be 
profitable, or how can they be beaten into their heads, whose minds 
be already prevented with clean contrary persuasions? This school 
philosophy is not unpleasant among friends in familiar communica- 
tion, but in the councils of kings, where great matters be debated 
and reasoned with great authority, these things have no place. 

That is it which I meant (quoth he) when I said philosophy had 
no place among kings. 

Indeed (quoth I) this school philosophy hath not, which thinketh 
all things meet for every place. But there is another philosophy more 
civil, which knoweth, as ye would say, her own stage, and there- 
after ordering and behaving herself in the play that she hath in hand, 
playeth her part accordingly with comeliness, uttering nothing out 
of due order and fashion. And this is the philosophy that you must 
use. Or else whiles a comedy of Plautus is playing, and the vile 
bondmen scoffing and trifling among themselves, if you should sud- 
denly come upon the stage in a philosopher's apparel, and rehearse 
out of Octavia the place wherein Seneca disputeth with Nero: had 
it not been better for you to have played the dumb person, than by 
rehearsing that, which served neither for the time nor place, to have 
made such a tragical comedy or gallimaufry? For by bringing in 
other stuff that nothing appertaineth to the present matter, you must 
needs mar and pervert the play that is in hand, though the stuff 
that you bring be much better. What part soever you have taken 
upon you, play that as well as you can and make the best of it: and 
do not therefore disturb and bring out of order the whole matter, 
because that another, which is merrier, and better, cometh to your 
remembrance. So the case standeth in a commonwealth, and so it 
is in the consultations of kings and princes. If evil opinions and 
naughty persuasions cannot be utterly and quite plucked out of their 
hearts, if you cannot, even as you would, remedy vices, which use 
and custom hath confirmed: yet for this cause you must not leave 


and forsake the commonwealth: you must not forsake the ship in a 
tempest, because you cannot rule and keep down the winds. No, nor 
you must not labour to drive into their heads new and strange infor- 
mations, which you know well shall be nothing regarded with them 
that be of clean contrary minds. But you must with a crafty wile 
and a subtle train study and endeavour yourself, as much as in you 
lieth, to handle the matter wittily and handsomely for the purpose, 
and that which you cannot turn to good, so to order it that it be not 
very bad. For it is not possible for all things to be well, unless all 
men were good. Which I think will not be yet this good many years. 
By this means (quoth he) nothing else will be brought to pass, 
but whiles that I go about to remedy the madness of others, I should 
be even as mad as they. For if I would speak things that be true, I 
must needs speak such things; but as for to speak false things, 
whether that be a philosopher's part or no; I cannot tell, truly it is 
not my part. Howbeit this communication of mine, though per- 
adventure it may seem unpleasant to them, yet can I not see why it 
should seem strange, or foolishly newfangled. If so be that I should 
speak those things that Plato feigneth in his weal public: or that the 
Utopians do in theirs, these things though they were (as they be 
indeed) better, yet they might seem spoken out of place. Foras- 
much as here amongst us, every man hath his possessions several to 
himself, and there all things be common. But what was in my com- 
munication contained, that might not, and ought not in any place 
to be spoken? Saving that to them which have thoroughly decreed 
and determined with themselves to roam headlong the contrary 
way, it cannot be acceptable and pleasant, because it calleth them 
back, and showeth them the jeopardies. Verily if all things that evil 
and vicious manners have caused to seem inconvenient and nought 
should be refused, as things unmeet and reproachful, then we must 
among Christian people wink at the most part of all those things, 
which Christ taught us, and so strictly forbade them to be winked at, 
that those things also which he whispered in the ears of his disciples, 
he commanded to be proclaimed in open houses. And yet the most 
part of them is more dissident from the manners of the world now- 
adays, than my communication was. But preachers, sly and wily 
men, following your counsel (as I suppose) because they saw men 


evil willing to frame their manners to Christ's rule, they have 
wrested and perverted his doctrine, and like a rule of lead have 
applied it to men's manners: that by some means at the leastways, 
they might agree together. Whereby I cannot see what good they 
have done: but that men may more sickerly be evil. And I truly 
should prevail even as much in king's councils. For either I must say 
otherways than they say, and then I were as good to say nothing, or 
else I must say the same that they say, and (as Mitio saith in Terence) 
help to further their madness. For that crafty wile, and subtle train 
of yours, I cannot perceive to what purpose it serveth, wherewith 
you would have me to study and endeavour myself, if all things can- 
not be made good, yet to handle them wittily and handsomely for 
the purpose, that as far forth as is possible they may not be very evil. 
For there is no place to dissemble in, nor to wink in. Naughty 
counsels must be openly allowed and very pestilent decrees must 
be approved. He shall be counted worse than a spy, yea almost as evil 
as a traitor, that with a faint heart doth praise evil and noisome 
decrees. Moreover, a man can have no occasion to do good chancing 
into the company of them which will sooner make nought a good 
man, than be made good themselves: through whose evil company 
he shall be marred, or else if he remain good and innocent, yet the 
wickedness and foolishness of others shall be imputed to him, and 
laid in his neck. So that it is impossible with that crafty wile and 
subtle train to turn anything to better. Wherefore Plato by a goodly 
similitude declareth, why wise men refrain to meddle in the com- 
monwealth. For when they see the people swarm into the streets, 
and daily wet to the skin with rain, and yet cannot persuade them 
to go out of the rain and to take their houses, knowing well, that if 
they should go out to them, they should nothing prevail, nor win 
ought by it, but be wet also in the rain, they do keep themselves 
within their houses, being content that they be safe themselves, see- 
ing they cannot remedy the folly of the people. Howbeit doubtless, 
Master More (to speak truly as my mind giveth me) where soever 
possessions be private, where money beareth all the stroke, it is hard 
and almost impossible that there the weal public may justly be gov- 
erned, and prosperously flourish. Unless you think thus: that justice 
is there executed, where all things come into the hands of evil men; 


or that prosperity there flourisheth, where all is divided among a 
few; which few nevertheless do not lead their lives very wealthily, 
and the residue live miserably, wretched and beggarly. Wherefore 
when I consider with myself and weigh in my mind the wise and 
godly ordinances of the Utopians, among whom with very few laws 
all things be so well and wealthily ordered, that virtue is had in 
price and estimation, and yet, all things being there common, every 
man hath abundance of everything. Again on the other part, when 
I compare with them so many nations ever making new laws, yet 
none of them all well and sufficiently furnished with laws; where 
every man calleth that he hath gotten, his own proper and private 
goods; where so many new laws daily made be not sufficient for 
every man to enjoy, defend, and know from another man's that 
which he calleth his own; which thing the infinite controversies in 
the law, that daily rise never to be ended, plainly declare to be true. 
These things (I say) when I consider with myself, I hold well with 
Plato, and do nothing marvel, that he would make no laws for them, 
that refused those laws, whereby all men should have and enjoy 
equal portions of wealths and commodities. For the wise man did 
easily foresee, that this is the one and only way to the wealth of a 
commonalty, if equality of all things should be brought in and 
established. Which I think is not possible to be observed, where 
every man's goods be proper and peculiar to himself. For where 
every man under certain titles and pretences draweth and plucketh 
to himself as much as he can, and so a few divide among themselves 
all the riches that there is, be there never so much abundance and 
store, there to the residue is left lack and poverty. And for the most 
part it chanceth, that this latter sort is more worthy to enjoy that 
state of wealth, than the other be: because the rich men be covetous, 
crafty and unprofitable. On the other part the poor be lowly, sim- 
ple, and by their daily labour more profitable to the commonwealth 
than to themselves. Thus I do fully persuade myself, that no equal 
and just distribution of things can be made, nor that perfect wealth 
shall ever be among men, unless this propriety be exiled and ban- 
ished. But so long as it shall continue, so long shall remain among 
the most and best part of men the heavy and inevitable burden of 
poverty and wretchedness. Which, as I grant that it may be some- 


what eased, so I utterly deny that it can wholly be taken away. 
For if there were a statute made, that no man should possess above 
a certain measure of ground, and that no man should have in his 
stock above a prescript and appointed sum of money: if it were by 
certain laws decreed, that neither the king should be of too great 
power, neither the people too proud and wealthy, and that offices 
should not be obtained by inordinate suit, or by bribes and gifts: 
that they should neither be bought nor sold, nor that it should be 
needful for the officers, to be at any cost or charge in their offices: 
for so occasion is given to the officers by fraud and ravin to gather 
up their money again, and by reason of gifts and bribes the offices 
be given to rich men, which should rather have been executed of 
wise men: by such laws I say, like as sick bodies that be desperate 
and past cure, be wont with continual good cherishing to be kept up : 
so these evils also might be lightened and mitigated. But that they 
may be perfectly cured, and brought to a good and upright state, 
it is not to be hoped for, whiles every man is master of his own to 
himself. Yea, and whiles you go about to do your cure of one part, 
you shall make bigger the sore of another part, so the help of one 
causeth another's harm: forasmuch as nothing can be given to any 
man unless that be taken from another. 

But I am of a contrary opinion (quoth I) for methinketh that 
men shall never there live wealthily, where all things be common. 
For how can there be abundance of goods, or of anything, where 
every man withdraweth his hand from labour? Whom the regard 
of his own gains driveth not to work, and the hope that he hath in 
other men's travails maketh him slothful. Then when they be 
pricked with poverty, and yet no man can by any law or right defend 
that for his own, which he hath gotten with the labour of his own 
hands, shall not there of necessity be continual sedition and blood- 
shed? Specially the authority and reverence of magistrates being 
taken away, which, what place it may have with such men among 
whom is no difference, I cannot devise. 

I marvel not (quoth he) that you be of this opinion. For you con- 
ceive in your mind either none at all, or else a very false image and 
similitude of this thing. But if you had been with me in Utopia and 
had presently seen their fashions and laws, as I did, which lived 


there five years and more, and would never have come thence, but 
only to make that new land known here: then doubtless you would 
grant, that you never saw people well ordered, but only there. 

Surely (quoth Master Peter) it shall be hard for you to make me 
believe, that there is better order in that new land, than is here in 
these countries that we know. For good wits be as well here as 
there: and I think our commonwealths be ancienter than theirs; 
wherein long use and experience hath found out many things com- 
modious for man's life, besides that many things here among us 
have been found by chance, which no wit could ever have devised. 

As touching the ancientness (quoth he) of commonwealths, then 
you might better judge, if you had read the histories and chronicles 
of that land, which if we may believe, cities were there, before there 
were men here. Now what thing soever hitherto by wit hath been 
devised, or found by chance, that might be as well there as here. 
But I think verily, though it were so that we did pass them in wit: 
yet in study and laboursome endeavour they far pass us. For (as their 
chronicles testify) before our arrival there, they never heard any- 
thing of us, whom they call the ultra-equinoctials: saving that once 
about 1200 years ago, a certain ship was lost by the isle of Utopia, 
which was driven thither by tempest. Certain Romans and Egyp- 
tians were cast on land. Which after that never went thence. Mark 
now what profit they took of this one occasion through diligence and 
earnest travail. There was no craft nor science within the empire 
of Rome, whereof any profit could rise, but they either learned it of 
these strangers, or else of them taking occasion to search for it, 
found it out. So great profit was it to them that ever any went 
thither from hence. But if any like chance before this hath brought 
any man from thence hither, that is as quite out of remembrance, as 
this also perchance in time to come shall be forgotten, that ever I 
was there. And like as they quickly, almost at the first meeting, 
made their own whatsoever is among us wealthily devised : so I sup- 
pose it would be long before we would receive anything that among 
them is better instituted than among us. And this I suppose is the 
chief cause why their commonwealths be wiselier governed, and do 
flourish in more wealth than ours, though we neither in wit nor 
riches be their inferiors. 


Therefore gentle Master Raphael (quoth I) I pray you and be- 
seech you describe unto us the island. And study not to be short : but 
declare largely in order their grounds, their rivers, their cities, their 
people, their manners, their ordinances, their laws, and to be short, 
all things, that you shall think us desirous to know. And you shall 
think us desirous to know whatsoever we know not yet. 

There is nothing (quoth he) that I will do gladlier. For all these 
things I have fresh in mind. But the matter requireth leisure. 

Let us go in therefore (quoth I) to dinner, afterward we will 
bestow the time at our pleasure. 

Content (quoth he) be it. 

So we went in and dined. When dinner was done, we came into 
the same place again, and sat us down upon the same bench, com- • 
manding our servants that no man should trouble us. Then I and 
Master Peter Giles desired Master Raphael to perform his promise. 
He therefore seeing us desirous and willing to hearken to him, when 
he had sat still and paused a little while, musing and bethinking 
himself, thus he began to speak. 



The Second Book of the Communication of Raphael Hythloday, con- 
cerning the best state of a commonwealth, containing the description 
of Utopia, with a large declaration of the Godly government, and 
of all the good laws and orders of the same Island. 

THE island of Utopia containeth in breadth in the middle 
part of it (for there! it is broadest) two hundred miles. 
Which breadth continueth through the most part of the 
land, saving that by little and little it cometh in, and waxeth nar- 
rower towards both the ends. Which fetching about a circuit or 
compass of five hundred miles, do fashion the whole island like to 
the new moon. Between these two corners the sea runneth in, divid- 
ing them asunder by the distance of eleven miles or thereabouts, and 
there surmounteth into a large and wide sea, which by reason that 
the land on every side compasseth it about, and sheltereth it from 
the winds, is not rough, nor mounteth not with great waves, but 
almost floweth quietly, not much unlike a great standing pool: and 
maketh almost all the space within the belly of the land in manner 
of a haven: and to the great commodity of the inhabitants receiveth 
in ships towards every part of the land. The forefronts or frontiers 
of the two corners, what with fords and shelves, and what with 
rocks be very jeopardous and dangerous. In the middle distance 
between them both standeth up above the water a great rock, which 
therefore is nothing perilous because it is in sight. Upon the top 
of this rock is a fair and a strong tower builded, which they hold 
with a garrison of men. Other rocks there be that lie hid under the 
water, and therefore be dangerous. The channels be known only to 
themselves. And therefore it seldom chanceth that any stranger 
unless he be guided by a Utopian can come into this haven. Inso- 
much that they themselves could scarcely enter without jeopardy, 
but that their way is directed and ruled by certain landmarks stand- 
ing on the shore. By turning, translating, and removing these marks 



into other places they may destroy their enemies' navies, be they 
never so many. The outside of the land is also full of havens, but 
the landing is so surely defenced, what by nature, and what by 
workmanship of man's hand, that a few defenders may drive back 
many armies. Howbeit as they say, and as the fashion of the place 
itself doth partly show, it was not ever compassed about with the 
sea. But King Utopus, whose name, as conqueror the island beareth 
(for before that time it was called Abraxa) which also brought the 
rude and wild people to that excellent perfection in all good fashions, 
humanity, and civil gentleness, wherein they now go beyond all the 
people of the world : even at his first arriving and entering upon the 
land, forthwith obtaining the victory, caused fifteen miles space of 
uplandish ground, where the sea had no passage, to be cut and 
digged up. 

And so brought the sea round about the land. He set to this work 
not only the inhabitants of the island (because they should not 
think it done in contumely and despite) but also all his own 
soldiers. Thus the work being divided into so great a number of 
workmen, was with exceeding marvellous speed despatched. Inso- 
much that the borderers, which at the first began to mock, and to 
jest at this vain enterprise, then turned their laughter to marvel at 
the success, and to fear. There be in the island fifty-four large and 
fair cities, or shire towns, agreeing all together in one tongue, in like 
manners, institutions and laws. They be all set and situate alike, and 
in all points fashioned alike, as far forth as the place or plot suff ereth. 

Of these cities they that be nighest together be twenty-four miles 
asunder. Again there is none of them distant from the next above 
one day's journey afoot. There come yearly to Amaurote out of 
every city three old men wise and well experienced, there to entreat 
and debate, of the common matters of the land. For this city (be- 
cause it standeth just in the midst of the island, and is therefore 
most meet for the ambassadors of all parts of the realm) is taken 
for the chief and head city. The precincts and bounds of the shires 
be so commodiously appointed out, and set forth for the cities, that 
never a one of them all hath of any side less than twenty miles of 
ground, and of some side also much more, as of that part where 
the cities be of farther distance asunder. None of the cities desire 


to enlarge the bounds and limits of their shires. For they count 
themselves rather the good husbands than the owners o£ their lands. 
They have in the country in all parts of the shire houses or farms 
builded, well appointed and furnished with all sorts of instruments 
and tools belonging to husbandry. These houses be inhabited of 
the citizens, which come thither to dwell by course. No household 
or farm in the country hath fewer than forty persons, men and 
women, besides two bondmen, which be all under the rule and 
order of the good man, and the good wife of the house, being both 
very sage and discreet persons. And every thirty farms or families 
have one head ruler, which is called a philarch, being as it were a 
head bailiff. Out of every one of these families or farms cometh 
every year into the city twenty persons which have continued two 
years before in the country. In their place so many fresh be sent 
thither out of the city, which of them that have been there a year 
already, and be therefore expert and cunning in husbandry, shall be 
instructed and taught. And they the next year shall teach other. 
This order is used for fear that either scarceness of victuals, or some 
other like incommodity should chance, through lack of knowledge, 
if they should be altogether new, and fresh, and unexpert in hus- 
bandry. This manner and fashion of yearly changing and renewing 
the occupiers of husbandry, though it be solemn and customably 
used, to the intent that no man shall be constrained against his will 
to continue long in that hard and sharp kind of life, yet many of 
them have such a pleasure and delight in husbandry, that they 
obtain a longer space of years. These husbandmen plough and till 
the ground, and breed up cattle, and make ready wood, which they 
carry to the city either by land, or by water, as they may most con- 
veniently. They bring up a great multitude of poultry, and that 
by a marvellous policy. For the hens do not sit upon the eggs: but 
by keeping them in a certain equal heat they bring life into them, 
and hatch them. The chickens, as soon as they be come out of the 
shell, follow men and women instead of the hens. They bring up 
very few horses: nor none, but very fierce ones: and for none other 
use or purpose, but only to exercise their youth in riding and feats 
of arms. For oxen be put to all the labour of ploughing and draw- 
ing. Which they grant to be not so good as horses at a sudden 


brunt, and (as we say) at a dead lift, but yet they hold opinion that 
they will abide and suffer much more labour and pain than horses 
will. And they think that they be not in danger and subject unto 
so many diseases and that they be kept and maintained with much 
less cost and charge: and finally that they be good for meat, when 
they be past labour. They sow corn only for bread. For their drink 
is either wine made of grapes, or else of apples, or pears, or else it 
is clean water. And many times mead made of honey or liquorice 
sodden in water, for thereof they have great store. And though they 
know certainly (for they know it perfectly indeed) how much 
victuals the city with the whole country or shire round about it doth 
spend: yet they sow much more corn, and breed up much more 
cattle, than serveth for their own use, and the overplus they part 
among their borderers. Whatsoever necessary things be lacking in 
the country, all such stuff they fetch out of the city: where without 
any exchange they easily obtain it of the magistrates of the city. For 
every month many of them go into the city on the holy day. When 
their harvest day draweth near and is at hand, then the philarchs, 
which be the head officers and bailiffs of husbandry, send word to 
the magistrates of the city what number of harvest men is needful 
to be sent to them out of the city. The which company of harvest 
men being there ready at the day appointed, almost in one fair day 
despatcheth all the harvest work. 

Of the Cities, and namely of Amaurote 

As for their cities, he that knoweth one of them, knoweth them 
all: they be all so like one to another, as farforth as the nature of 
the place permitteth. I will describe therefore to you one or other 
of them, for it skilleth not greatly which: but which rather than 
Amaurote? Of them all this is the worthiest and of most dignity. 
For the residue acknowledge it for the head city, because there is 
the council house. Nor to me any of them all is better beloved, as 
wherein I lived five whole years together. The city of Amaurote 
standeth upon the side of a low hill in fashion almost four square. 
For the breadth of it beginneth a little beneath the top of the hill, 
and still continueth by the space of two miles, until it come to the 


river of Anyder. The length of it, which lieth by the river's side, is 
somewhat more. The river of Anyder riseth twenty-four miles above 
Amaurote out of a little spring. But being increased by other small 
floods and brooks that run into it, and among other two somewhat 
big ones, before the city it is half a mile broad, and farther broader. 
And sixty miles beyond the city it falleth into the Ocean sea. By 
all that space that lieth between the sea and the city, and a good 
sort of miles also above the city, the water ebbeth and floweth six 
hours together with a swift tide. When the sea floweth in, for the 
length of thirty miles it filleth all the Anyder with salt water, and 
driveth back the fresh water of the river. And somewhat further 
it changeth the sweetness of the fresh water with saltness. But a little 
beyond that the river waxeth sweet, and runneth forby the city 
fresh and pleasant. And when the sea ebbeth, and goeth back again, 
the fresh water followeth it almost even to the very fall into the sea. 
There goeth a bridge over the river made not of piles of timber, but 
of stonework with gorgeous and substantial arches at that part of 
the city that is farthest from the sea : to the intent that ships may go 
along forby all the side of the city without let. They have also 
another river which indeed is not very great. But it runneth gently 
and pleasantly. For it riseth even out of the same hill that the city 
standeth upon, and runneth down a slope through the midst of the 
city into Anyder. And because it riseth a little without the city, the 
Amaurotians have inclosed the head spring of it with strong fences 
and bulwarks, and so have joined it to the city. This is done to the 
intent that the water should not be stopped nor turned away, or 
poisoned, if their enemies should chance to come upon them. From 
thence the water is derived and brought down in canals of brick 
divers ways into the lower parts of the city. Where that cannot be 
done, by reason that the place will not suffer it, there they gather 
the rain water in great cisterns, which doth them as good service. 
The city is compassed about with a high and thick wall full of 
turrets and bulwarks. A dry ditch, but deep, and broad, and over- 
grown with bushes, briers and thorns, goeth about three sides or 
quarters of the city. To the fourth side the river itself serveth for a 
ditch. The streets be appointed and set forth very commodious and 
handsome, both for carriage, and also against the winds. The 


houses be of fair and gorgeous building, and in the street side they 
stand joined together in a long row through the whole street with- 
out any partition or separation. The streets be twenty feet broad. On 
the back side of the houses through the whole length of the street, lie 
large gardens which be closed in round about with the back part of 
the streets. Every house hath two doors, one into the street, and a 
postern door on the back side into the garden. These doors be made 
with two leaves, never locked nor bolted, so easy to be opened, that 
they will follow the least drawing of a finger, and shut again by 
themselves. Every man that will, may go in, for there is nothing 
within the houses that is private, or any man's own. And every 
tenth year they change their houses by lot. They set great store by 
their gardens. In them they have vineyards, all manner of fruit, 
herbs, and flowers, so pleasant, so well furnished and so finely kept, 
that I never saw thing more fruitful, nor better trimmed in any 
place. Their study and diligence herein cometh not only of pleasure, 
but also of a certain strife and contention that is between street and 
street, concerning the trimming, husbanding, and furnishing of their 
gardens: every man for his own part. And verily you shall not lightly 
find in all the city anything, that is more commodious, either for 
the profit of the citizens, or for pleasure. And therefore it may 
seem that the first founder of the city minded nothing so much as 
he did these gardens. For they say that King Utopus himself, even 
at the first beginning appointed and drew forth the platform of 
the city into this fashion and figure that it hath now, but the gallant 
garnishing, and the beautiful setting forth of it, whereunto he saw 
that one man's age would not suffice: that he left to his posterity. 
For their chronicles, which they keep written with all diligent cir- 
cumspection, containing the history of 1760 years, even from the 
first conquest of the island, record and witness that the houses in 
the beginning were very low, and like homely cottages or poor 
shepherd houses, made at all adventures of every rude piece of wood, 
that came first to hands, with mud walls and ridged roofs, thatched 
over with straw. But now the houses be curiously builded after a 
gorgeous and gallant sort, with three stories one over another. The 
outsides of the walls be made either of hard flint, or of plaster, or else 
of brick, and the inner sides be well strengthened with timber work. 


The roofs be plain and flat, covered with a certain kind of plaster 
that is of no cost, and yet so tempered that no fire can hurt or perish 
it, and withstandeth the violence of the weather better than any 
lead. They keep the wind out of their windows with glass, for it is 
there much used, and somewhere also with fine linen cloth dipped 
in oil or amber, and that for two commodities. For by this means 
more light cometh in, and the wind is better kept out. 

Of the Magistrates 

Every thirty families or farms, choose them yearly an officer, 
which in their old language is called the syphogrant, and by a 
newer name, the philarch. Every ten syphogrants, with all their 300 
families be under an officer which was once called the tranibore, now 
the chief philarch. Moreover as concerning the election of the prince, 
all the syphogrants, which be in number 200, first be sworn to choose 
him whom they think most meet and expedient. Then by a secret 
election, they name prince, one of those four whom the people before 
named unto them. For out of the four quarters of the city there be 
four chosen, out of every quarter one, to stand for the election: 
which be put up to the council. The prince's office continueth all 
his lifetime, unless he be deposed or put down for suspicion of 
tyranny. They choose the tranibores yearly, but lightly they change 
them not. All the other offices be but for one year. The tranibores 
every third day, and sometimes, if need be, oftener come into the 
council house with the prince. Their council is concerning the com- 
monwealth. If there be any controversies among the commoners, 
which be very few, they despatch and end them by-and-by. They 
take ever two syphogrants to them in counsel, and every day a new 
couple. And it is provided that nothing touching the commonwealth 
shall be confirmed and ratified unless it have been reasoned of and 
debated three days in the council, before it be decreed. It is death 
to have any consultation for the commonwealth out of the council, 
or the place of the common election. This statute, they say, was made 
to the intent that the prince and tranibores might not easily conspire 
together to oppress the people by tyranny, and to change the state 
of the weal public. Therefore matters of great weight and impor- 


tance be brought to the election house of the syphogrants, which open 
the matter to their families. And afterward, when they have con- 
sulted among themselves, they show their device to the council. 
Sometimes the matter is brought before the council of the whole 
island. Furthermore this custom also the council useth, to dispute 
or reason of no matter the same day that it is first proposed or put 
forth, but to defer it to the next sitting of the council. Because that 
no man when he hath rashly there spoken that cometh first to his 
tongue's end, shall then afterward rather study for reasons where- 
with to defend and confirm his first foolish sentence, than for the 
commodity of the commonwealth: as one rather willing the harm 
or hindrance of the weal public than any loss or diminution of his 
own existimation. And as one that would not for shame (which is 
a very foolish shame) be counted anything overseen in the matter 
at the first. Who at the first ought to have spoken rather wisely, 
than hastily, or rashly. 

Of Sciences, Crafts, and Occupations 

Husbandry is a science common to them all in general, both men 
and women, wherein they be all expert and cunning. In this they be 
all instruct even from their youth: partly in schools with traditions 
and precepts, and partly in the country nigh the city, brought up as 
it were in playing, not only beholding the use of it, but by occasion 
of exercising their bodies practising it also. Besides husbandry, 
which (as I said) is common to them all, every one of them learneth 
one or other several and particular science, as his own proper craft. 
That is most commonly either clothworking in wool or flax, or 
masonry, or the smith's craft, or the carpenter's science. For there is 
none other occupation that any number to speak of doth use there. 
For their garments, which throughout all the island be of one 
fashion (saving that there is a difference between the man's gar- 
ment and the woman's, between the married and the unmarried) 
and this one continueth for evermore unchanged, seemly and 
comely to the eye, no let to the moving and wielding of the body, 
also fit both for winter and summer: as for these garments (I say) 
every family maketh their own. But of the other foresaid crafts 


every man learneth one. And not only the men, but also the women. 
But the women, as the weaker sort, be put to the easier crafts : they 
work wool and flax. The other more laboursome sciences be com- 
mitted to the men. For the most part every man is brought up in 
his father's craft. For most commonly they be naturally thereto 
bent and inclined. But if a man's mind stand to any other, he is by 
adoption put into a family of that occupation, which he doth most 
fantasy. Whom not only his father, but also the magistrates do dili- 
gently look to, that he be put to a discreet and an honest house- 
holder. Yea, and if any person, when he hath learned one craft, 
be desirous to learn also another, he is likewise suffered and per- 

When he hath learned both, he occupieth whether he will: unless 
the city have more need of the one, than of the other. The chief and 
almost the only office of the syphogrants is, to see and take heed that 
no man sit idle: but that every one apply his own craft with earnest 
diligence. And yet for all that, not to be wearied from early in the 
morning, to late in the evening, with continual work, like labouring 
and toiling beasts. 

For this is worse than the miserable and wretched condition of 
bondmen. Which nevertheless is almost everywhere the life of 
workmen and artificers, saving in Utopia. For they dividing the 
day and the night into twenty-four just hours, appoint and assign 
only six of those hours to work; three before noon, upon the which 
they go straight to dinner: and after dinner, when they have rested 
two hours, then they work three and upon that they go to supper. 
About eight of the clock in the evening (counting one of the clock 
at the first hour after noon) they go to bed: eight hours they give 
to sleep. All the void time, that is between the hours of work, sleep, 
and meat, that they be suffered to bestow, every man as he liketh 
best himself. Not to the intent that they should misspend this time 
in riot or slothf ulness : but being then licensed from the labour of 
their own occupations, to bestow the time well and thriftly upon 
some other good science, as shall please them. For it is a solemn 
custom there, to have lectures daily early in the morning, where to 
be present they only be constrained that be namely chosen and 
appointed to learning. Howbeit a great multitude of every sort of 


people, both men and women, go to hear lectures, some one and 
some another, as every man's nature is inclined. Yet, this notwith- 
standing, if any man had rather bestow this time upon his own 
occupation (as it chanceth in many, whose minds rise not in the con- 
templation of any science liberal) he is not letted, nor prohibited, 
but is also praised and commended, as profitable to the common- 
wealth. After supper they bestow one hour in play: in summer in 
their gardens: in winter in their common halls: where they dine 
and sup. There they exercise themselves in music, or else in honest 
and wholesome communication. Diceplay, and such other foolish 
and pernicious games they know not. But they use two games not 
much unlike the chess. The one is the battle of numbers, wherein 
one number stealeth away another. The other is wherein vices 
fight with virtues, as it were in battle array, or a set field. In 
the which game is very properly showed, both the strife and discord 
that vices have among themselves, and again their unity and con- 
cord against virtues. And also what vices be repugnant to what 
virtues: with what power and strength they assail them openly: by 
what wiles and subtlety they assault them secretly: with what help 
and aid the virtues resist and overcome the puissance of the vices: 
by what craft they frustrate their purposes: and finally by what 
sleight or means the one getteth the victory. But here lest you be 
deceived, one thing you must look more narrowly upon. For seeing 
they bestow but six hours in work, perchance you may think that 
the lack of some necessary things hereof may ensue. But this is 
nothing so. For that small time is not only enough but also too much 
for the store and abundance of all things that be requisite, either for 
the necessity, or commodity of life. The which thing you also shall 
perceive, if you weigh and consider with yourselves how great a part 
of the people in other countries liveth idle. First almost all women, 
which be the half of the whole number: or else if the women be 
anywhere occupied, there most commonly in their stead the men 
be idle. Besides this how great, and how idle a company is there of 
priests, and religious men, as they call them? put thereto all rich 
men, especially all landed men, which commonly be called gentle- 
men, and noblemen. Take into this number also their servants: I 
mean all that flock of stout bragging rush bucklers. Join to them 
also sturdy and valiant beggars, cloaking their idle life under the 


colour of some disease or sickness. And truly you shall find them 
much fewer than you thought, by whose labour all these things be 
gotten that men use and live by. Now consider with yourself, of 
these few that do work, how few be occupied, in necessary works. 
For where money beareth all the swing, there many vain and super- 
fluous occupations must needs be used, to serve only for riotous 
superfluity and unhonest pleasure. For the same multitude that now 
is occupied in work, if they were divided into so few occupations 
as the necessary use of nature requireth; in so great plenty of things 
as then of necessity would ensue, doubtless the prices would be too 
little for the artificers to maintain their livings. But if all these, 
that be now busied about unprofitable occupations, with all the 
whole flock of them that live idly and slothf ully, which consume and 
waste every one of them more of these things that come by other 
men's labour, than two of the workmen themselves do: if all these 
(I say) were set to profitable occupations, you easily perceive how 
little time would be enough, yea and too much to store us with all 
things that may be requisite either for necessity, or for commodity, 
yea or for pleasure, so that the same pleasure be true and natural. 
And this in Utopia the thing itself maketh manifest and plain. 
For there in all the city, with the whole country, or shire adjoining 
to it scarcely 500 persons of all the whole number of men and women, 
that be neither too old, nor too weak to work, be licensed from 
labour. Among them be the syphogrants which (though they be by 
the laws exempt and privileged from labour) yet they exempt not 
themselves: to the intent they may the rather by their example pro- 
voke other to work. The same vacation from labour do they also 
enjoy, to whom the people persuaded by the commendation of the 
priests, and secret election of the syphogrants, have given a perpetual 
license from labour to learning. But if any one of them prove not 
according to the expectation and hope of him conceived, he is forth- 
with plucked back to the company of artificers. And contrariwise, 
often it chanceth that a handicraftsman doth so earnestly bestow his 
vacant and spare hours in learning, and through diligence so profit 
therein, that he is taken from his handy occupation, and promoted to 
the company of the learned. Out of this order of the learned be 
chosen ambassadors, priests, tranibores, and finally the prince him- 
self. Whom they in their old tongue call Barzanes, and by a newer 


name, Adamus. The residue of the people being neither idle nor oc- 
cupied about unprofitable exercises, it may be easily judged in how 
few hours how much good work by them may be done towards those 
things that I have spoken of. This commodity they have also above 
other, that in the most part of necessary occupations they need not 
so much work, as other nations do. For first of all the building or 
repairing of houses asketh everywhere so many men's continual 
labour, because that the unth[r]ifty heir sufTereth the houses that 
his father builded in continuance of time to fall in decay. So that 
which he might have upholden with little cost, his successor is con- 
strained to build it again anew, to his great charge. Yea many times 
also the house that stood one man in much money, another is of so 
nice and so delicate a mind, that he setteth nothing by it. And it 
being neglected, and therefore shortly falling into ruin, he buildeth 
up another in another place with no less cost and charge. But among 
the Utopians, where all things be set in a good order, and the com- 
monwealth in a good stay, it very seldom chanceth, that they choose a 
new plot to build an house upon. And they do not only find speedy 
and quick remedies for present faults : but also prevent them that be 
like to fall. And by this means their houses continue and last very 
long with little labour and small reparations: insomuch that this 
kind of workmen sometimes have almost nothing to do. But that 
they be commanded to hew timber at home, and to square and trim 
up stones, to the intent that if any work chance, it may the speedier 
rise. Now, sir, in their apparel, mark (I pray you) how few work- 
men they need. First of all, whilst they be at work, they be covered 
homely with leather or skins, that will last seven years. When they 
go forth abroad they cast upon them a cloak, which hideth the other 
homely apparel. These cloaks throughout the whole island be all 
of one colour, and that is the natural colour of the wool. They 
therefore do not only spend much less woollen cloth than is spent in 
other countries, but also the same standeth them in much less cost. 
But linen cloth is made with less labour, and is therefore had more 
in use. But in linen cloth only whiteness, in woollen only cleanli- 
ness is regarded. As for the smallness or fineness of the thread, that 
is nothing passed for. And this is the cause wherefore in other places 
four or five cloth gowns of divers colours, and as many silk coats 


be not enough for one man. Yea and if he be of the delicate and 
nice sort ten be too few: whereas there one garment will serve a man 
most commonly two years. For why should he desire more ? Seeing 
if he had them, he should not be the better wrapped or covered from 
cold, neither in his apparel any whit the comelier. Wherefore, seeing 
they be all exercised in profitable occupations, and that few artificers 
in the same crafts be sufficient, this is the cause that plenty of all 
things being among them, they do sometimes bring forth an in- 
numerable company of people to amend the highways, if any be 
broken. Many times also, when they have no such work to be 
occupied about, an open proclamation is made, that they shall bestow 
fewer hours in work. For the magistrates do not exercise their citi- 
zens against their wills in unneedful labours. For why? in the in- 
stitution of that weal public, this end is only and chiefly pretended 
and minded, that what time may possibly be spared from the neces- 
sary occupations and affairs of the commonwealth, all that the citi- 
zens should withdraw from the bodily service to the free liberty of 
the mind, and garnishing of the same. For herein they suppose the 
felicity of this life to consist. 

Of their living and mutual conversation together 

But now will I declare how the citizens use themselves one towards 
another : what familiar occupying and entertainment there is among 
the people, and what fashion they use in distributing every thing. 
First the city consisteth of families, the families most commonly be 
made of kindreds. For the women, when they be married at a law- 
ful age, they go into their husbands' houses. But the male children 
with all the whole male offspring continue still in their own family 
and be governed of the eldest and ancientest father, unless he dote 
for age: for then the next to him in age is put in his room. But to 
the intent the prescript number of the citizens should neither de- 
crease, nor above measure increase, it is ordained that no family 
which in every city be six thousand in the whole, besides them of 
the country, shall at once have fewer children of the age of fourteen 
years or thereabout than ten or more than sixteen, for of children 
under this age no number can be appointed. This measure or num- 


ber is easily observed and kept, by putting them that in fuller fami- 
lies be above the number into families of smaller increase. But if 
chance be that in the whole city the store increase above the just 
number, therewith they fill up the lack of other cities. But if so be 
that the multitude throughout the whole island pass and exceed the 
due number, then they choose out of every city certain citizens, and 
build up a town under their own laws in the next land where the 
inhabitants have much waste and unoccupied ground, receiving 
also of the inhabitants to them, if they will join and dwell with them. 
They thus joining and dwelling together do easily agree in one 
fashion of living, and that to the great wealth of both the peoples. 
For they so bring the matter about by their laws, that the ground 
which before was neither good nor profitable for the one nor for the 
other, is now sufficient and fruitful enough for them both. But if 
the inhabitants of that land will not dwell with them to be ordered 
by their laws, then they drive them out of those bounds which they 
have limited, and appointed out for themselves. And if they resist 
and rebel, then they make war against them. For they count this 
the most just cause of war, when any people holdeth a piece of 
ground void and vacant, to no good nor profitable use, keeping 
other from the use and possession of it, which notwithstanding by 
the law of nature ought thereof to be nourished and relieved. If any 
chance do so much diminish the number of any of their cities, that 
it cannot be filled up again, without the diminishing of the just 
number of the other cities (which they say chanced but twice since 
the beginning of the land through a great pestilent plague) then 
they make up the number with citizens fetched out of their own 
foreign towns, for they had rather suffer their foreign towns to decay 
and perish, than any city of their own island to be diminished. But 
now again to the conversation of the citizens among themselves. 
The eldest (as I said) ruleth the family. The wives be ministers to 
their husbands, the children to their parents, and to be short the 
younger to their elders. Every city is divided into four equal parts. 
In the midst of every quarter there is a market place of all manner 
of things. Thither the works of every family be brought into certain 
houses. And every kind of thing is laid up in several barns or store- 
houses. From hence the father of every family, or every householder 


fetcheth whatsoever he and his have need of, and carrieth it away 
with him without money, without exchange, without any gage, or 
pledge. For why should any thing be denied unto him? Seeing 
there is abundance of all things, and that it is not to be feared, lest 
any man will ask more than he needeth. For why should it be 
thought that that man would ask more than enough, which is sure 
never to lack? Certainly in all kinds of living creatures either fear 
of lack doth cause covetousness and ravin, or in man only pride, 
which counteth it a glorious thing to pass and excel other in the 
superfluous and vain ostentation of things. The which kind of vice 
among the Utopians can have no place. Next to the market places 
that I spake of, stand meat markets: whither be brought not only 
all sorts of herbs, and the fruits of trees, with bread, but also fish, and 
all manner of four-footed beasts, and wild fowl that be man's meat. 
But first the filthiness and ordure thereof is clean washed away in 
the running river without the city in places appointed meet for the 
same purpose. From thence the beasts [be] brought in killed, and 
clean washed by the hands of their bondmen. For they permit not 
their free citizens to accustom themselves to the killing of beasts, 
through the use whereof they think that clemency, the gentlest affec- 
tion of our nature, doth by little and little decay and perish. Neither 
they suffer any thing that is filthy, loathsome, or uncleanly, to be 
brought into the city, lest the air by the stench thereof infected and 
corrupt, should cause pestilent diseases. Moreover every street hath 
certain great large halls set in equal distance one from another, every 
one known by a several name. In these halls dwell the syphogrants. 
And to every one of the same halls be appointed thirty families, on 
either side fifteen. The stewards of every hall at a certain hour come 
into the meat markets, where they receive meat according to the 
number of their halls. But first and chiefly of all, respect is had to the 
sick, that be cured in the hospitals. For in the circuit of the city, a little 
without the walls, they have four hospitals, so big, so wide, so ample, 
and so large, that they may seem four little towns, which were de- 
vised of that bigness partly to the intent the sick, be they never so 
many in number, should not lie too throng or strait, and therefore 
uneasily and incommodiously: and partly that they which were 
taken and holden with contagious diseases, such as be wont by infec- 


tion to creep from one to another, might be laid apart far from the 
company of the residue. These hospitals be so well appointed, and 
with all things necessary to health so furnished, and moreover so 
diligent attendance through the continual presence of cunning physi- 
cians is given, that though no man be sent thither against his will, 
yet notwithstanding there is no sick person in all the city, that had 
not rather lie there than at home in his own house. When the 
steward of the sick hath received such meats as the physicians have 
prescribed, then the best is equally divided among the halls, accord- 
ing to the company of every one, saving that there is had a respect 
to the prince, the bishop, the tranibores, and to ambassadors and all 
strangers, if there be any, which be very few and seldom. But they 
also when they be there, have certain houses appointed and prepared 
for them. To these halls at the set hours of dinner and supper 
cometh all the whole syphogranty or ward, warned by the noise of 
a brazen trumpet: except such as be sick in the hospitals, or else in 
their own houses. Howbeit no man is prohibited or forbid, after 
the halls be served, to fetch home meat out of the market to his own 
house, for they know that no man will do it without a cause reason- 
able. For though no prohibited to dine at home, yet no man 
doth it willingly, because it is counted a point of small honesty. 
And also it were a folly to take the pain to dress a bad dinner at 
home, when they may be welcome to good and fine fare so nigh 
hand at the hall. In this hall all vile service, all slavery, and drudgery, 
with all laboursome toil and business, is done by bondmen. But the 
women of every family by course have the office and charge of 
cookery for seething and dressing the meat, and ordering all 
things thereto belonging. They sit at three tables or more, accord- 
ing to the number of their company. The men sit upon the bench 
next the wall, and the women against them on the other side 
of the table, that if any sudden evil should chance to them, as many 
times happeneth to women with child, they may rise without trouble 
or disturbance of anybody, and go thence into the nursery. The 
nurses sit several alone with their young sucklings in a certain parlour 
appointed and deputed to the same purpose, never without fire and 
clean water, nor yet without cradles, that when they will they may 
lay down the young infants, and at their pleasure take them out of 


their swathing clothes, and hold them to the fire, and refresh them 
with play. Every mother is nurse to her own child, unless either 
death, or sickness be the let. When that chanceth, the wives of the 
syphogrants quickly provide a nurse. And that is not hard to be 
done. For they that can do it, do proffer themselves to no service so 
gladly as to that. Because that there this kind of pity is much 
praised: and the child that is nourished, ever after taketh his nurse 
for his own natural mother. Also among the nurses sit all the chil- 
dren that be under the age of five years. All the other children of 
both kinds, as well boys as girls, that be under the age of marriage, 
do either serve at the tables, or else if they be too young thereto, yet 
they stand by with marvellous silence. That which is given to them 
from the table they eat, and other several dinner-time they have none. 
The syphogrant and his wife sit in the midst of the high table, for- 
asmuch as that is counted the honourablest place, and because from 
thence all the whole company is in their sight. For that table 
standeth overthwart the over end of the hall. To them be joined 
two of the ancientest and eldest. For at every table they sit four at 
a mess. But if there be a church standing in that syphogranty or 
ward, then the priest and his wife sitteth with the syphogrant, as 
chief in the company. On both sides of them sit young men, and 
next unto them again old men. And thus throughout all the house 
equal of age be set together, and yet be mixed with unequal ages. 
This, they say, was ordained, to the intent that the sage gravity and 
reverence of the elders should keep the younger from wanton license 
of words and behaviour. Forasmuch as nothing can be so secretly 
spoken or done at the table, but either they that sit on the one side or 
on the other must needs perceive it. The dishes be not set down in 
order from the first place, but all the old men (whose places be 
marked with some special token to be known) be first served of their 
meat, and then the residue equally. The old men divide their dain- 
ties as they think best to the younger that sit on each side of them. 

Thus the elders be not defrauded of their due honour, and never- 
theless equal commodity cometh to every one. They begin every 
dinner and supper of reading something that pertaineth to good 
manners and virtue. But it is short, because no man shall be grieved 
therewith. Hereof the elders take occasion of honest communica- 


tion, but neither sad nor unpleasant. Howbeit they do not spend 
all the whole dinner-time themselves with long and tedious talks: 
but they gladly hear also the young men: yea, and do purposely 
provoke them to talk, to the intent that they may have a proof of 
every man's wit, and towardness, or disposition to virtue, which 
commonly in the liberty of feasting doth show and utter itself. 
Their dinners be very short: but their suppers be somewhat longer, 
because that after dinner followeth labour, after supper sleep and 
natural rest, which they think to be of more strength and efficacy to 
wholesome and healthful digestion. No supper is passed without 
music. Nor their banquets lack no conceits nor junkets. They burn 
sweet gums and spices for perfumes, and pleasant smells, and sprin- 
kle about sweet ointments and waters, yea, they leave nothing un- 
done that maketh for the cheering of the company. For they be 
much inclined to this opinion: to think no kind of pleasure for- 
bidden, whereof cometh no harm. Thus therefore and after this 
sort they live together in the city, but in the country they that dwell 
alone far from any neighbours, do dine and sup at home in their 
own houses. For no family there lacketh any kind of victuals, as 
from whom cometh all that the citizens eat and live by. 

Of their journeying or travelling abroad, with divers other matters 
cunningly reasoned, and wittily discussed 

But if any be desirous to visit either their friends that dwell in 
another city, or to see the place itself: they easily obtain licence of 
their syphogrants and tranibores, unless there be some profitable 
let. No man goeth out alone but a company is sent forth together 
with their prince's letters, which do testify that they have licence to 
go that journey, and prescribeth also the day of their return. They 
have a waggon given them, with a common bondman, which driv- 
eth the oxen, and taketh charge of them. But unless they have 
women in their company, they send home the waggon again, as an 
impediment and a let. And though they carry nothing forth with 
them, yet in all their journey they lack nothing. For wheresoever 
they come they be at home. If they tarry in a place longer than one 
day, then there every one of them falleth to his own occupation, and 


be very gently entertained of the workmen and companies of the 
same crafts. If any man of his own head and without leave, walk 
out of his precinct and bounds, taken without the prince's letters, he 
is brought again for a fugitive or a runaway with great shame and 
rebuke, and is sharply punished. If he be taken in that fault again, 
he is punished with bondage. If any be desirous to walk abroad into 
the fields, or into the country that belongeth to the same city that he 
dwelleth in, obtaining the goodwill of his father, and the consent 
of his wife, he is not prohibited. But into what part of the country 
soever he cometh he hath no meat given him until he have wrought 
out his forenoon's task, or else despatched so much work, as there is 
wont to be wrought before supper. Observing this law and condition, 
he may go whither he will within the bounds of his own city. For 
he shall be no less profitable to the city, than if he were within it. 
Now you see how little liberty they have to loiter: how they can 
have no cloak or pretence to idleness. There be neither wine taverns, 
nor ale-houses, nor stews, nor any occasion of vice or wickedness, 
no lurking corners, no places of wicked counsels or unlawful assem- 
blies. But they be in the present sight, and under the eyes of every 
man. So that of necessity they must either apply their accustomed 
labours, or else recreate themselves with honest and laudable pas- 

This fashion being used among the people, they must of necessity 
have store and plenty of all things. And seeing they be all thereof 
partners equally, therefore can no man there be poor or needy. In 
the council of Amaurote, whither, as I said, every city sendeth three 
men apiece yearly, as soon as it is perfectly known of what things 
there is in every place plenty, and again what things be scant in any 
place: incontinent the lack of the one is performed and filled up 
with the abundance of the other. And this they do freely without 
any benefit, taking nothing again of them, to whom the things is 
given, but those cities that have given of their store to any other city 
that lacketh, requiring nothing again of the same city, do take such 
things as they lack of another city, to whom they gave nothing. So 
the whole island is as it were one family, or household. But when 
they have made sufficient provision of store for themselves (which 
they think not done, until they have provided for two years follow- 


ing because of the uncertainty of the next year's proof) then of those 
things, whereof they have abundance, they carry forth into other 
countries great plenty: as grain, honey, wool, flax, wood, madder, 
purple dyed fells, wax, tallow, leather, and living beasts. And the 
seventh part of all these things they give frankly and freely to the 
poor of that country. The residue they sell at a reasonable and mean 
price. By this trade of traffic or merchandise, they bring into their 
own country, not only great plenty of gold and silver, but also 
all such things as they lack at home, which is almost nothing but 
iron. And by reason they have long used this trade, now they have 
more abundance of these things, than any man will believe. Now 
therefore they care not whether they sell for ready money, or else 
upon trust to be paid at a day, and to have the most part in debts. 
But in so doing they never follow the credence of private men: but 
the assurance or warrantys of the whole city, by instruments and 
writings made in that behalf accordingly. When the day of pay- 
ment is come and expired, the city gathereth up the debt of the 
private debtors, and putteth it into the common box and so long 
hath the use and profit of it, until the Utopians their creditors de- 
mand it. The most part of it they never ask. For that thing which 
is to them no profit to take it from other, to whom it is profitable: 
they think it no right nor conscience. But if the case so stand, that 
they must lend part of that money to another people, then they re- 
quire their debt: or when they have war. For the which purpose 
only they keep at home all the treasure which they have, to be holpen 
and succoured by it either in extreme jeopardies, or in sudden dan- 
gers. But especially and chiefly to hire therewith, and that for un- 
reasonable great wages, strange soldiers. For they had rather put 
strangers in jeopardy, than their own countrymen: knowing that 
for money enough, their enemies themselves many times may be 
bought and sold, or else through treason be set together by the ears 
among themselves. For this cause they keep an inestimable treasure. 
But yet not as a treasure: but so they have it, and use it, as in good 
faith I am ashamed to show: fearing that my words shall not be 
believed. And this I have more cause to fear, for that I know how 
difficulty and hardly I myself would have believed another man 
telling the same, if I had not presently seen it with mine own eyes. 


For it must needs be, that how far a thing is dissonant and dis- 
agreeing from the guise and trade of the hearers, so far shall it be 
out of their belief. Howbeit, a wise and indifferent esteemer of 
things will not greatly marvel perchance, seeing all their other laws 
and customs do so much differ from ours, if the use also of gold and 
silver among them be applied, rather to their own fashions than to 
ours. I mean in that they occupy not money themselves, but keep it 
for that chance, which as it may happen, so it may be that it shall 
never come to pass. In the meantime gold and silver, whereof money 
is made, they do so use, as none of them doth more esteem it, than 
the very nature of the thing deserveth. And then who doth not 
plainly see how far it is under iron: as without the which men can 
no better live than without fire and water. Whereas to gold and 
silver nature hath given no use, that we may not well lack: if that 
the folly of men had not set it in higher estimation for the rareness 
sake. But of the contrary part, nature as a most tender and loving 
mother, hath placed the best and most necessary things open abroad: 
as the air, the water and the earth itself. And hath removed and hid 
farthest from us vain and unprofitable things. Therefore if these 
metals among them should be fast locked up in some tower, it might 
be suspected, that the prince and the council (as the people is ever 
foolishly imagining) intended by some subtilty to deceive the com- 
mons, and to take same profit of it to themselves. Furthermore if 
they should make thereof plate and such other finely and cunningly 
wrought stuff: if at any time they should have occasion to break it, 
and melt it again, and therewith to pay their soldiers' wages, they 
see and perceive very well, that men would be loath to part from 
those things, that they once began to have pleasure and delight in. 
To remedy all this they have found out a means, which, as it is 
agreeable to all their other laws and customs, so it is from ours, where 
gold is so much set by and so diligently kept, very far discrepant and 
repugnant: and therefore incredible, but only to them that be wise. 
For whereas they eat and drink in earthen and glass vessels, which 
indeed be curiously and properly made, and yet be of very small 
value: of gold and silver they make commonly chamber pots, and 
other like vessels, that serve for most vile uses, not only in their 
common halls, but in every man's private house. Furthermore of the 


same metals they make great chains, with fetters, and gyves wherein 
they tie their bondmen. Finally whosoever for any offence be in- 
famed, by their ears hang rings of gold, upon their fingers they wear 
rings of gold, and about their necks chains of gold, and in conclu- 
sion their heads be tied about with gold. Thus by all means that 
may be they procure to have gold and silver among them in re- 
proach and infamy. And therefore these metals, which other nations 
do as grievously and sorrowfully forgo, as in a manner from their 
own lives: if they should altogether at once be taken from the Uto- 
pians, no man there would think that he had lost the worth of one 
farthing. They gather also pearls by the sea-side, and diamonds and 
carbuncles upon certain rocks, and yet they seek not for them : but by 
chance finding them, they cut and polish them. And therewith they 
deck their young infants. Which like as in the first years of their 
childhood, they make much and be fond and proud of such orna- 
ments, so when they be a little more grown in years and discretion, 
perceiving that none but children do wear such toys and trifles: 
they lay them away even of their own shamefacedness, without any 
bidding of their parents: even as our children, when they wax big, 
do cast away nuts, brooches, and puppets. Therefore these laws and 
customs, which be so far different from all other nations, how divers 
fantasies also and minds they do cause, did I never so plainly per- 
ceive, as in the ambassadors of the Anemolians. 

These ambassadors came to Amaurote whilest I was there. And 
because they came to entreat of great and weighty matters, those 
three citizens apiece out of every city were come thither before 
them. But all the ambassadors of the next countries, which had been 
there before, and knew the fashions and manners of the Utopians, 
among whom they perceived no honour given to sumptuous and 
costly apparel, silks to be contemned, gold also to be infamed and 
reproachful, were wont to come thither in very homely and simple 
apparel. But the Anemolians, because they dwell far thence and had 
very little acquaintance with them, hearing that they were all 
apparelled alike, and that very rudely and homely: thinking them 
not to have the things which they did not wear: being therefore 
more proud, than wise: determined in the gorgeousness of their 
apparel to represent very gods, and with the bright shining and 


glistering of their gay clothing to dazzle the eyes of the silly poor 
Utopians. So there came in three ambassadors with one hundred 
servants all apparelled in changeable colours: the most of them in 
silks: the ambassadors themselves (for at home in their own country 
they were noblemen) in cloth of gold, with great chains of gold, 
with gold hanging at their ears, with gold rings upon their fingers, 
with brooches and aglets of gold upon their caps, which glistered full 
of pearls and precious stones: to be short, trimmed and adorned 
with all those things, which among the Utopians were either the 
punishment of bondmen, or the reproach of infamed persons, or else 
trifles for young children to play withal. Therefore it would have 
done a man good at his heart to have seen how proudly they dis- 
played their peacock's feathers, how much they made of their 
painted sheaths, and how loftily they set forth and advanced them- 
selves, when they compared their gallant apparel with the poor rai- 
ment of the Utopians. For all the people were swarmed forth into 
the streets. And on the other side it was no less pleasure to consider 
how much they were deceived, and how far they missed of their 
purpose, being contrariwise taken than they thought they should 
have been. For to the eyes of all the Utopians, .except very few, 
which had been in other countries for some reasonable cause, all 
that gorgeousness of apparel seemed shameful and reproachful. Inso- 
much that they most reverently saluted the vilest and most abject of 
them for lords: passing over the ambassadors themselves without 
any honour: judging them by their wearing of golden chains to be 
bondmen. Yea you should have seen children also, that had cast 
away their pearls and precious stones, when they saw the like stick- 
ing upon the ambassadors' caps, dig and push their mothers under 
the sides, saying thus to them. Look, mother, how great a lubber 
doth yet wear pearls and precious stones, as though he were a little 
child still. But the mother, yea, and that also in good earnest : peace, 
son, saith she: I think he be some of the ambassadors' fools. Some 
found fault at their golden chains, as to no use nor purpose, being 
so small and weak, that a bondman might easily break them, and 
again so wide and large, that when it pleased him, he might cast 
them off, and run away at liberty whither he would. But when the 
ambassadors had been there a day or two and saw so great abun- 


dance of gold so lightly esteemed, yea in no less reproach, than it 
was with them in honour: and besides that more gold in the chains 
and gyves of one fugitive bondman, than all the costly ornaments 
of them three was worth : they began to abate their courage, and for 
very shame laid away all that gorgeous array, whereof they were so 
proud. And specially when they had talked familiarly with the 
Utopians, and had learned all their fashions and opinions. 

For they marvel that any men be so foolish, as to have delight 
and pleasure in the glistering of a little trifling stone, which may 
behold any of the stars, or else the sun itself. Or that any man is so 
mad, as to count himself the nobler for the smaller or finer thread 
of wool, which selfsame wool (be it now in never so fine a spun 
thread) did once a sheep wear: and yet was she all that time no 
other thing than a sheep. They marvel also that gold, which of the 
own nature is a thing so unprofitable, is now among all people in 
so high estimation, that man himself, by whom, yea and for the 
use of whom it is so much set by, is in much less estimation than 
the gold itself. Insomuch that a lumpish blockheaded churl, and 
which hath no more wit than an ass, yea and as full of worthless- 
ness and foolishness, shall have nevertheless many wise and good 
men in subjection and bondage, only for this, because he hath a 
great heap of gold. Which if it should be taken from him by any 
fortune, or by some subtle wile of the law (which no less than 
fortune doth raise up the low and pluck down the high), and be 
given to the most vile slave and abject drudge of all his household, 
then shortly after he shall go into the service of his servant, as an 
augmentation or an overplus beside his money. But they much 
more marvel at and detest the madness of them which to those rich 
men, in whose debt and danger they be not, do give almost divine 
honours, for none other consideration, but because they be rich: 
and yet knowing them to be such niggardly penny-fathers, that they 
be sure as long as they live, not the worth of one farthing of that 
heap of gold shall come to them. 

These and such like opinions have they conceived, partly by educa- 
tion, being brought up in that commonwealth, whose laws and cus- 
toms be far different from these kinds of folly, and partly by good 
literature and learning. For though there be not many in every city, 


which be exempt and discharged of all other labours, and appointed 
only to learning; that is to say, such in whom even from their very 
childhood they have perceived a singular towardness, a fine wit, and 
a mind apt to good learning: yet all in their childhood be instruct 
in learning. And the better part of the people, both men and women 
throughout all their whole life do bestow in learning those spare 
hours, which we said they have vacant from bodily labours. They 
be taught learning in their own native tongue. For it is both copious 
in words, and also pleasant to the ear, and for the utterance of a 
man's mind very perfect and sure. The most part of all that side 
of the world useth the same language, saving that among the 
Utopians it is finest and purest, and according to the diversity of the 
countries it is diversely altered. Of all these philosophers, whose 
names be here famous in this part of the world to us known, before 
our coming thither not as much as the fame of any of them was 
come among them. And yet in music, logic, arithmetic, and geom- 
etry they have found out in a manner all that our ancient philos- 
ophers have taught. But as they in all things be almost equal to our 
old ancient clerks, so our new logicians in subtle inventions have far 
passed and gone beyond them. For they have not devised one of 
all those rules of restrictions, amplifications and suppositions, very 
wittily invented in the small logicals, which here our children in 
every place do learn. Furthermore, they were never yet able to find 
out the second intentions: insomuch that none of them all could 
ever see man himself in common, as they call him, though he be (as 
you know) bigger than ever was any giant, yea and pointed to of us 
even with our finger. But they be in the course of the stars, and the 
movings of the heavenly spheres very expert and cunning. They 
have also wittily excogitated and devised instruments of divers 
fashions: wherein is exactly comprehended and contained the mov- 
ings and situations of the sun, the moon, and of all the other stars, 
which appear in their horizon. But as for the amities and dissensions 
of the planets, and all that deceitful divination by the stars, they 
never as much as dreamed thereof. Rains, winds, and other courses 
of tempests they know before by certain tokens, which they have 
learned by long use and observation. But of the causes of all these 
things and of the ebbing, flowing and saltness of the sea, and finally 


of the original beginning and nature of heaven and of the world, 
they hold partly the same opinions that our old philosophers hold, 
and partly, as our philosophers vary among themselves, so they also, 
whiles they bring new reasons of things, do disagree from all them, 
and yet among themselves in all points they do not accord. In that 
part of philosophy, which treateth of manners and virtue, their rea- 
sons and opinions agree with ours. They dispute of the good quali- 
ties of the soul, of the body and of fortune. And whether the name 
of goodness may be applied to all these, or only to the endowments 
and gifts of the soul. 

They reason of virtue and pleasure. But the chief and principal 
question is in what thing, be it one or more, the felicity of man 
consisteth. But in this point they seem almost too much given and 
inclined to the opinion of them which defend pleasure, wherein they 
determine either all or the chiefest part of man's felicity to rest. And 
(which is more to be marvelled at) the defence of this so dainty and 
delicate an opinion they fetch even from their grave, sharp, bitter, 
and rigorous religion. For they never dispute of felicity or blessed- 
ness, but they join to the reasons of philosophy certain principles 
taken out of religion : without the which to the investigation of true 
felicity they think reason of itself weak and imperfect. Those prin- 
ciples be these and such like: That the soul is immortal, and by the 
bountiful goodness of God ordained to felicity. That to our virtues 
and good deeds rewards be appointed after this life, and to our evil 
deeds, punishments. Though these be pertaining to religion, yet 
they think it meet that they should be believed and granted by proofs 
of reason. But if these principles were condemned and disannulled, 
then without any delay they pronounce no man to be so foolish, 
which would not do all his diligence and endeavour to obtain pleas- 
ure by right or wrong, only avoiding this inconvenience, that the less 
pleasure should not be a let or hindrance to the bigger: or that he 
laboured not for that pleasure, which would bring after it displeas- 
ure, grief, and sorrow. For they judge it extreme madness to follow 
sharp and painful virtue, and not only to banish the pleasure of life, 
but also willingly to suffer grief without any hope of profit thereof. 
For what profit can there be, if a man, when he hath passed over 
all his life unpleasantly, that is to say, wretchedly, shall have no 


reward after his death ? But now, sir, they think not felicity to rest 
in all pleasure, but only in that pleasure that is good and honest, 
and that hereto, as to perfect blessedness our nature is allured and 
drawn even of virtue, whereto only they that be of the contrary 
opinion do attribute felicity. For they define virtue to be a life 
ordered according to nature, and that we be hereunto ordained of 
God. And that he doth follow the course of nature, which in desir- 
ing and refusing things is ruled by reason. Furthermore, that rea- 
son doth chiefly and principally kindle in men the love and venera- 
tion of the divine majesty. Of whose goodness it is that we be, and 
that we be in possibility to attain felicity. And that secondly, it 
moveth and provoketh us to lead our life out of care in joy and 
mirth, and to help all other in respect of the society of nature to 
obtain the same. For there was never man so earnest and painful a 
follower of virtue and hater of pleasure, that would so enjoin you 
labours, watchings and fastings, but he would also exhort you to 
ease and lighten, to your power, the lack and misery of others, prais- 
ing the same as a deed of humanity and pity. Then if it be a point 
of humanity for man to bring health and comfort to man, and spe- 
cially (which is a virtue most peculiarly belonging to man) to 
mitigate and assuage the grief of others, and by taking from them 
the sorrow and heaviness of life, to restore them to joy, that is to say, 
to pleasure: why may it not then be said, that nature doth provoke 
every man to do the same to himself? For a joyful life, that is 
to say, a pleasant life, is either evil, and if it be so, then thou 
shouldest not only help no man thereto, but rather, as much as in 
thee lieth, help all men from it, as noisome and hurtful, or else if 
thou not only mayst, but also of duty art bound to procure it to 
others, why not chiefly to thyself, to whom thou art bound to show 
as much favour as to other? For when nature biddeth thee to be 
good and gentle to other she commandeth thee not to be cruel and 
ungentle to thyself. Therefore even very nature (say they) pre- 
scribed to us a joyful life, that is to say, pleasure as the end of all 
our operations. And they define virtue to be life ordered according 
to the prescript of nature. But in that, that nature doth allure and 
provoke men one to help another to live merrily (which surely she 
doth not without a good cause, for no man is so far above the lot 


of man's state or condition, that nature doth cark and care for him 
only, which equally favoureth all that be comprehended under the 
communion of one shape, form and fashion) verily she commandeth 
thee to use diligent circumspection, that thou do not so seek for thine 
own commodities, that thou procure others incommodities. Where- 
fore their opinion is, that not only covenants and bargains made 
among private men ought to be well and faithfully fulfilled, observed, 
and kept, but also common laws, which either a good prince hath 
justly published, or else the people neither oppressed with tyranny, 
neither deceived by fraud and guile, hath by their common consent 
constituted and ratified, concerning the partition of the commodities 
of life, that is to say, the matter of pleasure. These laws not offended, 
it is wisdom, that thou look to thine own wealth. And to do the 
same for the commonwealth is no less than thy duty, if thou bearest 
any reverent love or any natural zeal and affection to thy native 
country. But to go about to let another man of his pleasure, whilst 
thou procurest thine own, that is open wrong. Contrariwise to 
withdraw something from thyself to give to other, that is a point of 
humanity and gentleness; which never taketh away so much com- 
modity, as it bringeth again. For it is recompensed with the return 
of benefits; and the conscience of the good deed, with the remem- 
brance of the thankful love and benevolence of them to whom thou 
hast done it, doth bring more pleasure to thy mind, than that which 
thou hast withholden from thyself could have brought to thy body. 
Finally (which to a godly disposed and a religious mind is easy to 
be persuaded) God recompenseth the gift of a short and small pleas- 
ure with great and everlasting joy. Therefore the matter diligently 
weighed and considered, thus they think, that all our actions, and 
in them the virtues themselves, be referred at the last to pleasure, 
as their end and felicity. Pleasure they call every motion and state 
of the body or mind wherein man hath naturally delectation. Appe- 
tite they join to nature, and that not without a good cause. For like 
as, not only the senses, but also right reason coveteth whatsoever is 
naturally pleasant, so that it may be gotten without wrong or injury, 
not letting or debarring a greater pleasure, nor causing painful 
labour, even so those things that men by vain imagination do feign 
against nature to be pleasant (as though it lay in their power to 


change the things, as they do the names o£ things) all such pleasures 
they believe to be of so small help and furtherance to felicity, that 
they count them great let and hindrance. Because that in whom 
they have once taken place, all his mind they possess with a false 
opinion of pleasure. So that there is no place left for true and natural 
delectations. For there be many things, which of their own nature 
contain no pleasantness: yea the most part of them much grief and 
sorrow. And yet through the perverse and malicious flickering en- 
ticements of lewd and unhonest desires, be taken not only for special 
and sovereign pleasures, but also be counted among the chief causes 
of life. In this counterfeit kind of pleasure they put them that I 
spake of before; which the better gown they have on, the better men 
they think themselves. In the which thing they do twice err. For 
they be no less deceived in that they think their gown the better, 
than they be, in that they think themselves the better. For if you 
consider the profitable use of the garment, why should wool of a 
finer spun thread be thought better, than the wool of a coarse spun 
thread? Yet they, as though the one did pass the other by nature, 
and not by their mistaking, advance themselves, and think the price 
of their own persons thereby greatly increased. And therefore the 
honour, which in a coarse gown they durst not have looked for, they 
require, as it were of duty, for their finer gown's sake. And if they 
be passed by without reverence, they take it angrily and disdainfully. 
And again is it not a like madness to take a pride in vain and un- 
profitable honours? For what natural or true pleasure dost thou 
take of another man's bare head, or bowed knees ? Will this ease the 
pain of thy knees, or remedy the frenzy of thy head ? In this image 
of counterfeit pleasure, they be of a marvellous madness, which for 
the opinion of nobility, rejoice much in their own conceit. Because 
it was their fortune to come of such ancestors, whose stock of long 
time hath been counted rich (for now nobility is nothing else) spe- 
cially rich in lands. And though their ancestors left them not one 
foot of land, yet they think themselves not the less noble therefore 
of one hair. In this number also they count them that take pleasure 
and delight (as I said) in gems and precious stones, and think them- 
selves almost gods, if they chance to get an excellent one, specially 
of that kind, which in that time of their own countrymen is had in 


highest estimation. For one kind of stone keepeth not his price still 
in all countries and at all times. Nor they buy them not, but taken 
out of the gold and bare: no, nor so neither, before they have made 
the seller to swear, that he will warrant and assure it to be a true 
stone, and no counterfeit gem. Such care they take lest a counterfeit 
stone should deceive their eyes instead of a right stone. But why 
shouldst thou not take even as much pleasure in beholding a counter- 
feit stone, which thine eye cannot discern from a right stone ? They 
should both be of like value to thee, even as to a blind man. What 
shall I say of them, that keep superfluous riches, to take delectation 
only in the beholding, and not in the use or occupying thereof ? Do 
they take true pleasure, or else be they deceived with false pleasure ? 
Or of them that be in a contrary vice, hiding the gold which they 
shall never occupy, nor peradventure never see more; ard whiles 
they take care lest they shall lose it, do lose it indeed ? For what is 
it else, when they hide it in the ground, taking it both from their 
own use, and perchance from all other men's also? And yet thou, 
when thou hast hid thy treasure, as one out of all care, hoppest for 
joy. The which treasure, if it should chance to be stolen, and thou 
ignorant of the theft shouldst die ten years after : all that ten years' 
space that thou livedst after thy money was stolen, what matter was 
it to thee, whether it had been taken away or else safe as thou leftest 
it? Truly both ways like profit came to thee. To these so foolish 
pleasures they join dicers, whose madness they know by hearsay and 
not by use. Hunters also, and hawkers, For what pleasure is there 
(say they) in casting the dice upon a table; which thou hast done 
so often, that if there were any pleasure in it, yet the oft use might 
make thee weary thereof? Or what delight can there be, and not 
rather displeasure in hearing the barking and howling of dogs ? Or 
what greater pleasure is there to be felt when a dog followeth an 
hare, than when a dog followeth a dog ? for one thing is done in both, 
that is to say, running, if thou hast pleasure therein. But if the hope 
of slaughter and the expectation of tearing in pieces the beast doth 
please thee: thou shouldest rather be moved with pity to see a silly 
innocent hare murdered of a dog, the weak of the stronger, the fear- 
ful of the fierce, the innocent of the cruel and unmerciful. There- 
fore all this exercise of hunting, as a thing unworthy to be used of 


free men, the Utopians have rejected to their butchers, to the which 
craft (as we said before) they appoint their bondmen. For they 
count hunting the lowest, the vilest, and most abject part of butchery, 
and the other parts of it more profitable and more honest, as which 
do bring much more commodity, and do kill beasts only for neces- 
sity. Whereas the hunter seeketh nothing but pleasure of the silly 
and woful beasts' slaughter and murder. The which pleasure, in 
beholding death, they think doth rise in the very beasts, either of a 
cruel affection of mind, or else to be changed in continuance of time 
into cruelty, by long use of so cruel a pleasure. These therefore and 
all such like, which be innumerable, though the common sort of 
people doth take them for pleasures, yet they, seeing there is no 
natural pleasantness in them, do plainly determine them to have no 
affinity with true and right pleasure. For as touching that they do 
commonly move the sense with delectation (which seemeth to be a 
work of pleasure) this doth nothing diminish their opinion. For not 
the nature of the thing, but their perverse and lewd custom is the 
cause hereof, which causeth them to accept bitter or sour things for 
sweet things. Even as women with child in. their viciated and cor- 
rupt taste, think pitch and tallow sweeter than any honey. Howbeit 
no man's judgment depraved and corrupt, either by sickness, or by 
custom, can change the nature of pleasure, more than it can do the 
nature of other things. 

They make divers kinds of true pleasures. For some they attribute 
to the soul, and some to the body. To the soul they give intelligence 
and that delectation that cometh of the contemplation of truth. 
Hereunto is joined the pleasant remembrance of the good life past. 
The pleasure of the body they divide into two parts. The first is 
when delectation is sensibly felt and perceived. The second part of 
bodily pleasure, they say, is that which consisteth and resteth in the 
quiet and upright state of the body. And that truly is every man's 
own proper health, intermingled and disturbed with no grief. For 
this, if it be not let nor assaulted with no grief, is delectable of itself, 
though it be moved with no external or outward pleasure. For 
though it be not so plain and manifest to the sense, as the greedy lust 
of eating and drinking, yet nevertheless many take it for the chiefest 
pleasure. All the Utopians grant it to be a right great pleasure, and 


as you would say, the foundation and ground of. all pleasures, as 
which even alone is able to make the state and condition of life 
delectable and pleasant. And it being once taken away, there is no 
place left for any pleasure. For to be without grief not having health, 
that they call insensibility, and not pleasure. The Utopians have 
long ago rejected and condemned the opinion of them which said 
that steadfast and quiet health (for this question also hath been 
diligently debated among them) ought not therefore to be counted 
a pleasure, because they say it cannot be presently and sensibly per- 
ceived and felt by some outward motion. But of the contrary part 
now they agree almost all in this, that health is a most sovereign 
pleasure. For seeing that in sickness (say they) is grief, which is a 
mortal enemy to pleasure, even as sickness is to health, why should 
not then pleasure be in the quietness of health? For they say it 
maketh nothing to this matter, whether you say that sickness is a 
grief, or that in sickness is grief, for all cometh to one purpose. For 
whether health be a pleasure itself, or a necessary cause of pleasure, 
as fire is of heat, truly both ways it followeth that they cannot be 
without pleasure that be in perfect health. Furthermore whilest we 
eat (say they) then health, which began to be impaired, fighteth by 
the help of food against hunger. In the which fight, whilest health 
by little and little getteth the upper hand, that same proceeding, and 
(as ye would say) that onwardness to the wonted strength, min- 
istreth that pleasure, whereby we be so refreshed. Health therefore, 
which in the conflict is joyful, shall it not be merry, when it hath 
gotten the victory? But as soon as it hath recovered the pristinate 
strength, which thing only in all the fight it coveted, shall it incon- 
tinent be astonished? Nor shall it not know nor embrace the own 
wealth and goodness ? For that it is said, health cannot be felt : this, 
they think, is nothing true. For what man waking, say they, feeleth 
not himself in health, but he that is not? Is there any man so pos- 
sessed with stonish insensibility, or with the sleeping sickness, that 
he will not grant health to be acceptable to him, and delectable? But 
what other thing is delectation, than that which by another name is 
called pleasure? They embrace chiefly the pleasures of the mind. 
For them they count the chiefest and most principal of all. The 
chief part of them they think doth come of the exercise of virtue, 


and conscience of good life. Of these pleasures that the body min- 
istreth, they give the pre-eminence to health. For the delight of eat- 
ing and drinking, and whatsoever hath any like pleasantness, they de- 
termine to be pleasures much to be desired, but no other ways than for 
health's sake. For such things of their own proper nature be not 
pleasant, but in that they resist sickness privily stealing on. There- 
fore like as it is a wise man's part, rather to avoid sickness, than to 
wish for medicines, and rather to drive away and put to flight care- 
ful griefs, than to call for comfort: so it is much better not to need 
this kind of pleasure, than in curing the contrary grief to be eased of 
the same. The which kind of pleasure, if any man take for his 
felicity, that man must needs grant, that then he shall be in most 
felicity, if he live that life, which is led in continual hunger, thirst, 
itching, eating, drinking, scratching and rubbing. The which life 
how not only foul it is, but also miserable and wretched who per- 
ceiveth not ? These doubtless be the basest pleasures of all, as impure 
and imperfect. For they never come, but accompanied with their 
contrary griefs. As with the pleasure of eating is joined hunger, and 
that after no very equal sort. For of these two the grief is both the 
more vehement, and also of longer continuance. For it riseth before 
the pleasure, and endeth not until the pleasure die with it. Where- 
fore such pleasures they think not greatly to be set by, but in that 
they be necessary. Howbeit they have delight also in these, and 
thankfully acknowledge the tender love of mother nature, which 
with most pleasant delectation allureth her children to that, which 
of necessity they be driven often to use. For how wretched and 
miserable should our life be, if these daily griefs of hunger and 
thirst could not be driven away, but with bitter potions and sour 
medicines, as the other diseases be, wherewith we be seldomer 
troubled? But beauty, strength, nimbleness, these as peculiar and 
pleasant gifts of nature they make much of. But those pleasures 
which be received by the ears, the eyes and the nose, which nature 
willeth to be proper and peculiar to man (for no other kind of living 
beasts doth behold the fairness and the beauty of the world, or is 
moved with any respect of savours, but only for the diversity of 
meats, neither perceiveth the concordant and discordant distances 
of sounds and tunes) these pleasures, I say, they accept and allow 


as certain pleasant rejoicings of life. But in all things this precaution 
they use, that a less pleasure hinder not a bigger, and that the pleas- 
ure be no cause of displeasure, which they think to follow of neces- 
sity, if the pleasure be unhonest. But yet to despise the comeliness 
of beauty, to waste the bodily strength, to turn nimbleness into slug- 
gishness, to consume and make feeble the body with fasting, to do 
injury to health, and to reject the other pleasant motions of nature 
unless a man neglect these his commodities, whilest he doth with a 
fervent zeal procure the wealth of others, or the common profit, 
for the which pleasure forborn, he is in hope of a greater pleasure 
at God's hand; else for a vain shadow of virtue, for the wealth and 
profit of no man, to punish himself, or to the intent he may be able 
courageously to suffer adversities, which perchance shall never come 
to him; this to do they think it a point of extreme madness, and a 
token of a man cruelly minded towards himself, and unkind toward 
nature, as one so disdaining to be in her danger, that he renounceth 
and refuseth all her benefits. 

This is their sentence and opinion of virtue and pleasure. And 
they believe that by man's reason none can be found truer than this, 
unless any godlier be inspired into man from heaven. Wherein 
whether they believe well or no, neither the time doth suffer us to 
discuss, neither it is now necessary. For we have taken upon us to 
show and declare their lores and ordinances, and not to defend them. 
But this thing I believe verily, howsoever these decrees be, that there 
is in no place of the world, neither a more excellent people, neither 
a more flourishing commonwealth. They be light and quick of 
body, full of activity and nimbleness, and of more strength than a 
man would judge them by their stature, which for all that is not too 
low. And though their soil be not very fruitful, nor their air very 
wholesome, yet against the air they so defend them with temperate 
diet, and so order and husband their ground with diligent travail, 
that in no country is greater increase, and plenty of corn and cattle, 
nor men's bodies of longer life, and subject or apt to fewer diseases. 
There therefore, a man may see well and diligently exploited and 
furnished, not only those things which husbandmen do commonly 
in other countries, as by craft and cunning to remedy the barrenness 
of the ground; but also a whole wood by the hands of the people 


plucked up by the roots in one place, and set again in another place. 
Wherein was had regard and consideration, not of plenty but of 
commodious carriage, that wood and timber might be nigher to the 
sea, or the rivers or the cities. For it is less labour and business to 
carry grain far by land, than wood. The people be gentle, merry, 
quick, and fine witted, delighting in quietness, and when need 
requireth, able to abide and suffer much bodily labour. Else they be 
not greatly desirous and fond of it; but in the exercise and study 
of the mind they be never weary. When they had heard me speak 
of the Greek literature or learning (for in Latin there was nothing 
that I thought they would greatly allow, besides historians and 
poets) they made wonderful earnest and importunate suit unto me 
that I would teach and instruct them in that tongue and learning. 
I began therefore to read unto them, at the first truly more because 
I would not seem to refuse the labour, than that I hoped that they 
would anything profit therein. But when I had gone forward a 
little, and perceived incontinent by their diligence, that my labour 
should not be bestowed in vain; for they began so easily to fashion 
their letters, so plainly to pronounce the words, so quickly to learn 
by heart, and so surely to rehearse the same, that I marvelled at it, 
saving that the most part of them were fine and chosen wits and of 
ripe age, picked out of the company of the learned men, which not 
only of their own free and voluntary will, but also by the command- 
ment of the council, undertook to learn this language. Therefore 
in less than three years' space there was nothing in the Greek tongue 
that they lacked. They were able to read good authors without any 
stay, if the book were not false. This kind of learning, as I suppose, 
they took so much the sooner, because it is somewhat allied to them. 
For I think that this nation took their beginning of the Greeks, 
because their speech, which in all other points is not much unlike 
the Persian tongue, keepeth divers signs and tokens of the Greek 
language in the names of their cities and of their magistrates. They 
have of me (for when I was determined to enter into my fourth 
voyage, I cast into the ship in the stead of merchandise a pretty 
fardel of books, because I intended to come again rather never, than 
shortly) the most part of Plato's works, more of Aristotle's, also 
Theophrastus of plants, but in divers places (which I am sorry for) 


imperfect. For whilst we were sailing, a marmoset chanced upon 
the book, as it was negligently laid by, which wantonly playing there- 
with plucked out certain leaves, and tore them in pieces. Of them 
that have written the grammar, they have only Lascaris. For Theo- 
dorus I carried not with me, nor never a dictionary but Hesychius, 
and Dioscorides. They set great store by Plutarch's books. And they 
be delighted with Lucian's merry conceits and jests. Of the poets 
they have Aristophanes, Homer, Euripides, and Sophocles in Aldus' 
small print. Of the historians they have Thucydides, Herodotus, and 
Herodian. Also my companion, Tricius Apinatus, carried with him 
physic books, certain small works of Hippocrates and Galen's Micro- 
techne. The which book they have in great estimation. For though 
there be almost no nation under heaven that hath less need of physic 
than they, yet this notwithstanding, physic is nowhere in greater 
honour; because they count the knowledge of it among the good- 
liest and most profitable parts of philosophy. For whilest they by 
the help of this philosophy search out the secret mysteries of nature, 
they think that they not only receive thereby wonderful great pleas- 
ure, but also obtain great thanks and favour of the author and maker 
thereof. Whom they think, according to the fashion of other arti- 
ficers, to have set forth the marvellous and gorgeous frame of the 
world for man to behold. Whom only he hath made of wit and 
capacity to consider and understand the excellence of so great a work. 
And therefore (say they) doth he bear more goodwill and love to 
the curious and diligent beholder and viewer of his work and mar- 
veller at the same, than he doth to him, which like a very beast 
without wit and reason, or as one without sense or moving, hath no 
regard to so great and so wonderful a spectacle. The wits there- 
fore of the Utopians, inured and exercised in learning, be marvel- 
lous quick in the invention of feats helping anything to the advan- 
tage and wealth of life. Howbeit two feats they may thank us for. 
That is, the science of imprinting, and the craft of making paper. 
And yet not only us but chiefly and principally themselves. 

For when we showed to them Aldus his print in books of paper, 
and told them of the stuff whereof paper is made, and of the feat 
of graving letters, speaking somewhat more, than we could plainly 
declare (for there was none of us, that knew perfectly either the 


one or the other) they forthwith very wittily conjectured the thing. 
And whereas before they wrote only in skins, in barks of trees, and 
in reeds, now they have attempted to make paper, and to imprint 
letters. And though at the first it proved not all of the best, yet by 
often assaying the same they shortly got the feat of both. And have 
so brought the matter about that if they had copies of Greek 
authors, they could lack no books. But now they have no more than 
I rehearsed before, saving that by printing of books they have multi- 
plied and increased the same into many thousands of copies. Who- 
soever cometh thither to see the land, being excellent in any gift 
of wit, or through much and long journeying well experienced and 
seen in the knowledge of many countries (for the which cause we 
were very welcome to them) him they receive and entertain wonders 
gently and lovingly. For they have delight to hear what is done in 
every land, howbeit very few merchantmen come thither, for what 
should they bring thither, unless it were iron, or else gold and silver, 
which they had rather carry home again? Also such things as are 
to be carried out of their land, they think it more wisdom to carry 
that gear forth themselves, than that others, should come thither to 
fetch it, to the intent they may the better know the outlands on 
every side of them, and keep in use the feat and knowledge of 

Of Bondmen, Sicf^ Persons, Wedloc\, and divers other matters 

They neither make bondmen of prisoners taken in battle, unless 
it be in battle that they fought themselves, nor of bondmen's chil- 
dren, nor to be short, any man whom they can get out of another 
country, though he were there a bondman. But either such as among 
themselves for heinous offences be punished with bondage, or else 
such as in the cities of other lands for great trespasses be condemned 
to death. And of this sort of bondmen they have most store. 

For many of them they bring home sometimes paying very little 
for them, yea most commonly getting them gratis. These sorts of 
bondmen they keep not only in continual work and labour, but also 
in bands. But their own men they handle hardest, whom they judge 
more desperate, and to have deserved greater punishment, because 
they being so godly brought up to virtue in so excellent a common- 


wealth, could not for all that be refrained from misdoing. Another 
kind of bondmen they have, when a vile drudge being a poor 
labourer in another country doth choose of his own free will to be a 
bondman among them. These they handle and order honestly, and 
entertain almost as gently as their own free citizens, saving that they 
put them to a little more labour, as thereto accustomed. If any such 
be disposed to depart thence (which seldom is seen) they neither 
hold him against his will, neither send him away with empty hands. 
The sick (as I said) they see to with great affection, and let nothing 
at all pass concerning either physic or good diet whereby they may 
be restored again to their health. Them that be sick of incurable 
diseases they comfort with sitting by them, with talking with them, 
and to be short, with all manner of helps that may be. But if the 
disease be not only incurable, but also full of continual pain and 
anguish; then the priests and the magistrates exhort the man, seeing 
he is not able to do any duty of life, and by overliving his own 
death is noisome and irksome to other, and grievous to himself, that 
he will determine with himself no longer to cherish that pestilent 
and painful disease. And seeing his life is to him but a torment, 
that he will not be unwilling to die, but rather take a good hope to 
him, and either despatch himself out of that painful life, as out of 
a prison, or a rack of torment, or else suffer himself willingly to be 
rid out of it by other. And in so doing they tell him he shall do 
wisely, seeing by his death he shall lose no commodity, but end his 
pain. And because in that act he shall follow the counsel of the 
priests, that is to say, of the interpreters of God's will and pleas- 
ure, they show him that he shall do like a godly and a virtuous man. 
They that be thus persuaded, finish their lives willingly, either with 
hunger, or else die in their sleep without any feeling of death. But 
they cause none such to die against his will, nor they use no less 
diligence and attendance about him, believing this to be an honour- 
able death. Else he that killeth himself before that the priests and 
the council have allowed the cause of his death, him as unworthy 
both of the earth and of fire, they cast unburied into some stinking 
marsh. The woman is not married before she be eighteen years 
old. The man is four years older before he marry. 
If either the man or the woman be proved to have bodily offended 


before their marriage with another, he or she whether it be is sharply 
punished. And both the offenders be forbidden ever after in all 
their life to marry: unless the fault be forgiven by the prince's par- 
don. But both the goodman and the goodwife of the house where 
that offence was done, as being slack and negligent in looking to 
their charge, be in danger of great reproach and infamy. That 
offence is so sharply punished, because they perceive, that unless 
they be diligently kept from the liberty of this vice, few will join 
together in the love of marriage, wherein all the life must be led 
with one, and also all the griefs and displeasures that come there- 
with must patiently be taken and borne. Furthermore in choosing 
wives and husbands they observe earnestly and straitly a custom, 
which seemed to us very fond and foolish. For a sad and an honest 
matron showeth the woman, be she maid or widow, naked to the 
wooer. And likewise a sage and discreet man exhibiteth the wooer 
naked to the woman. At this custom we laughed and disallowed 
it as foolish. But they on the other part do greatly wonder at the 
folly of all other nations, which in buying a colt, whereas a little 
money is in hazard, be so chary and circumspect, that though he be 
almost all bare, yet they will not buy him, unless the saddle and all 
the harness be taken off, lest under those coverings be hid some gall 
or sore. And yet in choosing a wife, which shall be either pleasure, 
or displeasure to them all their life after, they be so reckless, that all 
the residue of the woman's body being covered with clothes, they 
esteem her scarcely by one hand-breadth (for they can see no more 
but her face), and so do join her to them not without great jeopardy 
of evil agreeing together, if anything in her body afterward do offend 
and mislike them. 

For all men be not so wise, as to have respect to the virtuous con- 
ditions of the party. And the endowments of the body cause the 
virtues of the mind more to be esteemed and regarded: yea even in 
the marriages of wise men. Verily so foul deformity may be hid 
under those coverings, that it may quite alienate and take away the 
man's mind from his wife, when it shall not be lawful for their 
bodies to be separate again. If such deformity happen by any chance 
after the marriage is consummate and finished, well, there is no 
remedy but patience. Every man must take his fortune, well-a- 


worth. But it were well done that a law were made whereby all 
such deceits might be eschewed and avoided beforehand. 

And this were they constrained more earnesdy to look upon, 
because they only of the nations in that part of the world be content 
every man with one wife apiece. 

And matrimony is there never broken, but by death; except 
adultery break the bond, or else the intolerable wayward manners 
of either party. For if either of them find themselves for any such 
cause grieved, they may by the licence of the council change and 
take another. But the other party liveth ever after in infamy and 
out of wedlocks But for the husband to put way his wife for no 
fault, but for that some mishap is fallen to her body, this by no 
means they will suffer. For they judge it a great point of cruelty, 
that anybody in their most need of help and comfort should be cast 
off and forsaken, and that old age, which both bringeth sickness 
with it, and is a sickness itself, should unkindly and unfaithfully 
be dealt withal. But now and then it chanceth, whereas the man and 
the woman cannot well agree between themselves, both of them 
finding other, with whom they hope to live more quietly and mer- 
rily, that they by the full consent of them both be divorced asunder 
and new married to other. But that not without the authority of 
the council; which agreeth to no divorces, before they and their 
wives have diligently tried and examined the matter. Yea and then 
also they be loath to consent to it, because they know this to be the 
next way to break love between man and wife, to be in easy hope 
of a new marriage. Breakers of wedlock be punished with most 
grievous bondage. And if both the offenders were married, then the 
parties which in that behalf have suffered wrong, be divorced from 
the adulterers, if they will, and be married together, or else to whom 
they list. But if either of them both do still continue in love toward 
so unkind a bedfellow, the use of wedlock is not to them forbidden, 
if the party be disposed to follow in toiling and drudgery the person 
which for that offence is condemned to bondage. And very oft it 
chanceth that the repentance of the one, and the earnest diligence 
of the other, doth so move the prince with pity and compassion, 
that he restoreth the bond person from servitude to liberty and free- 
dom again. But if the same party be taken again in that fault there 


is no other way but death. To other trespassers there is no prescript 
punishment appointed by any law. But according to the heinous- 
ness of the offence, or contrary, so the punishment is moderated by 
the discretion of the council. The husbands chastise their wives, 
and the parents their children, unless they have done any so horrible 
an offence, that the open punishment thereof maketh much for the 
advancement of honest manners. But most commonly the most 
heinous faults be punished with the incommodity of bondage. For 
that they suppose to be to the offenders no less grief, and to the 
commonwealth more profitable, than if they should hastily put them 
to death, and make them out of the way. For there cometh more 
profit of their labour, than of their death, and by their example they 
fear other the longer from like offences. But if they being thus used, 
do rebel and kick again, then forsooth they be slain as desperate and 
wild beasts, whom neither prison nor chain could restrain and keep 
under. But they which take their bondage patiently be not left all 
hopeless. For after they have been broken and tamed with long 
miseries, if then they show such repentance, whereby it may be per- 
ceived that they be sorrier for their offence than for their punishment, 
sometimes by the prince's prerogative, and sometimes by the voice 
and consent of the people, their bondage either is mitigated, or else 
clean remitted and forgiven. He that moveth to adultery is in no 
less danger and jeopardy than if he had committed adultery indeed. 
For in all offences they count the intent and pretensed purpose as 
evil as the act or deed itself, for they think that no let ought to excuse 
him that did his best to have no let. They set great store by fools. 
And as it is great reproach to do to any of them hurt or injury, so 
they prohibit not to take pleasure of foolishness. For that, they 
think, doth much good to the fools. And if any man be so sad and 
stern, that he cannot laugh neither at their words, nor at their deeds, 
none of them be committed to his tuition; for fear lest he would not 
order them gently and favourably enough, to whom they should 
bring no delectation (for other goodness in them is none) much 
less any profit should they yield him. To mock a man for his de- 
formity, or for that he lacketh any part or limb of his body, is 
counted great dishonesty and reproach, not to him that is mocked, 
but to him that mocketh. Which unwisely doth upbraid any man of 


that as a vice which was not in his power to eschew. Also as they 
count and reckon very little wit to be in him, that regardeth not 
natural beauty and comeliness, so to help the same with paintings, 
is taken for a vain and a wanton pride, not without great infamy. 
For they know, even by very experience, that no comeliness of beauty 
doth so highly commend and advance the wives in the conceit of 
their husbands, as honest conditions and lowliness. For as love is 
oftentimes won with beauty, so it is not kept, preserved and con- 
tinued, but by virtue and obedience. They do not only fear their 
people from doing evil by punishments, but also allure them to 
virtue with rewards of honour. Therefore they set up in the market- 
place the images of notable men, and of such as have been great 
and bountiful benefactors to the commonwealth, for the perpetual 
memory of their good acts, and also that the glory and renown of 
the ancestors may stir and provoke their posterity to virtue. He that 
inordinately and ambitiously desireth promotions is left all hopeless 
for ever attaining any promotion as long as he liveth. They live 
together lovingly. For no magistrate is either haughty or fearful. 
Fathers they be called, and like fathers they use themselves. The 
citizens (as it is their duty) do willingly exhibit unto them due 
honour without any compulsion. Nor the prince himself is not 
known from the other by his apparel, nor by a crown or diadem, or 
cap of maintenance, but by a little sheaf of corn carried before him. 
And so a taper of wax is borne before the bishop, whereby only he 
is known. They have but few laws. For to people so instruct and 
institute very few do suffice. Yea this thing they chiefly reprove 
among other nations, that innumerable books of laws and exposi- 
tions upon the same be not sufficient. But they think it against all 
right and justice that men should be bound to those laws, which 
either be in number more than be able to be read, or else blinder and 
darker, than that any man can well understand them. Furthermore 
they utterly exclude and banish all proctors, and sergeants at the 
law; which craftily handle matters, and subtly dispute of the laws. 
For they think it most meet, that every man should plead his own 
matter, and tell the same tale before the judge that he would tell 
to his man of law. So shall there be less circumstance of words, and 
the truth shall sooner come to light, whiles the judge with a discreet 


judgment doth weigh the words of him whom no lawyer hath in- 
struct with deceit, and whiles he helpeth and beareth out simple 
wits against the false and malicious circumventions of crafty chil- 
dren. This is hard to be observed in other countries, in so infinite a 
number of blind and intricate laws. But in Utopia every man is a 
cunning lawyer. For (as I said) they have very few laws; and the 
plainer and grosser that any interpretation is, that they allow as 
most just. For all laws (say they) be made and published only to 
the intent that by them every man should be put in remembrance 
of his duty. But the crafty and subtle interpretation of them can 
put very few in that remembrance (for they be but few that do per- 
ceive them), whereas the simple, the plain and gross meaning of the 
laws is open to every man. 

Else as touching the vulgar sort of the people, which be both most 
in number, and have most need to know their duties, were it not 
as good for them, that no law were made at all, as when it is made, 
to bring so blind an interpretation upon it, that without great wit 
and long arguing no man can discuss it ? To the finding out whereof 
neither the gross judgment of the people can attain, neither the 
whole life of them that be occupied in working for their livings can 
suffice thereto. These virtues of the Utopians have caused their next 
neighbours and borderers, which live free and under no subjection 
(for the Utopians long ago, have delivered many of them from 
tyranny) to take magistrates of them, some for a year, and some for 
five years' space. Which when the time of their office is expired, 
they bring home again with honour and praise, and take new ones 
again with them into their country. These nations have undoubtedly 
very well and wholesomely provided for their commonwealths. 
For seeing that both the making and the marring of the weal public 
doth depend and hang upon the manners of the rulers and magis- 
trates, what officers could they more wisely have chosen, than those 
which cannot be led from honesty by bribes (for to them that shortly 
after shall depart thence into their own country money should be 
unprofitable) nor yet be moved either with favour, or malice towards 
any man, as being strangers, and unacquainted with the people? 
The which two vices of affection and avarice, where they take place 
in judgments, incontinent they break justice, the strongest and 


surest bond o£ a commonwealth. These peoples which fetch their 
officers and rulers from them, the Utopians call their fellows. And 
other to whom they have been beneficial, they call their friends. As 
touching leagues, which in other places beween country and coun- 
try be so oft concluded, broken and made again, they never make 
none with any nation. For to what purpose serve leagues ? say they. 
As though nature had not set sufficient love between man and man. 
And who so regardeth not nature, think you that he will pass for 
words? They be brought into this opinion chiefly, because that in 
those parts of the world, leagues between princes be wont to be kept 
and observed very slenderly. For here in Europe, and especially in 
these parts where the faith and religion of Christ reigneth, the 
majesty of leagues is everywhere esteemed holy and inviolable, pardy 
through the justice and goodness of princes, and partly through the 
reverence of great bishops. Which like as they make no promise 
themselves but they do very religiously perform the same, so they 
exhort all princes in any wise to abide by their promises, and them 
that refuse or deny so to do, by their pontifical power and authority 
they compel thereto. And surely they think well that it might seem 
a very reproachful thing,, if in the leagues of them which by a 
peculiar name be called faithful, faith should have no place. But in 
that new found part of the world, which is scarcely so far from us 
beyond the line equinoctial as our life and manners be dissident 
from theirs, no trust nor confidence is in leagues. But the more and 
holier ceremonies the league is knit up with, the sooner it is broken 
by some cavillation found in the words, which many times of pur- 
pose be so craftily put in and placed, that the bands can never be 
so sure nor so strong, but they will find some hole open to creep 
out at, and to break both league and truth. The which crafty deal- 
ing, yea the which fraud and deceit, if they should know it to be 
practised among private men in their bargains and contracts, they 
would incontinent cry out at it with a sour countenance, as an 
offence most detestable, and worthy to be punished with a shame- 
ful death: yea even very they that advance themselves authors of 
like council given to princes. Wherefore it may well be thought, 
either that all justice is but a base and a low virtue, and which 
abaseth itself far under the high dignity of kings; or at the least- 


wise, that there be two justices, the one meet for the inferior sort of 
the people, going afoot and creeping below on the ground, and 
bound down on every side with many bands because it shall not run 
at rovers; the other a princely virtue, which like as it is of much 
higher majesty than the other poor justice, so also it is of much more 
liberty, as to the which nothing is unlawful that it lusteth after. 
These manners of princes (as I said) which be there so evil keepers 
of leagues, cause the Utopians, as I suppose, to make no leagues at 
all, which perchance would change their mind if they lived here. 
Howbeit they think that though leagues be never so faithfully 
observed and kept, yet the custom of making leagues was very evil 
begun. For this causeth men (as though nations which be separate 
asunder, by the space of a little hill or a river, were coupled together 
by no society or bond of nature) to think themselves born adversaries 
and enemies one to another, and that it is lawful for the one to seek 
the death and destruction of the other, if leagues were not: yea, and 
that after the leagues be accorded, friendship doth not grow and 
increase; but the licence of robbing and stealing doth still remain, as 
farforth as for lack of foresight and advisement in writing the 
words of the league, any sentence or clause to the contrary is not 
therein sufficiently comprehended. But they be of a contrary opinion. 
That is, that no man ought to be counted an enemy, which hath 
done no injury. And that the fellowship of nature is a strong league; 
and that men be better and more surely knit together by love and 
benevolence, than by covenants of leagues; by hearty affection of 
mind, than by words. 

Of Warfare 

War or battle as a thing very beastly, and yet to no kind of beasts 
in so much use as it is to man, they do detest and abhor. And con- 
trary to the custom almost of all other nations, they count nothing 
so much against glory, as glory gotten in war. And therefore 
though they do daily practise and exercise themselves in the dis- 
cipline of war, and that not only the men, but also the women upon 
certain appointed days, lest they should be to seek in the feat of 
arms, if need should require, yet they never [to] go to battle, but 


either in the defence of their own country, or to drive out of their 
friends' land the enemies that have invaded it, or by their power 
to deliver from the yoke and bondage of tyranny some people, that 
be oppressed with tyranny. Which thing they do of mere pity and 
compassion. Howbeit they send help to their friends; not ever in 
their defence, but sometimes also to requite and revenge injuries 
before to them done. But this they do not unless their counsel and 
advice in the matter be asked, whilest it is yet new and fresh. For 
if they find the cause probable, and if the contrary part will not 
restore again such things as be of them justly demanded, then they 
be the chief authors and makers of the war. Which they do not only 
as oft as by inroads and invasions of soldiers, preys and booties be 
driven away, but then also much more mortally, when their friends' 
merchants in any land, either under the pretence of unjust laws, or 
else by the wresting and wrong understanding of good laws, do 
sustain an unjust accusation under the colour of justice. Neither 
the battle which the Utopians fought for the Nephelogetes against 
the Alaopolitanes a little before our time was made for any other 
cause, but that the Nephelogete merchantmen, as the Utopians 
thought, suffered wrong of the Alaopolitanes, under the pretence of 
right. But whether it were right or wrong, it was with so cruel and 
mortal war revenged, the countries round about joining their help 
and power to the puissance and malice of both parties, that most 
nourishing and wealthy peoples, being some of them shrewdly 
shaken, and some of them sharply beaten, the mischiefs were not 
finished nor ended, until the Alaopolitanes at the last were yielded 
up as bondmen into the jurisdiction of the Nephelogetes. For the 
Utopians fought not this war for themselves. And yet the Nephe- 
logetes before the war, when the Alaopolitanes nourished in wealth, 
were nothing to be compared with them. So eagerly the Utopians 
prosecute the injuries done to their friends, yea, in money matters; 
and not their own likewise. For if they by cunning or guile be de- 
frauded of their goods, so that no violence be done to their bodies, 
they wreak their anger by abstaining from occupying with that 
nation, until they have made satisfaction. Not for because they set 
less store by their own citizens, than by their friends; but that they 
take the loss of their friends' money more heavily than the loss of 


their own. Because that their friends' merchantmen, forasmuch as 
that they lose is their own private goods, sustain great damage by 
the loss. But their own citizens lose nothing but of the common 
goods, and of that which was at home plentiful and almost super- 
fluous, else had it not been sent forth. Therefore no man feeleth 
the loss. And for this cause they think it too cruel an act, to revenge 
that loss with the death of many, the incommodity of the which loss 
no man feeleth neither in his life, neither in his living. But if it 
chance that any of their men in any other country be maimed or 
killed, whether it be done by a common or a private counsel, know- 
ing and trying out the truth of the matter by their ambassadors, 
unless the offenders be rendered unto them in recompense of the 
injury, they will not be appeased; but incontinent they proclaim 
war against them. The offenders yielded, they punish either with 
death or with bondage. They be not only sorry, but also ashamed 
to achieve the victory with much bloodshed, counting it great folly 
to buy precious wares too dear. They rejoice and avaunt themselves, 
if they vanquish and oppress their enemies by craft and deceit. And 
for that act they make a general triumph, and as if the matter were 
manfully handled, they set up a pillar of stone in the place where 
they so vanquished their enemies, in token of the victory. For then 
they glory, then they boast and crack that they have played the men 
indeed, when they have so overcome, as no other living creature but 
only man could; that is to say, by the might and puissance of wit. 
For with bodily strength (say they) bears, lions, boars, wolves, dogs 
and other wild beasts do fight. And as the most part of them do pass 
us in strength and fierce courage, so in wit and reason we be much 
stronger than they all. Their chief and principal purpose in war, 
is to obtain that thing, which if they had before obtained, they would 
not have moved battle. But if that be not possible, they take so cruel 
vengeance of them, which be in the fault, that ever after they be 
afraid to do the like. This is their chief and principal intent, which 
they immediately and first of all prosecute, and set forward. But 
yet so, that they be more circumspect in avoiding and eschewing 
jeopardies, than they be desirous of praise and renown. Therefore 
immediately after that war is once solemnly denounced, they pro- 
cure many proclamations signed with their own common seal to be 


set up privily at one time in their enemies' land, in places most 
frequented. In these proclamations they promise great rewards to 
him that will kill their enemies' prince, and somewhat less gifts, but 
them very great also, for every head of them, whose names be in 
the said proclamations contained. They be those whom they count 
their chief adversaries, next unto the prince. Whatsoever is pre- 
scribed unto him that killeth any of the proclaimed persons, that is 
doubled to him that bringeth any of the same to them alive; yea, 
and to the proclaimed persons themselves, if they will change their 
minds and come into them, taking their parts, they proffer the same 
great rewards with pardon and surety of their lives. Therefore it 
quickly cometh to pass that they have all other men in suspicion, 
and be unfaithful and mistrusting among themselves one to another, 
living in great fear, and in no less jeopardy. For it is well known, 
that divers times the most part of them (and specially the prince 
himself) hath been betrayed of them, in whom they put their most 
hope and trust. So that there is no manner of act nor deed that gifts 
and rewards do not enforce men unto. And in rewards they keep 
no measure. But remembering and considering into how great 
hazard and jeopardy they call them, endeavour themselves to recom- 
pense the greatness of the danger with like great benefits. And 
therefore they promise not only wonderful great abundance of gold, 
but also lands of great revenues lying in most safe places among their 
friends. And their promises they perform faithfully without any 
fraud or deceit. This custom of buying and selling adversaries among 
other people is disallowed, as a cruel act of a base and a cowardish 
mind. But they in this behalf think themselves much praiseworthy, 
as who like wise men by this means despatch great wars without 
any battle or skirmish. Yea they count it also a deed of pity and 
mercy, because that by the death of a few offenders the lives of a 
great number of innocents, as well of their own men as also of their 
enemies, be ransomed and saved, which in fighting should have 
been slain. For they do no less pity the base and common sort of 
their enemies' people, than they do their own; knowing that they 
be driven to war against their wills by the furious madness of their 
princes and heads. If by none of these means the matter go forward 
as they would have it, then they procure occasions of debate and 


dissension to be spread among their enemies. As by bringing the 
prince's brother, or some of the noblemen, in hope to obtain the 
kingdom. If this way prevail not, then they raise up the people that 
be next neighbours and borderers to their enemies, and them they 
set in their necks under the colour of some old title of right, such as 
kings do never lack. To them they promise their help and aid in 
their war. And as for money they give them abundance. But of 
their own citizens they send to them few or none. Whom they 
make so much of and love so entirely, that they would not be willing 
to change any of them for their adversary's prince. But their gold 
and silver, because they keep it all for this only purpose, they lay it 
out frankly and freely; as who should live even as wealthily, if they 
had bestowed it every penny. Yea, and besides their riches, which 
they keep at home, they have also an infinite treasure abroad, by 
reason that (as I said before) many nations be in their debt. There- 
fore they hire soldiers out of all countries and send them to battle, 
but chiefly of the Zapoletes. This people is five hundred miles from 
Utopia eastward. They be hideous, savage and fierce, dwelling in 
wild woods and high mountains, where they were bred and brought 
up. They be of an hard nature, able to abide and sustain heat, cold 
and labour, abhorring from all delicate dainties, occupying no hus- 
bandry nor tillage of the ground, homely and rude both in the 
building of their houses and in their apparel, given unto no good- 
ness, but only to the breeding and bringing up of cattle. The most 
part of their living is by hunting and stealing. They be born only 
to war, which they diligently and earnestly seek for. And when 
they have gotten it, they be wonders glad thereof. They go forth of 
their country in great companies together, and whosoever lacketh 
soldiers, there they proffer their service for small wages. This is 
only the craft that they have to get their living by. They maintain 
their life by seeking their death. For them with whom they be in 
wages they fight hardily, fiercely, and faithfully. But they bind them- 
selves for no certain time. But upon this condition they enter into 
bonds, that the next day they will take part with the other side for 
greater wages, and the next day after that, they will be ready to 
come back again for a little more money. There be few wars there- 
away, wherein is not a great number of them in both parties. There- 


fore it daily chanceth that nigh kinsfolk, which were hired together 
on one part, and there very friendly and familiarly used themselves 
one with another, shortly after being separate into contrary parts, 
run one against another enviously and fiercely, and forgetting both 
kindred and friendship, thrust their swords one in another. And 
that for none other cause, but that they be hired of contrary princes 
for a little money. Which they do so highly regard and esteem, 
that they will easily be provoked to change parts for a halfpenny 
more wages by the day. So quickly they have taken a smack in 
covetousness. Which for all that is to them no profit. For that they 
get by fighting, immediately they spend unthriftily and wretchedly 
in riot. This people fight for the Utopians against all nations, because 
they give them greater wages than any other nation will. For the 
Utopians like as they seek good men to use well, so they seek these 
evil and vicious men to abuse. Whom, when need requireth, with 
promises of great rewards they put forth into great jeopardies. From 
whence the most part of them never cometh again to ask their 
rewards. But to them that remain alive they pay that which they 
promised faithfully, that they may be the more willing to put them- 
selves in like dangers another time. Nor the Utopians pass not how 
many of them they bring to destruction. For they believe that they 
should do a very good deed for all mankind, if they could rid out 
of the world all that foul stinking den of that most wicked and 
cursed people. Next unto these they use the soldiers of them whom 
they fight for. And then the help of their other friends. And last of 
all, they join to their own citizens. Among whom they give to one 
of tried virtue and prowess the rule, governance, and conduction of 
the whole army. Under him they appoint two other, which, whilest 
he is safe, be both private and out of office. But if he be taken or 
slain, the one of the other two succeedeth him, as it were by in- 
heritance. And if the second miscarry, then the third taketh his 
room, lest that (as the chance of battle is uncertain and doubtful) 
the jeopardy or death of the captain should bring the whole army 
in hazard. They choose soldiers, out of every city, those which put 
forth themselves willingly. For they thrust no man forth into war 
against his will. Because they believe, if any man be fearful and 
faint-hearted of nature, he will not only do no manful and hardy 


act himself, but also be occasion of cowardice to his fellows. But if 
any battle be made against their own country, then they put these 
cowards (so that they be strong-bodied) in ships among other bold- 
hearted men. Or else they dispose them upon the walls, from whence 
they may not fly. Thus what for shame that their enemies be at 
hand, and what for because they be without hope of running away, 
they forget all fear. And many times extreme necessity turneth cow- 
ardice into prowess and manliness. But as none of them is thrust 
forth of his country into war against his will, so women that be will- 
ing to accompany their husbands in times of war be not prohibited 
or stopped. Yet they provoke and exhort them to it with praises. 
And in set field the wives do stand every one by her own husband's 
side. Also every man is compassed next about with his own children, 
kinsfolks, and alliance; that they, whom nature chiefly moveth to 
mutual succour, thus standing together, may help one another. It 
is a great reproach and dishonesty for the husband to come home 
without his wife, or the wife without her husband, or the son with- 
out his father. And therefore if the other part stick so hard by it 
that the battle come to their hands, it is fought with great slaughter 
and bloodshed, even to the utter destruction of both parts. For as 
they make all the means and shifts that may be to keep themselves 
from the necessity of fighting, so that they may despatch the battle 
by their hired soldiers; so when there is no remedy, but that they 
must needs fight themselves, then they do as courageously fall to it, 
as before, whiles they might, they did wisely avoid it. Nor they be 
not most fierce at the first brunt. But in continuance by little and 
little their fierce courage increaseth, with so stubborn and obstinate 
minds, that they will rather die than give back an inch. For that 
surety of living, which every man hath at home being joined with 
no careful anxiety or remembrance how their posterity shall live 
after them (for this pensiveness oftentimes breaketh and abateth 
courageous stomachs) maketh them stout and hardy, and disdainful 
to be conquered. Moreover their knowledge in chivalry and feats 
of arms putteth them in a good hope. Finally the wholesome and 
virtuous opinions, wherein they were brought up even from their 
childhood, partly through learning, and partly through the good 
ordinances and laws of their weal public, augment and increase their 


manful courage. By reason whereof they neither set so little store by 
their lives, that they will rashly and unadvisedly cast them away: 
nor they be not so far in lewd and fond love therewith, that they 
will shamefully covet to keep them, when honesty biddeth leave 
them. When the batde is hottest and in all places most fierce and 
fervent, a band of chosen and picked young men, which be sworn 
to live and die together, take upon them to destroy their adversary's 
captain. Him they invade, now with privy wiles, now by open 
strength. At him they strike both near and far off. He is assailed 
with a long and a continual assault, fresh men still coming in the 
wearied men's places. And seldom it chanceth (unless he save him- 
self by flying) that he is not either slain, or else taken prisoner and 
yielded to his enemies alive. If they win the field, they persecute 
not their enemies with the violent rage of slaughter. For they had 
rather take them alive than kill them. Neither they do so follow 
the chase and pursuit of their enemies, but they leave behind them 
one part of their host in battle array under their standards. Inso- 
much that if all their whole army be discomfited and overcome sav- 
ing the rearward, and that they therewith achieve the victory, then 
they had rather let all their enemies 'scape, than to follow them out 
of array. For they remember, it hath chanced unto themselves more 
than once; the whole power and strength of their host being van- 
quished and put to flight, whilest their enemies rejoicing in the vic- 
tory have persecuted them flying some one way and some another; 
a few of their men lying in an ambush, there ready at all occasions, 
have suddenly risen upon them thus dispersed and scattered out of 
array, and through presumption of safety unadvisedly pursuing the 
chase, and have incontinent changed the fortune of the whole battle, 
and spite of their teeth wresting out of their hands the sure and 
undoubted victory, being a little before conquered, have for their 
part conquered the conquerors. It is hard to say whether they be 
craftier in laying an ambush, or wittier in avoiding the same. You 
would think they intend to fly, when they mean nothing less. And 
contrariwise when they go about that purpose, you would believe it 
were the least part of their thought. For if they perceive themselves 
either overmatched in number, or closed in too narrow a place, then 
they remove their camp either in the night season with silence, or 


by some policy they deceive their enemies, or in the daytime they 
retire back so softly, that it is no less jeopardy to meddle with them 
when they give back, than when they press on. They fence and 
fortify their camp surely with a deep and a broad trench. The earth 
thereof is cast inward. Nor they do not set drudges and slaves awork 
about it. It is done by the hands of the soldiers themselves. All the 
whole army worketh upon it, except them that watch in harness 
before the trench for sudden adventures. Therefore by the labour 
of so many a large trench closing in a great compass of ground is 
made in less time than any man would believe. Their armour or 
harness, which they wear, is sure and strong to receive strokes, and 
handsome for all movings and gestures of the body, insomuch that 
it is not unwieldy to swim in. For in the discipline of their warfare 
among other feats they learn to swim in harness. Their weapons be 
arrows afar off, which they shoot both strongly and surely, not only 
footmen, but also horsemen. At hand strokes they use not swords 
but pollaxes, which be mortal, as well in sharpness, as in weight, 
both for foins and down strokes. Engines for war they devise and 
invent wonders wittily. Which when they be made they keep very 
secret, lest if they should be known before need require, they should 
be but laughed at and serve to no purpose. But in making them, 
hereunto they have chief respect, that they be both easy to be carried, 
and handsome to be moved and turned about. Truce taken with 
their enemies for a short time they do so firmly and faithfully keep, 
that they will not break it; no, not though they be thereunto pro- 
voked. They do not waste nor destroy their enemies' land with 
foragings, nor they burn not up their corn. Yea, they save it as much 
as may be from being overrun and trodden down either with men 
or horses, thinking that it groweth for their own use and profit. 
They hurt no man that is unarmed, unless he be an espial. All cities 
that be yielded unto them they defend. And such as they win by 
force of assault, they neither despoil nor sack, but them that with- 
stood and dissuaded the yielding up of the same, they put to death; 
the other soldiers they punish with bondage. All the weak multitude 
they leave untouched. If they know that any citizens counselled to 
yield and render up the city, to them they give part of the condemned 
men's goods. The residue they distribute and give freely among 


them, whose help they had in the same war. For none of themselves 
taketh any portion of the prey. But when the battle is finished and 
ended, they put their friends to never a penny cost of all the charges 
that they were at, but lay it upon their necks that be conquered. 
Them they burden with the whole charge of their expenses, which 
they demand of them partly in money to be kept for like use of 
battle, and partly in lands of great revenues to be paid unto them 
yearly for ever. Such revenues they have now in many countries. 
Which by little and little rising of divers and sundry causes be 
increased above seven hundred thousand ducats by the year. Thither 
they send forth some of their citizens as lieutenants, to live there 
sumptuously like men of honour and renown. And yet, this not- 
withstanding, much money is saved, which cometh to the common 
treasury; unless it so chance that they had rather trust the country 
with the money. Which many times they do so long, until they 
have need to occupy it. And it seldom happeneth that they demand 
all. Of these lands they assign part unto them which, at their request 
and exhortation, put themselves in such jeopardies as I spake of be- 
fore. If any prince stir up war against them, intending to invade 
their land, they meet him incontinent out of their own borders with 
great power and strength. For they never lightly make war in their 
own countries. Nor they be never brought into so extreme necessity 
as to take help out of foreign lands into their own island. 

Of the Religions in Utopia 

There be divers kinds of religion not only in sundry parts of the 
island, but also in divers places of every city. Some worship for 
God, the sun; some, the moon; some, some other of the planets. 
There be that give worship to a man that was once of excellent virtue 
or of famous glory, not only as God, but also as the chiefest and 
highest God. But the most and the wisest part (rejecting all these) 
believe that there is a certain godly power unknown, everlasting, 
incomprehensible, inexplicable, far above the capacity and reach of 
man's wit, dispersed throughout all the world, not in bigness, but in 
virtue and power. Him they call the father of all. To him alone 
they attribute the beginnings, the increasings, the proceedings, the 


changes and the ends of all things. Neither they give divine honours 
to any other than to him. Yea all the other also, though they be in 
divers opinions, yet in this point they agree all together with the 
wisest sort, in believing that there is one chief and principal God, 
the maker and ruler of the whole world: whom they all commonly 
in their country language call Mithra. But in this they disagree, 
that among some he is counted one, and among some another. For 
every one of them, whatsoever that is which he taketh for the chief 
God, thinketh it to be the very same nature, to whose only divine 
might and majesty the sum and sovereignty of all things by the con- 
sent of all people is attributed and given. Howbeit they all begin by 
little and little to forsake and fall from this variety of superstitions, 
and to agree together in that religion which seemeth by reason to 
pass and excel the residue. And it is not to be doubted, but all the 
other would long ago have been abolished, but that whatsoever un- 
prosperous thing happened to any of them, as he was minded to 
change his religion, the fearfulness of people did take it, not as a 
thing coming by chance, but as sent from God out of heaven. As 
though the God whose honour he was forsaking would revenge that 
wicked purpose against him. But after they heard us speak of the 
name of Christ, of his doctrine, laws, miracles, and of the no less 
wonderful constancy of so many martyrs, whose blood willingly 
shed brought a great number of nations throughout all parts of the 
world into their sect; you will not believe with how glad minds, 
they agreed unto the same : whether it were by the secret inspiration 
of God, or else for that they thought it next unto that opinion, which 
among them is counted the chiefest. Howbeit I think this was no 
small help and furtherance in the matter, that they heard us say, 
that Christ instituted among his, all things common; and that the 
same community doth yet remain amongst the Tightest Christian 
companies. Verily howsoever, it came to pass, many of them con- 
sented together in our religion, and were washed in the holy water 
of baptism. But because among us four (for no more of us was 
left alive, two of our company being dead) there was no priest; 
which I am right sorry for; they being entered and instructed in 
all other points of our religion, lack only those sacraments, which 
here none but priests do minister. Howbeit they understand and 


perceive them and be very desirous of the same. Yea, they reason 
and dispute the matter earnestly among themselves, whether with- 
out the sending of a Christian bishop, one chosen out of their own 
people may receive the order of priesthood. And truly they were 
minded to choose one. But at my departure from them they had 
chosen none. They also which do not agree to Christ's religion, 
tear no man irom it, nor speak against any man that hath received 
it. Saving that one of our company in my presence was sharply 
punished. He as soon as he was baptised began against our wills, 
with more earnest affection than wisdom, to reason of Christ's 
religion; and began to wax so hot in his matter, that he did not only 
prefer our religion before all other, but also did utterly despise and 
condemn all other, calling them profane, and the followers of them 
wicked and devilish and the children of everlasting damnation. 
When he had thus long reasoned the matter, they laid hold on him, 
accused him and condemned him into exile, not as a despiser of 
religion, but as a seditious person and a raiser up of dissension among 
the people. For this is one of the ancientest laws among them; that 
no man shall be blamed for reasoning in the maintenance of his 
own religion. For King Utopus, even at the first beginning, hear- 
ing that the inhabitants of the land were, before his coming thither, 
at continual dissension and strife among themselves for their re- 
ligions; perceiving also that this common dissension (whilest every 
several sect took several parts in fighting for their country) was the 
only occasion of his conquest over them all : as soon as he had gotten 
the victory, first of all he made a decree, that it should be lawful for 
every man to favour and follow what religion he would, and that 
he might do the best he could to bring other to his opinion, so that 
he did it peaceably, gently, quietly, and soberly, without haste and 
contentious rebuking and inveighing against other. If he could not 
by fair and gentle speech induce them unto his opinion yet he should 
use no kind of violence, and refrain from displeasant and seditious 
words. To him that would vehemently and fervently in this cause 
strive and contend was decreed banishment or bondage. This law 
did King Utopus make not only for the maintenance of peace, which 
he saw through continual contention and mortal hatred utterly 
extinguished; but also because he thought this decree should make 


for the furtherance of religion. Whereof he durst define and deter- 
mine nothing unadvisedly, as doubting whether God desiring mani- 
fold and divers sorts of honour, would inspire sundry men with 
sundry kinds of religion. And this surely he thought a very unmeet 
and foolish thing, and a point of arrogant presumption, to compel 
all other by violence and threatenings to agree to the same that thou 
believest to be true. Furthermore though there be one religion which 
alone is true, and all other vain and superstitious, yet did he well 
foresee (so that the matter were handled with reason, and sober 
modesty) that the truth of its own power would at the last issue 
out and come to light. But if contention and debate in that behalf 
should continually be used, as the worst men be most obstinate and 
stubborn, and in their evil opinion most constant; he perceived that 
then the best and holiest religion would be trodden underfoot and 
destroyed by most vain superstitions, even as good corn is by thorns 
and weeds overgrown and choked. Therefore all this matter he left 
undiscussed, and gave to every man free liberty and choice to believe 
what he would. Saving that he earnestly and straighdy charged 
them, that no man should conceive so vile and base an opinion of 
the dignity of man's nature, as to think that the souls do die and 
perish with the body; or that the world runneth at all adventures 
governed by no divine providence. And therefore they believe that 
after this life vices be extremely punished and virtues bountifully 
rewarded. Him that is of a contrary opinion they count not in the 
number of men, as one that hath abased the high nature of his soul 
to the vileness of brute beasts' bodies, much less in the number of 
their citizens, whose laws and ordinances, if it were not for fear, he 
would nothing at all esteem. For you may be sure that he will study 
either with craft privily to mock, or else violently to break the com- 
mon laws of his country, in whom remaineth no further fear than of 
the laws, nor no further hope than of the body. Wherefore he that 
is thus minded is deprived of all honours, excluded from all offices 
and rejected from all common administrations in the weal public. 
And thus he is of all sort despised, as of an unprofitable and of a base 
and vile nature. Howbeit they put him to no punishment, because 
they be persuaded that it is in no man's power to believe what he list. 
No, nor they constrain him not with threatenings to dissemble his 


mind and show countenance contrary to his thought. For deceit 
and falsehood and all manner of lies, as next unto fraud, they do 
marvellously detest and abhor. But they suffer him not to dispute in 
his opinion, and that only among the common people. For else 
apart among the priests and men of gravity they do not only suffer, 
but also exhort him to dispute and argue, hoping that at the last, 
that madness will give place to reason. There be also other, and of 
them no small number, which be not forbidden to speak their minds, 
as grounding their opinion upon some reason, being in their living 
neither evil nor vicious. Their heresy is much contrary to the other. 
For they believe that the souls of brute beasts be immortal and ever- 
lasting. But nothing to be compared with ours in dignity, neither 
ordained and predestinate to like felicity. For all they believe cer- 
tainly and surely that man's bliss shall be so great, that they do 
mourn and lament every man's sickness, but no man's death, unless 
it be one whom they see depart from his life carefully and against 
his will. For this they take for a very evil token, as though the soul 
being in despair and vexed in conscience, through some privy and 
secret forefeeling of the punishment now at hand, were afraid to 
depart. And they think he shall not be welcome to God, which, 
when he is called, runneth not to him gladly, but is drawn by force 
and sore against his will. They therefore that see this kind of death 
do abhor it, and them that so die they bury with sorrow and silence. 
And when they have prayed God to be merciful to the soul and mer- 
cifully to pardon the infirmities thereof, they cover the dead corse 
with earth. Contrariwise all that depart merrily and full of good 
hope, for them no man mourneth, but followeth the hearse with 
joyful singing, commending the souls to God with great affection. 
And at the last, not with mourning sorrow, but with a great rev- 
erence they burn the bodies. And in the same place they set up a 
pillar of stone, with the dead man's titles therein graved. When 
they be come home they rehearse his virtuous manners and his good 
deeds. But no part of his life is so oft or gladly talked of as his 
merry death. They think that this remembrance of their virtue and 
goodness doth vehemendy provoke and enforce the quick to virtue. 
And that nothing can be more pleasant and acceptable to the dead. 
Whom they suppose to be present among them, when they talk of 


them, though to the dull and feeble eyesight of mortal men they 
be invisible. For it were an inconvenient thing that the blessed 
should not be at liberty to go whither they would. And it were a 
point of great unkindness in them to have utterly cast away the 
desire of visiting and seeing their friends, to whom they were in their 
lifetime joined by mutual love and charity. Which in good men 
after their death they count to be rather increased than diminished. 
They believe therefore that the dead be presently conversant among 
the quick, as beholders and witnesses of all their words and deeds. 
Therefore, they go more courageously to their business as having a 
trust and affiance in such overseers. And this same belief of the 
present conversation of their forefathers and ancestors among them 
feareth them from all secret dishonesty. They utterly despise and 
mock soothsayings and divinations of things to come by the flight 
or voices of birds, and all other divinations of vain superstition, 
which in other countries be in great observation. But they highly 
esteem and worship miracles that come by no help of nature, as 
works and witnesses of the present power of God. And such they 
say do chance there very often. And sometimes in great and doubt- 
ful matters, by common intercession and prayers, they procure and 
obtain them with a sure hope and confidence, and a steadfast belief. 
They think that the contemplation of nature and the praise thereof 
coming, is to God a very acceptable honour. Yet there be many so 
earnestly bent and affectioned to religion, that they pass nothing 
for learning, nor give their minds to no knowledge of things. But 
idleness they utterly forsake and eschew, thinking felicity after this 
life to be gotten and obtained by busy labours and good exercises. 
Some therefore of them attend upon the sick, some amend high- 
ways, cleanse ditches, repair bridges, dig turfs, gravel and stones, 
fell and cleave wood, bring wood, corn, and other things into the 
cities in carts, and serve not only in common works, but also in 
private labours as servants, yea, more than bondmen. For whatso- 
ever unpleasant, hard and vile work is anywhere, from the which 
labour, loathsomeness and desperation doth frighten other, all that 
they take upon them willingly and gladly, procuring quiet and rest 
to other, remaining in continual work and labour themselves, not 
upbraiding others therewith. They neither reprove other men's 


lives, nor glory in their own. These men the more serviceable they 
behave themselves, the more they be honoured of all men. Yet they 
be divided into two sects. The one is of them that live single and 
chaste, abstaining not only from the company of women, but also 
from the eating of flesh, and some of them from all manner of 
beasts. Which utterly rejecting the pleasures of this present life as 
hurtful, be all wholly set upon the desire of the life to come by 
watching and sweating, hoping shortly to obtain it, being in the 
mean season merry and lusty. The other sect is no less desirous of 
labour, but they embrace matrimony, not despising the solace 
thereof, thinking that they cannot be discharged of their bounden 
duties towards nature without labour and toil, nor towards their 
native country without procreation of children. They abstain from 
no pleasure that doth nothing hinder them from labour. They 
love the flesh of four-footed beasts, because they believe that by that 
meat they be made hardier and stronger to work. The Utopians 
count this sect the wiser, but the other the holier. Which, in that 
they prefer single life before matrimony, and that sharp life before 
an easier life, if herein they grounded upon reason they would mock 
them. But now forasmuch as they say they be led to it by religion, 
they honour and worship them. And these be they whom in their 
language by a peculiar name, they call Buthrescas, the which word by 
interpretation signifieth to us men of religion or religious men. They 
have priests of exceeding holiness, and therefore very few. For there 
be but thirteen in every city according to the number of their 
churches, saving when they go forth to battle. For then seven of 
them go forth with the army; in whose stead so many new be made 
at home. But the other at their return home again re-enter every 
one into his own place, they that be above the number, until such 
time as they succeed into the places of the other at their dying, be in 
the mean season continually in company with the bishop. For he is 
the chief head of them all. They be chosen of the people, as the 
other magistrates be, by secret voices for the avoiding of strife. 
After their election they be consecrate of their own company. They 
be overseers of all divine matters, orderers of religions, and as it 
were judges and masters of manners. And it is a great dishonesty 
and shame to be rebuked or spoken to by any of them for dissolute 


and incontinent living. But as it is their office to give good exhorta- 
tions and counsel, so is it the duty of the prince and the other 
magistrates to correct and punish offenders, saving that the priests, 
whom they find exceeding vicious livers, them they excommunicate 
from having any interest in divine matters. And there is almost no 
punishment among them more feared. For they run in very great 
infamy, and be inwardly tormented with a secret fear of religion, 
and shall not long 'scape free with their bodies. For unless they by 
quick repentance approve the amendment of their lives to the priests, 
they be taken and punished of the council, as wicked and irre- 
ligious. Both childhood and youth is instructed and taught of them. 
Nor they be not more diligent to instruct them in learning, than 
in virtue and good manners. For they use with very great endeavour 
and diligence to put into the heads of their children, whiles they be 
yet tender and pliant, good opinions and profitable for the conserva- 
tion of their weal public. Which when they be once rooted in chil- 
dren, do remain with them all their life after, and be wonders 
profitable for the defence and maintenance of the state of the com- 
monwealth. Which never decayeth but through vices rising of evil 
opinions. The priests, unless they be women (for that kind is not 
excluded from priesthood, howbeit few be chosen, and none but 
widows and old women), the men priests, I say, take to their wives 
the chiefest women in all their country. For to no office among the 
Utopians is more honour and pre-eminence given. Insomuch that 
if they commit any offence, they be under no common judgment, 
but be left only to God, and themselves. For they think it not law- 
ful to touch him with man's hand, be he never so vicious, which 
after so singular a sort was dedicate and consecrate to God, as a 
holy offering. This manner may they easily observe, because they 
have so few priests, and do choose them with such circumspection. 
For it scarcely ever chanceth that the most virtuous among virtuous, 
which in respect only of his virtue is advanced to so high a dignity, 
can fall to vice and wickedness. And if it should chance indeed (as 
man's nature is mutable and frail) yet by reason they be so few 
and promoted to no might nor power, but only honour, it were not 
to be feared that any great damage by them should happen and 
ensue to the commonwealth. They have so rare and few priests, lest 


if the honour were communicate to many, the dignity of the order, 
which among them now is so highly esteemed, should run in con- 
tempt. Specially because they think it hard to find many so good as 
to be meet for that dignity, to the execution and discharge whereof 
it is not sufficient to be endued with mean virtues. Furthermore 
these priests be not more esteemed of their own countrymen, than 
they be of foreign and strange countries. Which thing may hereby 
plainly appear. And I think also that this is the cause of it. For 
whiles the arm[i]es be fighting together in open field, they a little 
beside, not far off kneel upon their knees in their hallowed vest- 
ments, holding up their hands to heaven, praying first of all for 
peace, next for victory of their own part, but to neither part a bloody 
victory. If their host get the upper hand, they run into the main 
battle and restrain their own men from slaying and cruelly pur- 
suing their vanquished enemies. Which enemies, if they do but see 
them and speak to them, it is enough for the safeguard of their lives. 
And the touching of their clothes defendeth and saveth all their 
goods from ravine and spoil. This thing hath advanced them to so 
great worship and true majesty among all nations, that many times 
they have as well preserved their own citizens from the cruel force 
of their enemies, as they have their enemies from the furious rage of 
their own men. For it is well known, that when their own army 
hath reculed and in despair turned back and run away, their enemies 
fiercely pursuing with slaughter and spoil, then the priests coming 
between have stayed the murder, and parted both the hosts. So that 
peace hath been made and concluded between both parts upon 
equal and indifferent conditions. For there was never any nation, 
so fierce, so cruel and rude, but they had them in such reverence, 
that they counted their bodies hallowed and sanctified, and therefore 
not to be violently and unreverently touched. 

They keep holy day the first and the last day of every month and 
year, dividing the year into months, which they measure by the 
course of the moon, as they do the year by the course of the sun. 
The first days they call in their language Cynemernes and the last 
Trapemernes, the which words may be interpreted, primifest and 
finifest, or else in our speech, first feast and last feast. Their churches 
be very gorgeous and not only of fine and curious workmanship, 


but also (which in the fewness of them was necessary) very wide 
and large, and able to receive a great company of people. But they 
be all somewhat dark. Howbeit that was not done through igno- 
rance in building, but as they say, by the counsel of the priests. Be- 
cause they thought that over much light doth disperse men's cogita- 
tions, whereas in dim and doubtful light they be gathered together, 
and more earnestly fixed upon religion and devotion; which because 
it is not there of one sort among all men, and yet all the kinds and 
fashions of it, though they be sundry and manifold, agree together 
in the honour of the divine nature as going divers ways to one end; 
therefore nothing is seen nor heard in the churches, which seemeth 
not to agree indifferently with them all. If there be a distinct kind 
of sacrifice peculiar to any several sect, that they execute at home in 
their own houses. The common sacrifices be so ordered, that they 
be no derogation nor prejudice to any of the private sacrifices and 
religions. Therefore, no image of any god is seen in the church, to 
the intent it may be free for every man to conceive God by their 
religion after what likeness and similitude they will. They call 
upon no peculiar name of God, but only Mithra, in the which word 
they all agree together in one nature of the divine majesty what- 
soever it be. No prayers be used but such as every man may boldly 
pronounce without the offending of any sect. They come therefore 
to the church the last day of every month and year, in the evening yet 
fasting, there to give thanks to God for that they have prosperously 
passed over the year or month, whereof that holy day is the last day. 
The next day they come to the church early in the morning, to pray 
to God that they may have good fortune and success all the new 
year or month which they do begin of that same holy day. But in 
the holy days that be the last days of the months and years before 
they come to the church, the wives fall down prostrate before their 
husbands' feet at home and the children before the feet of their 
parents, confessing and acknowledging that they have offended either 
by some actual deed, or by omission of their duty, and desire pardon 
for their offence. Thus, if any cloud of privy displeasure was risen 
at home, by this satisfaction it is overblown, that they may be pres- 
ent at the sacrifices with pure and charitable minds. For they be 
afraid to come there with troubled consciences. Therefore, if they 


know themselves to bear any hatred or grudge towards any man, 
they presume not to come to the sacrifices, before they have recon- 
ciled themselves and purged their consciences, for fear of great 
vengeance and punishment for their offence. When they come 
thither, the men go into the right side of the church and the women 
into the left side. There they place themselves in such order, that 
all they which be of the male kind in every household sit before 
the goodman of the house, and they of the female kind before the 
goodwife. Thus it is foreseen that all their gestures and behaviours 
be marked and observed abroad of them by whose authority and dis- 
cipline they be governed at home. This also they diligently see 
unto, that the younger evermore be coupled with his elder, lest if 
children be joined together, they should pass over that time in child- 
ish wantonness, wherein they ought principally to conceive a religious 
and devout fear towards God, which is the chief and almost the 
only incitation to virtue. They kill no living beast in sacrifice, nor 
they think not that the merciful clemency of God hath delight in 
blood and slaughter, which hath given life to beasts to the intent 
they should live. They burn frankincense and other sweet savours, 
and light also a great number of wax candles and tapers, not suppos- 
ing this gear to be anything available to the divine nature, as neither 
the prayers of men. But this unhurtful and harmless kind of wor- 
ship pleaseth them. And by these sweet savours and lights, and other 
such ceremonies men feel themselves secretly lifted up and encour- 
aged to devotion with more willing and fervent hearts. The people 
weareth in the church white apparel. The priest is clothed in 
changeable colours. Which in workmanship be excellent, but in 
stuff not very precious. For their vestments be neither embroidered 
with gold, nor set with precious stones. But they be wrought so 
finely and cunningly with divers feathers of fowls, that the estima- 
tion of no costly stuff is able to countervail the price of the work. 
Furthermore in these birds' feathers, and in the due order of them, 
which is observed in their setting, they say, is contained certain 
divine mysteries. The interpretation whereof known, which is dili- 
gently taught by the priests, they be put in remembrance of the 
bountiful benefits of God toward them; and of the love and honour 
which of their behalf is due to God; and also of their duties one 


toward another. When the priest first cometh out of the vestry thus 
apparelled, they fall down incontinent every one reverently to the 
ground, with so still silence on every part, that the very fashion of 
the thing striketh into them a certain fear of God, as though he 
were there personally present. When they have lain a little space on 
the ground, the priest giveth them a sign for to rise. Then they sing 
praises unto God, which they intermix with instruments of music, 
for the most part of other fashions than these that we use in this 
part of the world. And like as some of ours be much sweeter than 
theirs, so some of theirs do far pass ours. But in one thing doubtless 
they go exceeding far beyond us. For all their music, both that 
they play upon instruments, and that they sing with man's voice, 
doth so resemble and express natural affections, the sound and tune 
is so applied and made agreeable to the thing, that whether it be a 
prayer, or else a ditty of gladness, of patience, of trouble, of mourn- 
ing, or of anger; the fashion of the melody doth so represent the 
meaning of the thing, that it doth wonderfully move, stir, pierce 
and inflame the hearers' minds. At the last the people and the priest 
together rehearse solemn prayers in words, expressly pronounced, 
so made that every man may privately apply to himself that which 
is commonly spoken of all. In these prayers every man recogniseth 
and acknowledgeth God to be his maker, his governor and the 
principal cause of all other goodness, thanking him for so many 
benefits received at his hand. But namely that through the favour 
of God he hath chanced into that public weal, which is most happy 
and wealthy, and hath chosen that religion, which he hopeth to be 
most true. In the which thing if he do anything err, or if there be 
any other better than either of them is, being more acceptable to 
God, he desireth him that he will of his goodness let him have 
knowledge thereof, as one that is ready to follow what way soever 
he will lead him. But if this form and fashion of a commonwealth 
be best, and his own religion most true and perfect, then he desireth 
God to give him a constant steadfastness in the same, and to bring 
all other people to the same order of living and to the same opinion 
of God, unless there be anything that in this diversity of religions 
doth delight his unsearchable pleasure. To be short, he prayeth him 
that after his death he may come to him. But how soon or late that 


he dare not assign or determine. Howbeit, if it might stand with 
his majesty's pleasure, he would be much gladder to die a painful 
death and so to go to God, than by long living in worldly prosperity 
to be away from him. When this prayer is said they fall down to the 
ground again and a little after they rise up and go to dinner. And 
the residue of the day they pass over in plays and exercise of chivalry. 
Now I have declared and described unto you, as truly as I could 
the form and order of that commonwealth, which verily in my 
judgment is not only the best, but also that which alone of good right 
may claim and take upon it the name of a commonwealth or public 
weal. For in other places they speak still of the commonwealth, but 
every man procureth his own private wealth. Here where nothing 
is private, the common affairs be earnestly looked upon. And truly 
on both parts they have good cause so to do as they do. For in other 
countries who knoweth not that he shall starve for hunger, unless 
he make some several provision for himself, though the common- 
wealth flourish never so much in riches? And therefore he is com- 
pelled even of very necessity to have regard to himself, rather than 
to the people, that is to say, to other. Contrariwise, there where all 
things be common to every man, it is not to be doubted that any 
man shall lack anything necessary for his private uses, so that the 
common storehouses and barns be sufficiently stored. For there 
nothing is distributed after a niggish sort, neither there is any poor 
man or beggar. And though no man have anything, yet every man 
is rich. For what can be more rich, than to live joyfully and merrily, 
without all grief and pensiveness; not caring for his own living, nor 
vexed or troubled with his wife's importunate complaints, not dread- 
ing poverty to his son, nor sorrowing for his daughter's dowry? 
Yea they take no care at all for the living and wealth of themselves 
and all theirs, of their wives, their children, their nephews, their 
children's children, and all the succession that ever shall follow in 
their posterity. And yet besides this there is no less provision for 
them that were once labourers and be now weak and impotent, than 
for them that do now labour and take pain. Here now would I see, 
if any man dare be so bold as to compare with this equity, the justice 
of other nations; among whom, I forsake God, if I can find any 
sign or token of equity and justice. For what justice is this, that a 


rich goldsmith, or an usurer, or to be short, any of them which either 
do nothing at all, or else that which they do is such that it is not 
very necessary to the commonwealth, should have a pleasant and a 
wealthy living, either by idleness, or by unnecessary business; when 
in the meantime poor labourers, carters, ironsmiths, carpenters and 
ploughmen, by so great and continual toil, as drawing and bearing 
beasts be scant able to sustain, and again so necessary toil, that with- 
out it no commonwealth were able to continue and endure one year, 
do yet get so hard and poor a living, and live so wretched and miser- 
able a life, that the state and condition of the labouring beasts may 
seem much better and wealthier? For they be not put to so con- 
tinual labour, nor their living is not much worse, yea to them much 
pleasanter, taking no thought in the mean season for the time to 
come. But these silly poor wretches be presently tormented with 
barren and unfruitful labour. And the remembrance of their poor 
indigent and beggarly old age killeth them up. For their daily wages 
is so little, that it will not suffice for the same day, much less it 
yieldeth any overplus, that may daily be laid up for the relief of old 
age. Is not this an unjust and an unkind public weal, which giveth 
great fees and rewards to gentlemen, as they call them, and to gold- 
smiths, and to such other, which be either idle persons, or else only 
flatterers, and devisers of vain pleasures; and of the contrary part 
maketh no gentle provision for poor ploughmen, colliers, labourers, 
carters, ironsmiths, and carpenters: without whom no common- 
wealth can continue. But when it hath abused the labours of their 
lusty and flowering age, at the last when they be oppressed with old 
age and sickness, being needy, poor, and indigent of all things, then 
forgetting their so many painful watchings, not remembering their 
so many and so great benefits, recompenseth and acquitteth them 
most unkindly with miserable death. And yet besides this the rich 
men not only by private fraud, but also by common laws, do every 
day pluck and snatch away from the poor some part of their daily 
living. So whereas it seemed before unjust to recompense with un- 
kindness their pains that have been beneficial to the public weal, 
now they have to this their wrong and unjust dealing (which is yet 
a much worse point) given the name of justice, yea and that by force 
of a law. Therefore, when I consider and weigh in my mind all these 


commonwealths, which nowadays anywhere do flourish, so God help 
me, I can perceive nothing but a certain conspiracy of rich men pro- 
curing their own commodities under the name and title of the 
commonwealth. They invent and devise all means and crafts, first 
how to keep safely, without fear of losing, that they have unjusdy 
gathered together, and next how to hire and abuse the work and 
labour of the poor for as little money as may be. These devices, 
when the rich men have decreed to be kept and observed for the 
commonwealth's sake, that is to say for the wealth also of the poor 
people, then they be made laws. But these most wicked and 
vicious men, when they have by their insatiable covetousness divided 
among themselves all those things, which would have sufficed all 
men, yet how far be they from the wealth and felicity of the Utopian 
commonwealth? Out of the which, in that all the desire of money 
with the use thereof is utterly secluded and banished, how great a 
heap of cares is cut away! How great an occasion of wickedness and 
mischief is plucked up by the roots! For who knoweth not, that 
fraud, theft, ravine, brawling, quarreling, brabling, strife, chiding, 
contention, murder, treason, poisoning, which by daily punishments 
are rather revenged than refrained, do die when money dieth? And 
also that fear, grief, care, labours and watchings do perish even the 
very same moment that money perisheth ? Yea poverty itself, which 
only seemed to lack money, if money were gone, it also would de- 
crease and vanish away. And that you may perceive this more 
plainly, consider with yourselves some barren and unfruitful year, 
wherein many thousands of people have starved for hunger. I dare 
be bold to say, that in the end of that penury so much corn or grain 
might have been found in the rich men's barns, if they had been 
searched, as being divided among them whom famine and pestilence 
have killed, no man at all should have felt that plague and penury. 
So easily might men get their living, if that same worthy princess, 
lady money, did not alone stop up the way between us and our liv- 
ing, which a God's name was very excellently devised and invented, 
that by her the way thereto should be opened. I am sure the rich 
men perceive this, nor they be not ignorant how much better it 
were to lack no necessary thing, than to abound with overmuch 
superfluity; to be rid out of innumerable cares and troubles, than 


to be besieged with great riches. And I doubt not that either the 
respect of every man's private commodity, or else the authority of our 
saviour Christ (which for his great wisdom could not but know 
what were best, and for his inestimable goodness could not but coun- 
sel to that which he knew to be best) would have brought all the 
world long ago into the laws of this weal public, if it were not that 
one only beast, the princess and mother of all mischief, pride, doth 
withstand and let it. She measureth not wealth and prosperity by 
her own commodities, but by the miseries and incommodities of 
other: she would not by her good will be made a goddess, if there 
were no wretches left, whom she might be lady over to mock and 
scorn; over whose miseries her felicity might shine, whose poverty 
she might vex, torment and increase by gorgeously setting forth her 
riches. This hell-hound creepeth into men's hearts, and plucketh 
them back from entering the right path of life, and is so deeply 
rooted in men's breasts, that she cannot be plucked out. This form 
and fashion of a weal public, which I would gladly wish unto all 
nations, I am glad yet that it hath chanced to the Utopians, which 
have followed those institutions of life, whereby they have laid such 
foundations of their commonwealth, as shall continue and last not 
only wealthily, but also, as far as man's wit may judge and con- 
jecture, shall endure for ever. For seeing the chief causes of ambi- 
tion and sedition with other vices be plucked up by the roots and 
abandoned at home, there can be no jeopardy of domestical dissen- 
sion, which alone hath cast under foot and brought to nought the 
well fortified and strongly-defenced wealth and riches of many cities. 
But forasmuch as perfect concord remaineth, and wholesome laws 
be executed at home the envy of all foreign princes be not able to 
shake or move the empire, though they have many times long ago 
gone about to do it, being evermore driven back. 

Thus when Raphael had made an end of his tale, though many 
things came to my mind, which in the manners and laws of that 
people seemed to be instituted and founded of no good reason, not 
only in the fashion of their chivalry, and in their sacrifices and reli- 
gions,and in other of their laws,but also, yea and chiefly,in that which 
is the principal foundation of all their ordinances, that is to say, in 
the community of their life and living, without any occupying of 


money, by the which thing only all nobility, magnificence, worship, 
honour and majesty, the true ornaments and honours, as the com- 
mon opinion is, of a commonwealth, utterly be overthrown and 
destroyed; yet because I knew that he was weary of talking, and was 
not sure whether he could abide that anything should be said 
against his mind; specially because I remembered that he had repre- 
hended this fault in other, which be afraid lest they should seem 
not to be wise enough, unless they could find some fault in other 
men's inventions; therefore I praising both their institutions and 
his communication, took him by the hand, and led him in to supper; 
saying that we would choose another time to weigh and examine 
the same matters, and to talk with him more at large therein. Which 
would to God it might once come to pass. In the meantime, as I 
cannot agree and consent to all things that he said, being else with- 
out doubt a man singularly well learned, and also in all worldly 
matters exactly and profoundly experienced, so must I needs confess 
and grant that many things be in the Utopian weal public, which in 
our cities I may rather wish for, than hope after. 

Thus endeth the afternoon's talk of Raphael Hythloday concern- 
ing the laws and institutions of the Island of Utopia. 





To the Right Honourable Hieronymus Buslidius, Provost of Arienn, and 
Councillor to the Catholic King Charles, Peter Giles, Citizen of 
Antwerp, wisheth health and felicity. 

Thomas More, the singular ornament of this our age, as you your- 
self (right honourable Buslidius) can witness, to whom he is per- 
fectly well known, sent unto me this other day the Island of Utopia, 
to very few as yet known, but most worthy; which, as far excelling 
Plato's commonwealth, all people should be willing to know; spe- 
cially of a man most eloquent so finely set forth, so cunningly 
painted out and so evidently subject to the eye, that as oft as I read it, 
methinketh that I see somewhat more, than when I heard Raphael 
Hythloday himself (for I was present at that talk as well as Master 
More) uttering and pronouncing his own words. Yea, though the 
same man, according to his pure eloquence, did so open and declare 
the matter, that he might plainly enough appear, to report not things 
which he had learned of others only by hearsay, but which he had 
with his own eyes presently seen and thoroughly viewed, and 
wherein he had no small time been conversant and abiding; a man 
truly, in mine opinion, as touching the knowledge of regions, peo- 
ples, and worldly experience, much passing, yea even the very 
famous and renowned traveller Ulysses; and indeed such a one, as for 
the space of these eight hundred years past I think nature into the 
world brought not forth his like; in comparison of whom Vespucci 
may be thought to have seen nothing. Moreover, whereas we be 
wont more effectually and pithily to declare and express things that 
we have seen, than which we have but only heard, there was besides 
that in this man a certain peculiar grace, and singular dexterity to 
describe and set forth a matter withal. Yet the selfsame things as 
oft as I behold and consider them drawn and painted out with 
Master More's pencil, I am therewith so moved, so delighted, so 
inflamed, and so rapt, that sometimes methink I am presently con- 
versant, even in the island of Utopia. And I promise you, I can 
scant believe that Raphael himself by all that five years' space that 



he was in Utopia abiding, saw there so much, as here in Master 
More's description is to be seen and perceived. Which description 
with so many wonders, and miraculous things is replenished, that 
I stand in great doubt whereat first and chiefly to muse or marvel; 
whether at the excellence of his perfect and sure memory, which 
could well-nigh word by word rehearse so many things once only 
heard; or else at his singular prudence, who so well and wittily 
marked and bare away all the original causes and fountains (to the 
vulgar people commonly most unknown) whereof both issueth and 
springeth the mortal confusion and utter decay of a commonwealth, 
and also the advancement and wealthy state of the same may rise 
and grow; or else at the efficacy and pith of his words, which in so 
fine a Latin style, with such force of eloquence hath couched to- 
gether and comprised so many and divers matters, especially being 
a man continually encumbered with so many busy and troublesome 
cares, both public and private, as he is. Howbeit all these things 
cause you little to marvel (right honourable Buslidius) for that you 
are familiarly and thoroughly acquainted with the notable, yea al- 
most divine wit of the man. But now to proceed to other matters, 
I surely know nothing needful or requisite to be adjoined unto his 
writings, only a meter of four verses written in the Utopian tongue, 
which after Master More's departure Hythloday by chance showed 
me, that have I caused to be added thereto, with the alphabet of the 
same nation. For, as touching the situation of the island, that is to 
say, in what part of the world Utopia standeth, the ignorance and 
lack whereof not a little troubleth and grieveth Master More, indeed 
Raphael left not that unspoken of. Howbeit with very few words 
he lightly touched it, incidentally by the way passing it over, as 
meaning of likelihood to keep and reserve that to another place. And 
the same, I wot not how, by a certain evil and unlucky chance 
escaped us both. For when Raphael was speaking thereof, one of 
Master More's servants came to him and whispered in his ear. 
Wherefore I being then of purpose more earnestly addict to hear, 
one of the company, by reason of cold taken, I think, a shipboard, 
coughed out so loud, that he took from my hearing certain of his 
words. But I will never stint nor rest, until I have got the full and 
exact knowledge hereof; insomuch that I will be able perfectly to 


instruct you, not only in the longitude or true meridian of the island, 
but also in the just latitude therof, that is to say, in the sublevation 
or height of the pole in that region, if our friend Hythloday be in 
safety and alive. For we hear very uncertain news of him. Some 
report, that he died in his journey homeward. Some again affirm, 
that he returned into his country, but partly, for that he could not 
away with the fashions of his country folk, and partly for that his 
mind and affection was altogether set and fixed upon Utopia, they 
say that he hath taken his voyage thitherward again. Now as touch- 
ing this, that the name of this island is nowhere found among the 
old and ancient cosmographers, this doubt Hythloday himself very 
well dissolved. For why it is possible enough (quoth he) that the 
name, which it had in old time, was afterward changed, or else that 
they never had knowledge of this island; forasmuch as now in our 
time divers lands be found, which to the old geographers were un- 
known. Howbeit, what needeth it in this behalf to fortify the matter 
with arguments, seeing Master More is author hereof sufficient ? But 
whereas he doubteth of the edition or imprinting of the book, indeed 
herein I both commend, and also acknowledge the man's modesty. 
Howbeit unto me it seemeth a work most unworthy to be long sup- 
pressed, and most worthy to go abroad into the hands of men, yea, 
and under the title of your name to be published to the world; either 
because the singular endowments and qualities of Master More be 
to no man better known than to you, or else because no man is more 
fit and meet, than you with good counsels to further and advance 
the commonwealth, wherein you have many years already continued 
and travailed with great glory and commendation, both of wisdom 
and knowledge, and also of integrity and uprightness. Thus, O 
liberal supporter of good learning, and flower of this our time, I bid 
you most heartily well to fare. At Antwerp 1516, the first day of 






Martin Luther, the leader of the Protestant Reformation, was born at 
Eisleben, Prussian Saxony, November 10, 1483. He studied jurisprudence 
at the University of Erfurt, where he later lectured on physics and ethics. 
In 1505 he entered the Augustinian monastery at Erfurt; two years later 
was ordained priest; and in 1508 became professor of philosophy at the 
University of Wittenberg. 

The starting-point of Luther's career as a reformer was his posting on 
the church door of Wittenberg the Ninety-five Theses on October 31, 
15 1 7. These formed a passionate statement of the true nature of peni- 
tence, and a protest against the sale of indulgences. In issuing the Theses, 
Luther expected the support of his ecclesiastical superiors; and it was 
only after three years of controversy, during which he refused a sum- 
mons to Rome, that he proceeded to publish those works that brought 
about his expulsion from the Church. 

The year 1520 saw the publication of the three great documents which 
laid down the fundamental principles of the Reformation. In the 
"Address to the Christian Nobility of the German Nation," Luther 
attacked the corruptions of the Church and the abuses of its authority, 
and asserted the right of the layman to spiritual independence. In "Con- 
cerning Christian Liberty," he expounded the doctrine of justification by 
faith, and gave a complete presentation of his theological position. In the 
"Babylonish Captivity of the Church," he criticized the sacramental sys- 
tem, and set up the Scriptures as the supreme authority in religion. 

In the midst of this activity came his formal excommunication, and his 
renunciation of allegiance to the Pope. He was proscribed by the Emperor 
Charles V and taken into the protection of prison in the Wartburg by 
the friendly Elector of Saxony, where he translated the New Testament. 
The complete translation of the Bible, issued in 1534, marks the estab- 
lishment of the modern literary language of Germany. 

The rest of Luther's life was occupied with a vast amount of literary 
and controversial activity. He died at Eisleben, February 18, 1546. 


To the most Reverend Father in Christ and most illustrious Lord, 
Albert, Archbishop and Primate of the Churches of Magdeburg and 
Mentz, Marquis of Brandenburg, etc., his lord and pastor in Christ, most 
gracious and worthy of all fear and reverence — 


The grace of God be with you, and whatsoever it is and can do. 

Spare me, most reverend Father in Christ, most illustrious Prince, if I, 
the very dregs of humanity, have dared to think of addressing a letter 
to the eminence of your sublimity. The Lord Jesus is my witness that, in 
the consciousness of my own pettiness and baseness, I have long put off 
the doing of that which I have now hardened my forehead to perform, 
moved thereto most especially by the sense of that faithful duty which 
I feel that I owe to your most reverend Fatherhood in Christ. May your 
Highness then in the meanwhile deign to cast your eyes upon one grain 
of dust, and, in your pontifical clemency, to understand my prayer. 

Papal indulgences are being carried about, under your most distin- 
guished authority, for the building of St. Peter's. In respect of these, I do 
not so much accuse the extravagant sayings of the preachers, which I have 
not heard, but I grieve at the very false ideas which the people conceive 
from them, and which are spread abroad in common talk on every side — 
namely, that unhappy souls believe that, if they buy letters of indulgences, 
they are sure of their salvation; also, that, as soon as they have thrown 
their contribution into the chest, souls forthwith fly out of purgatory; 
and furthermore, that so great is the grace thus conferred, that there is no 
sin so great — even, as they say, if, by an impossibility, any one had 
violated the Mother of God — but that it may be pardoned; and again, 
that by these indulgences a man is freed from all punishment and guilt. 

O gracious God! it is thus that the souls committed to your care, most 
excellent Father, are being taught unto their death, and a most severe 
account, which you will have to render for all of them, is growing and 
increasing. Hence I have not been able to keep silence any longer on 
this subject, for by no function of a bishop's office can a man become sure 
of salvation, since he does not even become sure through the grace of 
God infused into him, but the Apostle bids us to be ever working out 



our salvation in fear and trembling. (Phil. ii. 12.) Even the righteous 
man — says Peter — shall scarcely be saved. (1 Peter iv. 18.) In fine, so 
narrow is the way which leads unto life, that the Lord, speaking by the 
prophets Amos and Zachariah, calls those who are to be saved brands 
snatched from the burning, and our Lord everywhere declares the diffi- 
culty of salvation. 

Why, then, by these false stories and promises of pardon, do the 
preachers of them make the people to feel secure and without fear? since 
indulgences confer absolutely no good on souls as regards salvation or 
holiness, but only take away the outward penalty which was wont of old 
to be canonically imposed. 

Lastly, works of piety and charity are infinitely better than indul- 
gences, and yet they do not preach these with such display or so much 
zeal; nay, they keep silence about them for the sake of preaching pardons. 
And yet it is the first and sole duty of all bishops, that the people should 
learn the Gospel and Christian charity: for Christ nowhere commands 
that indulgences should be preached. What a dreadful thing it is then, 
what peril to a bishop, if, while the Gospel is passed over in silence, he 
permits nothing but the noisy outcry of indulgences to be spread among 
his people, and bestows more care on these than on the Gospel ! Will not 
Christ say to them: "Straining at a gnat, and swallowing a camel"? 

Besides all this, most reverend Father in the Lord, in that instruction 
to the commissaries which has been put forth under the name of your 
most reverend Fatherhood it is stated — doubtless without the knowledge 
and consent of your most reverend Fatherhood — that one of the principal 
graces conveyed by indulgences is that inestimable gift of God, by which 
man is reconciled to God, and all the pains of purgatory are done away 
with; and further, that contrition is not necessary for those who thus 
redeem souls or buy confessional licences. 

But what can I do, excellent Primate and most illustrious Prince, save 
to entreat your reverend Fatherhood, through the Lord Jesus Christ, to 
deign to turn on us the eye of fatherly care, and to suppress that advertise- 
ment altogether and impose on the preachers of pardons another form 
of preaching, lest perchance some one should at length arise who will put 
forth writings in confutation of them and of their advertisements, to the 
deepest reproach of your most illustrious Highness. It is intensely 
abhorrent to me that this should be done, and yet I fear that it will 
happen, unless the evil be speedily remedied. 

This faithful discharge of my humble duty I entreat that your most 
illustrious Grace will deign to receive in a princely and bishoplike spirit — 


that is, with all clemency — even as I offer it with a most faithful heart, 
and one most devoted to your most reverend Fatherhood, since I too am 
part of your flock. May the Lord Jesus keep your most reverend Father- 
hood for ever and ever. Amen. 

From Wittenberg, on the eve of All Saints, in the year 1517. 

If it so please your most reverend Fatherhood, you may look at these 
Disputations, that you may perceive how dubious a matter is that opinion 
about indulgences, which they disseminate as if it were most certain. 
To your most reverend Fatherhood, 

Martin Luther. 


Disputation of Dr. Martin Luther Concerning 
Penitence and Indulgences 

IN the desire and with the purpose o£ elucidating the truth, a 
disputation will be held on the underwritten propositions at 
Wittenberg, under the presidency of the Reverend Father Mar- 
tin Luther, Monk of the Order of St. Augustine, Master of Arts and 
of Sacred Theology, and ordinary Reader of the same in that place. 
He therefore asks those who cannot be present and discuss the sub- 
ject with us orally, to do so by letter in their absence. In the name 
of our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen. 

i. Our Lord and Master Jesus Christ, in saying "Repent ye," ' 
etc., intended that the whole life of believers should be penitence. 

2. This word cannot be understood of sacramental penance, that is, 
of the confession and satisfaction which are performed under the 
ministry of priests. 

3. It does not, however, refer solely to inward penitence; nay 
such inward penitence is naught, unless it outwardly produces 
various mortifications of the flesh. 

4. The penalty 2 thus continues as long as the hatred of self — that 
is, true inward penitence — continues: namely, till our entrance into 
the kingdom of heaven. 

5. The Pope has neither the will nor the power to remit any 
penalties, except those which he has imposed by his own authority, 
or by that of the canons. 

6. The Pope has no power to remit any guilt, except by declaring 
and warranting it to have been remitted by God; or at most by 

1 In the Latin, from the Vulgate, "agite pcenitentiam," sometimes translated "Do 
penance." The effect of the following theses depends to some extent on the double 
meaning of " pcenhentia" — penitence and penance. 

2 1, e. "Posna," the connection between "pasna" and " posnitentia" being again 



remitting cases reserved for himself; in which cases, if his power 
were despised, guilt would certainly remain. 

7. God never remits any man's guilt, without at the same time 
subjecting him, humbled in all things, to the authority of his rep- 
resentative the priest. 

8. The penitential canons are imposed only on the living, and no 
burden ought to be imposed on the dying, according to them. 

9. Hence the Holy Spirit acting in the Pope does well for us, in 
that, in his decrees, he always makes exception of the article of 
death and of necessity. 

10. Those priests act wrongly and unlearnedly, who, in the case 
of the dying, reserve the canonical penances for purgatory. 

11. Those tares about changing of the canonical penalty into the 
penalty of purgatory seem surely to have been sown while the 
bishops were asleep. 

12. Formerly the canonical penalties were imposed not after, but 
before absolution, as tests of true contrition. 

13. The dying pay all penalties by death, and are already dead to 
the canon laws, and are by right relieved from them. 

14. The imperfect soundness or charity of a dying person neces- 
sarily brings with it great fear; and the less it is, the greater the 
fear it brings. 

15. This fear and horror is sufficient by itself, to say nothing of 
other things, to constitute the pains of purgatory, since it is very 
near to the horror of despair. 

1.6. Hell, purgatory, and heaven appear to differ as despair, almost 
despair, and peace of mind differ. 

17. With souls in purgatory it seems that it must needs be that, 
as horror diminishes, so charity increases. 

18. Nor does it seem to be proved by any reasoning or any scrip- 
tures, that they are outside of the state of merit or of the increase 
of charity. 

19. Nor does this appear to be proved, that they are sure and con- 
fident of their own blessedness, at least all of them, though we may 
be very sure of it. 

20. Therefore the Pope, when he speaks of the plenary remission 
of all penalties, does not mean simply of all, but only of those 
imposed by himself. 


21. Thus those preachers of indulgences are in error who say that, 
by the indulgences of the Pope, a man is loosed and saved from all 

22. For in fact he remits to souls in purgatory no penalty which 
they would have had to pay in this life according to the canons. 

23. If any entire remission of all penalties can be granted to any 
one, it is certain that it is granted to none but the most perfect — 
that is, to very few. 

24. Hence the greater part of the people must needs be deceived 
by this indiscriminate and high-sounding promise of release from 

25. Such power as the Pope has over purgatory in general, such 
has every bishop in his own diocese, and every curate in his own 
parish, in particular. 

26. The Pope acts most rightly in granting remission to souls, not 
by the power of the keys (which is of no avail in this case), but by 
the way of suffrage. 

27. They preach mad, who say that the soul flies out of purgatory 
as soon as the money thrown into the chest rattles. 

28. It is certain that, when the money rattles in the chest, avarice 
and gain may be increased, but the suffrage of the Church depends 
on the will of God alone. 

29. Who knows whether all the souls in purgatory desire to be 
redeemed from it, according to the story told of Saints Severinus 
and Paschal? 

30. No man is sure of the reality of his own contrition, much 
less of the attainment of plenary remission. 

31. Rare as is a true penitent, so rare is one who truly buys 
indulgences — that is to say, most rare. 

32. Those who believe that, through letters of pardon, they are 
made sure of their own salvation, will be eternally damned along 
with their teachers. 

33. We must especially beware of those who say that these pardons 
from the Pope are that inestimable gift of God by which man is 
reconciled to God. 

34. For the grace conveyed by these pardons has respect only to 
the penalties of sacramental satisfaction, which are of human appoint- 


35. They preach no Christian doctrine, who teach that contrition 
is not necessary for those who buy souls out of purgatory or buy 
confessional licences. 

36. Every Christian who feels true compunction has of right 
plenary remission of pain and guilt, even without letters of pardon. 

37. Every true Christian, whether living or dead, has a share in 
all the benefits of Christ and of the Church given him by God, even 
without letters of pardon. 

38. The remission, however, imparted by the Pope is by no means 
to be despised, since it is, as I have said, a declaration of the Divine 

39. It is a most difficult thing, even for the most learned theo- 
logians, to exalt at the same time in the eyes of the people the ample 
effect of pardons and the necessity of true contrition. 

40. True contrition seeks and loves punishment; while the ample- 
ness of pardons relaxes it, and causes men to hate it, or at least gives 
occasion for them to do so. 

41. Apostolical pardons ought to be proclaimed with caution, lest 
the people should falsely suppose that they are placed before other 
good works of charity. 

42. Christians should be taught that it is not the mind of the Pope 
that the buying of pardons is to be in any way compared to works 
of mercy. 

43. Christians should be taught that he who gives to a poor 
man, or lends to a needy man, does better than if he bought par- 

44. Because, by a work of charity, charity increases and the man 
becomes better; while, by means of pardons, he does not become 
better, but only freer from punishment. 

45. Christians should be taught that he who sees any one in need, 
and passing him by, gives money for pardons, is not purchasing for 
himself the indulgences of the Pope, but the anger of God. 

46. Christians should be taught that, unless they have superfluous 
wealth, they are bound to keep what is necessary for the use of their 
own households, and by no means to lavish it on pardons. 

47. Christians should be taught that, while they are free to buy 
pardons, they are not commanded to do so. 


48. Christians should be taught that the Pope, in granting pardons, 
has both more need and more desire that devout prayer should be 
made for him, than that money should be readily paid. 

49. Christians should be taught that the Pope's pardons are useful, 
if they do not put their trust in them; but most hurtful, if through 
them they lose the fear of God. 

50. Christians should be taught that, if the Pope were acquainted 
with the exactions of the preachers of pardons, he would prefer that 
the Basilica of St. Peter should be burnt to ashes, than that it should 
be built up with the skin, flesh and bones of his sheep. 

51. Christians should be taught that, as it would be the duty, so it 
would be the wish of the Pope, even to sell, if necessary, the Basilica 
of St. Peter, and to give of his own money to very many of those 
from whom the preachers of pardons extract money. 

52. Vain is the hope of salvation through letters of pardon, even 
if a commissary — nay, the Pope himself — were to pledge his own 
soul for them. 

53. They are enemies of Christ and of the Pope who, in order 
that pardons may be preached, condemn the word of God to utter 
silence in other churches. 

54. Wrong is done to the word of God when, in the same sermon, 
an equal or longer time is spent on pardons than on it. 

55. The mind of the Pope necessarily is, that if pardons, which 
are a very small matter, are celebrated with single bells, single pro- 
cessions, and single ceremonies, the Gospel, which is a very great 
matter, should be preached with a hundred bells, a hundred proces- 
sions, and a hundred ceremonies. 

56. The treasures of the Church, whence the Pope grants in- 
dulgences, are neither sufficiently named nor known among the 
people of Christ. 

57. It is clear that they are at least not temporal treasures, for these 
are not so readily lavished, but only accumulated, by many of the 

58. Nor are they the merits of Christ and of the saints, for these, 
independently of the Pope, are always working grace to the inner 
man, and the cross, death, and hell to the outer man. 

59. St. Lawrence said that the treasures of the Church are the poor 


of the Church, but he spoke according to the use of the word in his 

60. We are not speaking rashly when we say that the keys of the 
Church, bestowed through the merits of Christ, are that treasure. 

61. For it is clear that the power of the Pope is alone sufficient for 
the remission of penalties and of reserved cases. 

62. The true treasure of the Church is the Holy Gospel of the 
glory and grace of God. 

63. This treasure, however, is deservedly most hateful, because it 
makes the first to be last. 

64. While the treasure of indulgences is deservedly most accept- 
able, because it makes the last to be first. 

65. Hence the treasures of the gospel are nets, wherewith of old 
they fished for the men of riches. 

66. The treasures of indulgences are nets, wherewith they now fish 
for the riches of men. 

67. Those indulgences, which the preachers loudly proclaim to be 
the greatest graces, are seen to be truly such as regards the promo- 
tion of gain. 

68. Yet they are in reality in no degree to be compared to the 
grace of God and the piety of the cross. 

69. Bishops and curates are bound to receive the commissaries of 
apostolical pardons with all reverence. 

70. But they are still more bound to see to it with all their eyes, 
and take heed with all their ears, that these men do not preach their 
own dreams in place of the Pope's commission. 

71. He who speaks against the truth of apostolical pardons, let 
him be anathema and accursed. 

72. But he, on the other hand, who exerts himself against the 
wantonness and licence of speech of the preachers of pardons, let 
him be blessed. 

73. As the Pope justly thunders against those who use any kind 
of contrivance to the injury of the traffic in pardons. 

74. Much more is it his intention to thunder against those who, 
under the pretext of pardons, use contrivances to the injury of holy 
charity and of truth. 

75. To think that Papal pardons have such power that they could 


absolve a man even if — by an impossibility — he had violated the 
Mother of God, is madness. 

76. We affirm, on the contrary, that Papal pardons cannot take 
away even the least of venal sins, as regards its guilt. 

77. The saying that, even if St. Peter were now Pope, he could 
grant no greater graces, is blasphemy against St. Peter and the Pope. 

78. We affirm, on the contrary, that both he and any other Pope 
have greater graces to grant — namely, the Gospel, powers, gifts of 
healing, etc. (1 Cor. xii. 9.) 

79. To say that the cross set up among the insignia of the Papal 
arms is of equal power with the cross of Christ, is blasphemy. 

80. Those bishops, curates, and theologians who allow such dis- 
courses to have currency among the people, will have to render an 

81. This licence in the preaching of pardons makes it no easy 
thing, even for learned men, to protect the reverence due to the Pope 
against the calumnies, or, at all events, the keen questionings of the 

82. As for instance : — Why does not the Pope empty purgatory for 
the sake of most holy charity and of the supreme necessity of souls — 
this being the most just of all reasons — if he redeems an infinite 
number of souls for the sake of that most fatal thing, money, to be 
spent on building a basilica — this being a very slight reason? 

83. Again: why do funeral masses and anniversary masses for the 
deceased continue, and why does not the Pope return, or permit the 
withdrawal of the funds bequeathed for this purpose, since it is a 
wrong to pray for those who are already redeemed ? 

84. Again: what is this new kindness of God and the Pope, in 
that, for money's sake, they permit an impious man and an enemy of 
God to redeem a pious soul which loves God, and yet do not redeem 
that same pious and beloved soul, out of free charity, on account of 
its own need? 

85. Again : why is it that the penitential canons, long since abro- 
gated and dead in themselves in very fact and not only by usage, 
are yet still redeemed with money, through the granting of indul- 
gences, as if they were full of life ? 

86. Again: why does not the Pope, whose riches are at this day 


more ample than those of the wealthiest of the wealthy, build the 
one Basilica of St. Peter with his own money, rather than with that 
of poor believers ? 

87. Again: what does the Pope remit or impart to those who, 
through perfect contrition, have a right to plenary remission and 

88. Again: what greater good would the Church receive if the 
Pope, instead of once, as he does now, were to bestow these remis- 
sions and participations a hundred times a day on any one of the 

89. Since it is the salvation of souls, rather than money, that the 
Pope seeks by his pardons, why does he suspend the letters and 
pardons granted long ago, since they are equally efficacious ? 

90. To repress these scruples and arguments of the laity by force 
alone, and not to solve them by giving reasons, is to expose the 
Church and the Pope to the ridicule of their enemies, and to make 
Christian men unhappy. 

91. If, then, pardons were preached according to the spirit and 
mind of the Pope, all these questions would be resolved with ease — 
nay, would not exist. 

92. Away, then, with all those prophets who say to the people of 
Christ, "Peace, peace," and there is no peace! 

93. Blessed be all those prophets who say to the people of Christ, 
"The cross, the cross," and there is no cross! 

94. Christians should be exhorted to strive to follow Christ their 
Head through pains, deaths, and hells. 

95. And thus trust to enter heaven through many tribulations, 
rather than in the security of peace. 


I, Martin Luther, Doctor, of the Order of Monks at Wittenberg, 
desire to testify publicly that certain propositions against pontifical 
indulgences, as they call them, have been put forth by me. Now 
although, up to the present time, neither this most celebrated and 
renowned school of ours, nor any civil or ecclesiastical power has 
condemned me, yet there are, as I hear, some men of headlong and 


audacious spirit, who dare to pronounce me a heretic, as though the 
matter had been thoroughly looked into and studied. But on my 
part, as I have often done before, so now too, I implore all men, by 
the faith of Christ, either to point out to me a better way, if such 
a way has been divinely revealed to any, or at least to submit their 
opinion to the judgment of God and of the Church. For I am 
neither so rash as to wish that my sole opinion should be preferred to 
that of all other men, nor so senseless as to be willing fhat the word 
of God should be made to give place to fables, devised by human 


To the respected and worthy Nicolaus von Amsdorff, Licentiate in 
the Holy Scriptures and Canon of Wittenberg, 1 my particular and 
affectionate friend. Dr. Martinus Luther. 

The grace and peace of God be with you, respected, worthy Sir, and 
dear friend! 

The time for silence is gone, and the time to speak has come, as we 
read in Ecclesiastes (iii. 7). I have, in conformity with our resolve, put 
together some few points concerning the reformation of the Christian 
estate, with the intent of placing the same before the Christian nobility of 
the German nation, in case it may please God to help His Church by 
means of the laity, inasmuch as the clergy, whom this task rather befitted, 
have become quite careless. I send all this to your worship, to judge and 
to amend where needed. I am well aware that I shall not escape the 
reproach of taking far too much upon me in presuming, insignificant and 
forsaken as I am, to address such high estates on such weighty and great 
subjects, as if there were no one in the world but Dr, Luther to have 
a care for Christianity and to give advice to such wise people. 

Let who will blame me, I shall not offer any excuse. Perhaps I still 
owe God and the world another folly. This debt I have now resolved 
honestly to discharge, as well as may be, and to be Court fool for once 
in my life; if I fail, I shall at any rate gain this advantage: that no one 
need buy me a fool's cap or shave my poll. But it remains to be seen 
which shall hang the bells on the other. I must fulfil the proverb, "When 
anything is to be done in the world, a monk must be in it, were it only 
as a painted figure." I suppose it has often happened that a fool has 
spoken wisely, and wise men have often done foolishly, as St. Paul says, 
"If any man among you seemeth to be wise in this world, let him become 
a fool, that he may be wise" (1 Cor. iii. 18). 

Now, inasmuch as I am not only a fool, but also a sworn doctor of 
the Holy Scriptures, I am glad that I have an opportunity of fulfilling 
my oath, just in this fool's way. I beg you to excuse me to the moderately 
wise, for I know not how to deserve the favour and grace of the 

'Nicolaus von Amsdorff (1483— 1565) was a colleague of Luther at the university 
of Wittenberg, and one of his most zealous fellow-workers in the cause of the 



supremely wise, which I have so often sought with much labour, but 
now for the future shall neither have nor regard. 

God help us to seek not our glory, but His alone. Amen. 

Wittenberg, in the monastry of St. Augustine, on the eve of St. 
John the Baptist in the year 1520. 




To his most Serene and Mighty Imperial Majesty and to the Christian 
Nobility of the German Nation. 

Dr. Martinus Luther. 

THE grace and might of God be with you, Most Serene 
Majesty, most gracious, well-beloved gentlemen! 
It is not out of mere arrogance and perversity that I, an 
individual poor man, have taken upon me to address your lordships. 
The distress and misery that oppress all the Christian estates, more 
especially in Germany, have led not only myself, but every one else, 
to cry aloud and to ask for help, and have now forced me too to 
cry out and to ask if God would give His Spirit to any one to reach 
a hand to His wretched people. Councils have often put forward 
some remedy, but it has adroitly been frustrated, and the evils have 
become worse, through the cunning of certain men. Their malice 
and wickedness I will now, by the help of God, expose, so that, 
being known, they may henceforth cease to be so obstructive and 
injurious. God has given us a young and noble sovereign, 2 and by 
this has roused great hopes in many hearts; now it is right that we 
too should do what we can, and make good use of time and grace. 
The first thing that we must do is to consider the matter with 
great earnestness, and, whatever we attempt, not to trust in our own 
strength and wisdom alone, even if the power of all the world were 
ours; for God will not endure that a good work should be begun 
trusting to our own strength and wisdom. He destroys it; it is all 
useless, as we read in Psalm xxxiii., "There is no king saved by the 
multitude of a host; a mighty man is not delivered by much 
strength." And I fear it is for that reason that those beloved princes 
the Emperors Frederick, the First and the Second, and many other 
2 Charles V. was at that time not quite twenty years of age. 


German emperors were, in former times, so piteously spurned and 
oppressed by the popes, though they were feared by all the world. 
Perchance they trusted rather in their own strength than in God; 
therefore they could not but fall; and how would the sanguinary 
tyrant Julius II. have risen so high in our own days but that, I fear, 
France, Germany, and Venice trusted to themselves? The children 
of Benjamin slew forty-two thousand Israelites, for this reason: that 
these trusted to their own strength (Judges xx., etc.). 

That such a thing may not happen to us and to our noble Emperor 
Charles, we must remember that in this matter we wrestle not 
against flesh and blood, but against the rulers of the darkness of 
this world (Eph. vi. 12), who may fill the world with war and 
bloodshed, but cannot themselves be overcome thereby. We must 
renounce all confidence in our natural strength, and take the matter 
in hand with humble trust in God; we must seek God's help with 
earnest prayer, and have nothing before our eyes but the misery and 
wretchedness of Christendom, irrespective of what punishment the 
wicked may deserve. If we do not act thus, we may begin the game 
with great pomp; but when we are well in it, the spirits of evil will 
make such confusion that the whole world will be immersed in 
blood, and yet nothing be done. Therefore let us act in the fear of 
God and prudently. The greater the might of the foe, the greater is 
the misfortune, if we do not act in the fear of God and with humility. 
If popes and Romanists have hitherto, with the devil's help, thrown 
kings into confusion, they may still do so, if we attempt things with 
our own strength and skill, without God's help. 


The Romanists have, with great adroitness, drawn three walls 
round themselves, with which they have hitherto protected them- 
selves, so that no one could reform them, whereby all Christendom 
has fallen terribly. 

Firstly, if pressed by the temporal power, they have affirmed and 
maintained that the temporal power has no jurisdiction over them, 
but, on the contrary, that the spiritual power is above the temporal. 

Secondly, if it were proposed to admonish them with the Scrip- 


tures, they objected that no one may interpret the Scriptures but the 

Thirdly, if they are threatened with a council, they pretend that 
no one may call a council but the Pope. 

Thus they have secretly stolen our three rods, so that they may be 
unpunished, and intrenched themselves behind these three walls, to 
act with all the wickedness and malice, which we now witness. 
And whenever they have been compelled to call a council, they have 
made it of no avail by binding the princes beforehand with an oath 
to leave them as they were, and to give moreover to the Pope full 
power over the procedure of the council, so that it is all one whether 
we have many councils or no councils, in addition to which they 
deceive us with false pretences and tricks. So grievously do they 
tremble for their skin before a true, free council; and thus they have 
overawed kings and princes, that these believe they would be offend- 
ing God, if they were not to obey them in all such knavish, deceitful 

Now may God help us, and give us one of those trumpets that 
overchrew the walls of Jericho, so that we may blow down these 
walls of straw and paper, and that we may set free our Christian 
rods for the chastisement of sin, and expose the craft and deceit of 
the devil, so that we may amend ourselves by punishment and again 
obtain God's favour. 

(a) The First Wall 

That the Temporal Power has no Jurisdiction over the 

Let us, in the first place, attack the first wall. 

It has been devised that the Pope, bishops, priests, and monks are 
called the spiritual estate, princes, lords, artificers, and peasants are 
the temporal estate. This is an artful lie and hypocritical device, but 
let no one be made afraid by it, and that for this reason: that all 
Christians are truly of the spiritual estate, and there is no difference 
among them, save of office alone. As St. Paul says (1 Cor. xii.), we 
are all one body, though each member does its own work, to serve 
the others. This is because we have one baptism, one Gospel, one 


faith, and are all Christians alike; for baptism, Gospel, and faith, 
these alone make spiritual and Christian people. 

As for the unction by a pope or a bishop, tonsure, ordination, con- 
secration, and clothes differing from those of laymen — all this may 
make a hypocrite or an anointed puppet, but never a Christian or a 
spiritual man. Thus we are all consecrated as priests by baptism, as 
St. Peter says: "Ye are a royal priesthood, a holy nation" (i Peter 
ii. 9) ; and in the book of Revelations : "and hast made us unto our 
God (by Thy blood) kings and priests" (Rev. v. 10). For, if we had 
not a higher consecration in us than pope or bishop can give, no 
priest could ever be made by the consecration of pope or bishop, nor 
could he say the mass, or preach, or absolve. Therefore the bishop's 
consecration is just as if in the name of the whole congregation he 
took one person out of the community, each member of which has 
equal power, and commanded him to exercise this power for the 
rest; in the same way as if ten brothers, co-heirs as king's sons, were 
to choose one from among them to rule over their inheritance, they 
would all of them still remain kings and have equal power, although 
one is ordered to govern. 

And to put the matter even more plainly, if a little company of 
pious Christian laymen were taken prisoners and carried away to a 
desert, and had not among them a priest consecrated by a bishop, 
and were there to agree to elect one of them, born in wedlock or not, 
and were to order him to baptise, to celebrate the mass, to absolve, 
and to preach, this man would as truly be a priest, as if all the bishops 
and all the popes had consecrated him. That is why in cases of 
necessity every man can baptise and absolve, which would not be 
possible if we were not all priests. This great grace and virtue of 
baptism and of the Christian estate they have quite destroyed and 
made us forget by their ecclesiastical law. In this way the Christians 
used to choose their bishops and priests out of the community; these 
being afterwards confirmed by other bishops, without the pomp that 
now prevails. So was it that St. Augustine, Ambrose, Cyprian, were 

Since, then, the temporal power is baptised as we are, and has the 
same faith and Gospel, we must allow it to be priest and bishop, 
and account its office an office that is proper and useful to the 


Christian community. For whatever issues from baptism may boast 
that it has been consecrated priest, bishop, and pope, although it does 
not beseem every one to exercise these offices. For, since we are all 
priests alike, no man may put himself forward or take upon himself, 
without our consent and election, to do that which we have all alike 
power to do. For, if a thing is common to all, no man may take it 
to himself without the wish and command of the community. And 
if it should happen that a man were appointed to one of these offices 
and deposed for abuses, he would be just what he was before. There- 
fore a priest should be nothing in Christendom but a functionary; 
as long as he holds his office, he has precedence of others; if he is 
deprived of it, he is a peasant or a citizen like the rest. Therefore a 
priest is verily no longer a priest after deposition. But now they have 
invented characteres indelebilesf and pretend that a priest after 
deprivation still differs from a simple layman. They even imagine 
that a priest can never be anything but a priest — that is, that he can 
never become a layman. All this is nothing but mere talk and 
ordinance of human invention. 

It follows, then, that between laymen and priests, princes and 
bishops, or, as they call it, between spiritual and temporal persons, 
the only real difference is one of office and function, and not of 
estate; for they are all of the same spiritual estate, true priests, 
bishops, and popes, though their functions are not the same — just as 
among priests and monks every man has not the same functions. 
And this, as I said above, St. Paul says (Rom. xii.; 1 Cor. xii.), and 
St. Peter (1 Peter ii.) : "We, being many, are one body in Christ, 
and severally members one of another." Christ's body is not double 
or twofold, one temporal, the other spiritual. He is one Head, and 
He has one body. 

We see, then, that just as those that we call spiritual, or priests, 
bishops, or popes, do not differ from other Christians in any other 
or higher degree but in that they are to be concerned with the word 
of God and the sacraments — that being their work and office — in the 
same way the temporal authorities hold the sword and the rod in 
their hands to punish the wicked and to protect the good. A cobbler, 

^ In accordance with a doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church, the act of ordina- 
tion impresses upon the priest an indelible character; so that he immutably retains 
the sacred dignity of priesthood. 


a smith, a peasant, every man, has the office and function of his 
calling, and yet all alike are consecrated priests and bishops, and 
every man should by his office or function be useful and beneficial 
to the rest, so that various kinds of work may all be united for the 
furtherance of body and soul, just as the members of the body all 
serve one another. 

Now see what a Christian doctrine is this: that the temporal 
authority is not above the clergy, and may not punish it. This is as 
if one were to say the hand may not help, though the eye is in 
grievous suffering. Is it not unnatural, not to say unchristian, that 
one member may not help another, or guard it against harm ? Nay, 
the nobler the member, the more the rest are bound to help it. 
Therefore I say, Forasmuch as the temporal power has been ordained 
by God for the punishment of the bad and the protection of the 
good, therefore we must let it do its duty throughout the whole 
Christian body, without respect of persons, whether it strikes popes, 
bishops, priests, monks, nuns, or whoever it may be. If it were 
sufficient reason for fettering the temporal power that it is inferior 
among the offices of Christianity to the offices of priest or confessor, 
or to the spiritual estate — if this were so, then we ought to restrain 
tailors, cobblers, masons, carpenters, cooks, cellarmen, peasants, and 
all secular workmen, from providing the Pope or bishops, priests and 
monks, with shoes, clothes, houses or victuals, or from paying them 
tithes. But if these laymen are allowed to do their work without 
restraint, what do the Romanist scribes mean by their laws? They 
mean that they withdraw themselves from the operation of temporal 
Christian power, simply in order that they may be free to do evil, 
and thus fulfil what St. Peter said: "There shall be false teachers 
among you, . . . and in covetousness shall they with feigned words 
make merchandise of you" (2 Peter ii. 1, etc.). 

Therefore the temporal Christian power must exercise its office 
without let or hindrance, without considering whom it may strike, 
whether pope, or bishop, or priest: whoever is guilty, let him suffer 
for it. 

Whatever the ecclesiastical law has said in opposition to this is 
merely the invention of Romanist arrogance. For this is what St. 
Paul says to all Christians: "Let every soul" (I presume including 


the popes) "be subject unto the higher powers; for they bear not the 
sword in vain: they serve the Lord therewith, for vengeance on 
evildoers and for praise to them that do well" (Rom. xiii. 1-4) . Also 
St. Peter: "Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the 
Lord's sake, ... for so is the will of God" (1 Peter ii. 13, 15). He 
has also foretold that men would come who should despise govern- 
ment (2 Peter ii.), as has come to pass through ecclesiastical law. 

Now, I imagine, the first paper wall is overthrown, inasmuch as 
the temporal power has become a member of the Christian body; 
although its work relates to the body, yet does it belong to the 
spiritual estate. Therefore, it must do its duty without let or hin- 
drance upon all members of the whole body, to punish or urge, as 
guilt may deserve, or need may require, without respect of pope, 
bishops, or priests, let them threaten or excommunicate as they will. 
That is why a guilty priest is deprived of his priesthood before being 
given over to the secular arm; whereas this would not be right, if the 
secular sword had not authority over him already by Divine 

It is, indeed, past bearing that the spiritual law should esteem so 
highly the liberty, life, and property of the clergy, as if laymen were 
not as good spiritual Christians, or not equally members of the 
Church. Why should your body, life, goods, and honour be free, and 
not mine, seeing that we are equal as Christians, and have received 
alike baptism, faith, spirit, and all things? If a priest is killed, the 
country is laid under an interdict 4 : why not also if a peasant is killed ? 
Whence comes this great difference among equal Christians ? Simply 
from human laws and inventions. 

It can have been no good spirit, either, that devised these evasions 
and made sin to go unpunished. For if, as Christ and the Apostles 
bid us, it is our duty to oppose the evil one and all his works and 
words, and to drive him away as well as may be, how then should 
we remain quiet and be silent when the Pope and his followers are 
guilty of devilish works and words ? Are we for the sake of men to 
allow the commandments and the truth of God to be defeated, which 
at our baptism we vowed to support with body and soul ? Truly we 

4 By the Interdict, or general excommunication, whole countries, districts, or towns, 
or their respective rulers, were deprived of all the spiritual benefits of the Church, 
such as Divine service, the administering of the sacraments, etc. 


should have to answer for all souls that would thus be abandoned 
and led astray. 

Therefore it must have been the arch-devil himself who said, as 
we read in the ecclesiastical law, If the Pope were so perniciously 
wicked, as to be dragging souls in crowds to the devil, yet he could 
not be deposed. This is the accursed and devilish foundation on 
which they build at Rome, and think that the whole world is to be 
allowed to go to the devil rather than they should be opposed in 
their knavery. If a man were to escape punishment simply because 
he is above the rest, then no Christian might punish another, since 
Christ has commanded each of us to esteem himself the lowest and 
the humblest (Matt, xviii. 4; Luke ix. 48). 

Where there is sin, there remains no avoiding the punishment, as 
St. Gregory says, We are all equal, but guilt makes one subject to 
another. Now let us see how they deal with Christendom. They 
arrogate to themselves immunities without any warrant from the 
Scriptures, out of their own wickedness, whereas God and the Apos- 
tles made them subject to the secular sword; so that we must fear 
that it is the work of antichrist, or a sign of his near approach. 

(b) The Second Wall 

That no one may interpret the Scriptures but the Pope 

The second wall is even more tottering and weak: that they alone 
pretend to be considered masters of the Scriptures; although they 
learn nothing of them all their life. They assume authority, and 
juggle before us with impudent words, saying that the Pope cannot 
err in matters of faith, whether he be evil or good, albeit they cannot 
prove it by a single letter. That is why the canon law contains so 
many heretical and unchristian, nay unnatural, laws; but of these we 
need not speak now. For whereas they imagine the Holy Ghost 
never leaves them, however unlearned and wicked they may be, 
they grow bold enough to decree whatever they like. But were this 
true, where were the need and use of the Holy Scriptures? Let us 
burn them, and content ourselves with the unlearned gentlemen at 
Rome, in whom the Holy Ghost dwells, who, however, can dwell in 
pious souls only. If I had not read it, I could never have believed 


that the devil should have put forth such follies at Rome and find a 

But not to fight them with our own words, we will quote the 
Scriptures. St. Paul says, "If anything be revealed to another that 
sitteth by, let the first hold his peace" (i Cor. xiv. 30). What would 
be the use of this commandment, if we were to believe him alone 
that teaches or has the highest seat ? Christ Himself says, "And they 
shall be all taught of God." (St. John vi. 45). Thus it may come to 
pass that the Pope and his followers are wicked and not true Chris- 
tians, and not being taught by God, have no true understanding, 
whereas a common man may have true understanding. Why should 
we then not follow him? Has not the Pope often erred? Who 
could help Christianity, in case the Pope errs, if we do not rather 
believe another who has the Scriptures for him? 

Therefore it is a wickedly devised fable — and they cannot quote a 
single letter to confirm it — that it is for the Pope alone to interpret 
the Scriptures or to confirm the interpretation of them. They have 
assumed the authority of their own selves. And though they say that 
this authority was given to St. Peter when the keys were given to 
him, it is plain enough that the keys were not given to St. Peter 
alone, but to the whole community. Besides, the keys were not 
ordained for doctrine or authority, but for sin, to bind or loose; and 
what they claim besides this from the keys is mere invention. But 
what Christ said to St. Peter: "I have prayed for thee that thy faith 
fail not" (St. Luke xxii. 32), cannot relate to the Pope, inasmuch as 
the greater part of the Popes have been without faith, as they are 
themselves forced to acknowledge; nor did Christ pray for Peter 
alone, but for all the Apostles and all Christians, as He says, "Neither 
pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on Me 
through their word" (St. John xvii.). Is not this plain enough? 

Only consider the matter. They must needs acknowledge that 
there are pious Christians among us that have the true faith, spirit, 
understanding, word, and mind of Christ: why then should we 
reject their word and understanding, and follow a pope who has 
neither understanding nor spirit? Surely this were to deny our 
whole faith and the Christian Church. Moreover, if the article of 
our faith is right, "I believe in the holy Christian Church," the Pope 


cannot alone be right; else we must say, "I believe in the Pope of 
Rome," and reduce the Christian Church to one man, which is a 
devilish and damnable heresy. Besides that, we are all priests, as 
I have said, and have all one faith, one Gospel, one Sacrament; how 
then should we not have the power of discerning and judging what 
is right or wrong in matters of faith? What becomes of St. Paul's 
words, "But he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is 
judged of no man" (1 Cor. ii. 15), and also, "we having the same 
spirit of faith"? (2 Cor. iv. 13). Why then should we not perceive 
as well as an unbelieving pope what agrees or disagrees with our 

By these and many other texts we should gain courage and free- 
dom, and should not let the spirit of liberty (as St. Paul has it) be 
frightened away by the inventions of the popes; we should boldly 
judge what they do and what they leave undone by our own believ- 
ing understanding of the Scriptures, and force them to follow the 
better understanding, and not their own. Did not Abraham in old 
days have to obey his Sarah, who was in stricter bondage to him 
than we are to any one on earth ? Thus, too, Balaam's ass was wiser 
than the prophet. If God spoke by an ass against a prophet, why 
should He not speak by a pious man against the Pope? Besides, St. 
Paul withstood St. Peter as being in error (Gal. ii.). Therefore it 
behoves every Christian to aid the faith by understanding and 
defending it and by condemning all errors. 

(c) The Third Wall 
That no one may call a council but the Pope 

The third wall falls of itself, as soon as the first two have fallen; 
for if the Pope acts contrary to the Scriptures, we are bound to stand 
by the Scriptures, to punish and to constrain him, according to 
Christ's commandment, "Moreover, if thy brother shall trespass 
against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone; 
if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. But if he will not 
hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth 
of two or three witnesses every word may be established. And if he 


shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the Church; but if he neglect 
to hear the Church, let him be unto thee as a heathen man and a 
publican" (St. Matt, xviii. 15-17). Here each member is commanded 
to take care for the other; much more then should we do this, if it is 
a ruling member of the community that does evil, which by its 
evil-doing causes great harm and offence to the others. If then I 
am to accuse him before the Church, I must collect the Church 
together. Moreover, they can show nothing in the Scriptures giving 
the Pope sole power to call and confirm councils; they have nothing 
but their own laws; but these hold good only so long as they are 
not injurious to Christianity and the laws of God. Therefore, if the 
Pope deserves punishment, these laws cease to bind us, since Chris- 
tendom would suffer, if he were not punished by a council. Thus 
we read (Acts xv.) that the council of the Apostles was not called 
by St. Peter, but by all the Apostles and the elders. But if the right 
to call it had lain with St. Peter alone, it would not have been a 
Christian council, but a heretical conciliabulum. Moreover, the most 
celebrated council of all — that of Nicaea — was neither called nor 
confirmed by the Bishop of Rome, but by the Emperor Constantine; 
and after him many other emperors have done the same, and yet the 
councils called by them were accounted most Christian. But if the 
Pope alone had the power, they must all have been heretical. More- 
over, if I consider the councils that the Pope has called, I do not 
find that they produced any notable results. 

Therefore when need requires, and the Pope is a cause of offence 
to Christendom, in these cases whoever can best do so, as a faithful 
member of the whole body, must do what he can to procure a true 
free council. This no one can do so well as the temporal authorities, 
especially since they are fellow-Christians, fellow-priests, sharing one 
spirit and one power in all things, and since they should exercise the 
office that they have received from God without hindrance, when- 
ever it is necessary and useful that it should be exercised. Would it 
not be most unnatural, if a fire were to break out in a city, and 
every one were to keep still and let it burn on and on, whatever 
might be burnt, simply because they had not the mayor's authority, 
or because the fire perchance broke out at the mayor's house ? Is not 
every citizen bound in this case to rouse and call in the rest ? How 


much more should this be done in the spiritual city of Christ, if a 
fire of offence breaks out, either at the Pope's government or wher- 
ever it may! The like happens if an enemy attacks a town. The first 
to rouse up the rest earns glory and thanks. Why then should not 
he earn glory that descries the coming of our enemies from hell and 
rouses and summons all Christians? 

But as for their boasts of their authority, that no one must oppose 
it, this is idle talk. No one in Christendom has any authority to do 
harm, or to forbid others to prevent harm being done. There is no 
authority in the Church but for reformation. Therefore if the Pope 
wished to use his power to prevent the calling of a free council, so 
as to prevent the reformation of the Church, we must not respect him 
or his power; and if he should begin to excommunicate and ful- 
minate, we must despise this as the doings of a madman, and, trust- 
ing in God, excommunicate and repel him as best we may. For this 
his usurped power is nothing; he does not possess it, and he is at 
once overthrown by a text from the Scriptures. For St. Paul says 
to the Corinthians "that God has given us authority for edification, 
and not for destruction" (2 Cor. x. 8). Who will set this text at 
nought? It is the power of the devil and of antichrist that prevents 
what would serve for the reformation of Christendom. Therefore 
we must not follow it, but oppose it with our body, our goods, and 
all that we have. And even if a miracle were to happen in favour of 
the Pope against the temporal power, or if some were to be stricken 
by a plague, as they sometimes boast has happened, all this is to be 
held as having been done by the devil in order to injure our faith 
in God, as was foretold by Christ: "There shall arise false Christs 
and false prophets, and shall show great signs and wonders, inso- 
much that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect" 
(Matt. xxiv. 23) ; and St. Paul tells the Thessalonians that the coming 
of antichrist shall be "after the working of Satan with all power and 
signs and lying wonders" (2 Thess. ii. 9) . 

Therefore let us hold fast to this: that Christian power can do 
nothing against Christ, as St. Paul says, "For we can do nothing 
against Christ, but for Christ" (2 Cor. xiii. 8) . But, if if does any- 
thing against Christ, it is the power of antichrist and the devil, even 
if it rained and hailed wonders and plagues. Wonders and plagues 


prove nothing, especially in these latter evil days, of which false 
wonders are foretold in all the Scriptures. Therefore we must hold 
fast to the words of God with an assured faith; then the devil will 
soon cease his wonders. 

And now I hope the false, lying spectre will be laid with which 
the Romanists have long terrified and stupefied our consciences. 
And it will be seen that, like all the rest of us, they are subject to 
the temporal sword; that they have no authority to interpret the 
Scriptures by force without skill; and that they have no power to 
prevent a council, or to pledge it in accordance with their pleasure, 
or to bind it beforehand, and deprive it of its freedom; and that if 
they do this, they are verily of the fellowship of antichrist and the 
devil, and have nothing of Christ but the name. 


Let us now consider the matters which should be treated in the 
councils, and with which popes, cardinals, bishops, and all learned 
men should occupy themselves day and night, if they love Christ and 
His Church. But if they do not do so, the people at large and the 
temporal powers must do so, without considering the thunders of 
their excommunications. For an unjust excommunication is better 
than ten just absolutions, and an unjust absolution is worse than ten 
just excommunications. Therefore let us rouse ourselves, fellow- 
Germans, and fear God more than man, that we be not answerable 
for all the poor souls that are so miserably lost through the wicked, 
devilish government of the Romanists, and that the dominion of the 
devil should not grow day by day, if indeed this hellish government 
can grow any worse, which, for my part, I can neither conceive nor 

1. It is a distressing and terrible thing to see that the head of 
Christendom, who boasts of being the vicar of Christ and the suc- 
cessor of St. Peter, lives in a worldly pomp that no king or emperor 
can equal, so that in him that calls himself most holy and most 
spiritual there is more worldliness than in the world itself. He wears 
a triple crown, whereas the mightiest kings only wear one crown. 


If this resembles the poverty of Christ and St. Peter, it is a new sort 
of resemblance. They prate of its being heretical to object to this) 
nay, they will not even hear how unchristian and ungodly it is. But 
I think that if he should have to pray to God with tears, he would 
have to lay down his crowns; for God will not endure any arrogance. 
His office should be nothing else than to weep and pray constantly 
for Christendom and to be an example of all humility. 

However this may be, this pomp is a stumbling-block, and the 
Pope, for the very salvation of his soul, ought to put it off, for St. 
Paul says, "Abstain from all appearance of evil" (1 Thess. v. 21), 
and again, "Provide things honest in the sight of all men" (2 Cor. 
viii. 21). A simple mitre would be enough for the pope: wisdom 
and sanctity should raise him above the rest; the crown of pride 
he should leave to antichrist, as his predecessors did some hundreds 
of years ago. They say, He is the ruler of the world. This is false; 
for Christ, whose vicegerent and vicar he claims to be, said to Pilate, 
"My kingdom is not of this world" (John xviii. 36) . But no vicege- 
rent can have a wider dominion than his Lord, nor is he a vicegerent 
of Christ in His glory, but of Christ crucified, as St. Paul says, "For 
I determined not to know anything among you save Jesus Christ, 
and Him crucified" (2 Cor. ii. 2), and "Let this mind be in you, 
which was also in Christ Jesus, who made Himself of no reputation, 
and took upon Himself the form of a servant" (Phil. ii. 5, 7) . Again, 
"We preach Christ crucified" (1 Cor. i.). Now they make the Pope 
a vicegerent of Christ exalted in heaven, and some have let the 
devil rule them so thoroughly that they have maintained that the 
Pope is above the angels in heaven and has power over them, which 
is precisely the true work of the true antichrist. 

2. What is the use in Christendom of the people called "cardinals" ? 
I will tell you. In Italy and Germany there are many rich convents, 
endowments, fiefs, and benefices, and as the best way of getting these 
into the hands of Rome, they created cardinals, and gave them the 
sees, convents, and prelacies, and thus destroyed the service of God. 
That is why Italy is almost a desert now : the convents are destroyed, 
the sees consumed, the revenues of the prelacies and of all the 
churches drawn to Rome; towns are decayed, the country and the 
people ruined, because there is no more any worship of God or 


preaching; why? Because the cardinals must have all the wealth. 
No Turk could have thus desolated Italy and overthrown the wor- 
ship of God. 

Now that Italy is sucked dry, they come to Germany and begin 
very quietly; but if we look on quietly Germany will soon be brought 
into the same state as Italy. We have a few cardinals already. What 
the Romanists mean thereby the drunken Germans 5 are not to see 
until they have lost everything — bishoprics, convents, benefices, fiefs, 
even to their last farthing. Antichrist must take the riches of the 
earth, as it is written (Dan. xi. 8, 39, 43) . They begin by taking off 
the cream of the bishoprics, convents and fiefs; and as they do not 
dare to destroy everything as they have done in Italy, they employ 
such holy cunning to join together ten or twenty prelacies, and take 
such a portion of each annually that the total amounts to a con- 
siderable sum. The priory of Wiirzburg gives one thousand guilders; 
those of Bamberg, Mayence, Treves, and others also contribute. In 
this way they collect one thousand or ten thousand guilders, in order 
that a cardinal may live at Rome in a state like that of a wealthy 

After we have gained this, we will create thirty or forty cardinals 
on one day, and give one St. Michael's Mount, 6 near Bamberg, and 
likewise the see of Wiirzburg, to which belong some rich benefices, 
until the churches and the cities are desolated; and then we shall 
say, We are the vicars of Christ, the shepherds of Christ's flocks; 
those mad, drunken Germans must submit to it. I advise, however, 
that there be made fewer cardinals, or that the Pope should have 
to support them out of his own purse. It would be amply sufficient 
if there were twelve, and if each of them had an annual income of 
one thousand guilders. 

What has brought us Germans to such a pass that we have to 
suffer this robbery and this destruction of our property by the Pope ? 
If the kingdom of France has resisted it, why do we Germans suffer 
ourselves to be fooled and deceived? It would be more endurable 
if they did nothing but rob us of our property; but they destroy the 

5 The epithet "drunken" was formerly often applied by the Italians to the 

6 Luther alludes here to the Benedictine convent standing on the Monchberg, or 
St. Michael's Mount. 


Church and deprive Christ's flock of their good shepherds, and over- 
throw the service and word of God. Even if there were no cardinals 
at all, the Church would not perish, for they do nothing for the good 
of Christendom; all they do is to traffic in and quarrel about prelacies 
and bishoprics, which any robber could do as well. 

3. If we took away ninety-nine parts of the Pope's Court and only 
left one hundredth, it would still be large enough to answer ques- 
tions on matters of belief. Now there is such a swarm of vermin at 
Rome, all called papal, that Babylon itself never saw the like. There 
are more than three thousand papal secretaries alone; but who shall 
count the other office-bearers, since there are so many offices that we 
can scarcely count them, and all waiting for German benefices, as 
wolves wait for a flock of sheep ? I think Germany now pays more 
to the Pope than it formerly paid the emperors; nay, some think 
more than three hundred thousand guilders are sent from Germany 
to Rome every year, for nothing whatever; and in return we are 
scoffed at and put to shame. Do we still wonder why princes, noble- 
men, cities, foundations, convents, and people grow poor? We 
should rather wonder that we have anything left to eat. 

Now that we have got well into our game, let us pause a while 
and show that the Germans are not such fools as not to perceive or 
understand this Romish trickery. I do not here complain that God's 
commandments and Christian justice are despised at Rome; for the 
state of things in Christendom, especially at Rome, is too bad for us 
to complain of such high matters. Nor do I even complain that no 
account is taken of natural or secular justice and reason. The mis- 
chief lies still deeper. I complain that they do not observe their own 
fabricated canon law, though this is in itself rather mere tyranny, 
avarice, and worldly pomp, than a law. This we shall now show. 

Long ago the emperors and princes of Germany allowed the Pope 
to claim the annates 1 from all German benefices; that is, half of the 
first year's income from every benefice. The object of this concession 
was that the Pope should collect a fund with all this money to fight 
against the Turks and infidels, and to protect Christendom, so that 
the nobility should not have to bear the burden of the struggle alone, 
and that the priests should also contribute. The popes have made 

7 The duty of paying annates to the Pope was established by John XXII. in 1319. 


such use of this good simple piety of the Germans that they have 
taken this money for more than one hundred years, and have now 
made of it a regular tax and duty; and not only have they accumu- 
lated nothing, but they have founded out of it many posts and 
offices at Rome, which are paid by it yearly, as out of a ground-rent. 

Whenever there is any pretence of fighting the Turks, they send 
out some commission for collecting money, and often send out 
indulgences under the same pretext of fighting the Turks. They 
think we Germans will always remain such great and inveterate 
fools that we will go on giving money to satisfy their unspeakable 
greed, though we see plainly that neither annates, nor absolution 
money, nor any other — not one farthing — goes against the Turks, 
but all goes into the bottomless sack. They lie and deceive, form 
and make covenants with us, of which they do not mean to keep 
one jot. And all this is done in the holy name of Christ and St. Peter. 

This being so, the German nation, the bishops and princes, should 
remember that they are Christians, and should defend the people, 
who are committed to their government and protection in temporal 
and spiritual affairs, from these ravenous wolves in sheep's clothing 
that profess to be shepherds and rulers; and since the annates are so 
shamefully abused, and the covenants concerning them not carried 
out, they should not suffer their lands and people to be so piteously 
and unrighteously flayed and ruined; but by an imperial or a 
national law they should either retain the annates in the country, or 
abolish them altogether. For since they do not keep to the covenants, 
they have no right to the annates; therefore bishops and princes are 
bound to punish this thievery and robbery, or prevent it, as justice 
demands. And herein should they assist and strengthen the Pope, 
who is perchance too weak to prevent this scandal by himself, or, 
if he wishes to protect or support it, restrain and oppose him as a 
wolf and tyrant; for he has no authority to do evil or to protect 
evil-doers. Even if it were proposed to collect any such treasure for 
use against the Turks, we should be wise in future, and remember 
that the German nation is more fitted to take charge of it than the 
Pope, seeing that the German nation by itself is able to provide 
men enough, if the money is forthcoming. This matter of the 
annates is like many other Romish pretexts. 


Moreover, the year has been divided among the Pope and the 
ruling bishops and foundations in such wise that the Pope has taken 
every other month — six in all — to give away the benefices that fall 
in his month; in this way almost all the benefices are drawn into the 
hands of Rome, and especially the best livings and dignities. And 
those that once fall into the hands of Rome never come out again, 
even if they never again fall vacant in the Pope's month. In this 
way the foundations come very short of their rights, and it is a down- 
right robbery, the object of which is not to give up anything again. 
Therefore it is now high time to abolish the Pope's months and to 
take back again all that has thereby fallen into the hands of Rome. 
For all the princes and nobles should insist that the stolen property 
shall be returned, the thieves punished, and that those who abuse 
their powers shall be deprived of them. If the Pope can make a law 
on the day after his election by which he takes our benefices and 
livings to which he has no right, the Emperor Charles should so 
much the more have a right to issue a law for all Germany on the 
day after his coronation 8 that in future no livings and benefices are 
to fall to Rome by virtue of the Pope's month, but that those that 
have so fallen are to be freed and taken from the Romish robbers. 
This right he possesses authoritatively by virtue of his temporal 

But the see of avarice and robbery at Rome is unwilling to wait 
for the benefices to fall in one after another by means of the Pope's 
month; and in order to get them into its insatiable maw as speedily 
as possible, they have devised the plan of taking livings and benefices 
in three other ways : — 

First, if the incumbent of a free living dies at Rome or on his way 
thither, his living remains for ever the property of the see of Rome, 
or I rather should say, the see of robbers, though they will not let 
us call them robbers, although no one has ever heard or read of 
such robbery. 

Secondly, if a "servant" of the Pope or of one of the cardinals takes 
a living, or if, having a living, he becomes a "servant" of the Pope 
or of a cardinal, the living remains with Rome. But who can count 

8 At the time when the above was written — June, 1520 — the Emperor Charles had 
been elected, but not yet crowned. 


the "servants" of the Pope and his cardinals, seeing that if he goes 
out riding, he is attended by three or four thousand mule-riders, 
more than any king or emperor ? For Christ and St. Peter went on 
foot, in order that their vicegerents might indulge the better in all 
manner of pomp. Besides, their avarice has devised and invented 
this: that in foreign countries also there are many called "papal 
servants," as at Rome; so that in all parts this single crafty little word 
"papal servant" brings all benefices to the chair at Rome, and they 
are kept there for ever. Are not these mischievous, devilish devices ? 
Let us only wait a while, Mayence, Magdeburg, and Halberstadt will 
fall very nicely to Rome, and we shall have to pay dearly for our 
cardinal. 9 Hereafter all the German bishops will be made cardinals, 
so that there shall remain nothing to ourselves. 

Thirdly, whenever there is any dispute about a benefice; and this 
is, I think, well-nigh the broadest and commonest road by which 
benefices are brought to Rome. For where there is no dispute num- 
berless knaves can be found at Rome who are ready to scrape up 
disputes, and attack livings wherever they like. In this way many a 
good priest loses his living, or has to buy off the dispute for a time 
with a sum of money. These benefices, confiscated by right or wrong 
of dispute, are to be for ever the property of the see of Rome. It 
would be no wonder, if God were to rain sulphur and fire from 
heaven and cast Rome down into the pit, as He did formerly to 
Sodom and Gomorrah. What is the use of a pope in Christendom, 
if the only use made of his power is to commit these supreme vil- 
lainies under his protection and assistance? Oh noble princes and 
sirs, how long will you suffer your lands and your people to be the 
prey of these ravening wolves? 

But these tricks did not suffice, and bishoprics were too slow in 
falling into the power of Roman avarice. Accordingly our good 
friend Avarice made the discovery that all bishoprics are abroad in 
name only, but that their land and soil is at Rome; from this it fol- 

9 Luther alludes here to the Archbishop Albert of Mayence, who was, besides, Arch- 
bishop of Magdeburg and administrator of the bishopric of Halberstadt. In order 
to be able to defray the expense of the archiepiscopal tax due to Rome, amounting 
to thirty thousand guilders, he had farmed the sale of the Pope's indulgences, em- 
ploying the notorious Tetzel as his agent and sharing the profits with the Pope. In 
1 51 8 Albert was appointed cardinal. See Ranke, Deutsche Geschichte, etc., vol. 
i„ p. 309, etc. 


lows that no bishop may be confirmed until he has bought the 
"Pall" 10 for a large sum, and has with a terrible oath bound himself 
a servant of the Pope. That is why no bishop dare oppose the Pope. 
This was the object of the oath, and this is how the wealthiest 
bishoprics have come to debt and ruin. Mayence, I am told, pays 
twenty thousand guilders. These are true Roman tricks, it seems to 
me. It is true that they once decreed in the canon law that the Pall 
should be given free, the number of the Pope's servants diminished, 
disputes made less frequent, that foundations and bishops should 
enjoy their liberty; but all this brought them no money. They have 
therefore reversed all this: bishops and foundations have lost all 
their power; they are mere ciphers, without office, authority, or 
function; all things are regulated by the chief knaves at Rome, even 
the offices of sextons and bell-ringers in all churches. All disputes are 
transferred to Rome; each one does what he will, strong through 
the Pope's power. 

What has happened in this very year? The Bishop of Strasburg, 
wishing to regulate his see in a proper way and reform it in the 
matter of Divine service, published some Divine and Christian 
ordinances for that purpose. But our worthy Pope and the holy 
chair at Rome overturn altogether this holy and spiritual order on the 
requisition of the priests. This is what they call being the shepherd 
of Christ's sheep — supporting priests against their own bishops and 
protecting their disobedience by Divine decrees. Antichrist, I hope, 
will not insult God in this open way. There you have the Pope, as 
you have chosen to have him; and why ? Why, because if the Church 
were to be reformed, there would be danger that it would spread 
further, so that it might also reach Rome. Therefore it is better to 
prevent priests from being at one with each other; they should 
rather, as they have done hitherto, sow discord among kings and 
princes, and flood the world with Christian blood, lest Christian 
unity should trouble the holy Roman see with reforms. 

So far we have seen what they do with the livings that fall 
vacant. Now there are not enough vacancies for this delicate greed; 
therefore it has also taken prudent account of the benefices that are 

10 The Pallium was since the fourth century the symbol of archiepiscopal power, 
and had to be redeemed from the Pope by means of a large sum of money and a 
solemn oath of obedience. 


still held by their incumbents, so that they may become vacant, 
though they are in fact not vacant, and this they effect in many ways. 

First, they lie in wait for fat livings or sees which are held by an 
old or sick man, or even by one afflicted by an imaginary incom- 
petence; him the Roman see gives a coadjutor, that is an assistant 
without his asking or wishing it, for the benefit of the coadjutor, 
because he is a papal servant, or pays for the office, or has otherwise 
earned it by some menial service rendered to Rome. Thus there is 
an end of free election on the part of the chapter, or of the right of 
him who had presented to the living; and all goes to Rome. 

Secondly, there is a little word: commendam , that is, when the 
Pope gives a rich and fat convent or church into the charge of a 
cardinal or any other of his servants, just as I might command you 
to take charge of one hundred guilders for me. In this way the 
convent is neither given, nor lent, nor destroyed, nor is its Divine 
service abolished, but only entrusted to a man's charge, not, how- 
ever, for him to protect and improve it, but to drive out the one he 
finds there, to take the property and revenue, and to install some 
apostate 11 runaway monk, who is paid five or six guilders a year, 
and sits in the church all day and sells symbols and pictures to the 
pilgrims; so that neither chanting nor reading in the church goes 
on there any more. Now if we were to call this the destruction of 
convents and abolition of Divine service we should be obliged to 
accuse the Pope of destroying Christianity and abolishing Divine 
service — for truly he is doing this effectually — but this would be 
thought harsh language at Rome; therefore it is called a commen- 
dam, or an order to take charge of the convent. In this way the 
Pope can make commendams of four or more convents a year, any 
one of which produces a revenue of more than six thousand guilders. 
This is the way Divine service is advanced and convents kept up at 
Rome. This will be introduced into Germany as well. 

Thirdly, there are certain benefices that are said to be incompatible; 

that is, they may not be held together according to the canon law, 

such as two cures, two sees, and the like. Now the Holy See and 

avarice twists itself out of the canon law by making "glosses," or 

interpretations, called Unio, or Incorporatio ; that is, several incom- 

11 Monks who forsook their order without any legal dispensation were called 


patible benefices are incorporated, so that one is a member of the 
other, and the whole is held to be one benefice: then they are no 
longer incompatible, and we have got rid of the holy canon law, 
so that it is no longer binding, except on those who do not buy 
those glosses of the Pope and his Datarius. 12 Unio is of the same 
kind : a number of benefices are tied together like a bundle of faggots, 
and on account of this coupling together they are held to be one 
benefice. Thus there may be found many a "courtling" at Rome 
who alone holds twenty-two cures, seven priories, and forty-four 
prebends, all which is done in virtue of this masterly gloss, so as not 
to be contrary to law. Any one can imagine what cardinals and 
other prelates may hold. In this way the Germans are to have their 
purses emptied and their conceit taken out of them. 

There is another gloss called Administratio ; that is, that besides 
his see a man holds an abbey or other high benefice, and possesses 
all the property of it, without any other title but administrator. For 
at Rome it is enough that words should change, and not deeds, just 
as if I said, a procuress was to be called a mayoress, yet may remain 
as good as she is now. Such Romish rule was foretold by St. Peter, 
when he said, "There shall be false teachers among you, . . . and 
through covetousness shall they with feigned words make mer- 
chandise of you" (2 Peter ii. 1, 3). 

This precious Roman avarice has also invented the practice of 
selling and lending prebends and benefices on condition that the 
seller or lender has the reversion, so that if the incumbent dies, the 
benefice falls to him that has sold it, lent it, or abandoned it; in this 
way they have made benefices heritable property, so that none can 
come to hold them unless the seller sells them to him, or leaves them 
to him at his death. Then there are many that give a benefice to 
another in name only, and on condition that he shall not receive a 
farthing. It is now, too, an old practice for a man to give another 
a benefice and to receive a certain annual sum, which proceeding 
was formerly called simony. And there are many other such little 
things which I cannot recount; and so they deal worse with the 
benefices than the heathens by the cross dealt with Christ's clothes. 

12 The papal office for the issue and registration of certain documents was called 
Dataria, from the phrase appended to them, Datum a pud S. Petrum. The chief of 
that office, usually a cardinal, bore the title of Datanus, or Prodatarius. 


But all this that I have spoken of is old and common at Rome. 
Their avarice has invented other device, which I hope will be the 
last and choke it. The Pope has made a noble discovery, called 
Pectoralis Reservatio, that is, "mental reservation"- — et proprius 
motus, that is, "and his own will and power." The matter is man- 
aged in this way : Suppose a man obtains a benefice at Rome, which 
is confirmed to him in due form; then comes another, who brings 
money, or who has done some other service of which the less said 
the better, and requests the Pope to give him the same benefice: 
then the Pope will take it from the first and give it him. If you say, 
that is wrong, the Most Holy Father must then excuse himself, 
that he may not be openly blamed for having violated justice; and 
he says "that in his heart and mind he reserved his authority over 
the said benefice," whilst he never had heard or thought of the same 
in all his life. Thus he has devised a gloss which allows him in his 
proper person to lie and cheat and fool us all, and all this impudently 
and in open daylight, and nevertheless he claims to be the head 
of Christendom, letting the evil spirit rule him with manifest lies. 

This wantonness and lying reservation of the popes has brought 
about an unutterable state of things at Rome. There is a buying 
and a selling, a changing, blustering and bargaining, cheating and 
lying, robbing and stealing, debauchery and villainy, and all kinds of 
contempt of God, that antichrist himself could not rule worse. 
Venice, Antwerp, Cairo, are nothing to this fair and market at 
Rome, except that there things are done with some reason and justice, 
whilst here things are done as the devil himself could wish. And out 
of this ocean a like virtue overflows all the world. Is it not natural 
that such people should dread a reformation and a free council, and 
should rather embroil all kings and princes, than that their unity 
should bring about a council? Who would like his villainy to be 
exposed ? 

Finally, the Pope has built a special house for this fine traffic — 
that is, the house of the Datarius at Rome. Thither all must come 
that bargain in this way, for prebends and benefices; from him they 
must buy the glosses and obtain the right to practise such prime 
villainy. In former days it was fairly well at Rome, when justice 
had to be bought, or could only be put down by money; but now 


she has become so fastidious that she does not allow any one to com- 
mit villainies unless he has first bought the right to do it with great 
sums. If this is not a house of prostitution, worse than all houses of 
prostitution that can be conceived, I do not know what houses of 
prostitution really are. 

If you bring money to this house, you can arrive at all that I have 
mentioned; and more than this, any sort of usury is made legitimate 
for money; property got by theft or robbery is here made legal. 
Here vows are annulled; here a monk obtains leave to quit his 
order; here priests can enter married life for money; here bastards 
can become legitimate; and dishonour and shame may arrive at 
high honours; all evil repute and disgrace is knighted and ennobled; 
here a marriage is suffered that is in a forbidden degree, or has some 
other defect. Oh, what a trafficking and plundering is there! one 
would think that the canon laws were only so many money-snares, 
from which he must free himself who would become a Christian 
man. Nay, here the devil becomes a saint, and a god besides. What 
heaven and earth might not do may be done by this house. Their 
ordinances are called compositions— compositions, forsooth! confu- 
sions rather. 13 Oh, what a poor treasury is the toll on the Rhine 14 
compared with this holy house! 

Let no one think that I say too much. It is all notorious, so that 
even at Rome they are forced to own that it is more terrible and 
worse than one can say. I have said and will say nothing of the 
infernal dregs of private vices. I only speak of well-known public 
matters, and yet my words do not suffice. Bishops, priests, and 
especially the doctors of the universities, who are paid to do it, 
ought to have unanimously written and exclaimed against it. Yea, 
if you will turn the leaf you will discover the truth. 

I have still to give a farewell greeting. These treasures, that would 
have satisfied three mighty kings, were not enough for this unspeak- 
able greed, and so they have made over and sold their traffic to 
Fugger 15 at Augsburg, so that the lending and buying and selling 
sees and benefices, and all this traffic in ecclesiastical property, has 
in the end come into the right hands, and spiritual and temporal 

13 Luther uses here the expressions compositiones and confusiones as a kind of pun. 

14 Tolls were levied at many places along the Rhine. 

15 The commercial house of Fugger was in those days the wealthiest in Europe. 


matters have now become one business. Now I should like to know 
what the most cunning would devise for Romish greed to do that 
it has not done, except that Fugger might sell or pledge his two 
trades, that have now become one. I think they must have come to 
the end of their devices. For what they have stolen and yet steal in 
all countries by bulls of indulgences, letters of confession, letters of 
dispensation, 16 and other confessionalia, all this I think mere bun- 
gling work, and much like playing toss with a devil in hell. Not 
that they produce little, for a mighty king could support himself by 
them; but they are as nothing compared to the other streams of 
revenue mentioned above. I will not now consider what has become 
of that indulgence money; I shall inquire into this another time, 
for Campofiore" and Belvedere™ and some other places probably 
know something about it. 

Meanwhile, since this devilish state of things is not only an open 
robbery, deceit, and tyranny of the gates of hell, but also destroys 
Christianity body and soul, we are bound to use all our diligence to 
prevent this misery and destruction of Christendom. If we wish to 
fight the Turk, let us begin here, where they are worst. If we justly 
hang thieves and behead robbers, why do we leave the greed of 
Rome so unpunished, that is the greatest thief and robber that has 
appeared or can appear on earth, and does all this in the holy name 
of Christ and St. Peter ? Who can suffer this and be silent about it ? 
Almost everything that they possess has been stolen or got by rob- 
bery, as we learn from all histories. Why, the Pope never bought 
those great possessions, so as to be able to raise well-nigh ten hun- 
dred thousand ducats from his ecclesiastical offices, without counting 
his gold mines described above and his land. He did not inherit it 
from Christ and St. Peter; no one gave it or lent it him; he has not 
acquired it by prescription. Tell me, where can he have got it? 
You can learn from this what their object is when they send out 
legates to collect money to be used against the Turk. 

"Luther uses the word Butterbrieje, i. e., letters of indulgence allowing the 
enjoyment of butter, cheese, milk, etc., during Lent. They formed part only of the 
confessionalia, which granted various other indulgences. 

17 A public place at Rome. 

18 Part of the Vatican. 



Now though I am too lowly to submit articles that could serve 
for the reformation of these fearful evils, I will yet sing out my 
fool's song, and will show, as well as my wit will allow, what 
might and should be done by the temporal authorities or by a 
general council. 

i. Princes, nobles, and cities should promptly forbid their sub- 
jects to pay the annates to Rome and should even abolish them alto- 
gether. For the Pope has broken the compact, and turned the 
annates into robbery for the harm and shame of the German nation; 
he gives them to his friends; he sells them for large sums of money 
and founds benefices on them. Therefore he has forfeited his right 
to them, and deserves punishment. In this way the temporal power 
should protect the innocent and prevent wrong-doing, as we are 
taught by St. Paul (Rom. xiii.) and by St. Peter (i Peter ii.) and 
even by the canon law (16. q. 7. de Filiis). That is why we say to 
the Pope and his followers, Tu oral "Thou shalt pray"; to the 
Emperor and his followers, Tu protege! "Thou shalt protect"; to 
the commons, Tu laboral "Thou shalt work." Not that each man 
should not pray, protect, and work; for if a man fulfils his duty, 
that is prayer, protection, and work; but every man must have his 
proper task. 

2. Since by means of those Romish tricks, commendams, coad- 
jutors, reservations, expectations, pope's months, incorporations, 
unions, Palls, rules of chancellery, and other such knaveries, the 
Pope takes unlawful possession of all German foundations, to give 
and sell them to strangers at Rome, that profit Germany in no way, 
so that the incumbents are robbed of their rights, and the bishops 
are made mere ciphers and anointed idols; and thus, besides natural 
justice and reason, the Pope's own canon law is violated; and things 
have come to such a pass that prebends and benefices are sold at 
Rome to vulgar, ignorant asses and knaves, out of sheer greed, 
while pious learned men have no profit by their merit and skill, 
whereby the unfortunate German people must needs lack good, 
learned prelates and suffer ruin — on account of these evils the Chris- 


tian nobility should rise up against the Pope as a common enemy 
and destroyer of Christianity, for the sake of the salvation of the 
poor souls that such tyranny must ruin. They should ordain, order, 
and decree that henceforth no benefice shall be drawn away to 
Rome, and that no benefice shall be claimed there in any fashion 
whatsoever; and after having once got these benefices out of the 
hands of Romish tyranny, they must be kept from them, and their 
lawful incumbents must be reinstated in them to administer them 
as best they may within the German nation. And if a courtling 
came from Rome, he should receive the strict command to with- 
draw, or to leap into the Rhine, or whatever river be nearest, and 
to administer a cold bath to the Interdict, seal and letters and all. 
Thus those at Rome would learn that we Germans are not to remain 
drunken fools forever, but that we, too, are become Christians, and 
that as such we will no longer suffer this shameful mockery of 
Christ's holy name, that serves as a cloak for such knavery and 
destruction of souls, and that we shall respect God and the glory 
of God more than the power of men. 

3. It should be decreed by an imperial law that no episcopal cloak 
and no confirmation of any appointment shall for the future be 
obtained from Rome. The order of the most holy and renowned 
Nicene Council must again be restored, namely that a bishop must 
be confirmed by the two nearest bishops or by the archbishop. If 
the Pope cancels the decrees of these and all other councils, what 
is the good of councils at all? Who has given him the right thus 
to despise councils and to cancel them? If this is allowed, we had 
better abolish all bishops, archbishops and primates, and make sim- 
ple rectors of all of them, so that they would have the Pope alone 
over them as is indeed the case now; he deprives bishops, arch- 
bishops, and primates of all the authority of their office, taking 
everything to himself, and leaving them only the name and the 
empty title; more than this, by his exemption he has withdrawn 
convents, abbots, and prelates from the ordinary authority of the 
bishops, so that there remains no order in Christendom. The neces- 
sary result of this must be, and has been, laxity in punishing and 
such a liberty to do evil in all the world that I very much fear one 
might call the Pope "the man of sin" (2 Thess. ii. 3) . Who but the 


Pope is to blame for this absence of all order, of all punishment, of 
all government, of all discipline, in Christendom? By his own 
arbitrary power he ties the hands of all his prelates, and takes from 
them their rods, while all their subjects have their hands unloosed, 
and obtain licence by gift or purchase. 

But, that he have no cause for complaint, as being deprived of his 
authority, it should be decreed that in cases where the primates and 
archbishops are unable to settle the matter, or where there is a dis- 
pute among them, the matters shall then be submitted to the Pope, 
but not every little matter, as was done formerly, and was ordered 
by the most renowned Nicene Council. His Holiness must not be 
troubled with small matters, that can be settled without his help; 
so that he may have leisure to devote himself to his prayers and 
study and to his care of all Christendom, as he professes to do, as 
indeed the Apostles did, saying, "It is not reason that we should 
leave the word of God, and serve tables. . . . But we will give our- 
selves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word" (Acts 
vi. 2, 4). But now we see at Rome nothing but contempt of the 
Gospel and of prayer, and the service of tables, that is the service of 
the goods of this world; and the government of the Pope agrees 
with the government of the Apostles as well as Lucifer with Christ, 
hell with heaven, night with day; and yet he calls himself Christ's 
vicar and the successor of the Apostles. 

4. Let it be decreed that no temporal matter shall be submitted 
to Rome, but all shall be left to the jurisdiction of the temporal 
authorities. This is part of their own canon law, though they do 
not obey it. For this should be the Pope's office: that he, the most 
learned in the Scriptures and the most holy, not in name only, but 
in fact, should rule in matters concerning the faith and the holy 
life of Christians; he should make primates and bishops attend to 
this, and should work and take thought with them to this end, as 
St. Paul teaches (1 Cor. vi.), severely upbraiding those that occupy 
themselves with the things of this world. For all countries suffer 
unbearable damage by this practice of settling such matters at Rome, 
since it involves great expense; and besides this, the judges at Rome, 
not knowing the manners, laws, and customs of other countries, 
frequently pervert the matter according to their own laws and their 


own opinions, thus causing injustice to all parties. Besides this, we 
should prohibit in all foundations the grievous extortion of the 
ecclesiastical judges; they should only be allowed to consider matters 
concerning faith and good morals; but matters concerning money, 
property, life, and honour should be left to temporal judges. There- 
fore, the temporal authorities should not permit excommunication or 
expulsion except in matters of faith and righteous living. It is only 
reasonable that spiritual authorities should have power in spiritual 
matters; spiritual matters, however, are not money or matters 
relating to the body, but faith and good works. 

Still we might allow matters respecting benefices or prebends to 
be treated before bishops, archbishops, and primates. Therefore 
when it is necessary to decide quarrels and strifes let the Primate 
of Germany hold a general consistory, with assessors and chancellors, 
who would have the control over the signaturas gratice and justitice 19 
and to whom matters arising in Germany might be submitted by 
appeal. The officers of such court should be paid out of the annates, 
or in some other way, and should not have to draw their salaries, as 
at Rome, from chance presents and offerings, whereby they grow 
accustomed to sell justice and injustice, as they must needs do at 
Rome, where the Pope gives them no salary, but allows them to 
fatten themselves on presents; for at Rome no one heeds what is right 
or what is wrong, but only what is money and what is not money. 
They might be paid out of the annates, or by some other means 
devised by men of higher understanding and of more experience 
in these things than I have. I am content with making these sug- 
gestions and giving some materials for consideration to those who 
may be able and willing to help the German nation to become a 
free people of Christians, after this wretched, heathen, unchristian 
misrule of the Pope. 

5. Henceforth no reservations shall be valid, and no benefices shall 
be appropriated by Rome, whether the incumbent die there, or there 
be a dispute, or the incumbent be a servant of the Pope or of a 
cardinal; and all courtiers shall be strictly prohibited and prevented 
from causing a dispute about any benefice, so as to cite the pious 

19 At the time when the above was written the function of the signatura gratis 
was to superintend the conferring of grants, concessions, favours, etc., whilst the 
signatura justitice embraced the general administration of ecclesiastical matters. 


priests, to trouble them, and to drive them to pay compensation. 
And if in consequence of this there comes an interdict from Rome, 
let it be despised, just as if a thief were to excommunicate any man 
because he would not allow him to steal in peace. Nay, they should 
be punished most severely for making such a blasphemous use of 
excommunication and of the name of God, to support their rob- 
beries, and for wishing by their false threats to drive us to suffer 
and approve this blasphemy of God's name and this abuse of Chris- 
tian authority, and thus to become sharers before God in their 
wrong-doing, whereas it is our duty before God to punish it, as St. 
Paul (Rom. i.) upbraids the Romans for not only doing wrong, 
but allowing wrong to be done. But above all that lying mental 
reservation (pectoralis reservatio) is unbearable, by which Christen- 
dom is so openly mocked and insulted, in that its head notoriously 
deals with lies, and impudently cheats and fools every man for the 
sake of accursed wealth. 

6. The cases reserved 20 {casus reservati) should be abolished, by 
which not only are the people cheated out of much money, but 
besides many poor consciences are confused and led into error by 
the ruthless tyrants, to the intolerable harm of their faith in God, 
especially those foolish and childish cases that are made important 
by the bull In Ccena Domini? 1 and which do not deserve the name 
of daily sins, not to mention those great cases for which the Pope 
gives no absolution, such as preventing a pilgrim from going to 
Rome, furnishing the Turks with arms, or forging the Pope's letters. 
They only fool us with these gross, mad, and clumsy matters : Sodom 
and Gomorrah, and all sins that are committed and that can be com- 
mitted against God's commandments, are not reserved cases; but 
what God never commanded and they themselves have invented — 
these must be made reserved cases, solely in order that none may 
be prevented from bringing money to Rome, that they may live in 
their lust without fear of the Turk, and may keep the world in their 
bondage by their wicked useless bulls and briefs. 

20 "Reserved cases" refer to those great sins for which the Pope or the bishops 
only could give absolution. 

21 The celebrated papal bull known under the name of In Cana Domini, containing 
anathemas and excommunications against all those who dissented in any way from 
the Roman Catholic creed, used until the year 1770 to be read publicly at Rome on 
Maundy Thursday. 


Now all priests ought to know, or rather it should be a public 
ordinance, that no secret sin constitutes a reserved case, if there be 
no public accusation; and that every priest has power to absolve 
from all sin, whatever its name, if it be secret, and that no abbot, 
bishop, or pope has power to reserve any such case; and, lastly, that 
if they do this, it is null and void, and they should, moreover, be 
punished as interfering without authority in God's judgment and 
confusing and troubling without cause our poor witless consciences. 
But in respect to any great open sin, directly contrary to God's com- 
mandments, there is some reason for a "reserved case"; but there 
should not be too many, nor should they be reserved arbitrarily 
without due cause. For God has not ordained tyrants, but shep- 
herds, in His Church, as St. Peter says (1 Peter v. 2). 

7. The Roman See must abolish the papal offices, and diminish 
that crowd of crawling vermin at Rome, so that the Pope's servants 
may be supported out of the Pope's own pocket, and that his court 
may cease to surpass all royal courts in its pomp and extravagance; 
seeing that all this pomp has not only been of no service to the 
Christian faith, but has also kept them from study and prayer, so 
that they themselves know hardly anything concerning matters of 
faith, as they proved clumsily enough at the last Roman Council, 22 
where, among many childishly trifling matters, they decided "that 
the soul is immortal," and that a priest is bound to pray once every 
month on pain of losing his benefice. 23 How are men to rule Christen- 
dom and to decide matters of faith who, callous and blinded by 
their greed, wealth, and worldly pomp, have only just decided that 
the soul is immortal? It is no slight shame to all Christendom that 
they should deal thus scandalously with the faith at Rome. If they 
had less wealth and lived in less pomp, they might be better able 
to study and pray that they might become able and worthy to treat 
matters of belief, as they were once, when they were content to be 
bishops, and not kings of kings. 

8. The terrible oaths must be abolished which bishops are forced, 

22 The council alluded to above was held at Rome from 1512 to 1517. 

23 Luther's objection is not, of course, to the recognition of the immortality of the 
soul; what he objects to is (1) that it was thought necessary for a council to decree 
that the soul is immortal, and (2) that this question was put on a level with trivial 
matters of discipline. 


without any right, to swear to the Pope, by which they are bound 
like servants, and which are arbitrarily and foolishly decreed in the 
absurd and shallow chapter Significasti 2i Is it not enough that they 
oppress us in goods, body, and soul by all their mad laws, by which 
they have weakened faith and destroyed Christianity; but must 
they now take possession of the very persons of bishops, with their 
offices and functions, and also claim the investiture 26 which used 
formerly to be the right of the German emperors, and is still the 
right of the King in France and other kingdoms? This matter 
caused many wars and disputes with the emperors until the popes 
impudently took the power by force, since which time they have 
retained it, just as if it were only right for the Germans, above all 
Christians on earth, to be the fools of the Pope and the Holy See, 
and to do and suffer what no one beside would suffer or do. Seeing 
then that this is mere arbitrary power, robbery, and a hindrance to 
the exercise of the bishop's ordinary power, and to the injury of poor 
souls, therefore it is the duty of the Emperor and his nobles to pre- 
vent and punish this tyranny. 

9. The Pope should have no power over the Emperor, except to 
anoint and crown him at the altar, as a bishop crowns a king; nor 
should that devilish pomp be allowed that the Emperor should kiss 
the Pope's feet or sit at his feet, or, as it is said, hold his stirrup or 
the reins of his mule, when he mounts to ride; much less should he 
pay homage to the Pope, or swear allegiance, as is impudently 
demanded by the popes, as if they had a right to it. The chapter 
Solite,™ in which the papal authority is exalted above the imperial, 
is not worth a farthing, and so of all those that depend on it or fear 
it; for it does nothing but pervert God's holy words from their true 
meaning, according to their own imaginations, as I have proved in 
a Latin treatise. 

All these excessive, over-presumptuous, and most wicked claims 
of the Pope are the invention of the devil, with the object of bringing 
in antichrist in due course and of raising; the Pope above God, as 
indeed many have done and are now doing. It is not meet that the 

24 The above is the title of a chapter in the Corpus Juris Canonici. 

25 The right of investiture was the subject of the dispute between Gregory VII. and 
Henry IV., which led to the Emperor's submission at Canossa. 

26 The chapter Solite is also contained in the Corpus Juris Canonici. 


Pope should exalt himself above temporal authority, except in 
spiritual matters, such as preaching and absolution; in other matters 
he should be subject to it, according to the teaching of St. Paul (Rom. 
xiii.) and St. Peter (1 Peter iii.), as I have said above. He is not the 
vicar of Christ in heaven, but only of Christ upon earth. For Christ 
in heaven, in the form of a ruler, requires no vicar, but there sits, 
sees, does, knows, and commands all things. But He requires him 
"in the form of a servant" to represent Him as He walked upon 
earth, working, preaching, suffering, and dying. But they reverse 
this: they take from Christ His power as a heavenly Ruler, and give 
it to the Pope, and allow "the form of a servant" to be entirely for- 
gotten (Phil. ii. 7). He should properly be called the counter-Christ, 
whom the Scriptures call antichrist; for his whole existence, work, 
and proceedings are directed against Christ, to ruin and destroy the 
existence and will of Christ. 

It is also absurd and puerile for the Pope to boast for such blind, 
foolish reasons, in his decretal Pastoralis, that he is the rightful heir 
to the empire, if the throne be vacant. Who gave it to him? Did 
Christ do so when He said, "The kings of the Gentiles exercise 
lordship over them, but ye shall not do so" (Luke xxii. 25, 26) ? Did 
St. Peter bequeath it to him? It disgusts me that we have to read 
and teach such impudent, clumsy, foolish lies in the canon law, and, 
moreover, to take them for Christian doctrine, while in reality they 
are mere devilish lies. Of this kind also is the unheard-of lie touch- 
ing the "donation of Constantine." " It must have been a plague sent 
by God that induced so many wise people to accept such lies, though 
they are so gross and clumsy that one would think a drunken boor 
could lie more skilfully. How could preaching, prayer, study, and 
the care of the poor consist with the government of the empire? 
These are the true offices of the Pope, which Christ imposed with 
such insistence that He forbade them to take either coat or scrip 
(Matt. x. 10), for he that has to govern a single house can hardly 
perform these duties. Yet the Pope wishes to rule an empire and 
to remain a pope. This is the invention of the knaves that would 
fain become lords of the world in the Pope's name, and set up again 

27 In order to legalize the secular power of the Pope, the fiction was invented during 
the latter part of the eighth century, that Constantine the Great had made over to 
the popes the dominion over Rome and over the whole of Italy. 


the old Roman empire, as it was formerly, by means of the Pope 
and name of Christ, in its former condition. 

10. The Pope must withdraw his hand from the dish, and on no 
pretence assume royal authority over Naples and Sicily. He has 
no more right to them than I, and yet claims to be the lord — their 
liege lord. They have been taken by force and robbery, like almost 
all his other possessions. Therefore the Emperor should grant him 
no such fief, nor any longer allow him those he has, but direct him 
instead to his Bibles and Prayer-books, so that he may leave the gov- 
ernment of countries and peoples to the temporal power, especially 
of those that no one has given him. Let him rather preach and pray! 
The same should be done with Bologna, Imola, Vicenza, Ravenna, 
and whatever the Pope has taken by force and holds without right 
in the Ancontine territory, in the Romagna, and other parts of Italy, 
interfering in their affairs against all the commandments of Christ 
and St. Paul. For St. Paul says "that he that would be one of the 
soldiers of heaven must not entangle himself in the affairs of this 
life" (2 Tim. ii. 4). Now the Pope should be the head and the 
leader of the soldiers of heaven, and yet he engages more in worldly 
matters than any king or emperor. He should be relieved of his 
worldly cares and allowed to attend to his duties as a soldier of 
heaven. Christ also, whose vicar he claims to be, would have nothing 
to do with the things of this world, and even asked one that desired 
of Him a judgment concerning his brother, "Who made Me a 
judge over you?" (St.Luke xii. 14). But the Pope interferes in these 
matters unasked, and concerns himself with all matters, as though 
he were a god, until he himself has forgotten what this Christ is 
whose vicar he professes to be. 

11. The custom of kissing the Pope's feet must cease. It is an 
unchristian, or rather an anti-Christian, example that a poor sinful 
man should suffer his feet to be kissed by one who is a hundred 
times better than he. If it is done in honour of his power, why does 
he not do it to others in honour of their holiness? Compare them 
together: Christ and the Pope. Christ washed His disciples' feet 
and dried them, and the disciples never washed His. The Pope, pre- 
tending to be higher than Christ, inverts this, and considers it a 


great favour to let us kiss his feet; whereas, if any one wished to do 
so, he ought to do his utmost to prevent him, as St. Paul and Barna- 
bas would not suffer themselves to be worshipped as gods by the 
men at Lystra, saying, "We also are men of like passions with you" 
(Acts xiv. 14 seq.). But our flatterers have brought things to such 
a pitch that they have set up an idol for us, until no one regards God 
with such fear or honours Him with such marks of reverence as he 
does the Pope. This they can suffer, but not that the Pope's glory 
should be diminished a single hair's-breadth. Now if they were 
Christians and preferred God's honour to their own, the Pope 
would never be pleased to have God's honour despised and his own 
exalted, nor would he allow any to honour him until he found that 
God's honour was again exalted above his own. 

It is of a piece with this revolting pride that the Pope is not satis- 
fied with riding on horseback or in a carriage, but though he be hale 
and strong, is carried by men, like an idol in unheard-of pomp. My 
friend, how does this Lucifer-like pride agree with the example of 
Christ, who went on foot, as did also all His Apostles ? Where has 
there been a king who has ridden in such worldly pomp as he does, 
who professes to be the head of all whose duty it is to despise and 
flee from all worldly pomp — I mean, of all Christians? Not that 
this need concern us for his own sake, but that we have good reason 
to fear God's wrath, if we flatter such pride and do not show our 
discontent. It is enough that the Pope should be so mad and foolish; 
but it is too much that we should sanction and approve it. 

For what Christian heart can be pleased at seeing the Pope when 
he communicates, sit still like a gracious lord and have the Sacrament 
handed to him on a golden reed by a cardinal bending on his knees 
before him? Just as if the Holy Sacrament were not worthy that 
a pope, a poor miserable sinner, should stand to do honour to his 
God, although all other Christians, who are much more holy than 
the Most Holy Father, receive it with all reverence! Could we be 
surprised if God visited us all with a plague for that we suffer such 
dishonour to be done to God by our prelates, and approve it, becom- 
ing partners of the Pope's damnable pride by our silence or flat- 
tery? It is the same when he carries the Sacrament in procession. 


He must be carried, but the Sacrament stands before him like a cup 
of wine on a table. In short, at Rome Christ is nothing, the Pope is 
everything; yet they urge us and threaten us, to make us suffer and 
approve and honour this anti-Christian scandal, contrary to God 
and all Christian doctrine. Now may God so help a free council 
that it may teach the Pope that he too is a man, not above God, as 
he makes himself out to be. 

12. Pilgrimages to Rome must be abolished, or at least no one 
must be allowed to go from his own wish or his own piety, unless 
his priest, his town magistrate, or his lord has found that there is 
sufficient reason for his pilgrimage. This I say, not because pilgrim- 
ages are bad in themselves, but because at the present time they lead 
to mischief; for at Rome a pilgrim sees no good examples, but only 
offence. They themselves have made a proverb, "The nearer to 
Rome, the farther from Christ," and accordingly men bring home 
contempt of God and of God's commandments. It is said, "The 
first time one goes to Rome, he goes to seek a rogue; the second time 
he finds him; the third time he brings him home with him." But 
now they have become so skilful that they can do their three jour- 
neys in one, and they have, in fact, brought home from Rome this 
saying: "It were better never to have seen or heard of Rome." 

And even if this were not so, there is something of more impor- 
tance to be considered; namely, that simple men are thus led into a 
false delusion and a wrong understanding of God's commandments. 
For they think that these pilgrimages are precious and good works; 
but this is not true. It is but a little good work, often a bad, mislead- 
ing work, for God has not commanded it. But He has commanded 
that each man should care for his wife and children and whatever 
concerns the married state, and should, besides, serve and help his 
neighbour. Now it often happens that one goes on a pilgrimage to 
Rome, spends fifty or one hundred guilders more or less, which no 
one has commanded him, while his wife and children, or those dear- 
est to him, are left at home in want and misery; and yet he thinks, 
poor foolish man, to atone for this disobedience and contempt of 
God's commandments by his self-willed pilgrimage, while he is in 
truth misled by idle curiosity or the wiles of the devil. This the popes 
have encouraged with their false and foolish invention of Golden 


Years, 2 * by which they have incited the people, have torn them away 
from God's commandments and turned them to their own delusive 
proceedings, and set up the very thing that they ought to have for- 
bidden. But it brought them money and strengthened their false 
authority, and therefore it was allowed to continue, though against 
God's will and the salvation of souls. 

That this false, misleading belief on the part of simple Christians 
may be destroyed, and a true opinion of good works may again be 
introduced, all pilgrimages should be done away with. For there is 
no good in them, no commandment, but countless causes of sin and 
of contempt of God's commandments. These pilgrimages are the 
reason for there being so many beggars, who commit numberless 
villainies, learn to beg without need and get accustomed to it. Hence 
arises a vagabond life, besides other miseries which I cannot dwell 
on now. If any one wishes to go on a pilgrimage or to make a vow 
for a pilgrimage, he should first inform his priest or the temporal 
authorities of the reason, and if it should turn out that he wishes to 
do it for the sake of good works, let this vow and work be just 
trampled upon by the priest or the temporal authority as an infernal 
delusion, and let them tell him to spend his money and the labour 
a pilgrimage would cost on God's commandments and on a thou- 
sandfold better work, namely, on his family and his poor neigh- 
bours. But if he does it out of curiosity, to see cities and countries, 
he may be allowed to do so. If he have vowed it in sickness, let 
such vows be prohibited, and let God's commandments be insisted 
upon in contrast to them; so that a man may be content with what 
he vowed in baptism, namely, to keep God's commandments. Yet 
for this once he may be suffered, for a quiet conscience' sake, to keep 
his silly vow. No one is content to walk on the broad high-road of 
God's commandments; every one makes for himself new roads and 
new vows, as if he had kept all God's commandments. 

13. Now we come to the great crowd that promises much and 
performs little. Be not angry, my good sirs; I mean well. I have to 

28 The Jubilees, during which plenary indulgences were granted to those who 
visited the churches of St. Peter and St. Paul at Rome, were originally celebrated 
every hundred years and subsequently every twenty-five years. Those who were 
unable to go to Rome in person could obtain the plenary indulgences by paying the 
expenses of the journey to Rome into the papal treasury. 


tell you this bitter and sweet truth : Let no more mendicant monas- 
teries be built! God help us! there are too many as it is. Would to 
God they were all abolished, or at least made over to two or three 
orders! It has never done good, it will never do good, to go wander- 
ing about over the country. Therefore my advice is that ten, or as 
many as may be required, be put together and made into one, which 
one, sufficiently provided for, need not beg. Oh! it is of much more 
importance to consider what is necessary for the salvation of the 
common people, than what St. Francis, or St. Dominic, or St. 
Augustine, 29 or any other man, laid down, especially since things 
have not turned out as they expected. They should also be relieved 
from preaching and confession, unless specially required to do so 
by bishops, priests, the congregation, or other authority. For their 
preaching and confession has led to nought but mere hatred and 
envy between priests and monks, to the great offence and hindrance 
of the people, so that it well deserves to be put a stop to, since its 
place may very well be dispensed with. It does not look at all 
improbable that the Holy Roman See had its own reasons for encour- 
aging all this crowd of monks: the Pope perhaps feared that priests 
and bishops, growing weary of his tyranny, might become too strong 
for him, and begin a reformation unendurable to his Holiness. 

Besides this, one should also do away with the sections and the 
divisions in the same order which, caused for little reason and kept up 
for less, oppose each other with unspeakable hatred and malice, the 
result being that the Christian faith, which is very well able to stand 
without their divisions, is lost on both sides, and that a true Christian 
life is sought and judged only by outward rules, works, and prac- 
tices, from which arise only hypocrisy and the destruction of souls, 
as every one can see for himself. Moreover, the Pope should be for- 
bidden to institute or to confirm the institution of such new orders; 
nay, he should be commanded to abolish several and to lessen their 
number. For the faith of Christ, which alone is the important mat- 
ter, and can stand without any particular order, incurs no little 
danger lest men should be led away by these diverse works and 
manners rather to live for such works and practices than to care 

29 The above-mentioned saints were the patrons of the well-known mendicant 
orders: Franciscans, Dominicans, and Augustines. 


for faith; and unless there are wise prelates in the monasteries, who 
preach and urge faith rather than the rule of the order, it is inevitable 
that the order should be injurious and misleading to simple souls, 
who have regard to works alone. 

Now, in our own time all the prelates are dead that had faith and 
founded orders, just as it was in old days with the children of Israel: 
when their fathers were dead, that had seen God's works and 
miracles, their children, out of ignorance of God's work and of faith, 
soon began to set up idolatry and their own human works. In the 
same way, alas! these orders, not understanding God's works and 
faith, grievously labour and torment themselves by their own laws 
and practices, and yet never arrive at a true understanding of a 
spiritual and good life, as was foretold by the Apostle, saying of 
them, "Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof, 
. . . ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge" of 
what a true spiritual life is (2 Tim. iii. 2-7) . Better to have no con- 
vents which are governed by a spiritual prelate, having no under- 
standing of Christian faith to govern them; for such a prelate cannot 
but rule with injury and harm, and the greater the apparent holiness 
of his life in external works, the greater the harm. 

It would be, I think, necessary, especially in these perilous times, 
that foundations and convents should again be organised as they 
were in the time of the Apostles and a long time after, namely when 
they were all free for every man to remain there as long as he 
wished. For what were they but Christian schools, in which the 
Scriptures and Christian life were taught, and where folk were 
trained to govern and to preach? as we read that St. Agnes went to 
school, and as we see even now in some nunneries, as at Quedlin- 
burg and other places. Truly all foundations and convents ought to 
be free in this way : that they may serve God of a free will, and not 
as slaves. But now they have been bound round with vows and 
turned into eternal prisons, so that these vows are regarded even 
more than the vows of baptism. But what fruit has come of this 
we daily see, hear, read, and learn more and more. 

I dare say that this my counsel will be thought very foolish, but I 
care not for this. I advise what I think best, reject it who will. I 
know how these vows are kept, especially that of chastity, which is 


so general in all these convents, 30 and yet was not ordered by Christ, 
and it is given to comparatively few to be able to keep it, as He 
says, and St. Paul also (Col. ii. 20). I wish all to be helped, and 
that Christian souls should not be held in bondage, through cus- 
toms and laws invented by men. 

14. We see also how the priesthood is fallen, and how many a 
poor priest is encumbered with a woman and children and burdened 
in his conscience, and no one does anything to help him, though 
he might very well be helped. Popes and bishops may let that be 
lost that is being lost, and that be destroyed which is being de- 
stroyed, I will save my conscience and open my mouth freely, let it 
vex popes and bishops or whoever it may be; therefore I say, Accord- 
ing to the ordinances of Christ and His Apostles, every town should 
have a minister or bishop, as St. Paul plainly says (Titus i.), and 
this minister should not be forced to live without a lawful wife, but 
should be allowed to have one, as St. Paul writes, saying that "a 
bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, . . . having 
his children in subjection with all gravity" (1 Tim. hi.). For with 
St. Paul a bishop and a presbyter are the same thing, as St. Jerome 
also confirms. But as for the bishops that we now have, of these 
the Scriptures know nothing; they were instituted by common 
Christian ordinance, so that one might rule over many ministers. 

Therefore we learn from the Apostle clearly, that every town 
should elect a pious learned citizen from the congregation and 
charge him with the office of minister; the congregation should sup- 
port him, and he should be left at liberty to marry or not. He should 
have as assistants several priests and deacons, married or not, as 
they please, who should help him to govern the people and the con- 
gregation with sermons and the ministration of the sacraments, as 
is still the case in the Greek Church. Then afterwards, when there 
were so many persecutions and contentions against heretics, there 
were many holy fathers who voluntarily abstained from the mar- 
riage state, that they might study more, and might be ready at all 
times for death and conflict. Now the Roman see has interfered of 
its own perversity, and has made a general law by which priests are 

30 Luther alludes here of course to the vow of celibacy, which was curiously styled 
the 'vow of chastity'; thus indirectly condemning marriage in general. 


forbidden to marry. This must have been at the instigation of the 
devil, as was foretold by St. Paul, saying that "there shall come 
teachers giving heed to seducing spirits, . . . forbidding to marry," 
etc. (1 Tim. iv. 1, 2, seq.). This has been the cause of so much 
misery that it cannot be told, and has given occasion to the Greek 
Church to separate from us, and has caused infinite disunion, sin, 
shame, and scandal, like everything that the devil does or suggests. 
Now what are we to do ? 

My advice is to restore liberty, and to leave every man free to 
marry or not to marry. But if we did this we should have to intro- 
duce a very different rule and order for property; the whole canon 
law would be overthrown, and but few benefices would fall to Rome. 
I am afraid greed was a cause of this wretched, unchaste chastity, 
for the result of it was that every man wished to become a priest or 
to have his son brought up to the priesthood, not with the intention 
of living in chastity — for this could be done without the priestly state 
— but to obtain his worldly support without labour or trouble, con- 
trary to God's command, "In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat 
thy bread" (Gen. hi.); and they have given a colour to this com- 
mandment as though their work was praying and reading the mass. 
I am not here considering popes, bishops, canons, clergy, and monks 
who were not ordained by God; if they have laid burdens on them- 
selves, they may bear them. I speak of the office of parish priest, 
which God ordained, who must rule a congregation with sermons 
and the ministration of the sacraments, and must live with them and 
lead a domestic life. These should have the liberty given them by 
a Christian council to marry and to avoid danger and sin. For as 
God has not bound them, no one may bind them, though he were 
an angel from heaven, let alone the Pope; and whatever is contrary 
to this in the canon law is mere idle talk and invention. 

My advice further is, whoever henceforth is ordained priest, he 
should in no wise take the vow of chastity, but should protest to the 
bishop that he has no authority to demand this vow, and that it is 
a devilish tyranny to demand it. But if one is forced, or wishes to 
say, as some do, "so far as human frailty permits," let every man 
interpret that phrase as a plain negative, that is, "I do not prom- 
ise chastity"; for "human frailty does not allow men to live an 


unmarried life," but only "angelic fortitude and celestial virtue." In 
this way he will have a clear conscience without any vow. I offer no 
opinion, one way or the other, whether those who have at present 
no wife should marry, or remain unmarried. This must be settled 
by the general order of the Church and by each man's discretion. 
But I will not conceal my honest counsel, nor withhold comfort 
from that unhappy crowd who now live in trouble with wife and 
children, and remain in shame, with a heavy conscience, hearing 
their wife called a priest's harlot, and the children bastards. And 
this I say frankly, in virtue of my good right. 

There is many a poor priest free from blame in all other respects, 
except that he has succumbed to human frailty and come to shame 
with a woman, both minded in their hearts to live together always 
in conjugal fidelity, if only they could do so with a good conscience, 
though as it is they live in public shame. I say, these two are surely 
married before God. I say, moreover, that when two are so minded, 
and so come to live together, they should save their conscience; let 
the man take the woman as his lawful wife, and live with her faith- 
fully as her husband, without considering whether the Pope approve 
or not, or whether it is. forbidden by canon law, or temporal. The 
salvation of your soul is of more importance than their tyrannous, 
arbitrary, wicked laws, which are not necessary for salvation, nor 
ordained by God. You should do as the children of Israel did who 
stole from the Egyptians the wages they had earned, or as a servant 
steals his well-earned wages from a harsh master; in the same way 
do you also steal your wife and child from the Pope. 

Let him who has faith enough to dare this only follow me cour- 
ageously : I will not mislead him. I may not have the Pope's author- 
ity, yet I have the authority of a Christian to help my neighbour and 
to warn him against his sins and dangers. And here there is good 
reason for doing so. 

(«) It is not every priest that can do without a woman, not only 
on account of human frailty, but still more for his household. If 
therefore he takes a woman, and the Pope allows this, but will not 
let them marry, what is this but expecting a man and a woman to 
live together and not to fall ? Just as if one were to set fire to straw, 
and command it should neither smoke nor burn. 


(b) The Pope having no authority for such a command, any more 
than to forbid a man to eat and drink, or to digest, or to grow fat, 
no one is bound to obey it, and the Pope is answerable for every 
sin against it, for all the souls that it has brought to destruction, 
and for all the consciences that have been troubled and tormented 
by it. He has long deserved to be driven out of the world, so many 
poor souls has he strangled with this devil's rope, though I hope that 
God has shown many more mercy at their death than the Pope did 
in their life. No good has ever come and can ever come from the 
papacy and its laws. 

(c) Even though the Pope's laws forbid it, still, after the married 
state has been entered, the Pope's laws are superseded, and are valid 
no longer, for God has commanded that no man shall put asunder 
husband and wife, and this commandment is far above the Pope's 
laws, and God's command must not be cancelled or neglected for 
the papal commands. It is true that mad lawyers have helped the 
Pope to invent impediments, or hindrances to marriage, and thus 
troubled, divided, and perverted the married state, destroying the 
commandments of God. What need I say further? In the whole 
body of the Pope's canon law, there are not two lines that can 
instruct a pious Christian, and so many false and dangerous ones 
that it were better to burn it. 

But if you object that this would give offence, and that one must 
first obtain the Pope's dispensation, I answer that if there is any 
offence in it, it is the fault of the see of Rome, which has made un- 
just and unholy laws. It is no offence to God and the Scriptures. 
Even where the Pope has power to grant dispensation for money 
by his covetous tyrannical laws, every Christian has power to grant 
dispensation in the same matter for the sake of Christ and the salva- 
tion of souls. For Christ has freed us from all human laws, especially 
when they are opposed to God and the salvation of souls, as St. Paul 
teaches (Gal. v. 1 and 1 Cor. viii. 9, 10). 

15. I must not forget the poor convents. The evil spirit, who has 
troubled all estates of life by human laws, and made them unendur- 
able, has taken possession of some abbots, abbesses, and prelates, and 
led them so to rule their brothers and sisters that they do but go 
soon to hell, and live a wretched life even upon earth, as is the case 


with all the devil's martyrs. For they have reserved in confession 
all, or at least some, deadly sins, which are secret, and from these 
no brother may on pain of excommunication and on his obedience 
absolve another. Now we do not always find angels everywhere, 
but men of flesh and blood, who would rather incur all excom- 
munication and menace than confess their secret sins to a prelate 
or the confessor appointed for them; consequently they receive the 
Sacrament with these sins on their conscience, by which they become 
irregular 31 and suffer much misery. Oh blind shepherds! Oh fool- 
ish prelates! Oh ravenous wolves! Now I say that in cases where 
a sin is public and notorious it is only right that the prelate alone 
should punish it, and such sins, and no others, he may reserve and 
except for himself; over private sins he has no authority, even 
though they may be the worst that can be committed or imagined. 
And if the prelate excepts these, he becomes a tyrant and interferes 
with God's judgment. 

Accordingly I advise these children, brothers and sisters: If your 
superiors will not allow you to confess your secret sins to whomso- 
ever you will, then take them yourself, and confess them to your 
brother or sister, to whomsoever you will; be absolved and com- 
forted, and then go or do what your wish or duty commands; only 
believe firmly that you have been absolved, and nothing more is 
necessary. And let not their threats of excommunication, or irreg- 
ularity, or what not, trouble or disturb you; these only apply to 
public or notorious sins, if they are not confessed: you are not 
touched by them. How canst thou take upon thyself, thou blind 
prelate, to restrain private sins by thy threats? Give up what thou 
canst not keep publicly; let God's judgment and mercy also have 
its place with thy inferiors. He has not given them into thy hands 
so completely as to have let them go out of His own; nay, thou hast 
received the smaller portion. Consider thy statutes as nothing more 
than thy statutes, and do not make them equal to God's judgment 
in heaven. 

16. It were also right to abolish annual festivals, processions, and 
masses for the dead, or at least to diminish their number; for we 

31 Luther uses the expression irregulares, which was applied to those monks who 
were guilty of heresy, apostacy, transgression of the vow of chastity, etc. 


evidently see that they have become no better than a mockery, excit- 
ing the anger of God and having no object but money-getting, glut- 
tony, and carousals. How should it please God to hear the poor 
vigils and masses mumbled in this wretched way, neither read nor 
prayed? Even when they are properly read, it is not done freely 
for the love of God, but for the love of money and as payment of a 
debt. Now it is impossible that anything should please God or win 
anything from Him that is not done freely, out of love for Him. 
Therefore, as true Christians, we ought to abolish or lessen a prac- 
tice that we see is abused, and that angers God instead of appeasing 
Him. I should prefer, and it would be more agreeable to God's 
will, and far better for a foundation, church, or convent, to put all 
the yearly masses and vigils together into one mass, so that they 
would every year celebrate, on one day, a true vigil and mass with 
hearty sincerity, devotion, and faith for all their benefactors. This 
would be better than their thousand upon thousand masses said 
every year, each for a particular benefactor, without devotion and 
faith. My dear fellow-Christians, God cares not for much prayer, 
but for good prayer. Nay, He condemns long and frequent prayers, 
saying, "Verily I say unto you, they have their reward" (Matt. vi. 2, 
seq.) . But it is the greed that cannot trust God by which such prac- 
tices are set up; it is afraid it will die of starvation. 

17. One should also abolish certain punishments inflicted by the 
canon law, especially the interdict, which is doubtless the invention 
of the evil one. Is it not the mark of the devil to wish to better one 
sin by more and worse sins? It is surely a greater sin to silence 
God's word, and service, than if we were to kill twenty popes at 
once, not to speak of a single priest or of keeping back the goods 
of the Church. This is one of those gentle virtues which are learnt 
in the spiritual law; for the canon or spiritual law is so called because 
it comes from a spirit, not, however, from the Holy Spirit, but from 
the evil spirit. 

Excommunication should not be used except where the Scriptures 
command it, that is, against those that have not the right faith, 
or that live in open sin, and not in matters of temporal goods. 
But now the case has been inverted: each man believes and lives as 
he pleases, especially those that plunder and disgrace others with 


excommunications; and all excommunications are now only in mat- 
ters of worldly goods, for which we have no one to thank but the 
holy canonical injustice. But of all this I have spoken previously 
in a sermon. 

The other punishments and penalties — suspension, irregularity, 
aggravation, reaggravation, deposition, 32 thundering, lightning, curs- 
ing, damning, and what not — all these should be buried ten fathoms 
deep in the earth, that their very name and memory may no longer 
live upon earth. The evil spirit, who was let loose by the spiritual 
law, has brought all this terrible plague and misery into the heavenly 
kingdom of the holy Church, and has thereby brought about noth- 
ing but the harm and destruction of souls, that we may well apply 
to it the words of Christ, "But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, 
hypocrites! for you shut up the kingdom of heaven against men, for 
ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering 
to go in" (Matt, xxiii. 13) . 

18. One should abolish all saints' days, keeping only Sunday. But 
if it were desired to keep the festivals of Our Lady and the greater 
saints, they should all be held on Sundays, or only in the morning 
with the mass; the rest of the day being a working day. My reason 
is this: with our present abuses of drinking, gambling, idling, and 
all manner of sin, we vex God more on holy days than on others. 
And the matter is just reversed; we have made holy days unholy, 
and working days holy, and do no service, but great dishonour, to 
God and His saints with all our holy days. There are some foolish 
prelates that think they have done a good deed, if they establish a 
festival to St. Otilia or St. Barbara, and the like, each in his own 
blind fashion, whilst he would be doing a much better work to turn 
a saint's day into a working day in honour of a saint. 

Besides these spiritual evils, these saints' days inflict bodily injury 
on the common man in two ways: he loses a day's work, and he 
spends more than usual, besides weakening his body and making 
himself unfit for labour, as we see every day, and yet no one tries 
to improve it. One should not consider whether the Pope instituted 

32 Luther enumerates here the various grades of punishment inflicted on priests. 
The aggravation consisted of a threat of excommunication after a thrice-repeated 
admonition, whilst the consequence of reaggravation was immediate excommunica- 


these festivals, or whether we require his dispensation or permis- 
sion. If anything is contrary to God's will and harmful to men in 
body and soul, not only has every community, council, or govern- 
ment authority to prevent and abolish such wrong without the 
knowledge or consent of pope or bishop, but it is their duty, as they 
value their soul's salvation, to prevent it, even though pope and 
bishop (that should be the first to do so) are unwilling to see it 
stopped. And first of all we should abolish church wakes, since they 
are nothing but taverns, fairs, and gaming places, to the greater dis- 
honour of God and the damnation of souls. It is no good to make a 
talk about their having had a good origin and being good works. 
Did not God set aside His own law that He had given forth out 
of heaven when He saw that it was abused, and does He not now 
reverse every day what He has appointed, and destroy what He has 
made, on account of the same perverse misuse, as it is written in 
Psalm xviii. (ver. 26), "With the perverse Thou wilt show Thyself 
f roward" ? 

19. The degrees of relationship in which marriage is forbidden 
must be altered, such as so-called spiritual relations 33 in the third and 
fourth degrees; and where the Pope at Rome can dispense in such 
matters for money, and make shameful bargains, every priest should 
have the power of granting the same dispensations freely for the 
salvation of souls. Would to God that all those things that have to 
be bought at Rome, for freedom from the golden snares of the canon 
law, might be given by any priest without payment, such as in- 
dulgences, letters of indulgences, letters of dispensation, mass letters, 
and all the other religious licences and knaveries at Rome by which 
the poor people are deceived and robbed! For if the Pope has the 
power to sell for money his golden snares, or canon nets (laws, I 
should say), much more has a priest the power to cancel them and 
to trample on them for God's sake. But if he has no such power, 
then the Pope can have no authority to sell them in his shameful 

Besides this, fasts must be made optional, and every kind of food 
made free, as is commanded in the Gospels (Matt. xv. n). For whilst 
at Rome they laugh at fasts, they let us abroad consume oil which 

33 Those, namely, between sponsors at baptism and their god-children. 


they would not think fit for greasing their boots, and then sell us 
the liberty of eating butter and other things, whereas the Apostle 
says that the Gospel has given us freedom in all such matters (i Cor. 
x. 25, seq.). But they have caught us in their canon law and have 
robbed us of this right, so that we have to buy it back from them; 
they have so terrified the consciences of the people that one cannot 
preach this liberty without rousing the anger of the people, who 
think the eating of butter to be a worse sin than lying, swearing, 
and unchastity. We may make of it what we will; it is but the work 
of man, and no good can ever come of it. 

20. The country chapels and churches must be destroyed, such as 
those to which the new pilgrimages have been set on foot : Wilsnack, 
Sternberg, Treves, the Grimmenthal, and now Ratisbon, and many 
others. Oh, what a reckoning there will be for those bishops that 
allow these inventions of the devil and make a profit out of them! 
They should be the first to stop it; they think that it is a godly, holy 
thing, and do not see that the devil does this to strengthen covetous- 
ness, to teach false beliefs, to weaken parish churches, to increase 
drunkenness and debauchery, to waste money and labour, and sim- 
ply to lead the poor people by the nose. If they had only studied 
the Scriptures as much as their accursed canon law, they would know 
well how to deal with the matter. 

The miracles performed there prove nothing, for the evil one can 
show also wonders, as Christ has taught us (Matt. xxiv. 24) . If they 
took up the matter earnesdy and forbade such doings, the miracles 
would soon cease: or if they were done by God, they would not be 
prevented by their commands. And if there were nothing else to 
prove that these are not works of God, it would be enough that 
people go about turbulently and irrationally like herds of cattle, 
which could not possibly come from God. God has not commanded 
it; there is no obedience, and no merit in it; and therefore it should 
be vigorously interfered with, and the people warned against it. 
For what is not commanded by God and goes beyond God's com- 
mandments is surely the devil's own work. In this way also the 
parish churches surfer : in that they are less venerated. In fine, these 
pilgrimages are signs of great want of faith in the people; for if they 


truly believed, they would find all things in their own churches, 
where they are commanded to go. 

But what is the use of my speaking. Every man thinks only how 
he may get up such a pilgrimage in his own district, not caring 
whether the people believe and live rightly. The rulers are like the 
people: blind leaders of the blind. Where pilgrimages are a failure, 
they begin to glorify their saints, not to honour the saints, who are 
sufficiently honoured without them, but to cause a concourse, and 
to bring in money. Herein pope and bishops help them; it rains 
indulgences, and every one can afford to buy them: but what God 
has commanded no one cares for; no one runs after it, no one can 
afford any money for it. Alas for our blindness, that we not only 
suffer the devil to have his way with his phantoms, but support him! 
I wish one would leave the good saints alone, and not lead the poor 
people astray. What spirit gave the Pope authority to "glorify" the 
saints? Who tells him whether they are holy or not holy? Are 
there not enough sins on earth as it is but we must tempt God, 
interfere in His judgment, and make money-bags of His saints? 
Therefore my advice is to let the saints glorify themselves. Nay, 
God alone should be glorified, and every man should keep to his 
own parish, where he will profit more than in all these shrines, even 
if they were all put together into one shrine. Here a man finds 
baptism, the Sacrament, preaching, and his neighbour, and these 
are more than all the saints in heaven, for it is by God's word and 
sacrament that they have all been hallowed. 

Our contempt for these great matters justifies God's anger in giv- 
ing us over to the devil to lead us astray, to get up pilgrimages, to 
found churches and chapels, to glorify the saints, and to commit 
other like follies, by which we are led astray from the true faith into 
new false beliefs, just as He did in old time with the people of Israel, 
whom He led away from the Temple to countless other places, all 
the while in God's name, and with the appearance of holiness, 
against which all the prophets preached, suffering martyrdom for 
their words. But now no one preaches against it; for if he did, 
bishops, popes, priests, and monks would perchance combine to 
martyr him. In this way Antonius of Florence and many others are 


made saints, so that their holiness may serve to produce glory and 
wealth, which served before to the honour of God and as a good 
example alone. 

Even if this glorification of the saints had been good once, it is 
not good now, just as many other things were good once and are 
now occasion of offence and injurious, such as holidays, ecclesiastical 
treasures and ornaments. For it is evident that what is aimed at in 
the glorification of saints is not the glory of God nor the bettering 
of Christendom, but money and fame alone; one Church wishes to 
have an advantage over another, and would be sorry to see another 
Church enjoying the same advantages. In this way they have in 
these latter days abused the goods of the Church so as to gain the 
goods of the world; so that everything, and even God Himself, must 
serve their avarice. Moreover, these privileges cause nothing but 
dissensions and worldly pride; one Church being different from the 
rest, they despise or magnify one another, whereas all goods that 
are of God should be common to all, and should serve to produce 
unity. This, too, is much liked by the Pope, who would be sorry to 
see all Christians equal and at one with one another. 

Here must be added that one should abolish, or treat as of no 
account, or give to all Churches alike, the licences, bulls, and what- 
ever the Pope sells at his flaying-ground at Rome. For if he sells or 
gives to Wittenberg, to Halle, to Venice, and above all, to his own 
city of Rome, permissions, privileges, indulgences, graces, advan- 
tages, faculties, why does he not give them to all Churches alike? 
Is it not his duty to do all that he can for all Christians without 
reward, solely for God's sake, nay, even to shed his blood for them? 
Why then, I should like to know, does he give or sell these things 
to one Church and not to another ? Or does this accursed gold make 
a difference in his Holiness's eyes between Christians who all alike 
have baptism, Gospel, faith, Christ, God, and all things? Do they 
wish us to be blind, when our eyes can see, to be fools, when we 
have reason, that we should worship this greed knavery, and delu- 
sion? He is a shepherd, forsooth — so long as you have money, no 
further; and yet they are not ashamed to practise all this knavery 
right and left with their bulls. They care only for that accursed 
gold, and for nought besides. 


Therefore my advice is this: If this folly is not done away with, 
let all pious Christians open their eyes, and not be deceived by these 
Romish bulls and seals and all their specious pretences; let them 
stop at home in their own churches, and be satisfied with their 
baptism, Gospel, faith, Christ, and God (who is everywhere the 
same), and let the Pope continue to be a blind leader of the blind. 
Neither pope nor angel can give you as much as God gives you in 
your own parish; nay, he only leads you away from God's gifts, 
which you have for nothing, to his own gifts, which you must buy, 
giving you lead for gold, skin for meat, strings for a purse, wax for 
honey, words for goods, the letter for the spirit, as you can see for 
yourselves though you will not perceive it. If you try to ride to 
heaven on the Pope's wax and parchment, your carriage will soon 
break down, and you will fall into hell, not in God's name. 

Let this be a fixed rule for you: Whatever has to be bought of 
the Pope is neither good, nor of God. For whatever comes from 
God is not only given freely, but all the world is punished and con- 
demned for not accepting it freely. So is it with the Gospel and the 
works of God. We have deserved to be led into these errors, because 
we have despised God's holy word and the grace of baptism; as 
St. Paul says, "And for this cause God shall send them strong delu- 
sion, that they should believe a lie, that they all might be damned 
who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness" 
(2 Thess. ii. n, 12). 

21. It is one of the most urgent necessities to abolish all begging in 
Christendom. No one should go about begging among Christians. 
It would not be hard to do this, if we attempted it with good heart 
and courage: each town should support its own poor and should 
not allow strange beggars to come in, whatever they may call them- 
selves, pilgrims or mendicant monks. Every town could feed its 
own poor; and if it were too small, the people in the neighbouring 
villages should be called upon to contribute. As it is, they have to 
support many knaves and vagabonds under the name of beggars. 
If they did what I propose, they would at least know who were 
really poor or not. 

There should also be an overseer or guardian who should know 
all the poor, and should inform the town-council, or the priest, of 


their requirements; or some other similar provision might be made. 
There is no occupation, in my opinion, in which there is so much 
knavery and cheating as among beggars; which could easily be done 
away with. This general, unrestricted begging is, besides, injurious 
for the common people. I estimate that of the five or six orders of 
mendicant monks each one visits every place more than six or seven 
times in the year; then there are the common beggars, emissaries, 
and pilgrims; in this way I calculate every city has a blackmail 
levied on it about sixty times a year, not counting rates and taxes 
paid to the civil government and the useless robberies of the Roman 
see; so that it is to my mind one of the greatest of God's miracles 
how we manage to live and support ourselves. 

Some may think that in this way the poor would not be well 
cared for, and that such great stone houses and convents would not 
be built, and not so plentifully, and I think so too. Nor is it neces- 
sary. If a man will be poor, he should not be rich; if he will be rich, 
let him put his hand to the plough, and get wealth himself out of 
the earth. It is enough to provide decently for the poor, that they 
may not die of cold and hunger. It is not right that one should 
work that another may be idle, and live ill that another may live 
well, as is now the perverse abuse, for St. Paul says, "If any would 
not work, neither should he eat" (2 Thess. iii. 10). God has not 
ordained that any one should live of the goods of others, except 
priests and ministers alone, as St. Paul says (1 Cor. ix. 14), for their 
spiritual work's sake, as also Christ says to the Apostles, "The la- 
bourer is worthy of his hire" (Luke x. 7) . 

22. It is also to be feared that the many masses that have been 
founded in convents and foundations, instead of doing any good, 
arouse God's anger; wherefore it would be well to endow no more 
masses and to abolish many of those that have been endowed; for 
we see that they are only looked upon as sacrifices and good works, 
though in truth they are sacraments like baptism and confession, and 
as such profit him only that receives them. But now the custom 
obtains of saying masses for the living and the dead, and everything 
is based upon them. This is the reason why there are so many, and 
that they have come to be what we see. 

But perhaps all this is a new and unheard-of doctrine, especially in 


the eyes of those that fear to lose their livelihood, if these masses 
were abolished. I must therefore reserve what I have to say on this 
subject until men have arrived at a truer understanding of the mass, 
its nature and use. The mass has, alas! for so many years been 
turned into means of gaining a livelihood, that I should advise a 
man to become a shepherd, a labourer, rather than a priest or monk, 
unless he knows what the mass is. 

All this, however, does not apply to the old foundations and chap- 
ters, which were doubtless founded in order that since, according 
to the custom of Germany, all the children of nobles cannot be land- 
owners and rulers, they should be provided for in these foundations, 
and these serve God freely, study, and become learned themselves, 
and help others to acquire learning. I am speaking only of the new 
foundations, endowed for prayers and masses, by the example of 
which the old foundations have become burdened with the like 
prayers and masses, making them of very little, if of any, use. 
Through God's righteous punishment, they have at last come down 
to the dregs, as they deserve — that is, to the noise of singers and 
organs, and cold, spiritless masses, with no end but to gain and 
spend the money due to them. Popes, bishops, and doctors should 
examine and report on such things; as it is they are the guiltiest, 
allowing anything that brings them money; the blind ever leading 
the blind. This comes of covetousness and the canon law. 

It must, moreover, not be allowed in future that one man should 
have more than one endowment or prebend. He should be content 
with a moderate position in life, so that others may have something 
besides himself; and thus we must put a stop to the excuses of those 
that say that they must have more than one office to enable them 
to live in their proper station. It is possible to estimate one's "proper 
station" in such a way that a whole kingdom would not suffice 
to maintain it. So it is that covetousness and want of faith in 
God go hand in hand, and often men take for the requirements 
of their "proper station" what is mere covetousness and want of 

23. As for the fraternities, together with indulgences, letters of 
indulgence, dispensations for Lent, and masses, and all the rest of 
such things, let them all be drowned and abolished; there is no good 


in them at all. If the Pope has the authority to grant dispensation 
in the matter of eating butter and hearing masses, let him allow 
priests to do the same; he has no right to take the power from them. 
I speak also of the fraternities in which indulgences, masses, and 
good works are distributed. My friend, in baptism you joined a 
fraternity of which Christ, the angels, and saints, and all Christians 
are members; be true to this, and satisfy it, and you will have frater- 
nities enough. Let others make what show they wish; they are as 
counters compared to coins. But if there were a fraternity that sub- 
scribed money to feed the poor or to help others in any way, this 
would be good, and it would have its indulgence and its deserts in 
heaven. But now they are good for nothing but gluttony and 

First of all we should expel from all German lands the Pope's 
legates, with their faculties, which they sell to us for much money, 
though it is all knavery — as, for instance, their taking money for 
making goods unlawfully acquired to be good, for freeing from 
oaths, vows, and bonds, thus destroying and teaching others to de- 
stroy truth and faith mutually pledged, saying the Pope has authority 
to do so. It is the evil spirit that bids them talk thus, and so they 
sell us the devil's teaching, and take money for teaching us sins and 
leading us to hell. 

If there were nothing else to show that the Pope is antichrist, this 
would be enough. Dost thou hear this, O Pope! not the most holy, 
but the most sinful? Would that God would hurl thy chair head- 
long from heaven, and cast it down into the abyss of hell! Who 
gave you the power to exalt yourself above your God; to break and 
to loose what He has commanded; to teach Christians, more espe- 
cially Germans, who are of noble nature, and are famed in all 
histories for uprightness and truth, to be false, unfaithful, perjured, 
treacherous, and wicked? God has commanded to keep faith and 
observe oaths even with enemies; you dare to cancel this command, 
laying it down in your heretical, anti-Christian decretals that you 
have power to do so; and through your mouth and your pen Satan 
lies as he never lied before, teaching you to twist and pervert the 
Scriptures according to your own arbitrary will. O Lord Christ, 
look down upon this; let Thy day of judgment come and destroy 


the devil's lair at Rome. Behold him o£ whom St. Paul spoke (2 
Thess. ii, 3, 4) that he should exalt himself above Thee and sit in 
Thy Church, showing himself as God — the man of sin and the child 
of damnation. What else does the Pope's power do but teach and 
strengthen sin and wickedness, leading souls to damnation in Thy 
name ? 

The children of Israel in old times were obliged to keep the oath 
that they had sworn, in ignorance and error, to the Gibeonites, their 
enemies; and King Zedekiah was destroyed utterly, with his people, 
because he broke the oath that he had sworn to the King of Babylon; 
and among us, a hundred years ago, the noble King Ladislaus V. of 
Poland and Hungary, was slain by the Turk, with so many of his 
people, because he allowed himself to be misled by papal legates and 
cardinals and broke the good and useful treaty that he had made 
with the Turk. The pious Emperor Sigismond had no good fortune 
after the Council of Constance, in which he allowed the knaves to 
violate the safe-conduct that he had promised to John Huss and 
Jerome; from this has followed all the miserable strife between 
Bohemia and ourselves. And in our own time, God help us! how 
much Christian blood has been shed on account of the oath and 
bond which Pope Julius made and unmade between the Emperor 
Maximilian and King Louis of France! How can I tell all the misery 
the popes have caused by such devilish insolence, claiming the power 
of breaking oaths between great lords, causing a shameful scandal 
for the sake of money? I hope the day of judgment is at hand; 
things cannot and will not become worse than the dealings of the 
Roman chair. The Pope treads God's commandments under foot 
and exalts his own; if this is not antichrist, I do not know what is. 
But of this, and to more purpose, another time. 

24. It is high time to take up earnestly and truthfully the cause 
of the Bohemians, to unite them with ourselves and ourselves with 
them, so that all mutual accusations, envy, and hatred may cease. 
I will be the first, in my folly, to give my opinion, with all due def- 
erence to those of better understanding. 

First of all, we must honestly confess the truth, without attempt- 
ing self-justification, and own one thing to the Bohemians, namely 
that John Huss and Jerome of Prague were burnt at Constance in 


violation of the papal, Christian, and imperial oath and safe-conduct, 
and that thus God's commandment was broken and the Bohemians 
excited to great anger. And though they may have deserved such 
great wrong and disobedience to God on our part, they were not 
obliged to approve it and think it right. Nay, even now they should 
run any danger of life and limb rather than own that it is right to 
break an imperial, papal, Christian safe-conduct and act faithlessly 
in opposition to it. Therefore, though the Bohemians may be to 
blame for their impatience, yet the Pope and his followers are most 
to blame for all the misery, all the error and destruction of souls, 
that followed this council of Constance. 

It is not my intention here to judge John Huss's belief and to de- 
fend his errors, although my understanding has not been able to 
find any error in him, and I would willingly believe that men who 
violated a safe-conduct and God's commandment (doubtless pos- 
sessed rather by the evil spirit than by the Spirit of God) were unable 
to judge well or to condemn with truth. No one can imagine that 
the Holy Ghost can break God's commandments; no one can deny 
that it is breaking God's commandments to violate faith and a safe- 
conduct, even though it were promised to the devil himself, much 
more then in the case of a heretic; it is also notorious that a safe- 
conduct was promised to John Huss and the Bohemians, and that 
the promise was broken and Huss was burnt. I have no wish to 
make a saint or a martyr of John Huss (as some Bohemians do), 
though I own that he was treated unjustly, and that his books and 
his doctrines were wrongfully condemned; for God's judgments are 
inscrutable and terrible, and none but Himself may reveal or explain 

All I say is this: Granting he was a heretic, however bad he may 
have been, yet he was burnt unjustly and in violation of God's com- 
mandments, and we must not force the Bohemians to approve this, 
if we wish ever to be at one with them. Plain truth must unite us, not 
obstinacy. It is no use to say, as they said at the time, that a safe- 
conduct need not be kept, if promised to a heretic; that is as much 
as to say, one may break God's commandments in order to keep 
God's commandments. They were infatuated and blinded by the 
devil, that they could not see what they said or did. God has com- 


manded us to observe a safe-conduct; and this we must do though 
the world should perish : much more then where it is only a question 
of a heretic being set free. We should overcome heretics with books, 
not with fire, as the old Fathers did. If there were any skill in over- 
coming heretics with fire, the executioner would be the most learned 
doctor in the world; and there would be no need to study, but he 
that could get another into his power could burn him. 

Besides this, the Emperor and the princes should send to Bohemia 
several pious, learned bishops and doctors, but, for their life, no 
cardinal or legate or inquisitor, for such people are far too un- 
learned in all Christian matters, and do not seek the salvation of 
souls; but, like all the papal hypocrites, they seek only their own 
glory, profit, and honour; they were also the leaders in that calam- 
itous affair at Constance. But those envoys should inquire into the 
faith of the Bohemians, to ascertain whether it would be possible 
to unite all their sects into one. Moreover, the Pope should (for their 
souls' sake) for a time abandon his supremacy and, in accordance 
with the statutes of the Nicene Council, allow the Bohemians to 
choose for themselves an archbishop of Prague, this choice to be 
confirmed by the Bishops of Olmiitz in Moravia or of Gran in Hun- 
gary, or the Bishop of Gnesen in Poland, or the Bishop of Magde- 
burg in Germany. It is enough that it be confirmed by one or two 
of these bishops, as in the time of St. Cyprian. And the Pope has 
no authority to forbid it; if he forbids it, he acts as a wolf and a 
tyrant, and no one should obey him, but answer his excommunica- 
tion by excommunicating him. 

Yet if, for the honour of the chair of St. Peter, any one prefers to 
do this with the Pope's knowledge, I do not object, provided that 
the Bohemians do not pay a farthing for it, and that the Pope do 
not bind them a single hair's-breadth, or subject them to his tyranny 
by oath, as he does all other bishops, against God and justice. If he 
is not satisfied with the honour of his assent being asked, leave him 
alone, by all means, with his own rights, laws, and tyrannies; be 
content with the election, and let the blood of all the souls that are 
in danger be upon his head. For no man may countenance wrong, 
and it is enough to show respect to tyranny. If we cannot do other- 
wise, we may consider the popular election and consent as equal to a 


tyrannical confirmation; but I hope this will not be necessary. Sooner 
or later some Romans, or pious bishops and learned men, must per- 
ceive and avert the Pope's tyranny. 

I do not advise that they be forced to abandon the Sacrament in 
both kinds, for it is neither unchristian nor heretical. They should 
be allowed to continue in their present way; but the new bishop 
must see that there be no dissensions about this matter, and they 
must learn that neither practice is actually wrong, just as there need 
be no disputes about the priests not wearing the same dress as the 
laity. In the same way, if they do not wish to submit to the canon 
laws of the Roman Church, we must not force them, but we must 
content ourselves with seeing that they live in faith and according to 
the Scriptures. For Christian life and Christian faith may very well 
exist without the Pope's unbearable laws; nay, they cannot well exist 
until there are fewer of those laws or none. Our baptism has freed 
us and made us subject to God's word alone; why then should we 
suffer a man to make us the slaves of his words? As St. Paul says, 
"Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us 
free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage" (Gal. 
v. I). 

If I knew that the only error of the Hussites 34 was that they be- 
lieve that in the Sacrament of the altar there is true bread and wine, 
though under it the body and the blood of Christ — if, I say, this were 
their only error, I should not condemn them; but let the Bishop of 
Prague see to this. For it is not an article of faith that in the Sacra- 
ment there is no bread and wine in substance and nature, which is a 
delusion of St. Thomas and the Pope; but it is an article of faith that 
in the natural bread and wine there is Christ's true flesh and blood. 
We should accordingly tolerate the views of both parties until they 
are at one; for there is not much danger whether you believe there 
is or there is not bread in the Sacrament. For we have to suffer 
many forms of belief and order that do not injure the faith; but if 
they believe otherwise, it would be better not to unite with them, 
and yet to instruct them in the truth. 

All other errors and dissensions to be found in Bohemia should be 

34 Luther uses here the word Fi\arden, which is a corruption of Begharden, i. e. 
"Beghards," a nickname frequently applied in those days to the Hussites. 


tolerated until the Archbishop has been reinstated, and has succeeded 
in time in uniting the whole people in one harmonious doctrine. 
We shall never unite them by force, by driving or hurrying them. 
We must be patient, and use gentleness. Did not Christ have to 
walk with His disciples, suffering their unbelief, until they believed 
in His resurrection ? If they had but once more a regular bishop and 
good government without Romish tyranny, I think matters would 

The temporal possessions of the Church should not be too strictly 
claimed; but since we are Christians and bound to help one another, 
we have the right to give them these things for the sake of unity, 
and to let them keep them, before God and the world; for Christ 
says, "Where two or three are gathered together in My name, there 
am I in the midst of them." Would to God we helped on both 
sides to bring about this unity, giving our hands one to the other 
in brotherly humility, not insisting on our authority or our rights! 
Love is more, and more necessary, than the papacy at Rome, which 
is without love, and love can exist without the papacy. I hope I 
have done my best for this end. If the Pope or his followers hinder 
this good work, they will have to give an account of their actions 
for having, against the love of God, sought their own advantage 
more than their neighbours'. The Pope should abandon his papacy, 
all his possessions and honours, if he could save a soul by so doing. 
But he would rather see the world go to ruin than give up a hair's- 
breadth of the power he has usurped; and yet he would be our most 
holy father. Herewith I am excused. 

25. The universities also require a good, sound reformation. I 
must say this, let it vex whom it may. The fact is that whatever the 
papacy has ordered or instituted is only designed for the propaga- 
tion of sin and error. What are the universities, as at present ordered, 
but, as the book of Maccabees says, "schools of 'Greek fashion' and 
'heathenish manners'" (2 Mace. iv. 12, 13), full of dissolute living, 
where very little is taught of the Holy Scriptures and of the Christian 
faith, and the blind heathen teacher, Aristotle, rules even further 
than Christ ? Now, my advice would be that the books of Aristotle, 
the Physics, the Metaphysics, Of the Soul, Ethics, which have hith- 
erto been considered the best, be altogether abolished, with all others 


that profess to treat of nature, though nothing can be learned from 
them, either of natural or of spiritual things. Besides, no one has 
been able to understand his meaning, and much time has been 
wasted and many noble souls vexed with much useless labour, study, 
and expense. I venture to say that any potter has more knowledge 
of natural things than is to be found in these books. My heart is 
grieved to see how many of the best Christians this accursed, proud, 
knavish heathen has fooled and led astray with his false words. 
God sent him as a plague for our sins. 

Does not the wretched man in his best book, Of the Soul, teach 
that the soul dies with the body, though many have tried to save him 
with vain words, as if we had not the Holy Scriptures to teach us 
fully of all things of which Aristotle had not the slightest perception ? 
Yet this dead heathen has conquered, and has hindered and almost 
suppressed the books of the living God; so that, when I see all this 
misery I cannot but think that the evil spirit has introduced this 

Then there is the Ethics, which is accounted one of the best, 
though no book is more directly contrary to God's will and the 
Christian virtues. Oh that such books could be kept out of the reach 
of all Christians! Let no one object that I say too much, or speak 
without knowledge. My friend, I know of what I speak. I know 
Aristotle as well as you or men like you. I have read him with more 
understanding than St. Thomas or Scotus, which I may say without 
arrogance, and can prove if need be. It matters not that so many 
great minds have exercised themselves in these matters for many 
hundred years. Such objections do not affect me as they might have 
done once, since it is plain as day that many more errors have existed 
for many hundred years in the world and the universities. 

I would, however, gladly consent that Aristotle's books of Logic, 
Rhetoric, and Poetry, should be retained, or they might be use- 
fully studied in a condensed form, to practise young people in 
speaking and preaching; but the notes and comments should be 
abolished, and, just as Cicero's Rhetoric is read without note or com- 
ment, Aristotle's Logic should be read without such long commen- 
taries. But now neither speaking nor preaching is taught out of them, 
and they are used only for disputation and toilsomeness. Besides 


this, there are languages — Latin, Greek, and Hebrew — the mathe- 
matics, history; which I recommend to men of higher understand- 
ing: and other matters, which will come of themselves, if they seri- 
ously strive after reform. And truly it is an important matter, for it 
concerns the teaching and training of Christian youths and of our 
noble people, in whom Christianity still abides. Therefore I think 
that pope and emperor could have no better task than the reforma- 
tion of the universities, just as there is nothing more devilishly mis- 
chievous than an unreformed university. 

Physicians I would leave to reform their own faculty; lawyers and 
theologians I take under my charge, and say firstly that it would 
be right to abolish the canon law entirely, from beginning to end, 
more especially the decretals. We are taught quite sufficiently in 
the Bible how we ought to act; all this study only prevents the study 
of the Scriptures, and for the most part it is tainted with covetous- 
ness and pride. And even though there were some good in it, it 
should nevertheless be destroyed, for the Pope, having the canon 
law in scrinio pectoris? 5 all further study is useless and deceitful. 
At the present time the canon law is not to be found in the books, 
but in the whims of the Pope and his sycophants. You may have 
settled a matter in the best possible way according to the canon law, 
but the Pope has his scrinium pectoris, to which all law must bow 
in all the world. Now this scrinium is oftentimes directed by some 
knave and the devil himself, whilst it boasts that it is directed by 
the Holy Ghost. This is the way they treat Christ's poor people, 
imposing many laws and keeping none, forcing others to keep them 
or to free themselves by money. 

Therefore, since the Pope and his followers have cancelled the 
whole canon law, despising it and setting their own will above all 
the world, we should follow them and reject the books. Why should 
we study them to no purpose? We should never be able to know 
the Pope's caprice, which has now become the canon law. Let it fall 
then in God's name, after having risen in the devil's name. Let 
there be henceforth no doctor decretorum, but let them all be doc- 
tores scrinii papalis, that is, the Pope's sycophants. They say that 
there is no better temporal government than among the Turks, 
35 In the shrine of his heart. 


though they have no canon nor civil law, but only their Koran; 
we must at least own that there is no worse government than ours, 
with its canon and civil law, for no estate lives according to the 
Scriptures, or even according to natural reason. 

The civil law, too, good God! what a wilderness it is become! 
It is, indeed, much better, more skilful, and more honest than the 
canon law, of which nothing is good but the name. Still there is far 
too much of it. Surely good governors, in addition to the Holy Scrip- 
tures, would be law enough; as St. Paul says, "Is it so that there is 
not a wise man among you, no, not one that shall be able to judge 
between his brethren?" (1 Cor. vi. 5). I think also that the common 
law and the usage of the country should be preferred to the law of 
the empire, and that the law of the empire should only be used in 
cases of necessity. And would to God, that, as each land has its own 
peculiar character and nature, they could all be governed by their 
own simple laws, just as they were governed before the law of the 
empire was devised, and as many are governed even now! Elaborate 
and far-fetched laws are only burdensome to the people, and a 
hindrance rather than a help to business. But I hope that others 
have thought of this, and considered it to more purpose than I could. 

Our worthy theologians have saved themselves much trouble and 
labour by leaving the Bible alone and only reading the Sentences. 38 
I should have thought that young theologians might begin by study- 
ing the Sentences, and that doctors should study the Bible. Now 
they invert this: the Bible is the first thing they study; this ceases 
with the Bachelor's degree; the Sentences are the last, and these 
they keep forever with the Doctor's degree, and this, too, under such 
sacred obligation that one that is not a priest may read the Bible, 
but a priest must read the Sentences; so that, as far as I can see, a 
married man might be a doctor in the Bible, but not in the Sentences. 
How should we prosper so long as we act so perversely, and degrade 
the Bible, the holy word of God ? Besides this, the Pope orders with 
many stringent words that his laws be read and used in schools and 
courts; while the law of the Gospel is but little considered. The 
result is that in schools and courts the Gospel lies dusty underneath 

36 Luther refers here to the "Sentences" of Petrus Lombardus, the so-called magisler 
sententiarum, which formed the basis of all dogmatic interpretation from about the 
middle of the twelfth century down to the Reformation. 


the benches, so that the Pope's mischievous laws may alone be in 

Since then we hold the name and title of teachers of the Holy 
Scriptures, we should verily be forced to act according to our title, 
and to teach the Holy Scriptures and nothing else. Although, 
indeed, it is a proud, presumptuous title for a man to proclaim him- 
self teacher of the Scriptures, still it could be suffered, if the works 
confirmed the title. But as it is, under the rule of the Sentences, we 
find among theologians more human and heathenish fallacies than 
true holy knowledge of the Scriptures. What then are we to do ? I 
know not, except to pray humbly to God to give us Doctors of 
Theology. Doctors of Arts, of Medicine, of Law, of the Sentences, 
may be made by popes, emperors, and the universities; but of this 
we may be certain : a Doctor of the Holy Scriptures can be made by 
none but the Holy Ghost, as Christ says, "They shall all be taught 
of God" (John vi. 45). Now the Holy Ghost does not consider red 
caps or brown, or any other pomp, nor whether we are young or old, 
layman or priest, monk or secular, virgin or married; nay, He once 
spoke by an ass against the prophet that rode on it. Would to God 
we were worthy of having such doctors given us, be they laymen or 
priests, married or unmarried! But now they try to force the Holy 
Ghost to enter into popes, bishops, or doctors, though there is no sign 
to show that He is in them. 

We must also lessen the number of theological books, and choose 
the best, for it is not the number of books that makes the learned 
man, nor much reading, but good books often read, however few, 
makes a man learned in the Scriptures and pious. Even the Fathers 
should only be read for a short time as an introduction to the Scrip- 
tures. As it is we read nothing else, and never get from them into 
the Scriptures, as if one should be gazing at the signposts and never 
follow the road. These good Fathers wished to lead us into the 
Scriptures by their writings, whereas we lead ourselves out by them, 
though the Scriptures are our vineyard, in which we should all work 
and exercise ourselves. 

Above all, in schools of all kinds the chief and most common 
lesson should be the Scriptures, and for young boys the Gospel; and 
would to God each town had also a girls' school, in which girls 


might be taught the Gospel for an hour daily, either in German or 
Latin! In truth, schools, monasteries, and convents were founded 
for this purpose, and with good Christian intentions, as we read 
concerning St. Agnes and other saints "; then were there holy virgins 
and martyrs; and in those times it was well with Christendom; but 
now it has been turned into nothing but praying and singing. 
Should not every Christian be expected by his ninth or tenth year 
to know all the holy Gospels, containing as they do his very name 
and life? A spinner or a seamstress teaches her daughter her trade 
while she is young, but now even the most learned prelates and 
bishops do not know the Gospel. 

Oh, how badly we treat all these poor young people that are 
entrusted to us for discipline and instruction! and a heavy reckoning 
shall we have to give for it that we keep them from the word of 
God; their fate is that described by Jeremiah: "Mine eyes do fail 
with tears, my bowels are troubled, my liver is poured upon the earth, 
for the destruction of the daughter of my people, because the children 
and the sucklings swoon in the streets of the city. They say to their 
mothers, Where is corn and wine? when they swooned as the 
wounded in the streets of the city, when their soul was poured out 
into their mothers' bosom" (Lam. ii. 11, 12). We do not perceive 
all this misery, how the young folk are being pitifully corrupted in 
the midst of Christendom, all for want of the Gospel, which we 
should always read and study with them. 

However, even if the high schools studied the Scriptures diligently 
we should not send every one to them, as we do now, when nothing 
is considered but numbers, and every man wishes to have a Doctor's 
tide; we should only send the aptest pupils, well prepared in the 
lower schools. This should be seen to by princes or the magistrates 
of the towns, and they should take care none but apt pupils be sent. 
But where the Holy Scriptures are not the rule, I advise no one to 
send his child. Everything must perish where God's word is not 
studied unceasingly; and so we see what manner of men there are 
now in the high schools, and all this is the fault of no one but of the 
Pope, the bishops, and the prelates, to whom the welfare of the young 
has been entrusted. For the high schools should only train men of 

37 See above, pp. 301, seq. 


good understanding in the Scriptures, who wish to become bishops 
and priests, and to stand at our head against heretics and the devil 
and all the world. But where do we find this ? I greatly fear the high 
schools are nothing but great gates of hell, unless they diligently 
study the Holy Scriptures and teach them to the young people. 

26. I know well the Romish mob will object and loudly pretend 
that the Pope took the holy Roman empire from the Greek emperor 
and gave it to Germany, for which honour and favour he is supposed 
to deserve submission and thanks and all other kinds of returns from 
the Germans. For this reason they will perhaps assume to oppose all 
attempts to reform them, and will let no regard be paid to anything 
but those donations of the Roman empire. This is also the reason 
why they have so arbitrarily and proudly persecuted and oppressed 
many good emperors, so that it were pity to tell, and with the same 
cleverness have they made themselves lords of all the temporal power 
and authority, in violation of the holy Gospel; and accordingly I 
must speak of this matter also. 

There is no doubt that the true Roman empire, of which the 
prophets (Num. xxiv. 24 and Daniel ii. 44) spoke, was long ago 
destroyed, as Balaam clearly foretold, saying, "And ships shall come 
from the coast of Chittim, and shall afflict Asshur, and shall afflict 
Eber, and he also shall perish for ever" (Num. xxiv. 24) , 38 And this 
was done by the Goths, and more especially since the empire of the 
Turks was formed, about one thousand years ago, and so gradually 
Asia and Africa were lost, and subsequently France, Spain, and 
finally Venice arose, so that Rome retains no part of its former 

Since then the Pope could not force the Greeks and the emperor 
at Constantinople, who is the hereditary Roman emperor, to obey 
his will, he invented this device to rob him of his empire and title, 
and to give it to the Germans, who were at that time strong and of 
good repute, in order that they might take the power of the Roman 
empire and hold it of the Pope; and this is what actually has hap- 
pened. It was taken from the emperor at Constantinople, and the 
name and tide were given to us Germans, and therewith we became 

38 Luther here follows the Vulgate, translating the above verse: "Es werden die 
Romer kommen und die Juden verstoren: und hernach werden sie auch untergehen." 


subject to the Pope, and he has built up a new Roman empire on the 
Germans. For the other empire, the original, came to an end long 
ago, as was said above. 

Thus the Roman see has got what it wished : Rome has been taken 
possession of, and the German emperor driven out and bound by 
oaths not to dwell in Rome. He is to be Roman emperor and 
nevertheless not to dwell in Rome, and, moreover, always to depend 
on the Pope and his followers, and to do their will. We are to have 
the title, and they are to have the lands and the cities. For they have 
always made our simplicity the tool of their pride and tyranny, and 
they consider us as stupid Germans, to be deceived and fooled by 
them as they choose. 

Well, for our Lord God it is a small thing to toss kingdoms and 
principalities hither and thither; He is so free with them that He will 
sometimes take a kingdom from a good man and give it to a knave, 
sometimes through the treachery of false, wicked men, sometimes by 
inheritance, as we read concerning Persia, Greece, and nearly all 
kingdoms; and Daniel says, "Wisdom and might are His; and He 
changes the times and the seasons, and He removeth kings and 
setteth up kings" (Dan. ii. 20, 21). Therefore no one need think 
it a grand matter if he has a kingdom given to him, especially if he 
be a Christian; and so we Germans need not be proud of having 
had a new Roman empire given us. For in His eyes it is a poor gift, 
that He sometimes gives to the least deserving, as Daniel says, "And 
all the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing; and He does 
according to His will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabi- 
tants of the earth" (Dan. iv. 35) . 

Now, although the Pope has violently and unjustly robbed the 
true emperor of the Roman empire, or its name, and has given it to 
us Germans, yet it is certain that God has used the Pope's wicked- 
ness to give the German nation this empire and to raise up a new 
Roman empire, that exists now, after the fall of the old empire. We 
gave the Pope no cause for this action, nor did we understand his 
false aims and schemes; but still, through the craft and knavery 
of the popes, we have, alas! all too dearly, paid the price of this empire 
with incalculable bloodshed, with the loss of our liberty, with the 
robbery of our wealth, especially of our churches and benefices, and 


with unspeakable treachery and insult. We have the empire in 
name, but the Pope has our wealth, our honour, our bodies, lives, 
and souls and all that we have. This was the way to deceive the 
Germans, and to deceive them by shuffling. What the popes wished 
was to become emperors; and as they could not do this, they put 
themselves above the emperors. 

Since, then, we have received this empire through God's provi- 
dence and the schemes of evil men, without our fault, I would not 
advise that we should give it up, but that we should govern it 
honestly, in the fear of God, so long as He is pleased to let us hold 
it. For, as I have said, it is no matter to Him how a kingdom is come 
by, but He will have it duly governed. If the popes took it from 
others dishonestly, we at least did not come by it dishonesdy. It was 
given to us through evil men, under the will of God, to whom we 
have more regard than the false intentions of the popes, who wished 
to be emperors and more than emperors and to fool and mock us 
with the name. 

The King of Babylon obtained his kingdom by force and robbery; 
yet God would have it governed by the holy princes Daniel, Ananias, 
Asarias, and Misael. Much more then does He require this empire to 
be governed by the Christian princes of Germany, though the Pope 
may have stolen, or robbed, or newly fashioned it. It is all God's 
ordering, which came to pass before we knew of it. 

Therefore the Pope and his followers have no reason to boast that 
they did a great kindness to the German nation in giving them this 
Roman empire; firstly, because they intended no good to us, in the 
matter, but only abused our simplicity to strengthen their own power 
against the Roman emperor at Constantinople, from whom, against 
God and justice, the Pope has taken what he had no right to. 

Secondly, the Pope sought to give the empire, not to us, but to him- 
self, and to become lord over all our power, liberty, wealth, body and 
soul, and through us over all the world, if God had not prevented it, 
as he plainly says in his decretals, and has tried with many mis- 
chievous tricks in the case of many German emperors. Thus we 
Germans have been taught in plain German: whilst we expected to 
become lords, we have become the servants of the most crafty 
tyrants; we have the name, title, and arms of the empire, but the 


Pope has the treasure, authority, law, and freedom; thus, whilst the 
Pope eats the kernel, he leaves us the empty shells to play with. 

Now may God help us (who, as I have said, assigned us this king- 
dom through crafty tyrants, and charged us to govern it) to act 
according to our name, title, and arms, and to secure our freedom, 
and thus let the Romans see at last what we have received of God 
through them. If they boast that they have given us an empire, well, 
be it so, by all means; then let the Pope give up Rome, all he has of 
the empire, and free our country from his unbearable taxes and rob- 
beries, and give back to us our liberty, authority, wealth, honour, 
body, and soul, rendering to the empire those things that are the 
empire's, so as to act in accordance with his words and pretences. 

But if he will not do this, what game is he playing with all his 
falsehoods and pretences? Was it not enough to lead this great 
people by the nose for so many hundred years? Because the Pope 
crowns or makes the Emperor, it does not follow that he is above 
him; for the prophet, St. Samuel, anointed and crowned King Saul 
and David, at God's command, and was yet subject to them. And 
the prophet Nathan anointed King Solomon, and yet was not placed 
over him; moreover, St, Elisha let one of his servants anoint King 
Jehu of Israel, yet they obeyed him. And it has never yet happened 
in the whole world that any one was above the king because he 
consecrated or crowned him, except in the case of the Pope. 

Now he is himself crowned pope by three cardinals; yet they are 
subject to him, and he is above them. Why, then, contrary to his own 
example and to the doctrine and practice of the whole world and the 
Scriptures, should he exalt himself above the temporal authorities, 
and the empire, for no other reason than that he crowns, and conse- 
crates the Emperor? It suffices that he is above him in all divine 
matters — that is, in preaching, teaching, and the ministration of the 
Sacrament — in which matters, however, every priest or bishop is 
above all other men, just as St. Ambrose in his chair was above the 
Emperor Theodosius, and the prophet Nathan above David, and 
Samuel above Saul. Therefore let the German emperor be a true 
free emperor, and let not his authority or his sword be overborne 
by these blind pretences of the Pope's sycophants, as if they were to 
be exceptions, and be above the temporal sword in all things. 


27. Let this be enough about the faults of the spiritual estate, 
though many more might be found, if the matter were properly con- 
sidered; we must now consider the defects of the temporal estates. 
In the first place, we require a general law and consent of the Ger- 
man nation against profusion and extravagance in dress, which is the 
cause of so much poverty among the nobles and the people. Surely 
God has given to us, as to other nations, enough wool, fur, flax, and 
whatever else is required for the decent clothing of every class; and 
it cannot be necessary to spend such enormous sums for silk, velvet, 
cloth of gold, and all other kinds of outlandish stuff. I think that 
even if the Pope did not rob us Germans with his unbearable taxes, 
we should be robbed more than enough by these secret thieves, the 
dealers in silk and velvet. As it is, we see that every man wishes to be 
every other man's equal, and that this causes and increases pride and 
envy among us, as we deserve, all which would cease, with many 
other misfortunes, if our self-will would but let us be gratefully con- 
tent with what God has given us. 

It is similarly necessary to diminish the use of spices, which is one 
of the ships in which our gold is sent away from Germany. God's 
mercy has given us more food, and that both precious and good, than 
is to be found in other countries. I shall probably be accused of 
making foolish and impossible suggestions, as if I wished to destroy 
the great business of commerce. But I am only doing my part; if 
the community does not mend matters, every man should do it him- 
self. I do not see many good manners that have ever come into a 
land through commerce, and therefore God let the people of Israel 
dwell far from the sea and not carry on much trade. 

But without doubt the greatest misfortune of the Germans is buy- 
ing on usury. But for this, many a man would have to leave 
unbought his silk, velvet, cloth of gold, spices, and all other luxuries. 
The system has not been in force for more than one hundred years, 
and has already brought poverty, misery, and destruction on almost 
all princes, foundations, cities, nobles, and heirs. If it continues for 
another hundred years Germany will be left without a farthing, and 
we shall be reduced to eating one another. The devil invented this 
system, and the Pope has done an injury to the whole world by 
sanctioning it. 


My request and my cry therefore is this: Let each man consider the 
destruction of himself and his family, which is no longer at the 
door, but has entered the house; and let emperors, princes, lords, 
and corporations see to the condemnation and prohibition of this 
kind of trade, without considering the opposition of the Pope and all 
his justice and injustice, nor whether livings or endowments depend 
upon it. Better a single fief in a city based on a freehold estate or 
honest interest, than a hundred based on usury; yea, a single endow- 
ment on usury is worse and more grievous than twenty based on 
freehold estate. Truly this usury is a sign and warning that the 
world has been given over to the devil for its sins, and that we are 
losing our spiritual and temporal welfare alike; yet we heed it not. 

Doubtless we should also find some bridle for the Fuggers and 
similar companies. Is it possible that in a single man's lifetime such 
great wealth should be collected together, if all were done rightly and 
according to God's will? I am not skilled in accounts, but I do not 
understand how it is possible for one hundred guilders to gain 
twenty in a year, or how one guilder can gain another, and that not 
out of the soil, or by cattle, seeing that possessions depend not on the 
wit of men, but on the blessing of God. I commend this to those 
that are skilled in worldly affairs. I as a theologian blame nothing 
but the evil appearance, of which St. Paul says, "Abstain from all 
appearance of evil" (I Thess. v. 22). All I know is that it were much 
more godly to encourage agriculture and lessen commerce; and that 
they do the best who, according to the Scriptures, till the ground to 
get their living, as we are all commanded in Adam: "Cursed is the 
ground for thy sake. . . . Thorns also and thistles shall it bring 
forth to thee. ... In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread" 
(Gen. iii. 17-19). There is still much ground that is not ploughed 
or tilled. 

Then there is the excess in eating and drinking, for which we 
Germans have an ill reputation in foreign countries, as our special 
vice, and which has become so common, and gained so much the 
upper hand, that sermons avail nothing. The loss of money caused 
by it is not the worst; but in its train come murder, adultery, theft, 
blasphemy, and all vices. The temporal power should do something 
to prevent it; otherwise it will come to pass, as Christ foretold, that 


the last day shall come as a thief in the night, and shall find them 
eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, planting and 
building, buying and selling (Matt. xxiv. 38; Luke xvii. 26), just as 
things go on now, and that so strongly that I apprehend lest the day 
of judgment be at hand, even now when we least expect it. 

Lastly, is it not a terrible thing that we Christians should main- 
tain public brothels, though we all vow chastity in our baptism? 
I well know all that can be said on this matter: that it is not peculiar 
to one nation, that it would be difficult to demolish it, and that it is 
better thus than that virgins, or married women, or honourable 
women should be dishonoured. But should not the spiritual and 
temporal powers combine to find some means of meeting these diffi- 
culties without any such heathen practice? If the people of Israel 
existed without this scandal, why should not a Christian nation be 
able to do so ? How do so many towns and villages manage to exist 
without these houses ? Why should not great cities be able to do so ? 

In all, however, that I have said above, my object has been to show 
how much good temporal authority might do, and what should be 
the duty of all authorities, so that every man might learn what a 
terrible thing it is to rule and to have the chief place. What boots it 
though a ruler be in his own person as holy as St. Peter, if he be not 
diligent to help his subjects in these matters? His very authority 
will be his condemnation; for it is the duty of those in authority to 
seek the good of their subjects. But if those in authority considered 
how young people might be brought together in marriage, the pros- 
pect of marriage would help every man and protect him from 

But as it is every man is induced to become a priest or a monk; 
and of all these I am afraid not one in a hundred has any other 
motive but the wish of getting a livelihood and the uncertainty of 
maintaining a family. Therefore they begin by a dissolute life and 
sow their wild oats, (as they say), but I fear they rather gather in a 
store of wild oats. 39 I hold the proverb to be true, "Most men become 
monks and priests in desperation." That is why things are as we 
see them. 

39 Luther uses the expression ausbuben in the sense of sich austoben, viz., "to storm 
out one's passions," and then coins the word sich einbuben, viz., "to storm in one's 


But in order that many sins may be prevented that are becoming 
too common, I would honestly advise that no boy or girl be allowed 
to take the vow of chastity or to enter a religious life before the age 
of thirty years. For this requires a special grace, as St. Paul says. 
Therefore, unless God specially urge any one to a religious life, he 
will do well to leave all vows and devotions alone. I say further, 
If a man has so little faith in God as to fear that he will be unable 
to maintain himself in the married state, and if this fear is the only 
thing that makes him become a priest, then I implore him, for his 
own soul's sake, not to become a priest, but rather to become a peas- 
ant, or what he will. For if simple trust in God be necessary to ensure 
temporal support, tenfold trust in God is necessary to live a religious 
life. If you do not trust to God for your worldly food, how can you 
trust to Him for your spiritual food? Alas! this unbelief and want 
of faith destroys all things, and leads us into all misery, as we see 
among all conditions of men. 

Much might be said concerning all this misery. Young people 
have no one to look after them, they are left to go on just as they 
like, and those in authority are of no more use to them than if they 
did not exist, though this should be the chief care of the Pope, of 
bishops, lords, and councils. They wish to rule over everything, 
everywhere, and yet they are of no use. Oh, what a rare sight, for 
these reasons, will a lord or ruler be in heaven, though he might 
build a hundred churches to God and raise all the dead! 

But this may suffice for the present. For of what concerns the 
temporal authority and the nobles I have, I think, said enough in 
my tract on Good Wor\s. For their lives and governments leave 
room enough for improvement; but there is no comparison between 
spiritual and temporal abuses, as I have there shown. I daresay I 
have sung a lofty strain, that I have proposed many things that will 
be thought impossible, and attacked many points too sharply. But 
what was I to do ? I was bound to say this : if I had the power, this 
is what I would do. I had rather incur the world's anger than 
God's; they cannot take from me more than my life. I have hitherto 
made many offers of peace to my adversaries; but, as I see, God has 
forced me through them to open my mouth wider and wider, and, 
because they do not keep quiet, to give them enough cause for 


speaking, barking, shouting, and writing. Well, then, I have another 
song still to sing concerning them and Rome; if they wish to hear 
it, I will sing it to them, and sing with all my might. Do you 
understand, my friend Rome, what I mean ? 

I have frequently offered to submit my writings for inquiry and 
examination, but in vain, though I know, if I am in the right, I must 
be condemned upon earth and justified by Christ alone in heaven. 
For all the Scriptures teach us that the affairs of Christians and 
Christendom must be judged by God alone; they have never yet 
been justified by men in this world, but the opposition has always 
been too strong. My greatest care and fear is lest my cause be not 
condemned by men, by which I should know for certain that it does 
not please God. Therefore let them go freely to work, pope, bishop, 
priest, monk, or doctor; they are the true people to persecute the 
truth, as they have always done. May God grant us all a Christian 
understanding, and especially to the Christian nobility of the Ger- 
man nation true spiritual courage, to do what is best for our unhappy 
Church. Amen! 

At Wittenberg, in the year 1520, 


Letter of Martin Luther to Pope Leo X 

AMONG those monstrous evils of this age with which I have 
Zjk now for three years been waging war, I am sometimes com- 
A. \~ pelled to look to you and to call you to mind, most blessed 
father Leo. In truth, since you alone are everywhere considered as 
being the cause of my engaging in war, I cannot at any time fail 
to remember you; and although I have been compelled by the cause- 
less raging of your impious flatterers against me to appeal from your 
seat to a future council — fearless of the futile decrees of your prede- 
cessors Pius and Julius, who in their foolish tyranny prohibited such 
an action — yet I have never been so alienated in feeling from your 
Blessedness as not to have sought with all my might, in diligent 
prayer and crying to God, all the best gifts for you and for your see. 
But those who have hitherto endeavoured to terrify me with the 
majesty of your name and authority, I have begun quite to despise 
and triumph over. One thing I see remaining which I cannot despise, 
and this has been the reason of my writing anew to your Blessed- 
ness: namely, that I find that blame is cast on me, and that it is 
imputed to me as a great offence, that in my rashness I am judged 
to have spared not even your person. 

Now, to confess the truth openly, I am conscious that, whenever 
I have had to mention your person, I have said nothing of you but 
what was honourable and good. If I had done otherwise, I could 
by no means have approved my own conduct, but should have sup- 
ported with all my power the judgment of those men concerning me, 
nor would anything have pleased me better, than to recant such rash- 
ness and impiety. I have called you Daniel in Babylon; and every 
reader thoroughly knows with what distinguished zeal I defended 



your conspicuous innocence against Silvester, who tried to stain it. 
Indeed, the published opinion of so many great men and the repute 
of your blameless life are too widely famed and too much reverenced 
throughout the world to be assailable by any man, of however great 
name, or by any arts. I am not so foolish as to attack one whom 
everybody praises; nay, it has been and always will be my desire 
not to attack even those whom public repute disgraces. I am not 
delighted at the faults of any man, since I am very conscious myself 
of the great beam in my own eye, nor can I be the first to cast a 
stone at the adulteress. 

I have indeed inveighed sharply against impious doctrines, and I 
have not been slack to censure my adversaries on account, not of 
their bad morals, but of their impiety. And for this I am so far 
from being sorry that I have brought my mind to despise the judg- 
ments of men and to persevere in this vehement zeal, according to 
the example of Christ, who, in His zeal, calls His adversaries a 
generation of vipers, blind, hypocrites, and children of the devil. 
Paul, too, charges the sorcerer with being a child of the devil, full 
of all subtlety and all malice; and defames certain persons as evil 
workers, dogs, and deceivers. In the opinion of those delicate-eared 
persons, nothing could be more bitter or intemperate than Paul's 
language. What can be more bitter than the words of the prophets ? 
The ears of our generation have been made so delicate by the sense- 
less multitude of flatterers that, as soon as we perceive that anything 
of ours is not approved of, we cry out that we are being bitterly 
assailed; and when we can repel the truth by no other pretence, we 
escape by attributing bitterness, impatience, intemperance, to our 
adversaries. What would be the use of salt if it were not pungent, or 
of the edge of the sword if it did not slay ? Accursed is the man who 
does the work of the Lord deceitfully. 

Wherefore, most excellent Leo, I beseech you to accept my vindi- 
cation, made in this letter, and to persuade yourself that I have never 
thought any evil concerning your person; further, that I am one 
who desires that eternal blessing may fall to your lot, and that I have 
no dispute with any man concerning morals, but only concerning 
the word of truth. In all other things I will yield to any one, but I 


neither can nor will forsake and deny the word. He who thinks 
otherwise of me, or has taken in my words in another sense, does 
not think rightly, and has not taken in the truth. 

Your see, however, which is called the Court of Rome, and which 
neither you nor any man can deny to be more corrupt than any 
Babylon or Sodom, and quite, as I believe, of a lost, desperate, and 
hopeless impiety, this I have verily abominated, and have felt indig- 
nant that the people of Christ should be cheated under your name 
and the pretext of the Church of Rome; and so I have resisted, and 
will resist, as long as the spirit of faith shall live in me. Not that I am 
striving after impossibilities, or hoping that by my labours alone, 
against the furious opposition of so many flatterers, any good can 
be done in that most disordered Babylon; but that I feel myself a 
debtor to my brethren, and am bound to take thought for them, 
that fewer of them may be ruined, or that their ruin may be less 
complete, by the plagues of Rome. For many years now, nothing 
else has overflowed from Rome into the world — as you are not igno- 
rant — than the laying waste of goods, of bodies, and of souls, and the 
worst examples of all the worst things. These things are clearer than 
the light to all men; and the Church of Rome, formerly the most 
holy of all Churches, has become the most lawless den of thieves, 
the most shameless of all brothels, the very kingdom of sin, death, 
and hell; so that not even antichrist, if he were to come, could devise 
any addition to its wickedness. 

Meanwhile you, Leo, are sitting like a lamb in the midst of wolves, 
like Daniel in the midst of lions, and, with Ezekiel, you dwell 
among scorpions. What opposition can you alone make to these 
monstrous evils ? Take to yourself three or four of the most learned 
and best of the cardinals. What are these among so many? You 
would all perish by poison before you could undertake to decide on 
a remedy. It is all over with the Court of Rome; the wrath of God 
has come upon her to the uttermost. She hates councils; she dreads 
to be reformed; she cannot restrain the madness of her impiety; she 
fills up the sentence passed on her mother, of whom it is said, "We 
would have healed Babylon, but she is not healed; let us forsake her." 
It had been your duty and that of your cardinals to apply a remedy 
to these evils, but this gout laughs at the physician's hand, and the 


chariot does not obey the reins. Under the influence of these feel- 
ings, I have always grieved that you, most excellent Leo, who were 
worthy of a better age, have been made pontiff in this. For the 
Roman Court is not worthy of you and those like you, but of Satan 
himself, who in truth is more the ruler in that Babylon than you 

Oh, would that, having laid aside that glory which your most 
abandoned enemies declare to be yours, you were living rather in the 
office of a private priest or on your paternal inheritance! In that 
glory none are worthy to glory, except the race of Iscariot, the chil- 
dren of perdition. For what happens in your court, Leo, except 
that, the more wicked and execrable any man is, the more prosper- 
ously he can use your name and authority for the ruin of the property 
and souls of men, for the multiplication of crimes, for the oppression 
of faith and truth and of the whole Church of God? Oh, Leo! in 
reality most unfortunate, and sitting on a most perilous throne, I tell 
you the truth, because I wish you well; for if Bernard felt compassion 
for his Anastasius at a time when the Roman see, though even then 
most corrupt, was as yet ruling with better hope than now, why 
should not we lament, to whom so much further corruption and 
ruin has been added in three hundred years? 

Is it not true that there is nothing under the vast heavens more 
corrupt, more pestilential, more hateful, than the Court of Rome? 
She incomparably surpasses the impiety of the Turks, so that in very 
truth she, who was formerly the gate of heaven, is now a sort of 
open mouth of hell, and such a mouth as, under the urgent wrath 
of God, cannot be blocked up; one course alone being left to us 
wretched men: to call back and save some few, if we can, from that 
Roman gulf. 

Behold, Leo, my father, with what purpose and on what principle 
it is that I have stormed against that seat of pestilence. I am so far 
from having felt any rage against your person that I even hoped to 
gain favour with you and to aid you in your welfare by striking 
actively and vigorously at that your prison, nay, your hell. For what- 
ever the efforts of all minds can contrive against the confusion of 
that impious Court will be advantageous to you and to your welfare, 
and to many others with you. Those who do harm to her are doing 


your office; those who in every way abhor her are glorifying Christ; 
in short, those are Christians who are not Romans. 

But, to say yet more, even this never entered my heart: to inveigh 
against the Court of Rome or to dispute at all about her. For, seeing 
all remedies for her health to be desperate, I looked on her with 
contempt, and, giving her a bill of divorcement, said to her, "He that 
is unjust, let him be unjust still; and he that is filthy, let him be 
filthy still," giving myself up to the peaceful and quiet study of 
sacred literature, that by this I might be of use to the brethren living 
about me. 

While I was making some advance in these studies, Satan opened 
his eyes and goaded on his servant John Eccius, that notorious 
adversary of Christ, by the unchecked lust for fame, to drag me 
unexpectedly into the arena, trying to catch me in one little word 
concerning the primacy of the Church of Rome, which had fallen 
from me in passing. That boastful Thraso, foaming and gnashing 
his teeth, proclaimed that he would dare all things for the glory 
of God and for the honour of the holy apostolic seat; and, being 
puffed up respecting your power, which he was about to misuse, 
he looked forward with all certainty to victory; seeking to promote, 
not so much the primacy of Peter, as his own pre-eminence among 
the theologians of this age; for he thought it would contribute in no 
slight degree to this, if he were to lead Luther in triumph. The 
result having proved unfortunate for the sophist, an incredible 
rage torments him; for he feels that whatever discredit to Rome 
has arisen through me has been caused by the fault of himself 

Suffer me, I pray you, most excellent Leo, both to plead my own 
cause, and to accuse your true enemies. I believe it is known to you 
in what way Cardinal Cajetan, your imprudent and unfortunate, 
nay unfaithful, legate, acted towards me. When, on account of my 
reverence for your name, I had placed myself and all that was mine 
in his hands, he did not so act as to establish peace, which he could 
easily have established by one little word, since I, at that time, prom- 
ised to be silent and to make an end of my case, if he would com- 
mand my adversaries to do the same. But that man of pride, not 
content with this agreement, began to justify my adversaries, to 
give them free licence, and to order me to recant, a thing which was 


certainly not in his commission. Thus indeed, when the case was 
in the best position, it came through his vexatious tyranny into a 
much worse one. Therefore, whatever has followed upon this is the 
fault not of Luther, but entirely of Cajetan, since he did not surfer 
me to be silent and remain quiet, which at that time I was entreating 
for with all my might. What more was it my duty to do? 

Next came Charles Miltitz, also a nuncio from your Blessedness. 
He, though he went up and down with much and varied exertion, 
and omitted nothing which could tend to restore the position of the 
cause thrown into confusion by the rashness and pride of Cajetan, 
had difficulty, even with the help of that very illustrious prince the 
Elector Frederick, in at last bringing about more than one familiar 
conference with me. In these I again yielded to your great name, and 
was prepared to keep silence, and to accept as my judge either the 
Archbishop of Treves, or the Bishop of Naumburg; and thus it was 
done and concluded. While this was being done with good hope 
of success, lo! that other and greater enemy of yours, Eccius, rushed 
in with his Leipsic disputation, which he had undertaken against 
Carlstadt, and, having taken up a new question concerning the 
primacy of the Pope, turned his arms unexpectedly against me, and 
completely overthrew the plan for peace. Meanwhile Charles Miltitz 
was waiting, disputations were held, judges were being chosen, but 
no decision was arrived at. And no wonder! for by the falsehoods, 
pretences, and arts of Eccius the whole business was brought into 
such thorough disorder, confusion, and festering soreness, that, 
whichever way the sentence might lean, a greater conflagration was 
sure to arise; for he was seeking, not after truth, but after his own 
credit. In this case too, I omitted nothing which it was right that 
I should do. 

I confess that on this occasion no small part of the corruptions of 
Rome came to light; but, if there was any offence in this, it was the 
fault of Eccius, who, in taking on him a burden beyond his strength, 
and in furiously aiming at credit for himself, unveiled to the whole 
world the disgrace of Rome. 

Here is that enemy of yours, Leo, or rather of your Court; by his 
example alone we may learn that an enemy is not more baneful than 
a flatterer. For what did he bring about by his flattery, except evils 
which no king could have brought about ? At this day, the name of 


the Court of Rome stinks in the nostrils of the world, the papal 
authority is growing weak, and its notorious ignorance is evil spoken 
of. We should hear none of these things, if Eccius had not disturbed 
the plans of Miltitz and myself for peace. He feels this clearly 
enough himself in the indignation he shows, too late and in vain, 
against the publication of my books. He ought to have reflected on 
this at the time when he was all mad for renown, and was seeking 
in your cause nothing but his own objects, and that with the greatest 
peril to you. The foolish man hoped that, from fear of your name, 
I should yield and keep silence; for I do not think he presumed on 
his talents and learning. Now, when he sees that I am very confident 
and speak aloud, he repents too late of his rashness, and sees — if 
indeed he does see it — that there is One in heaven who resists the 
proud, and humbles the presumptuous. 

Since then we were bringing about by this disputation nothing 
but the greater confusion of the cause of Rome, Charles Miltitz for 
the third time addressed the Fathers of the Order, assembled in 
chapter, and sought their advice for the settlement of the case, as 
being now in a most troubled and perilous state. Since, by the favour 
of God, there was no hope of proceeding against me by force, some 
of the more noted of their number were sent to me, and begged me 
at least to show respect to your person and to vindicate in a humble 
letter both your innocence and my own. They said that the affair 
was not as yet in a position of extreme hopelessness, if Leo X., in 
his inborn kindliness, would put his hand to it. On this I, who have 
always offered and wished for peace, in order that I might devote 
myself to calmer and more useful pursuits, and who for this very 
purpose have acted with so much spirit and vehemence, in order to 
put down by the strength and impetuosity of my words, as well as 
of my feelings, men whom I saw to be very far from equal to myself 
— I, I say, not only gladly yielded, but even accepted it with joy and 
gratitude, as the greatest kindness and benefit, if you should think 
it right to satisfy my hopes. 

Thus I come, most blessed Father, and in all abasement beseech 
you to put your hand, if it is possible, and impose a curb to those 
flatterers who are enemies of peace, while they pretend peace. But 
there is no reason, most blessed Father, why any one should assume 


that I am to utter a recantation, unless he prefers to involve the case 
in still greater confusion. Moreover, I cannot bear with laws for the 
interpretation of the word of God, since the word of God, which 
teaches liberty in all other things, ought not to be bound. Saving 
these two things, there is nothing which I am not able, and most 
heartily willing, to do or to suffer. I hate contention; I will challenge 
no one; in return I wish not to be challenged; but, being challenged, 
I will not be dumb in the cause of Christ, my Master. For your 
Blessedness will be able by one short and easy word to call these 
controversies before you and suppress them, and to impose silence 
and peace on both sides a word which I have ever longed to hear. 

Therefore, Leo, my Father, beware of listening to those sirens who 
make you out to be not simply a man, but partly a god, so that you 
can command and require whatever you will. It will not happen so, 
nor will you prevail. You are the servant of servants, and more than 
any other man, in a most pitiable and perilous position. Let not 
those men deceive you who pretend that you are lord of the world; 
who will not allow any one to be a Christian without your authority; 
who babble of your having power over heaven, hell, and purgatory. 
These men are your enemies and are seeking your soul to destroy 
it, as Isaiah says, "My people, they that call thee blessed are them- 
selves deceiving thee." They are in error who raise you above 
councils and the universal Church; they are in error who attribute 
to you alone the right of interpreting Scripture. All these men are 
seeking to set up their own impieties in the Church under your 
name, and alas! Satan has gained much through them in the time 
of your predecessors. 

In brief, trust not in any who exalt you, but in those who humiliate 
you. For this is the judgment of God: "He hath cast down the 
mighty from their seat, and hath exalted the humble." See how 
unlike Christ was to His successors, though all will have it that they 
are His vicars. I fear that in truth very many of them have been in 
too serious a sense His vicars, for a vicar represents a prince who is 
absent. Now if a pontiff rules while Christ is absent and does not 
dwell in his heart, what else is he but a vicar of Christ ? And then 
what is that Church but a multitude without Christ ? What indeed 
is such a vicar but antichrist and an idol ? How much more rightly 


did the Apostles speak, who call themselves servants of a present 

Christ, not the vicars of an absent one! 

Perhaps I am shamelessly bold in seeming to teach so great a 
head, by whom all men ought to be taught, and from whom, as those 
plagues of yours boast, the thrones of judges receive their sentence; 
but I imitate St. Bernard in his book concerning Considerations 
addressed to Eugenius, a book which ought to be known by heart 
by every pontiff. I do this, not from any desire to teach, but as a 
duty, from that simple and faithful solicitude which teaches us to be 
anxious for all that is safe for our neighbours, and does not allow 
considerations of worthiness or unworthiness to be entertained, being 
intent only on the dangers or advantage of others. For since I know 
that your Blessedness is driven and tossed by the waves at Rome, 
so that the depths of the sea press on you with infinite perils, and 
that you are labouring under such a condition of misery that you 
need even the least help from any the least brother, I do not seem to 
myself to be acting unsuitably if I forget your majesty till I shall 
have fulfilled the office of charity. I will not flatter in so serious and 
perilous a matter; and if in this you do not see that I am your friend 
and most thoroughly your subject, there is One to see and judge. 

In fine, that I may not approach you empty-handed, blessed 
Father, I bring with me this little treatise, published under your 
name, as a good omen of the establishment of peace and of good 
hope. By this you may perceive in what pursuits I should prefer 
and be able to occupy myself to more profit, if I were allowed, or had 
been hitherto allowed, by your impious flatterers. It is a small mat- 
ter, if you look to its exterior, but, unless I mistake, it is a summary 
of the Christian life put together in small compass, if you apprehend 
its meaning. I, in my poverty, have no other present to make you, 
nor do you need anything else than to be enriched by a spiritual 
gift. I commend myself to your Paternity and Blessedness, whom 
may the Lord Jesus preserve for ever. Amen. 

Wittenberg, 6th September, 1520. 


Christian faith has appeared to many an easy thing; nay, not a 
few even reckon it among the social virtues, as it were; and this 


they do because they have not made proof of it experimentally, and 
have never tasted of what efficacy it is. For it is not possible for any 
man to write well about it, or to understand well what is rightly 
written, who has not at some time tasted of its spirit, under the 
pressure of tribulation; while he who has tasted of it, even to a very 
small extent, can never write, speak, think, or hear about it suffi- 
ciently. For it is a living fountain, springing up into eternal life, as 
Christ calls it in John iv. 

Now, though I cannot boast of my abundance, and though I know 
how poorly I am furnished, yet I hope that, after having been vexed 
by various temptations, I have attained some little drop of faith, and 
that I can speak of this matter, if not with more elegance, certainly 
with more solidity, than those literal and too subtle disputants who 
have hitherto discoursed upon it without understanding their own 
words. That I may open then an easier way for the ignorant — for 
these alone I am trying to serve — I first lay down these two propo- 
sitions, concerning spiritual liberty and servitude: — 

A Christian man is the most free lord of all, and subject to none; 
a Christian man is the most dutiful servant of all, and subject to 
every one. 

Although these statements appear contradictory, yet, when they 
are found to agree together, they will make excellently for my pur- 
pose. They are both the statements of Paul himself, who says, 
"Though I be free from all men, yet have I made myself servant 
unto all" (i Cor. ix. 19), and "Owe no man anything, but to love 
one another" (Rom. xiii. 8). Now love is by its own nature dutiful 
and obedient to the beloved object. Thus even Christ, though Lord 
of all things, was yet made of a woman; made under the law; at 
once free and a servant; at once in the form of God and in the form 
of a servant. 

Let us examine the subject on a deeper and less simple principle. 
Man is composed of a twofold nature, a spiritual and a bodily. As 
regards the spiritual nature, which they name the soul, he is called 
the spiritual, inward, new man; as regards the bodily nature, which 
they name the flesh, he is called the fleshly, outward, old man. The 
Apostle speaks of this: "Though our outward man perish, yet the 
inward man is renewed day by day" (2 Cor. iv. 16). The result of 


this diversity is that in the Scriptures opposing statements are made 
concerning the same man, the fact being that in the same man these 
two men are opposed to one another; the flesh lusting against the 
spirit, and the spirit against the flesh (Gal. v. 17). 

We first approach the subject of the inward man, that we may 
see by what means a man becomes justified, free, and a true Chris- 
tian; that is, a spiritual, new, and inward man. It is certain that 
absolutely none among outward things, under whatever name they 
may be reckoned, has any influence in producing Christian righteous- 
ness or liberty, nor, on the other hand, unrighteousness or slavery. 
This can be shown by an easy argument. 

What can it profit the soul that the body should be in good con- 
dition, free, and full of life; that it should eat, drink, and act accord- 
ing to its pleasure; when even the most impious slaves of every kind 
of vice are prosperous in these matters? Again, what harm can ill- 
health, bondage, hunger, thirst, or any other outward evil, do to the 
soul, when even the most pious of men and the freest in the purity 
of their conscience, are harassed by these things? Neither of these 
states of things has to do with the liberty or the slavery of the 

And so it will profit nothing that the body should be adorned 
with sacred vestments, or dwell in holy places, or be occupied in 
sacred offices, or pray, fast, and abstain from certain meats, or do 
whatever works can be done through the body and in the body. 
Something widely different will be necessary for the justification and 
liberty of the soul, since the things I have spoken of can be done by 
any impious person, and only hypocrites are produced by devotion to 
these things. On the other hand, it will not at all injure the soul 
that the body should be clothed in profane raiment, should dwell in 
profane places, should eat and drink in the ordinary fashion, should 
not pray aloud, and should leave undone all the things above men- 
tioned, which may be done by hypocrites. 

And, to cast everything aside, even speculation, meditations, and 
whatever things can be performed by the exertions of the soul itself, 
are of no profit. One thing, and one alone, is necessary for life, 
justification, and Christian liberty; and that is the most holy word 
of God, the Gospel of Christ, as He says, "I am the resurrection and 


the life; he that believeth in Me shall not die eternally" (John xi. 
25), and also, "If the Son shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed" 
(John viii. 36), and, "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every 
word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God" (Matt. iv. 4). 

Let us therefore hold it for certain and firmly established that the 
soul can do without everything except the word of God, without 
which none at all of its wants are provided for. But, having the 
word, it is rich and wants for nothing, since that is the word of life, 
of truth, of light, of peace, of justification, of salvation, of joy, of 
liberty, of wisdom, of virtue, of grace, of glory, and of every good 
thing. It is on this account that the prophet in a whole Psalm 
(Psalm cxix.) and in many other places, sighs for and calls upon the 
word of God with so many groanings and words. 

Again, there is no more cruel stroke of the wrath of God than 
when He sends a famine of hearing His words (Amos viii. n), just 
as there is no greater favour from Him than the sending forth of 
His word, as it is said, "He sent His word and healed them, and 
delivered them from their destructions" (Psalm cvii. 20) . Christ was 
sent for no other office than that of the word; and the order of 
Apostles, that of bishops, and that of the whole body of the clergy, 
have been called and instituted for no object but the ministry of 
the word. 

But you will ask, What is this word, and by what means is it to 
be used, since there are so many words of God? I answer, The 
Apostle Paul (Rom. i.) explains what it is, namely the Gospel of 
God, concerning His Son, incarnate, suffering, risen, and glorified, 
through the Spirit, the Sanctifier. To preach Christ is to feed the 
soul, to justify it, to set it free, and to save it, if it believes the preach- 
ing. For faith alone and the efficacious use of the word of God, bring 
salvation. "If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and 
shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised Him from the dead, 
thou shalt be saved" (Rom. x. 9) ; and again, "Christ is the end of 
the law for righteousness to every one that believeth" (Rom. x. 4), 
and "The just shall live by faith" (Rom. i. 17). For the word of 
God cannot be received and honoured by any works, but by faith 
alone. Hence it is clear that as the soul needs the word alone for 
life and justification, so it is justified by faith alone, and not by any 


works. For if it could be justified by any other means, it would 
have no need of the word, nor consequently of faith. 

But this faith cannot consist at all with works; that is, if you 
imagine that you can be justified by those works, whatever they are, 
along with it. For this would be to halt between two opinions, to 
worship Baal, and to kiss the hand to him, which is a very great 
iniquity, as Job says. Therefore, when you begin to believe, you 
learn at the same time that all that is in you is utterly guilty, sinful, 
and damnable, according to that saying, "All have sinned, and come 
short of the glory of God" (Rom. iii. 23), and also: "There is none 
righteous, no, not one; they are all gone out of the way; they are 
together become unprofitable: there is none that doeth good, no, 
not one" (Rom. iii. 10-12). When you have learnt this, you will 
know that Christ is necessary for you, since He has suffered and 
risen again for you, that, believing on Him, you might by this faith 
become another man, all your sins being remitted, and you being 
justified by the merits of another, namely of Christ alone. 

Since then this faith can reign only in the inward man, as it is said, 
"With the heart man believeth unto righteousness" (Rom. x. 10); 
and since it alone justifies., it is evident that by no outward work or 
labour can the inward man be at all justified, made free, and saved; 
and that no works whatever have any relation to him. And so, on 
the other hand, it is solely by impiety and incredulity of heart that 
he becomes guilty and a slave of sin, deserving condemnation, not 
by any outward sin or work. Therefore, the first care of every 
Christian ought to be to lay aside all reliance on works, and 
strengthen his faith alone more and more, and by it grow in the 
knowledge, not of works, but of Christ Jesus, who has suffered and 
risen again for him, as Peter teaches (1 Peter v.) when he makes 
no other work to be a Christian one. Thus Christ, when the Jews 
asked Him what they should do that they might work the works 
of God, rejected the multitude of works, with which He saw that 
they were puffed up, and commanded them one thing only, saying, 
"This is the work of God: that ye believe on Him whom He hath 
sent, for Him hath God the Father sealed" (John vi. 27, 29). 

Hence a right faith in Christ is an incomparable treasure, carrying 
with it universal salvation and preserving from all evil, as it is said, 


"He that believeth and is baptised shall be saved; but he that believeth 
not shall be damned" (Mark xvi. 16). Isaiah, looking to this treas- 
ure, predicted, "The consumption decreed shall overflow with right- 
eousness. For the Lord God of hosts shall make a consumption, even 
determined (verbum abbreviatum et consummans) , in the midst of 
the land" (Isa. x. 22, 23) . As if he said, "Faith, which is the brief and 
complete fulfilling of the law, will fill those who believe with such 
righteousness that they will need nothing else for justification." 
Thus, too, Paul says, "For with the heart man believeth unto right- 
eousness" (Rom. x. 10). 

But you ask how it can be the fact that faith alone justifies, and 
affords without works so great a treasure of good things, when so 
many works, ceremonies, and laws are prescribed to us in the Scrip- 
tures? I answer: Before all things bear in mind what I have said: 
that faith alone without works justifies, sets free, and saves, as I 
shall show more clearly below. 

Meanwhile it is to be noted that the whole Scripture of God is 
divided into two parts: precepts and promises. The precepts cer- 
tainly teach us what is good, but what they teach is not forthwith 
done. For they show us what we ought to do, but do not give us the 
power to do it. They were ordained, however, for the purpose of 
showing man to himself, that through them he may learn his own 
impotence for good and may despair of his own strength. For this 
reason they are called the Old Testament, and are so. 

For example, "Thou shalt not covet," is a precept by which we 
are all convicted of sin, since no man can help coveting, whatever 
efforts to the contrary he may make. In order therefore that he may 
fulfil the precept, and not covet, he is constrained to despair of him- 
self and to seek elsewhere and through another the help which he 
cannot find in himself; as it is said, "O Israel, thou hast destroyed 
thyself; but in Me is thine help" (Hosea xiii. 9). Now what is done 
by this one precept is done by all; for all are equally impossible of 
fulfilment by us. 

Now when a man has through the precepts been taught his own 
impotence, and become anxious by what means he may satisfy the 
law — for the law must be satisfied, so that no jot or tittle of it may 
pass away, otherwise he must be hopelessly condemned — then, being 


truly humbled and brought to nothing in his own eyes, he finds in 
himself no resource for justification and salvation. 

Then comes in that other part of Scripture, the promises of God, 
which declare the glory of God, and say, "If you wish to fulfil the 
law, and, as the law requires, not to covet, lo! believe in Christ, in 
whom are promised to you grace, justification, peace and liberty." 
All these things you shall have, if you believe, and shall be without 
them if you do not believe. For what is impossible for you by all the 
works of the law, which are many and yet useless, you shall fulfil in 
an easy and summary way through faith, because God the Father has 
made everything to depend on faith, so that whosoever has it has all 
things, and he who has it not has nothing. "For God hath con- 
cluded them all in unbelief, that He might have mercy upon all" 
(Rom. xi. 32). Thus the promises of God give that which the pre- 
cepts exact, and fulfil what the law commands; so that all is of 
God alone, both the precepts and their fulfilment. He alone com- 
mands; He alone also fulfils. Hence the promises of God belong 
to the New Testament; nay, are the New Testament. 

Now, since these promises of God are words of holiness, truth, 
righteousness, liberty, and peace, and are full of universal goodness, 
the soul, which cleaves to them with a firm faith, is so united to 
them, nay, thoroughly absorbed by them, that it not only partakes 
in, but is penetrated and saturated by, all their virtues. For if the 
touch of Christ was healing, how much more does that most tender 
spiritual touch, nay, absorption of the word, communicate to the soul 
all that belongs to the word! In this way therefore the soul, through 
faith alone, without works, is from the word of God j ustified, sancti- 
fied, endued with truth, peace, and liberty, and filled full with every 
good thing, and is truly made the child of God, as it is said, "To them 
gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe 
on His name" (John i. 12). 

From all this it is easy to understand why faith has such great 
power, and why no good works, nor even all good works put 
together, can compare with it, since no work can cleave to the word 
of God or be in the soul. Faith alone and the word reign in it; and 
such as is the word, such is the soul made by it, just as iron exposed 
to fire glows like fire, on account of its union with the fire. It is 


clear then that to a Christian man his faith suffices for everything, 
and that he has no need of works for justification. But if he has 
no need of works, neither has he need of the law; and if he has no 
need of the law, he is certainly free from the law, and the saying is 
true, "The law is not made for a righteous man" (i Tim. i. 9). This 
is that Christian liberty, our faith, the effect of which is, not that we 
should be careless or lead a bad life, but that no one should need the 
law or works for justification and salvation. 

Let us consider this as the first virtue of faith; and let us look also 
to the second. This also is an office of faith: that it honours with the 
utmost veneration and the highest reputation Him in whom it 
believes, inasmuch as it holds Him to be truthful and worthy of 
belief. For there is no honour like that reputation of truth and 
righteousness with which we honour Him in whom we believe. 
What higher credit can we attribute to any one than truth and 
righteousness, and absolute goodness? On the other hand, it is the 
greatest insult to brand any one with the reputation of falsehood 
and unrighteousness, or to suspect him of these, as we do when we 
disbelieve him. 

Thus the soul, in firmly believing the promises of God, holds Him 
to be true and righteous; and it can attribute to God no higher glory 
than the credit of being so. The highest worship of God is to ascribe 
to Him, truth, righteousness, and whatever qualities we must ascribe 
to one in whom we believe. In doing this, the soul shows itself pre- 
pared to do His whole will; in doing this it hallows His name, and 
gives itself up to be dealt with as it may please God. For it cleaves to 
His promises, and never doubts that He is true, just, and wise, and 
will do, dispose, and provide for all things in the best way. Is not 
such a soul, in this its faith, most obedient to God in all things? 
What commandment does there remain which has not been amply 
fulfilled by such an obedience? What fulfilment can be more full 
than universal obedience? Now this is not accomplished by works, 
but by faith alone. 

On the other hand, what greater rebellion, impiety, or insult to 
God can there be, than not to believe His promises ? What else is 
this, than either to make God a liar, or to doubt His truth — that is, 
to attribute truth to ourselves, but to God falsehood and levity ? In 


doing this, is not a man denying God and setting himself up as an 
idol in his own heart? What then can works, done in such a state 
of impiety, profit us, were they even angelic or apostolic works? 
Rightly hath God shut up all, not in wrath nor in lust, but in unbe- 
lief, in order that those who pretend that they are fulfilling the law 
by works of purity and benevolence (which are social and human 
virtues) may not presume that they will therefore be saved, but, 
being included in the sin of unbelief, may either seek mercy, or be 
justly condemned. 

But when God sees that truth is ascribed to Him, and that in the 
faith of our hearts He is honoured with all the honour of which He 
is worthy, then in return He honours us on account of that faith, 
attributing to us truth and righteousness. For faith does truth and 
righteousness in rendering to God what is His; and therefore in 
return, God gives glory to our righteousness. It is true and righteous 
that God is true and righteous; and to confess this and ascribe these 
attributes to Him, this it is to be true and righteous. Thus He says, 
"Them that honour Me I will honour, and they that despise Me 
shall be lightly esteemed" (i Sam. ii. 30). And so Paul says that 
Abraham's faith was imputed to him for righteousness, because by 
it he gave glory to God; and that to us also, for the same reason, it 
shall be imputed for righteousness, if we believe (Rom. iv.). 

The third incomparable grace of faith is this: that it unites the 
soul to Christ, as the wife to the husband, by which mystery, as the 
Apostle teaches, Christ and the soul are made one flesh. Now if they 
are one flesh, and if a true marriage — nay, by far the most perfect of 
all marriages — is accomplished between them (for human marriages 
are but feeble types of this one great marriage), then it follows that 
all they have becomes theirs in common, as well good things as evil 
things; so that whatsoever Christ possesses, that the believing soul 
may take to itself and boast of as its own, and whatever belongs to 
the soul, that Christ claims as His. 

If we compare these possessions, we shall see how inestimable is 
the gain. Christ is full of grace, life, and salvation; the soul is full 
of sin, death, and condemnation. Let faith step in, and then sin, 
death, and hell will belong to Christ, and grace, life, and salvation 
to the soul. For, if He is a Husband, He must needs take to Him- 


self that which is His wife's and at the same time, impart to His 
wife that which is His. For, in giving her His own body and Him- 
self, how can He but give her all that is His? And, in taking to 
Himself the body of His wife, how can He but take to Himself all 
that is hers ? 

In this is displayed the delightful sight, not only of communion, 
but of a prosperous warfare, of victory, salvation, and redemption. 
For, since Christ is God and man, and is such a Person as neither 
has sinned, nor dies, nor is condemned, nay, cannot sin, die, or be 
condemned, and since His righteousness, life, and salvation are 
invincible, eternal, and almighty, — when I say, such a Person, by the 
wedding-ring of faith, takes a share in the sins, death, and hell of 
His wife, nay, makes them His own, and deals with them no other- 
wise than as if they were His, and as if He himself had sinned; 
and when He suffers, dies, and descends to hell, that He may over- 
come all things, and since sin, death, and hell cannot swallow Him 
up, they must needs be swallowed up by Him in stupendous con- 
flict. For His righteousness rises above the sins of all men; His life 
is more powerful than all death; His salvation is more unconquer- 
able than all hell. 

Thus the believing soul, by the pledge of its faith in Christ, 
becomes free from all sin, fearless of death, safe from hell, and 
endowed with the eternal righteousness, life, and salvation of its 
Husband Christ. Thus He presents to Himself a glorious bride, 
without spot or wrinkle, cleansing her with the washing of water 
by the word; that is, by faith in the word of life, righteousness, and 
salvation. Thus He betrothes her unto Himself "in faithfulness, in 
righteousness, and in judgment, and in loving kindness, and in 
mercies" (Hosea ii. 19, 20) . 

Who then can value highly enough these royal nuptials? Who 
can comprehend the riches of the glory of this grace? Christ, that 
rich and pious Husband, takes as a wife a needy and impious harlot, 
redeeming her from all her evils and supplying her with all His 
good things. It is impossible now that her sins should destroy her, 
since they have been laid upon Christ and swallowed up in Him, 
and since she has in her Husband Christ, a righteousness which she 
may claim as her own, and which she can set up with confidence 


against all her sins, against death and hell, saying, "I£ I have sinned, 
my Christ, in whom I believe, has not sinned; all mine is His, and 
all His is mine," as it is written, "My beloved is mine, and I am His" 
(Cant. ii. 16). This is what Paul says: "Thanks be to God, which 
giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ," victory over 
sin and death, as he says, "The sting of death is sin, and the strength 
of sin is the law" (i Cor. xv. 56, 57). 

From all this you will again understand why so much importance 
is attributed to faith, so that it alone can fulfil the law and justify 
without any works. For you see that the First Commandment, which 
says, "Thou shalt worship one God only," is fulfilled by faith alone. 
If you were nothing but good works from the soles of your feet to 
the crown of your head, you would not be worshipping God, nor 
fulfilling the First Commandment, since it is impossible to worship 
God without ascribing to Him the glory of truth and of universal 
goodness, as it ought in truth to be ascribed. Now this is not done 
by works, but only by faith of heart. It is not by working, but by 
believing, that we glorify God, and confess Him to be true. On this 
ground, faith alone is the righteousness of a Christian man, and the 
fulfilling of all the commandments. For to him who fulfils the first, 
the task of fulfilling all the rest is easy. 

Works, since they are irrational things, cannot glorify God, 
although they may be done to the glory of God, if faith be present. 
But at present we are inquiring, not into the quality of the works 
done, but into him who does them, who glorifies God, and brings 
forth good works. This is faith of heart, the head and the substance 
of all our righteousness. Hence that is a blind and perilous doctrine 
which teaches that the commandments are fulfilled by works. The 
commandments must have been fulfilled previous to any good works, 
and good works follow their fulfillment, as we shall see. 

But, that we may have a wider view of that grace which our inner 
man has in Christ, we must know that in the Old Testament, God 
sanctified to Himself every first-born male. The birthright was of 
great value, giving a superiority over the rest by the double honour 
of priesthood and kingship. For the first-born brother was priest 
and lord of all the rest. 

Under this figure was foreshown Christ, the true and only First- 


born of God the Father and of the Virgin Mary, and a true King 
and Priest, not in a fleshly and earthly sense. For His kingdom is 
not of this world; it is in heavenly and spiritual things that He 
reigns and acts as Priest; and these are righteousness, truth, wisdom, 
peace, salvation, etc. Not but that all things, even those of earth 
and hell, are subject to Him — for otherwise how could He defend 
and save us from them? — but it is not in these, nor by these, that 
His kingdom stands. 

So, too, His priesthood does not consist in the outward display of 
vestments and gestures, as did the human priesthood of Aaron and 
our ecclesiastical priesthood at this day, but in spiritual things, 
wherein, in His invisible office, He intercedes for us with God in 
heaven, and there offers Himself, and performs all the duties of a 
priest, as Paul describes Him to the Hebrews under the figure of 
Melchizedek. Nor does He only pray and intercede for us; He also 
teaches us inwardly in the spirit with the living teachings of His 
Spirit. Now these are the two special offices of a priest, as is figured 
to us in the case of fleshly priests by visible prayers and sermons. 

As Christ by His birthright has obtained these two dignities, so 
He imparts and communicates them to every believer in Him, under 
that law of matrimony of which we have spoken above, by which all 
that is the husband's is also the wife's. Hence all we who believe on 
Christ are kings and priests in Christ, as it is said, "Ye are a chosen 
generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people, that 
ye should show forth the praises of Him who hath called you out 
of darkness into His marvellous light" (i Peter ii. 9). 

These two things stand thus. First, as regards kingship, every 
Christian is by faith so exalted above all things that, in spiritual 
power, he is completely lord of all things, so that nothing whatever 
can do him any hurt; yea, all things are subject to him, and are com- 
pelled to be subservient to his salvation. Thus Paul says, "All things 
work together for good to them who are called" (Rom. viii. 28), and 
also, "Whether life, or death, or things present, or things to come, all 
are yours; and ye are Christ's" (1 Cor. iii. 22, 23). 

Not that in the sense of corporeal power any one among Christians 
has been appointed to possess and rule all things, according to the 
mad and senseless idea of certain ecclesiastics. That is the office of 


kings, princes, and men upon earth. In the experience of life we see 
that we are subjected to all things, and suffer many things, even 
death. Yea, the more of a Christian any man is, to so many the 
more evils, sufferings, and deaths is he subject, as we see in the first 
place in Christ the First-born, and in all His holy brethren. 

This is a spiritual power, which rules in the midst of enemies, and 
is powerful in the midst of distresses. And this is nothing else than 
that strength is made perfect in my weakness, and that I can turn 
all things to the profit of my salvation; so that even the cross and 
death are compelled to serve me and to work together for my salva- 
tion. This is a lofty and eminent dignity, a true and almighty 
dominion, a spiritual empire, in which there is nothing so good, 
nothing so bad, as not to work together for my good, if only I 
believe. And yet there is nothing of which I have need — for faith 
alone suffices for my salvation — unless that in it faith may exercise 
the power and empire of its liberty. This is the inestimable power 
and liberty of Christians. 

Nor are we only kings and the freest of all men, but also priests 
for ever, a dignity far higher than kingship, because by that priest- 
hood we are worthy to appear before God, to pray for others, and 
to teach one another mutually the things which are of God. For 
these are the duties of priests, and they cannot possibly be permitted 
to any unbeliever. Christ has obtained for us this favour, if we 
believe in Him: that just as we are His brethren and co-heirs and 
fellow-kings with Him, so we should be also fellow-priests with 
Him, and venture with confidence, through the spirit of faith, to 
come into the presence of God, and cry, "Abba, Father!" and to 
pray for one another, and to do all things which we see done and 
figured in the visible and corporeal office of priesthood. But to 
an unbelieving person nothing renders service or work for good. 
He himself is in servitude to all things, and all things turn out for 
evil to him, because he uses all things in an impious way for his own 
advantage, and not for the glory of God. And thus he is not a 
priest, but a profane person, whose prayers are turned into sin, nor 
does he ever appear in the presence of God, because God does not 
hear sinners. 

Who then can comprehend the loftiness of that Christian dignity 


which, by its royal power, rules over all things, even over death, life, 
and sin, and, by its priestly glory, is all-powerful with God, since 
God does what He Himself seeks and wishes, as it is written, "He 
will fulfil the desire of them that fear Him; He also will hear their 
cry, and will save them"? (Psalm cxlv. 19). This glory certainly 
cannot be attained by any works, but by faith only. 

From these considerations any one may clearly see how a Chris- 
tian man is free from all things; so that he needs no works in order 
to be justified and saved, but receives these gifts in abundance from 
faith alone. Nay, were he so foolish as to pretend to be justified, 
set free, saved, and made a Christian, by means of any good work, 
he would immediately lose faith, with all its benefits. Such folly is 
prettily represented in the fable where a dog, running along in the 
water and carrying in his mouth a real piece of meat, is deceived by 
the reflection of the meat in the water, and, in trying with open 
mouth to seize it, loses the meat and its image at the same time. 

Here you will ask, "If all who are in the Church are priests, by 
what character are those whom we now call priests to be distin- 
guished from the laity?" I reply, By the use of these words, 
"priest," "clergy," "spiritual person," "ecclesiastic," an injustice has 
been done, since they have been transferred from the remaining 
body of Christians to those few who are now, by hurtful custom, 
called ecclesiastics. For Holy Scripture makes no distinction between 
them, except that those who are now boastfully called popes, bishops, 
and lords, it calls ministers, servants, and stewards, who are to serve 
the rest in the ministry of the word, for teaching the faith of Christ 
and the liberty of believers. For though it is true that we are all 
equally priests, yet we cannot, nor, if we could, ought we all to, 
minister and teach publicly. Thus Paul says, "Let a man so account 
of us as of the ministers of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of 
God" (1 Cor. iv. 1). 

This bad system has now issued in such a pompous display of 
power and such a terrible tyranny that no earthly government can 
be compared to it, as if the laity were something else than Christians. 
Through this perversion of things it has happened that the knowl- 
edge of Christian grace, of faith, of liberty, and altogether of Christ, 
has utterly perished, and has been succeeded by an intolerable bond- 


age to human works and laws; and, according to the Lamentations 
of Jeremiah, we have become the slaves of the vilest men on earth, 
who abuse our misery to all the disgraceful and ignominious pur- 
poses of their own will. 

Returning to the subject which we had begun, I think it is made 
clear by these considerations that it is not sufficient, nor a Christian 
course, to preach the works, life, and words of Christ in a historic 
manner, as facts which it suffices to know as an example how to 
frame our life, as do those who are now held the best preachers, and 
much less so to keep silence altogether on these things and to teach 
in their stead the laws of men and the decrees of the Fathers. There 
are now not a few persons who preach and read about Christ with 
the object of moving the human affections to sympathize with 
Christ, to indignation against the Jews, and other childish and 
womanish absurdities of that kind. 

Now preaching ought to have the object of promoting faith in 
Him, so that He may not only be Christ, but a Christ for you and 
for me, and that what is said of Him, and what He is called, may 
work in us. And this faith is produced and is maintained by preach- 
ing why Christ came, what He has brought us and given to us, and 
to what profit and advantage He is to be received. This is done when 
the Christian liberty which we have from Christ Himself is rightly 
taught, and we are shown in what manner all we Christians are 
kings and priests, and how we are lords of all things, and may be 
confident that whatever we do in the presence of God is pleasing 
and acceptable to Him. 

Whose heart would not rejoice in its inmost core at hearing these 
things? Whose heart, on receiving so great a consolation, would 
not become sweet with the love of Christ, a love to which it can 
never attain by any laws or works? Who can injure such a heart, 
or make it afraid ? If the consciousness of sin or the horror of death 
rush in upon it, it is prepared to hope in the Lord, and is fearless 
of such evils, and undisturbed, until it shall look down upon its 
enemies. For it believes that the righteousness of Christ is its own, 
and that its sin is no longer its own, but that of Christ; but, on 
account of its faith in Christ, all its sin must needs be swallowed 
up from before the face of the righteousness of Christ, as I have 


said above. It learns, too, with the Apostle, to scoff at death and sin, 
and to say, "O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy 
victory ? The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. 
But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our 
Lord Jesus Christ" (i Cor. xv. 55-57). For death is swallowed up in 
victory, not only the victory of Christ, but ours also, since by faith 
it becomes ours, and in it we too conquer. 

Let it suffice to say this concerning the inner man and its liberty, 
and concerning that righteousness of faith which needs neither laws 
nor good works; nay, they are even hurtful to it, if any one pretends 
to be justified by them. 

And now let us turn to the other part : to the outward man. Here 
we shall give an answer to all those who, taking offence at the 
word of faith and at what I have asserted, say, "If faith does every- 
thing, and by itself suffices for justification, why then are good 
works commanded ? Are we then to take our ease and do no works, 
content with faith?" Not so, impious men, I reply; not so. That 
would indeed really be the case, if we were thoroughly and com- 
pletely inner and spiritual persons; but that will not happen until 
the last day, when the dead shall be raised. As long as we live in the 
flesh, we are but beginning and making advances in that which 
shall be completed in a future life. On this account the Apostle 
calls that which we have in this life the first-fruits of the Spirit 
(Rom. viii. 23). In future we shall have the tenths, and the fullness 
of the Spirit. To this part belongs the fact I have stated before: that 
the Christian is the servant of all and subject to all. For in that part 
in which he is free he does no works, but in that in which he is a 
servant he does all works. Let us see on what principle this is so. 

Although, as I have said, inwardly, and according to the spirit, a 
man is amply enough justified by faith, having all that he requires 
to have, except that this very faith and abundance ought to increase 
from day to day, even till the future life, still he remains in this 
mortal life upon earth, in which it is necessary that he should rule 
his own body and have intercourse with men. Here then works 
begin; here he must not take his ease; here he must give heed to 
exercise his body by fastings, watchings, labour, and other regular 


discipline, so that it may be subdued to the spirit, and obey and 
conform itself to the inner man and faith, and not rebel against them 
nor hinder them, as is its nature to do if it is not kept under. For 
the inner man, being conformed to God and created after the image 
of God through faith, rejoices and delights itself in Christ, in 
whom such blessings have been conferred on it, and hence has 
only this task before it: to serve God with joy and for nought in 
free love. 

But in doing this he comes into collision with that contrary will 
in his own flesh, which is striving to serve the world and to seek its 
own gratification. This the spirit of faith cannot and will not bear, 
but applies itself with cheerfulness and zeal to keep it down and 
restrain it, as Paul says, "I delight in the law of God after the inward 
man; but I see another law in my members, warring against the law 
of my mind and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin" (Rom. 
vii. 22, 23), and again, "I keep under my body, and bring it unto 
subjection, lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, 
I myself should be a castaway" (1 Cor. ix. 27), and "They that are 
Christ's have crucified the flesh, with the affections and lusts" (Gal. 
v. 24). 

These works, however, must not be done with any notion that 
by them a man can be justified before God — for faith, which alone is 
righteousness before God, will not bear with this false notion — but 
solely with this purpose: that the body may be brought into subjec- 
tion, and be purified from its evil lusts, so that our eyes may be 
turned only to purging away those lusts. For when the soul has been 
cleansed by faith and made to love God, it would have all things to 
be cleansed in like manner, and especially its own body, so that all 
things might unite with it in the love and praise of God. Thus it 
comes that, from the requirements of his own body, a man cannot 
take his ease, but is compelled on its account to do many good works, 
that he may bring it into subjection. Yet these works are not the 
means of his justification before God; he does them out of disin- 
terested love to the service of God; looking to no other end than to 
do what is well-pleasing to Him whom he desires to obey most 
dutifully in all things. 

On this principle every man may easily instruct himself in what 
measure, and with what distinctions, he ought to chasten his own 


body. He will fast, watch, and labour, just as much as he sees to 
suffice for keeping down the wantonness and concupiscence of the 
body. But those who pretend to be justified by works are looking, 
not to the mortification of their lusts, but only to the works them- 
selves; thinking that, if they can accomplish as many works and as 
great ones as possible, all is well with them, and they are justified. 
Sometimes they even injure their brain, and extinguish nature, or 
at least make it useless. This is enormous folly, and ignorance of 
Christian life and faith, when a man seeks, without faith, to be 
justified and saved by works. 

To make what we have said more easily understood, let us set it 
forth under a figure. The works of a Christian man, who is justified 
and saved by his faith out of the pure and unbought mercy of God, 
ought to be regarded in the same light as would have been those of 
Adam and Eve in paradise and of all their posterity if they had not 
sinned. Of them it is said, "The Lord God took the man and put 
him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it" (Gen. ii. 15). 
Now Adam had been created by God just and righteous, so that he 
could not have needed to be justified and made righteous by keeping 
the garden and working in it; but, that he might not be unemployed, 
God gave him the business of keeping and cultivating paradise. 
These would have indeed been works of perfect freedom, being done 
for no object but that of pleasing God, and not in order to obtain 
justification, which he already had to the full, and which would 
have been innate in us all. 

So it is with the works of a believer. Being by his faith replaced 
afresh in paradise and created anew, he does not need works for his 
justification, but that he may not be idle, but may exercise his own 
body and preserve it. His works are to be done freely, with the sole 
object of pleasing God. Only we are not yet fully created anew in 
perfect faith and love; these require to be increased, not, however, 
through works, but through themselves. 

A bishop, when he consecrates a church, confirms children, or per- 
forms any other duty of his office, is not consecrated as bishop by 
these works; nay, unless he had been previously consecrated as bishop, 
not one of those works would have any validity; they would be fool- 
ish, childish, and ridiculous. Thus a Christian, being consecrated by 
his faith, does good works; but he is not by these works made a more 


sacred person, or more a Christian. That is the effect of faith alone; 
nay, unless he were previously a believer and a Christian, none of his 
works would have any value at all; they would really be impious 
and damnable sins. 

True, then, are these two sayings: "Good works do not make a 
good man, but a good man does good works"; "Bad works do not 
make a bad man, but a bad man does bad works." Thus it is always 
necessary that the substance or person should be good before any 
good works can be done, and that good works should follow and 
proceed from a good person. As Christ says, "A good tree cannot 
bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good 
fruit" (Matt. vii. 18). Now it is clear that the fruit does not bear 
the tree, nor does the tree grow on the fruit; but, on the contrary, 
the trees bear the fruit, and the fruit grows on the trees. 

As then trees must exist before their fruit, and as the fruit does not 
make the tree either good or bad, but on the contrary, a tree of either 
kind produces fruit of the same kind, so must first the person of the 
man be good or bad before he can do either a good or a bad work; 
and his works do not make him bad or good, but he himself makes 
his works either bad or good. 

We may see the same thing in all handicrafts. A bad or good 
house does not make a bad or good builder, but a good or bad builder 
makes a good or bad house. And in general no work makes the 
workman such as it is itself; but the workman makes the work such 
as he is himself. Such is the case, too, with the works of men. Such 
as the man himself is, whether in faith or in unbelief, such is his 
work: good if it be done in faith; bad if in unbelief. But the con- 
verse is not true that, such as the work is, such the man becomes in 
faith or in unbelief. For as works do not make a believing man, 
so neither do they make a justified man; but faith, as it makes a 
man a believer and justified, so also it makes his works good. 

Since then works justify no man, but a man must be justified 
before he can do any good work, it is most evident that it is faith 
alone which, by the mere mercy of God through Christ, and by 
means of His word, can worthily and sufficiently justify and save the 
person; and that a Christian man needs no work, no law, for his 
salvation; for by faith he is free from all law, and in perfect freedom 


does gratuitously all that he does, seeking nothing either of profit or 
of salvation — since by the grace of God he is already saved and rich 
in all things through his faith — but solely that which is well-pleasing 
to God. 

So, too, no good work can profit an unbeliever to justification and 
salvation; and, on the other hand, no evil work makes him an evil 
and condemned person, but that unbelief, which makes the person 
and the tree bad, makes his works evil and condemned. Where- 
fore, when any man is made good or bad, this does not arise from his 
works, but from his faith or unbelief, as the wise man says, "The 
beginning of sin is to fall away from God"; that is, not to believe. 
Paul says, "He that cometh to God must believe" (Heb. xi. 6) ; and 
Christ says the same thing: "Either make the tree good and his fruit 
good; or else make the tree corrupt and his fruit corrupt" (Matt. xii. 
33), — as much as to say, He who wishes to have good fruit will begin 
with the tree, and plant a good one; even so he who wishes to do 
good works must begin, not by working, but by believing, since it is 
this which makes the person good. For nothing makes the person 
good but faith, nor bad but unbelief. 

It is certainly true that, in the sight of men, a man becomes good 
or evil by his works; but here "becoming" means that it is thus 
shown and recognised who is good or evil, as Christ says, "By their 
fruits ye shall know them" (Matt. vii. 20). But all this stops at 
appearances and externals; and in this matter very many deceive 
themselves, when they presume to write and teach that we are to be 
justified by good works, and meanwhile make no mention even of 
faith, walking in their own ways, ever deceived and deceiving, going 
from bad to worse, blind leaders of the blind, wearying themselves 
with many works, and yet never attaining to true righteousness, of 
whom Paul says, "Having a form of godliness, but denying the 
power thereof, ever learning and never able to come to the knowl- 
edge of the truth" (2 Tim. iii. 5, 7) . 

He then who does not wish to go astray, with these blind ones, 
must look further than to the works of the law or the doctrine of 
works; nay, must turn away his sight from works, and look to the 
person, and to the manner in which it may be justified. Now it is 
justified and saved, not by works or laws, but by the word of God — 


that is, by the promise of His grace — so that the glory may be to the 
Divine majesty, which has saved us who believe, not by works of 
righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy, by 
the word of His grace. 

From all this it is easy to perceive on what principle good works 
are to be cast aside or embraced, and by what rule all teachings put 
forth concerning works are to be understood. For if works are 
brought forward as grounds of justification, and are done under the 
false persuasion that we can pretend to be justified by them, they lay 
on us the yoke of necessity, and extinguish liberty along with faith, 
and by this very addition to their use they become no longer good, 
but really worthy of condemnation. For such works are not free, but 
blaspheme the grace of God, to which alone it belongs to justify and 
save through faith. Works cannot accomplish this, and yet, with 
impious presumption, through our folly, they take it on themselves 
to do so; and thus break in with violence upon the office and glory 
of grace. 

We do not then reject good works; nay, we embrace them and 
teach them in the highest degree. It is not on their own account that 
we condemn them, but on account of this impious addition to them 
and the perverse notion of seeking justification by them. These 
things cause them to be only good in outward show, but in reality 
not good, since by them men are deceived and deceive others, like 
ravening wolves in sheep's clothing. 

Now this leviathan, this perverted notion about works, is invinci- 
ble when sincere faith is wanting. For those sanctified doers of works 
cannot but hold it till faith, which destroys it, comes and reigns in 
the heart. Nature cannot expel it by her own power; nay, cannot 
even see it for what it is, but considers it as a most holy will. And 
when custom steps in besides, and strengthens this pravity of nature, 
as has happened by means of impious teachers, then the evil is incur- 
able, and leads astray multitudes to irreparable ruin. Therefore, 
though it is good to preach and write about penitence, confession, 
and satisfaction, yet if we stop there, and do not go on to teach 
faith, such teaching is without doubt deceitful and devilish. For 
Christ, speaking by His servant John, not only said, "Repent ye," 
but added, "for the kingdom of heaven is at hand" (Matt. iii. 2) . 


For not one word of God only, but both, should be preached; new 
and old things should be brought out of the treasury, as well the 
voice of the law as the word of grace. The voice of the law should 
be brought forward, that men may be terrified and brought to a 
knowledge of their sins, and thence be converted to penitence and 
to a better manner of life. But we must not stop here; that would 
be to wound only and not to bind up, to strike and not to heal, to 
kill and not to make alive, to bring down to hell and not to bring 
back, to humble and not to exalt. Therefore, the word of grace and 
of the promised remission of sin must also be preached, in order to 
teach and set up faith, since without that word contrition, penitence, 
and all other duties, are performed and taught in vain. 

There still remain, it is true, preachers of repentance and grace, 
but they do not explain the law and the promises of God to such an 
end, and in such a spirit, that men may learn whence repentance and 
grace are to come. For repentance comes from the law of God, but 
faith or grace from the promises of God, as it is said, "Faith cometh 
by hearing, and hearing by the word of God" (Rom. x. 17), whence 
it comes that a man, when humbled and brought to the knowledge 
of himself by the threatenings and terrors of the law, is consoled and 
raised up by faith in the Divine promise. Thus "weeping may endure 
for a night, but joy cometh in the morning" (Psalm xxx. 5). Thus 
much we say concerning works in general, and also concerning those 
which the Christian practises with regard to his own body. 

Lasdy, we will speak also of those works which he performs 
towards his neighbour. For man does not live for himself alone in 
this mortal body, in order to work on its account, but also for all men 
on earth; nay, he lives only for others, and not for himself. For it 
is to this end that he brings his own body into subjection, that he 
may be able to serve others more sincerely and more freely, as Paul 
says, "None of us liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself. 
For whether we live, we live unto the Lord; and whether we die, 
we die unto the Lord" (Rom. xiv. 7, 8). Thus it is impossible that 
he should take his ease in this life, and not work for the good of 
his neighbours, since he must needs speak, act, and converse among 
men, just as Christ was made in the likeness of men and found in 
fashion as a man, and had His conversation among men. 


Yet a Christian has need of none of these things for justification 
and salvation, but in all his works he ought to entertain this view and 
look only to this object — that he may serve and be useful to others 
in all that he does; having nothing before his eyes but the necessities 
and the advantage of his neighbour. Thus the Apostle commands 
us to work with our own hands, that we may have to give to those 
that need. He might have said, that we may support ourselves; but 
he tells us to give to those that need. It is the part of a Christian to 
take care of his own body for the very purpose that, by its sound- 
ness and well-being, he may be enabled to labour, and to acquire and 
preserve property, for the aid of those who are in want, that thus the 
stronger member may serve the weaker member, and we may be 
children of God, thoughtful and busy one for another, bearing one 
another's burdens, and so fulfilling the law of Christ. 

Here is the truly Christian life, here is faith really working by 
love, when a man applies himself with joy and love to the works of 
that freest servitude in which he serves others voluntarily and for 
nought, himself abundantly satisfied in the fulness and riches of 
his own faith. 

Thus, when Paul had taught the Philippians how they had been 
made rich by that faith in Christ in which they had obtained all 
things, he teaches them further in these words: "If there be there- 
fore any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellow- 
ship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies, fulfil ye my joy, that ye 
be like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one 
mind. Let nothing be done through strife or vain-glory; but in 
lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. 
Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the 
things of others" (Phil. ii. 1-4). 

In this we see clearly that the Apostle lays down this rule for a 
Christian life: that all our works should be directed to the advantage 
of others, since every Christian has such abundance through his 
faith that all his other works and his whole life remain over and 
above wherewith to serve and benefit his neighbour of spontaneous 

To this end he brings forward Christ as an example, saying, "Let 
this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in 


the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God, but 
made Himself of no reputation, and took upon Him the form of a 
servant, and was made in the likeness of men; and being found in 
fashion as a man, He humbled Himself, and became obedient unto 
death" (Phil. ii. 5-8). This most wholesome saying of the Apostle 
has been darkened to us by men who, totally misunderstanding the 
expressions "form of God," "form of a servant," "fashion," "likeness 
of men," have transferred them to the natures of Godhead and man- 
hood. Paul's meaning is this: Christ, when He was full of the form 
of God and abounded in all good things, so that He had no need of 
works or sufferings to be just and saved — for all these things He 
had from the very beginning — yet was not puffed up with these 
things, and did not raise Himself above us and arrogate to Himself 
power over us, though He might lawfully have done so, but, on the 
contrary, so acted in labouring, working, suffering, and dying, as to 
be like the rest of men, and no otherwise than a man in fashion 
and in conduct, as if He were in want of all things and had nothing 
of the form of God; and yet all this He did for our sakes, that He 
might serve us, and that all the works He should do under that 
form of a servant might become ours. 

Thus a Christian, like Christ his Head, being full and in abun- 
dance through his faith, ought to be content with this form of God, 
obtained by faith; except that, as I have said, he ought to increase 
this faith till it be perfected. For this faith is his life, justification, 
and salvation, preserving his person itself and making it pleasing 
to God, and bestowing on him all that Christ has, as I have said 
above, and as Paul affirms: "The life which I now live in the flesh 
I live by the faith of the Son of God" (Gal. ii. 20). Though he is 
thus free from all works, yet he ought to empty himself of this 
liberty, take on him the form of a servant, be made in the likeness of 
men, be found in fashion as a man, serve, help, and in every way act 
towards his neighbour as he sees that God through Christ has acted 
and is acting towards him. All this he should do freely, and with 
regard to nothing but the good pleasure of God, and he should 
reason thus: — 

Lo! my God, without merit on my part, of His pure and free 
mercy, has given to me, an unworthy, condemned, and contemptible 


creature all the riches of justification and salvation in Christ, so that 
I no longer am in want of anything, except of faith to believe that 
this is so. For such a Father, then, who has overwhelmed me with 
these inestimable riches of His, why should I not freely, cheerfully, 
and with my whole heart, and from voluntary zeal, do all that I 
know will be pleasing to Him and acceptable in His sight? I will 
therefore give myself as a sort of Christ, to my neighbour, as Christ 
has given Himself to me; and will do nothing in this life except 
what I see will be needful, advantageous, and wholesome for my 
neighbour, since by faith I abound in all good things in Christ. 

Thus from faith flow forth love and joy in the Lord, and from love 
a cheerful, willing, free spirit, disposed to serve our neighbour volun- 
tarily, without taking any account of gratitude or ingratitude, praise 
or blame, gain or loss. Its object is not to lay men under obliga- 
tions, nor does it distinguish between friends and enemies, or look 
to gratitude or ingratitude, but most freely and willingly spends 
itself and its goods, whether it loses them through ingratitude, or 
gains goodwill. For thus did its Father, distributing all things to 
all men abundantly and freely, making His sun to rise upon the 
just and the unjust. Thus, too, the child does and endures nothing 
except from the free joy with which it delights through Christ in 
God, the Giver of such great gifts. 

You see, then, that, if we recognize those great and precious gifts, 
as Peter says, which have been given to us, love is quickly diffused 
in our hearts through the Spirit, and by love we are made free, 
joyful, all-powerful, active workers, victors over all our tribulations, 
servants to our neighbour, and nevertheless lords of all things. But, 
for those who do not recognize the good things given to them 
through Christ, Christ has been born in vain; such persons walk by 
works, and will never attain the taste and feeling of these great 
things. Therefore just as our neighbour is in want, and has need of 
our abundance, so we too in the sight of God were in want and had 
need of His mercy. And as our heavenly Father has freely helped us 
in Christ, so ought we freely to help our neighbour by our body and 
works, and each should become to other a sort of Christ, so that we 
may be mutually Christs, and that the same Christ may be in all of 
us; that is, that we may be truly Christians. 


Who then can comprehend the riches and glory of the Christian 
life? It can do all things, has all things, and is in want of nothing; 
is lord over sin, death, and hell, and at the same time is the obedient 
and useful servant of all. But alas! it is at this day unknown through- 
out the world; it is neither preached nor sought after, so that we 
are quite ignorant about our own name, why we are and are called 
Christians. We are certainly called so from Christ, who is not absent, 
but dwells among us — provided, that is, that we believe in Him and 
are reciprocally and mutually one the Christ of the other, doing to 
our neighbour as Christ does to us. But now, in the doctrine of 
men, we are taught only to seek after merits, rewards, and things 
which are already ours, and we have made of Christ a taskmaster 
far more severe than Moses. 

The Blessed Virgin beyond all others, affords us an example of 
the same faith, in that she was purified according to the law of 
Moses, and like all other women, though she was bound by no such 
law and had no need of purification. Still she submitted to the law 
voluntarily and of free love, making herself like the rest of women, 
that she might not offend or throw contempt on them. She was not 
justified by doing this; but, being already justified, she did it freely 
and gratuitously. Thus ought our works too to be done, and not in 
order to be justified by them; for, being first justified by faith, we 
ought to do all our works freely and cheerfully for the sake of 

St. Paul circumcised his disciple Timothy, not because he needed 
circumcision for his justification, but that he might not offend or 
contemn those Jews, weak in the faith, who had not yet been able 
to comprehend the liberty of faith. On the other hand, when they 
contemned liberty and urged that circumcision was necessary for 
justification, he resisted them, and would not allow Titus to be 
circumcised. For, as he would not offend or contemn any one's 
weakness in faith, but yielded for the time to their will, so, again, he 
would not have the liberty of faith offended or contemned by hard- 
ened self-justifiers, but walked in a middle path, sparing the weak 
for the time, and always resisting the hardened, that he might con- 
vert all to the liberty of faith. On the same principle we ought to 
act, receiving those that are weak in the faith, but boldly resisting 


these hardened teachers o£ works, of whom we shall hereafter speak 

at more length. 

Christ also, when His disciples were asked for the tribute money, 
asked of Peter whether the children of a king were not free from 
taxes. Peter agreed to this; yet Jesus commanded him to go to the 
sea, saying, "Lest we should offend them, go thou to the sea, and 
cast a hook, and take up the fish that first cometh up; and when thou 
hast opened his mouth thou shalt find a piece of money; that take, 
and give unto them for Me and thee" (Matt. xvii. 27). 

This example is very much to our purpose; for here Christ calls 
Himself and His disciples free men and children of a King, in want 
of nothing; and yet He voluntarily submits and pays the tax. Just as 
far, then, as this work was necessary or useful to Christ for justifica- 
tion or salvation, so far do all His other works or those of His dis- 
ciples avail for justification. They are really free and subsequent to 
justification, and only done to serve others and set them an example. 

Such are the works which Paul inculcated, that Christians should 
be subject to principalities and powers and ready to every good work 
(Titus iii. 1), not that they may be justified by these things — for they 
are already justified by faith — but that in liberty of spirit they may 
thus be the servants of others and subject to powers, obeying their 
will out of gratuitous love. 

Such, too, ought to have been the works of all colleges, monas- 
teries, and priests; every one doing the works of his own profession 
and state of life, not in order to be justified by them, but in order 
to bring his own body into subjection, as an example to others, who 
themselves also need to keep under their bodies, and also in order 
to accommodate himself to the will of others, out of free love. But 
we must always guard most carefully against any vain confidence or 
presumption of being justified, gaining merit, or being saved by 
these works, this being the part of faith alone, as I have so often said. 

Any man possessing this knowledge may easily keep clear of 
danger among those innumerable commands and precepts of the 
Pope, of bishops, of monasteries, of churches, of princes, and of 
magistrates, which some foolish pastors urge on us as being necessary 
for justification and salvation, calling them precepts of the Church, 
when they are not so at all. For the Christian freeman will speak 


thus: I will fast, I will pray, I will do this or that which is com- 
manded me by men, not as having any need of these things for 
justification or salvation, but that I may thus comply with the will 
of the Pope, of the bishop, of such a community or such a magistrate, 
or of my neighbour as an example to him; for this cause I will do 
and suffer all things, just as Christ did and suffered much more for 
me, though He needed not at all to do so on His own account, and 
made Himself for my sake under the law, when He was not under 
the law. And although tyrants may do me violence or wrong in 
requiring obedience to these things, yet it will not hurt me to do 
them, so long as they are not done against God. 

From all this every man will be able to attain a sure judgment and 
faithful discrimination between all works and laws, and to know 
who are blind and foolish pastors, and who are true and good ones. 
For whatsoever work is not directed to the sole end either of keep- 
ing under the body, or of doing service to our neighbour — provided 
he require nothing contrary to the will of God — is no good or Chris- 
tian work. Hence I greatly fear that at this day few or no colleges, 
monasteries, altars, or ecclesiastical functions are Christian ones; and 
the same may be said of fasts and special prayers to certain saints. 
I fear that in all these, nothing is being sought but what is already 
ours; while we fancy that by these things our sins are purged away 
and salvation is attained, and thus utterly do away with Christian 
liberty. This comes from ignorance of Christian faith and liberty. 

This ignorance and this crushing of liberty are diligently pro- 
moted by the teaching of very many blind pastors, who stir up and 
urge the people to a zeal for these things, praising them and puffing 
them up with their indulgences, but never teaching faith. Now I 
would advise you, if you have any wish to pray, to fast, or to make 
foundations in churches, as they call it, to take care not to do so with 
the object of gaining any advantage, either temporal or eternal. 
You will thus wrong your faith, which alone bestows all things on 
you, and the increase of which, either by working or by suffering, 
is alone to be cared for. What you give, give freely and without 
price, that others may prosper and have increase from you and your 
goodness. Thus you will be a truly good man and a Christian. For 
what to you are your goods and your works, which are done over 


and above for the subjection of the body, since you have abundance 
for yourself through your faith, in which God has given you all 
things ? 

We give this rule: the good things which we have from God ought 
to flow from one to another and become common to all, so that 
every one of us may, as it were, put on his neighbour, and so behave 
towards him as if he were himself in his place. They flowed and 
do flow from Christ to us; He put us on, and acted for us as if He 
Himself were what we are. From us they flow to those who have 
need of them; so that my faith and righteousness ought to be laid 
down before God as a covering and intercession for the sins of my 
neighbour, which I am to take on myself, and so labour and endure 
servitude in them, as if they were my own; for thus has Christ done 
for us. This is true love and the genuine truth of Christian life. 
But only there is it true and genuine where there is true and genuine 
faith. Hence the Apostle attributes to charity this quality: that she 
seeketh not her own. 

We conclude therefore that a Christian man does not live in him- 
self, but in Christ and in his neighbour, or else is no Christian: in 
Christ by faith; in his neighbour by love. By faith he is carried 
upwards above himself to God, and by love he sinks back below 
himself to his neighbour, still always abiding in God and His love, 
as Christ says, "Verily I say unto you, Hereafter ye shall see heaven 
open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the 
Son of man" (John i. 51). 

Thus much concerning liberty, which, as you see, is a true and 
spiritual liberty, making our hearts free from all sins, laws, and 
commandments, as Paul says, "The law is not made for a righteous 
man" (1 Tim. i. 9), and one which surpasses all other external 
liberties, as far as heaven is above earth. May Christ make us to 
understand and preserve this liberty. Amen. 

Finally, for the sake of those to whom nothing can be stated so 
well but that they misunderstand and distort it, we must add a word, 
in case they can understand even that. There are very many persons 
who, when they hear of this liberty of faith, straightway turn it into 
an occasion of licence. They think that everything is now lawful 
for them, and do not choose to show themselves free men and 


Christians in any other way than by their contempt and reprehen- 
sion of ceremonies, of traditions, of human laws; as if they were 
Christians merely because they refuse to fast on stated days, or eat 
flesh when others fast, or omit the customary prayers; scoffing at the 
precepts of men, but utterly passing over all the rest that belongs to 
the Christian religion. On the other hand, they are most perti- 
naciously resisted by those who strive after salvation solely by their 
observance of and reverence for ceremonies, as if they would be 
saved merely because they fast on stated days, or abstain from flesh, 
or make formal prayers; talking loudly of the precepts of the Church 
and of the Fathers, and not caring a straw about those things which 
belong to our genuine faith. Both these parties are plainly culpable, 
in that, while they neglect matters which are of weight and necessary 
for salvation, they contend noisily about such as are without weight 
and not necessary. 

How much more rightly does the Apostle Paul teach us to walk 
in the middle path, condemning either extreme and saying, "Let 
not him that eateth despise him that eateth not; and let not him 
which eateth not judge him that eateth" (Rom. xiv. 3)! You see 
here how the Apostle blames those who, not from religious feeling, 
but in mere contempt, neglect and rail at ceremonial observances, 
and teaches them not to despise, since this "knowledge puffeth up." 
Again, he teaches the pertinacious upholders of these things not to 
judge their opponents. For neither party observes towards the other 
that charity which edifieth. In this matter we must listen to Scrip- 
ture, which teaches us to turn aside neither to the right hand nor to 
the left, but to follow those right precepts of the Lord which rejoice 
the heart. For just as a man is not righteous merely because he 
serves and is devoted to works and ceremonial rites, so neither will 
he be accounted righteous merely because he neglects and despises 

It is not from works that we are set free by the faith of Christ, 
but from the belief in works, that is from foolishly presuming to seek 
justification through works. Faith redeems our consciences, makes 
them upright, and preserves them, since by it we recognize the truth 
that justification does not depend on our works, although good 
works neither can nor ought to be absent, just as we cannot exist 


without food and drink and all the functions of this mortal body. 
Still it is not on them that our justification is based, but on faith; and 
yet they ought not on that account to be despised or neglected. Thus 
in this world we are compelled by the needs of this bodily life; but 
we are not hereby justified. "My kingdom is not hence, nor of this 
world," says Christ; but He does not say, "My kingdom is not here, 
nor in this world." Paul, too, says, "Though we walk in the flesh, 
we do not war after the flesh" (2 Cor. x. 3), and "The life which I 
now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God" (Gal. ii. 
20). Thus our doings, life, and being, in works and ceremonies, are 
done from the necessities of this life, and with the motive of govern- 
ing our bodies; but yet we are not justified by these things, but by 
the faith of the Son of God. 

The Christian must therefore walk in the middle path, and set 
these two classes of men before his eyes. He may meet with hard- 
ened and obstinate ceremonialists, who, like deaf adders, refuse to 
listen to the truth of liberty, and cry up, enjoin, and urge on us their 
ceremonies, as if they could justify us without faith. Such were the 
Jews of old, who would not understand, that they might act well. 
These men we must resist, do just the contrary to what they do, 
and be bold to give them offence, lest by this impious notion of 
theirs they should deceive many along with themselves. Before the 
eyes of these men it is expedient to eat flesh, to break fasts, and to do 
in behalf of the liberty of faith things which they hold to be the 
greatest sins. We must say of them, "Let them alone; they be blind 
leaders of the blind" (Matt. xv. 14). In this way Paul also would 
not have Titus circumcised, though these men urged it; and Christ 
defended the Apostles, who had plucked ears of corn on the Sabbath 
day; and many like instances. 

Or else we may meet with simple-minded and ignorant persons, 
weak in the faith, as the Apostle calls them, who are as yet unable 
to apprehend that liberty of faith, even if willing to do so. These we 
must spare, lest they should be offended. We must bear with their 
infirmity, till they shall be more fully instructed. For since these 
men do not act thus from hardened malice, but only from weak- 
ness of faith, therefore, in order to avoid giving them offence, we 
must keep fasts and do other things which they consider necessary. 


This is required of us by charity, which injures no one, but serves 
all men. It is not the fault of these persons that they are weak, but 
that of their pastors, who by the snares and weapons of their own 
traditions have brought them into bondage and wounded their souls 
when they ought to have been set free and healed by the teaching of 
faith and liberty. Thus the Apostle says, "If meat make my brother 
to offend, I will eat no flesh while the world standeth" (1 Cor. viii. 
13) ; and again, "I know, and am persuaded by the Lord Jesus, that 
there is nothing unclean of itself; but to him that esteemeth any- 
thing to be unclean, to him it is unclean. It is evil for that man who 
eateth with offence" (Rom. xiv. 14, 20) . 

Thus, though we ought boldly to resist those teachers of tradition, 
and though the laws of the pontiffs, by which they make aggressions 
on the people of God, deserve sharp reproof, yet we must spare 
the timid crowd, who are held captive by the laws of those 
impious tyrants, till they are set free. Fight vigorously against the 
wolves, but on behalf of the sheep, not against the sheep. And this 
you may do by inveighing against the laws and lawgivers, and yet 
at the same time observing these laws with the weak, lest they be 
offended, until they shall themselves recognize the tyranny, and 
understand their own liberty. If you wish to use your liberty, do it 
secretly, as Paul says, "Hast thou faith? have it to thyself before 
God" (Rom. xiv. 22). But take care not to use it in the presence of 
the weak. On the other hand, in the presence of tyrants and obsti- 
nate opposers, use your liberty in their despite, and with the utmost 
pertinacity, that they too may understand that they are tyrants, and 
their laws useless for justification, nay that they had no right to 
establish such laws. 

Since then we cannot live in this world without ceremonies and 
works, since the hot and inexperienced period of youth has need 
of being restrained and protected by such bonds, and since every 
one is bound to keep under his own body by attention to these 
things, therefore the minister of Christ must be prudent and faith- 
ful in so ruling and teaching the people of Christ, in all these mat- 
ters, that no root of bitterness may spring up among them, and so 
many be defiled, as Paul warned the Hebrews; that is, that they 
may not lose the faith, and begin to be defiled by a belief in works 


as the means of justification. This is a thing which easily happens, 
and defiles very many, unless faith be constantly inculcated along 
with works. It is impossible to avoid this evil, when faith is passed 
over in silence, and only the ordinances of men are taught, as has 
been done hitherto by the pestilent, impious, and soul-destroying 
traditions of our pontiffs and opinions of our theologians. An 
infinite number of souls have been drawn down to hell by these 
snares, so that you may recognize the work of antichrist. 

In brief, as poverty is imperilled amid riches, honesty amid busi- 
ness, humility amid honours, abstinence amid feasting, purity amid 
pleasures, so is justification by faith imperilled among ceremonies. 
Solomon says, "Can a man take fire in his bosom, and his clothes 
not be burned?" (Prov. vi. 27). And yet as we must live among 
riches, business, honours, pleasures, feastings, so must we among 
ceremonies, that is among perils. Just as infant boys have the greatest 
need of being cherished in the bosoms and by the care of girls, that 
they may not die, and yet, when they are grown, there is peril to 
their salvation in living among girls, so inexperienced and fervid 
young men require to be kept in and restrained by the barriers of 
ceremonies, even were they of iron, lest their weak minds should 
rush headlong into vice. And yet it would be death to them to per- 
severe in believing that they can be justified by these things. They 
must rather be taught that they have been thus imprisoned, not 
with the purpose of their being justified or gaining merit in this way, 
but in order that they might avoid wrong-doing, and be more easily 
instructed in that righteousness which is by faith, a thing which the 
headlong character of youth would not bear unless it were put under 

Hence in the Christian life ceremonies are to be no otherwise 
looked upon than as builders and workmen look upon those prepara- 
tions for building or working which are not made with any view 
of being permanent or anything in themselves, but only because 
without them there could be no building and no work. When the 
structure is completed, they are laid aside. Here you see that we 
do not contemn these preparations, but set the highest value on 
them; a belief in them we do contemn, because no one thinks that 
they constitute a real and permanent structure. If any one were so 


manifestly out of his senses as to have no other object in life but 
that of setting up these preparations with all possible expense, dili- 
gence, and perseverance, while he never thought of the structure 
itself, but pleased himself and made his boast of these useless prep- 
arations and props, should we not all pity his madness and think 
that, at the cost thus thrown away, some great building might have 
been raised? 

Thus, too, we do not contemn works and ceremonies — nay, we set 
the highest value on them; but we contemn the belief in works, 
which no one should consider to constitute true righteousness, as do 
those hypocrites who employ and throw away their whole life in the 
pursuit of works, and yet never attain to that for the sake of which 
the works are done. As the Apostle says, they are "ever learning 
and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth" (2 Tim. iii. 7) . 
They appear to wish to build, they make preparations, and yet they 
never do build; and thus they continue in a show of godliness, but 
never attain to its power. 

Meanwhile they please themselves with this zealous pursuit, and 
even dare to judge all others, whom they do not see adorned with 
such a glittering display of works; while, if they had been imbued 
with faith, they might have done great things for their own and 
others' salvation, at the came cost which they now waste in abuse 
of the gifts of God. But since human nature and natural reason, as 
they call it, are naturally superstitious, and quick to believe that 
justification can be attained by any laws or works proposed to them, 
and since nature is also exercised and confirmed in the same view by 
the practice of all earthly lawgivers, she can never of her own power 
free herself from this bondage to works, and come to a recognition 
of the liberty of faith. 

We have therefore need to pray that God will lead us and make 
us taught of God, that is, ready to learn from God; and will Him- 
self, as He has promised, write His law in our hearts; otherwise 
there is no hope for us. For unless He himself teach us inwardly 
this wisdom hidden in a mystery, nature cannot but condemn it 
and judge it to be heretical. She takes offence at it, and it seems 
folly to her, just as we see that it happened of old in the case of the 
prophets and Apostles, and just as blind and impious pontiffs, with 


their flatterers, do now in my case and that of those who are like 
me, upon whom, together with ourselves, may God at length have 
mercy, and lift up the light of His countenance upon them, that we 
may know His way upon earth and His saving health among all 
nations, who is blessed for evermore. Amen. In the year of the 
Lord MDXX.