Front Page Titles (by Subject) INTRODUCTION - Ideal Empires and Republics. Rousseau's Social Contract, More's Utopia, Bacon's New Atlantis, Campanella's City of the Sun
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INTRODUCTION - Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Ideal Empires and Republics. Rousseau’s Social Contract, More’s Utopia, Bacon’s New Atlantis, Campanella’s City of the Sun 
Ideal Empires and Republics. Rousseau’s Social Contract, More’s Utopia, Bacon’s New Atlantis, Campanella’s City of the Sun, with an Introduction by Charles M. Andrews (Washington: M. Walter Dunne, 1901).
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THE term Utopia, as generally used, refers to those ideal states which are impossible of realization, both because they are peopled by ideal human beings uninfluenced by personal jealousies or individual passions, and because they are based, with but little regard for the complexities and varieties of real society, upon what the writer thinks ought to be, rather than upon the collective experience of mankind. More broadly speaking, however, the term need not be confined to these “fantastic pictures of impossible societies,” or “romantic accounts of fictitious states,” as they have been called, but may be applied to any social, intellectual, or political scheme which is impracticable at the time when it is conceived and presented. Thus enlarged, the field may be made to include schemes as diverse as More’s Utopia, Campanella’s City of the Sun, Cabet’s Icarie, and Morris’s News from Nowhere, Rousseau’s society of the Social Contract; and modern socialistic and communistic organizations, such as the Co-operative Commonwealth of Lawrence Grönlund, popularized by Bellamy in Looking Backward, and Flürcheim’s Money Island.
Utopias have generally made their appearance during periods of great social and political unrest, and it is, therefore, no accident that after Plato’s Republic, written during dark days in the history of Athens, all Utopias should have fallen in the period from the beginning of the sixteenth century to the present time. The Middle Ages, with their fixed institutions, their blind faith, and their acceptance of authority were not a suitable seed-ground for the growth of Utopian schemes Any ideals that were conceived were of a religious character, based upon conceptions of the past and hopes of the future: those of the past combined the pagan notion of a golden age with the Christian’s concept of an age of innocence, giving rise to the doctrine that man had fallen from a perfect life whose simple rules were based on natural law; those of the future looked forward to the re-establishment of Christ’s kingdom on earth. Such doctrines were characteristic of a period in which there existed no true idea of human progress.
But in the period following the Middle Ages, when mediæval institutions were breaking down and men were awakening to the fact that governments had become corrupt and tyrannical, and social relations unjust and immoral, it was natural that they should find comfort and satisfaction in casting into romantic or ideal form their conception of what society ought to be. Excellent examples of such Utopias are to be found among the works of sixteenth century writers, who prompted by the new spirit of inquiry constructed ideal conditions that should eliminate the evils of their age. The earliest, More’s Utopia (1516), presents the lofty ideals of the Oxford reformers, and stands as the greatest literary effort of the time; Vives, a versatile Catholic humanist, in 1531 erected in his De Corruptis Artibus and De Tradendis Discipliniis an ideal academy, a pedagogical Utopia, founded on the highest educational, scientific, and moral considerations;* Doni in I Mundi celesti, terrestri, et infernali (1552-53) satirized in Utopian form the political and social vices of Italy; and a little later, in 1605, under the pseudonym, Mercurius Britannicus, Joseph Hall, made Bishop of Norwich in 1641, published a moral satire, Mundus Alter et Idem, in tone rather Rabelaisian than ideal.
As the seventeenth century advanced, the spirit of free inquiry grew bolder, overthrowing the philosophy of Aristotle, and leading men to study the operations of nature in order to discover the fundamental principles that underlay the constitution of the universe. Three writers, in harmony with the spirit of the age, conceived philosophical and intellectual Utopias, in which by means of the new methods of scientific experimentation the social and intellectual order was to be remodeled. Campanella, a Dominican monk of Calabria, began in 1602 his Civitas Solis, which he published in 1623; Bacon in the Novus Atlantis, written before 1617 and published in 1627, exhibited a state of which the most striking feature was a college “instituted for the interpreting of nature and the production of great and marvelous works for the benefit of man;” and Comenius, after issuing his Conatuum Pansophicorum Dilucidatio in 1639, went to England to form a “Universal College” for physical research on the lines suggested by Bacon in the New Atlantis.* But in the turmoil of the Civil War the Pansophia of Comenius was lost, and hopes of a Universal College soon vanished.
During the next hundred years political questions supplanted philosophical. Harrington’s Oceana dedicated to Cromwell in 1656, was not a romance, but “the first sketch in English political science of a written constitution limiting sovereignty,”† “the only valuable model of a commonwealth,” as Hume calls it. Hume himself, a century later (1752), in his Essays, Moral and Political, Part II., commenting on Plato, More, and Harrington, presented his “Idea of a Perfect Commonwealth,” and believed that in his Utopia he had discovered a form of government to which he himself could not in theory formulate “any considerable objection.”
In France also, writers were coming forward with schemes of a perfect government. Vairasse d’Allais, in La République des Sévarambes, a part of his Histoire des Sévarambes, 1672, pictured a monarchy, with the state owning land and wealth and the people dwelling in huge osmasies like Fourier’s phalanstères. Fénélon in Book X. of the Télémaque, which contains his account of the kingdom of Salente, described a perfect state under the authority of a perfect king.
But Utopias advocating monarchy are rare. With the realization of the evils of the state system of the eighteenth century, thought took a new direction. Morelly in Naufrage des îles flottantes ou la Basiliade de Pilpai, 1753, declared that the existing conditions were corrupt, attacked the law of property, and tried to demonstrate the necessity of placing society under the law of nature and truth, — ideas more fully developed in his Code de la Nature, 1755. This appeal to the law of nature showed the prevailing political concept of the period. The eyes of the reformers were now turned to the natural principles of social order and government, and in 1762 Rousseau gave to the world, in the Contrat Social his scheme of the state founded on social compact. Mably went further than Rousseau, and in his various writings from 1765 to 1784 denounced private property, inheritance and right of bequest, commerce, credit, the arts and sciences, libraries, museums, and the like. Finding his ideal among the Greeks, he viewed the Spartan era as a golden age, and extolled poverty as the mother of frugality and the virtues. He preached not only equality and equal education for all, but a federal state and community of goods. If Rousseau inspired Robespierre and St. Just, it is equally true that Mably and Pechméja (Télèphe, 1784) inspired Marat, Babœuf, and Buonarrotti. Although during the French Revolution men acted rather than dreamed, yet in the teachings of Maréchal, Marat, and the Girondist Brissot de Warville, and in the speeches of St. Just and Robespierre, we find embodied Utopian ideals regarding man and his fundamental rights. The adoption of the constitution of 1793 was as truly an attempt to found a Utopia as was the forming of the “Society of Equals,” through which Babœuf hoped to hasten a communistic millenium.
The French Revolution so shattered society that writers of Utopias, who before had had little real expectation of seeing their theories applied, now worked to remodel the social and industrial order. The followers of St. Simon established an experimental community in 1826; in 1840 a phalanstère of Fourier was set up at Brook Farm in America; at New Lanark, before the close of the eighteenth century, Robert Owen had tried his economic Utopia, and in 1825 was experimenting at New Harmony in Pennsylvania. In 1848 great national workshops were set up in Paris; and in Algiers Marshal Bugeaud endeavored to establish a military colony on a communistic basis. Cabet copied More’s Utopia in his Voyage en Icarie, and gave it a better trial at Nauvoo in Illinois in 1849 than had Frank, Münster, and Münzer in Germany in the sixteenth century. But after Cabet’s Icarie, except in a few cases such as Lytton’s Coming Race, Bellamy’s Looking Backward, and Secrétan’s Mon Utopie, which were little more than literary pastimes, and such experimental communities as the Christian Commonwealth near Columbus, Georgia, and the Ruskin Colony in the same state, both of which have failed, the history of Utopias is the history of scientific socialism, and is not to be dealt with here.
Of all the Utopias the most famous are the four selected for presentation in this volume, for not only are they great creations of the imagination, but they stand in the first rank of literary productions; and two of them, those of More and Rousseau, have surpassed all others in influence. The work of More is further distinguished by the fact that it was the first of the modern productions of the kind, and also the first to bear the familiar title of Utopia. Sir Thomas More was born in 1478. He early became a student of law and the new learning, and though his later years were spent in the practice of law, diplomacy, and statecraft, he remained to the end of his life devoted to learning and religion. That he was a keen observer of the social conditions of his time the Utopia proves; for it contains not only a picture of an ideal community, but a severe indictment of the disorders attending the great social and economic transformation from an agricultural to an industrial and commercial state through which England was passing. New conditions of industry and commerce had made impossible the retention of the old manorial system; villenage was disappearing and the villeins were becoming copy-holders; agriculture was ceasing to be profitable under the old methods; money was taking the place of payments in kind; and the dispersion of the manorial tenantry was increasing vagabondage and the number of the unemployed. The old towns, too, like Norwich, Exeter, York, Winchester, and Southampton, with their narrow gild restrictions were falling into decay, and were making way for new industrial centers like Birmingham, Manchester, Leeds, and Sheffield. More important still was the introduction, in many of the counties, of the inclosure system. Landlords, discovering that farming was more profitable when done on a large scale, and that sheep raising brought even larger returns than agriculture, turned arable lands into pasture, thus depopulating the old villages, setting adrift large number of villeins to find work wherever they could, and bringing great distress and misery to the people. Such were the conditions that inspired More in his Utopia, the first book of which is a treatise on the evils of the time.
The second book of the Utopia presents as a remedy for all ills an ideal state in which there are no drones and of which the key-note is moderation. With the exception of the very learned, the inhabitants of the new state are all producers, who devote six hours of each day to labor and the remaining to social and intellectual pleasures; who avoid war and all luxuries; and whose king, chosen by themselves and for life, lives like a common citizen, governing not in the interest of the few, but for the happiness of the many. In his treatment of labor, questions of criminal law, education, public health, and freedom of speech, More strikes a very modern note; but though he showed himself, like the other Oxford reformers, a lover of liberty, justice, truth, and toleration, and though he rose to be Chancellor of England, he made no effort to apply as a politician the doctrines he had advanced as a philosopher. Possibly, as Master of the Court of Requests, or Court of Poor Men’s Causes, he may have dispensed the justice of the Utopia; but in other matters, notably that of religion, he did not in practice rise to the height he had attained in his thought. He opposed Lutheranism, and while not persecuting the Protestants, as has been charged, battled with heresy till his death. In fact, the second book of the Utopia at its best but reflects the character of a noble man, whose mind revolted against the injustice and inequalities of his age.
Both Campanella’s City of the Sun and Bacon’s New Atlantis, notwithstanding their differences in setting and treatment, represent an awakened interest in a new philosophy. Unlike Sir Thomas More, neither Campanella nor Bacon concerned himself much with the economic or social questions of his time. Campanella was from boyhood a student of logic and physics. Bacon, led partly by personal inclination, and partly by the fact that in the greater prosperity of the age of Elizabeth, social conditions had become less exigent, turned his attention to politics and philosophy. The crisis reflected in the Utopias of these writers were, therefore, revolutions, not in society, but in philosophical thought and method. Influenced by Bernhard Telesius (1508-88), the great Italian opponent of the doctrines of Aristotle, Campanella, like Bacon saw the need of a fundamental reform of natural philosophy, and the substitution for analogies and abstract generalizations of the sounder method of exact observation. Unwilling to employ principles established arbitrarily, they based all conclusions on careful and scientific experimentation. Before Campanella was twenty-five years old he had published a series of works supporting the contention that men can understand the world only through the senses. Bacon, born in 1561, seven years earlier than Campanella, although from boyhood eager to accomplish by means of a new philosophy something of practical benefit for humanity, was slower in publishing his views. Whereas the City of the Sun, written after the De Sensu Rerum, Philosophia Sensibus Demonstrata, and De Investigatione Rerum, presents a social and philosophical scheme worked out in minute detail, the New Atlantis, written before the publication of the Novum Organum and the Instauratio Magna, is but a sketch of the results Bacon would like to have attained, rather than a demonstration of the methods necessary for their attainment. Campanella’s work is, so far as it goes, complete; Bacon’s is only a fragment which probably he never intended to perfect.
Campanella, born in southern Calabria in 1568, became at a very early age a Dominican monk and was interested rather in physics than in theology. By attacking the prevailing Aristotelian philosophy, he soon roused enemies against him, and was imprisoned on the charge of conspiring to overthrow the Kingdom of Naples and found a republic. He was seven times tortured during twenty-seven years of confinement in fifty different prisons, and was often deprived of the means of study and writing. After his release in 1626, he withdrew to France; and in 1639, died in a convent of his order. The Civitas Solis seu idea reipublicae philosophicæ, written in prison, is believed to have been the beginning of a large work, of which the first part was to deal with the laws of nature, the second with the manners and customs of men, the third with the organization of the state, the fourth with the economic bases of society. It was, as Campanella himself says, the counterpart of Plato’s Republic, and on its scientific side was based on Telesius. It formulated for the first time a complete socialistic system on a scientific foundation,* and, in France especially, furnished a model for later ideal communities.
The city with its seven walls, its compact organization, its carefully divided labors, and rigorous discipline reflect the monastic experiences of the writer; but the principles, in accordance with which the state is governed, the social relation determined, and industry controlled, are such as to interest men in all ages. Collectively, the inhabitants labor for the common good; individually, each seeks the perfecting of his body and soul, the care of the young children, and the worship of God. Government is intrusted to the wisest and ablest, and laws are made and administered only so far as they promote the object for which all are laboring. The essences of life are equality, sacrifice of self for the community, the banishment of egotism; and peculiar features are the community of wives and goods, common meals, state control of produce, and of children after a certain age, dislike of commercial exchange, depreciation of money, love of all for manual labor, and the high regard which all show for intellectual and artistic pursuits. It is a remarkable fact that in spite of Campanella’s sufferings his work should not only show no trace of bitterness, but should maintain consistently the loftiest ideals.
Less purely Utopian in conception than the City of the Sun is Bacon’s Atlantis, and almost entirely wanting is it in the communistic extravagances of Campanella’s work. It contains an expression of the scientific views of Bacon and his opinion regarding the duty of the state toward science. More than this it describes his tastes in conduct and dress, and is characterized by a spirit of hospitality, kindliness, and courtesy, which betrays his sympathetic nature. As has been well said “there is no single work of his which has so much of himself in it.” Unlike More, who would limit the population, Bacon, as the institutions of the Tirsan shows, would have families large; and unlike other writers of his age, he gives a prominent part and attractive character to Joabin, a Jew. But the chief interest of the author centers in Solomon’s House, the College of the Six Days Works, a state institution governed by an official body, and founded for the purpose of discovering “the causes and secret motions of things.” Here Bacon gives a list of those experiments and observations, which he hoped would increase knowledge, ameliorate the conditions of life, improve the physical well-being of man, and enlarge the bounds of the human empire. In medicine, surgery, meteorology, food, and mechanical contrivances he anticipates many of the improvements of later times. It has been generally supposed that “this noblest foundation that ever was on earth” suggested the foundation and program of the Royal Society in England and of similar societies abroad.
From Campanella and Bacon to Rousseau is a long reach not only in time, but in thought also; and nothing could be more foreign to the philosophy advocated by the earlier writers than the a priori methods of Rousseau, and his disregard of history, observation, and induction. Taking ideas that had been floating about in Europe for two centuries, he presented them, with great charm and vigor of style, as a set of positive principles governing the organization of the state. Nor did he invent an island of Utopia, a City of the Sun, or a far away Atlantis in which to apply his principles, but he declared that they were capable of universal application, and that they indicated what every government would be if it were stripped of the artificial garb of civilization. His vague generalizations and impracticable doctrines were the more effective because not embodied in a romantic form, for each doctrine applied directly to the man who read it and was applied by him to the state that was oppressing him. Rousseau fascinated the multitude because he seemed to appeal, not to their imagination, but to their reason, and seemed to say that the state of the Social Contract was what France ought to be and might be, if only the people of France had their rights.
The central idea of the Social Contract is the absolute authority of the people. Rousseau declares that the existing situation is but a degeneration from a more perfect order, when man, born free, was possessed of natural liberty and governed by natural law; and that this degeneration had begun when man exchanged natural liberty for civil liberty, and natural law for positive law. Rousseau further holds that government and the state are the result of a social compact, a common agreement between individuals who voluntarily yield themselves to be subject to the common will; that such body politic is composed of equal members possessed of absolute authority; that sovereignty residing in the people can neither be delegated to representatives nor modified by contract with a king; and that the will of the majority, as expressed by universal suffrage, determines the form the government should take, and can at any time change the government if it desires. The result of such ideas was to lead the people to believe that existing institutions had no right to exist; that sovereignty rightfully belonged not to the king but to them; and that a government which had usurped sovereignty could be set aside.
But Rousseau’s Utopia was based on four fallacies: first, the essential goodness of man; secondly, the original freedom and equality of man; thirdly, the possession by man of inherent political rights; and fourthly, the compact between individuals as the basis of the State. Yet its doctrines found a firm rooting among the people of the period after Rousseau, both in France and in America, and rights of man and an original compact became the shibboleths of statesmen for half a century. Rousseau’s Utopia, unlike the ideal states that had gone before, appealed to the masses of the people already ripe for revolution, became a standard around which they were to rally, an article of faith for which they were to fight. In this respect, the Social Contract is no longer a Utopia, but a creed, of that class to which Calvin’s Institutes belong With the rise of the historical school, however, its doctrines have vanished, much as did those of Aristotle before the attacks of Campanella and Bacon. Latter-day Utopias are not founded on a priori deductions; they generally have a scientific basis.
The systematic study of Utopias cannot but be fruitful of results. Fantastic though many of the systems are, each is nevertheless a mirror of the prevailing thought of the period in which it is written and a key to the ideals of the best men. To write properly the history of Utopias from the time of Sir Thomas More to the present is to write the history of the progress of human thought in the last five centuries.
[* ]Handbuch der Padagogik, Vol. VII., p. 425.
[* ]Keatinge: The Great Didactic of Comenius, p. 45.
[† ]Dwight in “Political Science Quarterly,” 1887, p. 17.
[* ]Sigwart, Kleine Schriften, p. 151.