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SIR THOMAS MORE. Do you look back upon childhood as the happiest part of your own life?
MONTESINOS. Our recollections of it, I suspect, are not sufficiently unmingled. They hardly reach the age in which perfect security is felt in complete dependence. What that is we must judge rather by observation than reminiscence. This I will say, that of all atrocious doctrines none has ever appeared to me more astonishing than that devilish one concerning infants, which so many divines (more fitly they might be called diabolicals!) have repeated after St. Augustine and St. Ambrose. Alas ! that so many are born in sin and the children of wrath, is the consequence of human misgovernment, not of divine appointment. I know not any consideration more mournful than that there should be whole classes in civilized society whom all circumstances tend inevitably to degrade both in their moral and physical nature. This is the sore disease which seems inherent in civilization; and for which even you and those who have followed you in planning ideal commonwealths, have been able to devise no better remedy, than by supposing that even a perfect society would afford criminals enough to perform all employments of this kind.
SIR THOMAS MORE. Remember, that neither I, nor others, who have framed such schemes of polity, have imagined a Christian Utopia. Under the most complete it may be feared that castaways enough would still be found to discharge whatever unwholesome or disgusting offices were needful. But the progress of the useful arts, and the application of science to the purposes of common life, warrant you in expecting that very few such will remain : and whenever a state shall duly exercise its parental duties, there will surely be none which shall either wholly hebetate the faculties or harden the heart.
MONTESINOS. The butcher must still continue. And if the slave driver were substituted for the hangman in most cases, (to dream of it in all is folly,) I doubt whether humanity would gain by the substitution.
SIR THOMAS MORE. Have you scruples then concerning the use of animal food ?
MONTESINOS. Certainly not. Its fitness is indicated by the system of nature throughout the inferior world; it is directly permitted by the Scrip
tures ; and, above all, it is authorized by the example of our Lord and Saviour. The law is plainly benevolent which multiplies life by rendering death subservient to it; and it is plainly merciful also, inasmuch as the creatures whose existence is suddenly and violently cut off, suffer less than those who die of disease or inanition,..such being the alternative. Nevertheless I cannot but acknowledge, like good old John Fox, that the sight of a slaughterhouse, For shambles, if it does not disturb this clear
conviction, excites in me uneasiness and pain as well as loathing. And that they produce a worse effect upon the persons employed in them, is a fact acknowledged by that law or custom which excludes such persons from sitting in juries upon cases of life or death. Perhaps, however, the hardness of heart which this occupation is believed to produce, may in most cases have been the cause wherefore it was chosen.
SIR THOMAS MORE, There methinks you are mistaken. Such things are determined less by choice than by opportunity; and youths, even in higher life, are more frequently disposed of where situations: can be found, than where their own inclinationswould lead them. Moreover, though you have
nothing like casts in your institutions, there is some tendency toward them in the ordinary course of affairs. The humbler trades, those in particular which afford little more than a bare livelihood, naturally become hereditary: the son, when he is a child, imitates his father, assists him as soon as he is able, and finally succeeds · him. In these cases disposition is not consulted ; and even if it were, you have imputed to hardness of heart what may be ascribed to that hardihood which is one of the characteristics of man.
MONTESINOS. I am glad you have not called it courage: it hardly deserves even the appellation which you have given it. The best answer, however, to what I was unthinkingly disposed to credit, is, that the men engaged in this occupation are not found to furnish more than their numerical proportion of offenders to the criminal list; and that, as a body, they are by no means worse than any other set of men upon the same level. I have heard Dr. Beddoes remark that pulmonary consumption is rarely or never known to occur in a butcher's family, and the reason he assigned for this was, that they had always plenty of animal food. The same cause operates upon the moral as upon the physical character, and perhaps more surely. Because they are well fed, they are not exposed to the temptation which necessity brings with it..the mother of crimes as well as of arts; and their occupation being constant they are likewise safe from the dangers of idleness. The relation too in which they stand to their customers places them in a salutary degree of dependence, and makes them understand how much their own welfare depends upon civility and good conduct.
: SIR THOMAS MORE. This is the very point to which I would have brought you. You have thus yourself remarked that men who exercise the occupation which, of all others, at first sight appears most injurious to the human heart, and which inevitably must in some degree injure it, are in point of fact no worse than their neighbours, and very much better than the vagrant classes of the populace, and than those whose employment is casual. They are better, because they fare better, and are more under the influence of order. Improve the condition of others, bring them within the sphere of order, instead of leaving them merely within the reach,..the chance reach, ..almost it may be called, of vindictive law, and the result will be the same.