Mine Own Word Alone

Portrait study of Sir Thomas More by Hans Holbein the Younger, black and coloured chalks on paper, 40.2 × 30.1 cm, Royal Collection, Windsor.
Portrait study of Sir Thomas More by Hans Holbein the Younger, black and coloured chalks on paper, 40.2 × 30.1 cm, Royal Collection, Windsor.

Howbeit what faith my words will have with him in these mine own causes, I cannot very surely say, nor yet very greatly care. And yet stand I not in so much doubt of myself, but that I trust well that among many good and honest men, among which sort of folk I trust I may reckon him, mine own word would alone, even in mine own cause, be somewhat better believed than would the oaths of some twain of this new brotherhood in a matter of another man. St. Thomas More, Apology (1533).

For All Seasons

More is a man of an angel’s wit and singular learning. I know not his fellow. For where is the man of that gentleness, lowliness and affability? And, as time requireth, a man of marvelous mirth and pastimes, and sometime of as sad gravity. A man for all seasons.

— Robert Whittington of Thomas More, 1520.

For Discharge of My Conscience and Satisfaction of My Soul

Detail of portrait of Sir Thomas More by Hans Holbein the Younger, 1527.

More then spoke as follows: “Since I am condemned, and God knows how, I wish to speak freely of your Statute, for the discharge of my con­science. For the seven years that I have studied the matter, I have not read in any approved doctor of the Church that a temporal lord could or ought to be head of the spirituality.”

The Chancellor interrupting him, said, “What, More, you wish to be considered wiser and of better conscience than all the bishops and nobles of the realm?”

To this More replied, “My lord, for one bishop of your opinion I have a hundred saints of mine; and for one parliament of yours, and God knows of what kind, I have all the General Councils for a thousand years, and for one kingdom I have France and all the kingdoms of Christendom.”

Norfolk told him that now his malice was clear.

More replied, “What I say is necessary for discharge of my con­science and satisfaction of my soul, and to this I call God to witness, the sole Searcher of human hearts. I say further, that your Statute is ill made, because you have sworn never to do anything against the Church, which through all Christendom is one and undivided, and you have no authority, without the common consent of all Christians, to make a law or Act of Parliament or Council against the union of Christendom. I know well that the reason why you have condemned me is because I have never been willing to consent to the King’s second marriage; but I hope in the divine goodness and mercy, that as St. Paul and St. Stephen whom he persecuted are now friends in Paradise, so we, though differing in this world, shall be united in perfect charity in the other. I pray God to protect the King and give him good counsel.”

 — From A Thomas More Sourcebook, edited by Gerald Wegemer and Stephen Smith (Catholic University Press, 2004), pp. 352-355.

Of Ill Consequence to the Commonwealth

I think putting thieves to death is not lawful; and it is plain and obvious that it is absurd and of ill consequence to the commonwealth that a thief and a murderer should be equally punished; for if a robber sees that his danger is the same if he is convicted of theft as if he were guilty of murder, this will naturally incite him to kill the person whom otherwise he would only have robbed; since, if the punishment is the same, there is more security, and less danger of discovery, when he that can best make it is put out of the way; so that terrifying thieves too much provokes them to cruelty.

— St. Thomas More, Utopia (1516), Chapter 1: Discourses of Raphael Hythloday, of the Best State of a Commonwealth.