Thomas More (1478-1535)
“The purity of my conscience.That’s the source of my jubilation”
To remain true to his conscience, Sir Thomas More, the great humanist and Lord Chancellor of King Henry VIII, refused to recognize the latter as the self-proclaimed leader of a new church of his own invention. Although cruelly treated during the fifteen months he was incarcerated at the Tower of London which preceded his beheading, and despite the opposition of his king, bishops of England, most of his friends, and even his whole family (including from his beloved daughter Margaret), Thomas More remained strong in his convictions.
More was a shining example of joy and friendship, two inseparable virtues. Here is his portrait drawn up by his friend Erasmus: “His face is in harmony with his character, he is kind and cheerful, without risk of buffoonery. More seems born for friendship, he is the most faithful and constant friend. When he meets a sincere person according to his heart, he delights in his company and his conversation, as if these things were for him the main charm of existence. In a word, if you are looking for a model of friendship, you will not find any better than More.”
More is a good model of blood enduring. He was always smiling, joking, communicative. But he was also deep, steady and faithful. Although he was temperamentally sanguine, and his friendship with the king was sacred to him, he sacrificed everything and endured everything to save the integrity of his conscience.
For Thomas, politics is a much higher concept than the search for power and personal advantage. Politics is a form of service that requires professionalism, a specific preparation through the study of history, law, culture, and especially human nature: its size and fragility. After completing his law studies, Thomas spent many days in the early hours of his day studying the classical and Christian tradition in order to find real solutions to the problems of life.
The magnanimity of Thomas More is summed up in a few words: “The dignity of my Consciousness! Thomas bravely opposed the attempts of the ruling power to manipulate his conscience, that eternal temptation of rulers who do not recognize any power above themselves. To remain faithful to irrevocable principles, on which depend the dignity of the man, the happiness of the people and a decent civil society, Thomas sacrificed all that the world could offer him. He had only to reach out.
“The purity of my conscience,he said,here is the source of my jubilation.Thomas practiced justice in the name of truth and conscience,writes William Shakespeare in his last play King Henry VIII . For Thomas politics can not be separated from morality.Comme Socrate, Thomas refusa de se laisser manipuler par la foule. Il refusa tout compromis. Le sens de la dignité humaine : voilà ce en quoi consiste fundamental la magnanimity.
Thomas More was the most virtuous person England has ever known,writes Jonathan Swift 200 years after the death of Sir Thomas. Chesterton, meanwhile, will write in 1929:”Thomas More represents a fundamental turning point.It is more important today than at any other time since his death. But its real importance is in 100 years that we will see it.”
Many know the famous sentence of Lord Acton: “Power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely. In reality, power helps virtuous people to grow up. The power did not corrupt Thomas More. On the contrary, it was in the exercise of power that Thomas More became Saint Thomas More.