Do you agree with the view that More was a cruel man with little compassion for others?

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Do you accept the view that More was a cruel man with little compassion for others? Explain your answer using Sources
N, O, P and your own knowledge.
Sir Thomas More was a close friend of Henry VIII who was beheaded for refusing to recognise Henry as head of the Church. More
was widely respected as a humanist scholar and an early advocate of free speech. He was chosen to succeed Wolsey as Lord
Chancellor in 1529, despite his opposing view on the Great Matter. This would eventual weaken the relationship between Henry
and More: More believed himself to be the King's loyal servant, who would obey his orders as far as his conscience allowed and
never actively opposed him, whilst Henry began to view More as a dangerous enemy who deserted him and deserved to be
punished. However, there is a darker side to More which was eclipsed by his martyrdom: as a young man he was a fornicator
and adulterer and as Lord Chancellor he was a cruel persecutor of Protestants. His prime objective was the eradication of heresy
in England. But by 1535 More was ready to retire and this prompted Henry to see him as an aid to his opponents. In order to stop
More's genius being used against him, Henry insisted that an oath must be sworn. The oath contained sentiments that More
fundamentally disagreed with and therefore refused to take it. It doesn't appear as if More was a cruel man with little
compassion; merely just strong willed and objected to the Great Matter. On his tomb were the words "No famous family, but of
honest stock." Essentially, More was opposed to the Great Matter and the split from the Pope, his religious standings
emphasised by his final words: "I die the King's loyal servant but God's first." He was bullied by Henry but his academic brilliance
soon became the King's biggest threat. I don't accept the view that More was a cruel man with little compassion for others,
nevertheless sources N and O appear to agree with the statement.
Source N unequivocally denounces More's treatment of heretics at the time. The source itself is written by a contemporary
historian and says how More "admitted that he did imprison heretics in his house, but he utterly rejected claims of torture and
whipping." However in 16th Century England this was not as severe as it seems in the 21st Century. This is primarily
because More was merely carrying out his master's orders. He helped Henry defend against the emerging Lutheran threat in
Europe with the Assertio Septem Sacramentorum. So to claim that More was a cruel man it also seems logical to claim that
Henry was even crueller, as he was the one giving the orders; More was merely a hired academic. But source O also talks about
how "stories of a similar nature were current even in More's lifetime" showing that the exodus of heretics in England wasn't just
initiated by More alone; it had always been apparent. Possibly the reason for critics to emphasise More's treatment of heretics
so heavily was because it contrasted the 'saint-esque' image he portrayed ordinarily. Source O also agrees with the view stated
and with source N. Although written in 1548 it is written by Edward Hall, infamously renowned for his biased nature towards the
King's policies and sympathy towards the Protestants. Therefore he is going to be critical of More. Source O does not explicitly
describe the malicious ways in which More abused heretics in England but does say that he "had ministered some mock in the
communication." This supports the claim that More had little compassion for others, especially if he could abuse them with
"taunting and mocking".
Source P completely contradicts the statement, providing another reason: heresy prosecution was dependent upon "Stokesley
replacing Tunstall as bishop." The source is somewhat neutral when it comes to More's character. It does not praise him but it
does not condemn him for what he did. As a modern historian the argument presented in the source does carry some weight, in
terms of a more balanced view. But it clearly states "there were no death sentences for heresy pronounced in his diocese." This
doesn't exactly agree with the statement and could be interpreted to add evidence to source O that claims "he tied heretics to a
tree in his Chelsea garden and whipped them." Just because there were no records of death sentences doesn't mean that More
wasn't a cruel man with little compassion for others.
In conclusion I do not agree with the view. I think that the character of More has been heightened and exaggerated because not
caring for heretics was not only normal 16th Century behaviour but it was also orders sent by his master, Henry VIII. More had a
very good conscience and was very strong willed, as was shown in the way he defended himself in court and accused Richard
Rich of perjury. Source N and O provide compelling evidence but both have faults: source N is too reflective as it is written by a
modern historian comparing what More did in the 1530s with the 21st Century; source O is too biased to be believed due to
Edward Hall's sympathetic feelings for Protestants. Both probably bear truth but neither state how common this was, how long it
had been going on for or whether others had been punished for it. Source P does appear to agree with the statement however it
quite clinical when it comes to a justification. More evidently had compassion for others as he did not use his genius against
Henry despite the harsh way henry viewed him, nor did he speak out against the Supremacy. Finally, in his book Utopia, it is
evident he is far from cruel. His book outlines cities of 100,000 inhabitants as being ideal. Also in Utopia, there was no money,
just a monthly market where citizens bartered for what they needed. More fashioned a society in which individual rights had
lower priority than the needs of the community. Therefore, citizens reported on each other for the common good. This doesn't
sound like the works of a "cruel man with little compassion for others."


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