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Rule in Bensalem:
Francis Bacon’s Island “Utopia” in his New Atlantis

Evan M. Lowe

University of North Texas
The following abbreviations for Bacon’s works have been employed for in-text citations in the name of textual cleanliness. Each work refers to the cited publication in the bibliography. In cases where applicable (eg. New Organon, Advancement), I have also indicated the place in the text by markers common to all editions -- book number, chapter, section, aphorism, essay number. The page number in the cited edition follows a comma where such information is helpful.

AL The Advancement of Learning DA de Dignitate et Augmentis Scientarum Essays Essays or Counsels Civil and Moral (1625) GI The Great Instauration ;NA New Atlantis NO Novum Organum PFB Philosophy of Francis Bacon Preface Preface to the Great Instauration PW Plan of the Work (in Weinberger 1989) WA Of the Wisdom of the Ancients
Understanding political judgment in Baconian terms necessitates an investigation of the question of who rules in Bensalem, Bacon’s island “utopia” presented in his New Atlantis. Only by answering this question might one know where to look for one who either possesses or is in a position to exercise such judgment. By locating the individual(s) who exercise political power, one might begin to come to an understanding of the qualities, disposition, and capacity – both moral and intellectual – of one who exercises judgment as well as, perhaps, the political framework within which the ruler operates. Even if a particular ruler is unable to be located, the investigation may prove fruitful for seeing what a ruler must be – the principles behind any rule as such, regardless of personage. The question of who rules in Bensalem is not a new idea. Indeed, it is among the most common questions asked by scholars seeking to access Bacon's political teaching in New Atlantis. The popularity of the pursuit does not, however, mean that any strong consensus exists regarding the answer to the question. Quite the opposite is true. Indeed, it is a very difficult question. Bensalem, which sees and knows the world but is itself unseen, is difficult for a stranger to assess (NA 50). The reader is no less a stranger to this strange land then the sailors of the narrative. When seeing something new for the first time, its novelty is blinding. Its newness shines forth and conceals that which is operative behind the shiny exterior. Bacon, if nothing else, is certain to dress Bensalem in golden garments, to dazzle and fascinate those who come across it for the first time.
In true Baconian fashion, however, one might propose a plan for coming to that elusive understanding. One must first acclimate one's eyes to see the truth in the bright sunlight. To do this, one need to first look for the outlines of the thing in shadow. Bacon teaches that government is a topic “secret and retired, in both these respects in which things are deemed secret; for some things are secret because they are hard to know, and some because they are not fit to utter (AL II.xxiii.47, 189).” This statement is potentially confusing insofar as he frequently writes about government in New Atlantis. It is, however, merely the shadows of government and rule that Bacon has presented. New Atlantis a preparatory work that guides one to understand the true principles from which an understanding of politics must be cultivated and upon which practical wisdom built. One ascends from the understanding of these dim notions and outlines to a more complete – the secret – understanding of government.
Knowledge may be communicated in several ways, according to Bacon. The form of communication prior to Bacon – one with which he finds great error – has to do with the deliverer wishing to communicate in such a way as to be best believed, and the receiver desiring not to doubt rather than not to err (AL II.xvii.3). This, however, is not well suited for knowledge which is expected to be built upon and acquired by the receiver in the same manner and to the same extent as the deliverer. For this – teaching rather than imparting opinions – knowledge ought to be “delivered and intimated, if it were possible, in the same method wherein it was invented (AL II.xvii.4). In publishing a book widely available to the public, Bacon has recourse to the “enigmatical and disclosed” (e.g. esoteric) method which was in use among the ancients, which removes “the vulgar capacities from being admitted to the secrets of knowledge, and to reserve them to selected auditors, or wits of such sharpness as can pierce the veil (AL II.xvii.5).” Bacon has enshrouded this teaching not in camouflage, but in the garb of novelty, a garb which is so entrancing that the common observer never penetrates its blinding outline to expose its insides for clear observation and seeing. The gleaming exterior is not contrary to the inner content, but obscures it in a manner which is of benefit to the “vulgar.” Only the clear-sighted and resilient will penetrate the veil of secrecy, and it is only those who are apt to use the knowledge of rule in a manner befitting it, to be able to exercise it appropriately in a world that is in constant motion. Taking a step toward that penetration and out of the shadows is my goal in this chapter.
I begin with a short investigation of the text to indicate the importance of the question. I then take up the prevailing answers in the scholarly literature in order to analyze their strengths, weaknesses, and ultimately their insufficiencies. Finally, I offer a new interpretation that resolves the tension between the prevailing theories and points toward a new understanding of Bacon’s intent and the purpose of New Atlantis among his political writings. This interpretation raises serious questions about whether or not one's hope for a prudent ruler represents a sound judgment or if is a wish unlikely to be delivered.

The Centrality of Politics
Bacon’s secretary and chaplain, Rawley, prefaces the posthumous publication with a note to the reader that informs that Bacon had “thought in this present fable to have composed a frame of Laws, or of the best state or mould of a commonwealth” but was put off by the Natural History, “which he preferred many degrees before it (New Atlantis 36).” If Bacon intentionally omitted a discourse on politics not merely because he became distracted by his pursuit of natural history, but because he had judged the scientific pursuit of knowledge of the natural world superior in kind to the political life, it remains puzzling why he spent any time at all in New Atlantis on what can only be considered fodder for a discussion of politics. That is, if Bacon was serious about his pursuits in natural philosophy and convinced of their superiority to political philosophy, devoting a substantial amount of time to investigations of political life would be a puzzling decision indeed. Yet, although a proper discussion of political arrangements lacks, the narrative clearly deals with topics of political import including sexual morality, the family, and religion. Furthermore, there is evidence that the presentation of these topics is done in a thoughtful and not haphazard manner. Bacon emphasizes or draws attention to his silence, makes it conspicuous.
A brief presentation of the plot of New Atlantis should help make clear the centrality of political life in a fable apparently lacking in serious discussion of it. A group of sailors traveling from Peru to China and Japan find themselves stranded at sea. They are not tossed by storms beaten back by contrary winds. The winds are slack. They are motionless, unable to move, and soon find that their supplies are running out. Short of a miracle, they will die at sea, for many are already ill. They give themselves up as lost and fall to pray for salvation. This miracle appears to be granted when a wind arises and brings them within sight of land. Entering a harbor the sailors are approached by a dignitary bearing a scroll written in ancient Hebrew, Greek, and Latin as well as Spanish (their native tongue) and stamped with the King’s seal. It bids them not to land and to depart unless they have sick aboard, in which case they ought to submit a request for provisions which will be granted to them. The delivery of the requested provisions brings another official who offers them to land on account of their being Christians. The sailors are taken to Strangers House, a sort of hospital overseen by a “governor” who is by vocation also a Christian priest. Here they receive accommodations, treatment, and engage in discussions about how Christianity came to Bensalem – the name of the island – and also about Bensalem’s civil history. Bensalem’s history is more ancient than anything Europeans have recorded. Europe does not know of Bensalem as a result of a near-universal catastrophe that destroyed learning nearly everywhere save Bensalem. Compounding the difficulty of knowing about Bensalem are that nation’s secrecy laws governing interaction with foreigners. They hear of the ancient political greatness of Bensalem under King Altabin and the foundational laws given by King Solamona, who ruled some 1,900 years ago.
The remainder of the fable gives various accounts of the sailors interacting with the general population. Some few observe a civil ceremony celebrating the prolific fathering of offspring (Feast of the Family). The narrator and Joabin, a merchant with whom he had fallen into acquaintance, discuss Bensalem’s laws touching on marriage, adultery, and inheritance. Lastly a “Father” of Salomon’s House, a research institute dedicated to the study of natural philosophy and founded by the ancient King Solamona, visits the city and admits the narrator to a private conference in which he explains the ends of his institution – the “enlarging of the bounds of Human Empire, to the effecting of all things possible (New Atlantis 71).” – as well as the institutional structure and customs. The narrator is then given leave to publish the content of what he has heard, and the fable concludes. Presumably, this publication is the means by which we, the reader, have received the fable.
It is evident, then, that political life features prominently in New Atlantis. All the stuff of politics is presented in one fashion or another: war, commerce, laws that govern domestic and international relations, ceremonies, and to some extent the provision of public goods. Most important, however, is that one notices the dynamic nature of political life in Bensalem. Bacon goes to great lengths to make it appear static. On the one hand, Bensalem seems the newest society on account of its novelty and advanced scientific powers. On the other hand, it seems the oldest society insofar as it antedates any other nation of which memory exists. Solamona, the king esteemed as the lawgiver of Bensalem, reigned “about nineteen hundred years ago (NA 56).” The longevity of the regime under his laws would surpass those of Sparta and Rome, generally recognized as among the longest lived regimes of history. Bensalem is superior to contemporary Europe as it was superior to the ancient regimes that have passed from existence, as indicated by its defeat of ancient Coya without striking a blow and its singular immunity to the otherwise universal degradation of regimes owing to the ravages of war or the “natural revolution of time (NA 53–55).”
One who is attentive, however, sees that this stasis is merely an appearance – a relative stability. Bensalem is, in fact, highly dynamic. Its constancy only appears as such when compared to the rise and fall of other regimes. Bensalem alone remains in existence without disruption of its historical memory. This relative constancy, however, obscures an underlying dynamism. If Bensalem alone has survived, it must have done something to effect its separation from the natural cycle of coming into being and passing away to which all other political regimes have been subject. More precisely, Bensalem must have done something “right” insofar as other regimes have not merely passively allowed the waves of time to carry them along.
If Bensalem appears to be constant, this appearance owes to an internal activity that is knowingly orchestrated to counteract the “natural revolution of time.” The permission given to the narrator to return and publish this tale is itself evidence of a change. Bensalem has repealed its secrecy laws – its foundational secrecy laws. Furthermore, there is reason to suspect that many other innovations – the Feast of the Family, at least – have been introduced since Solamona’s foundational legislation. Societies that wish to endure must respond to changing circumstances in their domestic and foreign policy. Response or action is necessary but not sufficient. This response must be crafted with an understanding of the nature of both the external world and also of the limitations – if there be any – of human power. Recall the professed end of Salomon’s House: “the knowledge of Causes, and secret motions of things; and the enlarging of the bounds of Human Empire, to the effecting of all things possible (NA 71).” Bacon's œuvre is replete with discussion of the “causes and secret motions of things” in the natural world. His Sylva Sylvarum: Or A Natural History is only one of the myriad writings. With regard to the causes and secret motions of things of a political nature, however, Bacon is silent. Nearly the only thing that we hear clearly about the nature of politics is that it is a knowledge secret and retired either because it is both hard to know and unfit to utter (AL II.xxiii.47, 189). Bacon prefers for himself the wish of "one of the ancient philosophers" who demonstrated his wisdom not through speech, but through silence (AL II.xxiii.49, 190). In the sequel, Bacon does permit himself to speak about laws, the more public part of government. He lists the this part of knowledge as deficient insofar as all who have previously written on it have done so either as philosophers or lawyers, which is to say either too abstractly to be helpful or too narrowly to move toward any real understanding of the nature of laws and their source. The problem, as Bacon sees it, is that none have written of laws as statesmen. For the wisdom of the statesman is of a particular sort. It has to do with both general knowledge and also the particulars. He must know how to combine these things, to "animate" the laws (AL xxiii.49, 191). The "wisdom" of the statesman is prudence, or the faculty used to apply "general principles to particular circumstances that requires decision and action. The statesman needs a general understanding of principles but also a particular understanding of particulars only acquired through experience. In other words, he must occupy something like a mean between the philosopher and the lawyer. The particular excellence of the statesman calls to mind Bacon's statement from New Organon that "Human knowledge and human power meet in one thing, for where the cause is not known the effect cannot be produced (NO I.3)." Without the knowledge acquired through contemplation and also the knowledge derivative of experience, one cannot use the patterns of nature to produce non-regularly occurred but desirable outcomes. Bacon clearly depicts a seemingly desirable outcome by presenting Bensalem as the peaceful location of comfort and health in his New Atlantis, a place where knowledge and human power may well have met in one. He does not show, however, what decisions were made to navigate the island nation through the turbulent waters of time. The mystery of Bensalem's success points to the importance of the statesman, the possession and exercise of political prudence, and ultimately to the question of how one cultivates this practical wisdom. Bacon's teaching on this important matter in New Atlantis is obscured if not totally silent; its importance is only indicated by his conspicuous silence. The reader must follow the breadcrumbs Bacon has dropped.

The Question of Rule
If Bensalem appears to be the shining city on the hill, the exemplar of political life in a post-Baconian world, one cannot help but wonder what it is about Bensalem that makes it superior to other regimes. How has it solved the problems experienced by all previous regimes? In what does the happiness of its citizens consist? How does it either satisfy or, perhaps, gratify human beings in a manner fundamental to their humanity? This -- the question of the best regime, more or less -- is nearly inaccessible not only in New Atlantis but in all of Bacon's writings. A question we might try to answer, however, and one which others have tried for the last several decades, is who rules in Bensalem. This is a question of the second order, though a persuasive answer to it may help one ascend to the greater, more abstract question.
At first blush, the question of who rules strikes one as an obvious question and one little worth serious examination and time. Bensalem has a king. It is called a kingdom. One sees a "King's Charter," sealed with his image brought to the Tirsan, a man who has lived to see thirty of his offspring all pass the age of two. This seal bears with it a financial reward, "privileges, exemptions, and points of honor (NA 62–3)." Additionally, the Governor of Stranger's House tells the civil history of Bensalem and indicates that they have long had kings, naming two: Altabin and Solamona. The reasonable assumption seems to be that the kingship established in the most ancient of times is present today and that the king is the executor of the laws of which the reader is told.
Although scholars disagree on who rules in Bensalem, they are in near universal agreement that it is not a king, or at least not a king whose post and responsibilities extends beyond that of contemporary figurehead heads of state. Closer inspection indicates the reason for this generally accepted conclusion. Although we see a seal that bears the "king's image," we hear nothing about that image, nor do we even told his name! This is exceedingly odd in a book overfull of description. Making the king’s absence even more odd is that we do hear of the ancient kings -- Altabin and Solamona -- and their accomplishments. The more recent, Solamona, reigned nearly two millennia ago. After him, no specific mention is made of any ruler, royal or otherwise. Has the king simply become unimportant and not worth mentioning? Is the king real or an Oz-like myth or image presented for public consumption, the administration of public affairs being subsumed by the “state,” of which we also receive no description? We have already indicated that Bensalem has need of more than a caretaker; they need -- as all dynamic societies do -- of a prudent statesman. I leave off, the foregoing being sufficient to demonstrate that the absence discussion or Bacon's silence on the topics of government and rule are apparent to the reader who Bacon intends to lure into his fable, to teach, and to initiate into the secret knowledge of government and policy.

Rulers: Candidates and Past Winners Resolving that the unnamed king is likely not the ruler of Bacon's Bensalem, on the one hand, is beneficial since we receive absolutely zero information about him. On the other hand, losing the most obvious person commits us to what turns out to be a rather daunting task of searching for the true ruler. Luckily the potential rulers of Bensalem are few in number. The number of characters the reader encounters are few and, of those characters, not all present themselves in any meaningful way as potential rulers. It would be unreasonable, for example, to conclude that the Conservator of Health who greets the sailors while still at sea is the ruler of Bensalem. His actions, despite being a man "of place" make it evident that his position is that of a subordinate. He serves the regime in some official capacity, but he is not responsible for decision making in any meaningful way. Some argue that the character of Bacon’s political teaching is fundamentally Christian and thus, despite appearances to the contrary, that the priest-governor of Strangers House rules. Failing that, the actual ruler is not as important as the character of the principles with which he governs, for Christian principles are universal, humble, and universally charitable. Paterson (1987) persuasively and articulately provides an account not only Bacon’s heterodoxy but also his ultimate hostility toward Christianity as a guiding principle for political life. Further, Paterson (1989) argues that Bacon substitutes an amoral quest for fame by scientists for Christian morality -- statements and descriptions regarding the importance of Christian charity notwithstanding. I leave discussion of those who argue for Bacon’s fundamental Christianity aside, at this time, engage the more common positions and to offer an alternative to what have become almost orthodox answers. Bacon's relationship to Christianity and Christianity, or generally revealed religion's, relationship to Bacon's program in a later chapter. For now, let us turn to the two most prominent answers to the question of who rules an, finally, to a new proposal that attempts to fuse and depart from the two prominent camps.

The Case for the Scientists of Salomon's House
Many who have investigated this question of rule have arrived at the conclusion that the Father of Salomon’s House (or the entirety of the institution) effectively wield power in the “kingdom" of Bensalem. For many reasons, the conclusion of such investigations commands something less than unanimous consent. The arguments presented are often contingent or thin. Kennington (2004, 66–67), for example, argues that since King Solamona founded Salomon’s House, that in the account of how Christianity came to Bensalem, a member of Salomon’s House is said to be wise -- by a Christian priest no less! Thus, it is thus not unreasonable to conclude that other members of Salomon’s House possess wisdom and, therefore, are the wise rulers of Bensalem. For a ruler must be in some way wise, the tacit assumption goes. Among so many other excellent insights and wonderful, original arguments in Kennington’s work on Bacon, this argument is flat and lacks the intellectual rigor that normally characterizes his analyses. Similarly, Laurence Berns (1976, 17) holds that the “philosopher-scientists” ultimately rule over both the state and religion. The scientists' rule over religion becomes more apparent when taking into account Weinberger's (2002) investigation into miracles and the importance one should attach to the fact that it is a scientist who vouchsafes the revelation of the sacred texts in an ark that floats on the water but does not, itself, get wet.
The underlying claim to these positions results from the command over nature that the scientific power Salomon's House's research has given them – their ability to manipulate appearances, exercise magnificent military might, and to benefit individuals by bestowing upon them riches harvested from nature – has allowed them to take the wheel of the machinery that drives human beings' day-to-day lives. That is, Salomon's House has the power to affect those things which are held dear to passion or desire-driven human beings. No longer fearing for their lives, the citizens are endeared to their new scientist rulers. Indeed, the sailors' own experience lends credence to this argument. Once they no longer feared their "utter perdition," the sailors' trepidation vanishes and they "lived most joyfully" and made the acquaintance of many of the citizens, who they found possessed of such humanity and freedom that it was "enough to make us forget all that was dear to us in our own countries (NA 60)." This, of course, after a nearly miraculous recovery of their sick. Berns’ strongest evidence for the rule of the scientists comes directly from the text: the thirty-six members of Salomon’s House “take all an oath of secrecy, for the concealing of those [experiments and inventions] which we think fit to keep secret: though some of those we do reveal sometimes to the state, and some not” (NA 82, emphasis added). That the scientists may keep information about their discoveries and inventions from "the state" certainly does suggest that there may exist some council of scientists who secret their discoveries from the popular eye. Additionally, it draws a distinction between the scientists and the state, whatever "the state" may consist in. The scientists have, at least, a certain degree of autonomy. Autonomy does not, however, translate directly into authority generally found in the ruling element of a regime. Berns’ argument presupposes that there are upper and subordinate echelons within the governing apparatus and, formal or informal, the scientists occupy the upper echelon while the bureaucratic under laborers carry out the administrative responsibilities and mundane daily business of governing. Without this presupposition, Berns’ claim indicates precisely the opposite of the rule of scientists; they would keep the secret from the state who has the power to compel them to do what they wish not to do. The position of strength (ie. keeping secrets because they think it inappropriate, for whatever reason, to divulge them to the state for popular consumption) is equally able to be interpreted as an act of self-preservation and fear that the powerful state may compel them to conduct research or otherwise do that which they do not wish to do. Keeping secrets may mean vastly different things. Without any understanding of whether the scientists are authoritative or not, their relationship vîs-a-vîs "the state" remains unclear. Perhaps the scientists' secret keeping might be interpreted as a reference to Bacon's own desire to remain silent on matters of government. Without further evidence, however, this is merely a surmise and, not one with substantial textual evidence to support it at that.

The Case for Joabin, the Machiavellian "Merchant" Set against the claim of scientific rule, others locate political authority in the duplicitous “merchant,” with whom the narrator had fallen into acquaintance, Joabin. Among all individuals portrayed in New Atlantis, Joabin is the only one said to have anything to do with policy other than Solomona. Solomona had intended to bring humanity and policy together (NA 57) and Joabin is said to be “a wise man, and learned, and of great policy, and excellently seen in the laws and customs” (65). Weinberger (1989) argues that Joabin -- like his namesake, the biblical Joab, David’s general and doer of dirty deeds -- stands apart from the rest. Yaffe (1997) brings to light that Joabin being “of great policy,” indicates his possession of political acumen or the capacity to carry out the work of political rule, at least in speech if not in deed as well. Weinberger's linking of Joabin to Joab serves, at least somewhat, to indicate that Joabin has the "stuff" for conducting the dirty business that politics sometimes entails. Beyond this, Joabin appears to stand apart from the customs and opinions of the popular mode. That is, close inspection of his speech to the narrator regarding Bensalem’s marriage laws and sexual customs reveals that he recognizes the deficiencies of both the Christian doctrines offered for public consumption and also the power of the scientific establishment to change or alter human nature. A Jew, Joabin is "wise" despite his "Jewish dreams." His wisdom is not rooted in the truth of Christian doctrine, regardless of how watered down that doctrine is in Bensalem. Furthermore, Joabin possesses the rhetorical skill necessary for political persuasion. The rhetorical dance he performs to dodge the question of whether or not Bensalemites "keep marriage well" serves as a prime example. By launching into a tirade against the immorality of Europeans -- and his audience is European -- he induces shame and deflects from a clear-sighted analysis of the answers he has proposed. His audience apologizes for the immoral action of their European countrymen and, thus, overlook that Joabin has been silent on whether or not Bensalemites are faithful in their marital relationships. Joabin's knows how to respond to particular circumstances in order to use them to his advantage. He possesses the Machiavellian skill of exercising the right power at the right time and to the right extent that Bacon elsewhere praises in the life of Henry VII.

It is not enough simply that Joabin possesses this skill. Upon closer examination, one can see that the infidelity of the Bensalemites is artfully suppressed out of a concern for the public good. Were he to speak truthfully he must either say that the Bensalemites do not keep marriage well or he must redefine the obligations of marriage and the meaning of fidelity, fundamentally altering the understanding of the moral superiority Bensalem needs to project to its visitors. Undermining public morality, especially if one is trying to export one's political system, is deeply problematic, a problem that Bacon's own attempts to remain close to European Christianity indicates he was well aware of. Even though we see in this instance that Joabin exercises his political acumen for the public benefit, it is unclear that this must always be the case. We do not see why he holds his tongue or why he selects the method of staying silent in speech that he does. Even if those like Yaffe and Weinberger are correct, Joabin does not offer any deep insight into the nature of a political ruler in Bacon's political philosophy. As long as questions remain regarding his motivations or goals, the scholar cannot honestly lay claim to know.

Problems with the Previous Suggestions The greatest difficulty with conceiving of Salomon’s House as the rulers of Benslem coincides with a concern one has with Bacon himself. As Lampert (1992) has pointed out, for a man who purportedly held natural science in the highest esteem, Bacon spend a vast amount of his time and efforts engaged in political life, a life which afforded him little leisure time in which to study nature – at least until his political downfall and expulsion from the graces of the monarchy largely put an end to his political activity. For the members of Salomon’s House, the concern is similar but in the opposite direction. In the Father’s description of the end of his institution, he certainly says that it is “the enlarging of the bounds of Human Empire, to the effecting of all things possible (71).” Since we are left with an end of action we should not be surprised that we view the institution as one devoted to the active expansion of human power over nature (or God!). But we, in so quickly concluding thus, overlook the dual purpose of that institution. The end is the expansion of human empire and the knowledge of causes, the secret motions of things. The ends of Salomon's House are active and contemplative. Which is their primary end? Can these in any way be collapsed into one another? While Bacon himself immersed his early life in that of the active, all description almost of those members of Salomon's House shows them engaged in contemplation. They appear to prefer the quiet life of the mind over the turbulent waters of politics. Of course, one might object that Bacon has merely concealed their activity, as Faulkner (1988) frequently and sometimes persuasively does. It is not an absurd suggestion. It does, however, seem to be to be a strain -- a leap taken without justification beyond the grounds of suspicion. In what time would they be doing these political actions? With what conviction? If they love truth most of all, from where do they derive the patriotic action for politics other than a desire for fame that requires they serve the city, a recognition which they already among their fellows for their inventions, regardless of the good or bad use of such inventions? All indications point to the conclusion that they spend their time in study, not in ruling. Their erotic desire, if indeed they even have erotic desires is for the wrong thing -- contemplation not activity. They may have the knowledge to know how to rule effectively and well, but they appear to lack the will or desire to do so. Could they be compelled to return from the peaceful life of contemplation? Perhaps, but this undermines the claim that they are the rulers of Bensalem insofar as one can most clearly be compelled by those with authority over them. The Joabin thesis seems superior to the proposition that the Father of Salomon's House is the ruler of Bensalem. The superiority Joabin's claim to rule is rooted ultimately in this thesis' consideration of the practical elements of rule. Although the Father seems lofty and revered, he has not been to the city for 13 years. He has no real connection with the people of the city at all and is incapable of exercising much authority over those who he so infrequently encounters. Furthermore, the speech that he provides, he gives in private. In this private conference his persona is different. He has an air about him, but none of the pomp. His private conversation exposes his substance and skills. This private presentation of the ends and activities of Salomon's House is externally beautiful. But he appears incapable of varying his speech to address his particular audience, an essential skill for political life. This is a skill Joabin possesses in spades. Though there are many things about Joabin that call his claim to authority into question. Just as the Father is unfamiliar with those of the city as a result of his long absence, Joabin never once uses "we" to refer to the Bensalemites and himself. He consistently uses the word "they" to speak of the Bensalemites. He is a merchant of Bensalem but is not one of them. He stands outside from his inner, enmeshed position. Indeed, he almost reminds of Socrates who was, himself, a merchant of a sort -- a merchant of ideas. Joabin may be the closest analogue to a philosopher king that we have in New Atlantis (see Lampert 1993), but this does not mean that he is ipso facto the superior or effective ruler. If Republic shows nothing else, it is the problems that attend to the notion of the philosopher king may not only be insurmountable but also undesirable.

A Third Way In my presentation of the arguments made by each of these advocates or camps of advocates, I have underplayed the persuasive character of their arguments, but have done so equally. Each has much to recommend it, but also much to detract from it. However one may rank-order the persuasiveness of each argument, it remains the case that no single answer to the question of who rules in Bensalem carries the strength to compel agreement. The fault for this lack of consensus, I contend, lies not with the scholars but with Bacon himself. There is no single “ruler” to be found. To clarify, I am not suggesting that New Atlantis is incomplete and that Bacon has failed provide an answer to this fundamental question as he had originally intended. Rather, my claim is that the text is complete and also that it lacks sufficient grounds to determine the true ruler. But how can a text that had, as Rawley put it, intended to provide the ideal frame of laws for a commonwealth but failed be complete if, in fact, it has not provided sufficient evidence to determine who rules -- the fundamental question necessary for one’s analysis of the political organization of a commonwealth? The text may still be complete if Bacon has intended that this question remain fundamentally insoluble within the framework of his fable. This is not to suggest, however, that the question of who rules in a “Baconian society” is fundamentally insoluble as such. Faulkner (1988) and Lampert (1993) come closest when they recognize that the mind which is the true ruler is the philosophic mind of Bacon himself. But this is still not quite clear. Using the city in speech of Plato’s Republic as a foil, we might better understand. In response to Glaucon’s objection that the “true city” Socrates had made with Adeimantus lacks the relishes human beings desire, Socrates and Glaucon begin to add more individuals. They add teachers, barbers, more doctors, poets and their helpers (eg. rhapsodes), and many other kinds of human beings (Republic II 373b ff.). At no point, however, is provision made for a “philosopher” even though this city will require a philosopher king for its actualization (Republic V 473d). Some may object that the guardian class is expected to yield the philosopher kings, as the man who is “going to be a fine and good guardian of the city for us will in his nature be philosophic, spirited, swift, and strong” (376c, emphasis added). The hallmark of the guardians’ character, however, is to be as “noble dogs,” gentle with familiars and harsh with enemies -- noble, not, say, philosophic (375d-e). It seems there is little provision for a “fine and good” guardian. In order to remain close to our subject, suffice it to say that in the course of their conversation, many laws are laid down -- laws shaping the poetic education of citizens, laws touching marriage and family life, etc. These laws are laid down by Socrates, a philosopher; the philosopher has been essential to the foundation of the city in speech though his presence and involvement in the foundation has been hidden or overlooked. Much the same can be said of Bacon’s role in fashioning his fable. Just as Socrates provides or intimates reasons for every law laid down, one gets a sense that Socrates is less than completely forthcoming. Always before a hostile public opinion, the philosopher is compelled to conceal himself lest he be judged useless or, if not useless, dangerous. Since it would be impossible to be absolutely silent on one’s thoughts and still legislate, the philosopher must dissemble and conceal his true reasons or justifications.
Because they would be judged useless or dangerous, follies or crimes, Bacon had to dissimulate his thoughts, not the thoughts necessary for handing on the lamp of the new natural science, but the thoughts behind those thoughts, their reasons or grounds. (Lampert 1993, 26 emphasis added)

Bacon does indeed provide in New Atlantis and elsewhere information necessary for the carrying out of normal business. He does not, however, openly pronounce the reasons behind these reasons. Of all the characters one encounters in Bensalem, each fulfills an important and necessary role in the ideal -- if we can call it that -- Baconian regime. None, however -- or almost none -- fulfill the role Bacon plays in the crafting of the fable.
As is often the case in narrated tales, the narrator is frequently overlooked by those investigating New Atlantis. The narrator provides an image of and guide for the potential future philosophic legislator. From the beginning, he is open to wonder (NA 37), observant, and attentive to detail without losing sight of the whole. When others are rapt with passion, the narrator is sober (43-4). In Joabin he is able to separate wisdom from opinions or “dreams” (65). In the end, he goes abroad to publish his account “for the good of other nations” (83). On this last point, one must remember that the account we have read is ostensibly the account he has provided and, thus, must attribute all we have said about Bacon and his care in writing to the narrator as well. His journey throughout the story has been one of a philosophic education and appears to have risen to Bacon’s height himself insofar as we must at some point collapse the figurative author into the real. He seems even to have learned, as Bacon attributes to a philosopher displaying his wisdom in a tale told in his presentation of civil knowledge in de Augmentis, “how to hold his tongue,” and art which Bacon says immediately after the “old story” that he will “now teach by my own example” (DA VIII.1). By following the narrator, we can see Bacon's intent in writing the New Atlantis. It does not provide an ideal "frame of laws," nor does it depict a perfect ruler suited to direct Baconian politics in the wake of the success of his scientific and theological program. Rather, it directs one toward the questions one must ask and answer in order to be an effective ruler. This ruler possesses knowledge of the nature and causes of things in nature, namely of human nature, as we see in the members of Salomon's House. But the ruler also possesses the skills and practical wisdom we see in Joabin, and elsewhere in Henry VII. These are the skills a statesman must possess, and New Atlantis is Bacon's attempt to initiate statesmen into political life who possess the capacity to rule rather than to provide an outline for ambitious men to follow who may lack the perspective to conduct political affairs with an eye toward the beneficial public benefit rather than their private good.

Works Cited
Bacon, Francis. 1860-1864. de Dignitate et Augmentis Scientarum. In The Works of Francis Bacon, ed. James Spedding, Robert Leslie Ellis, and Douglas Denon Heath. 15 vols. Boston: Houghton Mifflin and Company.
––––– 1991. The Advancement of Learning, ed. Jerry Weinberger. Philadelphia: Paul Dry Books.
––––– 1994 Novum Organum, ed. and trans. Peter Urbach and John Gibson. Chicago: Open Court.
––––– 1996. “The Essays or Counsels Civil and Moral (1625).” In Francis Bacon The Major Works, ed. Brian Vickers, 341-456. New York: Oxford University Press.
––––– Of the Wisdom of the Ancients, trans. Dr. Heidi Studer. (Unpublished manuscript).
Berns, Laurence. 1978. “Francis Bacon and the Conquest of Nature.” Interpretation 7 (1): 1-26.
Briggs, John C. 1989. Francis Bacon and the Rhetoric of Nature. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
Butler, Todd. 2006. “Bacon and the Politics of the Prudential Imagination.” Studies in English Literature, 1500-1900 46 (1): 93-111.
Craig, Tobin. 2010. “On the Significance of the Literary Character of Francis Bacon’s New Atlantis.” Review of Politics 72 (2): 213-229.
Davis, Michael. 1988. Ancient Tragedy and the Origins of Modern Science. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press.
Farrington, Benjamin. 1964. The Philosophy of Francis Bacon. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Faulkner, Robert K. 1988. “Visions & Powers: Bacon’s Two-Fold Politics of Progress.” Polity 21(1): 111-136.
––––– 1993. Francis Bacon and the Project of Progress. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield, 1993.
––––– 2013. “Bacon’s New Atlantis: From Faith in God to Faith in Progress.” In Enlightenment and Secularism: Essays on the Mobilization of Reason, ed. Christopher Nadon. Blue Ridge Summit: Lexington Books.
Hale, Kimberly Hurd. 2013. Francis Bacon’s New Atlantis in the Foundation of Modern Political Thought. Lanham: Lexington Books.
Harrison, John L. 1968. “Bacon’s View of Rhetoric, Poetry, and the Imagination.” In Essential Articles for the study of Francis Bacon, ed. Brian Vickers, 253-271. Hamden: Archon Books.
Hutton, Sarah. 2002. “Persuasions to science: Baconian rhetoric and the New Atlantis.” In Francis Bacon’s New Atlantis New interdisciplinary essays, ed. Brownwen Price, 48-59. Manchester: Manchester University Press.
Kennington, Richard. 2004. Modern Origins: Essays in Early Modern Philosophy, ed. Pamela Kraus and Frank Hunt. Lanham: Lexington Books.
Lampert, Laurence. 1993. Nietzsche and Modern Times: A Study of Bacon, Descartes, and Nietzsche. New Haven: Yale University Press.
Langman, A.P. 2010. “The Future Now: Chance, Time and Natural Divination in the Thought of Francis Bacon.” In The Uses of the Future in Early Modern Europe, ed. Andrea Brady and Emily Butterworth, 142-158. New York: Routledge.
Lord, Carnes. 2002. "Bringing Prudence Back in: Leadershi, Statecraft, and Political Science." In Tempered Strength: Studies in the Nature and Scope of Prudential Leadership, 71–83. Edited by Ethan Fishman. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books.
McKnight, Stephen A. 2006. The Religious Foundations of Francis Bacon's Thought. Columbia: University of Missouri Press
Minkov, Svetozar Y. 2010. Francis Bacon’s “Inquiry Touching Human Nature”: Virtue, Philosophy, and the Relief of Man’s Estate. Lanham: Lexington Books.
––––– 2013. “The Problem of Natural Piety: Bacon on the Prospects of the Secularization Project.” In Enlightenment and Secularism: Essays on the Mobilization of Reason, ed. Christopher Nadon. Blue Ridge Summit: Lexington Books.
Paterson, Timothy. 1987. “On the Role of Christianity in the Political Philosophy of Francis Bacon.” Polity 18 (3): 419-442.
––––– 1989. “The Secular Control of Scientific Power in the Political Philosophy of Francis Bacon.” Polity 21 (3): 457-480.
Plato. 1929. Critias, trans. R.G. Bury. Loeb Classical Library. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
––––– 1991. The Republic of Plato, trans. Allan Bloom. New York: Basic Books.
––––– 2001. Timaeus, trans. Peter Kalkavage. Newburyport: Focus Publishing.
Smith, Suzanne. 2008. "The New Atlantis: Francis Bacon's Theological Political Utopia?" The Harvard Theological Review. 101 (1): 97–125.
Weinberger, Jerry 1976. “Science and Rule in Bacon’s Utopia: And Introduction to the Reading of the New Atlantis.” American Political Science Review 70 (3): 865-885.
––––– 1985. Science Faith and Politics: Francis Bacon and the Utopian Roots of the Modern Age. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.
––––– 1989. New Atlantis and the Great Instauration. Wheeling: Harlan Davidson.
_____ 1996. "Introduction" and "Interpretive Essay." In The History and the Reign of King Henry the Seventh, 120, 213–252. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.
––––– 2002. “On the Miracles in Bacon’s New Atlantis” In Francis Bacon’s New Atlantis New interdisciplinary essays, ed. Brownwen Price, 106-218. Manchester: Manchester University Press.
White, Howard B. 1968. Peace Among the Willows: The Political Philosophy of Francis Bacon. The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff.
Yaffe, Martin David. 1997. Shylock and the Jewish Question. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press.

[ 1 ]. cf. Republic 514a-519d, Phaedo 99d-100b
[ 2 ]. From the very beginning of New Atlantis, Bacon foreshadows the philosophic nature of his fable. It is not inappropriate to consider the slack winds experienced by the sailors to Socrates’ conclusion that Anaxagorean natural science had left him rim rocked, and the only solution was to attempt a “second sailing” or dipping his oars in the water to make progress on his own despite the lack of prevailing winds to carry him along (Phaedo 99d). The failure to progress more immediately likely refers to the stagnation of knowledge under Scholastic doctrine, but the Platonic inference is neither out of order nor unhelpful.
[ 3 ]. See Lampert, whose interpretation is that inventions for the public benefit are brought directly by the Father of Salomon’s house on his 12-year circuits to each city, thus following Machiavelli’s protocol of giving gifts in person such that the peoples’ gratitude is granted to you (1993, 29). Regardless of whether or not this is the case, the Feast of the Family shows relief of debt by the state (;NA 61). Likewise, provision of the medicinal fruits and tinctures in Strangers House being available only to visitors cannot reasonably be assumed, but there must be some apparatus for providing these items to the citizens.
[ 4 ]. This section of the civil history of Bensalem is particularly enigmatic. Although the “Great Atlantis” is brought up immediately prior to Altabin warding off attack by Coya, it appears to drop from discussion at this point. (“… that the said country of Atlantis, as well as that of Peru, then called Coya, as that of Mexico, then named Tyrambel, were mighty and proud kingdoms: so mighty” that at one point “they both made two great expeditions…(NA 53).” Tyrambel seems to take the place of Atlantis, venturing into the Mediterranean, granted it in Plato’s Critias (113c ff.), and Atlantis disappears from the text until it is destroyed by the “Divine Revenge” that followed shortly after those “proud enterprises.” I’m uncertain as to why Atlantis is dropped and, therefore, upon what its divine punishment would be based. Furthermore, these natural disasters and the divine revenge are replaced in the sequel – discussion of the decline of commerce – by war and a “natural revolution of time,” implying that the origin of decay is internal to the human or political entity rather than owing to external causes. This transition of causality from external to internal only serves to make more remarkable Bensalem’s singular success and draws one more closely to be enamored with the possibilities promised by their secrets of government.
[ 5 ]. Compare to the eradication of learning caused by the natural disasters that affected the rest of the ancient world (NA 53-4). This disruption is the reason, for instance, that Critias must call upon the goddess Mnemosyne (memory) to recount the tale of ancient Athens of which he has come into possession from a long and rather dubious tradition (Critias 108d, and cf Timaeus 21b ff.). Contrariwise, Bensalem has records of sufficient soundness to correct the tales descendent of Critias’ (NA 53).
[ 6 ]. See, for example, History of the Winds, Inquiry Respecting the Magnet, and History of Life and Death (Works V). It should be noted that, in its initial publication, New Atlantis appeared appended to Sylva Sylvarum, making more sense out of Rawley's introductory statement to the former that Bacon had become distracted by his pursuits in natural science. (See Hutton 2002, 49 ff.)
[ 7 ]. The Essays, may be an exception, though even this discussion is remarkably opaque (see Faulkner 1993). Furthermore, Minkov (2013) points out that the Essays are, above all, Essays civil and moral and not, say, philosophical. They paint a rhetorically useful picture not, perhaps, an accurate one.
[ 8 ]. Most likely a reference to Diogenes Laertius Book VII ("Life of Zeno"), though it may also refer to Plutarch's Moralia and the "Rules for the preservation of health," in which Simonides' statement that he never regretted remaining silent but has regretted speaking is employed by one of the interlocutors.
[ 9 ]. A more in depth discussion of the role of prudence in political leadership is to be found in Lord (2002).
[ 10 ]. See Kennington (2004, 35 ff) and Langman (2010) on the problems that this line being often mistranslated as "knowledge is power" poses for one trying to access Bacon's teaching(s) on human beings' true ends.
[ 11 ]. Read NO I.3 with I.4–8 for context.
[ 12 ]. The History of the Reign of Henry the Seventh is more clearly a manual for political instruction insofar as Henry's decisions and the reasons for them are more clearly outlined, analyzed, and assessed. It appears that Bacon means potential rulers to ape Henry and learn from the history of his life as Bacon authored it, in much the same way that Aristotle's advice in Nichomachean Ethics for how to become a man of moral virtue is to imitate a man generally understood to be virtuous (see Weinberger 1996). Though Henry may have ben a statesman, one who behaves like him without proper understanding is necessarily a political man of the second order.
[ 13 ]. New Atlantis may be limited to a discussion of the nature of political life rather than the practice. Nevertheless, silence on practice may direct the initiate to the questions that must be pursued to acquire the knowledge Bacon means to impart (cf. AL xvii–xx) **Note for P&P: the use of the methods of teaching -- rote and guided learning, in common language -- are discussed in greater length in a different chapter**
[ 14 ]. It is unclear in the text whether the "revenue" is a reward or gift, or intended to offset familial debt the patriarch is incapable of settling. We are explicitly told that the state defrays family expenses for those honored in this ceremony.
[ 15 ]. The scroll the sailors receive upon approaching has no image of the king but is “signed with a stamp of cherubins’ wings, not spread but hanging downwards, and by them a cross (NA 39)." Is this not the seal on the king’s charter? If not, why has the king no part in external relations with foreigners? If it is, why are they described differently? Is the image of the "king" merely a representation of charity (ie of Christ's mercy)? [Consider connection to Ezekiel & Isaiah? language, imagry, and civilizations match up with NA's as indicated through White 1968's discussion of symbols]
[ 16 ]. For example: "Over the chair is a state, made round or oval, and it is of ivy; an ivy somewhat whiter than ours, like the leaf of a silver asp[en tree], but more shining; for it is green all winter. And the state is curiously wrought with silver and silk of divers colours, broiding or binding in the ivy; and is ever of the work of some of the daughters of the family; and veiled over at the top with a fine net of silk and silver... (NA 61–2)." And this description from the narrator, which includes information about the variability between different particular ceremonies, is in regard to a second-hand (at least) account of members of his crew's attendance at a single event. White (1968) does a superb job of tracking down and indicating the origin, meaning(s), and purpose behind a great deal of New Atlantis's imagry.
[ 17 ]. Faulkner, among others, makes much of Bacon’s use of “state” in New Atlantis and elsewhere (1988, 1993, 2014). Without venturing into a discussion of the conclusions Faulkner draws from Bacon’s use of “state,” suffice it to say that the appearance of “state” raises questions about precisely what Bacon means and makes the absence of any substantive discussion of government notable. Who is this state who “hath given you license to stay…” (NA 44)? And if indeed there is “no worldly thing on earth more worthy to be known than the state of” Bensalem, then why has Bacon been so sparing in his account (NA 46)? Does Bacon mean “state” as condition or as government? In either case, the ambiguity is palpable and commands inquiry.
[ 18 ]. It may well be that there is a ruler and that this ruler is simply not presented in the text. Making this assumption, however, is groundless and draws the conclusion prior to any investigation. I assume Bacon intends to teach about the ruler and, beyond being a more charitable initial assumption, I believe I demonstrate it to be reasonable in what follows.
[ 19 ]. McKnight (2006) provides perhaps the most well-articulated argument for a fundamentally Christian bent to Bacon’s political philosophy. More specifically, he argues that Bensalem is Bacon's attempt to depict a Christianity unencumbered by the flaws of European Christianity. Bacon's theological-political goal, in other words, is a reorientation of human beings' relationship to nature and God that attempts to bring us back closer to the relationship that existed prior to the worsening post-lapsarian conditions. Suzanne Smith (2008) takes a more moderate position than McKnight, one that makes quite a bit of sense and involves an intent to weaken and also appropriate from religion. McKnight (2006) and Smith (2008) aside, the generally accepted position is that Bacon is quite hostile to religion and Christianity in particular (see e.g. Faulkner 1988, 2013; Paterson 1987, 1989; Weinberger 1976, 2002).
[ 20 ]. It is also noteworthy, perhaps, that Joabin, of three characters said to be "wise," is the only one said to be wise by the narrator.
[ 21 ]. See, however, Lampert (2003) for an argument derived from Machiavelli's notion of mutual need for gratitude between rulers and ruled.
[ 22 ]. Although the statement about philosopher kings comes long after the city began to come into being in speech, Socrates had recognized the necessity of the “three waves” of argument much earlier (450a) and had skipped over them so as to not made a fuss (423e-424a).

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