Authors born between 1700 and 1800 CE
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The Case for American Independence
The Object of Government is General Happiness
Free Commerce to Let it Flourish
Reject Hereditary Monarchy
Recognize the Unfitness of Aristocrats to Rule
Man Must Inherit his Natural Rights
The French have Declared Manís Rights and Duties
The American and French Revolutions will Spread
Seek Equal Political Representation
The Wretched Condition of the Poor
Taxation in England is Misused
How to Alleviate the Misery of the Poor
Avoid Union of Religion and State
Thomas Paine (1737-1809 CE) was born in Thetford, Norfolk, England, and received an education at the local grammar school. After initial employment at sea, he set up as a stay maker (his fatherís trade) in London, where he attended science lectures. He later gained employment in the governmentís excise office, writing in 1774 a pamphlet supporting excisemen in their claim for better conditions and wages. Paine sailed for America at this time, carrying a letter from Benjamin Franklin, who he met in London. In America, he helped found the Pennsylvania Magazine and edited it for a year and a half. On January 9, 1776, he published Common Sense, forcefully arguing for separation of the American Colonies from England and for the founding of a republic. His powerful rhetoric changed the mood of the people, and an open movement for independence emerged.
After the setbacks at the start of the American War of Independence, Paine wrote a series of pamphlets entitled The Crisis, to inspire renewed support for the American cause. The first of these started off with the famous phrase "These are the times that try menís souls". Written in the field, it was read before the revolutionary army on the orders of Washington to rally the spirits of his troops. In the war, Paine served as a volunteer aide to General Greene. Later his services were recognized by government positions and grants.
Paine returned to Europe in 1787 with a model of an iron bridge he had designed. In England he sought to make people conscious of the "madness and stupidity of government". His most effective work at this time was The Rights of Man, published in 1791. This had a circulation of hundreds of thousands, helped by the governmentís attempts to suppress it. Paine was indicted for treason in 1792, but he had left for France. He was elected a deputy to the French National Convention, where he participated with Condorcet in writing the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen. When the Jacobins turned the French Revolution into a Reign of Terror, Paine was arrested and faced execution. He was released with the fall of the Jacobins, returning to America in 1800 with the help of President Jefferson.
In addition to his acid criticism of hereditary rule and the English system of government, and his demand for the institution of democracy, Paine put forward an unprecedented plan for alleviating the misery of the poor. It proposed using money from taxes to provide a basic level of support for the poor, with additional funds for mothers and children, and funds for education, old-age pensions, and unemployment assistance. Whereas Adam Smith had raised indignation at the unfair distribution of wealth, Paine proposed a redistribution that would reduce the degree of unfairness.
Extracts from several of Paineís works follow.
1 I have heard it asserted by some that as America has flourished under her former connection with Great Britain, that the same connection is necessary for her future happiness, and will always have the same effect. Nothing can be more fallacious than this kind of argument. . . . America would have flourished as much, and probably much more, had no European power had any thing to do with her. The commerce by which she has enriched herself are the necessities of life, and will always have a market while eating is the custom of Europe.
2 Europe, and not England, is the parent country of America. This new world has been the asylum for the persecuted lovers of civil and religious liberty from every part of Europe. Hither have they fled, not from the tender embraces of a mother, but from the cruelty of a monster. And, so far, it is true of England that the same tyranny which drove the first emigrants from home pursues their descendants still.
3 We are already greater than the king wishes us to be, and will he not later endeavor to make us less? To bring the matter to one point. Is the power who is jealous of our prosperity, a proper power to govern us? Whoever says "No!" to this question is an independent, for independence means no more than whether we shall make our own laws, or whether the king, the greatest enemy this continent has or can have, shall tell us, "there shall be no laws but such as I like."
4 A government of our own is our natural right: And when a man seriously reflects on the precariousness of human affairs, he will become convinced, that it is infinitely wiser and safer, to form a constitution of our own in a cool deliberate manner, while we have it in our power, than to trust such an interesting event to time and chance. If we omit it now, some Massanello [a revolutionary] may arise who, laying hold of popular disquietudes, may collect together the desperate and discontented, and they, by assuming to themselves the powers of government, may sweep away the liberties of the continent like a deluge.
5 If systems of government can be introduced less expensive and more productive of general happiness than those which have existed, all attempts to oppose their progress will in the end be fruitless. Reason, like time, will make its own way, and prejudice will fall in a combat with interest. If universal peace, civilization, and commerce are ever to be the happy lot of man, it cannot be accomplished but by a revolution in the system of governments. All the monarchical governments are military. War is their trade, plunder and revenue their objects. While such governments continue, peace has not the absolute security of a day. What is the history of all monarchical governments but a disgusting picture of human wretchedness, with the accidental respite of a few years' repose? Wearied with war, and tired with human butchery, they sat down to rest, and called it peace. This certainly is not the condition that heaven intended for man; . . .
6 Whatever the form or constitution of government may be, it ought to have no other object than the general happiness. When, instead of this, it operates to create and increase wretchedness in any of the parts of society, it is the wrong system, and reformation is necessary. Customary language has classed the condition of man under the two descriptions of civilized and uncivilized life. To the one it has ascribed felicity and affluence; to the other hardship and want. But, however our imagination may be impressed by painting and comparison, it is nevertheless true, that a great portion of mankind, in what are called civilized countries, are in a state of poverty and wretchedness, far below the condition of an [American] Indian. I speak not of one country, but of all. It is so in England, it is so all over Europe. Let us enquire into the cause.
It lies not in any natural defect in the principles of civilization, but in preventing those principles having a universal operation; the consequence of which is, a perpetual system of war and expense, that drains the country, and defeats the general felicity of which civilization is capable.
7 In contemplating the whole of this subject, I extend my views into the subject of commerce. In all my publications, where the matter would admit, I have been an advocate for commerce, because I am a friend to its effects. It is a peaceful system, operating to increase friendship and kindness, by rendering nations, as well as individuals, useful to each other. As to the mere theoretical reformation, I have never preached it up. The most effectual process is that of improving the condition of man by means of his interest; and it is on this ground that I take my stand. If commerce were permitted to act to the universal extent it is capable, it would extirpate the system of war, and produce a revolution in the uncivilized state of governments. The invention of commerce has arisen since those governments began, and is the greatest approach towards universal civilization that has yet been made by any means not immediately flowing from moral principles.
8 In England a king has little more to do than to make war and give away positions. This, in plain terms, is to impoverish the nation and set it altogether by the ears. A pretty business indeed for a man to be given eight hundred thousand sterling a year, and worshipped into the bargain! Of more worth is one honest man to society and in the sight of God, than all the crowned ruffians that every lived.
9 As the exercise of Government requires talents and abilities, and as talents and abilities cannot have hereditary descent, it is evident that hereditary succession requires a belief by man to which his reason cannot subscribe, and which can only be established upon his ignorance. And the more ignorant any country is, the better it is fitted for this species of Government.
10 It is easy to conceive that a band of interested men, such as Placemen, Pensioners, Lords of the bed-chamber, Lords of the kitchen, Lords of the necessary-house [toilet], and the Lord knows what besides, can find as many reasons for monarchy as their salaries, paid at the expense of the country, amount to. But if I ask the farmer, the manufacturer, the merchant, the tradesman, and down through all the occupations of life to the common laborer, what service monarchy is to him, he can give me no answer. If I ask him what monarchy is, he believes it is something like a sinecure.
11 To the evil of monarchy we have added that of hereditary succession; and as the first is a degradation and lessening of ourselves, so the second, claimed as a matter of right, is an insult and an imposition on posterity. For all men being originally equals, no one by birth could have a right to set up his own family in perpetual preference to all others for ever. And though himself might deserve some decent degree of honor of his contemporaries, yet his descendants might be far too unworthy to inherit it. One of the strongest natural proofs of the folly of hereditary right in kings is that nature disapproves it, otherwise she would not so frequently turn it into ridicule by giving mankind an ass for a lion.
12 The most plausible plea that has ever been offered in favor of hereditary succession is that it preserves a nation from civil wars. And were this true, it would be weighty, whereas it is the most barefaced falsehood ever imposed upon mankind. The whole history of England disowns the fact. Thirty kings and two minors have reigned in that distracted kingdom since the conquest, in which time there have been (including the Revolution) no less than eight civil wars and nineteen rebellions. Therefore instead of making for peace, hereditary succession acts against it, and destroys the very foundation it seems to stand on.
13 Where there are no distinctions there can be no superiority, perfect equality affords no temptation. The republics of Europe are all (and we may say always) in peace. Holland and Switzerland are without wars, foreign or domestic: Monarchical governments, it is true, are never long at rest; the crown itself is a temptation to enterprising ruffians at home; and that degree of pride and insolence ever attendant on regal authority, swells into a rupture with foreign powers in instances where a republican government, by being formed on more natural principles, would negotiate the issue.
14 In France aristocracy had one feature less in its favor than it has in some other countries. It did not compose a body of hereditary legislators. It was not "'a corporation of aristocracy", for such I have heard M. de la Fayette describe the English House of Lords. Let us then examine the grounds upon which the French Constitution has resolved against having such a House in France:
Because, in the first place, as is already mentioned, aristocracy is kept up by family tyranny and injustice.
Secondly, because there is an unnatural unfitness in an aristocracy to be legislators for a nation. Their ideas of distributive justice are corrupted at the very source [by the law of primogenitureóthe eldest sonís exclusive right to inherit]. They begin life by trampling on all their younger brothers and sisters, and relations of every kind, and are taught and educated so to do. With what ideas of justice or honor can that man enter a house of legislation, who absorbs in his own person the inheritance of a whole family of children or doles out to them some pitiful portion with the insolence of a gift?
Thirdly, because the idea of hereditary legislators is as inconsistent as that of hereditary judges, or hereditary juries; and as absurd as a hereditary mathematician, or a hereditary wise man; and as ridiculous as a hereditary poet laureate.
Fourthly, because a body of men, holding themselves accountable to nobody, ought not to be trusted by anybody.
Fifthly, because it is continuing the uncivilized principle of governments founded in conquest, and the base idea of man having property in man, and governing him by personal right.
Sixthly, because aristocracy has a tendency to deteriorate the human species. . . . the human species has a tendency to degenerate among any small number of persons separated from the general stock of society and constantly inter-marrying. It defeats even its pretended end, and becomes in time the opposite of what is noble in man.
15 No question has arisen within the records of history that pressed with the importance of the present one. It is not whether this or that party shall be in or not, or Whig or Tory, or high or low shall prevail; but whether man shall inherit his rights, and universal civilization take place. Whether the fruits of his labors shall be enjoyed by himself or consumed by the profligacy of governments? Whether robbery shall be banished from courts, and wretchedness from countries?
16 Natural rights are those which appertain to man in right of his existence. Of this kind are all the intellectual rights, or rights of the mind, and also all those rights of acting as an individual for his own comfort and happiness, which are not injurious to the natural rights of others. Civil rights are those which appertain to man in right of his being a member of society. Every civil right has for its foundation some natural right pre-existing in the individual, but to the enjoyment of which his individual power is not, in all cases, sufficiently competent. Of this kind are all those which relate to security and protection.
17 The rights of men in society, are neither devisable [able to be bequeathed at will] or transferable, nor annihilable, but are descendable [directly inherited] only, and it is not in the power of any generation to intercept finally, and cut off the descent. If the present generation, or any other, are disposed to be slaves, it does not lessen the right of the succeeding generation to be free. Wrongs cannot have a legal descent.
18 Occupied with establishing a constitution founded on the Rights of Man and the Authority of the People, the only authority on which Government has a right to exist in any country, the [French] National Assembly felt none of those mean passions that mark the character of impertinent governments, founding themselves on their own authority, or on the absurdity of hereditary succession. It is the faculty of the human mind to become what it contemplates, and to act in unison with its object.
. . .one of the first works of the National Assembly [France, 1789] , instead of vindictive proclamations, as has been the case with other governments, was to publish a Declaration of the Rights of Man, as the basis on which the new Constitution was to be built, and which is here subjoined.
19 The first three articles [of the Declaration] comprehend in general terms the whole of a Declaration of Rights. . .
I. Men are born, and always continue, free and equal in respect of their rights. Civil distinctions, therefore, can be founded only on public utility.
II. The end of all political associations is the preservation of the natural and imprescriptible rights of man; and these rights are Liberty, Property, Security, and Resistance of Oppression.
III. The Nation is essentially the source of all sovereignty; nor can any individual, or any body of men, be entitled to any authority which is not expressly derived from it.
In these principles, there is nothing to throw a Nation into confusion by inflaming ambition. They are calculated to call forth wisdom and abilities, and to exercise them for the public good, and not for the emolument or aggrandizement of particular descriptions of men or families.
20 All the succeeding articles [contained in the Appendix] either originate from them or follow as elucidations. The 4th, 5th, and 6th define more particularly what is only generally expressed in the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd.
The 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, and llth articles are declaratory of principles upon which laws shall be constructed, conformable to rights already declared. . . .
The remaining articles, beginning with the twelfth, are substantially contained in the principles of the preceding articles; but in the particular situation which France then was, having to undo what was wrong, as well as to set up what was right, it was proper to be more particular than would be necessary under other conditions.
21 While the Declaration of Rights was before the National Assembly some of its members remarked that if a declaration of rights were published it should be accompanied by a Declaration of Duties. The observation revealed a mind that reflected, and it only erred by not reflecting far enough. A Declaration of Rights is, by reciprocity, a Declaration of Duties also. Whatever is my right as a man is also the right of another; and it becomes my duty to guarantee as well as to possess.
22 The opinions of men with respect to government are changing fast in all countries. The Revolutions of America and France have thrown a beam of light over the world, which reaches into man. The enormous expense of governments has provoked people to think, by making them feel; and when once the veil begins to rend, it admits no repair. Ignorance is of a peculiar nature: once dispelled, it is impossible to re-establish it. It is not originally a thing of itself, but is only the absence of knowledge. And though man may be kept ignorant, he cannot be made ignorant. The mind, in discovering truth, acts in the same manner as it acts through the eye in discovering objects. When once any object has been seen, it is impossible to put the mind back to the same condition it was in before it saw it.
23 What are the present Governments of Europe but a scene of iniquity and oppression? What is that of England? Do not its own inhabitants say it is a market where every man has his price, and where corruption is common traffic at the expense of a deluded people? No wonder, then, that the French Revolution is traduced. Had it confined itself merely to the destruction of flagrant despotism perhaps Mr. Burke [a vehement critic of the French Revolution] and some others would have been silent. Their cry now is, "It has gone too far" that is, it has gone too far for them. It stares corruption in the face, and the venal tribe are all alarmed. Their fear discovers itself in their outrage, and they are but publishing the groans of wounded vice. But from such opposition the French Revolution, instead of suffering, receives homage. The more it is struck the more sparks it will emit; and the fear is that it will not be struck enough. It has nothing to dread from attacks: Truth has given it an establishment, and Time will record it with a name as lasting as its own.
24 The [new] French Constitution has abolished tythes, that source of perpetual discontent between the tythe-holder and the parishioner. When land is held on tythe, it is in the condition of an estate held between two parties; the one receiving one-tenth, and the other nine-tenths of the produce. Consequently, on principles of equity, if the estate can be improved, and made to produce double or treble what it did before, or in any other ratio, the expense of such improvement ought to be borne in like proportion between the parties who are to share the produce. But this is not the case in tythes: the farmer bears the whole expense, and the tythe-holder takes a tenth of the improvement, in addition to the original tenth, and by this means gets the value of two-tenths instead of one.
25 The French Constitution says that the number of representatives for any place shall be in a ratio to the number of taxable inhabitants or electors. . . The county of York [England], which contains nearly a million of souls, sends two county members; and so does the county of Rutland, which contains not an hundredth part of that number. The old town of Sarum, which contains not three houses, sends two members; and the town of Manchester, which contains upward of sixty thousand souls, is not permitted to send any. Is there any principle in these things? It is admitted that all this is altered, but there is much to be done yet, before we have a fair representation of the people. Is there anything by which you can trace the marks of freedom, or discover those of wisdom?
26 When, in countries that are called civilized, we see age going to the workhouse and youth to the gallows, something must be wrong in the system of government. It would seem, by the exterior appearance of such countries, that all was happiness; but there lies hidden from the eye of common observation, a mass of wretchedness, that has scarcely any other chance, than to expire in poverty or infamy. Its entrance into life is marked with the presage of its fate; and until this is remedied, it is in vain to punish.
27 Why is it that scarcely any are executed but the poor? The fact is a proof, among other things, of a wretchedness in their condition. Bred up without morals, and cast upon the world without a prospect, they are the exposed sacrifice of vice and legal barbarity. The millions that are superfluously wasted upon governments are more than sufficient to reform those evils, and to benefit the condition of every man in a nation, not included within the purlieus of a court. This I hope to make appear in the progress of this work.
28 Civil government does not exist in executions; but in making such provision for the instruction of youth and the support of age, as to exclude, as much as possible, profligacy from the one and despair from the other. Instead of this, the resources of a country are lavished upon kings, upon courts, upon hirelings, impostors and prostitutes; and even the poor themselves, with all their wants upon them, are compelled to support the fraud that oppresses them.
29 War is the common harvest of all those who participate in the division and expenditure of public money, in all countries. It is the art of conquering at home; the object of it is an increase of revenue; and as revenue cannot be increased without taxes, a pretence must be made for expenditure. In reviewing the history of the English Government, its wars and its taxes, a bystander, not blinded by prejudice nor warped by interest, would declare that taxes were not raised to carry on wars, but that wars were raised to carry on taxes.
30 Public money ought to be touched with the most scrupulous consciousness of honor. It is not the produce of riches only, but of the hard earnings of labor and poverty. It is drawn even from the bitterness of want and misery. Not a beggar passes, or perishes in the streets, whose mite is not in that mass.
31 Not a thirtieth, scarcely a fortieth, part of the taxes which are raised in England are either occasioned by, or applied to, the purpose of civil government. It is not difficult to see that the whole which the actual government does in this respect, is to enact laws, and that the country administers and executes them at its own expense, by means of magistrates, juries, sessions, and assize, over and above the taxes which it pays. In this view of the case, we have two distinct characters of government: the one the civil government, or the government of laws, which operates at home, the other the court or cabinet government, which operates abroad, on the rude plan of uncivilized life. The one attended with little expense, the other with boundless extravagance; and so distinct are the two, that if the latter were to sink, as it were, by a sudden opening of the earth, and totally disappear, the former would not be deranged. It would still proceed, because it is the common interest of the nation that it should, and all the means are in practice.
32 When it shall be said in any country in the world, my poor are happy, neither ignorance nor distress is to be found among them; my jails are empty of prisoners, my streets of beggars; the aged are not in want, the taxes are not oppressive; the rational world is my friend, because I am the friend of its happiness: when these things can be said, then may that country boast its constitution and its government.
33 Before I proceed to the means of rendering governments more conducive to the general happiness of mankind, than they are at present, it will not be improper to take a review of the progress of taxation in England. . .
Since the year 1788, upwards of one million new taxes have been laid on, besides the income from the lotteries; and as the taxes have in general been more productive since than before, the amount may be taken, in round numbers, at £17,000,000. . . This sum of seventeen millions is applied to two different purposes; the one to pay the interest of the National Debt, the other to the current expenses of each year. About nine millions are appropriated to the former; and the remainder, being nearly eight millions, to the latter. . .
Taking it for granted that an alliance may be formed between England, France, and America for the purposes to be mentioned later, the national expenses of France and England may consequently be lessened. . .the national expenses might be put back, for the sake of a precedent, to what they were at some period when France and England were not enemies. . . from the approaching harmony and reciprocal interest of the two nations, the abolition of the court intrigue on both sides, and the progress of knowledge in the science of government, the annual expenditure might be put back to one million and a half. . . there will remain a surplus of upwards of six millions out of the present current expenses.
34 The question then will be, how to dispose of this surplus.
In the first place, then, the poor-rates are a direct tax which every house-keeper feels, and who knows also, to a farthing, the sum which he pays. The national amount of the whole of the poor-rates is not positively known, but can be procured. Sir John Sinclair, in his History of the Revenue has stated it at £2,100,587. A considerable part of which is expended in litigations, in which the poor, instead of being relieved, are tormented. . .
The first step, therefore, of practical relief, would be to abolish the poor-rates entirely, and in lieu thereof, to make a remission of taxes to the poor of double the amount of the present poor-rates, viz., four millions annually out of the surplus taxes. By this measure, the poor would be benefited two millions, and the house-keepers two millions. This alone would be equal to a reduction of one hundred and twenty millions of the National Debt, and consequently equal to the whole expense of the American War.
35 It will then remain to be considered, which is the most effectual mode of distributing this remission of four millions.
It is easily seen, that the poor are generally composed of large families of children, and old people past their labor. If these two classes are provided for, the remedy will so far reach to the full extent of the case that what remains will be incidental, and in a great measure fall within the compass of benefit clubs, which, though of humble invention, merit to be ranked among the best of modern institutions.
36 Admitting England to contain seven millions of souls; if one-fifth thereof are of that class of poor which need support, the number will be one million four hundred thousand. . . It is certain, that if the children are provided for, the parents are relieved of consequence, because it is from the expense of bringing up children that their poverty arises.
37 I proceed to the plan for relief or distribution, which is,
To pay as a remission of taxes to every poor family, out of the surplus taxes, and in place of poor-rates, four pounds a year for every child under fourteen years of age; enjoining the parents of such children to send them to school, to learn reading, writing, and common arithmetic. . .
To pay to every such person of the age of fifty years, and until he shall arrive at the age of sixty, the sum of six pounds per annum out of the surplus taxes, and ten pounds per annum during life after the age of sixty. . .
This support, as already remarked, is not of the nature of a charity but of a right. . .
Is it, then, better that the lives of one hundred and forty thousand aged persons be rendered comfortable, or that a million a year of public money be expended on any one individual, and him often of the most worthless or insignificant character?
38 After all the above cases are provided for there will still be a number of families who, though not properly of the class of poor, yet find it difficult to give education to their children. Such children, in this case case, would be in a worse condition than if their parents were actually poor. A nation under a well-regulated government should permit none to remain uninstructed. It is monarchical and aristocratical government only that requires ignorance for its support.
Suppose, then, four hundred thousand children to be in this condition, which is a greater number than ought to be supposed after the provisions already made, the method will be:
To allow for each of those children ten shillings a year for the expense of schooling for six years each, which will give them six months schooling each year, and half a crown a year for paper and spelling books.
39 Notwithstanding the great modes of relief which the best instituted and best principled government may devise, there will be a number of smaller cases that it is good policy as well as beneficence in a nation to consider.
Were twenty shillings to be given immediately on the birth of a child, to every woman who should make the demand, and none will make it whose circumstances do not require it, it might relieve a great deal of instant distress. . .
Also twenty thousand pounds to be appropriated to defray the funeral expenses of persons, who, traveling for work, may die at a distance from their friends. By relieving parishes from this charge, the sick stranger will be better treated.
40 There is no such thing in the countryside as persons, in the literal sense of the word, starved to death, or dying with cold from the want of a lodging. Yet such cases, and others equally as miserable, happen in London. . .
[My proposal] will then be: First, to erect two or more buildings, or take some already erected, capable of containing at least six thousand persons, and to have in each of these places as many kinds of employment as can be contrived, so that every person who shall come may find something which he or she can do.
Secondly, to receive all who shall come, without enquiring who or what they are. The only condition to be, that for so much, or so many hours' work, each person shall receive so many meals of wholesome food, and a warm lodging, at least as good as a barrack.
41 By the operation of this plan, the poor laws, those instruments of civil torture, will be superseded, and the wasteful expense of litigation prevented. The hearts of the humane will not be shocked by ragged and hungry children, and persons of seventy and eighty years of age, begging for bread. The dying poor will not be dragged from place to place to breathe their last, as a reprisal of parish upon parish. Widows will have a maintenance for their children, and not be carted away on the death of their husbands, like culprits and criminals. And children will no longer be considered as increasing the distresses of their parents. The haunts of the wretched will be known, because it will be to their advantage; and the number of petty crimes, the offspring of distress and poverty, will be lessened. The poor, as well as the rich, will then be interested in the support of government, and the cause and apprehension of riots and tumults will cease. . .
42 Will any man say, in the present excess of taxation, falling so heavily on the poor, that a remission of five pounds annually of taxes to one hundred and four thousand poor families is not a good thing? Will he say that a remission of seven pounds annually to one hundred thousand other poor families, of eight pounds annually to another hundred thousand poor families, and of ten pounds annually to fifty thousand poor and widowed families, are not good things? And, to proceed a step further in this climax, will he say that to provide against the misfortunes to which all human life is subject, by securing six pounds annually for all poor, distressed, and reduced persons of the age of fifty and until sixty, and of ten pounds annually after sixty, is not a good thing?
43 As to religion, I hold it to be the indispensable duty of all government, to protect all conscientious professors thereof, and I know of no other business which government has to do therewith.
44 With respect to what are called religious denominations, if every one judges only his own religion, there is no such thing as a religion that is wrong; but if they are to judge of each other's religion, there is no such thing as a religion that is right. Therefore all the world is right, or all the world is wrong.
45 All religions are in their nature kind and benign, and united with principles of morality. They could not have made proselytes at first by professing anything that was vicious, cruel, persecuting, or immoral. Like everything else, they had their beginning; and they proceeded by persuasion, exhortation, and example. How then is it that they lose their native mildness, and become morose and intolerant?
It proceeds . . . by engendering the church with the state. A sort of mule-animal, capable only of destroying and not of breeding is produced, called the Church established by Law. It is a stranger, even from its birth, to any parent mother on whom it is begotten, and whom in time it kicks out and destroys.
The inquisition in Spain does not proceed from the religion originally professed, but from this mule-animal, engendered between the church and the state. The burnings [of heretics] in Smithfield proceeded from the same heterogeneous production; and it was the regeneration of this strange animal in England afterwards that renewed rancor and irreligion among the inhabitants, and that drove the people called Quakers and Dissenters to America. Persecution is not an original feature in any religion; but it is always the strongly-marked feature of all law-religions, or religions established by law.
Adapted from Common Sense, by Thomas Paine, 1776, Providence, Philadelphia. Contained in Common Sense and other Political Writings, edited by Nelson F. Adkins. Liberal Arts Press, New York, 1953.
Common Sense is available on-line at From Revolution to Reconstruction at the Alfa-informatica Department of the University of Groningen, Netherlands.
Adapted from The Rights of Man, by Thomas Paine, 1791. In The Rights of Man by Thomas Paine, edited by M. D. Conway. G. P. Putnamís Sons, New York, 1894.
Rights of Man is available on-line at From Revolution to Reconstruction at the Alfa-informatica Department of the University of Groningen, Netherlands.
Selections from Paine's writings are contained in Common Sense, Rights of Man, and other Essential Writings of Thomas Paine, with an Introduction by Sidney Hook. Signet Classic, New York, 2003.
For text of the French National Assembly's Declaration of the Rights of Man (1789), click here.
Authors born between 1700 and 1800 CE
Introduction and adaptation copyright © Rex Pay 2005