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itself. M. Neckar, and the Ministry were displaced, and a
new one formed, of the enemies of the revolution ; and
Broglio, with between twenty-five and thirty thousand foreign
troops, was arrived to support them.

T-he mask was now thrown off, and matters were come
to a crisis. '! he event was, that in the space of three days,
the new ministry and their abettors found it prudent to fly


the Nation: the Bastille was taken, and Broglio, and his
foreign troops dispersed, as is already related in the former
part of this work.

There are some curious circumstances in the history of
this short-lived administration, and this short-lived attempt
at a counter-revolution.

The palace of Versailles, where the Court was sitting,
was not more than four hundred yards distant from the hall
where the National Assembly was sitting. The two places
were at this moment like the separate head quarters of two
combatant armies; yet the Court was as perfectly ignorant
of the information which had arrived from Paris to the Na-
tional Assembly, as if it had resided at an hundred miles

The then Marquis de la Fayette, who (as has been already
mentioned) was chosen to preside in the National Assembly,
on this particular occasion, named, by order of the Assem-
bly, three successive deputations to the King, on the day,
and up to the evening when the Bastille was taken, to in-
form and confer with him on the state of affairs; but the
Ministry, who knew not so much as that it was attacked,
precluded all communication, and were solacing themselves
how dexterously they had succeeded; but in a few hours
the accounts arrived so thick and fast, that they had to start
from their desks and run. Some set off in one disguise, and
some in another; and none in their own character. Their
anxiety now was to outride the news, lest they should be
stopt, which, though it flew fast, flew not so fast as them-

It is worth remarking, that the National Assembly
neither pursued these fugitive conspirators, nor took any
notice of them, nor sought to retaliate in any shape what-

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 National Assembly felt none of those mean
passions which mark the character of impertinent Govern-
ments, 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.

The conspiracy being thus dispersed, one of the first
works of the National Assembly, instead of vindictive
proclamations, as has been the case with other Governments*

PART I.] RI6HT* Of MAN. 79

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.




THE Representatives of the People of France, formed
into a National Assembly, considering that ignorance,
neglect, or contempt of human rights, are the sole causes
of public misfortunes, and corruptions of Government,
have resolved to set forth, in a solemn declaration, these
natural imprescriptible, and inalienable rights: that this
declaration being constantly present to the minds of the
members of the body social, they may be ever kept atten-
tive to their rights and to their duties; that the acts of the
legislative and executive powers of Government, being
capable of being every moment compared with the end of
political institutions, may be the more respected : and also,
that the future claims of the citizens, being directed by
simple and incontestible principles, may always tend to the
maintenance of the Constitution and the general happiness.

For these reasons the National Assembly doth recognize
and declare, in the presence of the Supreme Being, and with
the hope of his blessing and favour, the following SACRED
Rights of Men and Citizens.

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 preserva^
tion of the Natural 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, nor any body of men, be entitled to
any authority which is not expressly derived from it.

IV. Political Liberty consists in the power of doing what-
ever does not injure another. The exercise of the Natural
Rights of every man, has no other limits than those which
are.necessary to secure .to every other man the free exercise


of the same rights; and these limits are determinable only
by the law.

V. The law ought to prohibit only actions hurtful to
society. What is not prohibited by the law should not be
hindered ; nor should any man be compelled to do that which
the law does not require.

VI. The law is an expression of the will of the commu-
nity. All citizens have a right to concur, either personally,
or by their representatives in its formation. It should be
the same to all, whether it protects or punishes ; and all,
being equal in its sight, are equally eligible to all honours,
places, and employments, according to their different abili-
ties, without any other distinction than that created by their
virtues and talents.

VII. No man should be accused, arrested, or held in
confinement, except in cases determined by the law, and
according to the forms which it has prescribed. All who
promote, solicit, or execute, or cause to be executed, arbi-
trary orders, ought to be punished ; and every citizen called
upon, or apprehended by virtue of the law, ought im-
mediately to obey, and renders himself culpable by a re-

VIII. The law ought to impose no other penalties, but
such as are absolutely and evidently necessary ; and no one
ought to be punished but in virtue of a law promulgated
before the offence and legally applied.

IX. Every man being presumed innocent, till he has been
convicted, whenever his detention becomes indispensible, all
rigour to him, more than necessary tor secure his person,
ought to be provided against by the law.

X. No man ought to be molested on account of his
opinions, not even on account of his religious opinions, pro-
vided his avowal of them does not disturb the public order
established by the laws.

XI. The unrestrained communication* of his thoughts
and opinions, being one of the most precious Rights of
Man, every citizen may speak, write, and publish freely,
provided he is responsible for the abuse of this liberty in
cases determined by the law.

XII. A public force being necessary, to give security to
the Rights of Men and of citizens, that force is instituted for
the benefit of the community, and not for the particular
benefit of the persons with whom it is entrusted.

XIII. A common contribution being necessary for the
support of the public force, and for defraying the other


expences of Government, it ought to be divided equally
among the members of the community, according to their

XIV. Every citizen has a right, either by himself, or by
his representatives, to a free voice in determining the neces-
sity of public contributions, the appropriation of them, and
their amount, mode of assessment, and duration.

XV. Every community has a right to demand of its
agents an account of their conduct.

XVI. Every community, in which a separation of powers,
and a security of rights is not provided for, wants a Consti-

XVII. The right of property being inviolable and sacred,
no one ought to be deprived of it, except in cases of evident
public necessity, legally ascertained, and on conditions of a
previous just indemnity.


THE three first articles comprehend in general terms, the
whole of a Declaration of Rights. All the succeeding arti-
cles either originate from them, or follow as elucidations.
The 4th, 5th, and 6th, define more particularly what is only
generally expressed in the 1st, 2d, and 3d.

The 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, and llth articles, are declaratory
of principles, upon which laws shall be constructed, conform-
able to the rights already declared.

But it is questioned by some very good people in France,
as well as in other countries, whether the 10th article
sufficiently guarantees the right it is intended to accord
with. Besides which, it takes off from the divine dignity
of religion, and weakens its operative force upon the mind,
to make it a subject of human laws. It then presents itself
to man, like light intercepted by a cloudy medium, in which
the source of it is obscured from his sight, and he sees nothing
to reverence in the dusky ray.^

* There is a single idea, which, if it strikes rightly upon the
mind, either in a legal or a religious sense, will prevent any man,
or any body of men, or any Government, from going wrong on
the subject of religion ; which is, that before any human institu-
tion of Government was known in the world, there existed, if I



The remaining articles, beginning with the twelfth, are
substantially contained in the principles of the preceding ar-
ticles ; 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
what in another condition of things would be necessary.

While the Declaration of .Rights was before the National
Assembly, some of its Members remarked, that if a Declara-
tion of Rights was published, it should be accompanied by
a Declaration of Duties.

That observation discovered a mind that reflected, and it
only erred by not reflecting far enough. A Declaration of
Right 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 pos-

The three first articles are the basis of Liberty, as well
individual as National: nor can any country be called free
whose Government does not take its beginning from the prin-
ciples they contain, and continue to preserve them pure :
and the whole Declaration of Rights is of more value to the
world, and will do more good, than all the laws and statutes
that have yet been promulgated.

In the declaratory exordium which prefaces the Declara-
tion of Rights, we see the solemn and majestic spectacle of
a Nation opening its commission under the auspices of its
Creator, to establish a Government ; a scene so new, and so
transcendantly unequalled by any thing in the European
world, that the name of a revolution is diminutive of its
character, and it rises into a REGENERATION OF

may so express it, a compact between God and Man, from the
beginning of time; and, as that relation and condition which
man in his individual person stands in towards his Maker cannot
be changed or any ways altered, by any human laws, or any
human authority, that religious devotion, which is a part of this
compact, cannot so much as be made a subject of human laws,
and that all laws must conform themselves to this prior existing
compact, and not assume to make the compact conform to the laws,
which, besides being human, are subsequent thereto. The first
act of man, when he looked around and saw himself a creature
which he did not make, and a world furnished for his reception,
must have been devotion ; and devotion must ever continue
sacred to every individual man, as it appears right to him, and
Governments do mischief by interfering.


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 the common traffic,
at the expence 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 and some others had been silent. Their cry
now is, " It is 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 a wounded

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 his own.

Having now traced the progress of the French Revolution,
through most of its principal stages, from its commence-
ment to the taking of the Bastille, and its establishment by
the Declaration of Rights, I will close the subject with the
energetic apostrophe of M. de la Fayette.



To prevent interrupting the argument in the preceding
part of this work, or the narrative that follows it, I reserved
some observations to be thrown together into a miscella-
neous chapter ; by which variety might not be censured for

Mr. Burke's book is all miscellany, His intention was to
make an attack on the French Revolution ; but instead of

* See Page 20 of this work. Since the taking of the Bastille,
the occurrences have been published; but the matters recorded in
this narrative are prior to that period, and some of them, as may
be easily seen? can be but very little known.


proceeding with an orderly arrangement, he has stormed it
with a mob of ideas tumbling over and destroying one

, But this confusion and contradiction in Mr. Burke's
book is easily accounted for. When a man in a long cause
attempts to 'steer his course by any thing else than some
polar truth or principle, he is sure to be lost. It is beyond
the compass of his capacity to keep all the parts of an
argument together, and make them unite in one issue, by
any other means than having this guide always in view.
Neither memory nor invention will supply the want of it.
The former fails him, and the latter betrays him.

Notwithstanding the nonsense, for it deserves no better
name, that Mr. Burke has asserted about hereditary rights,
and hereditary succession, and that a Nation has not a right
.to choose a Government for itself, it happened to fall in his
.way to give some account of what Government is.

Government, says he, is a contrivance of human wisdom.

Admitting that Government is a contrivance of human
wisdom, it must necessarily follow,, that hereditary succes-
sion, and hereditary rights, can make no part of it, because
it is impossible to make the wisdom hereditary ; and on the
other hand, that cannot be a wise contrivance, which in its
operation may commit the Government of the Nation to
the wisdom of an idiot.

The ground which Mr. Burke now takes, is fatal to every
part of his cause. The argument changes from hereditary
right to hereditary wisdom ; and the question is, Who is
the wisest 'man ?

He must shew that every one in the line of hereditary
succession was a Solomon, or his title is not good to be a

What a stroke has Mr. Burke now made. To use a
sailor's phrase, he has swabbed the deck, and scarcely left
a name legible in the list of Kings ; and he has mowed
down the House of Peers, with a scythe as formidable as
death and time.

But Mr. Burke appears to have been aware of this retort ;
and he has taken care to guard against it, by making Go-
vernment not only to be a contrivance of human wisdom,
but a monopoly of wisdom.

He puts the Nation, as fools, on the one side; and places
his Government of wisdom, all wise men of Gotham, on the
other side; and he then proclaims, and says, that " Men
have a RIGHT that their WANTS should be provided for by


this wisdom." Having thus made proclamation, he next
proceeds to explain to them what their wants are, arid also
what their rights are.

In this he has succeeded dexterously, for he makes their
wants to be a want of wisdom ; but as this is but cold
comfort, he then informs them, that they have a RIGHT,
not to any of the wisdom, but to be governed by it; and iu
order to impress them with a solemn reverence for this
monopoly-Government of wisdom, and of its vast capacity
for all purposes, possible or impossible, right or wrong, he
proceeds with astrological mysterious importance, to tell
them its powers in these words :

" The rights of men, in Governments, are their advan-
tages ; and these are often in balances between differences
of good ; and in compromises sometimes between good and
evil; and sometimes between evil and evil. Political reason
is a computing principle ; adding subtracting- multiply-
ing and. dividing, morally, and not metaphysically or ma-
thematically, true moral demonstrations."

As the wondering audience, whom Mr. Burke supposes
himself talking to, may not understand all this learned
jargon, I will undertake to be its interpreter.

The meaning then, good people, of all this, is, that Go-
vernment is governed by no principle whatever: that it can
make evil good, or good evil, just as it pleases. In short,
that Government is arbitrary power.

But there are some things which Mr. Burke has for-

FIRST, He has not shewn where the wisdom came from ;

SECONDLY, He has not shewn by what authority it first
began to act.

In the manner he introduces the matter, it is either Go-
vernment stealing wisdom, or wisdom stealing Government.
It is without an origin, and its powers without authority.
In short, it is usurpation.

Whether it be from a sense of shame, or from a con-
sciousness of some radical defect in a Government neces-
sary to be kept out of sight ; or from both, or from any
other cause, I undertake not to determine ; but so it is, that
a monarchical reasoner never traces Government to its source,
or from its source ; it is one of the Shibboleths by which
he may be known. A thousand years hence, those who
shall live in America, or in France, will look back with
contemplative pride on the origin of their Governments,


and say, " This was the work of our glorious ancestors ! "
But what can a monarchical talker say ? What has he to
exult in? Alas, he has nothing! A certain something
forbids him to look back to a beginning, lest some robber,
or some Robin Hood, should rise from the long obscurity of
time, and say, / am the origin. Hard as Mr. Burke la-
boured the Regency Bill, and hereditary succession two
years ago, and much as he dived for precedents, he still had
not boldness enough to bring up William of Normandy, and
say, There is the head of the list! there is the fountain of
honour ! the son of a prostitute, and the plunderer of the
English Nation !

The opinions of men with respect to Governments are
changing very 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 expence of
Governments have provoked people to think, by making
them feel ; and when once the veil begins to rend, it admits
not of repair. Ignorance is of a peculiar nature; once
dispelled, it is impossible to re-establish it. It is not origi-
nally a thing of itself, but is only the absence of knowledge;
and though man may be kept ignorant, he cannot be made

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.

Those who talk of a counter-revolution in France, shew
how little they understand of man. There does not exist
in the compass of language, an arrangement of words to
express so much as the means of effecting a counter-revolu-
tion. The means must be an obliteration of knowledge;
and it has never yet been discovered, how to make a man
unknow his knowledge, or unthink his thoughts.

Mr. Burke is labouring in vain to stop the progress of
knowledge; and it comes with the worse grace from him,
as there is a certain transaction known in the city, which
renders him suspected of being a pensioner in a fictitious
name. This may account for some strange doctrine he has
advanced in his book, which, though he points it at the
Revolution Society, is effectually directed against the whole

" The King of England," says he, " holds his Crown (for
it does not belong to the Nation, according to Mr. Burke)
in contempt of the choice of the Revolution. Society, who


have Dot a single vote for a King among them either indi-
vidually or collectively ; and his Majesty's heirs, each in
their time and order, will come to the crown with the same
contempt of their choice, with which his Majesty has suc-
ceeded to that which he now wears."

As to who is King in England or elsewhere, or whether
there is any King at all, or whether the people choose a
Cherokee Chief, or a Hessian Hussar for a King, it is not a
matter that I trouble myself about be that to themselves;
but with respect to the doctrine, so far as it relates to the
Rights of Men and Nations, it is as abominable as any
thing ever uttered in the most enslaved country under
Heaven. Whether it sounds worse to my ear, by not being
accustomed to hear such despotism, than what it does to the
ear of another person, I am not so well a judge of; but of
its abominable principle I am at no loss to judge.

It is not the Revolution Society that Mr. Burke means ;
it is the Nation, as well in its original as in its representa-
tive character; and he has taken care to make himself
understood, by saying that they have not a vote either
collectively or individually. The Revolution Society is
composed of citizens of all denominations, and of Mem-
bers of both the Houses of Parliament; and, consequently, if
there be not a right to vote in any of the characters, there
can be no right to any, either in the Nation, or in its Par-
liament. This ought to be a caution to every country, how
it imports foreign families to be Kings. It is somewhat
curious to observe, that although the people of England
have been in the habit of talking about Kings, it is always
a foreign House of Kings ; hating Foreigners, yet governed
by them. It is now the House of Brunswick, one of the
petty tribes of Germany.

It has hitherto been the practice of the English Parlia-
ments, to regulate what was called the succession, taking
it for granted, that the Nation then continued to accord to
the form of annexing a monarchical branch to its Govern-
ment ; for without this, the Parliament could not have had
the authority to have sent either to Holland or to Hanover,
or to impose a King upon the Nation against its will. And
this must be the utmost limit to which Parliament can go
upon the case ; but the right of the Nation goes to the
whole case, because it has the right of changing its whole
form of Government. The right of a Parliament is only a
right in trust, a right by delegation, and that but from a
very small part of the Nation ; and one of its Houses hits


not even this. But the right of the Nation is an original
right, as universal as taxation. The Nation is the pay-
master of every thing, and every thing must conform to its
general will.

I remember taking notice of a speech in what is called
the English House of Peers, by the then Earl of Shelburne,
and I think it was at the time he was Minister, which is
applicable to this case. I do not directly charge my memory
with every particular, but the words and the purport, as
nearly as I remember, were these: That the form of a
Government was a matter wholly at the will of a Nation, at
all times : that if it chose a monarchical form, it had a right
to have it so ; and if it afterwards chose to be a Republic,
it had a right to be a Republic, and to say to a King, " We
have no longer any occasion for you."

When Mr. Burke says, that " His Majesty's heirs and

Online LibraryThomas PaineThe political and miscellaneous works of Thomas Paine .. (Volume 1) → online text (page 51 of 65)