Copyright
Thomas Paine.

The political and miscellaneous works of Thomas Paine .. (Volume 1) online

. (page 53 of 65)
Online LibraryThomas PaineThe political and miscellaneous works of Thomas Paine .. (Volume 1) → online text (page 53 of 65)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


itself to the ear of the Nation. Formerly, it was the M/U-
versal supremacy of Parliament the omnipotence of Par-
liament ; but since the progress of liberty in France those
phrases have a despotic harshness in their note ; and the
English Parliament have catched the fashion from the Na-
tional Assembly, but without the substance, of speaking of
the Constitution.

As the present generation of the people in England did
not make the Government, they are not accountable for any
of its defects ; but that, sooner or later, it must come into
their hands to undergo a Constitutional reformation, is as
certain as that the same thing has happened in France.

If France, with a revenue of nearly twenty-four millions
sterling ; with an extent of rich and fertile country, above
four times larger than England ; with a population of twenty-
four millions of inhabitants to support taxation ; with up*
wards of ninety millions sterling of gold and silver circulating
in the Nation, and with a debt less than tha present debt of
England still found necessary, from whatever cause,, to
come to a settlement of its affairs, it solves the problem of
funding for both countries.

It is out of the question to say, how long what is called
the English Constitution has las-ted, and to argue from
thence, how long it is to last. The question is, how long can
the funding system last ? It is a thing of but modern
invention, and has not yet continued beyond tlie life of a
man : yet in that short space, it has so far accumulated, that
together with the current expencea, it requires an amount of
taxes, equal to the whale rental pf the Nation in acres* to



I.] RIGHTS OF MAN. W

defray the animal expenditure. That a Government could
not always have gone on, by the same system that has been
followed for the last seventy years, must be evident to
every man ; and for the same reason it cannot always go
on.

The funding system is not money; neither is it, properly
speaking, credit. It in effect, creates upon paper the sum
which it appears to borrow, and lays on a tax to keep the
imaginary capital alive by the payment of interest, and
sends the annuity to market to be sold for paper already in
circulation.

If any credit is given, it is to the disposition of the people
to pay the tax, and not to the Government which lays it on.
When this disposition expires, what is supposed to be the
credit of Government expires with it. The instance of
France under the former Government, shews that it is
impossible to compel the payment of taxes by force, when
a whole Nation is determined to take its stand upon that
ground.

Mr. Burke, in bis review of the finances of France, states
the quantity of gold and silver in France, at about eighty-
eight millions sterling.

In doing this, he has, I presume, divided by the difference
of exchange, instead of the standard of twenty four livre*
to a pound sterling; for M. Neckar's statement, from which
Mr. Burke'iSis taken, is two thousand two hundred millions
of livres, which is upwards of ninety-one millions and an
half sterling.

M. Neckar in France, and Mr. George Chalmers, of the
office of trade and plantation in England, of which Lord
Hawkesbury is president, published nearly about the same
time (1786) an account of the quantity of money in each
Nation, from the returns of the Mint of each Nation.

Mr. Chalmers, from the returns of the English Mint at
the Tower of London, states the quantity of money in Eng-
land, including Scotland and Ireland, to be twenty millions
sterling.

M. Neckar says, that the amount of money in France, re-
coined from the old coin which was called in, was two thou-
sand five hundred millions of livres, upwards of one hundred
and four millions sterling; and, after deducting for waste,
and what may be in the West Indies, and other possible cir-
cumstances, states the circulating quantity at home, to be
ninety-one millions and an half sterling: but taking it as Mr.

G 2



100 RIGHTS OF MAN. [PART I.

Burke has put it, it is sixty-eight millions more than the
National quantity in England.

That the quantity of money in France cannot be under
this sum, may at once be seen from the state of the French
revenue, without referring to the records of the French Mint
for proofs. The revenue of France, prior to the Revolution,
was nearly twenty-four millions sterling ; and as paper had
then no existence in France, the whole revenue was collect-
ed upon gold and silver ; and it would have been impossible
to have collected such a quantity of revenue, upon a less
national quantity than M. Neckar has stated.

Before the establishment of paper in England, the reve-
nue was about a fourth part of the national amount of gold
and silver, as may be known by referring to the revenue prior
to King William ; and the quantity of money stated to be
in the Nation at that time, which was nearly as much as it
is now.

It can be of no real service to a Nation to impose upon
itself, or permit itself to be imposed upon ; but the preju-
dices of some, and the imposition of others, have always re-
presented France as a Nation possessing but little money,
whereas the quantity is not only more than four times
what the quantity is in England, but is considerably greater
on a proportion of numbers.

To account for this deficiency on the part of England,
some reference should be had to the English system of fund-
ing. It operates to multiply paper, and to substitute it in
the room of money, in various shapes; and the more paper
is multiplied, the more opportunities are afforded to export
the specie; and it admits of a possibility, by extending it to
small notes, of increasing paper till there is no money left.

I know this is not a pleasant subject to English readers:
but the matters I am going to mention, are so important in
themselves as to require the attention of men interested in
money transactions of a public nature.

There is a circumstance stated by M. Neckar, in his trea-
tise on the administration of the finances, which has never
been attended to in England; but which forms the only ba-
sis whereon to estimate the quantity of money, (gold and
silver) which ought to be in every Nation in Europe, to pre-
serve a relative proportion with other Nations.

Lisbon and Cadiz are the two ports into which (money)
gold and silver from South America are imported, and which
afterwards divides and spreads itself over Europe by means



PART !.] RIGHTS OF MAN. 101

of commerce, and increases the quantity of money in all
parts of Europe.

If, therefore, the amount of the annual importation into
Europe can be known, and the relative proportion of the
commerce of the several Nations by which it is distributed
can be ascertained, they give a rule sufficiently true, to as-
certain the quantity of money which ought to be found in
any Nation at any given time.

M. Neckar shews, i'rom the registers of Lisbon and Cadiz,
that the importation of gold and silver into Europe is five
millions sterling annually. He has not taken it on a single
year, but on an average of fifteen succeeding years, from
1763 to 1777, both inclusive; in which time, the amount
was one thousand eight hundred million livres, which is
seventy-five millions sterling.

From the commencement of the Hanover succession in
1714, to the time Mr. Chalmers published, is seventy two
years; and the quantity imported into Europe, in that time,
would be three hundred and sixty millions sterling.

If the foreign commerce of Great Britain be stated at a
sixth part of what the whole foreign commerce of Europe
amounts to, (which is probably an inferior estimation to
what the gentlemen at the Exchange would allow) the pro-
portion which Britain should draw by commerce of this sum,
to keep herself on a proportion with the rest of Europe,
would be also a sixth part, which is sixty millions sterling ;
and if the same allowance for waste and accident be made
for England, which M. Neckar makes for France, the quan-
tity remaining after these deductions would be fifty-two
millions ; and this sum ought to have been in the Nation
(at the time Mr. Chalmers published) in addition to the
sum which was in the Nation at the commencement of the
Hanover succession, and to have made in the whole, at least,
sixty-six millions sterling; instead of which there were but
twenty millions, which is forty-six millions below its pro-
portionate quantity.

As the quantity of gold and silver imported into Lisbon and
Cadiz is more exactly ascertained than that of any other com-
modity imported into England ; and as the quantity of money
coined in the Tower of London is still more positively
known, the leading facts do not admit of controversy.
Either, therefore, the commerce of England is unproductive
of profit; or, the gold and silver which it brings in, leak
continually away by unseen means, at the average rate of
about three-quarters of a million a year ; which, in the



10$ RIGHTS OF MAN. [PART 1,

Course of seventy-two years, accounts for the deficiency,
and its absence is supplied with paper.*

* Whether the English commerce does not bring in money,
or whether the Government sends it out after it is brought in, is a
matter which the parties concerned can best explain ; but that the
deficiency exists is not in the power of either to disprove. While
Dr. Price, iMr. Eden, (now Auckland) Mr. Chalmers, and others,
were debating whether the quantity of money in England was greater
or less than at the Revolution, the circumstance was not adverted
to, that since the Revolution, there cannot have been less than four
hundred millions sterling imported into Europe; and, therefore,
the quantity in England ought at least to have beet* four times
greater than it was at the Revolution, to be on a proportion with
the rest of Europe. What England is now doing by paper, is what
she would have been able to have done by solid money, if gold and
silver had come into the Nation in the proportion it ought, or had
not been sent out ; and she is endeavouring to restore by paper
the balance she has lost by money. It is certain, that the gold and
silver which arrive annually in the register-ships to Spain and Por-
tugal do not remain in those countries. Taking the value half in
gold, and half in silver, it is about four hundred tons annually ;
and from the number of ships and galloons employed in the trade of
bringing those metals from South America to Portugal and Spain,
the quantity sufficiently proves itself, without referring to the re-
gisters. In the situation England now is, it is impossible she can
increase in money. High taxes not only lessen the property of the
individuals, but they lessen also the money capital of a Nation, by
inducing smuggling, which can only be carried on by gold and
silver. By the politics which the British Government have carried
on with the inland powers of Germany and the Continent, it has
made an enemy of all the maritime powers, and is therefore obliged
to keep up a large navy; but though the navy is built in England,
the naval stores must be purchased from abroad, and that from
countries where the greatest part must be paid for in gold and sil-
ver. Some fallacious rumours have been set afloat in England, to
induce a belief of money ; and-,- among others, that of the French
refugees bringing great quantities. The idea is ridiculous. Tin;
general part of the money in France is silver ; and it would take
upwards of twenty of the largest broad wheel waggons, with ten
horses each, to remove one million sterling in silver. Is it then
: to be supposed, that a few people, fleeing on horseback, or
in post-chaises, in a secret manner, and having the French Custom-
House to pass, and the sea to cross, could bring evea a sufficiency
for their own expences ? When millions of money are spoken
of, it should be recollected, that such sums can only accumulate in
a country bv slow deurees, and a long procession of time. The
frugal* system thai-England could now adfljH, weuld not r-



PART L] RIGHTS OF MAN. JOS

The Revolution of France is attended with many novel
circumstances, not only in the political sphere, but in the
circle of money transactions.

Among others, it shews, that a Government may he in a
state of insolvency, and a Nation rich. So far as the fact is
confined to the late Government of France, it was insolvent;
because the Nation would no longer support its extravagance ;
and, therefore, it could no longer support itself but with
respect to the Nation, all the means existed.

A Government may be said to be insolvent, every time it
applies to a Nation to discharge its arrears. The insolvency
of the late Government of France, and the present Govern-
ment of England, differed in no other respect than as the
dispositions of the people differ. The people of France
refused their aid to the old Government ; and the people of
England submit to taxation without enquiry.

What is called the crown in England, has been insolvent
several times ; the last of which, publicly known, was in
May, 1777, when it applied to the Nation to discharge up-
wards of 600,000 private debts, which otherwise it could
not pay.

It was the error of Mr. Pitt, Mr. Burke, and all those un-
acquainted with the affairs of France, to confound the
French Nation with the French Government.

The French Nation, in effect, endeavoured to render the
late Government insolvent, for the purpose of taking Go*
vernment into its own hands ; and it reserved its means for
the support of the new Government. In a country of such
vast extent, and population as France, the natural means
cannot be wanting ; and the political means appear the
instant the Nation is disposed to permit them. When Mr.
Burke, in a speech last winter in the British Parliament,
cast his eyes over the map of Europe, and saw a chasm
that once was France, he talked like a dreamer of dreams.
The same natural France existed as before, and all the
natural means existed with it. The only chasm was that
which the extinction of despotism had left ; and which



cover, in a century, the balance she has lost in money since the
commencement of the Hanover Succession. She is seventy mil-
lions behind France, and she must be in some considerable propor-
tion behind every country in Europe, because the returns of thfe
English Mint do not shew an increase of money, while the registers
of Lisbon and Cadiz shew an European increase of between three
and four hundred millions sterling:.



104 RIGHTS OP MAN. [PART I.

was to be filled up with a Constitution more formidable in
resources, than the power which had expired.

Although the French Nation rendered the late Govern-
ment insolvent, it did not permit the insolvency to act
towards the creditors; and the creditors considering the
Nation as the real paymaster, and the Government only as
the agent, rested themselves on the Nation, in preference to
the Government.

This appears greatly to disturb Mr. Burke, as the pre-
cedent is fatal to the policy by which Governments have
supposed themselves secure. They have contracted debts,
with a view of attaching what is called the monied interest
of a Nation to their support ; but the example in France
shews, that the permanent security of the creditor is in the
Nation, and not in the Government ; and that in all possible
Revolutions that may happen in Governments, the means
are always with the Natiou, and the Nation always in
existence.

Mr. Burke argues, that the creditors ought to have abided
the fate of the Government which they trusted ; but the
National Assembly considered them as the creditors of the
Nation, and not of the Government of the master, and
not of the steward.

Notwithstanding the late Government could not discharge
the current expences, the. present Government has paid off
a great part of the capital. This has been accomplished by
two means ; the one by lessening the expences of Govern-
ment, and the other by the sale of the monastic and eccle-
siastical landed estates.

The devotees, and penitent debauchees, extortioners and
misers of former days, to ensure themselves a better world
than that which they were about to leave, had bequeathed
immense property in trust to the priesthood for pious uses, and
the priesthood kept it for themselves. The National Assembly
has ordered it to be sold, for the good of the whole Nation,
and the priesthood to be decently provided for.

In consequence of the Revolution, the annual interest of
the debt of France will be reduced at least six millions
sterling, by paying off upwards of one hundred millions of
the capital : which, with lessening the former expences of
Government at least three millions, will place France in a
situation worthy the imitation of Europe.

Upon a whole review of the subject, how vast is the
contrast ! While Mr. Burke has been talking of a general
bankruptcy in Frnnce, the National Assembly has been



PART I.] BIGHTS OF MAN. 105

paying off the capital of its debt ; and while taxes have
increased near a million a year in England, they have
lowered several millions a year in France.

Not a word has either Mr. Burke or Mr. Pitt said about
French affairs, or the state of the French finances, in the
present session of Parliament. The subject begins to be
too well understood, and imposition serves no longer.

There is a general enigma running through the whole of
Mr. Burke's book. He writes in a rage against the Na-
tional Assembly, but what is he enraged about ? If his as-
sertions were as true as they are groundless, and that
France, by her Revolution, had annihilated her power, and
become what he calls a chasm, it might excite the grief of
a Frenchman, considering himself as a national man, and
provoke his rage against the National Assembly ; but why
should it excite the rage of Mr. Burke? Alas! it is not
the Nation of France that Mr. Burke means, but the
COURT ; and every Court in Europe, dreading the same
fate, is in mourning. He writes neither in the character of
an Englishman, nor a Frenchman ; but in the fawning cha-
racter of that creature, known in all countries, and a friend to
none a COURTIER. Whether it be the Court of Versailles,
or the Court of St. James's, or Carlton-House, or the Court
in Expectation, signifies not; for the caterpillar principles of
all Courts, and Courtiers, are alike. They form a common
policy throughout Europe, detached and separate from the
interests of Nations : and while they appear to quarrel, they
agree to plunder. Nothing can be more terrible to a Court,
or a Courtier, than the Revolution of France. That which
is a blessing to Nations, is bitterness to them ; and as their
existence depends on the duplicity of a country, they trem-
ble at the approach of principles, and dread the precedent
that threatens their overthrow.



106 RIGHTS OF MAN. [PART li



CONCLUSION.



REASON, and Ignorance, the opposites of each other,
influence the great bulk of mankind. If either of these
can be rendered sufficiently extensive in a country, the ma-
chinery of Government goes easily on. Reason obeys
itself; and ignorance submits to whatever is dictated to it.

The two modes of Government which prevail in the
world, are

FIRST, Government by election and representation.

SECONDLY, Government by hereditary succession.

The former is generally known by the name of a repub-
lic ; and the latter by that of monarchy and aristocracy.

Those two distinct and opposite forms, erect themselves
on the two distinct and opposite bases of Reason and Igno-
rance.

As the exercise of Government requires talents and abili-
ties, and as talents and abilities cannot have hereditary
descent, it is evident that hereditary succession requires a
belief from 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.

On the contrary, Government in a well-constituted re-
public, requires no belief from man beyond what his reason
can give.

He sees the rationale of the whole system, its origin and
its operation ; and as it is best supported when best under-
stood, the human faculties act with boldness, and acquire
under this form of Government a gigantic manliness.

As, therefore, each of those forms acts on a different base,
the one moving freely by the aid of Reason, the other by
Ignorance; we have next to consider, what it is that gives
motion to that species of Government which is called
Mixed Government; or, as it is sometimes ludicrously
styled, a Government of this, that, and t'other.

The moving power in this species of Government is,
of necessity, Corruption. However imperfect election and
representation may be, in Mixed Governments, they still
give exercise to a greater portion of reason than is conve-
nient to the hereditary part ; and, therefore, it becomes ne-
cessary to buy the reason up.



PART I.] RIGHTS OF MAN. 107

A Mixed Government is an imperfect every thing ;
cementing and soldering the discordant parts together by
corruption, to act as a whole.

Mr. Burke appears highly disgusted, that France, since
she had resolved on a Revolution, did 'not adopt what he
calls, kt A British Constitution ;" and the regretful manner
in which he expresses himself on this occasion, implies a
suspicion that the British Constitution needed something to
keep its defects in countenance.

In Mixed Governments there is no responsibility ; the
parts cover each other till responsibility is lost; and the cor-
ruption which moves the machine, contrives at the same
time its own escape. When it is laid down as a maxim,
that a King can do no wrong, it places him in a state of
similar security with that of idiots, and persons insane,
and responsibility is out of the question with respect to
himself.

It then descends upon the Minister, who shelters himself
under a majority in Parliament; which by places, pensions,
and corruption, he can always command : and that majority
justifies itself by the same authority with which it protects
the Minister.

In this rotatory motion, responsibility is thrown off from
the parts, and from the whole.

W ben there is a part in a Government which can do no
wrong, it implies that it does nothing ; and is only the
machine of another power, by whose advice and direction
it acts.

What is supposed to be the King in a Mixed Govern-
ment, is the Cabinet; and as the Cabinet is always a part of
the Parliament, and the members justifying in one character
what they advise, and act in another, a Mixed Government
becomes a continual enigma ; entailing upon a country, by
the quantity of corruption necessary to solder the parts,
the expence of supporting all the forms of Government at
once; and finally resolving itself into a Government by
Committee: in which the advisers, the actors, the ap-
provers, the justifiers, the persons responsible, and the per-
sons not responsible, are the same persons.

By this pantomimical contrivance, and change of scene
and character, the parts help each other out in. matters
which neither of them singly would assume to act.

When money is to be obtained, the mass of variety ap-
parently dissolves, arid a profusion of Parliamentary praises
passes between (he parts. Each admires with astonish^



JOS RIGHTS OF MAN. [PART I.

ment, the wisdom, the liberality, the disinterestedness, of the
other ; and all of them breathe a pitying sigh at the heavy
burthens of the Nation.

But in a well constituted republic, nothing of this solder-
ing, praising, and pitying, can take place. The representa-
tion being equal throughout the country, and complete in
itself, however it may be arranged into legislative and exe-
cutive, they have all one and the same natural source.

The parts are not foreigners to each other, like democracy,
aristocracy, and monarchy.

As there are no discordant distinctions, there is nothing
to corrupt by compromise, nor confound by contrivance.

Public measures appeal of themselves to the understand-
ing of the Nation, and resting on their own merits, disown
any flattering application to vanity.

The continual whine of lamenting the burthen of taxes,
however successfully it may be practised in Mixed Govern-
ments, is inconsistent with the sense and spirit of a re-
public. If taxes are necessary, they are of course advan-
tageous ; but if they require an apology,- the apology itself
implies an impeachment.

Why, then, is MAN thus imposed upon ? Or, why does
he impose upon himself ?

When men are spoken of as Kings, and Subjects ; or when



Online LibraryThomas PaineThe political and miscellaneous works of Thomas Paine .. (Volume 1) → online text (page 53 of 65)