Copyright
Thomas Paine.

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

. (page 62 of 65)
Online LibraryThomas PaineThe political and miscellaneous works of Thomas Paine .. (Volume 1) → online text (page 62 of 65)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


of the little fleet that brought him from Holland. George the
First .acted the same close-fisted part as William had done, and
bought the Duchy of Bremen with the money he got from Eng-
land, .250,000 over and above his pay as King ; and having thus



8fc RIGHTS Or MAJT. [PART II.

fctahce that presents itself, antecedent to those dates, is in
the Very wasteful and profligate times of Charles the Second,
at Which time England and France acted as allies. If I
have chosen a period of great extravagance, it will serve to
fehew modern extravagance, in a still worse light ; especially
afe the pay of the navy, the army, and the revenue officers
has not increased since that time.

The peace establishment was then as follows: See Sir
John Sinclair's History of the Revenue.

.

Navy 300,000

Army 212,000

Ordinance 40,000

. Civil List 462,115

,.1,014,115

The Parliament, however, settled the whole annual peace
establishment at ..1,200,000.* If we go back to the time of
Elizabeth, the amount of all the taxes was but half a million,
yet the nation sees nothing during that period, that re-
proaches it with want of consequence.

All circumstances then, taken together, arising from the
JFrench Revolution, from the approaching harmony and re-
ciprocal interest of the two nations, the abolition of 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 an half, viz.

Navy 500,000

Army 500,000

Expences of Government 500,000

.1,500,000



purchased it at the expence of England, added it to his Hanoverian
dominions for his own private profit. In fact, every nation that
does not govern itself, is governed as a job. England has been
the prey of jobs ever since the Revolution.

* Charles, like his predecessors and successors, finding that
war was the harvest of Governments, engaged in a war with the
Dutch, the expence of which increased the annual expenditure to
1,800,000, as stated under the date oF166ti; but the peace
establishment was but 1,200,000,



CHAP. V.] RIGHTS OF MAN. 87

Even this sum is six times greater than the expences of
Government are in America, yet the civil internal Govern-
ment in England, (I mean that administered by means of
quarter sessions, juries, and assize, and which, in fact, is
nearly the whole, and performed by the nation,) is less ex-
pence upon the revenue, than the same species and portion
of Government is in America.

It is time that nations should be rational, and not be go-
verned like animals, for the pleasure of their riders. To read
the history of kings, a man would be almost inclined to
suppose that Government consisted in stag-hunting, and
that every nation paid a million a year to a huntsman. Man
ought to have pride, or shame enough to blush at being thus
imposed upon, and when he feels his proper character, he
will. Upon all subjects of this nature, there is often passing
in the mind, a train of ideas he has not yet accustomed him-
self to encourage and communicate. Restrained by some-
thing that puts on the character of prudence, he acts the
hypocrite upon himself as well as to others. It is, however,
curious to observe how soon this spell can be dissolved. A
single expression, boldly conceived and uttered, will some-
times put a whole company into their proper feelings ; and
whole nations are acted upon in the same manner.

As to the offices of which any civil Government may be
composed, it matters but little by what names they are de-
scribed. In the routine of business, as before observed,
whether a man be styled a President, a King, an Emperor,
a Senator, or any thing else, it is impossible that any service
he can perform, can merit from a nation more than ten thou-
sand pounds a year; and as no man should be paid beyond
his services, so every man of a proper heart will not accept
more. Public money ought to be touched with the most
scrupulous consciousness of honour. It is not the produce
of dches only, but of the hard earnings of labour and po-
verty. 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.

Were it possible that the Congress of America, could be
so lost to their duty, and to the interest of their consti-
tuents, as to offer General Washington, as President of
America, a million a year, he would not, and he could not,
accept it. His sense of honour is of another kind. It has
cost England almost seventy millions sterling, to maintain
a family imported from abroad, of very inferior capacity
to thousands in the nation ; and scarcely a year has passed



88 RIGHTS OF MAN. [PART II.

that has not produced some new mercenary application.
Even the physicians* bills have been sent to the public to be
paid. No wonder that jails are crowded, and taxes and
poor-rates increased, Under such systems, nothing is to be
looked for but what has already happened ; and as to re-r
formation, whenever it come, it must belrom the nation, and
not from the Government.

To shew that the sum of five hundred thousand pounds
is more than sufficient to defray all the expences of Govern-
ment, exclusive of navies and armies, the following esti-
mate is added for any country of the same extent as Eng^
land.

In the first place, three hundred representatives, fairly
elected, are sufficient for all the purposes to which legislation
can apply, and preferable to a larger number. They may be
divided into two or three houses, or meet in one, as in
France, or in any manner a Constitution shall direct.

As representation is always considered, in free countries,
as the most honourable of all stations, the allowance made
to it is merely to defray the expence which the representa-*
tives incur by that service, and not to it as an office.

If an allowance, at the rate of five

hundred pounds per ann. be made

to every representative, deducting

for non-attendance, the expence, if

the whole number attended for six

months, each year, would be ,. .75000

The official departments cannot rea-?

sonably exceed the following num-
ber, with the salaries annexed :
Three offices, at ten thousand pounds

each 30,000

Ten ditto at o.5000 each 50,000

Twenty ditto at 2000 each 40,000

Forty ditto at 1000 each 40,000

Two hundred ditto at 500 each 100,000

Three hundred ditto at 200 each 60,000

Five hundred ditto at 100 each 50,000

Seven hundred ditto at 75 each 52,500

.497,500

If a nation choose, it can deduct four per cent, from all
offices, and make one of twenty thousand per ann.



CHAP. V.] RIGHTS OF MAN. 89

All revenue officers are paid out of the monies they col-
lect, and therefore are not in this estimation.

The foregoing is not offered as an exact detail of offices,
but to shew the number and rate of salaries which five hun-
dred thousand pounds will support; and it will, on expe-
rience, be found impracticable to find business sufficient to
justify even this expence. As to the manner in which office
business is now performed, the chiefs, in several offices, such
as the post office, and certain offices in the exchequer, &c.
do little more than sign their names three or four times a
year; and the whole duty is performed by under clerks.

Taking, therefore, one million and a half as a sufficient
peace establishment for all the honest purposes of Govern-
ment, which is three hundred thousand pounds more than
the peace establishment in the profligate and prodigal times
of Charles the Second, (notwithstanding, as has been already
observed, the pay and salaries of the army, navy, and the
revenue officers, continue the same as at that period) there
will remain a surplus of upwards of six millions out of the
present current expences. The question then will be, how
to dispose of this surplus.

Whoever has observed the manner in which trade and
taxes twist themselves together, must be sensible of the im-
possibility of separating them suddenly.

First. Because the articles now on hand are already
charged with the duty, and the reduction cannot take place
on the present stock.

Secondly. Because, on all those articles on which the
duty is charged in the gross, such as per barrel, hogshead,
hundred weight, or tun, the abolition of the duty does not
admit of being divided down so as fully to relieve the con-
sumer, who purchases by the pint, or the pound. The last
duty laid on strong beer and ale, was three shillings per
barrel, which, if taken off, would lessen the purchase only
half a farthing per pint, and, consequently, would not reach
to practical relief.

This being the condition of a great part of the taxes it
will be necessary to look for such others as are free from
this embarrassment, and where the relief will be direct and
visible, and capable of immediate operation.

In the first place, then, the poor-rates are a direct tax
which every housekeeper 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



90 RIGHTS OF MAN. [PART II.

Revenue, has stated it at 2, 100,587. A ccmsiderable part
of which is expended in litigations, in which the poor,, in-
stead of being relieved, are tormented. The expeuce,
however, is the same to the parish, from whatever cause it
arises.

In Birmingham, the amount of the poor-rates is fourteen
thousand pounds a year. This, though a large sum, is mo-
derate, compared with the population. Birmingham is said
to contain seventy thousand souls, and on a proportion of
seventy thousand to fourteen thousand pounds poor-rates,
the national amount of the poor-rates taking the population
of England at seven millions, would be but one million four
hundred thousand pounds. It is, therefore, most probable,
that the population of Birmingham is overrated. Fourteen
thousand pounds is tie proportion upon fifty thousand souls,
taking two millions of poor-rates as the national amount.

Be it, however, what it may, it is no other than the con-
sequence of the excessive burthen of taxes, for, at the time
when the taxes were very low, the poor were able to main-
tain themselves ; and there were no poor-rates.^ In the
present state of things, a labouring man, with a wife and
two or three children, does not pay less than between seven
and eight pounds a year in taxes. He is not sensible of
this, because it is disguised to him in the articles which he
buys, and he thinks only of their dearness; but as the taxes
take from him, at least a fourth part of his yearly earnings,
he is consequently disabled from providing for a family,
especially if himself, or any of them are afflicted with
sickness.

The first step, therefore, of practical relief, would be to
abolish the poor-rates entirely, and in lieu thereof, to make
a remission of the taxes of 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 will be benefited
two millions, and the housekeepers two millions. This
alone would be equal to a redaction of one hundred and
twenty millions of the national debt, and consequently equal
to the whole expence of the American war.

It will then remain to be considered, which is the most
effectual mode of distributing this remission of four millions.



* Poor-rates began about the time of Henry the Eighth, when
the taxes began to increase, and they have increased as the taxes
ittrrea:jed ever



CHAP. V.] RIGHTS OF MAN. 91

It is easily seen, that the poor are generally composed of
large families of children, and old people past their labour.
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.

Admitting England to contain seven millions of souls ; if
one-fifth thereof are of that class of poor which need sup-
port, the number will be one million four hundred thousand.
Of this number, one hundred and forty thousand will be
aged poor, as will be hereafter shewn, and for which a dis-
tinct provision will be proposed.

There will then remain one million two hundred and
sixty thousand, which, at five souls to each family, amount
to two hundred and fifty-two thousand families, rendered
poor from the expence of children and the weight of taxes.

The number of children under fourteen years of age, in
each of those families, will be found to be about five to
every two families ; some having two, and others three ;
some one, and others four; some none, and others five; but
it rarely happens that more than five are under fourteen
years of age, and after this age they are capable of service or
of being apprenticed.

Allowing five children (under fourteen years) to every two
families,

The number of children will be 630,000

The number of parents were they all living,
would be...... 504,000

It is certain, that if the children are provided for, the
parents are relieved of consequence, because it is from
the expence of bringing up children that their poverty
arises.

Having thus ascertained the greatest number that can be
supposed tb need support on account of young families, I
proceed to the mode of relief or distribution, which is,

To pay as a remission of taxes to every poor family, out
of the surplus taxes, and in room of poor-rates, four pounds
a year for every child under fourteen years of age; enjoin-
ing the parents of such children to send them to school, to
learn reading, writing, and common arithmetic; the minis-
ters of every parish, of every denomination, to certify joint-



92 RIGHTS OF MAN. [PART II.

ly to an office, for that purpose, that this duty is per-
formed.

The amount of this expence will be y
For six hundred and thirty thousand children, .
at four pounds per ann. each 2,520,000

By adopting this method, not only the poverty of the
parents will be relieved, but ignorance will be banished from
the rising generation, and the number of poor will hereafter
become less, because their abilities, by the aid of education,
will be greater. Many a youth, with good natural genius,
who is apprenticed to a mechanical trade, such as a car-
penter, joiner, millwright, shipwright, blacksmith, &c. is
prevented getting forward the whole of his life, from the
want of a little common education when a boy.

I now proceed to the case of the aged.

I divide age into two classes. First, the approach of age
beginning at fifty. Secondly, old age commencing at sixty.

At fifty, though the mental faculties of man are in full
vigour, and his judgment better than at any preceding date,
the bodily powers for laborious life are on the decline. He
cannot bear the same quantity of fatigue as at an earlier
period. He begins to earn less, and is less capable of
enduring wind and weather; and in those more retired
employments where much sight is required, he fails apace,
and sees himself, like an old horse, beginning to be turned
adrift.

At sixty his labour ought to be over, at least from direct
necessity. It is painful to see old age working itself to
death, in what are called civilized countries, for daily
bread.

To form some judgment of the number of those above
fifty years of age, I have several times counted the persons
I met in the streets of London, men, women, and children,
and have generally found that the average is about one in
sixteen or seventeen. If it be said that the aged persons do
not come much in the streets, so neither do infants; and
a great proportion of grown children are in schools, and in
work-shops as apprentices. Taking then sixteen for a
divisor, the whole number of persons in England, of fifty
years and upwards of both sexes, rich and poor, will be four
hundred and twenty thousand.

The persons to be provided for out of this gross number
will be, husbaiidmen, common labourers, journeymen of



CHAP. V.] RIGHTS OF MAN. 93

every trade and their wives, sailors, and disbanded soldiers,
worn out servants of both sexes, and poor widows.

There will be also a considerable number of middling
tradesmen, who having lived decently in the former part of
life, begin, as age approaches, to lose their business, and at
last fall to decay.

Besides these, there will be constantly thrown off from
the revolutions of that wheel, which no man can stop, nor
regulate, a number from every class of life connected with
commerce and adventure.

To provide for all those accidents, and whatever else may
befal, I take the number of persons, who at one time or other
of their lives, after fifty years of age, may feel it necessary
or comfortable to be better supported, than they can sup-
port themselves, and that not as a matter of grace and
favour, but of right, at one third of the whole number,
which is one hundred and forty thousand, as stated in page
91, and for whom a distinct provision was proposed to be
made. If there be more, society, notwithstanding the shew
and pomposity of Government, is in a deplorable condition
in England.

Of this one hundred and forty thousand, I take one half,
seventy thousand, to be of the age of fifty and under sixty,
and the other half to be sixty years and upwards. Having
thus ascertained the probable proportion of the number of
aged persons, I proceed to the mode of rendering their con-
dition comfortable, which is,

To pay every such person of the age of fifty years, and
until he arrive at the age of sixty, the sum of six pounds
per ann. out of the surplus taxes ; and ten pounds per ann.
during life after the age of sixty. The expence of vrhich
will be,

Seventy thousand persons at .& per ann 420,000

Seventy thousand ditto at . 10 per ann 700,000

.1,130,000

This support, as already remarked, is not of the nature of
a charity, but of a right. Every person in England, male
and female, pays on an average in taxes, two pounds eight
shillings and sixpence per ann. from the day of his (or her)
birth; and, if the expence of collection be added, he pays
two pounds eleven shillings and sixpence; consequently, at
the end of fifty years he has paid one hundred and twenty,
eight pounds fifteen shillings; and at sixty, one hundred



94 RIGHTS OF MAN. [fART II.

and fifty-four pounds tea shillings. Converting, therefore,
his (or her) individual tax into a tontine, the money he shall
receive after fifty years, is but little more than the legal
interest of the nett money he has paid ; the rest is made up
from those whose circumstances do not require them to
draw such support, and the capital of both defrays the
expences of Government. It is on this ground that I have
extended the probable claims to one-third of the number of
aged persons in the nation. 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? Let reason and justice,
let honour and humanity, let even hypocrisy, sycophancy,
and Mr. Burke, let George, let Louis, Leopold, Frederic,
Catharine, Cornwallis, or Tippoo Saib answer the ques-
tion.^

The sum thus remitted to the poor will be,
To two hundred and sixty- two thousand poor
families, containing six hundred and thirty

thousand children 2,520,000

To one hundred and forty thousand aged persons 1,120,000

.3,640,000



* Reckoning the taxes by families, five to a family pays on an
average, 12. 17*. Gd. per annum, to this sum are to be added the
poor-rates. Though all pay taxes in the articles they consume, all
do not pay poor-rates. About two millions are exempted; some
as not being house-keepers, others as not being able, and the poor
themselves who receive the relief. The average, therefore, of poor-
rates on the remaining number, is forty shillings for every family
of five persons, which makes the whole average amount of taxes
and tates, 14. 17*. Gd. For six persons 17. 17*. For seven
persons, 20. 16*. Gd.

The average of taxes in America, under the new and representa-
tive system of Government, including the interest of the debt con-
tracted in the war, and taking the population at four millions of
souls, which it now amounts to, and it is daily increasing, is five
shillings per head, men, women, and children. The difference,
therefore, between the two Governments, is as under,

England. America.

. *. d. . *. d.

For a family of five persons 14 17 6 . . 1 5

For a family of six persons 17 17 . . I 10

For a family of seven persons 20 16 6 . . 1 15



CHAP. V.] RIGHTS OF MAN. 95

There will then remain three hundred and sixty thousand
pounds out of the four millions, part of which may be ap-
plied as follows :

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 ; and such children, under such a case, would be in
a worse condition than if their parents were actually poor.
A nation under a well-regulated Government, should per-
mit none to be uninstructed. It is monarchical and aris-
tocratical Government only that requires ignorance for its
support.

Suppose, then, four hundred thousand children to be i a
this condition, which is a greater number than ought to be
supposed, after the provision already made, the method
will be,

To allow for each of those children ten shillings a year
for the expence 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.

The expence of this will be annually* 250,000.

There will then remain one hundred and ten thousand
pounds.

Notwithstanding the great modes of relief which the best
instituted and best principled Government may devise, there
will still be a great number of smaller cases, which 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 de-



* Public schools do not answer the general purpose of the poor.
They are chiefly in corporation towns, from which the country
towns and villages are excluded ; or, if admitted, the distance
occasions a great, loss of time. Education, to be useful to the poor,
should be on the spot; ami the best method, 1 believe, to accom-
plish this, is to enable the parents to pay the expence themselves.
There are always persons of both sexes to be found in every village,
especially when growing into years, capable of such an under-
taking-. Twenty children, at ten shillings each, (and that not
more than six mouths each year) would be as much as some
livings amount to in the remote parts of England ; -and thene are
often distressed clergymen's widows to whom such an income
wouitl be acceptable. Whatever is given on this account to chil-
dren, answers two purposes, to them it is education, to. those who
educate them it i& a livelihood.



96 RIGHTS OF MAN. [PART II.

mand, and none will make it whose circumstances do not

require it, it might relieve a great deal of instant distress.
There are about two hundred thousand births yearly in

England ; and if claimed by one-fourth,

The amount would be c50,000

And twenty shillings to every new-married couple who

should claim in like manner,

This would not exceed the sum of 20,000

Also twenty thousand pounds to be appropriated to
defray the funeral expences of persons, who, travelling for
work, may die at a distance from their friends. By reliev-
ing parishes from this charge, the sick stranger will be
better treated.

I shall finish this part of the subject with a plan adapted
to the particular condition of a metropolis, such as London.

Cases are continually occurring in a metropolis, different
to those which occur in the country, and for which a dif-
ferent, or rather an additional mode of relief is necessary.
In the country, even in large towns, people have a know-
ledge of each other, and distress never rises to that extreme
height it sometimes does in a metropolis. There is no such
thing in the country 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.

Many a youth comes up to London full of expectations,



Online LibraryThomas PaineThe political and miscellaneous works of Thomas Paine .. (Volume 1) → online text (page 62 of 65)