Thomas Paine.

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

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events than,others) not only among the general mass of citizens,
but of many of the principal members of the former National



As Reforms, or Revolutions, call them which you please,
extend themselves among nations, those nations will form
connections and conventions, and when a few are thus con-
iederated, the progress will be rapid, till despotism and
corrupt Government be totally expelled, at least out of two
quarters of the world, Europe and America. The Algerine
piracy may then be commanded to cease, for it is only by
the malicious policy of old Governments against each other
that it exists.

Thoughout this work, various and numerous as the sub-
jects are, which I have taken up and investigated, there is
only a single paragraph upon religion, viz. " that every reli-
gion is good, that teaches man to be good."

I have carefully avoided to enlarge upon the subject, be-
cause [ am inclined to believe, that what is called the
present ministry wish to see contentions about religion kept
up, to prevent the nation turning its attention to subjects
of Government. It is, as if they were to say, " Look that
way, or any way but this"

But as religion is very improperly made a political
machine, and the reality of it is thereby destroyed, I will
conclude this work with stating in what light religion ap-
pears to me.

If we suppose a large family of children, who, on any
particular day, or particular circumstance, made it a custom
to present to their parent some token of their affection and
gratitude, each of them would make a different offering, and
most probably in a different manner. Some w r ould pay
their congratulations in themes of verse or prose, by some

Assembly, that the monarchical plan wi|l not continue many years
in that country. They have found out, that as wisdom cannot be
made hereditary, power ought not; and that, fora man to merit
a million sterling a year from a nation, he ought to have a mind
capable of comprehending from an atom to a universe; which, if
he had, he would be above receiving the pay. But they wished
not to appear to lead the nation faster than its own reason and
interest dictated. In all the conversations where 1 have been
present upon this subject, the idea always was, that when such a
time, from the general opinion of the nation, shall arrive, that the
honourable and liberal method would be, to make a handsome
present in fee simple to the person, whoever he may be, that shall
then be in the monarchical office, and for him to retire to the
enjoyment of private life, posessing his share of general rights and
]|frivilegeB, and to be no more accountable to the public for ba$
and his conduct than auy other citizen.


little devices, as their genius dictated, according to what
they thought would please; and, perhaps, the least of all,
not able to do any of those things, would ramble into the
garden, or the field, and gather what it thought the prettiest
flower it could find, though, perhaps, it might be but a sim-
ple weed. The parent would be more gratified by such
variety, than if the whole had acted on a concerted plan,
and each had made exactly the same offering. This would
have the cold appearance of contrivance, or the harsh one
of controul. But of all unwelcome things, nothing could
more afflict the parent than to know, that the whole of them
had afterwards gotten together by the ears, boys and girls,
fighting, scratching, reviling, and abusing each other, about
which was the best or the worst present.

Why may we not suppose, that the great Father of all is
pleased with variety of devotion ; and that the greatest of-
fence we can act, is that by which we seek to torment and
render each other miserable. For ray own part, I am fully
satisfied that what I am now doing, with an endeavour to
conciliate mankind, to render their condition happy, to unite
nations that have hitherto been enemies, and to extirpate
the horrid practice of war, and break the chains of slavery
and oppression, is acceptable in His sight, and being the
best I can perform, I act it cheerfully.

I do not believe that any two men, on what are called
doctrinal points, think alike who think at all. It is only
those who have not thought, that appear to agree. It is in
this case as with what is called the British Constitution. It
has been taken for granted to be good, and encomiums have
supplied the place of proof. But when the nation comes to
examine into its principles and the abuses it admits, it will
be found to have more defects than I have pointed out in
this work and the former.

As to what are called national religions, we may, with as
much propriety talk of national gods. It is either political
craft, or the remains of the Pagan system, when every nation
had its separate and particular deity. Among all the writers
of the English Church clergy, who have treated on the
general subject of religion, the present Bishop of Landaff
has not been excelled, and it is with much pleasure that I
take the opportunity of expressing this token of respect.

I have now gone through the whole of the subject, at
least, as far as it appears to me at present. It has been my
intention for the five years I have been in Europe, to offer
aa address to the People of England on the subject of


Government, if the opportunity presented itself before I re-
turned to America. Mr. Burke has thrown it in my way r
and I thank him. On a certain occasion three years ago, I
pressed him to propose a National Convention to be fairly
elected, for the purpose of taking the state of the nation into
consideration ; but I found, that however strongly the Par-
liamentary current was then setting against the Party he
acted with, their policy was to keep every thing within that
field of corruption, and trust to accidents. Long experience
had shewn that Parliaments would follow any change of
ministers, and on this they rested their hopes and their ex-

Formerly, when divisions arose respecting Governments,
recourse was had to the sword, and a civil war ensued.
That savage custom is exploded by the new system, and
reference is had to National Convention. Discussion and
the general will arbitrates the question, and to this, private
opinion yields with a good grace, and order is preserved

Some gentlemen have affected to call the principles upon
which this work and the former part of Rights of Man are
founded, " a new fangled doctrine." The question is not
whether these principles are new or old, but whether they
are right or wrong. Suppose the former, I will shew their
effect by a figure easily understood.

It is now towards the middle of February. Were I to
take a turn into the country, the trees would present a leaf-
less winterly appearance. As people are apt to pluck twigs
as they go along, I might do the same, and by chance might
observe, that a single bud on that twig had begun to swell.
I should reason very unnaturally, or rather not reason at all,
to suppose this was the only bud in England which had this
appearance. Instead of deciding thus, 1 should instantly
conclude, that the same appearance was beginning, or about
to begin, every where; and though the vegetable sleep will
continue longer on some trees and plants than on others,
and though some of them may not blossom for two or three
years, all will be in leaf in the summer, except those which
are rotten. What pace the political summer may keep with
the natural, no human foresight can determine. It is how-
ever, not difficult to perceive that the spring is begun. Thus
wishing, as I sincerely do, freedom and happiness to all
nations, I close the SECOND PART.


As the publication of this work has been delayed beyond
the time intended, I think it not improper, all circumstances
considered, to stale the causes that have occasioned the

The reader will probably observe, that some parts in the
plan contained in this work for reducing the taxes, and cer-
tain parts in Mr. Pitt's speech at the opening of the present
session, Tuesday, January 31 , are so much alike, as to induce
a belief that either the Author had taken the hint from Mr.
Pitt, or Mr. Pitt from the Author. I will first point out
the parts that are similar, and then state such circumstances
as I am acquainted with, leaving the reader to make his own

Considering it almost an unprecedented case, that taxes
should be proposed to be taken off, it is equally as extraor-
dinary that such a measure should occur to two persons at
the same time; and still more so, (considering the vast
variety and multiplicity of taxes) that they should hit on
the same specific taxes. Mr. Pitt has mentioned, in his
speech, the tax on Carts and Waggons that on Female
Servants the lowering the tax on Candles, and the taking
off the tax of three shillings on Houses having under seven

Every one of those specific taxes are a part of the plan
contained in this work, and proposed also to be taken off.
Mr. Pitt's plan, it is true, goes no farther than to a reduction
of three hundred and twenty thousand pounds; and the
reduction proposed in this work to nearly six millions. I
have made my calculations on only sixteen millions and a
half of revenue, still asserting that it was " very nearly, if
not quite, seventeen millions." Mr. Pitt states it at 16,690,000.
I know enough of the matter to say, that he has not over-
stated it. Having thus given the particulars, which corre-
spond in this work and his speech, 1 will state a chain of
circumstances that may lead to some explanation.

The first hint for lessening the taxes, and that as a con-
sequence flowing from the French Revolution, is to be
found in the ADDRESS and DECLARATION of the Gentlemen
who met met at the Thatched-House Tavern, August 20,


179!. Among other particulars stated in that Address, is
the following, put as an interrogation to the Government
pposers of the French Revolution. "Are they sorry that
the pretence for new oppressive taxes, and the occasion for
continuing many old taxes will be at an end?"

It is well known, that the persons who chiefly frequent
the Thatched-House Tavern, are men of Court connections,
and so much did they take this Address and Declaration
respecting the French Revolution and the reduction of taxes
in disgust, that the Landlord was under the necessity of
informing the Gentlemen, who composed the meeting of the
twentieth of August, and who proposed holding another
meeting, that he could not receive them^.

What was only hinted at in the Address and Declaration,
respecting taxes and principles of Government, will be
found reduced to a regular system in this work. But as
Mr. Pitt's speech contains some of the same things respect-
ing taxes, 1 now come to give the circumstances before al-
luded to.

The case is: This work was intended to be published
just before the meeting of Parliament, and for that purpose
a considerable part of the copy was put into the printer's
bands in September, and all the remaining copy, so far as
page 160,t which contains the parts to which Mr. Pitt's
speech is similar, was given to him full six weeks before
the meeting of Parliament, and he was informed of the time

* The gentleman who signed the address and declaration as
chairman of the meeting, Mr. Home Tooke, being generally sup-
posed to be the person who drew it up, and having spoken much
in commendation of it, has been jocularly accused of praising his
own work. To free him from this embarrasment, and to save him
the repeated trouble of mentioning the author, as he has not failed
to do, I make no hesitation in saying, that as the opportunity of
benefiting by the French Revolution easily occurred to me, I drew
up the publication in question, and shewed it to him and some other
gentlemen; who fully approving it, held a meeting for the purpose
f making it public, and subscribed to the amount of fifty guineas
to defray the expeiice of advertising. I believe there are at this
time, in England, a greater number of men acting on disinterested
principles, and determined to look into the nature and practices
of Government themselves, and not blindly trust, as has hitherto
been the case either to Government generally, or to Parliaments,
or to Parliamentary opposition, than to any former period. Had
this been done a century ago, corruption and taxation had not ar-
rived to the height they are now at. -^

f This refers to the original octavo edition.


at which it was to appear. He had composed nearly the
whole about a fortnight before the time of Parliament meet-
ing, and had printed as far as page 112, and had given me a
proof of the next sheet, up to page 128. It was then in suf-
ficient forwardness to be out at the time proposed, as two
other sheets were ready for striking off. I had before told
him, that if he thought he should be straightened for time,,
I would get part of the work done at another press, which
he desired me not to do. In this manner the work stood oa
the Tuesday fortnight preceding the meeting of Parliament,
when all at once, without any previous intimation, though
I had been with him the evening before, he sent me, by one
of his workmen, all the remaining copy, from page 112,
declining to go on with the work on any consideration.

To account for this extraordinary conduct I was totally
at a loss, as he stopped at the part where the arguments an
systems and principles of Governments closed, and where
the plan for reduction of taxes, the education of children,,
and the support of the poor and the aged begins; and still
more especially, as he had, at the time of his beginning to
print, and before he had seen the whole copy, offered a
thousand pounds for the copy-right, together with 'fche
future copy-right of the former part of Rights of Man. I
told the person who brought me this offer that I should not
accept it, and wished it not to be renewed, giving them as
my reason, that though I believed the printer to .be an
honest man, I would never put it in the power of any
printer or publisher to suppress or alter a work of mine, by
making him master of the copy, or give him the right of
selling it to any minister, or to any other person, or to treat
as a mere matter of traffic, that which I intended should
operate as a principle.

His refusal to complete the work (which he could mot
purchase) obliged me to seek for another printer, and this
of consequence would throw the publication back till after
the meeting of Parliament, otherwise it would have ap-
peared that Mr. Pitt had only taken up a part of the plam
which 1 had more fully stated.

Whether that gentleman, or any other, had seen the
work, or any part of it, is more than I have authority to
say. But the manner in which the work was returned, and
the particular time at which this was done, and that after
the offers he had made, are suspicious circumstances. I
know what the opinion of booksellers and publishers is upon
such a ease, but as to my own, I choose to make no declara-
tion. There are many ways by which proof sheets may .be


procured by other persons before a work publicly appears ;
to which I shall add a certain circumstance, which is,

A ministerial bookseller in Piccadilly, who has been em-
ployed, as common report says, by a clerk of one of the
boards closely connected with the ministry (the Board of
Trade and Plantation, of which Havvkesbury is President) to
publish what he calls my Life, (I wish that his own life and
the lives of all the Cabinet were as good) used to have his
books printed at the same printing-office that I employed ;
but when the former part of Rights of Man came out, he
took away his work in dudgeon ; and about a week or ten
days before the printer returned my copy, he came to make
him an offer of his work again, which was accepted. This
would consequently give him admission into the printing-
office where the sheets of this work were then lying ; and as
booksellers and printers are free with each other, he would
have the opportunity of seeing what was going on. Be the
case however as it may, Mr. Pitt's plan, little and diminu-
tive as it is, would have had a very awkward appearance,
had this work appeared at the time the printer had engaged
to finish it.

I have now stated the particulars which occasioned the
delay, from the proposal to purchase to the refusal to print.
If all the gentlemen are innocent, it is very unfortunate
for them that such a variety of suspicious circumstances
should, without any design, arrange themselves together.

Having now finished this part, I will conclude with sta-
ting another circumstance.

About a fortnight or three weeks before the meeting of
Parliament, a small addition, amounting to about twelve
shillings and sixpence a year, was made to the pay of the
soldiers, or rather, their pay was docked so much less. Some
gentlemen who knew, in part, that this work would contain
a plan of reform respecting the oppressed condition of
soldiers, wished me to add a note to the work, signifying,
that the part upon that subject had been in the printer's
hands some weeks before that addition of pay was proposed.
I declined doing this, lest it should be interpreted into an
air of vanity, or an endeavour to excite suspicion (for which,
perhaps, there might be no grounds) that some of the Go-
vernment gentlemen, had, by some means or other, made
out what this work would contain : and had not the print-
ing been interrupted so as to occasion a delay beyond the
time fixed for publication, nothing contained in this appen-
dix would have appeared,


V, I


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