[Redactor's Note: Reprinted from the "The Writings of Thomas PaineVolume I" (1894 - 1896). The author's notes are preceded by a "*".]
COLLECTED AND EDITED BY
MONCURE DANIEL CONWAY
1774 - 1779
Table of Contents
PERHAPS the sentiments contained in the following pages, are notYET sufficiently fashionable to procure them general favor; a longhabit of not thinking a thing WRONG, gives it a superficialappearance of being RIGHT, and raises at first a formidable outcryin defence of custom. But the tumult soon subsides. Time makes moreconverts than reason.
As a long and violent abuse of power, is generally the Means ofcalling the right of it in question (and in Matters too which mightnever have been thought of, had not the Sufferers been aggravatedinto the inquiry) and as the King of England hath undertaken in hisOWN RIGHT, to support the Parliament in what he calls THEIRS, andas the good people of this country are grievously oppressed by thecombination, they have an undoubted privilege to inquire into thepretensions of both, and equally to reject the usurpations of either.
In the following sheets, the author hath studiously avoided everything which is personal among ourselves. Compliments as well ascensure to individuals make no part thereof. The wise, and theworthy, need not the triumph of a pamphlet; and those whosesentiments are injudicious, or unfriendly, will cease of themselvesunless too much pains are bestowed upon their conversion.
The cause of America is in a great measure the cause of allmankind. Many circumstances have, and will arise, which are notlocal, but universal, and through which the principles of all Loversof Mankind are affected, and in the Event of which, their Affectionsare interested. The laying of a Country desolate with Fire and Sword,declaring War against the natural rights of all Mankind, andextirpating the Defenders thereof from the Face of the Earth, is theConcern of every Man to whom Nature hath given the Power of feeling;of which Class, regardless of Party Censure, is
POSTSCRIPT TO PREFACE IN THE THIRD EDITION
P. S. The Publication of this new Edition hath been delayed, with aView of taking notice (had it been necessary) of any Attempt torefute the Doctrine of Independance: As no Answer hath yet appeared,it is now presumed that none will, the Time needful for getting sucha Performance ready for the Public being considerably past.
Who the Author of this Production is, is wholly unnecessary to thePublic, as the Object for Attention is the DOCTRINE ITSELF, not theMAN. Yet it may not be unnecessary to say, That he is unconnectedwith any Party, and under no sort of Influence public or private, butthe influence of reason and principle.
Philadelphia, February 14, 1776.
OF THE ORIGIN AND DESIGN OF GOVERNMENT IN GENERAL,
WITH CONCISE REMARKS ON THE ENGLISH CONSTITUTION
SOME writers have so confounded society with government, as to leavelittle or no distinction between them; whereas they are not onlydifferent, but have different origins. Society is produced by ourwants, and government by wickedness; the former promotes ourhappiness POSITIVELY by uniting our affections, the latterNEGATIVELY by restraining our vices. The one encouragesintercourse, the other creates distinctions. The first is a patron,the last a punisher.
Society in every state is a blessing, but government even in itsbest state is but a necessary evil; in its worst state an intolerableone; for when we suffer, or are exposed to the same miseries BY AGOVERNMENT, which we might expect in a country WITHOUT GOVERNMENT,our calamity is heightened by reflecting that we furnish the means bywhich we suffer. Government, like dress, is the badge of lostinnocence; the palaces of kings are built on the ruins of the bowersof paradise. For were the impulses of conscience clear, uniform, andirresistibly obeyed, man would need no other lawgiver; but that notbeing the case, he finds it necessary to surrender up a part of hisproperty to furnish means for the protection of the rest; and this heis induced to do by the same prudence which in every other caseadvises him out of two evils to choose the least. WHEREFORE,security being the true design and end of government, it unanswerablyfollows that whatever FORM thereof appears most likely to ensure itto us, with the least expence and greatest benefit, is preferable toall others.
In order to gain a clear and just idea of the design and end ofgovernment, let us suppose a small number of persons settled in somesequestered part of the earth, unconnected with the rest, they willthen represent the first peopling of any country, or of the world. Inthis state of natural liberty, society will be their first thought. Athousand motives will excite them thereto, the strength of one man isso unequal to his wants, and his mind so unfitted for perpetualsolitude, that he is soon obliged to seek assistance and relief ofanother, who in his turn requires the same. Four or five united wouldbe able to raise a tolerable dwelling in the midst of a wilderness,but ONE man might labour out the common period of life withoutaccomplishing any thing; when he had felled his timber he could notremove it, nor erect it after it was removed; hunger in the mean timewould urge him from his work, and every different want call him adifferent way. Disease, nay even misfortune would be death, forthough neither might be mortal, yet either would disable him fromliving, and reduce him to a state in which he might rather be said toperish than to die.
This necessity, like a gravitating power, would soon form our newlyarrived emigrants into society, the reciprocal blessing of which,would supersede, and render the obligations of law and governmentunnecessary while they remained perfectly just to each other; but asnothing but heaven is impregnable to vice, it will unavoidablyhappen, that in proportion as they surmount the first difficulties ofemigration, which bound them together in a common cause, they willbegin to relax in their duty and attachment to each other; and thisremissness, will point out the necessity, of establishing some formof government to supply the defect of moral virtue.
Some convenient tree will afford them a State-House, under thebranches of which, the whole colony may assemble to deliberate onpublic matters. It is more than probable that their first laws willhave the title only of REGULATIONS, and be enforced by no otherpenalty than public disesteem. In this first parliament every man, bynatural right, will have a seat.
But as the colony increases, the public concerns will increaselikewise, and the distance at which the members may be separated,will render it too inconvenient for all of them to meet on everyoccasion as at first, when their number was small, their habitationsnear, and the public concerns few and trifling. This will point outthe convenience of their consenting to leave the legislative part tobe managed by a select number chosen from the whole body, who aresupposed to have the same concerns at stake which those have whoappointed them, and who will act in the same manner as the whole bodywould act were they present. If the colony continues increasing, itwill become necessary to augment the number of the representatives,and that the interest of every part of the colony may be attended to,it will be found best to divide the whole into convenient parts, eachpart sending its proper number; and that the ELECTED might neverform to themselves an interest separate from the ELECTORS, prudencewill point out the propriety of having elections often; because asthe ELECTED might by that means return and mix again with thegeneral body of the ELECTORS in a few months, their fidelity to thepublic will be secured by the prudent reflexion of not making a rodfor themselves. And as this frequent interchange will establish acommon interest with every part of the community, they will mutuallyand naturally support each other, and on this (not on the unmeaningname of king) depends the STRENGTH OF GOVERNMENT, AND THE HAPPINESSOF THE GOVERNED.
Here then is the origin and rise of government; namely, a moderendered necessary by the inability of moral virtue to govern theworld; here too is the design and end of government, viz. freedom andsecurity. And however our eyes may be dazzled with snow, or our earsdeceived by sound; however prejudice may warp our wills, or interestdarken our understanding, the simple voice of nature and of reasonwill say, it is right.
I draw my idea of the form of government from a principle innature, which no art can overturn, viz. that the more simple anything is, the less liable it is to be disordered, and the easierrepaired when disordered; and with this maxim in view, I offer a fewremarks on the so much boasted constitution of England. That it wasnoble for the dark and slavish times in which it was erected, isgranted. When the world was over run with tyranny the least removetherefrom was a glorious rescue. But that it is imperfect, subject toconvulsions, and incapable of producing what it seems to promise, iseasily demonstrated.
Absolute governments (tho' the disgrace of human nature) have thisadvantage with them, that they are simple; if the people suffer, theyknow the head from which their suffering springs, know likewise theremedy, and are not bewildered by a variety of causes and cures. Butthe constitution of England is so exceedingly complex, that thenation may suffer for years together without being able to discoverin which part the fault lies, some will say in one and some inanother, and every political physician will advise a differentmedicine.
I know it is difficult to get over local or long standingprejudices, yet if we will suffer ourselves to examine the componentparts of the English constitution, we shall find them to be the baseremains of two ancient tyrannies, compounded with some new republicanmaterials.
FIRST. The remains of monarchical tyranny in the person