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They would go
farther, and revolt at the idea of consigning their children, and their
children's children, to the domination of persons hereafter to be born,
who might, for any thing they could foresee, turn out to be knaves or
fools; and they would finally discover, that the project of hereditary
Governors and Legislators _was a treasonable usurpation over the rights
of posterity_. Not only the calm dictates of reason, and the force of
natural affection, but the integrity of manly pride, would impel men to
spurn such proposals.

From the grosser absurdities of such a scheme, they would extend their
examination to the practical defects--They would soon see that it would
end in tyranny accomplished by fraud. That in the operation of it, it
would be two to one against them, because the two parts that were to be
made hereditary would form a common interest, and stick to each other;
and that themselves and representatives would become no better
than hewers of wood and drawers of water for the other parts of the
Government.--Yet call one of those powers King, the other Lords, and the
third the Commons, and it gives the model of what is called the English
Government.

I have asserted, and have shewn, both in the First and Second Parts
of _Rights of Man_, that there is not such a thing as an English
Constitution, and that the people have yet a Constitution to form. _A
Constitution is a thing antecedent to a Government; it is the act of a
people creating a Government and giving it powers, and defining the
limits and exercise of the powers so given_. But whenever did the people
of England, acting in their original constituent character, by a
delegation elected for that express purpose, declare and say, "We, the
people of this land, do constitute and appoint this to be our system and
form of Government." The Government has assumed to constitute itself,
but it never was constituted by the people, in whom alone the right of
constituting resides.

I will here recite the preamble to the Federal Constitution of the
United States of America. I have shewn in the Second Part of _Rights
of Man_, the manner by which the Constitution was formed and afterwards
ratified; and to which I refer the reader. The preamble is in the
following words:

"We, the people, of the United States, in order to form a more perfect
union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquillity, provide for
common defence, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings
of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this
constitution for the United States of America."

Then follow the several articles which appoint the manner in which the
several component parts of the Government, legislative and executive,
shall be elected, and the period of their duration, and the powers they
shall have: also, the manner by which future additions, alterations,
or amendments, shall be made to the constitution. Consequently, every
improvement that can be made in the science of government, follows in
that country as a matter of order. It is only in Governments founded on
assumption and false principles, that reasoning upon, and investigating
systems and principles of Government, and shewing their several
excellencies and defects, are termed libellous and seditious. These
terms were made part of the charge brought against Locke, Hampden, and
Sydney, and will continue to be brought against all good men, so long as
bad government shall continue.

The Government of this country has been ostentatiously giving challenges
for more than an hundred years past, upon what it called its own
excellence and perfection. Scarcely a King's Speech, or a Parliamentary
Speech, has been uttered, in which this glove has not been thrown, till
the world has been insulted with their challenges. But it now appears
that all this was vapour and vain boasting, or that it was intended to
conceal abuses and defects, and hush the people into taxes. I have taken
the challenge up, and in behalf of the public have shewn, in a fair,
open, and candid manner, both the radical and practical defects of the
system; when, lo! those champions of the Civil List have fled away,
and sent the Attorney-General to deny the challenge, by turning the
acceptance of it into an attack, and defending their Places and Pensions
by a prosecution.

I will here drop this part of the subject, and state a few particulars
respecting the prosecution now pending, by which the Addressers will
see that they have been used as tools to the prosecuting party and their
dependents. The case is as follows:

The original edition of the First and Second Parts of the Rights of
Man, having been expensively printed, (in the modern stile of printing
pamphlets, that they might be bound up with Mr. Burke's Reflections on
the French Revolution,) the high price(1) precluded the generality
of people from purchasing; and many applications were made to me from
various parts of the country to print the work in a cheaper manner. The
people of Sheffield requested leave to print two thousand copies for
themselves, with which request I immediately complied. The same request
came to me from Rotherham, from Leicester, from Chester, from several
towns in Scotland; and Mr. James Mackintosh, author of _Vindico
Gallico_, brought me a request from Warwickshire, for leave to print ten
thousand copies in that county. I had already sent a cheap edition to
Scotland; and finding the applications increase, I concluded that the
best method of complying therewith, would be to print a very numerous
edition in London, under my own direction, by which means the work would
be more perfect, and the price be reduced lower than it could be by
_printing_ small editions in the country, of only a few thousands each.

1 Half a crown.--_Editor_.

The cheap edition of the first part was begun about the first of last
April, and from that moment, and not before, I expected a prosecution,
and the event has proved that I was not mistaken. I had then occasion to
write to Mr. Thomas Walker of Manchester, and after informing him of my
intention of giving up the work for the purpose of general information,
I informed him of what I apprehended would be the consequence; that
while the work was at a price that precluded an extensive circulation,
the government party, not able to controvert the plans, arguments,
and principles it contained, had chosen to remain silent; but that I
expected they would make an attempt to deprive the mass of the nation,
and especially the poor, of the right of reading, by the pretence of
prosecuting either the Author or the Publisher, or both. They chose to
begin with the Publisher.

Nearly a month, however, passed, before I had any information given me
of their intentions. I was then at Bromley, in Kent, upon which I came
immediately to town, (May 14) and went to Mr. Jordan, the publisher of
the original edition. He had that evening been served with a summons to
appear at the Court of King's Bench, on the Monday following, but for
what purpose was not stated. Supposing it to be on account of the
work, I appointed a meeting with him on the next morning, which was
accordingly had, when I provided an attorney, and took the ex-pence of
the defence on myself. But finding afterwards that he absented himself
from the attorney employed, and had engaged another, and that he had
been closeted with the Solicitors of the Treasury, I left him to follow
his own choice, and he chose to plead Guilty. This he might do if he
pleased; and I make no objection against him for it. I believe that his
idea by the word _Guilty_, was no other than declaring himself to be the
publisher, without any regard to the merits or demerits of the work; for
were it to be construed otherwise, it would amount to the absurdity of
converting a publisher into a Jury, and his confession into a verdict
upon the work itself. This would be the highest possible refinement upon
packing of Juries.

On the 21st of May, they commenced their prosecution against me, as the
author, by leaving a summons at my lodgings in town, to appear at the
Court of King's Bench on the 8th of June following; and on the same day,
(May 21,) _they issued also their Proclamation_. Thus the Court of St.
James and the Court of King's Bench, were playing into each other's
hands at the same instant of time, and the farce of Addresses brought up
the rear; and this mode of proceeding is called by the prostituted name
of Law. Such a thundering rapidity, after a ministerial dormancy of
almost eighteen months, can be attributed to no other cause than their
having gained information of the forwardness of the cheap Edition, and
the dread they felt at the progressive increase of political knowledge.

I was strongly advised by several gentlemen, as well those in the
practice of the law, as others, to prefer a bill of indictment
against the publisher of the Proclamation, as a publication tending to
influence, or rather to dictate the verdict of a Jury on the issue of a
matter then pending; but it appeared to me much better to avail myself
of the opportunity which such a precedent justified me in using, by
meeting the Proclamation and the Addressers on their own ground, and
publicly defending the Work which had been thus unwarrantably attacked
and traduced.--And conscious as I now am, that the Work entitled
Rights OF Man so far from being, as has been maliciously or erroneously
represented, a false, wicked, and seditious libel, is a work abounding
with unanswerable truths, with principles of the purest morality and
benevolence, and with arguments not to be controverted--Conscious, I
say, of these things, and having no object in view but the happiness
of mankind, I have now put the matter to the best proof in my power, by
giving to the public a cheap edition of the First and Second Parts of
that Work. Let every man read and judge for himself, not only of the
merits and demerits of the Work, but of the matters therein contained,
which relate to his own interest and happiness.

If, to expose the fraud and imposition of monarchy, and every species
of hereditary government--to lessen the oppression of taxes--to propose
plans for the education of helpless infancy, and the comfortable support
of the aged and distressed--to endeavour to conciliate nations to each
other--to extirpate the horrid practice of war--to promote universal
peace, civilization, and commerce--and to break the chains of political
superstition, and raise degraded man to his proper rank;--if these
things be libellous, let me live the life of a Libeller, and let the
name of Libeller be engraved on my tomb.

Of all the weak and ill-judged measures which fear, ignorance,
or arrogance could suggest, the Proclamation, and the project for
Addresses, are two of the worst.



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