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The idea did not then exist,
that in the space of an hundred years, posterity might discover a
different and much better system of government, and that every species
of hereditary government might fall, as Popes and Monks had fallen
before. This, I say, was not then thought of, and therefore the
application of the Bill, in the present case, is a new, erroneous, and
illegal application, and is the same as creating a new Bill _ex post
facto_.

It has ever been the craft of Courtiers, for the purpose of keeping
up an expensive and enormous Civil List, and a mummery of useless and
antiquated places and offices at the public expence, to be continually
hanging England upon some individual or other, called _King_, though
the man might not have capacity to be a parish constable. The folly and
absurdity of this, is appearing more and more every day; and still those
men continue to act as if no alteration in the public opinion had taken
place. They hear each other's nonsense, and suppose the whole nation
talks the same Gibberish.

Let such men cry up the House of Orange, or the House of Brunswick,
if they please. They would cry up any other house if it suited their
purpose, and give as good reasons for it. But what is this house, or
that house, or any other house to a nation? "_For a nation to be free,
it is sufficient that she wills it_." Her freedom depends wholly upon
herself, and not on any house, nor on any individual. I ask not in what
light this cargo of foreign houses appears to others, but I will say in
what light it appears to me--It was like the trees of the forest, saying
unto the bramble, come thou and reign over us.

Thus much for both their houses. I now come to speak of two other
houses, which are also put into the information, and those are the
House of Lords, and the House of Commons. Here, I suppose, the
Attorney-General intends to prove me guilty of speaking either truth
or falsehood; for, according to the modern interpretation of Libels, it
does not signify which, and the only improvement necessary to shew the
compleat absurdity of such doctrine, would be, to prosecute a man for
uttering a most _false and wicked truth_.

I will quote the part I am going to give, from the Office Copy, with the
Attorney General's inuendoes, enclosed in parentheses as they stand in
the information, and I hope that civil list officer will caution the
Court not to laugh when he reads them, and also to take care not to
laugh himself.

The information states, that _Thomas Paine, being a wicked, malicious,
seditious, and evil-disposed person, hath, with force and arms, and
most wicked cunning, written and published a certain false, scandalous,
malicious, and seditious libel; in one part thereof, to the tenor and
effect following, that is to say_--

"With respect to the two Houses, of which the English Parliament
(_meaning the Parliament of this Kingdom_) is composed, they appear to
be effectually influenced into one, and, as a Legislature, to have no
temper of its own. The Minister, (_meaning the Minuter employed by the
King of this Realm, in the administration of the Government thereof_)
whoever he at any time may be, touches it (_meaning the two Houses of
Parliament of this Kingdom_) as with an opium wand, and it (_meaning the
two Houses of Parliament of this Kingdom_) sleeps obedience."

As I am not malicious enough to disturb their repose, though it be time
they should awake, I leave the two Houses and the Attorney General, to
the enjoyment of their dreams, and proceed to a new subject.

The Gentlemen, to whom I shall next address myself, are those who have
stiled themselves "_Friends of the people_," holding their meeting at
the Freemasons' Tavern, London.(1)

One of the principal Members of this Society, is Mr. Grey, who, I
believe, is also one of the most independent Members in Parliament.(2)
I collect this opinion from what Mr. Burke formerly mentioned to me,
rather than from any knowledge of my own. The occasion was as follows:

I was in England at the time the bubble broke forth about Nootka Sound:
and the day after the King's Message, as it is called, was sent to
Parliament, I wrote a note to Mr. Burke, that upon the condition the
French Revolution should not be a subject (for he was then writing
the book I have since answered) I would call on him the next day, and
mention some matters I was acquainted with, respecting the affair; for
it appeared to me extraordinary that any body of men, calling themselves
Representatives, should commit themselves so precipitately, or "sleep
obedience," as Parliament was then doing, and run a nation into expence,
and perhaps a war, without so much as enquiring into the case, or the
subject, of both which I had some knowledge.

1 See in the Introduction to this volume Chauvelin's account
of this Association.--_Editor._

2 In the debate in the House of Commons, Dec. 14, 1793, Mr.
Grey is thus reported: "Mr. Grey was not a friend to
Paine's doctrines, but he was not to be deterred by a man
from acknowledging that he considered the rights of man as
the foundation of every government, and those who stood out
against those rights as conspirators against the people." He
severely denounced the Proclamation. Parl. Hist., vol.
xxvi.--_Editor._

When I saw Mr. Burke, and mentioned the circumstances to him, he
particularly spoke of Mr. Grey, as the fittest Member to bring such
matters forward; "for," said Mr. Burke, "_I am not the proper_ person to
do it, as I am in a treaty with Mr. Pitt about Mr. Hastings's trial." I
hope the Attorney General will allow, that Mr. Burke was then _sleeping
his obedience_.--But to return to the Society------

I cannot bring myself to believe, that the general motive of this
Society is any thing more than that by which every former parliamentary
opposition has been governed, and by which the present is sufficiently
known. Failing in their pursuit of power and place within doors, they
have now (and that in not a very mannerly manner) endeavoured to possess
themselves of that ground out of doors, which, had it not been made
by others, would not have been made by them. They appear to me to have
watched, with more cunning than candour, the progress of a certain
publication, and when they saw it had excited a spirit of enquiry,
and was rapidly spreading, they stepped forward to profit by the
opportunity, and Mr. Fox _then_ called it a Libel. In saying this, he
libelled himself. Politicians of this cast, such, I mean, as those who
trim between parties, and lye by for events, are to be found in every
country, and it never yet happened that they did not do more harm
than good. They embarrass business, fritter it to nothing, perplex the
people, and the event to themselves generally is, that they go just
far enough to make enemies of the few, without going far enough to make
friends of the many.

Whoever will read the declarations of this Society, of the 25th of April
and 5th of May, will find a studied reserve upon all the points that are
real abuses. They speak not once of the extravagance of Government, of
the abominable list of unnecessary and sinecure places and pensions, of
the enormity of the Civil List, of the excess of taxes, nor of any one
matter that substantially affects the nation; and from some conversation
that has passed in that Society, it does not appear to me that it is
any part of their plan to carry this class of reforms into practice. No
Opposition Party ever did, when it gained possession.

In making these free observations, I mean not to enter into contention
with this Society; their incivility towards me is what I should expect
from place-hunting reformers. They are welcome, however, to the ground
they have advanced upon, and I wish that every individual among them may
act in the same upright, uninfluenced, and public spirited manner that I
have done. Whatever reforms may be obtained, and by whatever means,
they will be for the benefit of others and not of me. I have no other
interest in the cause than the interest of my heart. The part I have
acted has been wholly that of a volunteer, unconnected with party; and
when I quit, it shall be as honourably as I began.

I consider the reform of Parliament, by an application to Parliament, as
proposed by the Society, to be a worn-out hackneyed subject, about which
the nation is tired, and the parties are deceiving each other. It is not
a subject that is cognizable before Parliament, because no Government
has a right to alter itself, either in whole or in part. The right,
and the exercise of that right, appertains to the nation only, and the
proper means is by a national convention, elected for the purpose, by
all the people. By this, the will of the nation, whether to reform or
not, or what the reform shall be, or how far it shall extend, will be
known, and it cannot be known by any other means. Partial addresses, or
separate associations, are not testimonies of the general will.

It is, however, certain, that the opinions of men, with respect
to systems and principles of government, are changing fast in all
countries. The alteration in England, within the space of a little more
than a year, is far greater than could have been believed, and it is
daily and hourly increasing. It moves along the country with the silence
of thought. The enormous expence of Government has provoked men to
think, by making them feel; and the Proclamation has served to increase
jealousy and disgust. To prevent, therefore, those commotions which too
often and too suddenly arise from suffocated discontents, it is best
that the general WILL should have the full and free opportunity of being
publicly ascertained and known.

Wretched as the state of representation is in England, it is every
day becoming worse, because the unrepresented parts of the nation are
increasing in population and property, and the represented parts are
decreasing. It is, therefore, no ill-grounded estimation to say, that
as not one person in seven is represented, at least fourteen millions of
taxes out of the seventeen millions, are paid by the unrepresented part;
for although copyholds and leaseholds are assessed to the land-tax, the
holders are unrepresented.



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