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only consistent service which such meetings could render, would be that
of apportioning the county into convenient districts, and when this is
done, each district might, according to its number of inhabitants, elect
its quota of County Members to the National Convention; and the vote of
each Elector might be taken in the parish where he resided, either by
ballot or by voice, as he should chuse to give it.

A National Convention thus formed, would bring together the sense and
opinions of every part of the nation, fairly taken. The science of
Government, and the interest of the Public, and of the several parts
thereof, would then undergo an ample and rational discussion, freed from
the language of parliamentary disguise.

But in all deliberations of this kind, though men have a right to
reason with, and endeavour to convince each other, upon any matter that
respects their common good, yet, in point of practice, the majority of
opinions, when known, forms a rule for the whole, and to this rule every
good citizen practically conforms.

Mr. Burke, as if he knew, (for every concealed Pensioner has the
opportunity of knowing,) that the abuses acted under the present system,
are too flagrant to be palliated, and that the majority of opinions,
whenever such abuses should be made public, would be for a general and
effectual reform, has endeavoured to preclude the event, by sturdily
denying the right of a majority of a nation to act as a whole. Let us
bestow a thought upon this case.

When any matter is proposed as a subject for consultation, it
necessarily implies some mode of decision. Common consent, arising from
absolute necessity, has placed this in a majority of opinions; because,
without it, there can be no decision, and consequently no order. It is,
perhaps, the only case in which mankind, however various in their ideas
upon other matters, can consistently be unanimous; because it is a mode
of decision derived from the primary original right of every individual
concerned; _that_ right being first individually exercised in giving an
opinion, and whether that opinion shall arrange with the minority or the
majority, is a subsequent accidental thing that neither increases nor
diminishes the individual original right itself. Prior to any debate,
enquiry, or investigation, it is not supposed to be known on which side
the majority of opinions will fall, and therefore, whilst this mode of
decision secures to every one the right of giving an opinion, it admits
to every one an equal chance in the ultimate event.

Among the matters that will present themselves to the consideration of
a national convention, there is one, wholly of a domestic nature, but so
marvellously loaded with con-fusion, as to appear at first sight, almost
impossible to be reformed. I mean the condition of what is called Law.

But, if we examine into the cause from whence this confusion, now so
much the subject of universal complaint, is produced, not only the
remedy will immediately present itself, but, with it, the means of
preventing the like case hereafter.

In the first place, the confusion has generated itself from the
absurdity of every Parliament assuming to be eternal in power, and
the laws partake in a similar manner, of this assumption. They have no
period of legal or natural expiration; and, however absurd in principle,
or inconsistent in practice many of them have become, they still are,
if not especially repealed, considered as making a part of the general
mass. By this means the body of what is called Law, is spread over a
space of _several hundred years_, comprehending laws obsolete, laws
repugnant, laws ridiculous, and every other kind of laws forgotten
or remembered; and what renders the case still worse, is, that the
confusion multiplies with the progress of time. (*)

To bring this misshapen monster into form, and to prevent its lapsing
again into a wilderness state, only two things, and those very simple,
are necessary.

The first is, to review the whole mass of laws, and to bring forward
such only as are worth retaining, and let all the rest drop; and to give
to the laws so brought forward a new era, commencing from the time of
such reform.

* In the time of Henry IV. a law was passed making it felony
"to multiply gold or silver, or to make use of the craft of
multiplication," and this law remained two hundred and
eighty-six years upon the statute books. It was then
repealed as being ridiculous and injurious.--_Author_.

Secondly; that at the expiration of every twenty-one years (or any other
stated period) a like review shall again be taken, and the laws, found
proper to be retained, be again carried forward, commencing with that
date, and the useless laws dropped and discontinued.

By this means there can be no obsolete laws, and scarcely such a thing
as laws standing in direct or equivocal contradiction to each other, and
every person will know the period of time to which he is to look back
for all the laws in being.

It is worth remarking, that while every other branch of science is
brought within some commodious system, and the study of it simplified by
easy methods, the laws take the contrary course, and become every year
more complicated, entangled, confused, and obscure.

Among the paragraphs which the Attorney General has taken from the
_Rights of Man_, and put into his information, one is, that where I
have said, "that with respect to regular law, there is _scarcely such a
thing_."

As I do not know whether the Attorney-General means to show this
expression to be libellous, because it is TRUE, or because it is FALSE,
I shall make no other reply to him in this place, than by remarking,
that if almanack-makers had not been more judicious than law-makers,
the study of almanacks would by this time have become as abstruse as the
study of the law, and we should hear of a library of almanacks as we
now do of statutes; but by the simple operation of letting the obsolete
matter drop, and carrying forward that only which is proper to be
retained, all that is necessary to be known is found within the space of
a year, and laws also admit of being kept within some given period.

I shall here close this letter, so far as it respects the Addresses, the
Proclamation, and the Prosecution; and shall offer a few observations to
the Society, styling itself "The Friends of the People."

That the science of government is beginning to be better understood than
in former times, and that the age of fiction and political superstition,
and of craft and mystery, is passing away, are matters which the
experience of every day-proves to be true, as well in England as in
other countries.

As therefore it is impossible to calculate the silent progress of
opinion, and also impossible to govern a nation after it has changed
its habits of thinking, by the craft or policy that it was governed
by before, the only true method to prevent popular discontents and
commotions is, to throw, by every fair and rational argument, all the
light upon the subject that can possibly be thrown; and at the same
time, to open the means of collecting the general sense of the nation;
and this cannot, as already observed, be done by any plan so effectually
as a national convention. Here individual opinion will quiet itself by
having a centre to rest upon.

The society already mentioned, (which is made up of men of various
descriptions, but chiefly of those called Foxites,) appears to me,
either to have taken wrong grounds from want of judgment, or to have
acted with cunning reserve. It is now amusing the people with a
new phrase, namely, that of "a temperate and moderate reform," the
interpretation of which is, _a continuance of the abuses as long as
possible, If we cannot hold all let us hold some_.

Who are those that are frightened at reforms? Are the public afraid that
their taxes should be lessened too much? Are they afraid that sinecure
places and pensions should be abolished too fast? Are the poor afraid
that their condition should be rendered too comfortable? Is the worn-out
mechanic, or the aged and decayed tradesman, frightened at the prospect
of receiving ten pounds a year out of the surplus taxes? Is the soldier
frightened at the thoughts of his discharge, and three shillings per
week during life? Is the sailor afraid that press-warrants will be
abolished? The Society mistakes the fears of borough-mongers, placemen,
and pensioners, for the fears of the people; and the _temperate and
moderate Reform_ it talks of, is calculated to suit the condition of the
former.

Those words, "temperate and moderate," are words either of political
cowardice, or of cunning, or seduction.--A thing, moderately good, is
not so good as it ought to be. Moderation in temper, is always a virtue;
but moderation in principle, is a species of vice. But who is to be the
judge of what is a temperate and moderate Reform? The Society is the
representative of nobody; neither can the unrepresented part of the
nation commit this power to those in Parliament, in whose election they
had no choice; and, therefore, even upon the ground the Society has
taken, recourse must be had to a National Convention.

The objection which Mr. Fox made to Mr. Grey's proposed Motion for a
Parliamentary Reform was, that it contained no plan.--It certainly did
not. But the plan very easily presents itself; and whilst it is fair
for all parties, it prevents the dangers that might otherwise arise from
private or popular discontent.

Thomas Paine.


Editorial Note on Burke's Alleged Secret Pension.--By
reference to Vol. II., pp. 271, 360, of this work, it will
be seen that Paine mentions a report that Burke was a
"pensioner in a fictitious name." A letter of John Hall to a
relative in Leicester, (London, May 1,1792.) says: "You will
remember that there was a vote carried, about the conclusion
of the American war, that the influence of the Crown had
increased, was increasing, and should be diminished. Burke,
poor, and like a good angler, baited a hook with a bill to
bring into Parliament, that no pensions should be given
above 300 a year, but what should be publicly granted, and
for what, (I may not be quite particular.) To stop that he
took in another person's name 1500 a year for life, and
some time past he disposed of it, or sold his life out.



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