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The case is as follows:

The English parliament of 1688, imported a man and his wife from
Holland, _William and Mary_, and made them king and queen of England.
(2) Having done this, the said parliament made a law to convey the
government of the country to the heirs of William and Mary, in the
following words: "We, the lords spiritual and temporal, and commons, do,
in the name of the people of England, most humbly and faithfully submit
_ourselves, our heirs, and posterities_, to William and Mary, _their
heirs and posterities_, for ever." And in a subsequent law, as quoted by
Edmund Burke, the said parliament, in the name of the people of England
then living, _binds the said people, their heirs and posterities, to
William and Mary, their heirs and posterities, to the end of time_.

2 "The Bill of Rights (temp. William III.) shows that the
Lords and Commons met not in Parliament but in convention,
that they declared against James II., and in favour of
William III. The latter was accepted as sovereign, and, when
monarch. Acta of Parliament were passed confirming what had
been done."--Joseph Fisher in Notes and Queries (London),
May 2,1874. This does not affect Paine's argument, as a
Convention could have no more right to bind the future than
a Parliament.--_Editor._.

It is not sufficient that we laugh at the ignorance of such law-makers;
it is necessary that we reprobate their want of principle. The
constituent assembly of France, 1789, fell into the same vice as the
parliament of England had done, and assumed to establish an hereditary
succession in the family of the Capets, as an act of the constitution
of that year. That every nation, _for the time being_, has a right to
govern itself as it pleases, must always be admitted; but government by
hereditary succession is government for another race of people, and
not for itself; and as those on whom it is to operate are not yet in
existence, or are minors, so neither is the right in existence to set it
up for them, and to assume such a right is treason against the right of
posterity.

I here close the arguments on the first head, that of government by
hereditary succession; and proceed to the second, that of government
by election and representation; or, as it may be concisely expressed,
_representative government_, in contra-distinction to _hereditary
government_.

Reasoning by exclusion, if _hereditary government_ has not a right to
exist, and that it has not is proveable, _representative government_ is
admitted of course.

In contemplating government by election and representation, we amuse
not ourselves in enquiring when or how, or by what right, it began. Its
origin is ever in view. Man is himself the origin and the evidence
of the right. It appertains to him in right of his existence, and his
person is the title deed.(1)

The true and only true basis of representative government is equality of
Rights. Every man has a right to one vote, and no more, in the choice
of representatives. The rich have no more right to exclude the poor from
the right of voting, or of electing and being elected, than the poor
have to exclude the rich; and wherever it is attempted, or proposed, on
either side, it is a question of force and not of right. Who is he that
would exclude another? That other has a right to exclude him.

That which is now called aristocracy implies an inequality of rights;
but who are the persons that have a right to establish this inequality?
Will the rich exclude themselves? No. Will the poor exclude themselves?
No. By what right then can any be excluded? It would be a question, if
any man or class of men have a right to exclude themselves; but, be this
as it may, they cannot have the right to exclude another. The poor will
not delegate such a right to the rich, nor the rich to the poor, and to
assume it is not only to assume arbitrary power, but to assume a right
to commit robbery. Personal rights, of which the right of voting for
representatives is one, are a species of property of the most sacred
kind: and he that would employ his pecuniary property, or presume upon
the influence it gives him, to dispossess or rob another of his property
of rights, uses that pecuniary property as he would use fire-arms, and
merits to have it taken from him.

1 "The sacred rights of mankind are not to be rummaged for
among old parchments or musty records. They are written as
with a sunbeam in the whole volume of human nature by the
hand of Divinity itself, and can never be erased or obscured
by mortal power."--Alexander Hamilton, 1775. (Cf. Rights of
Man, Toi. ii., p. 304): "Portions of antiquity by proving
everything establish nothing. It is authority against
authority all the way, till we come to the divine origin of
the rights of man at the creation."--_Editor._.

Inequality of rights is created by a combination in one part of the
community to exclude another part from its rights. Whenever it be made
an article of a constitution, or a law, that the right of voting, or
of electing and being elected, shall appertain exclusively to persons
possessing a certain quantity of property, be it little or much, it is a
combination of the persons possessing that quantity to exclude those who
do not possess the same quantity. It is investing themselves with powers
as a self-created part of society, to the exclusion of the rest.

It is always to be taken for granted, that those who oppose an equality
of rights never mean the exclusion should take place on themselves; and
in this view of the case, pardoning the vanity of the thing, aristocracy
is a subject of laughter. This self-soothing vanity is encouraged by
another idea not less selfish, which is, that the opposers conceive they
are playing a safe game, in which there is a chance to gain and none
to lose; that at any rate the doctrine of equality includes _them_,
and that if they cannot get more rights than those whom they oppose and
would exclude, they shall not have less. This opinion has already been
fatal to thousands, who, not contented with _equal rights_, have sought
more till they lost all, and experienced in themselves the degrading
_inequality_ they endeavoured to fix upon others.

In any view of the case it is dangerous and impolitic, sometimes
ridiculous, and always unjust, to make property the criterion of the
right of voting. If the sum or value of the property upon which the
right is to take place be considerable, it will exclude a majority of
the people, and unite them in a common interest against the government
and against those who support it; and as the power is always with
the majority, they can overturn such a government and its supporters
whenever they please.

If, in order to avoid this danger, a small quantity of property be
fixed, as the criterion of the right, it exhibits liberty in disgrace,
by putting it in competition with accident and insignificance. When a
brood-mare shall fortunately produce a foal or a mule that, by being
worth the sum in question, shall convey to its owner the right of
voting, or by its death take it from him, in whom does the origin of
such a right exist? Is it in the man, or in the mule? When we consider
how many ways property may be acquired without merit, and lost without a
crime, we ought to spurn the idea of making it a criterion of rights.

But the offensive part of the case is, that this exclusion from the
right of voting implies a stigma on the moral char* acter of the persons
excluded; and this is what no part of the community has a right to
pronounce upon another part. No external circumstance can justify it:
wealth is no proof of moral character; nor poverty of the want of it.
On the contrary, wealth is often the presumptive evidence of dishonesty;
and poverty the negative evidence of innocence. If therefore property,
whether little or much, be made a criterion, the means by which that
property has been acquired ought to be made a criterion also.

The only ground upon which exclusion from the right of voting is
consistent with justice, would be to inflict it as a punishment for a
certain time upon those who should propose to take away that right from
others. The right of voting for representatives is the primary right by
which other rights are protected. To take away this right is to reduce
a man to slavery, for slavery consists in being subject to the will of
another, and he that has not a vote in the election of representatives
is in this case. The proposal therefore to disfranchise any class of men
is as criminal as the proposal to take away property. When we speak
of right, we ought always to unite with it the idea of duties: rights
become duties by reciprocity. The right which I enjoy becomes my duty
to guarantee it to another, and he to me; and those who violate the duty
justly incur a forfeiture of the right.

In a political view of the case, the strength and permanent security
of government is in proportion to the number of people interested in
supporting it. The true policy therefore is to interest the whole by
an equality of rights, for the danger arises from exclusions. It is
possible to exclude men from the right of voting, but it is impossible
to exclude them from the right of rebelling against that exclusion; and
when all other rights are taken away, the right of rebellion is made
perfect.

While men could be persuaded they had no rights, or that rights
appertained only to a certain class of men, or that government was a
thing existing in right of itself, it was not difficult to govern
them authoritatively. The ignorance in which they were held, and the
superstition in which they were instructed, furnished the means of doing
it. But when the ignorance is gone, and the superstition with it; when
they perceive the imposition that has been acted upon them; when they
reflect that the cultivator and the manufacturer are the primary
means of all the wealth that exists in the world, beyond what nature
spontaneously produces; when they begin to feel their consequence by
their usefulness, and their right as members of society, it is then no
longer possible to govern them as before.



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