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But, as it is impossible long to prevent the
prevalence of truth, the daily falsehoods of those papers no longer have
the desired effect.

To be convinced that the voice of truth has been stifled in England, the
world needs only to be told that the government regards and prosecutes
as a libel that which it should protect.*[1] This outrage on morality is
called law, and judges are found wicked enough to inflict penalties on
truth.

The English government presents, just now, a curious phenomenon. Seeing
that the French and English nations are getting rid of the prejudices
and false notions formerly entertained against each other, and which
have cost them so much money, that government seems to be placarding its
need of a foe; for unless it finds one somewhere, no pretext exists for
the enormous revenue and taxation now deemed necessary.

Therefore it seeks in Russia the enemy it has lost in France, and
appears to say to the universe, or to say to itself. "If nobody will be
so kind as to become my foe, I shall need no more fleets nor armies,
and shall be forced to reduce my taxes. The American war enabled me to
double the taxes; the Dutch business to add more; the Nootka humbug gave
me a pretext for raising three millions sterling more; but unless I can
make an enemy of Russia the harvest from wars will end. I was the first
to incite Turk against Russian, and now I hope to reap a fresh crop of
taxes."

If the miseries of war, and the flood of evils it spreads over a
country, did not check all inclination to mirth, and turn laughter
into grief, the frantic conduct of the government of England would only
excite ridicule. But it is impossible to banish from one's mind the
images of suffering which the contemplation of such vicious policy
presents. To reason with governments, as they have existed for ages,
is to argue with brutes. It is only from the nations themselves that
reforms can be expected. There ought not now to exist any doubt that the
peoples of France, England, and America, enlightened and enlightening
each other, shall henceforth be able, not merely to give the world an
example of good government, but by their united influence enforce its
practice.

(Translated from the French)




RIGHTS OF MAN. PART THE FIRST BEING AN ANSWER TO MR. BURKE'S ATTACK ON
THE FRENCH REVOLUTION


Among the incivilities by which nations or individuals provoke and
irritate each other, Mr. Burke's pamphlet on the French Revolution is an
extraordinary instance. Neither the People of France, nor the National
Assembly, were troubling themselves about the affairs of England, or
the English Parliament; and that Mr. Burke should commence an unprovoked
attack upon them, both in Parliament and in public, is a conduct that
cannot be pardoned on the score of manners, nor justified on that of
policy.

There is scarcely an epithet of abuse to be found in the English
language, with which Mr. Burke has not loaded the French Nation and the
National Assembly. Everything which rancour, prejudice, ignorance or
knowledge could suggest, is poured forth in the copious fury of near
four hundred pages. In the strain and on the plan Mr. Burke was writing,
he might have written on to as many thousands. When the tongue or the
pen is let loose in a frenzy of passion, it is the man, and not the
subject, that becomes exhausted.

Hitherto Mr. Burke has been mistaken and disappointed in the opinions
he had formed of the affairs of France; but such is the ingenuity of his
hope, or the malignancy of his despair, that it furnishes him with new
pretences to go on. There was a time when it was impossible to make Mr.
Burke believe there would be any Revolution in France. His opinion then
was, that the French had neither spirit to undertake it nor fortitude to
support it; and now that there is one, he seeks an escape by condemning
it.

Not sufficiently content with abusing the National Assembly, a great
part of his work is taken up with abusing Dr. Price (one of the
best-hearted men that lives) and the two societies in England known by
the name of the Revolution Society and the Society for Constitutional
Information.

Dr. Price had preached a sermon on the 4th of November, 1789, being
the anniversary of what is called in England the Revolution, which took
place 1688. Mr. Burke, speaking of this sermon, says: "The political
Divine proceeds dogmatically to assert, that by the principles of
the Revolution, the people of England have acquired three fundamental
rights:

1. To choose our own governors.

2. To cashier them for misconduct.

3. To frame a government for ourselves."

Dr. Price does not say that the right to do these things exists in this
or in that person, or in this or in that description of persons, but
that it exists in the whole; that it is a right resident in the nation.
Mr. Burke, on the contrary, denies that such a right exists in the
nation, either in whole or in part, or that it exists anywhere; and,
what is still more strange and marvellous, he says: "that the people
of England utterly disclaim such a right, and that they will resist
the practical assertion of it with their lives and fortunes." That men
should take up arms and spend their lives and fortunes, not to maintain
their rights, but to maintain they have not rights, is an entirely new
species of discovery, and suited to the paradoxical genius of Mr. Burke.

The method which Mr. Burke takes to prove that the people of England
have no such rights, and that such rights do not now exist in the
nation, either in whole or in part, or anywhere at all, is of the same
marvellous and monstrous kind with what he has already said; for his
arguments are that the persons, or the generation of persons, in whom
they did exist, are dead, and with them the right is dead also. To prove
this, he quotes a declaration made by Parliament about a hundred years
ago, to William and Mary, in these words: "The Lords Spiritual and
Temporal, and Commons, do, in the name of the people aforesaid" (meaning
the people of England then living) "most humbly and faithfully submit
themselves, their heirs and posterities, for Ever." He quotes a clause
of another Act of Parliament made in the same reign, the terms of which
he says, "bind us" (meaning the people of their day), "our heirs and our
posterity, to them, their heirs and posterity, to the end of time."

Mr. Burke conceives his point sufficiently established by producing
those clauses, which he enforces by saying that they exclude the
right of the nation for ever. And not yet content with making such
declarations, repeated over and over again, he farther says, "that if
the people of England possessed such a right before the Revolution"
(which he acknowledges to have been the case, not only in England, but
throughout Europe, at an early period), "yet that the English Nation
did, at the time of the Revolution, most solemnly renounce and abdicate
it, for themselves, and for all their posterity, for ever."

As Mr. Burke occasionally applies the poison drawn from his horrid
principles, not only to the English nation, but to the French Revolution
and the National Assembly, and charges that august, illuminated and
illuminating body of men with the epithet of usurpers, I shall, sans
ceremonie, place another system of principles in opposition to his.

The English Parliament of 1688 did a certain thing, which, for
themselves and their constituents, they had a right to do, and which
it appeared right should be done. But, in addition to this right, which
they possessed by delegation, they set up another right by assumption,
that of binding and controlling posterity to the end of time. The case,
therefore, divides itself into two parts; the right which they possessed
by delegation, and the right which they set up by assumption. The first
is admitted; but with respect to the second, I reply: There never
did, there never will, and there never can, exist a Parliament, or any
description of men, or any generation of men, in any country, possessed
of the right or the power of binding and controlling posterity to
the "end of time," or of commanding for ever how the world shall be
governed, or who shall govern it; and therefore all such clauses, acts
or declarations by which the makers of them attempt to do what they have
neither the right nor the power to do, nor the power to execute, are in
themselves null and void. Every age and generation must be as free to
act for itself in all cases as the age and generations which preceded
it. The vanity and presumption of governing beyond the grave is the most
ridiculous and insolent of all tyrannies. Man has no property in man;
neither has any generation a property in the generations which are to
follow. The Parliament or the people of 1688, or of any other period,
had no more right to dispose of the people of the present day, or to
bind or to control them in any shape whatever, than the parliament or
the people of the present day have to dispose of, bind or control those
who are to live a hundred or a thousand years hence. Every generation
is, and must be, competent to all the purposes which its occasions
require. It is the living, and not the dead, that are to be
accommodated. When man ceases to be, his power and his wants cease with
him; and having no longer any participation in the concerns of this
world, he has no longer any authority in directing who shall be
its governors, or how its government shall be organised, or how
administered.

I am not contending for nor against any form of government, nor for nor
against any party, here or elsewhere. That which a whole nation chooses
to do it has a right to do. Mr. Burke says, No. Where, then, does the
right exist? I am contending for the rights of the living, and against
their being willed away and controlled and contracted for by the
manuscript assumed authority of the dead, and Mr. Burke is contending
for the authority of the dead over the rights and freedom of the living.
There was a time when kings disposed of their crowns by will upon their
death-beds, and consigned the people, like beasts of the field, to
whatever successor they appointed.



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