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I suppose the number of copies to which the
first part of the RIGHTS OF MAN extended, taking England, Scotland, and
Ireland, is not less than between forty and fifty thousand.

I now come to remark on the remaining part of the quotation I have made
from Mr. Burke.

"If," says he, "such writings shall be thought to deserve any other
refutation than that of criminal justice."

Pardoning the pun, it must be criminal justice indeed that should
condemn a work as a substitute for not being able to refute it.
The greatest condemnation that could be passed upon it would be a
refutation. But in proceeding by the method Mr. Burke alludes to, the
condemnation would, in the final event, pass upon the criminality of
the process and not upon the work, and in this case, I had rather be the
author, than be either the judge or the jury that should condemn it.

But to come at once to the point. I have differed from some professional
gentlemen on the subject of prosecutions, and I since find they are
falling into my opinion, which I will here state as fully, but as
concisely as I can.

I will first put a case with respect to any law, and then compare it
with a government, or with what in England is, or has been, called a
constitution.

It would be an act of despotism, or what in England is called arbitrary
power, to make a law to prohibit investigating the principles, good or
bad, on which such a law, or any other is founded.

If a law be bad it is one thing to oppose the practice of it, but it is
quite a different thing to expose its errors, to reason on its defects,
and to show cause why it should be repealed, or why another ought to be
substituted in its place. I have always held it an opinion (making it
also my practice) that it is better to obey a bad law, making use at the
same time of every argument to show its errors and procure its repeal,
than forcibly to violate it; because the precedent of breaking a bad law
might weaken the force, and lead to a discretionary violation, of those
which are good.

The case is the same with respect to principles and forms of government,
or to what are called constitutions and the parts of which they are,
composed.

It is for the good of nations and not for the emolument or
aggrandisement of particular individuals, that government ought to be
established, and that mankind are at the expense of supporting it. The
defects of every government and constitution both as to principle and
form, must, on a parity of reasoning, be as open to discussion as the
defects of a law, and it is a duty which every man owes to society to
point them out. When those defects, and the means of remedying them, are
generally seen by a nation, that nation will reform its government or
its constitution in the one case, as the government repealed or reformed
the law in the other. The operation of government is restricted to the
making and the administering of laws; but it is to a nation that the
right of forming or reforming, generating or regenerating constitutions
and governments belong; and consequently those subjects, as subjects
of investigation, are always before a country as a matter of right, and
cannot, without invading the general rights of that country, be made
subjects for prosecution. On this ground I will meet Mr. Burke whenever
he please. It is better that the whole argument should come out than to
seek to stifle it. It was himself that opened the controversy, and he
ought not to desert it.

I do not believe that monarchy and aristocracy will continue seven years
longer in any of the enlightened countries in Europe. If better reasons
can be shown for them than against them, they will stand; if the
contrary, they will not. Mankind are not now to be told they shall not
think, or they shall not read; and publications that go no farther than
to investigate principles of government, to invite men to reason and to
reflect, and to show the errors and excellences of different systems,
have a right to appear. If they do not excite attention, they are not
worth the trouble of a prosecution; and if they do, the prosecution will
amount to nothing, since it cannot amount to a prohibition of reading.
This would be a sentence on the public, instead of the author, and would
also be the most effectual mode of making or hastening revolution.

On all cases that apply universally to a nation, with respect to systems
of government, a jury of twelve men is not competent to decide. Where
there are no witnesses to be examined, no facts to be proved, and where
the whole matter is before the whole public, and the merits or demerits
of it resting on their opinion; and where there is nothing to be known
in a court, but what every body knows out of it, every twelve men is
equally as good a jury as the other, and would most probably reverse
each other's verdict; or, from the variety of their opinions, not be
able to form one. It is one case, whether a nation approve a work, or a
plan; but it is quite another case, whether it will commit to any such
jury the power of determining whether that nation have a right to, or
shall reform its government or not. I mention those cases that Mr. Burke
may see I have not written on Government without reflecting on what is
Law, as well as on what are Rights.--The only effectual jury in such
cases would be a convention of the whole nation fairly elected; for
in all such cases the whole nation is the vicinage. If Mr. Burke will
propose such a jury, I will waive all privileges of being the citizen
of another country, and, defending its principles, abide the issue,
provided he will do the same; for my opinion is, that his work and his
principles would be condemned instead of mine.

As to the prejudices which men have from education and habit, in favour
of any particular form or system of government, those prejudices have
yet to stand the test of reason and reflection. In fact, such prejudices
are nothing. No man is prejudiced in favour of a thing, knowing it to be
wrong. He is attached to it on the belief of its being right; and
when he sees it is not so, the prejudice will be gone. We have but a
defective idea of what prejudice is. It might be said, that until men
think for themselves the whole is prejudice, and not opinion; for that
only is opinion which is the result of reason and reflection. I offer
this remark, that Mr. Burke may not confide too much in what have been
the customary prejudices of the country.

I do not believe that the people of England have ever been fairly and
candidly dealt by. They have been imposed upon by parties, and by men
assuming the character of leaders. It is time that the nation should
rise above those trifles. It is time to dismiss that inattention which
has so long been the encouraging cause of stretching taxation to excess.
It is time to dismiss all those songs and toasts which are calculated to
enslave, and operate to suffocate reflection. On all such subjects men
have but to think, and they will neither act wrong nor be misled. To
say that any people are not fit for freedom, is to make poverty their
choice, and to say they had rather be loaded with taxes than not. If
such a case could be proved, it would equally prove that those who
govern are not fit to govern them, for they are a part of the same
national mass.

But admitting governments to be changed all over Europe; it certainly
may be done without convulsion or revenge. It is not worth making
changes or revolutions, unless it be for some great national benefit:
and when this shall appear to a nation, the danger will be, as in
America and France, to those who oppose; and with this reflection I
close my Preface.

THOMAS PAINE

London, Feb. 9, 1792




RIGHTS OF MAN PART II.




INTRODUCTION.

What Archimedes said of the mechanical powers, may be applied to Reason
and Liberty. "Had we," said he, "a place to stand upon, we might raise
the world."

The revolution of America presented in politics what was only theory in
mechanics. So deeply rooted were all the governments of the old
world, and so effectually had the tyranny and the antiquity of habit
established itself over the mind, that no beginning could be made in
Asia, Africa, or Europe, to reform the political condition of man.
Freedom had been hunted round the globe; reason was considered as
rebellion; and the slavery of fear had made men afraid to think.

But such is the irresistible nature of truth, that all it asks,--and all
it wants,--is the liberty of appearing. The sun needs no inscription
to distinguish him from darkness; and no sooner did the American
governments display themselves to the world, than despotism felt a shock
and man began to contemplate redress.

The independence of America, considered merely as a separation from
England, would have been a matter but of little importance, had it
not been accompanied by a revolution in the principles and practice of
governments. She made a stand, not for herself only, but for the
world, and looked beyond the advantages herself could receive. Even
the Hessian, though hired to fight against her, may live to bless his
defeat; and England, condemning the viciousness of its government,
rejoice in its miscarriage.

As America was the only spot in the political world where the principle
of universal reformation could begin, so also was it the best in the
natural world. An assemblage of circumstances conspired, not only to
give birth, but to add gigantic maturity to its principles. The scene
which that country presents to the eye of a spectator, has something in
it which generates and encourages great ideas. Nature appears to him in
magnitude. The mighty objects he beholds, act upon his mind by enlarging
it, and he partakes of the greatness he contemplates.--Its first
settlers were emigrants from different European nations, and of
diversified professions of religion, retiring from the governmental
persecutions of the old world, and meeting in the new, not as enemies,
but as brothers. The wants which necessarily accompany the cultivation
of a wilderness produced among them a state of society, which countries
long harassed by the quarrels and intrigues of governments, had
neglected to cherish.



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