The Writings Of Thomas Paine, Complete - With Index to Volumes I - IV
by Thomas Paine
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When we reach some great good, long desired, we begin by felicitating ourselves. We triumph, we give ourselves up to this joy without rendering to our minds any full account of our reasons for it. Then comes reflexion: we pass in review all the circumstances of our new happiness; we compare it in detail with our former condition; and each of these thoughts becomes a fresh enjoyment. This satisfaction, elucidated and well-considered, we now desire to procure for our readers.

In seeing Royalty abolished and the Republic established, all France has resounded with unanimous plaudits.(2) Yet, Citizen President: In the name of the Deputies of the Department of the Pas de Calais, I have the honor of presenting to the Convention the felicitations of the General Council of the Commune of Calais on the abolition of Royalty.

1 Translated for this work from Le Patriote Francois, "Samedi 20 Octobre, 1793, l'an Ier de la Republique. Supplement au No. 1167," in the Bibliotheque Nationale, Paris. It is headed, "Essai anti-monarchique, a l'usage des nouveaux republicains, tire de la Feuille Villageoise." I have not found this Feuille, but no doubt Brissot, in editing the essay for his journal (Le Patriote Francois) abridged it, and in one instance Paine is mentioned by name. Although in this essay Paine occasionally repeats sentences used elsewhere, and naturally maintains his well-known principles, the work has a peculiar interest as indicating the temper and visions of the opening revolution.—Editor.

2 Royalty was abolished by the National Convention on the first day of its meeting, September 21, 1792, the revolutionary Calendar beginning next day. Paine was chosen by his fellow-deputies of Calais to congratulate the Convention, and did so in a brief address, dated October 27, which was loaned by M. Charavay to the Historical Exposition of the Revolution at Paris, 1889, where I made the subjoined translation: "folly of oar ancestor", who have placed us under the necessity of treating gravely (solennellement) the abolition of a phantom (fantome).—Thomas Paine, Deputy."— Editor.

Amid the joy inspired by this event, one cannot forbear some pain at the some who clap their hands do not sufficiently understand the condition they are leaving or that which they are assuming.

The perjuries of Louis, the conspiracies of his court, the wildness of his worthy brothers, have filled every Frenchman with horror, and this race was dethroned in their hearts before its fall by legal decree. But it is little to throw down an idol; it is the pedestal that above all must be broken down; it is the regal office rather than the incumbent that is murderous. All do not realize this.

Why is Royalty an absurd and detestable government? Why is the Republic a government accordant with nature and reason? At the present time a Frenchman should put himself in a position to answer these two questions clearly. For, in fine, if you are free and contented it is yet needful that you should know why.

Let us first discuss Royalty or Monarchy. Although one often wishes to distinguish between these names, common usage gives them the same sense.


Bands of brigands unite to subvert a country, place it under tribute, seize its lands, enslave its inhabitants. The expedition completed, the chieftain of the robbers adopts the title of monarch or king. Such is the origin of Royalty among all tribes—huntsmen, agriculturists, shepherds.

A second brigand arrives who finds it equitable to take away by force what was conquered by violence: he dispossesses the first; he chains him, kills him, reigns in his place. Ere long time effaces the memory of this origin; the successors rule under a new form; they do a little good, from policy; they corrupt all who surround them; they invent fictitious genealogies to make their families sacred (1); the knavery of priests comes to their aid; they take Religion for a life-guard: thenceforth tyranny becomes immortal, the usurped power becomes an hereditary right.

1 The Boston Investigator's compilation of Paine's Works contains the following as supposed to be Mr. Paine's:

"Royal Pedigree.—George the Third, who was the grandson of George the Second, who was the son of George the First, who was the son of the Princess Sophia, who was the cousin of Anne, who was the sister of William and Mary, who were the daughter and son-in-law of James the Second, who was the son of Charles the First, who was a traitor to his country and decapitated as such, who was the son of James the First, who was the son of Mary, who was the sister of Edward the Sixth, who was the son of Henry the Eighth, who was the coldblooded murderer of his wives, and the promoter of the Protestant religion, who was the son of Henry the Seventh, who slew Richard the Third, who smothered his nephew Edward the Fifth, who was the son of Edward the Fourth, who with bloody Richard slew Henry the Sixth, who succeeded Henry the Fifth, who was the son of Henry the Fourth, who was the cousin of Richard the Second, who was the son of Edward the Third, who was the son of Richard the Second, who was the son of Edward the First, who was the son of Henry the Third, who was the son of John, who was the brother of Richard the First, who was the son of Henry the Second, who was the son of Matilda, who was the daughter of Henry the First, who was the brother of William Rufus, who was the son of William the Conqueror, who was the son of a whore."—Editor.

The effects of Royalty have been entirely harmonious with its origin. What scenes of horror, what refinements of iniquity, do the annals of monarchies present! If we should paint human nature with a baseness of heart, an hypocrisy, from which all must recoil and humanity disavow, it would be the portraiture of kings, their ministers and courtiers.

And why should it not be so? What should such a monstrosity produce but miseries and crimes? What is monarchy? It has been finely disguised, and the people familiarized with the odious title: in its real sense the word signifies the absolute power of one single individual, who may with impunity be stupid, treacherous, tyrannical, etc. Is it not an insult to nations to wish them so governed?

Government by a single individual is vicious in itself, independently of the individual's vices. For however little a State, the prince is nearly always too small: where is the proportion between one man and the affairs of a whole nation?

True, some men of genius have been seen under the diadem; but the evil is then even greater: the ambition of such a man impels him to conquest and despotism, his subjects soon have to lament his glory, and sing their Te-deums while perishing with hunger. Such is the history of Louis XIV. and so many others.

But if ordinary men in power repay you with incapacity or with princely vices? But those who come to the front in monarchies are frequently mere mean mischief-makers, commonplace knaves, petty intriguers, whose small wits, which in courts reach large places, serve only to display their ineptitude in public, as soon as they appear. (*) In short, monarchs do nothing, and their ministers do evil: this is the history of all monarchies.

But if Royalty as such is baneful, as hereditary succession it is equally revolting and ridiculous. What! there exists among my kind a man who pretends that he is born to govern me? Whence derived he such right? From his and my ancestors, says he. But how could they transmit to him a right they did not possess? Man has no authority over generations unborn. I cannot be the slave of the dead, more than of the living. Suppose that instead of our posterity, it was we who should succeed ourselves: we should not to-day be able to despoil ourselves of the rights which would belong to us in our second life: for a stronger reason we cannot so despoil others.

An hereditary crown! A transmissible throne! What a notion! With even a little reflexion, can any one tolerate it? Should human beings then be the property of certain individuals, born or to be born? Are we then to treat our descendants in advance as cattle, who shall have neither will nor rights of their own? To inherit government is to inherit peoples, as if they were herds. It is the basest, the most shameful fantasy that ever degraded mankind.

It is wrong to reproach kings with their ferocity, their brutal indifference, the oppressions of the people, and molestations of citizens: it is hereditary succession that makes them what they are: this breeds monsters as a marsh breeds vipers.

* J. J. Rousseau, Contrat Social.—Author.

The logic on which the hereditary prince rests is in effect this: I derive my power from my birth; I derive my birth from God; therefore I owe nothing to men. It is little that he has at hand a complacent minister, he continues to indulge, conscientiously, in all the crimes of tyranny. This has been seen in all times and countries.

Tell me, then, what is there in common between him who is master of a people, and the people of whom he is master? Are these masters really of their kind? It is by sympathy that we are good and human: with whom does a monarch sympathize? When my neighbor suffers I pity, because I put myself in his place: a monarch pities none, because he has never been, can never be, in any other place than his own.

A monarch is an egoist by nature, the egoist par excellence. A thousand traits show that this kind of men have no point of contact with the rest of humanity. There was demanded of Charles II. the punishment of Lauderdale, his favorite, who had infamously oppressed the Scotch. "Yes," said Charles coolly, "this man has done much against the Scotch, but I cannot see that he has done anything against my interests." Louis XIV. often said: "If I follow the wishes of the people, I cannot act the king." Even such phrases as "misfortunes of the State," "safety of the State," filled Louis XIV. with wrath.

Could nature make a law which should assure virtue and wisdom invariably in these privileged castes that perpetuate themselves on thrones, there would be no objection to their hereditary succession. But let us pass Europe in review: all of its monarchs are the meanest of men. This one a tyrant, that one an imbecile, another a traitor, the next a debauchee, while some muster all the vices. It looks as if fate and nature had aimed to show our epoch, and all nations, the absurdity and enormity of Royalty.

But I mistake: this epoch has nothing peculiar. For, such is the essential vice of this royal succession by animal filiation, the peoples have not even the chances of nature,—they cannot even hope for a good prince as an alternative. All things conspire to deprive of reason and justice an individual reared to command others. The word of young Dionysius was very sensible: his father, reproaching him for a shameful action, said, "Have I given thee such example?" "Ah," answered the youth, "thy father was not a king!"

In truth, were laughter on such a subject permissible, nothing would suggest ideas more burlesque than this fantastic institution of hereditary kings. Would it not be believed, to look at them, that there really exist particular lineages possessing certain qualities which enter the blood of the embryo prince, and adapt him physically for royalty, as a horse for the racecourse? But then, in this wild supposition, it yet becomes necessary to assure the genuine family descent of the heir presumptive. To perpetuate the noble race of Andalusian chargers, the circumstances pass before witnesses, and similar precautions seem necessary, however indecent, to make sure that the trickeries of queens shall not supply thrones with bastards, and that the kings, like the horses, shall always be thoroughbreds.

Whether one jests or reasons, there is found in this idea of hereditary royalty only folly and shame. What then is this office, which may be filled by infants or idiots? Some talent is required to be a simple workman; to be a king there is need to have only the human shape, to be a living automaton. We are astonished when reading that the Egyptians placed on the throne a flint, and called it their king. We smile at the dog Barkouf, sent by an Asiatic despot to govern one of his provinces.(*) But mon-archs of this kind are less mischievous and less absurd than those before whom whole peoples prostrate themselves. The flint and the dog at least imposed on nobody. None ascribed to them qualities or characters they did not possess. They were not styled 'Father of the People,'—though this were hardly more ridiculous than to give that title to a rattle-head whom inheritance crowns at eighteen. Better a mute than an animate idol. Why, there can hardly be cited an instance of a great man having children worthy of him, yet you will have the royal function pass from father to son! As well declare that a wise man's son will be wise. A king is an administrator, and an hereditary administrator is as absurd as an author by birthright.

* See the first year of La Feuille Villageoise, No. 42.— Author. [Cf. Montaigne's Essays, chap. xii.—Editor.]

Royalty is thus as contrary to common sense as to com-mon right. But it would be a plague even if no more than an absurdity; for a people who can bow down in honor of a silly thing is a debased people. Can they be fit for great affairs who render equal homage to vice and virtue, and yield the same submission to ignorance and wisdom? Of all institutions, none has caused more intellectual degeneracy. This explains the often-remarked abjectness of character under monarchies.

Such is also the effect of this contagious institution that it renders equality impossible, and draws in its train the presumption and the evils of "Nobility." If you admit inheritance of an office, why not that of a distinction? The Nobility's heritage asks only homage, that of the Crown commands submission. When a man says to me, 'I am born illustrious,' I merely smile; when he says 'I am born your master,' I set my foot on him.

When the Convention pronounced the abolition of Royalty none rose for the defence that was expected. On this subject a philosopher, who thought discussion should always precede enactment, proposed a singular thing; he desired that the Convention should nominate an orator commissioned to plead before it the cause of Royalty, so that the pitiful arguments by which it has in all ages been justified might appear in broad daylight. Judges give one accused, however certain his guilt, an official defender. In the ancient Senate of Venice there existed a public officer whose function was to contest all propositions, however incontestible, or however perfect their evidence. For the rest, pleaders for Royalty are not rare: let us open them, and see what the most specious of royalist reasoners have said.

1. A king is necessary to preserve a people from the tyranny of powerful men.

Establish the Rights of Man(1); enthrone Equality; form a good Constitution; divide well its powers; let there be no privileges, no distinctions of birth, no monopolies; make safe the liberty of industry and of trade, the equal distribution of [family] inheritances, publicity of administration, freedom of the press: these things all established, you will be assured of good laws, and need not fear the powerful men. Willingly or unwillingly, all citizens will be under the Law.

1 The reader should bear in mind that this phrase, now used vaguely, had for Paine and his political school a special significance; it implied a fundamental Declaration of individual rights, of supreme force and authority, invasion which, either by legislatures, law courts, majorities, or administrators, was to be regarded as the worst treason and despotism.—Editor.

2. The Legislature might usurp authority, and a king is needed to restrain it.

With representatives, frequently renewed, who neither administer nor judge, whose functions are determined by the laws; with national conventions, with primary assemblies, which can be convoked any moment; with a people knowing how to read, and how to defend itself; with good journals, guns, and pikes; a Legislature would have a good deal of trouble in enjoying any months of tyranny. Let us not suppose an evil for the sake of its remedy.

3. A king is needed to give force to executive power.

This might be said while there existed nobles, a priesthood, parliaments, the privileged of every kind. But at present who can resist the Law, which is the will of all, whose execution is the interest of all? On the contrary the existence of an hereditary prince inspires perpetual distrust among the friends of liberty; his authority is odious to them; in checking despotism they constantly obstruct the action of government. Observe how feeble the executive power was found, after our recent pretence of marrying Royalty with Liberty.

Take note, for the rest, that those who talk in this way are men who believe that the King and the Executive Power are only one and the same thing: readers of La Feuille Villageoise are more advanced.(*)

* See No. 50.—Author

Others use this bad reasoning: "Were there no hereditary chief there would be an elective chief: the citizens would side with this man or that, and there would be a civil war at every election." In the first place, it is certain that hereditary succession alone has produced the civil wars of France and England; and that beyond this are the pre-tended rights, of royal families which have twenty times drawn on these nations the scourge of foreign wars. It is, in fine, the heredity of crowns that has caused the troubles of Regency, which Thomas Paine calls Monarchy at nurse.

But above all it must be said, that if there be an elective chief, that chief will not be a king surrounded by courtiers, burdened with pomp, inflated by idolatries, and endowed with thirty millions of money; also, that no citizen will be tempted to injure himself by placing another citizen, his equal, for some years in an office without limited income and circumscribed power.

In a word, whoever demands a king demands an aristocracy, and thirty millions of taxes. See why Franklin described Royalism as a crime like poisoning.

Royalty, its fanatical eclat, its superstitious idolatry, the delusive assumption of its necessity, all these fictions have been invented only to obtain from men excessive taxes and voluntary servitude. Royalty and Popery have had the same aim, have sustained themselves by the same artifices, and crumble under the same Light.


Paris, 11th of November, 1st Year of the Republic. [1792.]

Mr. Attorney General:

Sir,—As there can be no personal resentment between two strangers, I write this letter to you, as to a man against whom I have no animosity.

You have, as Attorney General, commenced a prosecution against me, as the author of Rights of Man. Had not my duty, in consequence of my being elected a member of the National Convention of France, called me from England, I should have staid to have contested the injustice of that prosecution; not upon my own account, for I cared not about the prosecution, but to have defended the principles I had advanced in the work.

1 Read to the Jury by the Attorney General, Sir Archibald Macdonald, at the trial of Paine, December 18, 1792, which resulted in his outlawry.—Editor.

The duty I am now engaged in is of too much importance to permit me to trouble myself about your prosecution: when I have leisure, I shall have no objection to meet you on that ground; but, as I now stand, whether you go on with the prosecution, or whether you do not, or whether you obtain a verdict, or not, is a matter of the most perfect indifference to me as an individual. If you obtain one, (which you are welcome to if you can get it,) it cannot affect me either in person, property, or reputation, otherwise than to increase the latter; and with respect to yourself, it is as consistent that you obtain a verdict against the Man in the Moon as against me; neither do I see how you can continue the prosecution against me as you would have done against one your own people, who had absented himself because he was prosecuted; what passed at Dover proves that my departure from England was no secret. (1)

My necessary absence from your country affords the opportunity of knowing whether the prosecution was intended against Thomas Paine, or against the Right of the People of England to investigate systems and principles of government; for as I cannot now be the object of the prosecution, the going on with the prosecution will shew that something else was the object, and that something else can be no other than the People of England, for it is against their Rights, and not against me, that a verdict or sentence can operate, if it can operate at all. Be then so candid as to tell the Jury, (if you choose to continue the process,) whom it is you are prosecuting, and on whom it is that the verdict is to fall.(2)

But I have other reasons than those I have mentioned for writing you this letter; and, however you may choose to interpret them, they proceed from a good heart. The time, Sir, is becoming too serious to play with Court prosecutions, and sport with national rights. The terrible examples that have taken place here, upon men who, less than a year ago, thought themselves as secure as any prosecuting Judge, Jury, or Attorney General, now can in England, ought to have some weight with men in your situation. That the government of England is as great, if not the greatest, perfection of fraud and corruption that ever took place since governments began, is what you cannot be a stranger to, unless the constant habit of seeing it has blinded your senses; but though you may not chuse to see it, the people are seeing it very fast, and the progress is beyond what you may chuse to believe. Is it possible that you, or I, can believe, or that reason can make any other man believe, that the capacity of such a man as Mr. Guelph, or any of his profligate sons, is necessary to the government of a nation? I speak to you as one man ought to speak to another; and I know also that I speak what other people are beginning to think.

1 See Chapter VIII. of this volume.—Editor.

2 In reading the letter in court the Attorney General said at this point: "Gentlemen, I certainly will comply with this request. I am prosecuting both him and his work; and if I succeed in this prosecution, he shall never return to this country otherwise than in vintulis, for I will outlaw him."—Editor.

That you cannot obtain a verdict (and if you do, it will signify nothing) without packing a Jury, (and we both know that such tricks are practised,) is what I have very good reason to believe, I have gone into coffee-houses, and places where I was unknown, on purpose to learn the currency of opinion, and I never yet saw any company of twelve men that condemned the book; but I have often found a greater number than twelve approving it, and this I think is a fair way of collecting the natural currency of opinion. Do not then, Sir, be the instrument of drawing twelve men into a situation that may be injurious to them afterwards. I do not speak this from policy, but from benevolence; but if you chuse to go on with the process, I make it my request to you that you will read this letter in Court, after which the Judge and the Jury may do as they please. As I do not consider myself the object of the prosecution, neither can I be affected by the issue, one way or the other, I shall, though a foreigner in your country, subscribe as much money as any other man towards supporting the right of the nation against the prosecution; and it is for this purpose only that I shall do it.(1)

Thomas Paine.

As I have not time to copy letters, you will excuse the corrections.

1 In reading this letter at the trial the Attorney interspersed comments. At the phrase, "Mr. Guelph and his profligate sons," he exclaimed: "This passage is contemptuous, scandalous, false, cruel. Why, gentlemen, is Mr. Paine, in addition to the political doctrines he is teaching us in this country, to teach us the morality and religion of implacability? Is he to teach human creatures, whose moments of existence depend upon the permission of a Being, merciful, long-suffering, and of great goodness, that those youthful errors from which even royalty is not exempted, are to be treasured up in a vindictive memory, and are to receive sentence of irremissible sin at His hands.... If giving me pain was his object he has that hellish gratification." Erskine, Fame's counsel, protested in advance against the reading of this letter (of which he had heard), as containing matter likely to divert the Jury from the subject of prosecution (the book). Lord Kenyon admitted the letter.—Editor.

P. S. I intended, had I staid in England, to have published the information, with my remarks upon it, before the trial came on; but as I am otherwise engaged, I reserve myself till the trial is over, when I shall reply fully to every thing you shall advance.


Read to the Convention, November 21, 1792.

Paris, Nov. 20, 1792.

Citizen President,

As I do not know precisely what day the Convention will resume the discussion on the trial of Louis XVI., and, on account of my inability to express myself in French, I cannot speak at the tribune, I request permission to deposit in your hands the enclosed paper, which contains my opinion on that subject. I make this demand with so much more eagerness, because circumstances will prove how much it imports to France, that Louis XVI. should continue to enjoy good health. I should be happy if the Convention would have the goodness to hear this paper read this morning, as I propose sending a copy of it to London, to be printed in the English journals.(2)

Thomas Paine.

1 This address, which has suffered by alterations in all editions is here revised and completed by aid of the official document: "Opinion de Thomas Payne, Depute du Departement de la Somme [error], concernant le jugement de Louis XVI. Precede par sa lettre d'envoi au President de la Convention. Imprime par ordre de la Convention Nationale. A Paris. De l'Imprimerie Nationale." Lamartine has censured Paine for this speech; but the trial of the King was a foregone conclusion, and it will be noted that Paine was already trying to avert popular wrath from the individual man by directing it against the general league of monarchs, and the monarchal system. Nor would his plea for the King's life have been listened to but for this previous address.— Editor.

2 Of course no English journal could then venture to print it.—Editor.

A Secretary read the opinion of Thomas Paine. I think it necessary that Louis XVI. should be tried; not that this advice is suggested by a spirit of vengeance, but because this measure appears to me just, lawful, and conformable to sound policy. If Louis is innocent, let us put him to prove his innocence; if he is guilty, let the national will determine whether he shall be pardoned or punished.

But besides the motives personal to Louis XVI., there are others which make his trial necessary. I am about to develope these motives, in the language which I think expresses them, and no other. I forbid myself the use of equivocal expression or of mere ceremony. There was formed among the crowned brigands of Europe a conspiracy which threatened not only French liberty, but likewise that of all nations. Every thing tends to the belief that Louis XVI. was the partner of this horde of conspirators. You have this man in your power, and he is at present the only one of the band of whom you can make sure. I consider Louis XVI. in the same point of view as the two first robbers taken up in the affair of the Store Room; their trial led to discovery of the gang to which they belonged. We have seen the unhappy soldiers of Austria, of Prussia, and the other powers which declared themselves our enemies, torn from their fire-sides, and drawn to butchery like wretched animals, to sustain, at the cost of their blood, the common cause of these crowned brigands. They loaded the inhabitants of those regions with taxes to support the expenses of the war. All this was not done solely for Louis XVI. Some of the conspirators have acted openly: but there is reason to presume that this conspiracy is composed of two classes of brigands; those who have taken up arms, and those who have lent to their cause secret encouragement and clandestine assistance. Now it is indispensable to let France and the whole world know all these accomplices.

A little time after the National Convention was constituted, the Minister for Foreign Affairs presented the picture of all the governments of Europe,—those whose hostilities were public, and those that acted with a mysterious circumspection. This picture supplied grounds for just suspicions of the part the latter were disposed to take, and since then various circumstances have occurred to confirm those suspicions. We have already penetrated into some part of the conduct of Mr. Guelph, Elector of Hanover, and strong presumptions involve the same man, his court and ministers, in quality of king of England. M. Calonne has constantly been favoured with a friendly reception at that court.(1) The arrival of Mr. Smith, secretary to Mr. Pitt, at Coblentz, when the emigrants were assembling there; the recall of the English ambassador; the extravagant joy manifested by the court of St. James' at the false report of the defeat of Dumouriez, when it was communicated by Lord Elgin, then Minister of Great Britain at Brussels—all these circumstances render him [George III.] extremely suspicious; the trial of Louis XVI. will probably furnish more decisive proofs.

The long subsisting fear of a revolution in England, would alone, I believe, prevent that court from manifesting as much publicity in its operations as Austria and Prussia. Another reason could be added to this: the inevitable decrease of credit, by means of which alone all the old governments could obtain fresh loans, in proportion as the probability of revolutions increased. Whoever invests in the new loans of such governments must expect to lose his stock.

Every body knows that the Landgrave of Hesse fights only as far as he is paid. He has been for many years in the pay of the court of London. If the trial of Louis XVI. could bring it to light, that this detestable dealer in human flesh has been paid with the produce of the taxes imposed on the English people, it would be justice to that nation to disclose that fact. It would at the same time give to France an exact knowledge of the character of that court, which has not ceased to be the most intriguing in Europe, ever since its connexion with Germany.

1 Calonne (1734-1802), made Controller General of the Treasury in 1783, lavished the public money on the Queen, on courtiers, and on himself (purchasing St. Cloud and Rambouillet), borrowing vast sums and deceiving the King as to the emptiness of the Treasury, the annual deficit having risen in 1787 to 115 millions of francs. He was then banished to Lorraine, whence he proceeded to England, where he married the wealthy widow Haveley. By his agency for the Coblentz party he lost his fortune. In 1802 Napoleon brought him back from London to Paris, where he died the same year. —Editor.

Louis XVI., considered as an individual, is an object beneath the notice of the Republic; but when he is looked upon as a part of that band of conspirators, as an accused man whose trial may lead all nations in the world to know and detest the disastrous system of monarchy, and the plots and intrigues of their own courts, he ought to be tried.

If the crimes for which Louis XVI. is arraigned were absolutely personal to him, without reference to general conspiracies, and confined to the affairs of France, the plea of inviolability, that folly of the moment, might have been urged in his behalf with some appearance of reason; but he is arraigned not only for treasons against France, but for having conspired against all Europe, and if France is to be just to all Europe we ought to use every means in our power to discover the whole extent of that conspiracy. France is now a republic; she has completed her revolution; but she cannot earn all its advantages so long as she is surrounded with despotic governments. Their armies and their marine oblige her also to keep troops and ships in readiness. It is therefore her immediate interest that all nations shall be as free as herself; that revolutions shall be universal; and since the trial of Louis XVI. can serve to prove to the world the flagitiousness of governments in general, and the necessity of revolutions, she ought not to let slip so precious an opportunity.

The despots of Europe have formed alliances to preserve their respective authority, and to perpetuate the oppression of peoples. This is the end they proposed to themselves in their invasion of French territory. They dread the effect of the French revolution in the bosom of their own countries; and in hopes of preventing it, they are come to attempt the destruction of this revolution before it should attain its perfect maturity. Their attempt has not been attended with success. France has already vanquished their armies; but it remains for her to sound the particulars of the conspiracy, to discover, to expose to the eyes of the world, those despots who had the infamy to take part in it; and the world expects from her that act of justice.

These are my motives for demanding that Louis XVI. be judged; and it is in this sole point of view that his trial appears to me of sufficient importance to receive the attention of the Republic.

As to "inviolability," I would not have such a word mentioned. If, seeing in Louis XVI. only a weak and narrow-minded man, badly reared, like all his kind, given, as it is said, to frequent excesses of drunkenness—a man whom the National Assembly imprudently raised again on a throne for which he was not made—he is shown hereafter some compassion, it shall be the result of the national magnanimity, and not the burlesque notion of a pretended "inviolability."

Thomas Paine.


As Delivered to the National Convention, January 15, 1703.(1)

Citizen President,

My hatred and abhorrence of monarchy are sufficiently known: they originate in principles of reason and conviction, nor, except with life, can they ever be extirpated; but my compassion for the unfortunate, whether friend or enemy, is equally lively and sincere.

I voted that Louis should be tried, because it was necessary to afford proofs to the world of the perfidy, corruption, and abomination of the monarchical system. The infinity of evidence that has been produced exposes them in the most glaring and hideous colours; thence it results that monarchy, whatever form it may assume, arbitrary or otherwise, becomes necessarily a centre round which are united every species of corruption, and the kingly trade is no less destructive of all morality in the human breast, than the trade of an executioner is destructive of its sensibility. I remember, during my residence in another country, that I was exceedingly struck with a sentence of M. Autheine, at the Jacobins [Club], which corresponds exactly with my own idea,—"Make me a king to-day," said he, "and I shall be a robber to-morrow."

1 Printed in Paris (Hartley, Adlard & Son) and published in London with the addition of D. I. Eaton's name, in 1796. While Paine was in prison, he was accused in England and America of having helped to bring Louis XVI. to the scaffold. The English pamphlet has a brief preface in which it is presented "as a burnt offering to Truth, in behalf of the most zealous friend and advocate of the Rights of Man; to protect him against the barbarous shafts of scandal and delusion, and as a reply to all the horrors which despots of every description have, with such unrelenting malice, attempted to fix on his conduct. But truth in the end must triumph: cease then such calumnies: all your efforts are in vain —you bite a file."—Editor.

Nevertheless, I am inclined to believe that if Louis Capet had been born in obscure condition, had he lived within the circle of an amiable and respectable neighbourhood, at liberty to practice the duties of domestic life, had he been thus situated, I cannot believe that he would have shewn himself destitute of social virtues: we are, in a moment of fermentation like this, naturally little indulgent to his vices, or rather to those of his government; we regard them with additional horror and indignation; not that they are more heinous than those of his predecessors, but because our eyes are now open, and the veil of delusion at length withdrawn; yet the lamentable, degraded state to which he is actually reduced, is surely far less imputable to him than to the Constituent Assembly, which, of its own authority, without consent or advice of the people, restored him to the throne.

I was in Paris at the time of the flight, or abdication of Louis XVI., and when he was taken and brought back. The proposal of restoring him to supreme power struck me with amazement; and although at that time I was not a French citizen, yet as a citizen of the world I employed all the efforts that depended on me to prevent it.

A small society, composed only of five persons, two of whom are now members of the Convention,(1) took at that time the name of the Republican Club (Societe Republicaine). This society opposed the restoration of Louis, not so much on account of his personal offences, as in order to overthrow the monarchy, and to erect on its ruins the republican system and an equal representation.

With this design, I traced out in the English language certain propositions, which were translated with some trifling alterations, and signed by Achille Duchatelet, now Lieutenant-General in the army of the French republic, and at that time one of the five members which composed our little party: the law requiring the signature of a citizen at the bottom of each printed paper.

1 Condorect and Paine; the other members were Achille Duchitelet, and probably Nicolas de Bonneville and Lanthenas,—translator of Paine's "Works."—Editor.

The paper was indignantly torn by Malouet; and brought forth in this very room as an article of accusation against the person who had signed it, the author and their adherents; but such is the revolution of events, that this paper is now received and brought forth for a very opposite purpose—to remind the nation of the errors of that unfortunate day, that fatal error of not having then banished Louis XVI. from its bosom, and to plead this day in favour of his exile, preferable to his death.

The paper in question, was conceived in the following terms:

[The address constitutes the first chapter of the present volume.]

Having thus explained the principles and the exertions of the republicans at that fatal period, when Louis was rein-stated in full possession of the executive power which by his flight had been suspended, I return to the subject, and to the deplorable situation in which the man is now actually involved.

What was neglected at the time of which I have been speaking, has been since brought about by the force of necessity. The wilful, treacherous defects in the former constitution have been brought to light; the continual alarm of treason and conspiracy aroused the nation, and produced eventually a second revolution. The people have beat down royalty, never, never to rise again; they have brought Louis Capet to the bar, and demonstrated in the face of the whole world, the intrigues, the cabals, the falsehood, corruption, and rooted depravity, the inevitable effects of monarchical government. There remains then only one question to be considered, what is to be done with this man?

For myself I seriously confess, that when I reflect on the unaccountable folly that restored the executive power to his hands, all covered as he was with perjuries and treason, I am far more ready to condemn the Constituent Assembly than the unfortunate prisoner Louis Capet.

But abstracted from every other consideration, there is one circumstance in his life which ought to cover or at least to palliate a great number of his transgressions, and this very circumstance affords to the French nation a blessed occasion of extricating itself from the yoke of kings, without defiling itself in the impurities of their blood.

It is to France alone, I know, that the United States of America owe that support which enabled them to shake off the unjust and tyrannical yoke of Britain. The ardour and zeal which she displayed to provide both men and money, were the natural consequence of a thirst for liberty. But as the nation at that time, restrained by the shackles of her own government, could only act by the means of a monarchical organ, this organ—whatever in other respects the object might be—certainly performed a good, a great action.

Let then those United States be the safeguard and asylum of Louis Capet. There, hereafter, far removed from the miseries and crimes of royalty, he may learn, from the constant aspect of public prosperity, that the true system of government consists not in kings, but in fair, equal, and honourable representation.

In relating this circumstance, and in submitting this proposition, I consider myself as a citizen of both countries. I submit it as a citizen of America, who feels the debt of gratitude which he owes to every Frenchman. I submit it also as a man, who, although the enemy of kings, cannot forget that they are subject to human frailties. I support my proposition as a citizen of the French republic, because it appears to me the best, the most politic measure that can be adopted.

As far as my experience in public life extends, I have ever observed, that the great mass of the people are invariably just, both in their intentions and in their objects; but the true method of accomplishing an effect does not always shew itself in the first instance. For example: the English nation had groaned under the despotism of the Stuarts. Hence Charles I. lost his life; yet Charles II. was restored to all the plenitude of power, which his father had lost. Forty years had not expired when the same family strove to reestablish their ancient oppression; so the nation then banished from its territories the whole race. The remedy was effectual. The Stuart family sank into obscurity, confounded itself with the multitude, and is at length extinct.

The French nation has carried her measures of government to a greater length. France is not satisfied with exposing the guilt of the monarch. She has penetrated into the vices and horrors of the monarchy. She has shown them clear as daylight, and forever crushed that system; and he, whoever he may be, that should ever dare to reclaim those rights would be regarded not as a pretender, but punished as a traitor.

Two brothers of Louis Capet have banished themselves from the country; but they are obliged to comply with the spirit and etiquette of the courts where they reside. They can advance no pretensions on their own account, so long as Louis Capet shall live.

Monarchy, in France, was a system pregnant with crime and murders, cancelling all natural ties, even those by which brothers are united. We know how often they have assassinated each other to pave a way to power. As those hopes which the emigrants had reposed in Louis XVI. are fled, the last that remains rests upon his death, and their situation inclines them to desire this catastrophe, that they may once again rally around a more active chief, and try one further effort under the fortune of the ci-devant Monsieur and d'Artois. That such an enterprize would precipitate them into a new abyss of calamity and disgrace, it is not difficult to foresee; yet it might be attended with mutual loss, and it is our duty as legislators not to spill a drop of blood when our purpose may be effectually accomplished without it.

It has already been proposed to abolish the punishment of death, and it is with infinite satisfaction that I recollect the humane and excellent oration pronounced by Robespierre on that subject in the Constituent Assembly. This cause must find its advocates in every corner where enlightened politicians and lovers of humanity exist, and it ought above all to find them in this assembly.

Monarchical governments have trained the human race, and inured it to the sanguinary arts and refinements of punishment; and it is exactly the same punishment which has so long shocked the sight and tormented the patience of the people, that now, in their turn, they practice in revenge upon their oppressors. But it becomes us to be strictly on our guard against the abomination and perversity of monarchical examples: as France has been the first of European nations to abolish royalty, let her also be the first to abolish the punishment of death, and to find out a milder and more effectual substitute.

In the particular case now under consideration, I submit the following propositions: 1st, That the National Convention shall pronounce sentence of banishment on Louis and his family. 2d, That Louis Capet shall be detained in prison till the end of the war, and at that epoch the sentence of banishment to be executed.



(Read in French by Deputy Bancal,)

Very sincerely do I regret the Convention's vote of yesterday for death.

Marat [interrupting]: I submit that Thomas Paine is incompetent to vote on this question; being a Quaker his religious principles are opposed to capital punishment. [Much confusion, quieted by cries for "freedom of speech" on which Bancal proceeds with Paine's speech.]

1 Not included in any previous edition of Paine's "Works." It is here printed from contemporary French reports, modified only by Paine's own quotations of a few sentences in his Memorial to Monroe (xxi.).—Editor.

I have the advantage of some experience; it is near twenty years that I have been engaged in the cause of liberty, having contributed something to it in the revolution of the United States of America, My language has always been that of liberty and humanity, and I know that nothing so exalts a nation as the union of these two principles, under all circumstances. I know that the public mind of France, and particularly that of Paris, has been heated and irritated by the dangers to which they have been exposed; but could we carry our thoughts into the future, when the dangers are ended and the irritations forgotten, what to-day seems an act of justice may then appear an act of vengeance. [Murmurs.] My anxiety for the cause of France has become for the moment concern for her honor. If, on my return to America, I should employ myself on a history of the French Revolution, I had rather record a thousand errors on the side of mercy, than be obliged to tell one act of severe justice. I voted against an appeal to the people, because it appeared to me that the Convention was needlessly wearied on that point; but I so voted in the hope that this Assembly would pronounce against death, and for the same punishment that the nation would have voted, at least in my opinion, that is for reclusion during the war, and banishment thereafter.(1) That is the punishment most efficacious, because it includes the whole family at once, and none other can so operate. I am still against the appeal to the primary assemblies, because there is a better method. This Convention has been elected to form a Constitution, which will be submitted to the primary assemblies. After its acceptance a necessary consequence will be an election and another assembly. We cannot suppose that the present Convention will last more than five or six months. The choice of new deputies will express the national opinion, on the propriety or impropriety of your sentence, with as much efficacy as if those primary assemblies had been consulted on it. As the duration of our functions here cannot be long, it is a part of our duty to consider the interests of those who shall replace us. If by any act of ours the number of the nation's enemies shall be needlessly increased, and that of its friends diminished,—at a time when the finances may be more strained than to-day,—we should not be justifiable for having thus unnecessarily heaped obstacles in the path of our successors. Let us therefore not be precipitate in our decisions.

1 It is possible that the course of the debate may have produced some reaction among the people, but when Paine voted against submitting the king's fate to the popular vote it was believed by the king and his friends that it would be fatal. The American Minister, Gouverneur Morris, who had long been acting for the king, wrote to President Washington, Jan. 6, 1793: "The king's fate is to be decided next Monday, the 14th. That unhappy man, conversing with one of his Council on his own fate, calmly summed up the motives of every kind, and concluded that a majority of the Council would vote for referring his case to the people, and that in consequence he should be massacred." Writing to Washington on Dec. 28, 1792, Morris mentions having heard from Paine that he was to move the king's banishment to America, and he may then have informed Paine that the king believed reference of his case to popular vote would be fatal. Genet was to have conducted the royal family to America.— Editor.

France has but one ally—the United States of America. That is the only nation that can furnish France with naval provisions, for the kingdoms of northern Europe are, or soon will be, at war with her. It unfortunately happens that the person now under discussion is considered by the Americans as having been the friend of their revolution. His execution will be an affliction to them, and it is in your power not to wound the feelings of your ally. Could I speak the French language I would descend to your bar, and in their name become your petitioner to respite the execution of the sentence on Louis.

Thuriot: This is not the language of Thomas Paine.

Marat: I denounce the interpreter. I maintain that it is not Thomas Paine's opinion. It is an untrue translation.

Garran: I have read the original, and the translation is correct.(1)

[Prolonged uproar. Paine, still standing in the tribune beside his interpreter, Deputy Bancal, declared the sentiments to be his.]

Your Executive Committee will nominate an ambassador to Philadelphia; my sincere wish is that he may announce to America that the National Convention of France, out of pure friendship to America, has consented to respite Louis. That people, by my vote, ask you to delay the execution.

Ah, citizens, give not the tyrant of England the triumph of seeing the man perish on the scaffold who had aided my much-loved America to break his chains!

Marat ["launching himself into the middle of the hall"]: Paine voted against the punishment of death because he is a Quaker.

Paine: I voted against it from both moral motives and motives of public policy.

1 See Guizot, "Hist, of France," vi., p. 136. "Hist. Parliamentair," vol. ii., p. 350. Louis Blanc says that Paine's appeal was so effective that Marat interrupted mainly in order to destroy its effect.—"Hist, de la Rev.," tome vii, 396.—Editor.


The object of all union of men in society being maintenance of their natural rights, civil and political, these rights are the basis of the social pact: their recognition and their declaration ought to precede the Constitution which assures their guarantee.

1. The natural rights of men, civil and political, are liberty, equality, security, property, social protection, and resistance to oppression.

2. Liberty consists in the right to do whatever is not contrary to the rights of others: thus, exercise of the natural rights of each individual has no limits other than those which secure to other members of society enjoyment of the same rights.

1 In his appeal from prison to the Convention (August 7, 1794) Paine states that he had, as a member of the Committee for framing the Constitution, prepared a Plan, which was in the hands of Barere, also of that Committee. I have not yet succeeded in finding Paine's Constitution, but it is certain that the work of framing the Constitution of 1793 was mainly entrusted to Paine and Condorcet.

Dr. John Moore, in his work on the French Revolution, describes the two at their work; and it is asserted that he "assisted in drawing up the French Declaration of Rights," by "Juvencus," author of an able "Essay on the Life and Genius of Thomas Paine," whose information came from a personal friend of Paine. ("Aphorisms, Opinions, and Reflections of Thomas Paine," etc., London, 1826. Pp. 3, 14.) A translation of the Declaration and Constitution appeared in England (Debrett, Picadilly, 1793), but with some faults. The present translation is from "Oeuvres Completes de Condorcet," tome xviii. The Committee reported their Constitution February 15th, and April 15th was set for its discussion, Robespierre then demanded separate discussion of the Declaration of Rights, to which he objected that it made no mention of the Supreme Being, and that its extreme principles of freedom would shield illicit traffic. Paine and Jefferson were troubled that the United States Constitution contained no Declaration of Rights, it being a fundamental principle in Paine's theory of government that such a Declaration was the main safeguard of the individual against the despotism of numbers. See supra, vol. ii.t pp. 138, 139.—Editor..

3. The preservation of liberty depends on submission to the Law, which is the expression of the general will. Nothing unforbidden by law can be hindered, and none may be forced to do what the law does not command.

4. Every man is free to make known his thoughts and opinions.

5. Freedom of the press, and every other means of publishing one's opinion, cannot be interdicted, suspended, or limited.

6. Every citizen shall be free in the exercise of his religion (culte).

7. Equality consists in the enjoyment by every one of the same rights.

8. The law should be equal for all, whether it rewards or punishes, protects or represses.

9. All citizens are admissible to all public positions, employments, and functions. Free nations recognize no grounds of preference save talents and virtues.

10. Security consists in the protection accorded by society to every citizen for the preservation of his person, property, and rights.

11. None should be sued, accused, arrested, or detained, save in cases determined by the law, and in accordance with forms prescribed by it. Every other act against a citizen is arbitrary and null.

12. Those who solicit, further, sign, execute, or cause to be executed, such arbitrary acts are culpable, and should be punished.

13. Citizens against whom the execution of such acts is attempted have the right to repel force by force; but every citizen summoned or arrested by authority of the Law, and in the forms by it prescribed, should instantly obey: he renders himself guilty by resistance.

14. Every man being presumed innocent until legally pronounced guilty, should his arrest be deemed indispensable, all rigor not necessary to secure his person should be severely represssed by law.

15. None should be punished save in virtue of a law formally enacted, promulgated anterior to the offence, and legally applied.

16. Any law that should punish offences committed before its existence would be an arbitrary act. Retroactive effect given to the law is a crime.

17. The law should award only penalties strictly and evidently necessary to the general safety. Penalties should be proportioned to offences, and useful to society.

18. The right of property consists in every man's being master in the disposal, at his will, of his goods, capital, income, and industry.

19. No kind of labor, commerce, or culture, can be prohibited to any one: he may make, sell, and transport every species of production.

20. Every man may engage his services and his time; but he cannot sell himself; his person is not an alienable property.

21. No one can be deprived of the least portion of his property without his consent, unless evidently required by public necessity, legally determined, and under the condition of a just indemnity in advance.

22. No tax shall be imposed except for the general welfare, and to meet public needs. All citizens have the right to unite personally, or by their representatives, in the fixing of imposts.

23. Instruction is the need of all, and society owes it to all its members equally.

24. Public succours are a sacred debt of society; it is for the law to determine their extent and application.

25. The social guarantee of the rights of man rests on the national sovereignty.

26. This sovereignty is one, indivisible, imprescriptible, and inalienable.

27. It resides essentially in the whole people, and every citizen has an equal right to unite in its exercise.

28. No partial assemblage of citizens, and no individual, may attribute to themselves sovereignty, or exercise any authority, or discharge any public function, without formal delegation thereto by the law.

29. The social guarantee cannot exist if the limits of public administration are not clearly determined by law, and if the responsibility of all public functionaries is not assured.

30. All citizens are bound to unite in this guarantee, and in enforcing the law when summoned in its name.

31. Men united in society should have legal means of resisting oppression.

32. There is oppression when any law violates the natural rights, civil and political, which it should guarantee.

There is oppression when the law is violated by public officials in its application to individual cases.

There is oppression when arbitrary actions violate the rights of citizen against the express purpose (expression) of the law.

In a free government the mode of resisting these different acts of oppression should be regulated by the Constitution.

33. A people possesses always the right to reform and alter its Constitution. A generation has no right to subject a future generation to its laws; and all heredity in offices is absurd and tyrannical.


Paris, 20 April, 1793.

My dear Friend,—The gentleman (Dr. Romer) to whom I entrust this letter is an intimate acquaintance of Lavater; but I have not had the opportunity of seeing him, as he had set off for Havre prior to my writing this letter, which I forward to him under cover from one of his friends, who is also an acquaintance of mine.

We are now in an extraordinary crisis, and it is not altogether without some considerable faults here. Dumouriez, partly from having no fixed principles of his own, and partly from the continual persecution of the Jacobins, who act without either prudence or morality, has gone off to the Enemy, and taken a considerable part of the Army with him. The expedition to Holland has totally failed, and all Brabant is again in the hands of the Austrians.

You may suppose the consternation which such a sudden reverse of fortune has occasioned, but it has been without commotion. Dumouriez threatened to be in Paris in three weeks. It is now three weeks ago; he is still on the frontier near to Mons with the Enemy, who do not make any progress. Dumouriez has proposed to re-establish the former Constitution in which plan the Austrians act with him. But if France and the National Convention act prudently this project will not succeed. In the first place there is a popular disposition against it, and there is force sufficient to prevent it. In the next place, a great deal is to be taken into the calculation with respect to the Enemy. There are now so many persons accidentally jumbled together as to render it exceedingly difficult to them to agree upon any common object.

The first object, that of restoring the old Monarchy, is evidently given up by the proposal to re-establish the late Constitution. The object of England and Prussia was to preserve Holland, and the object of Austria was to recover Brabant; while those separate objects lasted, each party having one, the Confederation could hold together, each helping the other; but after this I see not how a common object is to be formed. To all this is to be added the probable disputes about opportunity, the expence, and the projects of reimbursements. The Enemy has once adventured into France, and they had the permission or the good fortune to get back again. On every military calculation it is a hazardous adventure, and armies are not much disposed to try a second time the ground upon which they have been defeated.

Had this revolution been conducted consistently with its principles, there was once a good prospect of extending liberty through the greatest part of Europe; but I now relinquish that hope. Should the Enemy by venturing into France put themselves again in a condition of being captured, the hope will revive; but this is a risk I do not wish to see tried, lest it should fail.

As the prospect of a general freedom is now much shortened, I begin to contemplate returning home. I shall await the event of the proposed Constitution, and then take my final leave of Europe. I have not written to the President, as I have nothing to communicate more than in this letter. Please to present him my affection and compliments, and remember me among the circle of my friends.

Your sincere and affectionate friend,

Thomas Paine.

P. S. I just now received a letter from General Lewis Morris, who tells me that the house and Barn on my farm at New Rochelle are burnt down. I assure you I shall not bring money enough to build another.

Paris, 20 Oct., 1793.

I wrote you by Captain Dominick who was to sail from Havre about the 20th of this month. This will probably be brought you by Mr. Barlow or Col. Oswald. Since my letter by Dominick I am every day more convinced and impressed with the propriety of Congress sending Commissioners to Europe to confer with the Ministers of the Jesuitical Powers on the means of terminating the War. The enclosed printed paper will shew there are a variety of subjects to be taken into consideration which did not appear at first, all of which have some tendency to put an end to the War. I see not how this War is to terminate if some intermediate power does not step forward. There is now no prospect that France can carry revolutions into Europe on the one hand, or that the combined powers can conquer France on the other hand. It is a sort of defensive War on both sides. This being the case, how is the War to close? Neither side will ask for peace though each may wish it. I believe that England and Holland are tired of the War. Their Commerce and Manufactures have suffered most exceedingly,—besides this, it is for them a War without an object. Russia keeps herself at a distance.

I cannot help repeating my wish that Congress would send Commissioners, and I wish also that yourself would venture once more across the ocean, as one of them. If the Commissioners rendezvous at Holland they would know what steps to take. They could call Mr. Pinckney [Gen. Thomas Pinckney, American Minister in England] to their councils, and it would be of use, on many accounts, that one of them should come over from Holland to France. Perhaps a long truce, were it proposed by the neutral powers, would have all the effects of a Peace, without the difficulties attending the adjustment of all the forms of Peace.

Yours affectionately,

Thomas Paine.


Paris, May 6, 2nd year of the Republic [1793.]

Citoyen Danton: As you read English, I write this letter to you without passing it through the hands of a translator. I am exceedingly disturbed at the distractions, jealousies, discontents and uneasiness that reign among us, and which, if they continue, will bring ruin and disgrace on the Republic. When I left America in the year 1787, it was my intention to return the year following, but the French Revolution, and the prospect it afforded of extending the principles of liberty and fraternity through the greater part of Europe, have induced me to prolong my stay upwards of six years. I now despair of seeing the great object of European liberty accomplished, and my despair arises not from the combined foreign powers, not from the intrigues of aristocracy and priestcraft, but from the tumultuous misconduct with which the internal affairs of the present revolution are conducted.

All that now can be hoped for is limited to France only, and I agree with your motion of not interfering in the government of any foreign country, nor permitting any foreign country to interfere in the government of France. This decree was necessary as a preliminary toward terminating the war. But while these internal contentions continue, while the hope remains to the enemy of seeing the Republic fall to pieces, while not only the representatives of the departments but representation itself is publicly insulted, as it has lately been and now is by the people of Paris, or at least by the tribunes, the enemy will be encouraged to hang about the frontiers and await the issue of circumstances.

1 This admirable letter was brought to light by the late M. Taine, and first published in full by Taine's translator, John Durand ("New Materials for the History of the American Revolution," 1889). The letter to Marat mentioned by Paine has not been discovered. Danton followed Paine to prison, and on meeting him there said: "That which you did for the happiness and liberty of your country I tried to do for mine. I have been less fortunate, but not less innocent. They will send me to the scaffold; very well, my friend, I will go gaily." M. Taine in La Revolution (vol. ii., pp. 382, 413, 414) refers to this letter of Paine, and says: "Compared with the speeches and writings of the time, it produces the strangest effect by its practical good sense." —Editor.,

I observe that the confederated powers have not yet recognized Monsieur, or D'Artois, as regent, nor made any proclamation in favour of any of the Bourbons; but this negative conduct admits of two different conclusions. The one is that of abandoning the Bourbons and the war together; the other is that of changing the object of the war and substituting a partition scheme in the place of their first object, as they have done by Poland. If this should be their object, the internal contentions that now rage will favour that object far more than it favoured their former object. The danger every day increases of a rupture between Paris and the departments. The departments did not send their deputies to Paris to be insulted, and every insult shown to them is an insult to the departments that elected and sent them. I see but one effectual plan to prevent this rupture taking place, and that is to fix the residence of the Convention, and of the future assemblies, at a distance from Paris.

I saw, during the American Revolution, the exceeding inconvenience that arose by having the government of Congress within the limits of any Municipal Jurisdiction. Congress first resided in Philadelphia, and after a residence of four years it found it necessary to leave it. It then adjourned to the State of Jersey. It afterwards removed to New York; it again removed from New York to Philadelphia, and after experiencing in every one of these places the great inconvenience of a government, it formed the project of building a Town, not within the limits of any municipal jurisdiction, for the future residence of Congress. In any one of the places where Congress resided, the municipal authority privately or openly opposed itself to the authority of Congress, and the people of each of these places expected more attention from Congress than their equal share with the other States amounted to. The same thing now takes place in France, but in a far greater excess.

I see also another embarrassing circumstance arising in Paris of which we have had full experience in America. I mean that of fixing the price of provisions. But if this measure is to be attempted it ought to be done by the Municipality. The Convention has nothing to do with regulations of this kind; neither can they be carried into practice. The people of Paris may say they will not give more than a certain price for provisions, but as they cannot compel the country people to bring provisions to market the consequence will be directly contrary to their expectations, and they will find dearness and famine instead of plenty and cheapness. They may force the price down upon the stock in hand, but after that the market will be empty.

I will give you an example. In Philadelphia we undertook, among other regulations of this kind, to regulate the price of Salt; the consequence was that no Salt was brought to market, and the price rose to thirty-six shillings sterling per Bushel. The price before the war was only one shilling and sixpence per Bushel; and we regulated the price of flour (farina) till there was none in the market, and the people were glad to procure it at any price.

There is also a circumstance to be taken into the account which is not much attended to. The assignats are not of the same value they were a year ago, and as the quantity increases the value of them will diminish. This gives the appearance of things being dear when they are not so in fact, for in the same proportion that any kind of money falls in value articles rise in price. If it were not for this the quantity of assignats would be too great to be circulated. Paper money in America fell so much in value from this excessive quantity of it, that in the year 1781 I gave three hundred paper dollars for one pair of worsted stockings. What I write you upon this subject is experience, and not merely opinion. I have no personal interest in any of these matters, nor in any party disputes. I attend only to general principles.

As soon as a constitution shall be established I shall return to America; and be the future prosperity of France ever so great, I shall enjoy no other part of it than the happiness of knowing it. In the mean time I am distressed to see matters so badly conducted, and so little attention paid to moral principles. It is these things that injure the character of the Revolution and discourage the progress of liberty all over the world. When I began this letter I did not intend making it so lengthy, but since I have gone thus far I will fill up the remainder of the sheet with such matters as occur to me.

There ought to be some regulation with respect to the spirit of denunciation that now prevails. If every individual is to indulge his private malignancy or his private ambition, to denounce at random and without any kind of proof, all confidence will be undermined and all authority be destroyed. Calumny is a species of Treachery that ought to be punished as well as any other kind of Treachery. It is a private vice productive of public evils; because it is possible to irritate men into disaffection by continual calumny who never intended to be disaffected. It is therefore, equally as necessary to guard against the evils of unfounded or malignant suspicion as against the evils of blind confidence. It is equally as necessary to protect the characters of public officers from calumny as it is to punish them for treachery or misconduct. For my own part I shall hold it a matter of doubt, until better evidence arises than is known at present, whether Dumouriez has been a traitor from policy or resentment. There was certainly a time when he acted well, but it is not every man whose mind is strong enough to bear up against ingratitude, and I think he experienced a great deal of this before he revolted. Calumny becomes harmless and defeats itself, when it attempts to act upon too large a scale. Thus the denunciation of the Sections [of Paris] against the twenty-two deputies [Girondists] falls to the ground. The departments that elected them are better judges of their moral and political characters than those who have denounced them. This denunciation will injure Paris in the opinion of the departments because it has the appearance of dictating to them what sort of deputies they shall elect. Most of the acquaintances that I have in the Convention are among those who are in that list, and I know there are not better men nor better patriots than what they are.

I have written a letter to Marat of the same date as this but not on the same subject. He may show it to you if he chuse.

Votre Ami,

Thomas Paine.

Citoyen Danton.


18th Year of Independence.

1 State Archives, Paris: Etats Unis, vol. 38, fol. 90. This pamphlet is in English, without indication of authorship or of the place of publication. It is accompanied by a French translation (MS.) inscribed "Par Thomas Payne." In the printed pamphlet the date (18th Year, etc) is preceded by the French words (printed): "Philadelphie 28 Juillet 1793." It was no doubt the pamphlet sent by Paine to Monroe, with various documents relating to his imprisonment, describing it as "a Letter which I had printed here as an American letter, some copies of which I sent to Mr. Jefferson." A considerable portion of the pamphlet embodies, with occasional changes of phraseology, a manuscript (Etats Unis, vol. 37, Do. 39) endorsed: "January 1793. Thorn. Payne. Copie. Observations on the situation of the Powers joined against France." This opens with the following paragraph: "It is always useful to know the position and the designs of one's enemies. It is much easier to do so by combining and comparing the events, and by examining the consequences which result from them, than by forming one's judgment by letters found or intercepted. These letters could be fabricated with the intention of deceiving, but events or circumstances have a character which is proper to them. If in the course of our political operations we mistake the designs of our enemy, it leads us to do precisely that which he desires we should do, and it happens by the fact, but against our intentions, that we work for him." That the date written on this MS. is erroneous appears by an allusion to the defeat of the Duke of York at Dunkirk in the closing paragraph: "There are three distinct parties in England at this moment: the government party, the revolutionary party, and an intermedial party,—which is only opposed to the war on account of the expense it entails, and the harm it does commerce and manufactures. I am speaking of the People, and not of the Parliament. The latter is divided into two parties: the Ministerial, and the Anti-ministerial. The revolutionary party, the intermedial party, and the anti- ministerial party, will all rejoice, publicly or privately, at the defeat of the Duke of York at Dunkirk." The two paragraphs quoted represent the only actual additions to the pamphlet. I have a clipping from the London Morning Chronicle of Friday, April 25, 1794, containing the part of the pamphlet headed "Of the present state of Europe and the Confederacy," signed "Thomas Paine, Author of Common Sense, etc." On February 1,1793, the Convention having declared war, appointed Paine, Barere, Condorcet and Faber, a Committee to draft an address to the English people. It was never done, but these fragments may represent notes written by Paine with reference to that task. The pamphlet probably appeared late in September, 1793.—Editor.,

Understanding that a proposal is intended to be made at the ensuing meeting of the Congress of the United States of America "to send commissioners to Europe to confer with the Ministers of all the Neutral Powers for the purpose of negotiating preliminaries of peace," I address this letter to you on that subject, and on the several matters connected therewith.

In order to discuss this subject through all its circumstances, it will be necessary to take a review of the state of Europe, prior to the French revolution. It will from thence appear, that the powers leagued against France are fighting to attain an object, which, were it possible to be attained, would be injurious to themselves.

This is not an uncommon error in the history of wars and governments, of which the conduct of the English government in the war against America is a striking instance. She commenced that war for the avowed purpose of subjugating America; and after wasting upwards of one hundred millions sterling, and then abandoning the object, she discovered, in the course of three or four years, that the prosperity of England was increased, instead of being diminished, by the independence of America. In short, every circumstance is pregnant with some natural effect, upon which intentions and opinions have no influence; and the political error lies in misjudging what the effect will be. England misjudged it in the American war, and the reasons I shall now offer will shew, that she misjudges it in the present war. In discussing this subject, I leave out of the question everything respecting forms and systems of government; for as all the governments of Europe differ from each other, there is no reason that the government of France should not differ from the rest.

The clamours continually raised in all the countries of Europe were, that the family of the Bourbons was become too powerful; that the intrigues of the court of France endangered the peace of Europe. Austria saw with a jealous eye the connection of France with Prussia; and Prussia, in her turn became jealous of the connection of France with Austria; England had wasted millions unsuccessfully in attempting to prevent the family compact with Spain; Russia disliked the alliance between France and Turkey; and Turkey became apprehensive of the inclination of France towards an alliance with Russia. Sometimes the quadruple alliance alarmed some of the powers, and at other times a contrary system alarmed others, and in all those cases the charge was always made against the intrigues of the Bourbons.

Admitting those matters to be true, the only thing that could have quieted the apprehensions of all those powers with respect to the interference of France, would have been her entire NEUTRALITY in Europe; but this was impossible to be obtained, or if obtained was impossible to be secured, because the genius of her government was repugnant to all such restrictions.

It now happens that by entirely changing the genius of her government, which France has done for herself, this neutrality, which neither wars could accomplish nor treaties secure, arises naturally of itself, and becomes the ground upon which the war should terminate. It is the thing that approaches the nearest of all others to what ought to be the political views of all the European powers; and there is nothing that can so effectually secure this neutrality, as that the genius of the French government should be different from the rest of Europe.

But if their object is to restore the Bourbons and monarchy together, they will unavoidably restore with it all the evils of which they have complained; and the first question of discord will be, whose ally is that monarchy to be?

Will England agree to the restoration of the family compact against which she has been fighting and scheming ever since it existed? Will Prussia agree to restore the alliance between France and Austria, or will Austria agree to restore the former connection between France and Prussia, formed on purpose to oppose herself; or will Spain or Russia, or any of the maritime powers, agree that France and her navy should be allied to England? In fine, will any of the powers agree to strengthen the hands of the other against itself? Yet all these cases involve themselves in the original question of the restoration of the Bourbons; and on the other hand, all of them disappear by the neutrality of France.

If their object is not to restore the Bourbons, it must be the impracticable project of a partition of the country. The Bourbons will then be out of the question, or, more properly speaking, they will be put in a worse condition; for as the preservation of the Bourbons made a part of the first object, the extirpation of them makes a part of the second. Their pretended friends will then become interested in their destruction, because it is favourable to the purpose of partition that none of the nominal claimants should be left in existence.

But however the project of a partition may at first blind the eyes of the confederacy, or however each of them may hope to outwit the other in the progress or in the end, the embarrassments that will arise are insurmountable. But even were the object attainable, it would not be of such general advantage to the parties as the neutrality of France, which costs them nothing, and to obtain which they would formerly have gone to war.


In the first place the confederacy is not of that kind that forms itself originally by concert and consent. It has been forced together by chance—a heterogeneous mass, held only by the accident of the moment; and the instant that accident ceases to operate, the parties will retire to their former rivalships.

I will now, independently of the impracticability of a partition project, trace out some of the embarrassments which will arise among the confederated parties; for it is contrary to the interest of a majority of them that such a project should succeed.

To understand this part of the subject it is necessary, in the first place, to cast an eye over the map of Europe, and observe the geographical situation of the several parts of the confederacy; for however strongly the passionate politics of the moment may operate, the politics that arise from geographical situation are the most certain, and will in all cases finally prevail.

The world has been long amused with what is called the "balance of power." But it is not upon armies only that this balance depends. Armies have but a small circle of action. Their progress is slow and limited. But when we take maritime power into the calculation, the scale extends universally. It comprehends all the interests connected with commerce.

The two great maritime powers are England and France. Destroy either of those, and the balance of naval power is destroyed. The whole world of commerce that passes on the Ocean would then lie at the mercy of the other, and the ports of any nation in Europe might be blocked up.

The geographical situation of those two maritime powers comes next under consideration. Each of them occupies one entire side of the channel from the straits of Dover and Calais to the opening into the Atlantic. The commerce of all the northern nations, from Holland to Russia, must pass the straits of Dover and Calais, and along the Channel, to arrive at the Atlantic.

This being the case, the systematical politics of all the nations, northward of the straits of Dover and Calais, can be ascertained from their geographical situation; for it is necessary to the safety of their commerce that the two sides of the Channel, either in whole or in part, should not be in the possession either of England or France. While one nation possesses the whole of one side, and the other nation the other side, the northern nations cannot help seeing that in any situation of things their commerce will always find protection on one side or the other. It may sometimes be that of England and sometimes that of France.

Again, while the English navy continues in its present condition, it is necessary that another navy should exist to controul the universal sway the former would otherwise have over the commerce of all nations. France is the only nation in Europe where this balance can be placed. The navies of the North, were they sufficiently powerful, could not be sufficiently operative. They are blocked up by the ice six months in the year. Spain lies too remote; besides which, it is only for the sake of her American mines that she keeps up her navy.

Applying these cases to the project of a partition of France, it will appear, that the project involves with it a DESTRUCTION OF THE BALANCE OF MARITIME POWER; because it is only by keeping France entire and indivisible that the balance can be kept up. This is a case that at first sight lies remote and almost hidden. But it interests all the maritime and commercial nations in Europe in as great a degree as any case that has ever come before them.—In short, it is with war as it is with law. In law, the first merits of the case become lost in the multitude of arguments; and in war they become lost in the variety of events. New objects arise that take the lead of all that went before, and everything assumes a new aspect. This was the case in the last great confederacy in what is called the succession war, and most probably will be the case in the present.

I have now thrown together such thoughts as occurred to me on the several subjects connected with the confederacy against France, and interwoven with the interest of the neutral powers. Should a conference of the neutral powers take place, these observations will, at least, serve to generate others. The whole matter will then undergo a more extensive investigation than it is in my power to give; and the evils attending upon either of the projects, that of restoring the Bourbons, or of attempting a partition of France, will have the calm opportunity of being fully discussed.

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