The Writings Of Thomas Paine, Complete - With Index to Volumes I - IV
by Thomas Paine
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The case was, the man to whom she expected to be married had forsaken her, and when she heard he was to be married to another the shock appeared to her to be too great to be borne. She had retired, as I have said, to her room, and when she supposed all the family were gone to bed, (which would have been the case if Mrs. E——— and I had not walked into the garden,) she undressed herself, and tied her apron over her head; which, descending below her waist, gave her the shapeless figure I have spoken of. With this and a white under petticoat and slippers, for she had taken out her buckles and put them at the servant maid's door, I suppose as a keepsake, and aided by the obscurity of almost midnight, she came down stairs, and was going to drown her-self in a pond at the bottom of the garden, towards which she was going when Mrs. E———screamed out. We found afterwards that she had heard the scream, and that was the cause of her changing her walk.

By gentle usage, and leading her into subjects that might, without doing violence to her feelings, and without letting her see the direct intention of it, steal her as it were from the horror she was in, (and I felt a compassionate, earnest disposition to do it, for she was a good girl,) she recovered her former cheerfulness, and was afterwards a happy wife, and the mother of a family.

The other case, and the conclusion in my next: In Paris, in 1793, had lodgings in the Rue Fauxbourg, St. Denis, No. 63.(1) They were the most agreeable, for situation, of any I ever had in Paris, except that they were too remote from the Convention, of which I was then a member. But this was recompensed by their being also remote from the alarms and confusion into which the interior of Paris was then often thrown. The news of those things used to arrive to us, as if we were in a state of tranquility in the country. The house, which was enclosed by a wall and gateway from the street, was a good deal like an old mansion farm house, and the court yard was like a farm-yard, stocked with fowls, ducks, turkies, and geese; which, for amusement, we used to feed out of the parlour window on the ground floor. There were some hutches for rabbits, and a sty with two pigs. Beyond, was a garden of more than an acre of ground, well laid out, and stocked with excellent fruit trees. The orange, apricot, and green-gage plum, were the best I ever tasted; and it is the only place where I saw the wild cucumber. The place had formerly been occupied by some curious person.(2)

1 This ancient mansion is still standing (1895).—Editor.

2 Madame de Pompadour, among others.—Editor."

My apartments consisted of three rooms; the first for wood, water, etc., with an old fashioned closet chest, high enough to hang up clothes in; the next was the bed room; and beyond it the sitting room, which looked into the garden through a glass door; and on the outside there was a small landing place railed in, and a flight of narrow stairs almost hidden by the vines that grew over it, by which I could descend into the garden, without going down stairs through the house. I am trying by description to make you see the place in your mind, because it will assist the story I have to tell; and which I think you can do, because you once called upon me there on account of Sir [Robert Smyth], who was then, as I was soon afterwards, in arrestation. But it was winter when you came, and it is a summer scene I am describing.


I went into my chambers to write and sign a certificate for them, which I intended to take to the guard house to obtain their release. Just as I had finished it a man came into my room dressed in the Parisian uniform of a captain, and spoke to me in good English, and with a good address. He told me that two young men, Englishmen, were arrested and detained in the guard house, and that the section, (meaning those who represented and acted for the section,) had sent him to ask me if I knew them, in which case they would be liberated. This matter being soon settled between us, he talked to me about the Revolution, and something about the "Rights of Man," which he had read in English; and at parting offered me in a polite and civil manner, his services. And who do you think the man was that offered me his services? It was no other than the public executioner Samson, who guillotined the king, and all who were guillotined in Paris; and who lived in the same section, and in the same street with me.


As to myself, I used to find some relief by walking alone in the garden after dark, and cursing with hearty good will the authors of that terrible system that had turned the character of the Revolution I had been proud to defend.

I went but little to the Convention, and then only to make my appearance; because I found it impossible to join in their tremendous decrees, and useless and dangerous to oppose them. My having voted and spoken extensively, more so than any other member, against the execution of the king, had already fixed a mark upon me: neither dared any of my associates in the Convention to translate and speak in French for me anything I might have dared to have written.


Pen and ink were then of no use to me: no good could be done by writing, and no printer dared to print; and whatever I might have written for my private amusement, as anecdotes of the times, would have been continually exposed to be examined, and tortured into any meaning that the rage of party might fix upon it; and as to softer subjects, my heart was in distress at the fate of my friends, and my harp hung upon the weeping willows.(1)

As it was summer we spent most of our time in the garden, and passed it away in those childish amusements that serve to keep reflection from the mind, such as marbles, scotch-hops, battledores, etc., at which we were all pretty expert.

In this retired manner we remained about six or seven weeks, and our landlord went every evening into the city to bring us the news of the day and the evening journal.

I have now, my "Little Corner of the World," led you on, step by step, to the scene that makes the sequel to this narrative, and I will put that scene before your eyes. You shall see it in description as I saw it in fact.

1 This allusion is to the Girondins.—Editor.,

2 Yorke omits the description "from motives of personal delicacy." The case was that of young Johnson, a wealthy devotee of Paine in London, who had followed him to Paris and lived in the same house with him. Hearing that Marat had resolved on Paine's death, Johnson wrote a will bequeathing his property to Paine, then stabbed himself, but recovered. Paine was examined about this incident at Marat's trial. (Moniteur, April 24, 1793.) See my "Life of Paine," vol. ii., p. 48 seq.—Editor..


He recovered, and being anxious to get out of France, a passage was obtained for him and Mr. Choppin: they received it late in the evening, and set off the next morning for Basle before four, from which place I had a letter from them, highly pleased with their escape from France, into which they had entered with an enthusiasm of patriotic devotion. Ah, France! thou hast ruined the character of a Revolution virtuously begun, and destroyed those who produced it. I might almost say like Job's servant, "and I only am escaped."

Two days after they were gone I heard a rapping at the gate, and looking out of the window of the bed room I saw the landlord going with the candle to the gate, which he opened, and a guard with musquets and fixed bayonets entered. I went to bed again, and made up my mind for prison, for I was then the only lodger. It was a guard to take up [Johnson and Choppin], but, I thank God, they were out of their reach.

The guard came about a month after in the night, and took away the landlord Georgeit; and the scene in the house finished with the arrestation of myself. This was soon after you called on me, and sorry I was it was not in my power to render to [Sir Robert Smyth] the service that you asked.

I have now fulfilled my engagement, and I hope your expectation, in relating the case of [Johnson], landed back on the shore of life, by the mistake of the pilot who was conducting him out; and preserved afterwards from prison, perhaps a worse fate, without knowing it himself.

You say a story cannot be too melancholy for you. This is interesting and affecting, but not melancholy. It may raise in your mind a sympathetic sentiment in reading it; and though it may start a tear of pity, you will not have a tear of sorrow to drop on the page.


Here, my contemplative correspondent, let us stop and look back upon the scene. The matters here related being all facts, are strongly pictured in my mind, and in this sense Forgetfulness does not apply. But facts and feelings are distinct things, and it is against feelings that the opium wand of Forgetfulness draws us into ease. Look back on any scene or subject that once gave you distress, for all of us have felt some, and you will find, that though the remembrance of the fact is not extinct in your memory, the feeling is extinct in your mind. You can remember when you had felt distress, but you cannot feel that distress again, and perhaps will wonder you felt it then. It is like a shadow that loses itself by light.

It is often difficult to know what is a misfortune: that which we feel as a great one today, may be the means of turning aside our steps into some new path that leads to happiness yet unknown. In tracing the scenes of my own life, I can discover that the condition I now enjoy, which is sweet to me, and will be more so when I get to America, except by the loss of your society, has been produced, in the first instance, in my being disappointed in former projects. Under that impenetrable veil, futurity, we know not what is concealed, and the day to arrive is hidden from us. Turning then our thoughts to those cases of despair that lead to suicide, when, "the mind," as you say, "neither sees nor hears, and holds counsel only with itself; when the very idea of consolation would add to the torture, and self-destruction is its only aim," what, it may be asked, is the best advice, what the best relief? I answer, seek it not in reason, for the mind is at war with reason, and to reason against feelings is as vain as to reason against fire: it serves only to torture the torture, by adding reproach to horror. All reasoning with ourselves in such cases acts upon us like the reason of another person, which, however kindly done, serves but to insult the misery we suffer. If reason could remove the pain, reason would have prevented it. If she could not do the one, how is she to perform the other? In all such cases we must look upon Reason as dispossessed of her empire, by a revolt of the mind. She retires herself to a distance to weep, and the ebony sceptre of Despair rules alone. All that Reason can do is to suggest, to hint a thought, to signify a wish, to cast now and then a kind of bewailing look, to hold up, when she can catch the eye, the miniature-shaded portrait of Hope; and though dethroned, and can dictate no more, to wait upon us in the humble station of a handmaid.


Editor's introduction:

This pamphlet appeared first in Paris, 1797, with the title: "Thomas Payne a La Legislature et au Directoire. Ou la Justice Agraire opposee a la Loi Agraire, et aux privileges agraires. Prix 15 sols. A Paris, chez la citoyenne Ragouleau, pres le Theatre de la Republique, No. 229. Et chez les Marchands de Nouveautes." A prefatory note says (translated): "The sudden departure of Thomas Paine has pre-vented his supervising the translation of this work, to which he attached great value. He entrusted it to a friend. It is for the reader to decide whether the scheme here set forth is worthy of the publicity given it." (Paine had gone to Havre early in May with the Monroes, intending to accompany them to America, but, rightly suspecting plans for his capture by an English cruiser, returned to Paris.) In the same year the pamphlet was printed in English, by W. Adlard in Paris, and in London for "T. Williams, No. 8 Little Turnstile, Holborn." Paine's preface to the London edition contained some sentences which the publishers, as will be seen, suppressed under asterisks, and two sentences were omitted from the pamphlet which I have supplied from the French. The English title adds a brief resume of Paine's scheme to the caption—"Agrarian Justice opposed to Agrarian Law, and to Agrarian Monopoly." The work was written in the winter of 1795-6, when Paine was still an invalid in Monroe's house, though not published until 1797.

The prefatory Letter to the Legislature and the Directory, now for the first time printed in English, is of much historical interest, and shows the title of the pamphlet related to the rise of Socialism in France. The leader of that move-ment, Francois Noel Babeuf, a frantic and pathetic figure of the time, had just been executed. He had named himself "Gracchus," and called his journal "Tribune du Peuple," in homage to the Roman Tribune, Caius Gracchus, the original socialist and agrarian, whose fate (suicide of himself and his servant) Babeuf and his disciple Darthe invoked in prison, whence they were carried bleeding to the guillotine. This, however, was on account of the conspiracy they had formed, with the remains of the Robespierrian party and some disguised royalists, to overthrow the government. The socialistic propaganda of Babeuf, however, prevailed over all other elements of the conspiracy: the reactionary features of the Constitution, especially the property qualification of suffrage of whose effects Paine had warned the Convention in the speech printed in this volume, (chapter xxv.) and the poverty which survived a revolution that promised its abolition, had excited wide discontent. The "Babouvists" numbered as many as 17,000 in Paris. Babeuf and Lepelletier were appointed by the secret council of this fraternity (which took the name of "Equals") a "Directory of Public Safety." May 11, 1796, was fixed for seizing on the government, and Babeuf had prepared his Proclamation of the socialistic millennium. But the plot was discovered, May 10th, the leaders arrested, and, after a year's delay, two of them executed,—the best-hearted men in the movement, Babeuf and Darthe. Paine too had been moved by the cry for "Bread, and the Constitution of '93 "; and it is a notable coincidence that in that winter of 1795-6, while the socialists were secretly plotting to seize the kingdom of heaven by violence, Paine was devising his plan of relief by taxing inheritances of land, anticipating by a hundred years the English budget of Sir William Harcourt. Babeuf having failed in his socialist, and Pichegru in his royalist, plot, their blows were yet fatal: there still remained in the hearts of millions a Babeuf or a Pichegru awaiting the chieftain strong enough to combine them, as Napoleon presently did, making all the nation "Egaux" as parts of a mighty military engine, and satisfying the royalist triflers with the pomp and glory of war.


To the Legislature and the Executive Directory of the French Republic.

The plan contained in this work is not adapted for any particular country alone: the principle on which it is based is general. But as the rights of man are a new study in this world, and one needing protection from priestly imposture, and the insolence of oppressions too long established, I have thought it right to place this little work under your safeguard. When we reflect on the long and dense night in which France and all Europe have remained plunged by their governments and their priests, we must feel less surprise than grief at the bewilderment caused by the first burst of light that dispels the darkness. The eye accustomed to darkness can hardly bear at first the broad daylight. It is by usage the eye learns to see, and it is the same in passing from any situation to its opposite.

As we have not at one instant renounced all our errors, we cannot at one stroke acquire knowledge of all our rights. France has had the honour of adding to the word Liberty that of Equality; and this word signifies essentially a principal that admits of no gradation in the things to which it applies. But equality is often misunderstood, often misapplied, and often violated.

Liberty and Property are words expressing all those of our possessions which are not of an intellectual nature. There are two kinds of property. Firstly, natural property, or that which comes to us from the Creator of the universe,—such as the earth, air, water. Secondly, artificial or acquired property,—the invention of men. In the latter equality is impossible; for to distribute it equally it would be necessary that all should have contributed in the same proportion, which can never be the case; and this being the case, every individual would hold on to his own property, as his right share. Equality of natural property is the subject of this little essay. Every individual in the world is born therein with legitimate claims on a certain kind of property, or its equivalent.

The right of voting for persons charged with the execution of the laws that govern society is inherent in the word Liberty, and constitutes the equality of personal rights. But even if that right (of voting) were inherent in property, which I deny, the right of suffrage would still belong to all equally, because, as I have said, all individuals have legitimate birthrights in a certain species of property.

I have always considered the present Constitution of the French Republic the best organized system the human mind has yet produced. But I hope my former colleagues will not be offended if I warn them of an error which has slipped into its principle. Equality of the right of suffrage is not maintained. This right is in it connected with a condition on which it ought not to depend; that is, with a proportion of a certain tax called "direct." The dignity of suffrage is thus lowered; and, in placing it in the scale with an inferior thing, the enthusiasm that right is capable of inspiring is diminished. It is impossible to find any equivalent counterpoise for the right of suffrage, because it is alone worthy to be its own basis, and cannot thrive as a graft, or an appendage.

Since the Constitution was established we have seen two conspiracies stranded,—that of Babeuf, and that of some obscure personages who decorate themselves with the despicable name of "royalists." The defect in principle of the Constitution was the origin of Babeuf's conspiracy. He availed himself of the resentment caused by this flaw, and instead of seeking a remedy by legitimate and constitutional means, or proposing some measure useful to society, the conspirators did their best to renew disorder and confusion, and constituted themselves personally into a Directory, which is formally destructive of election and representation. They were, in fine, extravagant enough to suppose that society, occupied with its domestic affairs, would blindly yield to them a directorship usurped by violence.

The conspiracy of Babeuf was followed in a few months by that of the royalists, who foolishly flattered themselves with the notion of doing great things by feeble or foul means. They counted on all the discontented, from whatever cause, and tried to rouse, in their turn, the class of people who had been following the others. But these new chiefs acted as if they thought society had nothing more at heart than to maintain courtiers, pensioners, and all their train, under the contemptible title of royalty. My little essay will disabuse them, by showing that society is aiming at a very different end,—maintaining itself.

We all know or should know, that the time during which a revolution is proceeding is not the time when its resulting advantages can be enjoyed. But had Babeuf and his accomplices taken into consideration the condition of France under this constitution, and compared it with what it was under the tragical revolutionary government, and during the execrable reign of Terror, the rapidity of the alteration must have appeared to them very striking and astonishing. Famine has been replaced by abundance, and by the well-founded hope of a near and increasing prosperity.

As for the defect in the Constitution, I am fully convinced that it will be rectified constitutionally, and that this step is indispensable; for so long as it continues it will inspire the hopes and furnish the means of conspirators; and for the rest, it is regrettable that a Constitution so wisely organized should err so much in its principle. This fault exposes it to other dangers which will make themselves felt. Intriguing candidates will go about among those who have not the means to pay the direct tax and pay it for them, on condition of receiving their votes. Let us maintain inviolably equality in the sacred right of suffrage: public security can never have a basis more solid. Salut et Fraternite.

Your former colleague,

Thomas Paine.


The following little Piece was written in the winter of 1795 and 96; and, as I had not determined whether to publish it during the present war, or to wait till the commencement of a peace, it has lain by me, without alteration or addition, from the time it was written.

What has determined me to publish it now is, a sermon preached by Watson, Bishop of Llandaff. Some of my Readers will recollect, that this Bishop wrote a Book entitled An Apology for the Bible in answer to my Second Part of the Age of Reason. I procured a copy of his Book, and he may depend upon hearing from me on that subject.

At the end of the Bishop's Book is a List of the Works he has written. Among which is the sermon alluded to; it is entitled: "The Wisdom and Goodness of God, in having made both Rich and Poor; with an Appendix, containing Reflections on the Present State of England and France."

The error contained in this sermon determined me to publish my Agrarian Justice. It is wrong to say God made rich and poor; he made only male and female; and he gave them the earth for their inheritance. '...

Instead of preaching to encourage one part of mankind in insolence... it would be better that Priests employed their time to render the general condition of man less miserable than it is. Practical religion consists in doing good: and the only way of serving God is, that of endeavouring to make his creation happy. All preaching that has not this for its object is nonsense and hypocracy.

1 The omissions are noted in the English edition of 1797.— Editor..

To preserve the benefits of what is called civilized life, and to remedy at the same time the evil which it has produced, ought to be considered as one of the first objects of reformed legislation.

Whether that state that is proudly, perhaps erroneously, called civilization, has most promoted or most injured the general happiness of man, is a question that may be strongly contested. On one side, the spectator is dazzled by splendid appearances; on the other, he is shocked by extremes of wretchedness; both of which it has erected. The most affluent and the most miserable of the human race are to be found in the countries that are called civilized.

To understand what the state of society ought to be, it is necessary to have some idea of the natural and primitive state of man; such as it is at this day among the Indians of North America. There is not, in that state, any of those spectacles of human misery which poverty and want present to our eyes in all the towns and streets in Europe. Poverty, therefore, is a thing created by that which is called civilized life. It exists not in the natural state. On the other hand, the natural state is without those advantages which flow from agriculture, arts, science, and manufactures.

The life of an Indian is a continual holiday, compared with the poor of Europe; and, on the other hand it appears to be abject when compared to the rich. Civilization, therefore, or that which is so called, has operated two ways: to make one part of society more affluent, and the other more wretched, than would have been the lot of either in a natural state.

It is always possible to go from the natural to the civilized state, but it is never possible to go from the civilized to the natural state. The reason is, that man in a natural state, subsisting by hunting, requires ten times the quantity of land to range over to procure himself sustenance, than would support him in a civilized state, where the earth is cultivated. When, therefore, a country becomes populous by the additional aids of cultivation, art, and science, there is a necessity of preserving things in that state; because without it there cannot be sustenance for more, perhaps, than a tenth part of its inhabitants. The thing, therefore, now to be done is to remedy the evils and preserve the benefits that have arisen to society by passing from the natural to that which is called the civilized state.

In taking the matter upon this ground, the first principle of civilization ought to have been, and ought still to be, that the condition of every person born into the world, after a state of civilization commences, ought not to be worse than if he had been born before that period. But the fact is, that the condition of millions, in every country in Europe, is far worse than if they had been born before civilization began, or had been born among the Indians of North America at the present day. I will shew how this fact has happened.

It is a position not to be controverted that the earth, in its natural uncultivated state was, and ever would have continued to be, the common property of the human race. In that state every man would have been born to property. He would have been a joint life proprietor with the rest in the property of the soil, and in all its natural productions, vegetable and animal.

But the earth in its natural state, as before said, is capable of supporting but a small number of inhabitants compared with what it is capable of doing in a cultivated state. And as it is impossible to separate the improvement made by cultivation from the earth itself, upon which that improvement is made, the idea of landed property arose from that inseparable connection; but it is nevertheless true, that it is the value of the improvement only, and not the earth itself, that is individual property. Every proprietor, therefore, of cultivated land, owes to the community a ground-rent (for I know of no better term to express the idea) for the land which he holds; and it is from this ground-rent that the fund proposed in this plan is to issue.

It is deducible, as well from the nature of the thing as from all the histories transmitted to us, that the idea of landed property commenced with cultivation, and that there was no such thing as landed property before that time. It could not exist in the first state of man, that of hunters. It did not exist in the second state, that of shepherds: neither Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, nor Job, so far as the history of the Bible may be credited in probable things, were owners of land. Their property consisted, as is always enumerated, in flocks and herds, and they travelled with them from place to place. The frequent contentions at that time, about the use of a well in the dry country of Arabia, where those people lived, also shew that there was no landed property. It was not admitted that land could be claimed as property.

There could be no such thing as landed property originally. Man did not make the earth, and, though he had a natural right to occupy it, he had no right to locate as his property in perpetuity any part of it; neither did the creator of the earth open a land-office, from whence the first title-deeds should issue. Whence then, arose the idea of landed property? I answer as before, that when cultivation began the idea of landed property began with it, from the impossibility of separating the improvement made by cultivation from the earth itself, upon which that improvement was made. The value of the improvement so far exceeded the value of the natural earth, at that time, as to absorb it; till, in the end, the common right of all became confounded into the cultivated right of the individual. But there are, nevertheless, distinct species of rights, and will continue to be so long as the earth endures.

It is only by tracing things to their origin that we can gain rightful ideas of them, and it is by gaining such ideas that we discover the boundary that divides right from wrong, and teaches every man to know his own. I have entitled this tract Agrarian Justice, to distinguish it from Agrarian Law. Nothing could be more unjust than Agrarian Law in a country improved by cultivation; for though every man, as an inhabitant of the earth, is a joint proprietor of it in its natural state, it does not follow that he is a joint proprietor of cultivated earth. The additional value made by cultivation, after the system was admitted, became the property of those who did it, or who inherited it from them, or who purchased it. It had originally no owner. Whilst, therefore, I advocate the right, and interest myself in the hard case of all those who have been thrown out of their natural inheritance by the introduction of the system of landed property, I equally defend the right of the possessor to the part which is his.

Cultivation is at least one of the greatest natural improvements ever made by human invention. It has given to created earth a tenfold value. But the landed monopoly that began with it has produced the greatest evil. It has dispossessed more than half the inhabitants of every nation of their natural inheritance, without providing for them, as ought to have been done, an indemnification for that loss, and has thereby created a species of poverty and wretchedness that did not exist before.

In advocating the case of the persons thus dispossessed, it is a right, and not a charity, that I am pleading for. But it is that kind of right which, being neglected at first, could not be brought forward afterwards till heaven had opened the way by a revolution in the system of government. Let us then do honour to revolutions by justice, and give currency to their principles by blessings.

Having thus in a few words, opened the merits of the case, I shall now proceed to the plan I have to propose, which is,

To create a National Fund, out of which there shall be paid to every person, when arrived at the age of twenty-one years, the sum of fifteen pounds sterling, as a compensation in part, for the loss of his or her natural inheritance, by the introduction of the system of landed property:

And also, the sum of ten pounds per annum, during life, to every person now living, of the age of fifty years, and to all others as they shall arrive at that age.


I have already established the principle, namely, that the earth, in its natural uncultivated state was, and ever would have continued to be, the common property of the human race; that in that state, every person would have been born to property; and that the system of landed property, by its inseparable connection with cultivation, and with what is called civilized life, has absorbed the property of all those whom it dispossessed, without providing, as ought to have been done, an indemnification for that loss.

The fault, however, is not in the present possessors. No complaint is intended, or ought to be alleged against them, unless they adopt the crime by opposing justice. The fault is in the system, and it has stolen imperceptibly upon the world, aided afterwards by the agrarian law of the sword. But the fault can be made to reform itself by successive generations; and without diminishing or deranging the property of any of the present possessors, the operation of the fund can yet commence, and be in full activity, the first year of its establishment, or soon after, as I shall shew.

It is proposed that the payments, as already stated, be made to every person, rich or poor. It is best to make it so, to prevent invidious distinctions. It is also right it should be so, because it is in lieu of the natural inheritance, which, as a right, belongs to every man, over and above the property he may have created, or inherited from those who did. Such persons as do not choose to receive it can throw it into the common fund.

Taking it then for granted that no person ought to be in a worse condition when born under what is called a state of civilization, than he would have been had he been born in a state of nature, and that civilization ought to have made, and ought still to make, provision for that purpose, it can only be done by subtracting from property a portion equal in value to the natural inheritance it has absorbed.

Various methods may be proposed for this purpose, but that which appears to be the best (not only because it will operate without deranging any present possessors, or without interfering with the collection of taxes or emprunts necessary for the purposes of government and the revolution, but because it will be the least troublesome and the most effectual, and also because the subtraction will be made at a time that best admits it) is at the moment that.. property is passing by the death of one person to the possession of another. In this case, the bequeather gives nothing: the receiver pays nothing. The only matter to him is, that the monopoly of natural inheritance, to which there never was a right, begins to cease in his person. A generous man would not wish it to continue, and a just man will rejoice to see it abolished.

My state of health prevents my making sufficient inquiries with respect to the doctrine of probabilities, whereon to found calculations with such degrees of certainty as they are capable of. What, therefore, I offer on this head is more the result of observation and reflection than of received information; but I believe it will be found to agree sufficiently with fact.

In the first place, taking twenty-one years as the epoch of maturity, all the property of a nation, real and personal, is always in the possession of persons above that age. It is then necessary to know, as a datum of calculation, the average of years which persons above that age will live. I take this average to be about thirty years, for though many persons will live forty, fifty, or sixty years after the age of twenty-one years, others will die much sooner, and some in every year of that time.

Taking, then, thirty years as the average of time, it will give, without any material variation one way or other, the average of time in which the whole property or capital of a nation, or a sum equal thereto, will have passed through one entire revolution in descent, that is, will have gone by deaths to new possessors; for though, in many instances, some parts of this capital will remain forty, fifty, or sixty years in the possession of one person, other parts will have revolved two or three times before those thirty years expire, which will bring it to that average; for were one half the capital of a nation to revolve twice in thirty years, it would produce the same fund as if the whole revolved once.

Taking, then, thirty years as the average of time in which the whole capital of a nation, or a sum equal thereto, will revolve once, the thirtieth part thereof will be the sum that will revolve every year, that is, will go by deaths to new possessors; and this last sum being thus known, and the ratio per cent, to be subtracted from it determined, it will give the annual amount or income of the proposed fund, to be applied as already mentioned.

In looking over the discourse of the English minister, Pitt, in his opening of what is called in England the budget, (the scheme of finance for the year 1796,) I find an estimate of the national capital of that country. As this estimate of a national capital is prepared ready to my hand, I take it as a datum to act upon. When a calculation is made upon the known capital of any nation, combined with its population, it will serve as a scale for any other nation, in proportion as its capital and population be more or less. I am the more disposed to take this estimate of Mr. Pitt, for the purpose of showing to that minister, upon his own calculation, how much better money may be employed than in wasting it, as he has done, on the wild project of setting up Bourbon kings. What, in the name of heaven, are Bourbon kings to the people of England? It is better that the people have bread.

Mr. Pitt states the national capital of England, real and personal, to be one thousand three hundred millions sterling, which is about one-fourth part of the national capital of France, including Belgia. The event of the last harvest in each country proves that the soil of France is more productive than that of England, and that it can better support twenty-four or twenty-five millions of inhabitants than that of England can seven or seven and a half millions.

The thirtieth part of this capital of 1,300,000,000L. is 43,333,333L. which is the part that will revolve every year by deaths in that country to new possessors; and the sum that will annually revolve in France in the proportion of four to one, will be about one hundred and seventy-three millions sterling. From this sum of 43,333,333L. annually revolving, is to be subtracted the value of the natural inheritance absorbed in it, which, perhaps, in fair justice, cannot be taken at less, and ought not to be taken for more, than a tenth part.

It will always happen, that of the property thus revolving by deaths every year a part will descend in a direct line to sons and daughters, and the other part collaterally, and the proportion will be found to be about three to one; that is, about thirty millions of the above sum will descend to direct heirs, and the remaining sum of 13,333,333L. to more distant relations, and in part to strangers.

Considering, then, that man is always related to society, that relationship will become comparatively greater in proportion as the next of kin is more distant, it is therefore consistent with civilization to say that where there are no direct heirs society shall be heir to a part over and above the tenth part due to society. If this additional part be from five to ten or twelve per cent., in proportion as the next of kin be nearer or more remote, so as to average with the escheats that may fall, which ought always to go to society and not to the government (an addition of ten per cent, more), the produce from the annual sum of 43,333,333L. will be:

Having thus arrived at the annual amount of the proposed fund, I come, in the next place, to speak of the population proportioned to this fund, and to compare it with the uses to which the fund is to be applied.

The population (I mean that of England) does not exceed seven millions and a half, and the number of persons above the age of fifty will in that case be about four hundred thousand. There would not, however, be more than that number that would accept the proposed ten pounds sterling per annum, though they would be entitled to it. I have no idea it would be accepted by many persons who had a yearly income of two or three hundred pounds sterling. But as we often see instances of rich people falling into sudden poverty, even at the age of sixty, they would always have the right of drawing all the arrears due to them. Four millions, therefore, of the above annual sum of 5,666,6667L. will be required for four hundred thousand aged persons, at ten pounds sterling each.

I come now to speak of the persons annually arriving at twenty-one years of age. If all the persons who died were above the age of twenty-one years, the number of persons annually arriving at that age, must be equal to the annual number of deaths, to keep the population stationary. But the greater part die under the age of twenty-one, and therefore the number of persons annually arriving at twenty-one will be less than half the number of deaths. The whole number of deaths upon a population of seven millions and an half will be about 220,000 annually. The number arriving at twenty-one years of age will be about 100,000. The whole number of these will not receive the proposed fifteen pounds, for the reasons already mentioned, though, as in the former case, they would be entitled to it. Admitting then that a tenth part declined receiving it, the amount would stand thus:

There are, in every country, a number of blind and lame persons, totally incapable of earning a livelihood. But as it will always happen that the greater number of blind persons will be among those who are above the age of fifty years, they will be provided for in that class. The remaining sum of 316,666L. will provide for the lame and blind under that age, at the same rate of 10L. annually for each person.

Having now gone through all the necessary calculations, and stated the particulars of the plan, I shall conclude with some observations.

It is not charity but a right, not bounty but justice, that I am pleading for. The present state of civilization is as odious as it is unjust. It is absolutely the opposite of what it should be, and it is necessary that a revolution should be made in it.(1) The contrast of affluence and wretchedness continually meeting and offending the eye, is like dead and living bodies chained together. Though I care as little about riches, as any man, I am a friend to riches because they are capable of good. I care not how affluent some may be, provided that none be miserable in consequence of it. But it is impossible to enjoy affluence with the felicity it is capable of being enjoyed, whilst so much misery is mingled in the scene. The sight of the misery, and the unpleasant sensations it suggests, which, though they may be suffocated cannot be extinguished, are a greater drawback upon the felicity of affluence than the proposed 10 per cent, upon property is worth. He that would not give the one to get rid of the other has no charity, even for himself.

1 This and the preceding sentence axe omitted in all previous English and American editions.—Editor..

There are, in every country, some magnificent charities established by individuals. It is, however, but little that any individual can do, when the whole extent of the misery to be relieved is considered. He may satisfy his conscience, but not his heart. He may give all that he has, and that all will relieve but little. It is only by organizing civilization upon such principles as to act like a system of pullies, that the whole weight of misery can be removed.

The plan here proposed will reach the whole. It will immediately relieve and take out of view three classes of wretchedness—the blind, the lame, and the aged poor; and it will furnish the rising generation with means to prevent their becoming poor; and it will do this without deranging or interfering with any national measures. To shew that this will be the case, it is sufficient to observe that the operation and effect of the plan will, in all cases, be the same as if every individual were voluntarily to make his will and dispose of his property in the manner here proposed.

But it is justice, and not charity, that is the principle of the plan. In all great cases it is necessary to have a principle more universally active than charity; and, with respect to justice, it ought not to be left to the choice of detached individuals whether they will do justice or not. Considering then, the plan on the ground of justice, it ought to be the act of the whole, growing spontaneously out of the principles of the revolution, and the reputation of it ought to be national and not individual.

A plan upon this principle would benefit the revolution by the energy that springs from the consciousness of justice. It would multiply also the national resources; for property, like vegetation, increases by offsets. When a young couple begin the world, the difference is exceedingly great whether they begin with nothing or with fifteen pounds apiece. With this aid they could buy a cow, and implements to cultivate a few acres of land; and instead of becoming burdens upon society, which is always the case where children are produced faster than they can be fed, would be put in the way of becoming useful and profitable citizens. The national domains also would sell the better if pecuniary aids were provided to cultivate them in small lots.

It is the practice of what has unjustly obtained the name of civilization (and the practice merits not to be called either charity or policy) to make some provision for persons becoming poor and wretched only at the time they become so. Would it not, even as a matter of economy, be far better to adopt means to prevent their becoming poor? This can best be done by making every person when arrived at the age of twenty-one years an inheritor of something to begin with. The rugged face of society, chequered with the extremes of affluence and want, proves that some extraordinary violence has been committed upon it, and calls on justice for redress. The great mass of the poor in all countries are become an hereditary race, and it is next to impossible for them to get cut of that state of themselves. It ought also to be observed that this mass increases in all countries that are called civilized. More persons fall annually into it than get out of it.

Though in a plan of which justice and humanity are the foundation-principles, interest ought not to be admitted into the calculation, yet it is always of advantage to the establishment of any plan to shew that it is beneficial as a matter of interest. The success of any proposed plan submitted to public consideration must finally depend on the numbers interested in supporting it, united with the justice of its principles.

The plan here proposed will benefit all, without injuring any. It will consolidate the interest of the Republic with that of the individual. To the numerous class dispossessed of their natural inheritance by the system of landed property it will be an act of national justice. To persons dying possessed of moderate fortunes it will operate as a tontine to their children, more beneficial than the sum of money paid into the fund: and it will give to the accumulation of riches a degree of security that none of the old governments of Europe, now tottering on their foundations, can give.

I do not suppose that more than one family in ten, in any of the countries of Europe, has, when the head of the family dies, a clear property left of five hundred pounds sterling. To all such the plan is advantageous. That property would pay fifty pounds into the fund, and if there were only two children under age they would receive fifteen pounds each, (thirty pounds,) on coming of age, and be entitled to ten pounds a-year after fifty. It is from the overgrown acquisition of property that the fund will support itself; and I know that the possessors of such property in England, though they would eventually be benefited by the protection of nine-tenths of it, will exclaim against the plan. But without entering into any inquiry how they came by that property, let them recollect that they have been the advocates of this war, and that Mr. Pitt has already laid on more new taxes to be raised annually upon the people of England, and that for supporting the despotism of Austria and the Bourbons against the liberties of France, than would pay annually all the sums proposed in this plan.

I have made the calculations stated in this plan, upon what is called personal, as well as upon landed property. The reason for making it upon land is already explained; and the reason for taking personal property into the calculation is equally well founded though on a different principle. Land, as before said, is the free gift of the Creator in common to the human race. Personal property is the effect of society; and it is as impossible for an individual to acquire personal property without the aid of society, as it is for him to make land originally. Separate an individual from society, and give him an island or a continent to possess, and he cannot acquire personal property. He cannot be rich. So inseparably are the means connected with the end, in all cases, that where the former do not exist the latter cannot be obtained. All accumulation, therefore, of personal property, beyond what a man's own hands produce, is derived to him by living in society; and he owes on every principle of justice, of gratitude, and of civilization, a part of that accumulation back again to society from whence the whole came. This is putting the matter on a general principle, and perhaps it is best to do so; for if we examine the case minutely it will be found that the accumulation of personal property is, in many instances, the effect of paying too little for the labour that produced it; the consequence of which is, that the working hand perishes in old age, and the employer abounds in affluence. It is, perhaps, impossible to proportion exactly the price of labour to the profits it produces; and it will also be said, as an apology for the injustice, that were a workman to receive an increase of wages daily he would not save it against old age, nor be much bet-ter for it in the interim. Make, then, society the treasurer to guard it for him in a common fund; for it is no reason, that because he might not make a good use of it for himself, another should take it.

The state of civilization that has prevailed throughout Europe, is as unjust in its principle, as it is horrid in its effects; and it is the consciousness of this, and the apprehension that such a state cannot continue when once investigation begins in any country, that makes the possessors of property dread every idea of a revolution. It is the hazard and not the principle of revolutions that retards their progress. This being the case, it is necessary as well for the protection of property, as for the sake of justice and humanity, to form a system that, whilst it preserves one part of society from wretchedness, shall secure the other from depredation.

The superstitious awe, the enslaving reverence, that formerly surrounded affluence, is passing away in all countries, and leaving the possessor of property to the convulsion of accidents. When wealth and splendour, instead of fascinating the multitude, excite emotions of disgust; when, instead of drawing forth admiration, it is beheld as an insult upon wretchedness; when the ostentatious appearance it makes serves to call the right of it in question, the case of property becomes critical, and it is only in a system of justice that the possessor can contemplate security.

To remove the danger, it is necessary to remove the antipathies, and this can only be done by making property productive of a national blessing, extending to every individual. When the riches of one man above another shall increase the national fund in the same proportion; when it shall be seen that the prosperity of that fund depends on the prosperity of individuals; when the more riches a man acquires, the better it shall be for the general mass; it is then that antipathies will cease, and property be placed on the permanent basis of national interest and protection.

I have no property in France to become subject to the plan I propose. What I have which is not much, is in the United States of America. But I will pay one hundred pounds sterling towards this fund in rance, the instant it shall be established; and I will pay the same sum in England whenever a similar establishment shall take place in that country.

A revolution in the state of civilization is the necessary companion of revolutions in the system of government. If a revolution in any country be from bad to good, or from good to bad, the state of what is called civilization in that country, must be made conformable thereto, to give that revolution effect. Despotic government supports itself by abject civilization, in which debasement of the human mind, and wretchedness in the mass of the people, are the chief enterions. Such governments consider man merely as an animal; that the exercise of intellectual faculty is not his privilege; that he has nothing to do with the laws but to obey them ; (*) and they politically depend more upon breaking the spirit of the people by poverty, than they fear enraging it by desperation.

* Expression of Horsley, an English bishop, in the English parliament.—Author.

It is a revolution in the state of civilization that will give perfection to the revolution of France. Already the conviction that government by representation is the true system of government is spreading itself fast in the world. The reasonableness of it can be seen by all. The justness of it makes itself felt even by its opposers. But when a system of civilization, growing out of that system of government, shall be so organized that not a man or woman born in the Republic but shall inherit some means of beginning the world, and see before them the certainty of escaping the miseries that under other governments accompany old age, the revolution of France will have an advocate and an ally in the heart of all nations.

An army of principles will penetrate where an army of soldiers cannot; it will succeed where diplomatic management would fail: it is neither the Rhine, the Channel, nor the Ocean that can arrest its progress: it will march on the horizon of the world, and it will conquer.



I. Each canton shall elect in its primary assemblies, three persons, as commissioners for that canton, who shall take cognizance, and keep a register of all matters happening in that canton, conformable to the charter that shall be established by law for carrying this plan into execution.

II. The law shall fix the manner in which the property of deceased persons shall be ascertained.

III. When the amount of the property of any deceased person shall be ascertained, the principal heir to that property, or the eldest of the co-heirs, if of lawful age, or if under age the person authorized by the will of the deceased to represent him or them, shall give bond to the commissioners of the canton to pay the said tenth part thereof in four equal quarterly payments, within the space of one year or sooner, at the choice of the payers. One half of the whole property shall remain as a security until the bond be paid off.

IV. The bond shall be registered in the office of the commissioners of the canton, and the original bonds shall be deposited in the national bank at Paris. The bank shall publish every quarter of a year the amount of the bonds in its possession, and also the bonds that shall have been paid off, or what parts thereof, since the last quarterly publication.

V. The national bank shall issue bank notes upon the security of the bonds in its possession. The notes so issued, shall be applied to pay the pensions of aged persons, and the compensations to persons arriving at twenty-one years of age. It is both reasonable and generous to suppose, that persons not under immediate necessity, will suspend their right of drawing on the fund, until it acquire, as it will do, a greater degree of ability. In this case, it is proposed, that an honorary register be kept, in each canton, of the names of the persons thus suspending that right, at least during the present war.

VI. As the inheritors of property must always take up their bonds in four quarterly payments, or sooner if they choose, there will always be numeraire [cash] arriving at the bank after the expiration of the first quarter, to exchange for the bank notes that shall be brought in.

VII. The bank notes being thus put in circulation, upon the best of all possible security, that of actual property, to more than four times the amount of the bonds upon which the notes are issued, and with numeraire continually arriving at the bank to exchange or pay them off whenever they shall be presented for that purpose, they will acquire a permanent value in all parts of the Republic. They can therefore be received in payment of taxes, or emprunts equal to numeraire, because the government can always receive numeraire for them at the bank.

VIII. It will be necessary that the payments of the ten per cent, be made in numeraire for the first year from the establishment of the plan. But after the expiration of the first year, the inheritors of property may pay ten per cent either in bank notes issued upon the fund, or in numeraire, If the payments be in numeraire, it will lie as a deposit at the bank, to be exchanged for a quantity of notes equal to that amount; and if in notes issued upon the fund, it will cause a demand upon the fund, equal thereto; and thus the operation of the plan will create means to carry itself into execution.

Thomas Paine.


To the People of France and the French Armies (1)

1 This pamphlet was written between the defeat of Pichegru's attempt, September 4, 1794, and November 12, of the same year, the date of the Bien-informe in which the publication is noticed. General Pichegra (Charles), (1761-1804) having joined a royalist conspiracy against the Republic, was banished to Cayenne (1797), whence he escaped to England; having returned to Paris (1804) he was imprisoned in the Temple, and there found strangled by a silk handkerchief, whether by his own or another's act remaining doubtful. —Editor.

When an extraordinary measure, not warranted by established constitutional rules, and justifiable only on the supreme law of absolute necessity, bursts suddenly upon us, we must, in order to form a true judgment thereon, carry our researches back to the times that preceded and occasioned it. Taking up then the subject with respect to the event of the Eighteenth of Fructidor on this ground, I go to examine the state of things prior to that period. I begin with the establishment of the constitution of the year 3 of the French Republic.

A better organized constitution has never yet been devised by human wisdom. It is, in its organization, free from all the vices and defects to which other forms of government are more or less subject. I will speak first of the legislative body, because the Legislature is, in the natural order of things, the first power; the Executive is the first magistrate.

By arranging the legislative body into two divisions, as is done in the French Constitution, the one, (the Council of Five Hundred,) whose part it is to conceive and propose laws; the other, a Council of Ancients, to review, approve, or reject the laws proposed; all the security is given that can arise from coolness of reflection acting upon, or correcting the precipitancy or enthusiasm of conception and imagination. It is seldom that our first thought, even upon any subject, is sufficiently just.(1)

1 For Paine's ideas on the right division of representatives into two chambers, which differ essentially from any bicameral system ever adopted, see vol. ii., p. 444 of this work; also, in the present volume, Chapter XXXIV.— Editor..

The policy of renewing the Legislature by a third part each year, though not entirely new, either in theory or in practice, is nevertheless one of the modern improvements in the science of government. It prevents, on the one hand, that convulsion and precipitate change of measures into which a nation might be surprised by the going out of the whole Legislature at the same time, and the instantaneous election of a new one; on the other hand, it excludes that common interest from taking place that might tempt a whole Legislature, whose term of duration expired at once, to usurp the right of continuance. I go now to speak of the Executive.

It is a principle uncontrovertible by reason, that each of the parts by which government is composed, should be so constructed as to be in perpetual maturity. We should laugh at the idea of a Council of Five Hundred, or a Council of Ancients, or a Parliament, or any national assembly, who should be all children in leading strings and in the cradle, or be all sick, insane, deaf, dumb, lame or blind, at the same time, or be all upon crutches, tottering with age or infirmities. Any form of government that was so constructed as to admit the possibility of such cases happening to a whole Legislature would justly be the ridicule of the world; and on a parity of reasoning, it is equally as ridiculous that the same cases should happen in that part of government which is called the Executive; yet this is the contemptible condition to which an Executive is always subject, and which is often happening, when it is placed in an hereditary individual called a king. When that individual is in either of the cases before mentioned, the whole Executive is in the same case; for himself is the whole. He is then (as an Executive) the ridiculous picture of what a Legislature would be if all its members were in the same case. The one is a whole made up of parts, the other a whole without parts; and anything happening to the one, (as a part or sec-tion of the government,) is parallel to the same thing happening to the other.

As, therefore, an hereditary executive called a king is a perfect absurdity in itself, any attachment to it is equally as absurd. It is neither instinct or reason; and if this attachment is what is called royalism in France, then is a royalist inferior in character to every species of the animal world; for what can that being be who acts neither by instinct nor by reason? Such a being merits rather our derision than our pity; and it is only when it assumes to act its folly that it becomes capable of provoking republican indignation. In every other case it is too contemptible to excite anger. For my own part, when I contemplate the self-evident absurdity of the thing, I can scarcely permit myself to believe that there exists in the high-minded nation of France such a mean and silly animal as a royalist.

As it requires but a single glance of thought to see (as is before said) that all the parts of which government is composed must be at all times in a state of full maturity, it was not possible that men acting under the influence of reason, could, in forming a Constitution, admit an hereditary Executive, any more than an hereditary Legislature. I go therefore to examine the other cases.

In the first place, (rejecting the hereditary system,) shall the Executive by election be an individual or a plurality.

An individual by election is almost as bad as the hereditary system, except that there is always a better chance of not having an idiot. But he will never be any thing more than a chief of a party, and none but those of that party will have access to him. He will have no person to consult with of a standing equal with himself, and consequently be deprived of the advantages arising from equal discussion.

Those whom he admits in consultation will be ministers of his own appointment, who, if they displease by their advice, must expect to be dismissed. The authority also is too great, and the business too complicated, to be intrusted to the ambition or the judgment of an individual; and besides these cases, the sudden change of measures that might follow by the going out of an individual Executive, and the election of a new one, would hold the affairs of a nation in a state of perpetual uncertainty. We come then to the case of a plural Executive.

It must be sufficiently plural, to give opportunity to discuss all the various subjects that in the course of national business may come before it; and yet not so numerous as to endanger the necessary secrecy that certain cases, such as those of war, require.

Establishing, then, plurality as a principle, the only question is, What shall be the number of that plurality?

Three are too few either for the variety or the quantity of business. The Constitution has adopted five; and experience has shewn, from the commencement of the Constitution to the time of the election of the new legislative third, that this number of Directors, when well chosen, is sufficient for all national executive purposes; and therefore a greater number would be only an unnecessary expence. That the measures of the Directory during that period were well concerted is proved by their success; and their being well concerted shews they were well discussed; and, therefore, that five is a sufficient number with respect to discussion; and, on the other hand, the secret, whenever there was one, (as in the case of the expedition to Ireland,) was well kept, and therefore the number is not too great to endanger the necessary secrecy.

The reason why the two Councils are numerous is not from the necessity of their being so, on account of business, but because that every part of the republic shall find and feel itself in the national representation.

Next to the general principle of government by representation, the excellence of the French Constitution consists in providing means to prevent that abuse of power that might arise by letting it remain too long in the same hands. This wise precaution pervades every part of the Constitution. Not only the legislature is renewable by a third every year, but the president of each of the Councils is renewable every month; and of the Directory, one member each year, and its president every three months. Those who formed the Constitution cannot be accused of having contrived for themselves. The Constitution, in this respect, is as impartially constructed as if those who framed it were to die as soon as they had finished their work.

The only defect in the Constitution is that of having narrowed the right of suffrage; and it is in a great measure due to this narrowing the right, that the last elections have not generally been good. My former colleagues will, I presume, pardon my saying this to day, when they recollect my arguments against this defect, at the time the Constitution was discussed in the Convention.(1)

1 See Chapters XXIV. and XXV., also the letter prefaced to XXVIII., in this volume.—Editor.,

I will close this part of the subject by remarking on one of the most vulgar and absurd sayings or dogmas that ever yet imposed itself upon the world, which is, "that a Republic is fit only for a small country, and a Monarchy for a large one." Ask those who say this their reasons why it is so, and they can give none.

Let us then examine the case. If the quantity of knowledge in a government ought to be proportioned to the extent of a country, and the magnitude and variety of its affairs, it follows, as an undeniable result, that this absurd dogma is false, and that the reverse of it is true. As to what is called Monarchy, if it be adaptable to any country it can only be so to a small one, whose concerns are few, little complicated, and all within the comprehension of an individual. But when we come to a country of large extent, vast population, and whose affairs are great, numerous, and various, it is the representative republican system only, that can collect into the government the quantity of knowledge necessary to govern to the best national advantage. Montesquieu, who was strongly inclined to republican government, sheltered himself under this absurd dogma; for he had always the Bastile before his eyes when he was speaking of Republics, and therefore pretended not to write for France. Condorcet governed himself by the same caution, but it was caution only, for no sooner had he the opportunity of speaking fully out than he did it. When I say this of Condorcet, I know it as a fact. In a paper published in Paris, July, 1791, entitled, "The Republican, or the Defender of Representative Government?" is a piece signed Thomas Paine.(1) That piece was concerted between Condorcet and myself. I wrote the original in English, and Condorcet translated it. The object of it was to expose the absurdity and falsehood of the above mentioned dogma.

1 Chapter II. of this volume. See also my "Life of Paine," vol. i., p. 311.—Editor.

Having thus concisely glanced at the excellencies of the Constitution, and the superiority of the representative system of government over every other system, (if any other can be called a system,) I come to speak of the circumstances that have intervened between the time the Constitution was established and the event that took place on the 18th of Fructidor of the present year.

Almost as suddenly as the morning light dissipates darkness, did the establishment of the Constitution change the face of affairs in France. Security succeeded to terror, prosperity to distress, plenty to famine, and confidence increased as the days multiplied, until the coming of the new third. A series of victories unequalled in the world, followed each other, almost too rapidly to be counted, and too numerous to be remembered. The Coalition, every where defeated and confounded, crumbled away like a ball of dust in the hand of a giant. Every thing, during that period, was acted on such a mighty scale that reality appeared a dream, and truth outstript romance. It may figuratively be said, that the Rhine and the Rubicon (Germany and Italy) replied in triumphs to each other, and the echoing Alps prolonged the shout. I will not here dishonour a great description by noticing too much the English government. It is sufficient to say paradoxically, that in the magnitude of its littleness it cringed, it intrigued, and sought protection in corruption.

Though the achievements of these days might give trophies to a nation and laurels to its heroes, they derive their full radiance of glory from the principle they inspired and the object they accomplished. Desolation, chains, and slavery had marked the progress of former wars, but to conquer for Liberty had never been thought of. To receive the degrading submission of a distressed and subjugated people, and insultingly permit them to live, made the chief triumph of former conquerors; but to receive them with fraternity, to break their chains, to tell them they are free, and teach them to be so, make a new volume in the history of man.

Amidst those national honours, and when only two enemies remained, both of whom had solicited peace, and one of them had signed preliminaries, the election of the new third commenced. Every thing was made easy to them. All difficulties had been conquered before they arrived at the government. They came in the olive days of the revolution, and all they had to do was not to do mischief.

It was, however, not difficult to foresee, that the elections would not be generally good. The horrid days of Robespierre were still remembered, and the gratitude due to those who had put an end to them was forgotten.

Thousands who, by passive approbation during that tremendous scene, had experienced no suffering, assumed the merit of being the loudest against it. Their cowardice in not opposing it, became courage when it was over. They exclaimed against Terrorism as if they had been the heroes that overthrew it, and rendered themselves ridiculous by fantastically overacting moderation. The most noisy of this class, that I have met with, are those who suffered nothing. They became all things, at all times, to all men; till at last they laughed at principle. It was the real republicans who suffered most during the time of Robespierre. The persecution began upon them on the 31st of May, 1793, and ceased only by the exertions of the remnant that survived.

In such a confused state of things as preceded the late elections the public mind was put into a condition of being easily deceived; and it was almost natural that the hypocrite would stand the best chance of being elected into the new third. Had those who, since their election, have thrown the public affairs into confusion by counter-revolutionary measures, declared themselves beforehand, they would have been denounced instead of being chosen. Deception was necessary to their success. The Constitution obtained a full establishment; the revolution was considered as complete; and the war on the eve of termination. In such a situation, the mass of the people, fatigued by a long revolution, sought repose; and in their elections they looked out for quiet men. They unfortunately found hypocrites. Would any of the primary assemblies have voted for a civil war? Certainly they would not. But the electoral assemblies of some departments have chosen men whose measures, since their election, tended to no other end but to provoke it. Either those electors have deceived their constituents of the primary assemblies, or they have been themselves deceived in the choice they made of deputies.

That there were some direct but secret conspirators in the new third can scarcely admit of a doubt; but it is most reasonable to suppose that a great part were seduced by the vanity of thinking they could do better than those whom they succeeded. Instead of trusting to experience, they attempted experiments. This counter-disposition prepared them to fall in with any measures contrary to former measures, and that without seeing, and probably without suspecting, the end to which they led.

No sooner were the members of the new third arrived at the seat of government, than expectation was excited to see how they would act. Their motions were watched by all parties, and it was impossible for them to steal a march unobserved. They had it in their power to do great good, or great mischief. A firm and manly conduct on their part, uniting with that of the Directory and their colleagues, would have terminated the war. But the moment before them was not the moment of hesitation. He that hesitates in such situation is lost.

The first public act of the Council of Five Hundred was the election of Pichegru to the presidency of that Council. He arrived at it by a very large majority, and the public voice was in his favour. I among the rest was one who rejoiced at it. But if the defection of Pichegru was at that time known to Conde, and consequently to Pitt, it unveils the cause that retarded all negotiations for peace.(1) They interpreted that election into a signal of a counter-revolution, and were waiting for it; and they mistook the respect shown to Pichegru, founded on the supposition of his integrity, as a symptom of national revolt. Judging of things by their own foolish ideas of government, they ascribed appearances to causes between which there was no connection. Every thing on their part has been a comedy of errors, and the actors have been chased from the stage.

1 Louis Joseph de Bourbon, Prince de Conde (1736-1818), organized the French emigrants on the Rhine into an army which was incorporated with that of Austria but paid by England. He converted Pichegru into a secret partisan of the Bourbons. He ultimately returned to France with Louis XVIII., who made him colonel of infantry and master of the royal household.—Editor.,

Two or three decades of the new sessions passed away without any thing very material taking place; but matters soon began to explain themselves. The first thing that struck the public mind was, that no more was heard of negotiations for peace, and that public business stood still. It was not the object of the conspirators that there should be peace; but as it was necessary to conceal their object, the Constitution was ransacked to find pretences for delays. In vain did the Directory explain to them the state of the finances and the wants of the army. The committee, charged with that business, trifled away its time by a series of unproductive reports, and continued to sit only to produce more. Every thing necessary to be done was neglected, and every thing improper was attempted. Pichegru occupied himself about forming a national guard for the Councils—the suspicious signal of war,—Camille Jordan about priests and bells, and the emigrants, with whom he had associated during the two years he was in England.1 Willot and Delarue attacked the Directory: their object was to displace some one of the directors, to get in another of their own. Their motives with respect to the age of Barras (who is as old as he wishes to be, and has been a little too old for them) were too obvious not to be seen through.(2)

1 Paine's pamphlet, addressed to Jordan, deals mainly with religions matters, and is reserved for oar fourth volume.— Editor..

2 Paul Francois Jean Nicolas Barras (1755-1899) was President of the Directory at this time, 1797.—Editor..

In this suspensive state of things, the public mind, filled with apprehensions, became agitated, and without knowing what it might be, looked for some extraordinary event. It saw, for it could not avoid seeing, that things could not remain long in the state they were in, but it dreaded a convulsion. That spirit of triflingness which it had indulged too freely when in a state of security, and which it is probable the new agents had interpreted into indifference about the success of the Republic, assumed a serious aspect that afforded to conspiracy no hope of aid; but still it went on. It plunged itself into new measures with the same ill success, and the further it went the further the public mind retired. The conspiracy saw nothing around it to give it encouragement.

The obstinacy, however, with which it persevered in its repeated attacks upon the Directory, in framing laws in favour of emigrants and refractory priests, and in every thing inconsistent with the immediate safety of the Republic, and which served to encourage the enemy to prolong the war, admitted of no other direct interpretation than that something was rotten in the Council of Five Hundred. The evidence of circumstances became every day too visible not to be seen, and too strong to be explained away. Even as errors, (to say no worse of them,) they are not entitled to apology; for where knowledge is a duty, ignorance is a crime.

The more serious republicans, who had better opportunities than the generality had, of knowing the state of politics, began to take the alarm, and formed themselves into a Society, by the name of the Constitutional Club. It is the only Society of which I have been a member in France; and I went to this because it was become necessary that the friends of the Republic should rally round the standard of the constitution. I met there several of the original patriots of the revolution; I do not mean of the last order of Jacobins, but of the first of that name. The faction in the Council of Five Hundred, who, finding no counsel from the public, began to be frightened at appearances, fortified itself against the dread of this Society, by passing a law to dissolve it. The constitutionality of the law was at least doubtful: but the Society, that it might not give the example of exasperating matters already too much inflamed, suspended its meetings.

A matter, however, of much greater moment soon after presented itself. It was the march of four regiments, some of whom, in the line of their route, had to pass within about twelve leagues of Paris, which is the boundary the Constitution had fixed as the distance of any armed force from the legislative body. In another state of things, such a circumstance would not have been noticed. But conspiracy is quick of suspicion, and the fear which the faction in the Council of Five Hundred manifested upon this occasion could not have suggested itself to innocent men; neither would innocent men have expostulated with the Directory upon the case, in the manner these men did. The question they urged went to extort from the Directory, and to make known to the enemy, what the destination of the troops was. The leaders of the faction conceived that the troops were marching against them; and the conduct they adopted in consequence of it was sufficient to justify the measure, even if it had been so. From what other motive than the consciousness of their own designs could they have fear? The troops, in every instance, had been the gallant defenders of the Republic, and the openly declared friends of the Constitution; the Directory had been the same, and if the faction were not of a different description neither fear nor suspicion could have had place among them.

All those manouvres in the Council were acted under the most professional attachment to the Constitution; and this as necessarily served to enfeeble their projects. It is exceedingly difficult, and next to impossible, to conduct a conspiracy, and still more so to give it success, in a popular government. The disguised and feigned pretences which men in such cases are obliged to act in the face of the public, suppress the action of the faculties, and give even to natural courage the features of timidity. They are not half the men they would be where no disguise is necessary. It is impossible to be a hypocrite and to be brave at the same instant.

The faction, by the imprudence of its measures, upon the march of the troops, and upon the declarations of the officers and soldiers to support the Republic and the Constitution against all open or concealed attempts to overturn them, had gotten itself involved with the army, and in effect declared itself a party against it. On the one hand, laws were proposed to admit emigrants and refractory priests as free citizens; and on the other hand to exclude the troops from Paris, and to punish the soldiers who had declared to support the Republic In the mean time all negociations for peace went backward; and the enemy, still recruiting its forces, rested to take advantage of circumstances. Excepting the absence of hostilities, it was a state worse than war.

If all this was not a conspiracy, it had at least the features of one, and was pregnant with the same mischiefs. The eyes of the faction could not avoid being open to the dangers to which it obstinately exposed the Republic; yet still it persisted. During this scene, the journals devoted to the faction were repeatedly announcing the near approach of peace with Austria and with England, and often asserting that it was concluded. This falsehood could be intended for no other purpose than to keep the eyes of the people shut against the dangers to which they were exposed.

Taking all circumstances together, it was impossible that such a state of things could continue long; and at length it was resolved to bring it to an issue. There is good reason to believe that the affair of the 18th Fructidor (September 4) was intended to have taken place two days before; but on recollecting that it was the 2d of September, a day mournful in the annals of the revolution, it was postponed. When the issue arrived, the faction found to its cost it had no party among the public. It had sought its own disasters, and was left to suffer the consequences. Foreign enemies, as well as those of the interior, if any such there be, ought to see in the event of this day that all expectation of aid from any part of the public in support of a counter revolution is delusion. In a state of security the thoughtless, who trembled at terror, may laugh at principles of Liberty (for they have laughed) but it is one thing to indulge a foolish laugh, quite another thing to surrender Liberty.

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