Notable Works

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The American Crisis

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The Crisis No. I

The Crisis No. II

The Crisis No. III

The Crisis No. IV

The Crisis No. V

The Crisis No. VI

The Crisis No. VII

The Crisis No. VIII

The Crisis No. IX

The Crisis No. X

The Crisis No. XI

The Crisis No. XII

The Crisis No. XIII

A Supernumerary Crisis To the People of America

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Notable Works:
Common Sense
The American Crisis
The Rights of Man
The Age Of Reason
Other Works:
The Republican Proclamation
To The Authors of "Le Républicain."
To The Abbé Sièyes
To The Attorney General
To Mr. Secretary Dundas
Letters To Onslow Cranley
To The Sheriff of The County of Sussex
To Mr. Secretary Dundas
Letter Addressed To The Addressers On The Late Proclamation
Address To The People Of France
Anti-monarchal Essay For The Use of New Republicans
To The Attorney General, On The Prosecution Against The Second Part
On The propriety Of Bringing Louis XVI. To Trial
Reasons For Preserving The Life Of Louis Capet
Shall Louis XVI. Have Respite?
Declaration of Rights
Private Letters To Jefferson
Letter To Danton
A Citizen Of America To The citizens Of Europe
Appeal To The Convention
The Memorial To Monroe
Letter To George Washington
Dissertation On First Principles Of Government
The Constitution Of 1795
The Decline And Fall Of The English System Of Finance
Agrarian Justice
The Eighteenth Fructidor
The Recall Of Monroe
Private Letter To President Jefferson
Proposal That Louisiana Be Purchased
Thomas Paine To The citizens Of The United States
To The French Inhabitants Of Louisiana
A Letter Addressed To The Abbe Raynal
The Life Of Thomas Paine by Moncure D. Conway

The Rights of Man

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Part I: Being an Answer to Mr. Burke's Attack on the French Revolution
The Author's Preface to the English Edition
The Author's Preface to the French Edition
Rights of Man
Declaration Of The Rights Of Man And Of Citizens By The National Assembly Of France
Miscellaneous Chapter
Part II: Combining Principle and Practice
Of Society and Civilisation
Of the Origin of the Present Old Governments
Of the Old and New Systems of Government
Of Constitutions
Ways And Means Of Improving The Condition Of Europe Interspersed With Miscellaneous Observations

The Age of Reason

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Part First
Preface to Part II
Part Second

Other Works

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To The Attorney General

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(Undated, but probably late in May, 1793.)


Though I have some reason for believing that you were not the original promoter or encourager of the prosecution commenced against the work entitled "Rights of Man" either as that prosecution is intended to affect the author, the publisher, or the public; yet as you appear the official person therein, I address this letter to you, not as Sir Archibald Macdonald, but as Attorney General.

You began by a prosecution against the publisher Jordan, and the reason assigned by Mr. Secretary Dundas, in the House of Commons, in the debate on the Proclamation, May 25, for taking that measure, was, he said, because Mr. Paine could not be found, or words to that effect. Mr. Paine, sir, so far from secreting himself, never went a step out of his way, nor in the least instance varied from his usual conduct, to avoid any measure you might choose to adopt with respect to him. It is on the purity of his heart, and the universal utility of the principles and plans which his writings contain, that he rests the issue; and he will not dishonour it by any kind of subterfuge. The apartments which he occupied at the time of writing the work last winter, he has continued to occupy to the present hour, and the solicitors of the prosecution knew where to find him; of which there is a proof in their own office, as far back as the 21st of May, and also in the office of my own Attorney.1

But admitting, for the sake of the case, that the reason for proceeding against the publisher was, as Mr. Dundas stated, that Mr. Paine could not be found, that reason can now exist no longer.

The instant that I was informed that an information was preparing to be filed against me, as the author of, I believe, one of the most useful and benevolent books ever offered to mankind, I directed my Attorney to put in an appearance; and as I shall meet the prosecution fully and fairly, and with a good and upright conscience, I have a right to expect that no act of littleness will be made use of on the part of the prosecution towards influencing the future issue with respect to the author. This expression may, perhaps, appear obscure to you, but I am in the possession of some matters which serve to shew that the action against the publisher is not intended to be a real action. If, therefore, any persons concerned in the prosecution have found their cause so weak, as to make it appear convenient to them to enter into a negociation with the publisher, whether for the purpose of his submitting to a verdict, and to make use of the verdict so obtained as a circumstance, by way of precedent, on a future trial against myself; or for any other purpose not fully made known to me; if, I say, I have cause to suspect this to be the case, I shall most certainly withdraw the defence I should otherwise have made, or promoted on his (the publisher's) behalf, and leave the negociators to themselves, and shall reserve the whole of the defence for the real trial.2

But, sir, for the purpose of conducting this matter with at least the appearance of fairness and openness, that shall justify itself before the public, whose cause it really is, (for it is the right of public discussion and investigation that is questioned,) I have to propose to you to cease the prosecution against the publisher; and as the reason or pretext can no longer exist for continuing it against him because Mr. Paine could not be found, that you would direct the whole process against me, with whom the prosecuting party will not find it possible to enter into any private negociation.

I will do the cause full justice, as well for the sake of the nation, as for my own reputation.

Another reason for discontinuing the process against the publisher is, because it can amount to nothing. First, because a jury in London cannot decide upon the fact of publishing beyond the limits of the jurisdiction of London, and therefore the work may be republished over and over again in every county in the nation, and every case must have a separate process; and by the time that three or four hundred prosecutions have been had, the eyes of the nation will then be fully open to see that the work in question contains a plan the best calculated to root out all the abuses of government, and to lessen the taxes of the nation upwards of six millions annually.

Secondly, Because though the gentlemen of London may be very expert in understanding their particular professions and occupations, and how to make business contracts with government beneficial to themselves as individuals, the rest of the nation may not be disposed to consider them sufficiently qualified nor authorized to determine for the whole Nation on plans of reform, and on systems and principles of Government. This would be in effect to erect a jury into a National Convention, instead of electing a Convention, and to lay a precedent for the probable tyranny of juries, under the pretence of supporting their rights.

That the possibility always exists of packing juries will not be denied; and, therefore, in all cases, where Government is the prosecutor, more especially in those where the right of public discussion and investigation of principles and systems of Government is attempted to be suppressed by a verdict, or in those where the object of the work that is prosecuted is the reform of abuse and the abolition of sinecure places and pensions, in all these cases the verdict of a jury will itself become a subject of discussion; and therefore, it furnishes an additional reason for discontinuing the prosecution against the publisher, more especially as it is not a secret that there has been a negociation with him for secret purposes, and for proceeding against me only. I shall make a much stronger defence than what I believe the Treasury Solicitor's agreement with him will permit him to do.

I believe that Mr. Burke, finding himself defeated, and not being able to make any answer to the Rights of Man, has been one of the promoters of this prosecution; and I shall return the compliment to him by shewing, in a future publication, that he has been a masked pensioner at 1500L. per annum for about ten years.

Thus it is that the public money is wasted, and the dread of public investigation is produced.

I am, sir, Your obedient humble servant,

Thomas Paine.3

1. Paine was residing at the house of one of his publishers, Thomas Rickman, 7 Upper Marylebone Street, London. His Attorney was the Hon. Thomas Erskine.—Editor.

2. A detailed account of the proceedings with regard to the publisher will be found infra, in ix., Letter to the Addressers.—Editor.

3. Paine's case was set down for June 8th, and on that day he appeared in court; but, much to his disappointment, the trial was adjourned to December 18th, at which time he was in his place in the National Convention at Paris.—Editor.

To The Sheriff Of The County Of Sussex

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or, The Gentleman Who Shall Preside At The Meeting To Be Held At Lewes, July 4

London, June 30, 1792.


I have seen in the Lewes newspapers, of June 25, an advertisement, signed by sundry persons, and also by the sheriff, for holding a meeting at the Town-hall of Lewes, for the purpose, as the advertisement states, of presenting an Address on the late Proclamation for suppressing writings, books, &c. And as I conceive that a certain publication of mine, entitled "Rights of Man," in which, among other things, the enormous increase of taxes, placemen, and pensioners, is shewn to be unnecessary and oppressive, is the particular writing alluded to in the said publication; I request the Sheriff, or in his absence, whoever shall preside at the meeting, or any other person, to read this letter publicly to the company who shall assemble in consequence of that advertisement.

Gentlemen—It is now upwards of eighteen years since I was a resident inhabitant of the town of Lewes. My situation among you, as an officer of the revenue, for more than six years, enabled me to see into the numerous and various distresses which the weight of taxes even at that time of day occasioned; and feeling, as I then did, and as it is natural for me to do, for the hard condition of others, it is with pleasure I can declare, and every person then under my survey, and now living, can witness, the exceeding candour, and even tenderness, with which that part of the duty that fell to my share was executed. The name of Thomas Paine is not to be found in the records of the Lewes' justices, in any one act of contention with, or severity of any kind whatever towards, the persons whom he surveyed, either in the town, or in the country; of this, Mr. Fuller and Mr. Shelley, who will probably attend the meeting, can, if they please, give full testimony. It is, however, not in their power to contradict it.

Having thus indulged myself in recollecting a place where I formerly had, and even now have, many friends, rich and poor, and most probably some enemies, I proceed to the more important purport of my letter.

Since my departure from Lewes, fortune or providence has thrown me into a line of action, which my first setting out into life could not possibly have suggested to me.

I have seen the fine and fertile country of America ravaged and deluged in blood, and the taxes of England enormously increased and multiplied in consequence thereof; and this, in a great measure, by the instigation of the same class of placemen, pensioners, and Court dependants, who are now promoting addresses throughout England, on the present unintelligible Proclamation.

I have also seen a system of Government rise up in that country, free from corruption, and now administered over an extent of territory ten times as large as England, for less expence than the pensions alone in England amount to; and under which more freedom is enjoyed, and a more happy state of society is preserved, and a more general prosperity is promoted, than under any other system of Government now existing in the world. Knowing, as I do, the things I now declare, I should reproach myself with want of duty and affection to mankind, were I not in the most undismayed manner to publish them, as it were, on the house-tops, for the good of others.

Having thus glanced at what has passed within my knowledge, since my leaving Lewes, I come to the subject more immediately before the meeting now present.

Mr. Edmund Burke, who, as I shall show, in a future publication, has lived a concealed pensioner, at the expence of the public, of fifteen hundred pounds per annum, for about ten years last past, published a book the winter before last, in open violation of the principles of liberty, and for which he was applauded by that class of men who are now promoting addresses. Soon after his book appeared, I published the first part of the work, entitled "Rights of Man," as an answer thereto, and had the happiness of receiving the public thanks of several bodies of men, and of numerous individuals of the best character, of every denomination in religion, and of every rank in life—placemen and pensioners excepted.

In February last, I published the Second Part of "Rights of Man," and as it met with still greater approbation from the true friends of national freedom, and went deeper into the system of Government, and exposed the abuses of it, more than had been done in the First Part, it consequently excited an alarm among all those, who, insensible of the burthen of taxes which the general mass of the people sustain, are living in luxury and indolence, and hunting after Court preferments, sinecure places, and pensions, either for themselves, or for their family connections.

I have shewn in that work, that the taxes may be reduced at least six millions, and even then the expences of Government in England would be twenty times greater than they are in the country I have already spoken of. That taxes may be entirely taken off from the poor, by remitting to them in money at the rate of between three and four pounds per head per annum, for the education and bringing up of the children of the poor families, who are computed at one third of the whole nation, and six pounds per annum to all poor persons, decayed tradesmen, or others, from the age of fifty until sixty, and ten pounds per annum from after sixty. And that in consequence of this allowance, to be paid out of the surplus taxes, the poor-rates would become unnecessary, and that it is better to apply the surplus taxes to these beneficent purposes, than to waste them on idle and profligate courtiers, placemen, and pensioners.

These, gentlemen, are a part of the plans and principles contained in the work, which this meeting is now called upon, in an indirect manner, to vote an address against, and brand with the name of wicked and seditious. But that the work may speak for itself, I request leave to close this part of my letter with an extract therefrom, in the following words: (Quotation the same as that on p. 26.)

Gentlemen, I have now stated to you such matters as appear necessary to me to offer to the consideration of the meeting. I have no other interest in what I am doing, nor in writing you this letter, than the interest of the heart. I consider the proposed address as calculated to give countenance to placemen, pensioners, enormous taxation, and corruption. Many of you will recollect, that whilst I resided among you, there was not a man more firm and open in supporting the principles of liberty than myself, and I still pursue, and ever will, the same path.

I have, Gentlemen, only one request to make, which is—that those who have called the meeting will speak out, and say, whether in the address they are going to present against publications, which the proclamation calls wicked, they mean the work entitled Rights of Man, or whether they do not?

I am, Gentlemen, With sincere wishes for your happiness,

Your friend and Servant,

Thomas Paine.

Address To The People Of France

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Paris, Sept. 25, (1792.) First Year of the Republic.

Fellow Citizens,

I RECEIVE, with affectionate gratitude, the honour which the late National Assembly has conferred upon me, by adopting me a Citizen of France: and the additional honor of being elected by my fellow citizens a Member of the National Convention.1 Happily impressed, as I am, by those testimonies of respect shown towards me as an individual, I feel my felicity increased by seeing the barrier broken down that divided patriotism by spots of earth, and limited citizenship to the soil, like vegetation.

Had those honours been conferred in an hour of national tranquillity, they would have afforded no other means of shewing my affection, than to have accepted and enjoyed them; but they come accompanied with circumstances that give me the honourable opportunity of commencing my citizenship in the stormy hour of difficulties. I come not to enjoy repose. Convinced that the cause of France is the cause of all mankind, and that liberty cannot be purchased by a wish, I gladly share with you the dangers and honours necessary to success.

I am well aware that the moment of any great change, such as that accomplished on the 10th of August, is unavoidably the moment of terror and confusion. The mind, highly agitated by hope, suspicion and apprehension, continues without rest till the change be accomplished. But let us now look calmly and confidently forward, and success is certain. It is no longer the paltry cause of kings, or of this, or of that individual, that calls France and her armies into action. It is the great cause of all. It is the establishment of a new aera, that shall blot despotism from the earth, and fix, on the lasting principles of peace and citizenship, the great Republic of Man.

It has been my fate to have borne a share in the commencement and complete establishment of one Revolution, (I mean the Revolution of America.) The success and events of that Revolution are encouraging to us. The prosperity and happiness that have since flowed to that country, have amply rewarded her for all the hardships she endured and for all the dangers she encountered.

The principles on which that Revolution began, have extended themselves to Europe; and an over-ruling Providence is regenerating the Old World by the principles of the New. The distance of America from all the other parts of the globe, did not admit of her carrying those principles beyond her own situation. It is to the peculiar honour of France, that she now raises the standard of liberty for all nations; and in fighting her own battles, contends for the rights of all mankind.

The same spirit of fortitude that insured success to America; will insure it to France, for it is impossible to conquer a nation determined to be free! The military circumstances that now unite themselves to France, are such as the despots of the earth know nothing of, and can form no calculation upon. They know not what it is to fight against a nation; they have only been accustomed to make war upon each other, and they know, from system and practice, how to calculate the probable success of despot against despot; and here their knowledge and their experience end.

But in a contest like the present a new and boundless variety of circumstances arise, that deranges all such customary calculations. When a whole nation acts as an army, the despot knows not the extent of the power against which he contends. New armies arise against him with the necessity of the moment. It is then that the difficulties of an invading enemy multiply, as in the former case they diminished; and he finds them at their height when he expected them to end.

The only war that has any similarity of circumstances with the present, is the late revolution war in America. On her part, as it now is in France, it was a war of the whole nation:—there it was that the enemy, by beginning to conquer, put himself in a condition of being conquered. His first victories prepared him for defeat. He advanced till he could not retreat, and found himself in the midst of a nation of armies.

Were it now to be proposed to the Austrians and Prussians, to escort them into the middle of France, and there leave them to make the most of such a situation, they would see too much into the dangers of it to accept the offer, and the same dangers would attend them, could they arrive there by any other means. Where, then, is the military policy of their attempting to obtain, by force, that which they would refuse by choice? But to reason with despots is throwing reason away. The best of arguments is a vigorous preparation.

Man is ever a stranger to the ways by which Providence regulates the order of things. The interference of foreign despots may serve to introduce into their own enslaved countries the principles they come to oppose. Liberty and Equality are blessings too great to be the inheritance of France alone. It is an honour to her to be their first champion; and she may now say to her enemies, with a mighty voice, "O! ye Austrians, ye Prussians! ye who now turn your bayonets against us, it is for you, it is for all Europe, it is for all mankind, and not for France alone, that she raises the standard of Liberty and Equality!"

The public cause has hitherto suffered from the contradictions contained in the Constitution of the Constituent Assembly. Those contradictions have served to divide the opinions of individuals at home, and to obscure the great principles of the Revolution in other countries. But when those contradictions shall be removed, and the Constitution be made conformable to the declaration of Rights; when the bagatelles of monarchy, royalty, regency, and hereditary succession, shall be exposed, with all their absurdities, a new ray of light will be thrown over the world, and the Revolution will derive new strength by being universally understood.

The scene that now opens itself to France extends far beyond the boundaries of her own dominions. Every nation is becoming her colleague, and every court is become her enemy. It is now the cause of all nations, against the cause of all courts. The terror that despotism felt, clandestinely begot a confederation of despots; and their attack upon France was produced by their fears at home.

In entering on this great scene, greater than any nation has yet been called to act in, let us say to the agitated mind, be calm. Let us punish by instructing, rather than by revenge. Let us begin the new ara by a greatness of friendship, and hail the approach of union and success.

Your Fellow-Citizen,

Thomas Paine.

1. The National Assembly (August 26, 1792) conferred the title of "French Citizen" on "Priestley, Payne, Bentham, Wilberforce, Clarkson, Mackintosh, Campe, Cormelle, Paw, David Williams, Gorani, Anacharsis Clootz, Pestalozzi, Washington, Hamilton, Madison, Klopstoc, Kosciusko, Gilleers."—Editor.. vol ni—7

On The Propriety Of Bringing Louis XVI To Trial1

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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.

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.3 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.

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.

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 Département de la Somme [error], concernant le jugement de Louis XVI. Précédé par sa lettre d'envoi au Président de la Convention. Imprimé par ordre de la Convention Nationale. À 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.

3. 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.

Letter To Danton1

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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.

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.

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 Révolution (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.

Letter To George Washington

Table of Contents

Paris, July 30, 1796.

As censure is but awkwardly softened by apology. I shall offer you no apology for this letter. The eventful crisis to which your double politics have conducted the affairs of your country, requires an investigation uncramped by ceremony.

There was a time when the fame of America, moral and political, stood fair and high in the world. The lustre of her revolution extended itself to every individual; and to be a citizen of America gave a title to respect in Europe. Neither meanness nor ingratitude had been mingled in the composition of her character. Her resistance to the attempted tyranny of England left her unsuspected of the one, and her open acknowledgment of the aid she received from France precluded all suspicion of the other. The Washington of politics had not then appeared.

At the time I left America (April 1787) the Continental Convention, that formed the federal Constitution was on the point of meeting. Since that time new schemes of politics, and new distinctions of parties, have arisen. The term Antifederalist has been applied to all those who combated the defects of that constitution, or opposed the measures of your administration. It was only to the absolute necessity of establishing some federal authority, extending equally over all the States, that an instrument so inconsistent as the present federal Constitution is, obtained a suffrage. I would have voted for it myself, had I been in America, or even for a worse, rather than have had none, provided it contained the means of remedying its defects by the same appeal to the people by which it was to be established. It is always better policy to leave removeable errors to expose themselves, than to hazard too much in contending against them theoretically. I have introduced these observations, not only to mark the general difference between Antifederalist and Anti-constitutionalist, but to preclude the effect, and even the application, of the former of these terms to myself. I declare myself opposed to several matters in the Constitution, particularly to the manner in which what is called the Executive is formed, and to the long duration of the Senate; and if I live to return to America, I will use all my endeavours to have them altered.1 I also declare myself opposed to almost the whole of your administration; for I know it to have been deceitful, if not perfidious, as I shall shew in the course of this letter. But as to the point of consolidating the States into a Federal Government, it so happens, that the proposition for that purpose came originally from myself. I proposed it in a letter to Chancellor Livingston in the spring of 1782, while that gentleman was Minister for Foreign Affairs. The five per cent, duty recommended by Congress had then fallen through, having been adopted by some of the States, altered by others, rejected by Rhode Island, and repealed by Virginia after it had been consented to. The proposal in the letter I allude to, was to get over the whole difficulty at once, by annexing a continental legislative body to Congress; for in order to have any law of the Union uniform, the case could only be, that either Congress, as it then stood, must frame the law, and the States severally adopt it without alteration, or the States must erect a Continental Legislature for the purpose. Chancellor Livingston, Robert Morris, Gouverneur Morris, and myself, had a meeting at the house of Robert Morris on the subject of that letter. There was no diversity of opinion on the proposition for a Continental Legislature: the only difficulty was on the manner of bringing the proposition forward. For my own part, as I considered it as a remedy in reserve, that could be applied at any time when the States saw themselves wrong enough to be put right, (which did not appear to be the case at that time) I did not see the propriety of urging it precipitately, and declined being the publisher of it myself. After this account of a fact, the leaders of your party will scarcely have the hardiness to apply to me the term of Antifederalist. But I can go to a date and to a fact beyond this; for the proposition for electing a continental convention to form the Continental Government is one of the subjects treated of in the pamphlet Common Sense.2

Having thus cleared away a little of the rubbish that might otherwise have lain in my way, I return to the point of time at which the present Federal Constitution and your administration began. It was very well said by an anonymous writer in Philadelphia, about a year before that period, that "thirteen staves and ne'er a hoop will not make a barrel" and as any kind of hooping the barrel, however defectively executed, would be better than none, it was scarcely possible but that considerable advantages must arise from the federal hooping of the States. It was with pleasure that every sincere friend of America beheld, as the natural effect of union, her rising prosperity; and it was with grief they saw that prosperity mixed, even in the blossom, with the germ of corruption. Monopolies of every kind marked your administration almost in the moment of its commencement. The lands obtained by the revolution were lavished upon partisans; the interest of the disbanded soldier was sold to the speculator; injustice was acted under the pretence of faith; and the chief of the army became the patron of the fraud.3 From such a beginning what else could be expected, than what has happened? A mean and servile submission to the insults of one nation; treachery and ingratitude to another.

Some vices make their approach with such a splendid appearance, that we scarcely know to what class of moral distinctions they belong. They are rather virtues corrupted than vices, originally. But meanness and ingratitude have nothing equivocal in their character. There is not a trait in them that renders them doubtful. They are so originally vice, that they are generated in the dung of other vices, and crawl into existence with the filth upon their back. The fugitives have found protection in you, and the levee-room is their place of rendezvous.