The Wisdom of Thomas Paine

[Part 1 of 2]

[1] Rights of Man (1791), reprinted by Citadel Press, 1948, with an introduction by Philip S. Foner.
[2] Common Sense (1776), The Crisis Papers, (1776-1783), The Age of Reason, Part 1 (1793); Letter to George Washington (1795), in a volume edited by Howard Fast and reprinted by Duell, Sloan and Pearce as The Selected Work of Tom Paine, 1945.
[3] Agrarian Justice (1796), reprinted by American Book Company, 1944, in a volume titled Thomas Paine: Representative Selections, with introductions by Harry H. Clark.


The vast variety of interests, occasioned by an increase of trade and population, would create confusion. Colony would be against colony. Each being able would scorn each other's assistance; and while the proud and foolish gloried in their little distinctions the wise would lament that the union had not been formed before
Common Sense, [2] p.36

The present time, likewise, is that peculiar time which never happens to a nation but once. viz.. the time of forming itself into a government. Most nations have let slip the opportunity, and by that means have been compelled to receive laws from their conquerors, instead of making laws for themselves.
Common Sense, [2] p.37

I see in America, a government extending over a country ten times as large as England, and conducted with regularity for a fortieth part of the expense which government costs in England. If I ask a man in America, if he wants a king, he retorts, and asks me if I take him for an idiot. How is it that this difference happens? Are we more or less wise than others? I see in America, the generality of the people living in a style of plenty unknown in monarchial countries; and I see that the principle of its government, which is that of the equal Rights of Man, is making a rapid progress in the world.
Rights of Man, [1] p.130

[America's] first settlers were emigrants from different European nations, and of diversified professions of religion, retiring from governmental persecutions of the old world, and meeting in the new, not as enemies, but as brothers. The wants which necessarily accompany the cultivation of a wilderness, produced among them a state of society, which countries, long harassed by the quarrels and intrigues of governments, had neglected to cherish. In such a situation man becomes what he ought. He sees his species, not with the inhuman ideas of a natural enemy, but as kindred; and the example shows to the artificial world, that man must go back to nature for information.
Rights of Man, [1] p.158

If there is a country in the world, where concord, according to common calculations, would be least expected, it is America. Made up, as it is, of people from different nations, accustomed to different forms and habits of government, speaking different languages, and more different in their modes of worship, it would appear that the union of such a people was impracticable; but by the simple operation of constructing government on the principles of society and the rights of man, every difficulty retires, and all the parts are brought into cordial unison. There the poor are not oppressed, the rich are not privileged. Industry is not mortified by the splendid extravagance of a court rioting at its expense. Their taxes are few, because their government is just; and as there is nothing to render them wretched, there is nothing to engender riots and tumults.
Rights of Man, [1] p.164


That ... which is called aristocracy in some countries, and nobility in others, arose out of the governments founded upon conquest. It was originally a military order, for the purpose of supporting military government (for such were all governments founded in conquest); and to keep up a succession of this order for the purpose for which it was established, all the younger branches of those families were disinherited, and the law of primogenitureship set up. ...The nature and character of aristocracy shows itself to us in this law. It is a law against every law of nature, and nature herself calls for its destruction. Establish family justice, and aristocracy falls. By the aristocratical law of primogenitureship, in a family of six children, five are exposed. Aristocracy has never more then one child. The rest are begotten to be devoured. They are thrown to the cannibal for prey, and the natural parent prepares the unnatural repast. ...As every thing which is out of nature in men, affects, more or Less, the interest of society, so does this. All the children which the aristocracy disowns (which are all, except the eldest) are, in general, cast like orphans on a perish, to be provided for by the public, but at a greater charge. Unnecessary offices end pieces in governments and courts are created at the expense of the public, to maintain them.
Rights of Man, [1] p.92


What are the present governments of Europe, but a scene of iniquity and oppression? What is that of England? Do not its own inhabitants say, it is a market where every man has his price, and where corruption is common traffic, at the expense of a deluded people?
Rights of Man, [1] p.121


Conquest and tyranny transplanted themselves with William the Conqueror from Normandy into England. and the country is yet disfigured with the marks.
Rights of Man, [1] p.86

Notwithstanding taxes have increased and multiplied upon every article of common consumption, the land tax, which more particularly affects this "pillar," has diminished. In 1788, the amount of the land-tax was ... half a million less than it produced almost a hundred years ago, notwithstanding the rentals are in many instances doubled since that period.
Rights of Man, [1] p.214


Civilization ... 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.
Agrarian Justice, [3] p.337


The most unprofitable of all commerce is that connected with foreign dominion. To a few individuals it may be beneficial, merely because it is commerce; but to the nation it is a loss. The expense of maintaining dominion more than absorbs the profits of any trade.
Rights of Man, [1] p.207


A constitution is not a thing in name only, but in fact. It has not an ideal, but a real existence; and wherever it cannot be produced in a visible form, there is none. A constitution is a thing antecedent to a government, and a government is only the creature of a constitution. The constitution of a country is not the act of its government, but of the people constituting a government. ...It is the body of elements, to which you can refer, and quote article by article; and which contains the principles on which the government shall be established, the manner in which it shall be organized, the powers it shall have, the mode of elections, the duration of parliaments, or by what other name such bodies may be called; the powers which the executive part of the government shall have; and, in fine, every thing that relates to the complete organization of a civil government, and the principles on which it shall act, and by which it shall be bound.
Rights of Man, [1] p.82

A constitution, therefore, is to a government, what the laws made afterwards by that government are to a court of judicature. The court of judicature does not make the laws, neither can it alter them; it only acts in conformity to the laws made: and the government is in like manner governed by the constitution.
Rights of Man, [1] p.83

The American Constitutions were to liberty, what a grammar is to language: they define its parts of speech. and practically construct them into syntax.
Rights of Man, [1] p.104

[No] constitution, worthy of being called by that name, could be established on any thing less than a national ground.
Rights of Man, [1] p.113

The continual use of the word Constitution in the English parliament, shows there is none; and that the whole is merely a form of government without a constitution, and constituting itself with what power it pleases. If there were a constitution, it certainly could be referred to; and the debate on any constitutional point, would terminate by producing the constitution.
Rights of Man, [1] p.135

The laws which are enacted by governments, control men only as individuals, but the nation, through its constitution, controls the whole government, and has a natural ability so to do. The final controlling power, therefore, and the original constituting power, are one and the same power.
Rights of Man, [1] p.186

One of the greatest improvements that has been made for the perpetual security and progress of constitutional liberty, is the provision which the new constitutions make for occasionally revising, altering and amending them.
Rights of Man, [1] p.199


The mutual dependence and reciprocal interest which man has upon man, and all parts of a civilized community upon each other, create that great chain of connection which holds it together. The landholder, the farmer, the manufacturer, the merchant, the tradesman, and every occupation, prospers by the aid which each receives from the other, and from the whole. Common interest regulates their concerns, and forms their laws; and the laws which common usage ordains, have a greater influence then the laws of government. In fine, society performs for itself almost every thing which is ascribed to government.
Rights of Man, [1] p.161

There is a natural aptness in man, and more so in society, because it embraces a greater variety of abilities and resources, to accommodate itself to whatever situation it is in. The instant formal government is abolished, society begins to act. A general association takes place, and common interest produces common security
Rights of Man, [1] p.162

When men, as well from natural instinct, as from reciprocal benefits, have habituated themselves to social and civilized life, there is always enough of its principles in practise to carry them through any changes they may find necessary or convenient to make it their government. In short, man is so naturally a creature of society, that it is almost impossible to put him out of it.
Rights of Man, [1] p.162

If we consider what the principles are that first condense men into society, and what the motives that regulate their mutual intercourse afterwards, we shall find, by the time we arrive at what is called government, that nearly the whole of the business is performed by the natural operation of the parts upon each other.
Rights of Man, [1] p.163

[M]an, were he not corrupted by governments, is naturally the friend of man. and that human nature is not of itself vicious.
Rights of Man, [1] p.201

I have been an advocate for commerce, because I am a friend to its effects. It is a pacific system, operating to unite mankind by rendering nations, as well as individuals, useful to each other.
Rights of Man, [1] p. 204

If commerce were permitted to act to the universal extent it is capable of, it would extirpate the system of war, and produce a revolution in the uncivilized state of governments. The invention of commerce has arisen since those governments began, and is the greatest approach toward universal civilization, that has yet been made by any means not immediately flowing from moral principles.
Rights of Man, [1] p.204

As reforms, or revolutions, call them which you please, extend themselves among nations, those nations will form connections and conventions, and when a few are thus confederated, the progress will be rapid, till despotism and corrupt government be totally expelled, at least out of two quarters of the world, Europe and America.
Rights of Man, [1] p.255


No nation ought to be without a debt. A national debt is a national bond; and when it bears no interest, is in no case a grievance.
Common Sense, [2] p.32

[H]ow long can the funding system last? It is a thing but of modern invention, and has not yet continued beyond the life of a man; yet in that short space it has so far accumulated, that, together with the current expenses, it requires an amount of taxes at least equal to the whole landed rental of the nation in acres, to defray the annual expenditure. That a government could not always have gone on by the same system which has been followed for the last seventy years, must be evident to every man; and for the same reason it cannot always go on.
Rights of Man, [1] p.136

The burden of the national debt consists not in its being so many millions, or so many hundred millions, but in the quantity of taxes collected every year to pay the interest.
Rights of Man, [1] p.247

The only knowledge the public can have of the reduction of the debt, must be through the reduction of taxes for paying the interest.
Rights of Man, [1] p.247


I am not contending for nor against any form of government, nor for nor against any party here or elsewhere. That which a whole nation chooses to do, it has a right to do.
Rights of Man, [1] p.55

Simple democracy was no other than the common hall of the ancients. It signifies the form, as well as the public principle of the government. As these democracies increased in population, and the territory extended, the simple democratical form became unwieldy and impracticable; and as the system of representation was not known, the consequence was, they either degenerated convulsively into monarchies, or became absorbed into such as then existed.
Rights of Man, [1] p.173


As to the learning that any person gains from school education, it serves only, like a small capital, to put him in the way of beginning learning for himself afterwards. -- Every person of learning is finally his own teacher, the reason of which is, that principles, being of a distinct quality to circumstances, cannot be impressed upon the memory; their place of mental residence is the understanding, and they are never so lasting as when they begin by conception.
Age of Reason, [2] p.315


Where there are no distinctions there can be no superiority; perfect equality affords no temptation.
Common Sense, [2] p.28

Let a man throw aside that narrowness of soul, that selfishness of principle, which the niggards of all professions are so unwilling to part with, and he will be at once delivered of his fears on that head. Suspicion is the companion of mean souls, and the bane of all good society.
Common Sense, [2] p.37

[M]en are all of one degree and consequently that all men are born equal, and with equal natural rights, in the same manner as if posterity had been continued by creation instead of generation, the latter being only the mode by which the former is carried forward; ...
Rights of Man, [1] p.78


[Dr. Franklin] was not the diplomatist of a court, but of a MAN. His character as a philosopher had been long established, and his circle of society in France was universal.
Rights of Man, [1] p.104


America would have flourished as much, and probably much more, had no European power taken any notice of her. The commerce by which she hath enriched herself are the necessaries of life, and will always have a market while eating is the custom of Europe.
Common Sense, [2] p.19

Our plan is commerce, and that, well attended to, will secure us the peace and friendship of all Europe; because it is the interest of all Europe to have America a free port. Her trade will always be a protection, and her barrenness of gold and silver secure her from invaders.
Common Sense, [2] p.21


The only idea man can affix to the name of God, is that of a first cause, the cause of all things. And, incomprehensible and difficult as it is for a man to conceive what a first cause is, he arrives at the belief of it, from the tenfold greater difficulty of disbelieving it. It is difficult beyond description to conceive that space can have no end; but it is more difficult to conceive an end. It is difficult beyond the power of men to conceive an eternal duration of what we call time; but it is more impossible to conceive a time when there shall be no time.
Age of Reason, [2] p.303


[A] band of interested men ... can find as many reasons for monarchy as their salaries, paid at the expense of the country, amount to; ...
Rights of Man, [1] pp.130-131

What is government more than the management of the affairs of a nation? It is not, and from its nature cannot be, the property of any particular man or family, but of the whole community, at whose expense it is supported; and though by force or contrivance it has been usurped into an inheritance, the usurpation cannot alter the right of things.
Rights of Man,[1] p.145


[A] body of men holding themselves accountable to nobody, ought not to be trusted by any body.
Rights of Man, [1] p.93

I draw my idea of the form of government form a principle in nature which no art can overturn, vis. that the more simple any thing is, the less liable it is to be disordered, and the easier repaired when disordered; ...
Common Sense, [2] p.8

I have heretofore likewise mentioned the necessity of a large and equal representation; and there is no political matter which more deserves our attention. A small number of electors, or a small number of representatives be not only small, but unequal, the danger is increased.
Common Sense, [2] p.38

When ... I turned my thoughts towards matters of government. I had to form a system for myself, that accorded with the moral and philosophic principles in which I had been educated. I saw or at least I thought I saw, a vast scene opening itself to the world in the affairs of America; and it appeared to me, that unless the Americans changed the plan they were then pursuing, with respect to the government of England, and declared themselves independent, they would not only involve themselves in a multiplicity of new difficulties, but shut out the prospect that was then offering itself to mankind through their means.
Age of Reason, [2] p.315

A government on the principles on which constitutional governments, arising out of society are established, cannot have the right of altering itself. If it had, it would be arbitrary. It might make itself what it pleased: and wherever such a right is set up, it shows that there is no constitution.
Rights of Man, [2] p.84

Admitting that Government is a contrivance of human wisdom, it must necessarily follow, that hereditary succession, and hereditary rights (as they are called), can make no part of it, because it is impossible to make wisdom hereditary; and on the other hand, that cannot be wise contrivance, which in its operation may commit the government of a nation to the wisdom of an idiot.
Rights of Man, [1] p.122

The representative system takes society and civilization for its basis; nature, reason, and experience for its guide.
Rights of Man, [1] p.171

[T]he representative system of government is calculated to produce the wisest laws, by collecting wisdom where it can be found.
Rights of Man, [1] p.171

There is existing in man, a mass of sense lying in a dormant state, and which, unless something excites it to action, will descend with him, in that condition, to the grave. As it is to the advantage of society that the whole of its faculties should be employed, by a quiet and regular operation, all that extent of capacity which never fails to appear in revolutions.
Rights of Man, [1] p.172

The case is, that mankind (from the long tyranny of assumed power) have had so few opportunities of making the necessary trials on modes and principles of government, in order to discover the best, that government is but now beginning to be known, and experience is yet wanting to determine many particulars.
Rights of Man, [1] p.193

As representation is always considered in free countries as the most honorable of all stations, the allowance made to it is merely to defray the expenses which the representatives incur by that service, and not to it as an office.
Rights of Man, [1] p.226


In casting our eyes over the world, it is extremely easy to distinguish the governments which have arisen out of society, or out of the social compact, from those which have not: but to piece this in a clearer light then what a single glance may afford, it will be proper to take a review of the several sources from which the governments have arisen, and on which they have been founded. ...They may be all comprehended under three heads. First, superstition. Secondly, power. Thirdly, the common interests of society. and the common rights of man. ...The first was a government of priestcraft, the second of conquerors, and the third of reason.
Rights of Man, [1] p.81

If, from the more wretched parts of the old world, we look at those which are in an advanced stage of improvement, we still find the greedy hand of government thrusting itself into every corner end crevice of industry, and grasping the spoil of the multitude. Invention is continually exercised, to furnish new pretenses for revenue and taxation. It watches prosperity as its prey, and permits none to escape without tribute.
Rights of Man, [1] p.159

[G]overnments, so far from being the cause or means of order, are often the destruction of it. ...Excess and inequality of taxation, however disguised in the means, never fail to appear in their effects. As a great mass of the community are thrown thereby into poverty and discontent, they are constantly on the brink of commotion.
Rights of Man, [1] pp.163-164

Government by precedent, without any regard to the principle of the precedent, is one of the vilest systems that can be set up. In numerous instances, the precedent ought to operate as a warning, and not as an example, and requires to be shunned instead of imitated; but instead of this, precedents are taken in the lump, and put at once for constitution and for law.
Rights of Man, [1] p.190


Society is produced by our wants, and government by our wickedness; the former promotes happiness positively by uniting our affections, the latter negatively by restraining our vices. The one encourages intercourse, the other creates distinctions. The first is a patron, the last a punisher. ...Society in every state is a blessing, but Government, even in its best state, is but a necessary evil; in its worst state an intolerable one. ... [W]ere the impulses of conscience clear, uniform and irresistible obeyed, man would need no other lawgiver; but that not being the case, he finds it necessary to surrender up a part of his property to furnish means for the protection of the rest. ...
Common Sense, [2] p.6

[A] government which cannot preserve the peace is no government at all, and in that case we pay our money for nothing.
Common Sense, [2] p.27

The people are not to be confounded with their government.
Rights of Man, [1] p.51

It is for the good of nations, and not for the emolument or aggrandizement of particular individuals, that government ought to be established, and that mankind are at the expense of supporting it. The defects of every government and constitution, both as to principle and form must, on a parity of reasoning, be as open to discussion as the defects of a law, and it is a duty which every man owes to society to point them out. When those defects, and the means of remedying them are generally seen by a nation, that nation will reform its government or its constitution in the one case, as the government repealed or reformed the law in the other.
Rights of Man, [1] p.155

The operation of government is restricted to the making and the administering of laws; but it is to a nation that the right of forming or reforming, generating and regenerating constitutions and governments belong;
Rights of Man, [1] p.155

Formal government makes but a small part of civilized life; and when even the best that human wisdom can devise is established, it is a thing more in name and idea, than in fact. It is to the great and fundamental principles of society and civilization -- to the common usage universally consented to, and mutually and reciprocally maintained -- to the unceasing circulation of interest, which, passing through its million channels, invigorates the whole mass of civilized man -- it is to these things, infinitely more than to any thing which even the best instituted government can perform, that the safety and prosperity of the individual and of the whole depends.
Rights of Man, [1] p.162

The more perfect civilization is, the less occasion has it for government, because the more does it regulate its own affairs, and govern itself.
Rights of Man, [1] p.163

[G]overnment is nothing more than a national association acting on the principles of society.
Rights of Man, [1] p.165

The only instance in which a compact can take place between the people and those who exercise the government, is, that the people shall pay them, while they choose to employ them.
Rights of Man, [1] p.183

Government is not a trade which any man or body of men has a right to set up and exercise for his own emolument, but is altogether a trust, in right of those by whom that trust is delegated, and by whom it is always resumable. It has of itself no rights; they are altogether duties.
Rights of Man, [1] p.183

Government is nothing more than a national association; and the object of this association is the good of all, as well individually as collectively. Every man wishes to pursue his occupation, and enjoy the fruits of his labors, and the produce of his property, in peace and safety, and with the least possible expense. When these things are accomplished, all the objects for which government ought to be established are answered.
Rights of Man, [1] p.192


On the ground of principle it was contended, that government had not a right to alter itself; and that if the practise was once admitted, it would grow into a principle, and be made a precedent for any alterations the government might wish to establish; that the right of altering the government was a national right, and not a right of government.
Rights of Man, [1] p.110

[T]he right of the nation goes to the whole case, because it has the right of changing its whole form of government.
Rights of Man, [1] p.125

If universal peace, civilization, and commerce, are ever to be the happy lot of man, it cannot be accomplished but by a revolution in the system of governments.
Rights of Man, [1] p.159

Government on the old system is an assumption of power, for the aggrandizement of itself; on the new, a delegation of power, for the common benefit of society. The former supports itself by keeping up a system of war; the latter promotes a system of peace, as the true means of enriching a nation. The one encourages national prejudices; the other promotes universal society, as the means of universal commerce. The one measures its prosperity, by the quantity of revenue it extorts; the other proves its excellence, by the small quantity of taxes it requires.
Rights of Man, [1] p.167

Rebellion consists in forcibly opposing the general will of a nation, whether by a party or by a government. There ought, therefore, to be in every nation a method of occasionally ascertaining the state of public opinion with respect to government.
Rights of Man, [1] p.250


Infidelity does not consist in believing, or in disbelieving; it consists in professing to believe what he does not believe.
Age of Reason, [2] p.286


Securing freedom and property to all men, and above all things, the free exercise of religion, according to the dictates of conscience; with such other matter as it is necessary for a charter to contain.
Common Sense, [2] p.29

Mankind are not universally agreed in their determination of right and wrong; but there are certain actions which the consent of all nations and individuals hath branded with the unchangeable name of meanness. In the list of human vices we find some of such a refined constitution, they cannot be carried into practice without seducing some virtue to their assistance; but meanness hath neither alliance nor apology.
Crisis V, [2] p.59

That the moral duty of men consists in imitating the moral goodness and beneficence of God manifested in the creation towards all his creatures. That seeing as we daily do the goodness of God to all men, it is an example calling upon all men to practise the same towards each other; and, consequently, that every thing of persecution and revenge between man and man, and every thing of cruelty to animals, is a violation of moral duty.
Age of Reason, [2] p.329

If the crimes of men were exhibited with their sufferings, the stage effect would sometimes be lost, and the audience would be inclined to approve where it was intended they should commiserate.
Rights of Man, [1] p.72

The duty of man ... is plain and simple, and consists but of two points. His duty to God, which every man must feel; and with respect to his neighbor, to do as he would be done by.
Rights of Man, [1] p.79

When I contemplate the natural dignity of man I become irritated at the attempt to govern mankind by force and fraud, as if they were all knaves and fools, and can scarcely avoid disgust at those who are thus imposed upon.
Rights of Man, [1] p.81

[I]gnorance, neglect, or contempt of human rights, are the sole causes of public misfortunes and corruptions of government.
Rights of Man, [1] p.117

It must be from the justness of their principles, and the interest which a nation feels therein, that [laws] derive support; if they require any other than this, it is a sign that something in the system of government is imperfect. Laws difficult to be executed cannot be generally good.
Rights of Man, [1] p.192

No question has arisen within the records of history that pressed with the importance of the present. It is not whether this or that party shall be in or out ..., but whether men shall inherit his rights, and universal civilization take place? Whether the fruits of his labor shall be enjoyed by himself, or consumed by the profligacy of governments? Whether robbery shall be banished from courts, and wretchedness from countries?
Rights of Man, [1] p.208

If it prefer a bad or defective government to a reform, or choose to pay ten times more taxes than there is any occasion for, it has a right to do so; and so long as the majority do not impose conditions on the minority, different from what they impose upon themselves, though there may be much error, there is no injustice. Neither will the error continue long. Reason and discussion will soon bring things right, however wrong they may begin.
Rights of Man, [1] p.251

[I]t 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.
Agrarian Justice, p.346-347


First, That every civil right grows out of a natural right; or, in other words, is a natural right exchanged. Secondly, That civil power, properly considered as such, is made up of the aggregate of that class of the natural rights of man, which becomes defective in the individual in point of power, and answers not his purpose, but when collected to a focus, becomes competent to the purpose of every one. Thirdly, That the power produced from the aggregate of natural rights, imperfect in power in the individual, cannot be applied to invade the natural rights which are retained in the individual, and in which the power to execute is as perfect as the right itself.
Rights of Man, [1] p.80

[T]here is an unusual unfitness in an aristocracy to be legislators for a nation. Their ideas of distributive justice are corrupted at the very source.
Rights of Man, [1] p.93

[N]o person ought to be in a worse condition when born under what is called a state of civilization, then he would have been had he been born in a state of nature, ...
Agrarian Justice, p.341


[G]overnment in a well constituted republic ... requires no belief from man beyond what his reason can give. He sees the rationale of the whole system, its origin and its operation; and as it is best supported when best understood, the human faculties act with boldness, and acquire, under this form of government, a gigantic manliness.
Rights of Man, [1] p.142

All delegated power is trust, and all assumed power is usurpation.
Rights of Man, [1] p.180

It is always the interest of a far greater number of people in a nation to have things right, than to let them remain wrong; and when public matters are open to debate, and the public judgment free, it will not decide wrong, unless it decides too hastily.
Rights of Man, [1] p.185

At fifty, though the mental faculties of men are in full vigor, and his judgment better than at any preceding date, the bodily powers are on the decline. He cannot bear the same quantity of fatigue as at an earlier period. He begins to earn less, and is less capable of enduring the wind and weather; and in those retired employments where much sight is required, he fails space, and feels himself like an old horse, beginning to be turned adrift. At sixty, his labor ought to be over, at least from direct necessity. It is painful to see old age working itself to death, in which are called civilized countries, for its daily bread.
Rights of Man, [1] p.230

When it shall be said in any country in the world, "My poor are happy; neither ignorance nor distress is to be found among them; my jails are empty of prisoners, my streets of beggars; the aged are not in want, the taxes are not oppressive; the rational world is my friend, because I am a friend of its happiness": -- when these things can be said, then may that country boast of its constitution and its government.
Rights of Man, [1] p.250

An army of principles will penetrate where an army of soldiers cannot. It will succeed where diplomatic managment would fail. ...It will march on the horizon of the world, and it will conquer.
Agrarian Justice, [3] p.351


It is the structure of the universe that has taught this knowledge to man. That structure is an ever-existing exhibition of every principle upon which every part of mathematical science is founded.
Age of Reason, [2] p.308

The Almighty lecturer, by displaying the principles of science in the structure of the universe, has invited man to study and to imitation.
Age of Reason, [2] p.309

That which is now called learning, was not learning, originally. Learning does not consist, as the schools now make it consist, in the knowledge of languages, but in the knowledge of things to which language gives names.
Age of Reason, [2] p.310


The error of those who reason by precedents drawn from antiquity, respecting the rights of man, is that they do not go far enough into antiquity. They do not go the whole way. They stop in some of the intermediate stages of an hundred or a thousand years, and produce what was then done as a rule for the present day. This is no authority at all. ...If we travel still further into antiquity, we shall find a directly contrary opinion and practise prevailing; and, if antiquity is to be the authority, a thousand such authorities may be produced, successively contradicting each other; but if we proceed on, we shall at last come out right; we shall come to the time when man came from the hand of his Maker. What was he then? Man. Man was his high and only title, and a higher cannot be given him. But of titles I shall speak hereafter. ...We have now arrived at the origin of man, and at the origin of his rights. As to the manner in which the world has been governed from that day to this, it is no further any concern of ours than to make a proper use of the errors or the improvements which the history of it presents. Those who lived a hundred or a thousand years ago, were then moderns as we are now. They had their ancients, and those ancients had others, and we also shall be ancients in our turn.
Rights of Man, [1] p.77


Another reason why the present time is preferable to all others is, that the fewer our numbers are, the more land there is yet unoccupied, which, instead of being lavished by the king on his worthless dependents, may be hereafter applied, not only to the discharge of the present debt, but to the constant support of government. No nation under Heaven hath such an advantage as this.
Common Sense, [2] p.36

The aristocracy are not the farmers who work the land, and raise the produce, but are the mere consumers of the rent; and when compared with the active world, are the drones, a seraglio of males, who neither collect the honey nor form the hive, but exist only for lazy enjoyment.
Rights of Man, [1] p.216


As population is one of the chief sources of wealth, (for without it, land itself has no value), every thing which operates to prevent it, must lessen the value of property.
Rights of Man, [1] p.212

Cultivation is, at least, one of the greatest natural improvements every made by human intervention. 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.
Agrarian Justice, [3] p.340


Mankind have conceived to themselves certain laws, by which what they call nature is supposed to act; and that a miracle is something contrary to the operation and effect of those laws, but unless we know the whole extent of those laws, and of what are commonly called the powers of nature we are not able to judge whether any thing that may appear to us wonderful or miraculous, be within, or be beyond, or be contrary to, her natural power of acting.
Age of Reason, [2] p.325

[W]hatever appertains to the nature of man, cannot be annihilated by man.
Rights of Man, [1] p.57

Man cannot, properly speaking, make circumstances for his purpose, but he always has it in his power to improve them when they occur.
Rights of Man, [1] p.105

All the great laws of society are laws of nature. Those of trade and commerce, whether with respect to the intercourse of individuals, or of nations, are laws of mutual and reciprocal interest. They are followed and obeyed because it is the interest of the parties to do so, and not on account of any format laws their governments may impose or interpose.
Rights of Man, [1] p.163

[T]he representative system is always parallel with the order and immutable laws of nature, and meets the reason of men in every part.
Rights of Man, [1] p.178

Part 2