The Wisdom of Thomas Paine

[Part 2 of 2]


When it is known everywhere that [g]overnment prosecutes as a libel a public statement which is admittedly true, that this dictum, "The greater the truth, the greater the libel," is a legal maxim, constantly applied by the judges, it ought to be easy to satisfy the world that truth has always been suppressed... This insult to public morals has received the name of law, and there are vicious judges who actually sentence truth to punishment.
Rights of Man, [1] pp.51-52

There never did, there never will, and there never can exist a parliament, or any description of men, or any generation of men, in any country, possessed of the right or the power of binding and controlling posterity to the "end of time," or of commanding forever how the world shall be governed, or who shall govern it; and therefore, all such clauses, acts or declarations, by which the makers of them attempt to do what they have neither the right nor the power to do, nor the power to execute, are in themselves null and void. Every age and generation must be as free to act for itself, in all cases as the ages and generation which preceded it. The vanity and presumption of governing beyond the grave, is the most ridiculous and insolent of all tyrannies.
Rights of Man, [1] p.55

[A]lthough laws made in one generation often continue in force through succeeding generations, yet they continue to derive their force from the consent of the living. A law not repealed continues in force, not because it cannot be repealed, but because it is not repealed; and the non-repealing passes for consent.
Rights of Man, [1] p.58

That which may be thought right and found convenient in one age, may be thought wrong and found inconvenient in another. In such cases, who is to decide, the living, or the dead?
Rights of Man, p.58

The French Constitution puts the legislative before the executive... This also is in the natural order of things; because laws must have existence, before they can have execution. The government of a free country, properly speaking, is not in the persons, but in the laws. The enacting of those requires no great expense; and when they are administered, the whole of civil government is performed -- the rest is all court contrivance.
Rights of Man, [1] p.179


If a law be bad, it is one thing to oppose the practise of it, but it is quite a different thing to expose its errors, to reason on its defects, and to show cause why it should be repealed, or why another ought to be substituted in its place. I have always held it an opinion (making it also my practise) that it is better to obey a bad law, making use at the same time of every argument to show its errors and procure its repeal, than forcibly to violate it; because the precedent of breaking a bad law might weaken the force, and lead to a discretionary violation of those which are good.
Rights of Man, p.155


Men who look upon themselves born to reign, and others to obey, soon grow insolent. Selected from the rest of mankind, their minds are early poisoned by importance; and the world they act in differs so materially from the world at Large, that they have but little opportunity of knowing its true interests, and when they succeed in the government are frequently the most ignorant and unfit of any throughout the dominions.
Common Sense, [2] p.16

If those to whom power is delegated do well, they will be respected; if not, they will be despised; and with regard to those to whom no power is delegated, but who assume it, the rational world can know nothing of them.
Rights of Man, [1] p.79 The generation which first selects a person, and puts him at the head of its government, acts its own choice, be it wise or foolish, as a free agent for itself. [E]xclusive of the right which any generation has to act collectively as a testator, the objects to which it applies itself in this case, are not within the compass of any law, or of any will or testament.
Rights of Man, [1] p.128


The Graciens and Romans were strongly possessed of the spirit of Liberty but not the principle, for at the time that they were determined not to be slaves themselves, they employed their power to enslave the rest of mankind.
Crisis V, [2] p.72

That men should take up arms, and spend their lives and fortunes, not to maintain their rights, but to maintain they have not rights, is an entirely new species of discovery, ...
Rights of Man, [1] p.54


This new world hath been the asylum for the persecuted lovers of civil and religious liberty and from every port of Europe. Nither have they fled, not from the tender embraces of the mother, but from the cruelty of the monster; and it is so far true of England, that the same tyranny which drove the first emigrants from home, pursues their descendants still.
Common Sense, [2] p.20


There is something exceedingly ridiculous in the composition of Monarchy; it first excludes a man from the means of information, yet empowers him to act in cases where the highest judgment is required. The state of a king shuts him from the World, yet the business of a king requires him to know it thoroughly;
Common Sense, [2] p.9

[A] man hath good reason to believe that there is as much of kingcraft as priestcraft in withholding the scripture from the public in popish countries. For monarchy in every instance is the popery of government. To the evil of monarchy we have added that of hereditary succession; and as the first is a degradation and lessening of ourselves, so the second, claimed as a matter of right, is an insult and imposition on posterity. For all men being originally equals, no one by birth could have a right to set up his own family in perpetual preference to all others for ever, and tho' himself might deserve some decent degree of honours of his contemporaries, yet his descendants might be far too unworthy to inherit them.
Common Sense, [2] p.14

Monarchical governments, it is true are never long at rest: the crown itself is a temptation to enterprising ruffians at home; and that degree of pride and insolence ever attendant on regal authority, swells into a rupture with foreign powers in instances where a republican government, by being formed on more natural principles, would negotiate the mistake.
Common Sense, [2] p.28

The original hereditary despotism, resident in the person of the king, divides and subdivides itself into a thousand shapes and forms, till at last the whole of it is acted by deputation.
Rights of Man, [1] p.61

As the exercise of government requires talents and abilities, and as talents and abilities cannot have hereditary descent, it is evident that hereditary succession requires a belief from man, to which his reason cannot subscribe, and which can only be established upon his ignorance; and the more ignorant any country is, the better it is fitted for this species of government.
Rights of Man, [1] p.142

To read the history of kings, a man would be almost inclined to suppose that government consisted in stag-hunting, and that every nation paid a million a year to the hunts-man. Man ought to have pride or shame enough to blush at being thus imposed upon, end when he feels his proper character, he will.
Rights of Man, [1] p.225


Whether a combination acts to raise the price of an article for sale, or the rate of wages; or whether it acts to throw taxes from itself upon another class of the community, the principle and the effect are the same; and if the one be illegal, it wilt be difficult to show that the other ought to exist.
Rights of Man, [1] p.215


The writings of Quesnay, Turgot, and the friends of these authors, are of a serious kind; but they labored under the same disadvantage with Montesquieu; their writings abound with moral maxims of government, but are rather directed to economize and reform the administration of the government, than the government itself.
Rights of Man, [1] p.103


[A] generous parent should have said, "If there must be trouble let it be in my day, that my child may have peace;" The right of reform is in the nation in its original character, and the constitutional method be by a general convention elected for the purpose. There is, moreover, a paradox in the idea of vitiated bodies reforming themselves.
Rights of Man, p.84


[A] great portion of mankind in what are called civilized countries, are in a state of poverty and wretchedness, far below the condition of an Indian. I speak not of one country, but of all. It is so in England, it is so all over Europe.
Rights of Man, [1], p.202

[The cause] lies not in any natural defect in the principles of civilization, but in preventing those principles having an universal operation; the consequence of which is a perpetual system of war and expense, that drains the country, and defeats the general felicity of which civilization is capable.
Rights of Man, [1], pp.202-203

By ... ingrafting the barbarism of government upon the internal civilization of a country, it draws from the latter, and more especially from the poor, a great portion of those earnings should be applied to their own subsistence and comfort.
Rights of Man, [1] p.203

Cases are continually occurring in a metropolis different from those which occur in the country, and for which a different, or rather an additional mode of relief is necessary. In the country, even in large towns, people have a knowledge of each other and distress never rises to that extreme height it sometimes does in a metropolis. There is no such thing in the country as persons, in the literal sense of the word, starved to death, or dying with cold from the want of a lodging. Yet such cases, and others equally as miserable, happen in London.
Rights of Man, [1] p.233

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


Mankind are not now to be told they shall not think, or they shall not read; and publications that go no farther than to investigate principles of government, to invite men to reflect, and to show the errors and excellences of different systems, have a right to appear.
Rights of Man, [1] p.156


It is possible that an individual may lay down a system of principles, on which government shall be constitutionally established to any extent of territory. This is no more than an operation of the mind, acting by its own powers. But the practise upon those principles, as applying to the various and numerous circumstances of a nation, its agriculture, manufacture, trade, commerce, etc., requires a knowledge of the various parts of society.
Rights of Man,[1] p.175


Immediate necessity makes many things convenient, which if continued would grow into oppressions. Expedience and right are different things.
Common Sense, [2] p.38

The laws of every country must be analogous to some common principle.
Rights of Man, [1] p.56

[A] revolt may take place against the despotism of [principles], while there lies no charge of despotism against [men].
Rights of Man, [1] p.60

A casual discontinuance of the practise of despotism, is not a discontinuance of its principles; the former depends on the virtue of the individual who is in immediate possession of power; the latter, on the virtue and fortitude of the nation.
Rights of Man, [1] p.61

Forms grow out of principles, and operate to continue the principles they grow from. It is impossible to practise a bad form on any thing but a bad principle. It cannot be ingrafted on it a good one; and wherever the forms in any government are bad, it is a certain indication that the principles are bad also.
Rights of Man, p.101

Principles must stand on their own merits, and if they are good they certainly will. To put them under the shelter of other men's authority ... serves to bring them into suspicion.
Rights of Man, [1] p.153


No reason can be given, why a house of legislation should be composed entirely of men whose occupation consists in letting landed property, than why it should be composed of those who hire, or of brewers, or bakers, or any other separate class of men.
Rights of Man, [1] p.214

The only use to be made of this power, (and which it has always made), is to ward off taxes from itself, and throw the burden upon such articles of consumption by which itself would be least effected.
Rights of Man, [1] p.214

It is difficult to discover what is meant by the landed interest, if it does not mean a combination of aristocratical land-holders, opposing their own pecuniary interest to that of the farmer, and every branch of trade, commerce, and manufacture.
Rights of Man, [1] p.216


If there is any thing to wonder at in this miserable scene of governments more than might be expected, it is the progress which the peaceful arts of agriculture, manufacture and commerce have made, beneath such a long accumulating loan of discouragement and oppression.
Rights of Man, [1] p.167


[A]s 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.
Agrarian Justice, [3] p.338

While ... 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.
Agrarian Justice, [3] p.340

All accumulation ... 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.
Agrarian Justice, [3] p.349


[T]he accumulation of personal property is, in many instances, the effect of paying too little for the labor that produced it; the consequence of which is that the working hand perishes in old age, and the employer abounds in affluence.
Agrarian Justice, [3] p.349


[I]t is necessary as well for the protection of property as for the sake of justice and humanity, to form a system that, while it preserves one part of society from wretchedness, shall secure the other from depredation.
Agrarian Justice, [3] pp.349-350

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 will be placed on the permanent basis of national interest and protection.
Agrarian Justice, [3] p.350


It is only by the exercise of reason, that man can discover God. Take away that reason, and he would be incapable of understanding any thing;
Age of Reason, [2] p.304

Before anything can be reasoned upon to a conclusion, certain facts, principles, or data, to reason from, must be established, admitted, or denied.
Rights of Man, [1] p.76

Reason and ignorance, the opposites of each other, influence the great bulk of mankind. If either of these can be rendered sufficiently extensive in a country, the machinery of government goes easily on. Reason obeys itself; and ignorance submits to whatever is dictated to it.
Rights of Man, [1] p.142

[U]ntil men think for themselves the whole is prejudice, and not opinion; for that only is opinion which is the result of reason and reflection.
Rights of Man, [1] p.157

I did not, at my first setting out in public life ... turn my thoughts to subjects of government from motives of interest... I saw an opportunity, in which I thought I could do some good, and I followed exactly what my heart dictated. I neither read books, nor studied other people's opinions. I thought for myself.
Rights of Man, [1] p.210

[T]he greatest forces that can be brought into the field of revolutions, are reason and common interest. Where these can have the opportunity of acting, opposition dies with fear, or crumbles away by conviction.
Rights of Man, [1] p.250

The present age will hereafter merit to be called the Age of Reason, and the present generation will appear to the future as the Adam of a new world.
Rights of Man, [1] p.253

All national institutions of churches ... appear to me no other than human inventions, set up to terrify and enslave mankind, and monopolize power and profit.
Age of Reason, [2] p.285

The adulterous connection of church and state, wherever it had taken place, had so effectually prohibited, by pains and penalties, every discussion upon established creeds, and upon first principles of religion, that until the system of government should be changed, those subjects could not be brought fairly and openly before the world, but that whenever this should be done, a revolution in the system of religion will follow.
Age of Reason, [2] p.286

By engendering the church with the state, a sort of mule-animal, capable only of destroying, and not of breeding up, is produced, called, The Church established by Law.
Rights of Man, [1] p.96


The Christian theory is little else than the idolatry of the ancient Mythologists, accommodated to the purposes of power and revenue.
Age of Reason, [2] p.288

[T]he age of ignorance commenced with the Christian system. -- There was more knowledge in the world before that period, than for many centuries afterwards.
Age of Reason, [2] p.313


The true Deist has but one Deity; and his religion consists in contemplating the power, wisdom, and benignity of the Deity in his works, and in endeavoring to imitate him.
Age of Reason, [2] p.317


All religions are in their nature mild and benign, and united with principles of morality. They could not have made proselytes at first, by professing anything that was vicious, cruel, persecuting or immoral. Like every thing else, they had their beginning; and they proceeded by persuasion, exhortation, and example.
Rights of Man, [1] p.96

Persecution is not an original feature in any religion; but it is always the strongly marked feature of all law-religions, or religions established by law. Take away the law-establishment, and every religion reassumes its original benignity.
Rights of Man, [1] p.97


Toleration is not the opposite of intoleration, but is the counterfeit of it. Both are despotisms. The one assumes to itself the right of withholding liberty of conscience, and the other of granting it. ...The former is church and state, and the latter is church and traffic.
Rights of Man, [1] p.95

Toleration therefore, places itself not between man and man, nor between church and church, nor between one denomination of religion and another, but between God and man; between the being who worships, and the being who is worshipped; and by the same act of assumed authority by which it tolerates man to pay his worship, it presumptuously and blasphemously sets up itself to tolerate the Almighty to receive it.
Rights of Man, [1] p.95


What is called a republic, is not any particular form of government. It is wholly characteristic of the purport, matter, or object for which government ought to be instituted, and on which it is to be employed, res-publica, the public affairs, or the public good; or, literally translated, the public thing.
Rights of Man, [1] p.173

Republican government is no other than government established and conducted for the interest of the public, as well individually as collectively. It is not necessarily connected with any particular form, but it most naturally associates with the representative form, as being best calculated to secure the end for which a nation is as the expense of supporting it.
Rights of Man, [1] p.174


Civil rights are those which appertain to man in right of his being a member of society.
Rights of Man, [1] p.80

Every civil right has for its foundation some natural right pre-existing in the individual, but to the enjoyment of which his individual power is not, in all cases, sufficiently competent. Of this kind are all those which relate to security and protection.
Rights of Man, [1] p.80

It is a perversion of terms to say that a charter gives rights. It operates by a contrary effect, that of taking rights away. Rights are inherently in all the inhabitants; but charters, by annulling those rights in the majority, leave the right, by exclusion, in the hands of a few.
Rights of Man, [1] p.211


Man did not enter into society to become worse than he was before, nor to have fewer rights than he had before, but to have those rights better secured. His natural rights are the foundation of all his civil rights.
Rights of Man, [1] p.79

Natural rights are those which appertain to man in right of his existence. Of this kind are all the intellectual rights, or rights of the mind, and also those rights of acting as an individual for his own comfort and happiness, which are not injurious to the natural rights of others.
Rights of Man, [1] pp.79-80

Speech is, in the first place, one of the natural rights of man always retained. ...
Rights of Man, [1] p.99

The rights of men in society are neither devisable, nor transferable, nor annihilable, but are descendible only; and it is not in the power of any generation to intercept finally and cut off the descent. If the present generation, or any other, are disposed to be slaves, it does not lessen the right of the succeeding generation to be free: wrongs cannot have a legal descent.
Rights of Man, [1] p.129

[W]hat we now see in the world ... is a renovation of the natural order of things, a system of principles as universal as truth and the existence of man, combining moral with political happiness and national prosperity.
Rights of Man, [1] pp.145-146

Conquest and tyranny, at some early period, dispossessed man of his rights, and he is now recovering them. And as the tide of all human affairs has its ebb and flow in directions contrary to each other, so also is it in this. Government founded on a moral theory, on a system of universal peace, on the indefeasible, hereditary rights of man, is now revolving from West to East, by a stronger impute than the government of the sword revolved from East to West. It interests not particular individuals, but nations, in its progress, and promises a new era to the human race.
Rights of Man, [1] p.160

The rights of man are the rights of all generations of men, and cannot be monopolized by any. That which is worth following, will be followed for the sake of its worth; and it is in this that its security lies, and not in any conditions with which it may be incumbered. When a man leaves property to his heirs, he does not connect it with an obligation that they shall accept it. Why then should we do otherwise with respect to constitutions?
Rights of Man, [1] p.200


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 comnon 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.
Agrarian Justice, [3] p.338


Man has no property in man; neither has any generation a property in the generations which are to follow.
Rights of Man, [1] p.55


It has been thought a considerable advance toward establishing the principles of freedom, to say, that government is a compact between those who govern and those who are governed: but this cannot be true, because it is putting the effect before the cause; for as a man must have existed before governments existed, there necessarily was a time when governments did not exist, and consequently there could originally exist no governors to form such a compact with.
Rights of Man, [1] p.[to be confirmed]


[I propose to] create a National Fund, out of which there shall be paid to every person, when arrived at the age of twenty-one years, [a] sum ..., as compensation in part, for the loss of his or her natural inheritance, by the introduction of the system of landed property.
Agrarian Justice, [3] p.340

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.
Agrarian Justice, [3] p.341

The plan here proposed will reach the whole. It will immediately relieve and take care out of view three classes of wretchedness: the blind, the lame, and the aged poor. 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.
Agrarian Justice, [3], p.346

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.
Agrarian Justice, [3] p.348


The natural rights which he retains, are all those in which the power to execute is a perfect in the individual as the right itself. Among this class, as is before mentioned, are all the intellectual rights, or rights of the mind ...
Rights of Man, [1] p.80

The natural rights which are not retained, are all those in which, though the right is perfect in the individual, the power to execute them is defective. They answer not his purpose. A man, by natural right, has a right to judge in his own cause; and so far as the right of the mind is concerned, he never surrenders it: but what availeth it him to judge, if he has not power to redress? He therefore deposits his right in the common stock of society, and takes the arm of society, of which he is a part, in preference and in addition to his own. Society grants him nothing. Every man is proprietor in society, and draws on the capital as a matter of right.
Rights of Man, [1] p.80


Sovereignty, as a matter of right, appertains to the nation only, and not to any individual; and a nation has at all times an inherent indefeasible right to abolish any form of government it finds inconvenient, and establish such as accords with its interests, disposition, and happiness.
Rights of Man, [1] p.145


Had governments agreed to quarrel on purpose to fleece their countries by taxes, they could not have succeeded better than they have done.
Rights of Man, [1] p.87

[War] is the art of conquering at home: the object of it is an increase of revenue; and as revenue cannot be increased without taxes, a pretense must be made for expenditures.
Rights of Man, [1] pp.87-88

The tax on houses and windows is one of those direct taxes, which like the poor-rates, is not confounded with trade; and when taken off, the relief will be instantly felt. This tax falls heavy on the middle class of people.
Rights of Man, [1] p.237

Among the taxes most heavily felt is the commutation tax. I shall, therefore, offer a plan for its abolition, by substituting another in its piece which will effect three objects at once: First, That of removing the burden to where it can best be borne. Secondly, Restoring justice among families by distribution of property. Thirdly, Extirpating the overgrown influence arising from the unnatural law of primogeniture, and which is one of the principal sources of corruption at elections.
Rights of Man, [1] p.237

[A]n overgrown estate ... is a luxury at all times, and, as such, is the proper object of taxation.
Rights of Man, [1] p.238

It would be impolitic to set bounds to property acquired by industry, and therefore it is right to place the prohibition beyond the probable acquisition to which industry can extend; but there ought to be a limit to property, or the accumulation of it by bequest. It should pass in some other line. The richest in every nation have poor relations, and those very often near in consanguinity.
Rights of Man, [1] p.238

[W]hatever the reforms in the taxes may be, they ought to be made in the current expenses of government, and not in the part applied to the interest of the national debt. By remitting the taxes of the poor, they will be totally relieved and all discontent will be taken away.
Rights of Man, p.248


[T]he [French] Assembly agreed to recommend two new taxes to be enregistered by the parliament, the one a stamp tax and the other a territorial tax, or sort of land tax.
Rights of Man, [1] p.107

Every proprietor ... of cultivated lands, owes to the comnunity 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.
Agrarian Justice, [3] p.338


When land is held on tithe, it is in the condition of an estate held between two parties; the one receiving one-tenth, and the other nine-tenths of the produce: and, consequently, on principles of equity, if the estate can be improved, and made to produce by that improvement double or treble what it did before, or in any other ratio, the expense of such improvement ought to be borne in like proportion between the parties who are to share the produce. But this is not the case in tithes; the farmer bears the whole expense, and the tithe-holder takes a tenth of the improvement, in addition to the original tenth, and by the means gets the value of two-tenths instead of of one. That is another cse that calls for a constitution.
Rights of Man, [1] p.95


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.
Agrarian Justice, [3] p.339

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.
Agrarian Justice, [3] pp.339-340

[T]he land monopoly that began with [cultivation] 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 end wretchedness that did not exist before.
Agrarian Justice, [3] p.340


Titles are but nicknames, and every nickname is a title. The thing is perfectly harmless in itself, but it marks a sort of foppery in the human character which degrades it. It renders man diminutive in things which are great, and the counterfeit of woman in things which are little.
Rights of Man, [1] p.90

If a whole country is disposed to hold [titles] in contempt, all their value is gone, and none will own them. It is common opinion only that makes them any thing or nothing, or worse than nothing. There is no occasion to take titles away, for they take themselves away when society concurs to ridicule them. This species of imaginary consequence has visibly declined in every part of Europe, and it hastens to its exit as the world of reason continues to rise.
Rights of Man, [1] p.91


The more unnatural any thing is, the more is it capable of becoming the object of dismal admiration.
Age of Reason, [2] p.292

[W]hen a system of religion is made to grow out of a supposed system of creation that is not true, and to unite itself therewith in a manner almost inseparable therefrom, the case assumes an entirely different ground. It is then that errors, not morally bad, become fraught with the same mischiefs as is they were. It is then that the truth, though otherwise indifferent itself, becomes an essential, by becoming the criterion, that either confirms by corresponding evidence, or denies by contradictory evidence, the reality of the religion itself.
Age of Reason, [2] p.312

Ignorance is of a peculiar nature; once dispelled, it is impossible to re-establish it. It is not originally a thing of itself, but is only the absence of knowledge; and though man may be kept ignorant, he cannot be made ignorant. The mind, in discovering truth, acts in the same manner discovering objects; when once any object has been seen, to the same condition it was in before it saw it. Those who talk of a counter-revolution in France show how little they understand of man.
Rights of Man, [1] p.124

Mankind, as it appears to me, are always ripe enough to understand their true interst, provided it be presented clearly to their understanding, and that in a manner not to create suspicion by any thing like self-design, nor offend by assuming too much. Where we would wish to reform we must not reproach.
Rights of Man, [1] p.151

[S]uch is the irresistible nature of truth, that all it asks, and all it wants, is the liberty of appearing.
Rights of Man, [1] p.158


These are the times that try men's souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will in this crisis, shrink from the service of his country; but he that stands it NOW, deserves the love and thanks of man and women. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly; It is dearness only that gives everything its value. Heaven knows how to put a proper price upon its goods; and it would be strange indeed, if so celestial an article as FREEDOM should not be highly rated.
Crisis I, [2] p.47

[I]t would be as absurd to argue rationally with the sorts of governments that have existed for centuries as it would be to argue with dumb animals. Whatever reforms are accomplished can only be accomplished by the nations, independent of their governments.
Rights of Man, [1] p.52

When men are sore with the sense of oppressions, and menaced with the prospect of new ones, is the calmness of philosophy, or the palsy of insensibility to be looked for?
Rights of Man, [1] p.69

It is over the lowest class of mankind that government by terror is intended to operate, and it is on on them that it operates to the worst effect. They have sense enough to feel they are the objects aimed at; and they inflict in their turn the examples of terror they have been instructed to practise.
Rights of Man, [1] p.70

When we survey the wretched condition of man under the monarchical and hereditary systems of government, dragged from his home by one power, or drive by another, and impoverished by taxes more than by enemies, it becomes evident that those systems are bad, and that a general revolution in the principle and construction of governments is necessary.
Rights of Man, [1] p.145

Man is not the enemy of man, but through the medium of a false system of government.
Rights of Man, [1] p.147

All hereditary government is in its nature tyranny. An heritable crown, or an heritable throne, or by which other fanciful name such things may be called, have no other significant explanation than that mankind are heritable property. To inherit a government, is to inherit the people, as if they were flocks and herds.
Rights of Man, [1] p.168

[T]he strength of government does not consist in any thing within itself, but in the attachment of a nation, and the interest which the people feel in supporting it. When this is lost, government is but a child in power; and though it may harass individuats for a while, it but facilitates its own fall.
Rights of Man, [1] p.182


If there is a sin superior to every other, it is that of witful and offensive war. Most other sins are circumscribed within narrow limits, that is, the power of one man cannot give them a very general extension, and many kinds of sins have only a mental existence from which no infection arises; but he who is the author of a war, lets loose the whole contagion of hell, and opens a vein that bleeds a nation to death.
Crisis V, [2] p.69

That there are men in all countries who get their living by war, and by keeping up the quarrels of nations, is as shocking as it is true; but when those who are concerned in the government of a country, make it their study to sow discord, and cultivate prejudices between nations, it becomes the more unpardonable.
Rights of Man, [1] p.50

War is the common harvest of all those who participate in the division and expenditure of public money, in all countries.
Rights of Man, [1] p.87

If men will permit themselves to think, as rational beings ought to think, nothing can appear more ridiculous and absurd, exclusive of all moral reflections, than to be at the expense of building navies, filling them with men, and then hauling them into the ocean, to try which can sink each other fastest.
Rights of Man, [1] p.252


Mankind being originally equals in the order of creation, the equality could only be destroyed by some subsequent circumstance: the distinctions of rich and poor may in a great measure be accounted for, and that without having recourse to the harsh ill-sounding names of oppression and avarice. Oppression is often the consequence, but seldom or never the means of riches; and tho' avarice will preserve a man from being necessitously poor, it generally makes him too timorous to be wealthy.
Common Sense, [2] p.1l

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. 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.
Agrarian Justice, [3] p.346

It is proposed that the payments ... 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 from those who did. Such persons as do not choose to receive it can throw it into the common fund.
Agrarian Justice, [3] p.341

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