Thursday, 10 January 2013

Thomas Paine (29/1/1737 -8/6/1809) - Common Sense

Thomas Paine was an English/American political activist, author and political theorist and revolutionary. On  January 10 1776, his pamphlet Common Sense  was published for the first time. Here he delivered his uncompronising message to the common people, which set the seeds for the American  Revolution.In this important document, he urged the American to create a new form of government - a modern republic, based entirely on popular consent. He believed all men were born equal, so saw no need for Kings and Queens, he also distinguished  between governments and society, at the root of all governments is evil but the root of society lay good. He became a champion of equality and liberty and went on to support struggles in Britain and France, going on to critisise organised religion and the role of the Church. Thomas Edison 150 years later would write ' we never had a similar intelligence in this Republic. In Common Sense Paine flared forth with a document so powerful that the Revolution became inevitable.' It is a shame that his vision was not wholly  taken up by American Governments subsequentlty, and that modern America has strayed away considerably from what Paine originally proposed. Time, perhaps for another try.

Extract
Of the Origin and Design of Government in General. With Concise Remarks on the English Constitution.

' Some writers have so confounded society with government, as to leave little or no distinction between them; wheras they are not  only different, but have different origins. Society is produced by ourwants, and government by our wickedness; the former promotes our 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; for when we suffer, or are exposed to the same miseries by a government,
our calamities are heightened by reflecting that we furnish the means by which we suffer. Government, like dress is the badge of lost innocence; the palaces of kings are built on the ruins of the bowers of paradise. For were the impulses of conscience clear, uniform, and irresistably obeyed, man would need no other law giver; 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; and this he is induced to do by the same prudence which in every other case advises him out of two evils to choose the least.'

Of Monarchy and Hereditary Succession

' MANKIND being originally equals in the order of creation, the equality could only be detroyed 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 necessitiously poor, it generally makes him too timorous to be wealthy.
But there is another and great distinction for which  no truly natural or religious reason can be assigned, and that is the distinction of men into kings and subjects. Male and female are the distinctions of nature, good and bad the distinctions of Heaven; but how a race of men came into the world so exalted above the rest, and distinguished like some new species, is worth inquiring into, and whether they are the means of happiness or of misery to mankind.'




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