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Every art and science, however imperfectly known at first, has been studied, improved, and brought to what we call perfection by the progressive labours of succeeding generations; but the science of government has stood still.
No improvement has been made in the principle and scarcely any in the practice till the American revolution began. Notwithstanding the mystery with which the science of government has been enveloped, for the purpose of enslaving, plundering, and imposing upon mankind, it is of all things the least mysterious and the most easy to be understood.
The meanest capacity cannot be at a loss, if it begins its enquiries at the right point. Every art and science has some point, or alphabet, at which the study of that art or science begins, and by the assistance of which the progress is facilitated.
The same method ought to be observed with respect to the science of government. The primary divisions are but two. First, government by election and representation.
Secondly, government by hereditary succession.
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All the several forms and systems of government, however numerous or diversified, class themselves under one or other of those primary divisions; for either they are on the system of representation, or on that of hereditary succession.
If they are equally right in principle, it is mere matter of opinion which we prefer. It would be the same system under any other titulary name as it is now. No other distinction reaches the whole of the principle.
Having thus opened the case generally, I proceed, in the first place, to examine the hereditary system, because it has the priority in point of time. The representative system is the invention of the modern world; and that no doubt may arise as to my own opinion, I declare it before hand, which is, that there is not a problem in Euclid more mathematically true than that hereditary government has not a right to exist.
When therefore we take from any man the exercise of hereditary power, we take away that which he never had the right to possess, and which no law or custom could, or ever can, give him a title to The arguments that have hitherto been employed against the hereditary system, have been chiefly founded upon the absurdity of it, and its incompetency to the purpose of good government.
It is an insult to every man of years, of character, and of talent, in a country. The moment we begin to reason upon the hereditary system it falls into derision; let but a single idea begin and a thousand will soon follow. Insignificance, imbecility, childhood, dotage, want of moral character; in fine, every defect serious or laughable unite to hold up the hereditary system as a figure of ridicule.
To be satisfied of the right of a thing to exist, we must be satisfied that it had a right to begin. If it had not a right to begin, it has not a right to continue. By what right then did the hereditary system begin? Let a man but ask himself this question, and he will find that he cannot satisfy himself with an answer.
The right which any man, or any family had to set itself up at first to govern a nation, and to establish itself hereditarily, was no other than the right which Robespierre had to do the same thing in France.
If he had none, they had none. If they had any, he had as much, for it is impossible to discover superiority of right in any family, by virtue of which hereditary government could begin. The Capets, the Guelphs, the Robespierres, the Marats, are all on the same standing as to the question of right.
It belongs exclusively to none.
It is one step towards liberty, to perceive that hereditary government could not begin as an exclusive right in any family. The next point will be, whether, having once began, it could grow into a right by the influence of time?
But what have we to do with a thousand years. Our life time is but a short portion of that period, and if we find the wrong in existence as soon as we begin to live, that is the point of time at which it begins to us; and our right to resist it, is the same as if it had never existed before.
As hereditary government could not begin as a natural right in any family, nor derive after its commencement any right from time, we have only to examine whether there exist in a nation a right to set it up and establish it by what is called law, as has been done in England.
I answer NO; and that any law or any constitution made for that purpose is an act of treason against the rights of every minor in the nation, at the time it is made, and against the rights of all succeeding generations.
I shall speak upon each of those cases.Title ; Dissertation on first-principles of government ; Date ; ; Identifier ; ; Extent ; 40 p. ; 21 cm. Place of Publication ; Paris ; Publisher.
DISSERTATION ON FIRST-PRINCIPLES OF GOVERNMENT. SPEECH OF THOMAS PAINE, As delivered in Thomas Paine / Dissertations on First Principles of Government whether such a system has a right to exist/10().
Dissertation on First-Principles of Government rare book for sale. This by Thomas PAINE is available at Bauman Rare Books. ebook version of Dissertation on first-principles of government: by Thomas Paine, Dissertation on first-principles of government: by Thomas Paine.
Thomas Paine / Dissertations on First Principles of Government whether such a system has a right to exist. To be satisfied of the right of a thing to exist, we must be satisfied that it had a right to begin. “Dissertation on First Principles of Government” by Thomas Paine () One subject is near & dear to most people’s hearts, government because no matter if they are poor or rich, their prosperity is tied to it.