« ПредишнаНапред »
mination of religion, and of every rank in life, (placemen and pensioners excepted) than all the juries that shall meet in England, for ten years to come, will amount to; and I have, moreover, good reasons for believing, that the approvers of that work, as well private as public, are already more numerous than all the present electors throughout the nation.
Not less than forty pamphlets, intended as answers thereto, have appeared, and as suddenly disappeared: scarcely are the titles of any of them remembered, notwithstanding their endeavours have been aided by all the daily abuse which the court and ministerial newspapers, for almost a year and a half, could bestow, both upon the work and the author; and now that every attempt to refute, and every abuse has failed, the invention of calling the work a libel has been hit upon, and the discomfited party has pusillanimously retreated to prosecution and a jury, and obscure addresses.
As I well know that a long letter from me will not be agreeable to you, I will relieve your uneasiness by making it as short as I conveniently can; and will conclude it with taking up the subject at that part where Mr. Hornetookb was interrupted from going on when at the meeting.
That gentleman was stating, that the situation which you stood in rendered it improper for you to appear actively in a scene in which your private interest was too visible: that you were a Bed-chamber Lord at a thousand a year, and a pensioner at three thousand pounds a year more—and here he was stopped by the little, but noisy circle you had collected round. Permit me, then, Sir, to add an explanation to his words, for the benefit of your neighbours, and with which, and a few observations, I shall close my letter.
When it was reported in the English newspapers, some short time since, that the Empress of Russia had given to one of her minions a large tract of country, and several thousands of peasants as property, it very justly provoked indignation and abhorrence in those who heard it. But if we compare the mode practised in England, with that which appears to us so abhorrent in Russia, it will be found to amount to very uear the same thing;—for example—
As the whole of the revenue in England is drawn by taxes from the pockets of the people, those things called gifts and grants, (of which kind are all pensions and sinecure places) are paid out of that stock. The difference, therefore, between the two modes is, that in England the money is collected by the Government, and then given to the pensioner, and in Russia he is left to collect it for himself. The smallest sum which the poorest family in a county so near London as Surrey, can be supposed to pay annually of rates, is not less than five pounds; and as your sinecure of one thousand, and pension of three thousand per annum, are made up of taxes paid by eight hundred such poor families, it comes to the same thing as if the eight hundred families had been given to you, as in Russia, and you had collected the money on your account. Were you to say that you are not quartered particularly on the people of Surrey, but on the nation at large, the objection would amount to nothing; for as there are more pensioners than counties, every one may be considered as quartered on that in which he lives.
What honour or happiness you can derive from being the Principal Pauper of the neighbourhood, and occasioning a greater expense than the poor, the aged, and the infirm, for ten miles round you, I leave you to enjoy. At the same time, I can see that it is no wonder you should be strenuous in suppressing a book which strikes at the root of those abuses. No wonder that you should be against reforms, against the freedom of the press, and the right of investigation. To you, and to others of your description, these are dreadful things; but you should also consider, that the motives which prompt you to act, ought, by reflection, to compel you to be silent.
Having now returned your compliment, and sufficiently tired your patience, I take my leave of you, with mentioning, that if you had not prevented my former letter from being read at the meeting, you would not have had the trouble of reading this; and also with requesting, that the next time you call me " a common enemy," you would add, "of us sinecure placemen and pensioners."
I am, Sir, &c. &c. &c.
TO THE SHERIFF OF THE COUNTY OF SUSSEX, OR THE GENTLEMAN WHO SHALL PRESIDE AT THE MEETING TO BE HELD AT LEWES, JULY 4.
Sir, 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 proclamation; 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 shew, 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 of 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, theexpences 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 profitgate 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:
"By the operation of this plan, the poor-laws, those instruments of civil torture, will be superseded, and the wasteful expence of litigation prevented. The hearts of the humane will not be shocked by ragged and hungry children, and persons of seventy and eighty years of age begging for bread. The dying poor will not be dragged from place to place to breathe their last, as a reprisal of parish upon parish. Widows will have a maintenance for their children, and not be carted away, on the death of their husbands, like culprits and criminals; and children will no longer be considered as increasing the distresses of their parents. The haunts of the wretched will be known, because it will be to their advantage, and the number of petty crimes, the offspring of poverty and distress, will be lessened. The poor, as well as the rich, will then be interested in the support of Government, and the cause and apprehensions of riots and tumults will cease. Ye who sit in ease, and solace yourselves in plenty, and such there are in Turkey, and Russia, as well as in England, and who say to yourselves, are we not well off? Have ye thought of these things ? When