« ПредишнаНапред »
TO THE ATTORNEY GENERAL ON THE PROSECUTION AGAINST THE SECOND PART OF RIGHTS OF MAN.
Letter the Second.
Sir, Paris, Nov. 11th, 1st year of the Republic,
As there can be no personal resentment between two strangers, I write this letter to you, as a man against whom I have no animosity.
You have, as Attorney-General, commenced a prosecution against me, as the author of Rights of Man. Had not my duty, in consequence of my being elected a member of the National Convention of France, called me from England, I should have staid to have contested the injustice of that prosecution; not upon my own account, for I cared not about the prosecution, but to have defended the principles I had advanced in the work.
The duty I am now engaged in is of too much importance to permit me to trouble myself about your prosecution: when I have leisure, I shall have no objection to meet you on that ground; but as I now stand, whether you go on with the prosecution, or whether you do not, or whether you obtain a verdict, or not, is a matter of the most perfect indifference to me as an individual. If you obtain one (which you are welcome to, if you can get it) it cannot affect me either in person, property, or reputation, otherwise than to increase the latter; and with respect to yourself, it is as consistent that you obtain a verdict against the man in the moon as against me: neither do I see how you can continue the prosecution against me as you would have done against one of your own people who had absented himself because he was prosecuted: what passed at Dover proves that my departure from England was no secret.
My necessary absence from your country now, in consequence of my duty here, affords the opportunity of knowing whether the prosecution was intended against Thomas Paine, or against the rights of the people of England to investigate systems and principles of Government; for as I cannot now be the object of the prosecution, the going on with the prosecution will shew that something else was the
object, and that something else can be no other than the people of England, for it is against their rights, and not against me, that a verdict or sentence can operate, if it can operate at all. Be then so candid as to tell the jury (if you choose to continue the process) whom it is you are prosecuting, and on whom it is that the verdict is to fall.
But I have other reasons than those I have mentioned for writing you this letter; and, however you may choose to interpret them, they proceed from a good heart. The time, Sir, is becoming too serious to play with Court prosecutions, and sport with National Rights. The terrible examples that have taken place here, upon men who less than a year ago thought themselves as secure as any prosecuting Judge, Jury, or Attorney-General, can now do in England, ought to have some weight with men in your situation. That the Government of England is as great, if not the greatest, perfection of fraud and corruption that ever took place since Governments began, is what you cannot be a stranger to, unless the constant habit of seeing it has blinded your senses; but though you may not choose to see it, the people are seeing it very fast, and the progress is beyond what you may choose to believe. Is it possible that you, or I, can believe, or that reason can make any other man believe, that the capacity of such a man as Mr. Guelph, or any of his profligate sons, is necessary to the Government of a nation. I speak to you as one man ought to speak to another; and I know also, that I speak what other people are beginning to think.
That you cannot obtain a verdict (and if you do, it will signify nothing) without packing a jury, (and we both know that such tricks are practised) is what I have very good reascn to believe. I have gone into coffee-houses, and places where I was unknown, on purpose to learn the currency of opinion, and I never yet saw any company of twelve men that condemned the book; but I have often found a greater number than twelve approving it, and this I think is a fair way of collecting the natural currency of opinion. Do not then, Sir, be the instrument of drawing twelve men into a situation that may be injurious to them afterwards. I do not speak this from policy, but from benevolence; but if you choose to go on with the process, I make it my request to you that you will read this letter in Court, after which the Judge and the Jury may do as they please. As I do not consider myself the object of the prosecution, neither can I be affected by the issue, one way or the other, I shall, though a foreigner in your country, subscribe as much money as any other man towards supporting the right of the nation against the prosecution; and it is for this purpose only that I shall do it.
As I share not time to copy letters, you will excuse the corrections.
P. S. I intended, had I staid in England, to have published the information, with my remarks upon it, before the trial came on; but as I am otherwise engaged, I reserve myself till the trial is over, when I shall reply fully to every thing you shall advance.
ON THE PROPRIETY OF BRINGING LOUIS XVI. TO TRIAL.
Citizen President, Paris, Nov. 20, 1792.
As I do not know precisely what day the Convention will resume the discussion on the trial of Louis XVI. and, on account of my inability to express myself in French, I cannot speak at the tribune, I request permission to deposit in your hands the inclosed paper which contains my opinion on that subject. I adopt this step with so much more eagerness, because circumstances will prove to what a degree it interests France, that Louis XVI. should continue to enjoy good health. I should be happy if the Convention would have the goodness to hear this paper read this morning, as I purpose sending a copy of it to London, to be printed in the English Journals.
A Secretary read the opinion of Thomas Paine.
I Think that Louis XVI. ought to be tried; not that this advice is suggested by a spirit of vengeance, but because this measure appears to me just, lawful, and conformable to sound policy. If Louis XVI. is innocent, let us put him to prove his innocence; if he is guilty, let the national will determine if he should be pardoned or punished; but besides the motives which personally interest Louis XVI. there are others which make his trial necessary. I am about to develope these motives, in the language which suits them, and no other. I forbid myself the use of equivocal expression or of mere ceremony. There was formed among the crowned ruffians of Europe a conspiracy, which threatened not only French liberty, but likewise that of all nations. Every thing tends to make it be believed, that Louis XVI. was the' partner of that horde of conspirators. You have this man in your power, and he is at present the only one of the band of whom we can make sure. I consider Louis XVI. in the same point of view as the two first robbers taken up in the affair of the jewel office, their trial enabled you to discover the gang to which they belonged. We have seen the unhappy soldiers of Austria and Prussia, and the other powers which declared themselves our enemies, torn from their fire-sides, and drawn to carnage as the vilest of animals, to sustain, at the price of their blood, the common cause of crowned robbers. They loaded the inhabitants of those regions with taxes to support the expences of the war. All this was not done solely for Louis XVI. Some of the conspirators have acted openly: but there is reason to presume, that this conspiracy is composed of two classes of robbers; those who have taken up arms, and those who have lent to their cause secret encouragement and clandestine assistance; and it is indispensible to let France and all Europe know all these accomplices.
A little time after the National Convention was constituted, the Minister for Foreign Affairs presented the picture of all the Governments of Europe, as well of those whose hostilities were public, as of those who acted with a mysterious circumspection. We have already penetrated into some part of the conduct of Mr. Guelph, Elector of Hanover, and violent presumptions affect the same man, his court and ministers, in quality of King of England.
M. Calonne has constantly been favoured with a friendly reception at that court. The arrival of Mr. Smith, secretary to Mr. Pitt, at Coblentz, when the emigrants were assembling there; the recal of the English amhassador; the extravagant joy manifested by the court of St. James's at the false report of the defeat of Dumourier, when it caused it to be communicated by Lord Elgin, then minister of Great Britain at Brussels—all these circumstances render him extremely suspicious; the trial of Louis XVI. will probably furnish more decisive proofs.
The long subsisting fearof a revolution in England, could, I believe, singly, prevent that court from manifesting as much publicity in its operations as Austria and Prussia. Another reason could be added to this; the consequential decrease of credit, by means of which alone all the ancient Governments could obtain fresh loans; for in proportion as the probability of a revolution increased, whoever should furnish towards the new loans must expect to lose his stock.
Every body knows that the Landgrave of Hesse fights only as far as he is paid: he has been for several years in the pay of the court of London. If the trial of Louis XVI. could bring it to light, that this detestable dealer in human flesh has been paid out of the produce of the taxes levied on the people of England, it would be but doing justice to that nation, to inform them of that fact; it would at the same time give to France an exact knowledge of the cha