Thursday, May 21, 2009

Thomas Paine-Governments right to exist

I am currently reading Thomas Paine's "Rights of man". Some of it was so interesting that I almost forgot the 110 deg. of heat at work today (reading between rounds). The heat is bearable, it's the humidity which was a real killer today. Here is some of what I read today where Paine takes a review of the several sources from which governments have arisen, and on which they have been founded.
They may be all comprehended under three heads. First, superstition. Secondly, power. Thirdly, the common interest of society, and the common rights of man. First was a government of priestcraft, the second of conquerors, and the third of reason.

When a set of artful men pretended, through the medium of oracles, to hold a intercourse with the Deity, the world was completely under the government of superstition. The oracles were consulted, and whatever they were made to say, became the law; and this sort of government lasted as long as this sort of superstition lasted.

After these a race of conquerors rose, whose government, like that of William the Conqueror, was founded in power, and the sword assumed the name of a sceptre. Governments thus established, last as long as the power to support them lasts; but that they might avail themselves of every engine in their favour, they united fraud to force, and set up an idol which they called Devine Right, and which, twisted itself afterwards into an idol of another shape, called Church and State.

When I contemplate the natural dignity of man; when I feel for the honour and happiness of it's character, I become irritated at the attempt to govern mankind by force and fraud, as if they were all knaves and fools, and can scarcely avoid disgust at those who are thus imposed upon.

We have now to review the governments which arise out of society, in contradiction to those which arose out of superstition and conquest.

It has been thought a considerable advance towards 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 man must have existed before governments existed, there necessarily was a time when governments did not exist, and consequently there could exist no governors to form such a compact with. The fact therefore must be, that the individuals themselves, each in his own personal and sovereign right, entered into a compact with each other to produce a government: and this is the only mode in which governments have a right to arise, and the only principle on which they have a right to exist.