To the Abbè Sieyes

Paris, 8th July, 1791. [1]

Sir,

At the moment of my departure for England, I read, in the Moniteur of Tuesday last, your letter, in which you give the challenge, on the subject of Government, and offer to defend what is called the Monarchical opinion against the Republican system.

I accept of your challenge with pleasure; and I place such a confidence in the superiority of the Republican system over that nullity of a system, called Monarchy, that I engage not to exceed the extent of fifty pages, and to leave you the liberty of taking as much latitude as you may think proper. The respect which I bear your moral and literary reputation, will be your security for my candour in the course of this discussion; but, notwithstanding that I shall treat the subject seriously and sincerely, let me promise, that I consider myself at liberty to ridicule, as they deserve, Monarchical absurdities, whensoever the occasion shall present itself.

By Republicanism, I do not understand what the name signifies in Holland, and in some parts of Italy. I understand simply a government by representation—a government founded upon the principles of the Declaration of Rights; principles to which several parts of the French Constitution arise in contradiction. The Declaration of Rights of France and America are but one and the same thing in principles, and almost in expressions; and this is the Republicanism which I undertake to defend against what is called Monarchy and Aristocracy.

I see with pleasure, that in respect to one point we are already agreed; and that is, the extreme danger of a civil list of thirty millions. I can discover no reason why one of the parts of the government should be supported with so extravagant a profusion, whilst the other scarcely receives what is sufficient for its common wants.

This dangerous and dishonourable disproportion at once supplies the one with the means of corrupting, and throws the other into the predicament of being corrupted. In America there is but little difference, with regard to this point, between the legislative and the executive part of our government; but the first is much better attended to than it is in France.

In whatsoever manner, Sir, I may treat the subject of which you have proposed the investigation, I hope that you will not doubt my entertaining for you the highest esteem. I must also add, that I am not the personal enemy of Kings. Quite the contrary. No man more heartily wishes than myself to see them all in the happy and honourable state of private individuals; but I am the avowed, open, and intrepid enemy of what is called Monarchy; and I am such by principles which nothing can either alter or corrupt—by my attachment to humanity; by the anxiety which I feel within myself, for the dignity and the honour of the human race; by the disgust which I experience, when I observe men directed by children, and governed by brutes; by the horror which all the evils that Monarchy has spread over the earth excite within my breast; and by those sentiments which make me shudder at the calamities, the exactions, the wars, and the massacres with which Monarchy has crushed mankind: in short, it is against all the hell of monarchy that I have declared war.

THOMAS PAINE.

Notes:

[1] Written to the Moniteur in reply to a letter of the Abbé (July 8) elicited by Paines’ letter to “Le Républicain” (II.). The Abbe now declining a controversy, Paine dealt with his views in Rights of Man, Part II., ch. g.—Editor.