Thomas Paine speaks to homelessness, poverty, injustice. For the thinkers.....

Flower Child (
Sun, 8 Nov 1998 14:54:08 -0700

Tomas Paine, from the forward:
"The present state of civilization is as odious as it is unjust.
It is absolutely the opposite of what it should be, and it is
necessary that a revolution should be made in it."

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Date: Saturday, November 07, 1998 10:35 AM
Subject: Thanks for the Thomas Paine link,very impressed

>To preserve the benefits of what is called civilized life, and
to remedy at
>the same time the evil which it has produced, ought to
considered as one of
>the first objects of reformed legislation.
>Whether that state that is proudly, perhaps erroneously, called
>has most promoted or most injured the general happiness of man
is a question
>that may be
>strongly contested. On one side, the spectator is dazzled by
>appearances; on the other, he is shocked by extremes of
wretchedness; both of
>which it has
>erected. The most affluent and the most miserable of the human
race are to be
>found in the countries that are called civilized.
>To understand what the state of society ought to be, it is
necessary to have
>some idea of the natural and primitive state of man; such as it
is at this
>day among the Indians of North America. There is not, in that
state, any of
>those spectacles of human misery which poverty and want present
to our eyes
>in all the towns and streets in Europe.
>Poverty, therefore, is a thing created by that which is called
civilized life.
>It exists not in the natural state. On the other hand, the
natural state is
>without those
>advantages which flow from agriculture, arts, science and
>The life of an Indian is a continual holiday, compared with the
poor of
>Europe; and, on the other hand it appears to be abject when
compared to the
>Civilization, therefore, or that which is so-called, has
operated two ways:
>to make one part of society more affluent, and the other more
wretched, than
>would have been the lot of either in a natural state.
>It is always possible to go from the natural to the civilized
state, but it
>is never possible to go from the civilized to the natural state.
The reason
>is that man in a natural state, subsisting by hunting, requires
ten times the
>quantity of land to range over to procure himself sustenance,
than would
>support him in a civilized state, where the earth is cultivated.
>When, therefore, a country becomes populous by the additional
aids of
>cultivation, art and science, there is a necessity of preserving
things in
>that state; because without it there cannot be sustenance for
more, perhaps,
>than a tenth part of its inhabitants. The thing, therefore, now
to be done is
>to remedy the evils and preserve the benefits that have arisen
to society by
>passing from the natural to that which is called the civilized
>In taking the matter upon this ground, the first principle of
>ought to have been, and ought still to be, that the condition of
every person
>born into the world, after a state of civilization commences,
ought not to be
>worse than if he had been born before that period.
>But the fact is that the condition of millions, in every country
in Europe,
>is far worse than if they had been born before civilization
begin, had been
>born among the Indians of North America at the present. I will
show how this
>fact has happened.
>It is a position not to be controverted that the earth, in its
>cultivated state was, and ever would have continued to be, the
common property
>of the human
>race. In that state every man would have been born to property.
He would have
>been a joint life proprietor with rest in the property of the
soil, and in all
>its natural
>productions, vegetable and animal.
>But the earth in its natural state, as before said, is capable
of supporting
>but a small number of inhabitants compared with what it is
capable of doing
>in a cultivated state. And as it is impossible to separate the
>made by cultivation from the earth itself, upon which that
improvement is
>made, the idea of landed property arose from that parable
connection; but it
>is nevertheless true, that it is the value of the improvement,
only, and not
>the earth itself, that is individual property.
>Every proprietor, therefore, of cultivated lands, owes to the
>ground-rent (for I know of no better term to express the idea)
for the land
>which he holds;
>and it is from this ground-rent that the fund prod in this plan
is to issue.
>It is deducible, as well from the nature of the thing as from
all the stories
>transmitted to us, that the idea of landed property commenced
>cultivation, and that there was no such thing, as landed
property before that
>time. It could not exist in the first state of man, that of
hunters. It did
>not exist in the second state, that of shepherds: neither
Abraham, Isaac,
>Jacob, nor Job, so far as the history of the Bible may credited
in probable
>things, were owners of land.
>Their property consisted, as is always enumerated in flocks and
herds, they
>traveled with them from place to place. The frequent contentions
at that time
>about the use of a well in the dry country of Arabia, where
those people
>lived, also show that there was no landed property. It was not
admitted that
>land could be claimed as property.
>There could be no such thing as landed property originally. Man
did not make
>the earth, and, though he had a natural right to occupy it, he
had no right
>to locate as his property in perpetuity any part of it; neither
did the
>Creator of the earth open a land-office, from whence the first
>should issue. Whence then, arose the idea of landed property? I
answer as
>before, that when cultivation began the idea of landed property
began with
>it, from the impossibility of separating the improvement made by
>from the earth itself, upon which that improvement was made.
>The value of the improvement so far exceeded the value of the
natural earth,
>at that time, as to absorb it; till, in the end, the common
right of all
>became confounded into the cultivated right of the individual.
But there are,
>nevertheless, distinct species of rights, and will continue to
be, so long as
>the earth endures.
>It is only by tracing things to their origin that we can gain
rightful ideas
>of them, and it is by gaining such ideas that we, discover the
boundary that
>divides right from wrong, and teaches every man to know his own.
I have
>entitled this tract "Agrarian Justice" to distinguish it from
"Agrarian Law."
>Nothing could be more unjust than agrarian law in a country
improved by
>cultivation; for though every man, as an inhabitant of the
earth, is a joint
>proprietor of it in its natural state, it does not follow that
he is a joint
>proprietor of cultivated earth. The additional value made by
>after the system was admitted, became the property of those who
did it, or
>who inherited it from them, or who purchased it. It had
originally no owner.
>While, therefore, I advocate the right, and interest myself in
the hard case
>of all those who have been thrown out of their natural
inheritance by the
>introduction of the system of landed property, I equally defend
the right of
>the possessor to the part which is his.
>Cultivation is at least one of the greatest natural improvements
ever made by
>human invention. It has given to created earth a tenfold value.
But the
>landed monopoly that began with it has produced the greatest
evil. It has
>dispossessed more than half the inhabitants of every nation of
their natural
>inheritance, without providing for them, as ought to have been
done, an
>indemnification for that loss, and has thereby created a species
of poverty
>and wretchedness that did not exist before.
>In advocating the case of the persons thus dispossessed, it is a
right, and
>not a charity, that I am pleading for. But it is that kind of
right which,
>being neglected at first, could not be brought forward
afterwards till heaven
>had opened the way by a revolution in the system of government.
Let us then
>do honor to revolutions by justice, and give currency to their
principles by
>Having thus in a few words, opened the merits of the case, I
shall now proceed
>to the plan I have to propose, which is,
>To create a national fund, out of which there shall be paid to
every person,
>when arrived at the age of twenty-one years, the sum of fifteen
>sterling, as a compensation in part, for the loss of his or her
>inheritance, by the introduction of the system of landed
>And also, the sum of ten pounds per annum, during life, to every
person now
>living, of the age of fifty years, and to all others as they
shall arrive at
>that age.
>I have already established the principle, namely, that the
earth, in its
>natural uncultivated state was, and ever would have continued to
be, the
>common property of the human race; that in that state, every
person would
>have been born to property; and that the system of landed
property, by its
>inseparable connection with cultivation, and with what is called
>life, has absorbed the property of all those whom it
dispossessed, without
>providing, as ought to have been done, an indemnification for
that loss.
>The fault, however, is not in the present possessors. No
complaint is tended,
>or ought to be alleged against them, unless they adopt the crime
by opposing
>justice. The fault is in the system, and it has stolen
perceptibly upon the
>world, aided afterwards by the agrarian law of the sword. But
the fault can
>be made to reform itself by successive generations; and without
>or deranging the property of any of present possessors, the
operation of the
>fund can yet commence, and in full activity, the first year of
>establishment, or soon after, as I shall show.
>It is proposed that the payments, as already stated, be made to
every person,
>rich or poor. It is best to make it so, to prevent invidious
distinctions. It
>is also right it should be so, because it is in lieu of the
>inheritance, which, as a right, belongs to every man, over and
above property
>he may have created, or inherited from those who did. Such
persons as do not
>choose to receive it can throw it into the common fund.
>Taking it then for granted that no person ought to be in a worse
>when born under what is called a state of civilization, than he
would have
>been had he been born in a state of nature, and that
civilization ought to
>have made, and ought still to make, provision for that purpose,
it can only
>be done by subtracting from property a portion equal in value to
the natural
>inheritance it has absorbed.
>Various methods may be proposed for this purpose, but that which
appears to
>be the best (not only because it will operate without deranging
any present
>possessors, or without interfering with the collection of taxes
or emprunts
>necessary for the purposes of government and the Revolution, but
because it
>will be the least troublesome and the most effectual, and also
because the
>subtraction will be made at a time that best admits it) is at
the moment that
>property is passing by the death of one person to the possession
of another.
>In this case, the bequeather gives nothing: the receiver pays
nothing. The
>only matter to him is that the monopoly of natural inheritance,
to which
>there never was a right, begins to cease in his person. A
generous man would
>not wish it to continue, and a just man will rejoice to see it
>My state of health prevents my making sufficient inquiries with
respect to
>the doctrine of probabilities, whereon to found calculations
with such
>degrees of certainty as they are capable of. What, therefore, I
offer on this
>head is more the result of observation and reflection than of
>information; but I believe it will be found to agree
sufficiently with fact.
>In the first place, taking twenty-one years as the epoch of
maturity, all the
>property of a nation, real and personal, is always in the
possession of
>persons above that age. It is then necessary to know, as a datum
>calculation, the average of years which persons above that age
will live. I
>take this average to be about thirty years, for though many
persons will live
>forty, fifty, or sixty years, after the age of twenty-one years,
others will
>die much sooner, and some in every year of that time.
>Taking, then, thirty years as the average of time, it will give,
without any
>material variation one way or other, the average of time in
which the whole
>property or capital of a nation, or a sum equal thereto, will
have passed
>through one entire revolution in descent, that is, will have
gone by deaths
>to new possessors; for though, in many instances, some parts of
this capital
>will remain forty, fifty, or sixty years in the possession of
one person,
>other parts will have revolved two or three times before those
thirty years
>expire, which will bring it to that average; for were one-half
the capital of
>a nation to revolve twice in thirty years, it would produce the
same fund as
>if the whole revolved once.
>Taking, then, thirty years as the average of time in which the
whole capital
>of a nation, or a -sum equal thereto, will revolve once, the
thirtieth part
>thereof will be the sum that will revolve every year, that is,
will go by
>deaths to new possessors; and this last sum being thus known,
and the ratio
>per cent to be subtracted from It determined, it will give the
annual amount
>or income of the proposed fund, to be applied as already
>In looking over the discourse of the English Minister, Pitt, in
his opening
>of what is called in England the budget (the scheme of finance
for the year
>1796), I find an estimate of the national capital of that unity.
As this
>estimate of a national capital is prepared ready to my hand, I
take it as a
>datum to act upon. When a calculation is made upon the known
capital of any
>nation, combined with its population, it will serve as a scale
for any other
>nation, in proportion as its capital and population be more or
>I am the more disposed to take this estimate of Mr. Pitt, for
the purpose of
>showing to that minister, upon his own calculation, how much
better money may
>be employed than in wasting it, as he has done, on the wild
project of
>setting up Bourbon kings. What, in the name of heaven, re
Bourbon kings to
>the people of England? It is better that the people have bread.
>Mr. Pitt states the national capital of England, real and
personal, to one
>thousand three hundred millions sterling, which is about
one-fourth part of
>the national capital of France, including Belgia. The event of
the last
>harvest in each country proves that the soil of France more
productive than
>that of England, and that it can better support twenty-four or
>millions of inhabitants than that of England n seven or seven
and a half
>The thirtieth part of this capital of =A3 1,300,000,000 is L
43,333,333 which
>the part that will revolve every year by deaths in that country
to new
>possessors; and the sum that will annually revolve in France in
>proportion of four to one, will be about one hundred and
>millions sterling. From this sum of =A3 43,333,333 annually
revolving, is be
>subtracted the value of the natural inheritance absorbed in it,
>perhaps, in fair justice, cannot be taken at less, and ought not
be taken for
>more, than a tenth part.
>It will always happen that of the property thus revolving by
deaths every
>year a part will descend in a direct line to sons and daughters,
and other
>part collaterally, and the proportion will be found to be about
three to one;
>that is, about thirty millions of the above sum will descend to
direct heirs,
>and the remaining sum of =A3 413,333,333 to more distant
relations, and in part
>to strangers.
>Considering, then, that man is always related to society, that
>will become comparatively greater in proportion as the next of
kin is more
>distant; it is therefore consistent with civilization to say
that where there
>are no direct heirs society shall be heir to a part over and
above the tenth
>part due to society.
>If this additional part be from five to ten or twelve per cent,
in proportion
>as the next of kin be nearer or more remote, so as to average
with the
>escheats that may fall, which ought always to go to society and
not to the
>government (an addition of ten per cent more), the produce from
the annual
>sum of L 43,333,333 will be:
>>From =A3 30,000,000 at ten per
...=A3 3,000,000
>>From =A3 13,333,333 at ten per cent with the addition of ten per
cent more....=A3
>--- ------------------------ =A3 43,333,333 =A3 5,666,666
>Having thus arrived at the annual amount of the proposed fund, I
come, in the
>next place, to speak of the population proportioned to this fund
and to
>compare it with the uses to which the fund is to be applied.
>The population (I mean that of England) does not exceed seven
millions and a
>half, and the number of persons above the age of fifty will in
that case be
>about four hundred thousand. There would not, however, be more
than that
>number that would accept the proposed ten pounds sterling per
annum, though
>they would be entitled to it. I have no idea it would be
accepted by many
>persons who had a yearly income of two or three hundred pounds
sterling. But
>as we often see instances of rich people falling into sudden
poverty, even at
>the age of sixty, they would always have the right of drawing
all the arrears
>clue to them. Four millions, therefore, of the above annual sum
of =A3
>5,666,666 will be required for four hundred thousand aged
persons, at ten
>pounds sterling each.
>I come now to speak of the persons annually arriving at
twenty-one years of
>age. If all the persons who died were above the age of
twenty-one years, the
>number of persons annually arriving at that age must be equal to
the annual
>number of deaths, to keep the population stationary. But the
greater part die
>under the age of twenty-one, and therefore the number of persons
>arriving at twenty-ope will be less than half the number of
>The whole number of deaths upon a population of seven millions
and an half
>will be about 220,000 annually. The number arriving at
twenty-one years of
>age will be about 100,000. The whole number of these will not
receive the
>proposed fifteen pounds, for the reasons already mentioned,
though, as in the
>former case, they would be entitled to it. Admitting then that a
tenth part
>declined receiving it, the amount would stand thus:
>... .................=A3 5,666,666 To 400,000 aged persons at =A3 10
>.......................=A3 4,000,000 To 90,000 persons of 21 yrs.=A3
>each.......................=A3 1,350,000 =A3
5,350,000 --------------- Remains: =A3
>There are, in every country, a number of blind and lame person
>incapable of earning a livelihood. But as it will always happen
that the
>greater number of blind persons will be among those who are
above the age of
>fifty years, they will be provided for in that class. Th
remaining sum of =A3
>316,666 will provide for the lame and blind under that age, at
the same rate
>of =A3 10 annually for each person.
>Having now gone through all the necessary calculations, and
stated the
>particulars of the plan, I shall conclude with some
observations. It is not
>charity but a right, not bounty but justice, that I am pleading
for. The
>present state of civilization is as odious as it is unjust. It
is absolutely
>the opposite of what it should be, and it is necessary that a
>should be made in it. The contrast of affluence and wretchedness
>meeting and offending the eye, is like dead and living bodies
>together. Though I care as little about riches as any man, I am
a friend to
>riches because they are capable of good.
>I care not how affluent some may be, provided that none be
miserable in
>consequence of it. But it is impossible to enjoy affluence with
the felicity
>it is capable of being enjoyed, while so much misery is mingled
in the scene.
>The sight of the misery, and the unpleasant sensations it
suggests, which,
>though they may be suffocated cannot be extinguished, are a
greater drawback
>upon the felicity of affluence than the proposed ten per cent
upon property
>is worth. He that would not give the one to get rid of the other
has no
>charity, even for himself.
>There are, in every country, some magnificent charities
established by
>individuals. It is, however, but little that any individual can
do, when the
>whole extent of the misery to be relieved is considered. He may
satisfy his
>conscience, but not his heart. He may give all that he has, and
that all will
>relieve but little. It is only by organizing civilization upon
>principles as to act like a system of pulleys, that the whole
weight of
>misery can be removed.
>The plan here proposed will reach the whole. It will immediately
relieve and
>take out of view three classes of wretchedness-the blind, the
lame, and the
>aged poor; and it will furnish the rising generation with means
to prevent
>their becoming poor; and it will do this without deranging or
>with any national measures.
>To show that this will be the case, it is sufficient to observe
that the
>operation and effect of the plan will, in all cases, be the same
as if every
>individual were
>voluntarily to make his will and dispose of his property in the
manner here
>But it is justice, and not charity, that is the principle of the
plan. In all
>great cases it is necessary to have a principle more universally
active than
>charity; and, with respect to justice, it ought not to be left
to the choice
>of detached individuals whether they will do justice or not.
>then, the plan on the ground of justice, it ought to be the act
of the whole
>growing spontaneously out of the principles of the revolution,
and the
>reputation of it ought to be national and not individual.
>A plan upon this principle would benefit the revolution by the
energy that
>springs from the consciousness of justice. It would multiply
also the
>national resources; for property, like vegetation, increases by
offsets. When
>a young couple begin the world, the difference is exceedingly
great whether
>they begin with nothing or with fifteen pounds apiece. With this
aid they
>could buy a cow, and implements to cultivate a few acres of
land; and instead
>of becoming burdens upon society, which is always the case where
children are
>produced faster than they can be fed, would be put in the way of
>useful and profitable citizens. The national domains also would
sell the
>better if pecuniary aids were provided to cultivate them in
small lots.
>It is the practice of what has unjustly obtained the name of
>(and the practice merits not to be called either charity or
policy) to make
>some provision for persons becoming poor and wretched only at
the time they
>become so. Would it not, even as a matter of economy, be far
better to adopt
>means to prevent their becoming poor? This can best be done by
making every
>person when arrived at the age of twenty-one years an inheritor
of something
>to begin with.
>The rugged face of society, checkered with the extremes of
affluence and
>want, proves that some extraordinary violence has been committed
upon it, and
>calls on justice for redress. The great mass of the poor in
countries are
>become an hereditary race, and it is next to impossible them to
get out of
>that state of themselves. It ought also to be observed that this
>increases in all countries that are called civilized. re persons
>annually into it than get out of it.
>Though in a plan of which justice and humanity are the
foundation principles,
>interest ought not to be admitted into the calculation, yet it
is always of
>advantage to the establishment of any plan to show that it
beneficial as a
>matter of interest. The success of any proposed plan submitted
to public
>consideration must finally depend on the numbers interested in
supporting it,
>united with the justice of its principles.
>The plan here proposed will benefit all, without injuring any.
It will
>consolidate the interest of the republic with that of the
individual. To the
>numerous class dispossessed of their natural inheritance by the
system of
>landed property it will be an act of national justice. To
persons dying
>possessed of moderate fortunes it will operate as a tontine to
>children, more beneficial than the sum of money paid into the
fund: and it
>will give to the accumulation of riches a degree of security
that none of old
>governments of Europe, now tottering on their foundations, can
>I do not suppose that more than one family in ten, in any of the
countries of
>Europe, has, when the head of the family dies, a clear property
of five
>hundred pounds sterling. To all such the plan is advantageous.
That property
>would pay fifty pounds into the fund, and if there were only two
>under age they would receive fifteen pounds each (thirty
pounds), on coming
>of age, and be entitled to ten pounds a year after fifty.
>It is from the overgrown acquisition of property that the fund
will support
>itself; and I know that the possessors of such property in
England, though
>they would eventually be benefitted by the protection of
nine-tenths of it,
>will exclaim against the plan. But without entering any inquiry
how they came
>by that property, let them recollect that they have been the
advocates of
>this war, and that Mr. Pitt has already laid on more new taxes
to be raised
>annually upon the people of England, and that for supporting the
despotism of
>Austria and the Bourbons against the liberties of France, than
would pay
>annually all the sums proposed in this plan.
>I have made the calculations stated in this plan, upon what is
>personal, as well as upon landed property. The reason for making
it upon land
>is already explained; and the reason for taking personal
property into the
>calculation is equally well founded though on a different
principle. Land, as
>before said, is the free gift of the Creator in common to the
human race.
>Personal property is the effect of society; and it is as
impossible for an
>individual to acquire personal property without the aid of
society, as it is
>for him to make land originally.
>Separate an individual from society, and give him an island or a
continent to
>possess, and he cannot acquire personal property. He cannot be
rich. So
>inseparably are the means connected with the end, in all cases,
that where
>the former do not exist the latter cannot be obtained. All
>therefore, of personal property, beyond what a man's own hands
produce, is
>derived to him by living in society; and he owes on every
principle of
>justice, of gratitude, and of civilization, a part of that
accumulation back
>again to society from whence the whole came.
>This is putting the matter on a general principle, and perhaps
it is best to
>do so; for if we examine the case minutely it will be found that
>accumulation of personal property is, in many instances, the
effect of paying
>too little for the labor that produced it; the consequence of
which is that
>the working hand perishes in old age, and the employer abounds
in affluence.
>It is, perhaps, impossible to proportion exactly the price of
labor to the
>profits it produces; and it will also be said, as an apology for
>injustice, that were a workman to receive an increase of wages
daily he would
>not save it against old age, nor be much better for it in the
interim. Make,
>then, society the treasurer to guard it for him in a common
fund; for it is
>no reason that, because he might not make a good use of it for
>another should take it.
>The state of civilization that has prevailed throughout Europe,
is as unjust
>in its principle, as it is horrid in its effects; and it is the
>of this, and the apprehension that such a state cannot continue
when once
>investigation begins in any country, that makes the possessors
of property
>dread every idea of a revolution. It is the hazard and not the
principle of
>revolutions that retards their progress. This being the case, it
is necessary
>as well for the protection of property as for the sake of
justice and
>humanity, to form a system that, while it preserves one part of
society from
>wretchedness, shall secure the other from depreciation.
>The superstitious awe, the enslaving reverence, that formerly
>affluence, is passing away in all countries, and leaving the
possessor of
>property to the convulsion of accidents. When wealth and
splendor, instead of
>fascinating the multitude, excite emotions of disgust; n,
instead of drawing
>forth admiration, it is beheld as an insult on wretchedness;
when the
>ostentatious appearance it makes serves call the right of it in
question, the
>case of property becomes critical, and it is only in a system of
justice that
>the possessor can contemplate security.
>To remove the danger, it is necessary to remove the antipathies,
and this can
>only be done by making property productive of a national bless,
extending to
>individual. When the riches of one man above other shall
increase the national
>fund in the same proportion; when it shall be seen that the
prosperity of that
>depends on the prosperity of individuals; when the more riches a
man acquires,
>the better it shall for the general mass; it is then that
antipathies will
>cease, and
>property be placed on the permanent basis of national interest
and protection.
>I have no property in France to become subject to the plan I
prose. What I
>have, which is not much, is in the United States of America. But
I will pay
>one hundred pounds sterling toward this fund in France, the
instant it shall
>be established; and I will pay the same sum England, whenever a
>establishment shall take place in
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