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TO THE ABBE SYEYES.
SIR, Paris, July 8, 1791. 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 system 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 the nullity of 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 premise, 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 the 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 of 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 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.
A Deputy to the Congress receives about a guinea and a half daily; and provisions are cheaper in America than in France..
ADDRESS AND DECLARATION.
At a select Meeting of the Friends of Universal Peace and Liberty, held at the Thatched House Tavern, St. James's Street, August 20, 1791, the following Address and Declaration to our Fellow Citizens was agreed on and ordered to be published.
FRIENDS AND FELLOW CITIZENS,
AT a moment like the present, when wilful misrepresentations are industriously spread by the partizans of arbitrary power, and the advocates of passive obedience and court government, we think it incumbent on us to declare to the world our principles, and the motives of our conduct.
We rejoice at the glorious event of the French Revolution. If it be asked-What is the French Revolution to us? We answer (as it has been already answered in another place*), It is much to us as men: much to us as English
As men we rejoice in the freedom of twenty-five millions of our fellow men. We rejoice in the prospect which such a magnificent example opens to the world. We congratulate the French nation for having laid the axe to the root of tyranny, and for erecting government on the sacred HEREDITARY RIGHTS OF MAN-Rights which appertain to ALL, and not to any one more than to another. We know of no human authority superior to that of a whole nation; and we profess and proclaim it as our principle, that every nation has at all times an inherent indefeasible right to constitute and establish such government for itself as best accords with its disposition, interest, and happiness.
As Englishmen we also rejoice, because we are immediately interested in the French Revolution.
Without enquiring into the justice on either side of the reproachful charges of intrigue and ambition, which the English and French Courts have constantly made on each other, we confine ourselves to this observation:-That if the court of France only was in fault, and the numerous wars
* Declaration of the volunteers of Belfast.
which have distressed both countries are chargeable to her alone, that court now exists no longer; and the cause and the consequence must cease together. The French, therefore, by the Revolution they have made, have conquered for Us as well as for themselves; if it be true that their court only was in fault, and ours never.
On this state of the case, the French Revolution concerns us immediately. We are oppressed with a heavy national debt, a burthen of taxes, and an expensive administration of government, beyond those of any people in the world. We have also a very numerous poor; and we hold that the moral obligations of providing for old age, helpless infancy, and poverty, is far superior to that of supplying the invented wants of courtly extravagance, ambition, and intrigue.
We believe there is no instance to be produced but in England, of seven millions of inhabitants, which make but little more than one millions of families, paying yearly SEVENTEEN MILLIONS of taxes.
As it has always been held out by all administrations that the restless ambition of the court of France rendered this expence necessary to us for our own defence, we consequently rejoice as men deeply interested in the French Revolution, for that court, as we have already said, exists no longer; and consequently the same enormous expences need not continue to us.
Thus rejoicing, as we sincerely do, both as men and Englishmen, as lovers of universal peace and freedom, and as friends to our own national prosperity and a reduction of our public expences, we cannot but express our astonishment that any part, or any members of our own government, should reprobate the extinction of that very power in France, or wish to see it restored, to whose influence they formerly attributed (whilst they appeared to lament) the enormous increase of our own burtheus and taxes. What, then, are they sorry that the pretence for new oppressive taxes and the occasion for continuing many old taxes will be at an end? If so, and if it is the policy of courts and court governments, to prefer enemies to friends, and a system of war to that of peace, as affording more pretences for places, offices, pensions, revenue, and taxation, it is high time for the people of every nation to look with circumspection to their own interests.
Those who pay the expence, and not those who participate in the emoluments arising from it, are the persons immediately interested in inquiries of this kind. We are a part
of that national body on whom this annual expence of seventeen millions falls; and we consider the present opportunity of the French Revolution as a most happy one for lessening the enormous load under which this nation groans. If this be not done, we shall then have reason to conclude, that the cry of intrigue and ambition against other courts is no more than the common cant of all courts.
We think it also necessary to express our astonishment that a government, desirous of being called FREE, should prefer connections with the most despotic and arbitrary powers in Europe. We know of none more deserving this description than those of Turkey and Prussia, and the whole combination of German despots. Separated as we happily are by nature from the tumults of the Continent, we reprobate all systems and intrigues which sacrifice (and that too at a great expence) the blessings of our natural situation.-Such systems cannot have a national origin.
If we are asked, what government is? We hold it to be nothing more than a NATIONAL ASSOCIATION, and we hold that to be the best which secures to every man his rights, and promotes the greatest quantity of happiness with the least expence.
We live to improve, or we live in vain; and therefore we admit of no maxims of government or policy on the mere score of antiquity, or other men's authority, the old whigs or the new.
We will exercise the reason with which we are endued, or we possess it unworthily. As reason is given at all times, it is for the purpose of being used at all times.
Among the blessings which the French Revolution has produced to that nation, we enumerate the abolition of the feudal system of injustice and tyranny on the 4th of August, 1789. Beneath the feudal system all Europe has long groaned, and from it England is not yet free. Game laws, borough tenures, and tyrannical monopolies of numerous kinds, still remain amongst us; but rejoicing as we sincerely do in the freedom of others, till we shall happily acomplish our own, we intended to commemorate this prelude to the universal extirpation of the feudal system, by meeting on the anniversary of that day (the 4th of August) at the Crown and Anchor. From this meeting we were prevented by the interference of certain un-named and skulking persons with the master of the Tavern, who informed us, that on their representations he could not receive us.-Let those who live by or countenance feudal oppressions, take the reproach