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landed, dissenting preachers, metaphysical deists. Of those who were not competent judges, great numbers condemned Burke's REFLEXIons upon trust :--retainers of Opposition, understrappers of letters, implicit believers of infidelity, school-masters, inferior, decaying, or ruined tradesmen and mechanics, debating-society orators, revolution club-men, declaimers at public meetings, in short, also, mere parrots of learning and ingenuity.
The first answer to Burke came from the able
pen of. Dr. Priestley. A considerable part of this publication was a vindication of Dr. Price's opinion concerning the source and tenure of monarchical power in England: the rest is on the happy effects to be expected from the glorious principles of the French revolution, from which Priestley forebodes the enlargement of liberty, the melioration of society, the increase of virtue and of happiness. 'As Priestley neither shewed, from history, nor from the constitution of the human mind, that these principles, in their usual operation and consequence, tended to produce all those blessings, it is the less surprizing that the event was so totally contrary to his predictions.
But the answer to Burke, which produced the most important effects in these kingdoms, was the · Rights OF MAN,' by the noted Thomas Paine. Perhaps there never was a writer who more completely attained the art of impressing vulgar and undistinguishing minds. The plain perspicuity of his language, the force of his expressions, the directness of his efforts, wore so much the appearance of clear and strong reasoning (to those that judge from manner more than matter) that numbers, borne down by his bold assertions, supposed themselves' convinced by his arguments.
The substance of his doctrine was peculiarly pleasing to the lower ranks. When mechanics and peasants were told that they were as fit for governing the country as any man in Parliament, the notion flattered
their vanity, pride, and ambition. While
This mode of
* See an instance of the same kind in Hume's History of the Reign of Richard II, speaking of John Ball.
made unintelligible definitions : it was from dexterous art, and a versatility of genius, accommodating itself to diversity of objects and persons, but adapting itself peculiarly to those classes who would believe themselves convinced when they were only persuaded.
It would be foreign to the purpose of this work to enter into the detail of Paine's • Rights of Man. The amount of his theory is this : That no government is just, which is not actually, and has not been historically and originally, founded on what he calls the Rights of Man. He applies this general principle to existing governments, and finding that none of them is reconcileable to his notions of natural equality and the rights of man, except that of America and the new constitution of France, he proposes that all others shall be pulled down; but first, and especially, what we call the Constitution, and he the usurpation, of England. England exhibits a polity-by
means conformable to the ideas of
Thomas Paine, France he considers as approaching nearer to consummate perfection than America. One of the chief evils, contrary to this natural equality and rights of man, was the existence of artificial distinctions, such as rank, title, and corporate bodies. To level all distinction and rank, was one indispensable ingredient in every system established on these grounds. The inequalities subsisted to a great degree in Britain, as appeared from the King, the House of Peers, the House of Commons, the Universities, and the accumulation of estates through the absurd rule of hereditary succession. In France, great advances had been made in the levelling system, and greater were likely to be made: therefore England was a very bad government, and France a very good one, and likely to be still better. The English government, consequently, ought to be pulled down, and to be rebuilt upon the French model. Another reason for overturning the government of this country was, that it was a government of controul, and did not allow unre