Dissertation on First Principles of Government

Thomas PAINE

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"THE RIGHT OF VOTING FOR REPRESENTATIVES IS THE PRIMARY RIGHT BY WHICH OTHER RIGHTS ARE PROTECTED. TO TAKE AWAY THIS RIGHT IS TO REDUCE A MAN TO SLAVERY": PAINE'S DISSERTATION ON FIRST PRINCIPLES

PAINE, Thomas. Dissertation on First Principles of Government. London: Printed by W.T. Sherwin, 1817. Slim octavo, period-style marbled wrappers; pp. (iii) 4-28.

1817 edition of Paine's important dissertation on government, written to influence the National Convention during its struggle to create a new French constitution, Paine's urgent call for universal suffrage so that "democracy should be open to all men."

Paine was a member of the National Convention during the French Revolution. In 1795, the National Convention "began to write yet another French constitution, this time to be rid of the one that had sustained the Reign of Terror… Paine wanted the Convention members to focus on allowing all men (though not women), no matter their class, to vote. The committee of eleven, which was reviewing the proposals, appeared however to be moving away from the principle of universal suffrage. Paine was convinced that democracy should be open to all men, and not merely those who paid taxes… In an effort to convince the Convention that voting should be universal, in July 1795, Paine printed his Dissertation on the First Principles of Government… Despite his own suffering at the hands of a mob gone wild, Paine's belief in the fundamental morality of democracy remained unshaken… On July 7, despite his frail health, Paine asked to speak before the Convention on these very principles" (Fruchtman, 332-3). Paine "tore away the mystery of government and felt that the 'meanest mind' could understand his simple basic principles of government. This dissertation was read on July 7, 1795, to the National Convention, while Paine was seated in the hall. The universal suffrage demanded in it was not adopted in the new constitution, nor was much attention given to his other suggestions" (Gimbel-Yale 95). Preceded by the first French edition and the first edition in English, both published in Paris in 1795, and the London first English edition of the same year. Some copies found with "Speech of Thomas Paine, July 7th": no priority established. Publisher W.T. Sherwin, an admirer of Paine, authored one of the earliest biographies of him in 1819 titled, Memoirs of the Life of Thomas Paine. With tiny gutter-edge pinholes from original stitching. Gimbel-Paine, 66. See Howes P19; Eberstadt 135:744; Evans 29268.

Only lightest scattered foxing. About-fine.

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