Rights of Man, Common Sense, and Other Political Writings

By Thomas Paine; Mark Philp | Go to book overview

AGRARIAN JUSTICE, OPPOSED TO AGRARIAN LAW, AND TO AGRARIAN MONOPOLY.*
BEING A PLAN FOR MELIORATING THE CONDITION OF MAN, &c.

To preserve the benefits of what is called civilized life, and to remedy, at the same time, the evil it has produced, ought to be considered as one of the first objects of reformed legislation.

Whether that state that is proudly, perhaps erroneouly, called civilization, 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 splendid appearances; on the other, he is shocked by extremes of wretcheness; both of which he 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 of 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 Manufactures.

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 rich. Civilization, therefore, or that which is so called, has operated, two ways, to make one part of society more affluent, and the other part 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

-416-

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