The Life and Works of Thomas Paine - Vol. 7

By Thomas Paine; William M. Van der Weyde | Go to book overview

TO THE ABBÉ SIEYÈS

AT the moment of my departure from 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 opinion against the republican system.

PAINE published this open letter, dated Paris, July 8, 1791, to the Abbé ( Emmanuel Joseph) Sieyès in the Paris "Moniteur," in reply to a letter of the Abbé provoked by Paine's anti-royalist declaration in "Le Républicain." The Abbé declined to enter into a controversy with Paine, and the latter presented their opposing views in the third chapter of Part Two of the "Rights of Man," in which the French statesman is quoted as arguing that "In the history of all elective monarchies . . . there is not one in which the elective mode is not worse than the hereditary succession."

The Abbé Sieyès originated the idea of the French geographical division into departments, arrondissements and communes, being himself, in 1791, member for the department of the Seine. He is credited with "discovering" Napoleon Bonaparte as a military coadjutor to cope with the Jacobin faction. Instead of being his coadjutor, Bonaparte proved to be his master.

I accept of your challenge with pleasure; and I place such confidence in the superiority of the republican system over that nullity of a 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 candor in

-127-

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