The Life and Works of Thomas Paine - Vol. 7

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

TO THE ATTORNEY-GENERAL

THOUGH I have some reason for believing that you were not the original promoter or encourager of the prosecution commenced against the work entitled "Rights of Man," either as that prosecution is intended to affect the author, the publisher, or the public; yet as you appear the official person therein, I address this letter to you, not as Sir Archibald Macdonald, but as Attorney- General.

PAINE addressed this communication to the English Attorney-General, Sir Archibald Macdonald, some time in May, 1792, while he was dwelling with his publisher, Thomas Rickman, at 7 Upper Marylebone Street, London. A detailed account of the legal proceedings with regard to the publishers may be found in "Letter to the Addressers," which appears elsewhere in this volume.

The case brought by the English Government against the author of the "Rights of Man" was set down in the calendar for June 8, 1792, and on that day Paine was in court. Greatly to his disappointment, the trial was postponed to December 18, at which time he had gone to Paris to take his place in the French National Convention, to which he had been elected a delegate. His attorney of record was the Honorable Thomas Erskine.

You began by a prosecution against the publisher Jordan, and the reason assigned by Mr. Secretary Dundas, in the House of Commons, in the debate on the Proclamation, May twenty-fifth, for taking that measure, was, he said, because Mr. Paine could not be found, or words to that effect. Mr. Paine, Sir, so far from secreting himself, never went a step out of

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