The Life and Works of Thomas Paine - Vol. 7

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

LETTER ADDRESSED TO THE ADDRESSERS ON THE LATE PROCLAMATION

COULD I have commanded circumstances with a wish, I know not of any that would have more generally promoted the progress of knowledge, than the late Proclamation, and the numerous rotten borough and corporation addresses thereon. They have not only served as advertisements, but they have excited a spirit of inquiry into the principles of government, and a desire to read the "Rights of Man," in places where that spirit and that work were before unknown.

PAINE'S "Letter to the Addressers" exhibits his unusual strength of reasoning, supplemented by genuine satire, wit and humor. It was written toward the end of May, 1792, following the Royal Proclamation against seditious writings which was issued on May 21. It was published as a pamphlet, the proof of which Paine took with him from England to France where he read and corrected it for publication in its present form. Its first publishers, or rather co-publishers, were H. D. Symonds, Paternoster Row, and Thomas Clio Rickman, Upper Marylebone Street. Both publishers were eventually prosecuted for their activity in printing and selling the "Rights of Man."

The Proclamation which provoked this letter warns "all our loving subjects, as they tender their own happiness and that of their posterity, to guard against seditious writings which aim at the subversion of all regular government within this kingdom."

The people of England, wearied and stunned with parties, and alternately deceived by each, had almost

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