Melville’s Billy Budd: a Commentary on Burke vs. Paine?

 Paine Burke

Paine (left) wrote Rights of Man as a dagger against Burke’s Reflections on the Revolution in France

When I began reading Billy Budd, I established a literary and apolitical mindset, but it was an admittedly weak one that could not withstand Melville’s torrent of political references. For example, Melville named Billy’s merchant ship Rights-of-Man, which he left to board a man-of-war called Bellipotent (the names could not be more politically provocative). Because of my intimacy with both Thomas Paine’s The Rights of Man and Edmund Burke’s Reflections on the Revolution in France, I kept both men’s philosophies in mind as I read. Their opposing books, following the French Revolution, became the bases of classical liberalism and modern conservatism. In my opinion, Melville uses Billy Budd to glorify Paine’s liberal view and humiliate Burke’s conservative one.

Before explaining how their relative political philosophies fit into this story, I want to summarize briefly Burke’s and Paine’s worldviews. Burke’s Reflections emphasized the importance of traditional institutions (like church and monarchy) and the rule of law in society. According to Burke, society must run according to written law, however unjust that law may seem. Burke claimed that natural rights did not exist unless they were established by law, and only a change in the law could enable them to be practiced. Burke believed that people needed a legal ruler. In The Rights of Man, Paine exhibited enlightenment views such as individual rights inherent to human existence, peace, freedoms of expression and action, low taxation, and republicanism. According to Paine, society must run according to natural law. He claimed that it was dutiful to break unjust or unnatural laws. Paine believed that people should rule themselves.

Captain Vere shares Burke’s strict adherence to the rule of law, despite its probable injustice. Vere says, “Our vowed responsibility is this: That however pitilessly that law may operate in any instances, we nevertheless adhere to it and administer it” (2510).

Vere also holds Burke’s traditional belief that the people need a ruler. Vere says, “The people have native sense; most of them are familiar with our naval usage and tradition; and how would they take it [mitigating Budd’s penalty]? Even could you explain to them—which our official position forbids—they, long molded by arbitrary discipline, have not that kind of intelligent responsiveness that might qualify them to comprehend and discriminate” (2511).

The same tone expressed here by Vere is consistent with Burke’s Reflections. Burke believed it a bad policy to ever circumvent the law (even in a difficult case such as Budd’s), because he believed the law made people habitually virtuous, and that if the law was not enforced, the people’s habit of virtue would be broken. According to Burke, people are not intrinsically good, but have inherited a system of law and religion that molds them to be good. To undermine the structure of the inherited system, then, is also to risk losing the inherited goodness of the people (this logic also plays out in Vere’s mind, as seen above). To Burke, there are no natural laws; laws are made by men, not nature. This opposes Paine’s views that natural laws exist and should be recognized, and that people have an inherent affinity for natural laws, which gives people natural virtue.

A fundamental difference between the dueling English thinkers that Melville must have known: Paine believes man is intrinsically virtuous and Burke believes man is intrinsically vicious. Melville portrays Billy and Claggart, the master-at arms, as having beliefs parallel to these. Claggart is angry and puzzled by the unsophisticated righteousness of Billy’s character, and later, Billy is as shocked and enraged by Claggart’s evil lie. Is Claggart not like Burke–is Billy not like Paine, in their expectations of others? Claggart and Burke expect vice; Billy and Paine expect virtue. It is no coincidence to Melville that each expected from the other that which they harbored within themselves. Melville describes Billy as good and Claggart as evil—and not only evil—but abnormally so. “To pass from a normal nature to [Claggart’s] one must cross ‘the deadly space between’,” writes Melville (2488). So not only does Melville suggest that some people are good and some evil; he also suggests that the evil ones are aberrations, and that among these are men like Claggart and Burke.

Even today, Edmund Burke is among the most respected English legal scholars ever, and before writing Reflections, he had earned a reputation as a friend of liberty. Melville explains that Captain Vere was very well-read in political non-fiction. In the cases of both Burke and Vere, there is mystery as to why such educated and liberal-minded men as they were would favor law over right. Many of Burke’s critics believed that he was ambitiously hoping to win a sizable pension from the king when he wrote Reflections, and George III expressed his admiration for the book. In Billy Budd, when Vere dies, we learn also of his secret ambition. Melville writes of Vere, “Unhappily he was cut off too early for the Nile and Trafalgar. The spirit that ‘spite its philosophic austerity may yet have indulged in the most secret of all passions, ambition, never attained to the fullness of fame” (2521).

I actually see Melville’s Billy Budd as a fictional continuation of Paine’s arguments in The Rights of Man. To illustrate this, I will present a series of quotes within the two works in which Melville seems to echo Paine’s words:

On war contractors:

Paine: “That there are men in all nations who get their living by war, and by keeping up the quarrels of nations, is as shocking as it is true.”

Melville: “war contractors (whose gains, honest or otherwise, are in every land an anticipated portion of the harvest of death)” (2515).
On God and injustice:

Paine: “The name of the Creator ought not to be introduced to witness the degradation of his creation.”

Melville: “It was noted at the time [of Budd’s execution], and remarked upon afterwards, that in this final scene the good man [chaplain] evinced little or nothing perfunctory. Brief speech indeed he had with the condemned one, but the genuine Gospel was less on his tongue than in his aspect and manner towards him.”
On first principles:

Paine: “It is unnatural that a pure stream should flow from a foul fountain.”

Melville: “The Mutiny Act, War’s child, takes after the father.” (1511).
On monarchy:

Paine: “We must shut our eyes against reason, we must basely degrade our understanding, not to see the folly of what is called monarchy.”

Melville: “How can we adjudge to summary and shameful death a fellow creature innocent before God, and whom we feel to be so?—Does that state it aright? You sign sad assent. Well, I too feel that, the full force of that. It is Nature. But do these buttons that we wear attest that our allegiance is to Nature? No, to the King” (2509).

Billy Budd, as a whole, may be viewed as a story against war. If not for war, Billy would never have left his peaceful trading ship, and the awful series of events that make up the drama of the story would never have occurred. Melville’s antiwar message echoes the sentiments of Paine, who writes, “Man is not the enemy of man, but through the medium of a false system of government.” This follows from Paine’s belief that men are virtuous absent of law. Burke would never agree to such a statement, for it is his belief that man is naturally the enemy of man, but that his warring nature is restricted by the rule of law.

Another similarity is the way in which contemporary society remembered Billy Budd and Thomas Paine. Both were heroes who the newspapers called villains. Both were publicly ridiculed and lied about. Paine’s contemporaries called him—though he professed his belief in God—a blasphemer and an atheist, and a seditious agitator. Melville presented newspaper stories that incorrectly portrayed Billy Budd as a mutinous criminal. Paine died in impoverished obscurity—hated by the very multitudes who once shared his revolutionary spirit—despite his magnanimous contributions to society. On a smaller scale, Billy perished in much the same way.

Melville closes by writing, “The above, appearing in a publication now long ago superannuated and forgotten, is all that hitherto has stood in human record to attest what manner of men respectively were John Claggart and Billy Budd” (2522). One cannot help but wonder if he is not also talking about the manner of men that were Edmund Burke and Thomas Paine.

The conservative views of following the law to the letter and believing in intrinsic evil are supposed to seem unjust in Billy Budd, because Melville favors the liberal view. Whether or not the debates between Burke and Paine inspired this story, only Melville knows for sure, but the similarities are compelling.

Works referenced:

Burke, Edmund. Reflections on the Revolution in France. New York: Oxford University
Press. 1993

Paine, Thomas. The Rights of Man. Rights of Man and Common Sense. New York: Alfred A. Knopf (Everyman’s Library), 1994.

All page numbers cited from the following work:

Reidhead, Julia, Ed. The Norton Anthology of American Literature. Melville, Herman. Billy Budd. Seventh Edition. Volume B. 1820 – 1865. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2007.

The Iraq War, in the tradition of Jonathan Swift

Iraqi prisoners

Before reading:

Read Swift’s “A Modest Proposal”. This will help you understand the title and the tone.
http://www.uoregon.edu/~rbear/modest.html
Watch this:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lFptybbietQ
Intellectuals will understand the nature of this piece without explanation, and those readers who do not will find themselves inspired to defend the Iraqi people, which the media has taught them are subhuman.
It is satirical.  It is supposed to be disgusting.  My aim is to help the disgusted American reader, by forcing the reader to view Iraqis as humans, which is what they are.

The fundamentalist factions of Islam and Christianity have such similar social goals regarding women, substances, arts, sciences, and sex, that I have often wondered why the two don’t join forces against socially liberal ideas. These factions are almost invariably better armed and more passionate than liberals, and could together defeat and rule their pusillanimous counterparts within weeks. Instead of joining forces, however, they have become brothers at arms, and because the Christian faction “represents” my nation, I submit a modest proposal, hoping it will teach U.S. rulers how to maximize the economic productivity of their otherwise wasteful war (beyond the apparent strategy of stealing oil).

By some counts, our war has extinguished more than one million souls in Iraq, many of them young and–aside from bullet and/or blast wounds–relatively healthy. A show of hands reveals that many of the million dead terrorists (or terrorist sympathizers) have suffered severed limbs or crushed skulls, but that a large percentage of their torsos remain intact.

Let us modestly assume that–subtracting infants, the aged, and the unusable–we have produced 300,000 employable human torsos in Iraq, and we have let them all decay to waste. This is tragic when we consider that many die on transplant waiting lists in the United States each year, and that there are only 107,213 Americans on all such lists today. To the list registrants and their families, there can be no sufficient reason why the bodies of our enemies should not have been harvested for useful organs. We know our enemies are evil, but we are well aware that the corruption resides in their minds–not in their hearts, livers, lungs or kidneys–so let us use their organs productively.

We know that many of those who die waiting for transplants are waiting for new livers. This is where our habit of killing Islamofascists in defense of freedom will be uniquely helpful. The backward people of the Islamic world are discouraged from consuming alcohol, and have outlawed its use in many places, which makes their livers pristine replacements for those of good, freedom-loving, beer-drinking Americans.

Many liberals–and even some weak-hearted conservative Americans–are saddened by the innocent-looking eyes of Iraqi children, but I assure you, we should feel no remorse for the children we have incidentally killed. First, we must face the reality that the people we are fighting are peculiarly wicked and–even as children–believe that freedom-loving people deserve death. Moreover, I understand that the children will be very useful to us (given that they are dead). There are certain areas of the body in which a transplant from a child is preferable to one from an adult. Corneal transplants are a perfect example.

Given that our toll of useful corpses nearly triples our conventional need for them, and that we have been assured, “my friends, there will be more wars,” it is only appropriate–for the sake of production–that some unconventional uses for dead terrorists (or terrorist sympathizers) be explored.

For example: intestine. Of the 107,213 on the organ transplant waiting list, only 236 are waiting for intestine, which naturally brings us to wonder what is to be done with all of the extra gut. Gut has a variety of productive uses, and its excess promises to be of great use to American society. It can be fashioned into a tough string for musical instruments or tennis racquets. It is a source of rennet, which is used for the production of cheese. It can be used to case sausages. With all the possible uses of gut employed, we will be able to minimize the waste of Islamic intestine.

The use of human remains is not my area of expertise, and I hope and trust it never will be, but I am sure our government’s scientists will find a number of uses–known and yet unknown–for leftover Iraqi flesh. This new resource will be undoubtedly welcomed by the struggling United States economy.

The management of the war has also given us overseas prisons filled with terrorists. Of such prisons and their occupants, we are told, “my friends, there are some bad people down there,” and this is undoubtedly true. If the people in our government’s secret prisons were not obviously guilty terrorists, they would never have been arrested and detained by our benevolent military forces.

Currently, the scoundrels in our overseas prisons are a drain on the American economy, but this effect can be reversed. Because we know that their cases will never be formally tried, and that they will remain in these prisons indefinitely, we are fools to let them age wastefully. They are terrorists. They are guilty. They are fanatics. They cannot be rehabilitated. They are not getting out, ever. They are, for all intents and purposes, already dead. It is torturous beyond measure for a person to live endlessly in confinement this way, so it is with the utmost mercy that we should kill them humanely, and harvest their remains. This is the only way for them to become productive members (or–pardoning the pun–dismembers) of society. Because of their religious beliefs, a number of them are begging for death, so I am merely suggesting that we fulfill their requests.

Given our economic strife, and the necessity for our war despite its hefty price tag (not to mention the irrefutable sense of what I have proposed), there can be little doubt that these suggestions will be taken into serious consideration by our elected deciders in Washington. I believe, through sincere reason and revelation, that the measures I have proposed will help the United States win its war against evil, and thus they will help ensure that good people always prevail.

I hate to keep bashing “educators” but…

Notes from a university political science course, in which we were being taught about ideologies:

  • Libertarianism
    • “liberty from government control”
    • Opposes laws that limit drug use, abortion, speed limits, seatbelts, pollution control
    • Foreign policy focus on isolationism (troops @ home for only defense)
    • Different tenets disliked by conservatives and liberals
      • Conservatives dislike disrespect for traditional values
      • Liberals don’t like that it does away with social programs”

Given that I consider myself mostly libertarian, I was more than a little surprised to learn that my main goals are legalizing drugs, ending all traffic laws, killing babies, halting all trade with “threatening” countries, spreading disrespect for traditional values, and destroying the environment. I thought my main goals were economic freedom, self-reliance, and maximizing individual choices, but those broader and more important subjects did not even make it into the discussion. Unfortunately, in order to have a “political education” in this country, I only need to remember that libertarians hate seat-belts.  I can remember that, and make an “A” in the class for doing so, but it certainly does not make me any wiser; for some, it may actually have the opposite effect.

Libertarianism values individual liberty, private property and social contracts. My professor will admit that classical liberalism, or laissez-faire liberalism, was the primary philosophy behind America’s founding, and he will admit that he cannot name a difference between libertarianism and classical liberalism, but he cannot bring himself to say that America had a libertarian founding.

I pointed out to my professor that isolationism is not actually a tenet of libertarianism, because isolationism assumes non-intervention (which libertarians support) as well as economic protectionism (which libertarians condemn). I suggested he use the word “non-interventionism” instead of “isolationism,” because libertarians are staunch defenders of uninhibited international trade, and isolationists are very much opposed to uninhibited trade. Realizing his error, but caring more for his coercive power over his students than he cares for their proper understanding of politics, he stumbled to his chalkboard and underlined the word “isolationism,” muttering something about how libertarians oppose aid to struggling countries.

The role of government, as taught in university

welcome to the dark ages

I like studying the arguments of those who disagree with me, mostly because of the proof that they provide, that the American educational system is worthless, even at its highest levels. In my earnest opinion (and I think most would agree), Americans should not spend a penny on anything that is worthless, and they certainly should not be forced to do so.

The modern “progressive” professors, perhaps in different words, are telling me the following consistently: not only is big government a reality, it is preferable to limited government, and it is the proper choice for people in this country–the people need big government. From a slightly related project that I felt worthy of posting here, I give you my response to a major university class on policymaking:

“I was disappointed to learn that the current expansive roles of government, many of which have been stolen from the unsuspecting individual, have become an assumption unworthy of discussion in America’s university setting. Expansive government is accepted among many so-called intellectuals as an unavoidable reality, like the presence of air, or the passage of time–theoretically, these realities can be removed, but there is a dependency in humankind that keeps us from beginning their removals, for fear of suffocation in the case of air, fear of boredom in the case of time, or in the case of removing government excess, fear of choices.

Dependency on government is not a creation of post-Enlightenment wisdom (boldly assuming that such a thing exists); it is ancient and awful, morally corruptive and mentally corrosive. Dependency has locked the door to a vast room called freedom (a room we loved for its superior rewards, despite its pitfalls), and allowed us only to enter a narrow space that seems comfortable to some at first, but is ultimately restrictive to everyone. This narrow space is a high-tech world of limited products, limited jobs, limited entertainment, limited incomes, limited choices, limited words, and even limited thoughts–all limited by the anti-competitive forces that shape this narrow reality, distract the rational human mind with cheap excuses for education, progress and entertainment, and keep locked the door to freedom. Most of government is unnecessary imposition, and its number one priority is to keep those imposed upon from realizing how sorely they are being screwed.

The belief that the role of government is limited to the protection of individual rights and private property is now seen in the “intellectual community” as a primitive ideal; it has been relegated to the rank in the U.S. that it served in numerous fascist and totalitarian regimes. Just as the philosophy that advocates individual liberty, classical liberalism, has been viciously (and correctly) called anti-slavery, anti-monarchy, anti-German, anti-English, anti-Soviet, and anti-Italian in the past, it is today earning the title “anti-American”, not because of its unwavering principles, but because of the disappearance of America’s principles. This is saddening when we realize classical liberalism is the ideal philosophy upon which the country was founded.

“But,” we are told, “democracy allows the people to vote for new roles of government–roles the people want government to assume.” It is as if we are supposed to believe a warped version of history in which, against all evidence to the contrary, the horrific decisions of the masses–from enslavement to inquisition to lynching–are absolved, and the perpetrators are proven wise. I am not buying it.

Progress should not be named for its conformity to public opinion; it comes only in the advancement of individual liberty for every individual party. An increase in market competition can be called progress, as can the emancipation of individuals from bondage, but something like the coercive confiscation of individual property (and by this I am referring to the taxing of an individual’s labor) should never by called progressive. A tax levied on an individual’s income is always restricting to individual progress, whether or not public opinion supports it. Even those who may appear to benefit from the redistribution of printed labor are restricted from production by the realized incentives of laziness. Moreover, the confiscation of individual property (your labor is your property) is precisely what America, in its foundation, was trying to escape and avoid forever.

Big government is old and unnecessary, and America proved it. For hundreds of years the people of England and France tolerated high taxes and endless international conflicts under the “protection” of their kings. Monarchy was popular. It was, in the opinions of the so-called intellectuals of that era, necessary and proper. It seemed good, but it never really was good, was it? People began to realize this, and they became “enlightened.” People will soon become enlightened again about the unnecessary impositions of yet another sour government. History points to a lengthy, violent and impoverishing end to the narrow confines in which Americans suddenly find themselves, as they realize the growing illegitimacy of U.S. democracy, and understand that their democratic choices are only illusions; I hope, however, with faith in the wisdom of good Americans (despite the coercions of their rulers), for a reasoned and rational end to the exponential growth of government, and if I did not believe that were possible, I would not be writing for it, because my pen would be an insufficient weapon for the battle.”

So many reasons to love Thomas Paine

Paine

Thomas Paine was, by some accounts, the most well-read Englishman ever to live. If you are reading this, regardless of who you are, or how many Nobel prizes you have won, you can rest assured that Paine’s education was more complete than your own. When you read his commentaries on money and the role of government, it is difficult to believe that Thomas Paine was one of the most influential members of the liberal movement. I have little doubt that, if Paine were to traverse time and visit America today, and observe the frail philosophy–if it can be called that–which now occupies the title of “liberalism,” he would promptly vomit all over Barack Obama’s shoes.

Here I present Thomas Paine’s wisdom, in so many of his truthful quotes, based on nature and reason. From the spirit of revolution he carried to the American people through Common Sense in 1776, to his unwavering faith in God as expressed in his 1794 work, The Age of Reason, Paine was an indomitable figure in political history, and he would have died for his beliefs (and in many ruling minds of the time should have–he was held or tried for treason in France and England, as well as demonized worldwide for sharing his honest opinions); but Providence, it seemed, would not allow it. He was instrumental in inciting the two greatest revolutions of the Enlightenment (French and American), and worked with all his creative genius to expose both the beauty of Creation and the absurdity of monarchy, hoping through Rights of Man (1791) to incite a third revolution in Great Britain. In his words, which are relative today, as they always will be:

“There are habits of thinking peculiar to different conditions, and to find them out is truly to study mankind.” – Case of the Officers of the Excise

“The cause of America is in a great measure the cause of all mankind.” – Common Sense

“Society in every state is a blessing, but government even in its best state is but a necessary evil; in its worst state an intolerable one; for when we suffer, or are exposed to the same miseries by a government, which we might expect in a country without government, our calamities is heightened by reflecting that we furnish the means by which we suffer.” – Common Sense

“Men who look upon themselves born to reign, and others to obey, soon grow insolent; selected from the rest of mankind their minds are early poisoned by importance; and the world they act in differs so materially from the world at large, that they have but little opportunity of knowing its true interests, and when they succeed to the government are frequently the most ingorant and unfit of any throughout the dominions.” – Common Sense

“The reformation was preceded by the discovery of America, as if the Almighty graciously meant to open a sanctuary to the persecuted in future years, when home should afford neither friendship nor safety.” – Common Sense
“It is repugnant to reason, to the universal order of things, to all examples from the former ages, to suppose, that this continent can longer remain the subject to any external power.” – Common Sense

“It is not in numbers but in unity, that our great strength lies; yet our present numbers are sufficient to repel the force of all the world.” – Common Sense

“Can we but leave posterity with a settled form of government, and independent constitution of its own, the purchase at any price will be cheap.” – Common Sense

“Common sense will tell us, that the power which hath endeavored to subdue us, is of all others the most improper to defend us. Conquest may be effected under the pretence of friendship; and ourselves, after a long and brave resistance, be at last cheated into slavery.” – Common Sense

“The more men have to lose, the less willing are they to venture. The rich are in general slaves to fear, and submit to courtly power with the trembling duplicity of a spaniel.” – Common Sense

“As to religion, I hold it to be the indispensible duty of all government, to protect all conscientious professors thereof, and I know of no other business which government hath to do therewith.” – Common Sense

“Suspicion is the companion of mean souls, and the bane of all good society.” – Common Sense

“Immediate necessity makes many things convenient, which if continued would grow into oppressions. Expedience and right are different things.” – Common Sense

“When we are planning for posterity, we ought to remember that virtue is not hereditary.” – Common Sense

“Men read by way of revenge.” – Common Sense

“He who takes nature for his guide is not easily beaten out of his argument.” – Common Sense

“We have it in our power to begin the world over again.” – Common Sense

“Peace with trade is preferable to war without it.” – Common Sense

“Our plan is peace for ever.” – Common Sense

“Call not coldness of soul, religion; nor put the Bigot in the place of the Christian.” – Common Sense

“And here without anger or resentment I bid you farewell, sincerely wishing, that as men and Christians, ye may always fully and uninterruptedly enjoy every civil and religious right; and be, in your turn, the means of securing it to others; but that the example which ye have unwisely set, of mingling religion with politics, may be disavowed and reprobated by every individual inhabitant of America.” – Common Sense

“These are the times that try men’s souls.” – American Crisis

“Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value.” – American Crisis

“Though the flame of liberty may sometimes cease to shine, the coal can never expire.” – American Crisis

“A right, to be truly so, must be right within itself: yet many things have obtained the name of rights, which are originally founded in wrong. Of this kind are all rights by mere conquest, power or violence.” – Public Good

“It seldom happens that the romantic schemes of extensive dominion are of any service to a government, and never to a people. They assuredly end at last in loss, trouble, division and disappointment.” – Public Good

“Where knowledge is a duty, ignorance is a crime.” – Public Good

“Other revolutions may have originated in caprice, or generated in ambition; but here, the most unoffending humility was tortured into rage, and the infancy of existence made to weep.” – Letter to the Abbe Raynal

“Were it possible we could have known the world when in a state of barbarism, we might have concluded that it never could be brought into the order we now see it.” – Letter to the Abbe Raynal

“The philosopher of one country sees not an enemy in the philosopher of another: he takes his seat in the temple of science, and asks not who sits beside him.” – Letter to the Abbe Raynal

“Our style and manner of thinking have undergone a revolution more extraordinary than the political revolution of our country. We see with other eyes; we hear with other ears; and think with other thoughts, than those we formerly used. We can look back on our own prejudices, as if they had been the prejudices of other people.” – Letter to the Abbe Raynal

“The mind once enlightened cannot again become dark.” – Letter to the Abbe Raynal

“Of more use was one philosopher, though a heathen, to the world, than all the heathen conquerers that ever existed.” – Letter to the Abbe Raynal

“Freedom is destroyed by dependence, and the safety of the state endangered thereby.” – Dissertations on Government, the Affairs of the Bank, and Paper Money

“To hold any part of the citizens of the state, as yearly pensioners on the favour of an assembly, is striking at the root of free elections.” – Dissertations on Government, the Affairs of the Bank, and Paper Money

“Gold and silver are the emissions of nature: paper is the emission of art. The value of gold and silver is ascertained by the quantity which nature has made in the earth. We cannot make that quantity more or less than it is, and therefore the value being dependent upon the quantity, depends not on man. Man has no share in making gold or silver; all that his labours and ingenuity can accomplish is, to collect it from the mine, refine it for use and give it an impression, or stamp it into coin.” – Dissertations on Government, the Affairs of the Bank, and Paper Money

“The only proper use for paper, in the room of money, is to write promissory notes and obligations of payment in specie upon.” – Dissertations on Government, the Affairs of the Bank, and Paper Money

“When an assembly undertake to issue paper as money, the whole system of safety and certainty is overturned, and property set afloat. Paper notes given and taken between individuals as a promise of payment is one thing, but paper issued by an assembly as money is another thing. It is like putting an apparition in the place of a man; it vanishes with looking at it, and nothing remains but the air.” – Dissertations on Government, the Affairs of the Bank, and Paper Money

“Money, when considered as the fruit of many years’ industry, as the reward for labour, sweat and toil, as the widow’s dowry and children’s portion, and as the means of procuring the necessaries and alleviating the afflictions of life, and making old age a scene of rest, has something in it sacred that is not to be sported with, or trusted to the airy bubble of paper currency.” – Dissertations on Government, the Affairs of the Bank, and Paper Money

“The evils of paper have no end. Its uncertain and fluctuating value is continually awakening or creating new schemes of deceit. Every principle of justice is put to the rack, and the bond of society dissolved: the suppression, therefore, of paper money might very properly have been put into the act for preventing vice and immorality.” – Dissertations on Government, the Affairs of the Bank, and Paper Money

“As to the assumed authority of any assembly in making paper money, or paper of any kind, a legal tender, or in other language, a compulsive payment, it is a most presumptuous attempt at arbitrary power. There can be no such power in a republican government: the people have no freedom, and property no security where this practice can be acted: and the committee who shall bring in a report for this purpose, or the member who moves for it, and he who seconds it merits impeachment, and sooner or later may expect it.” – Dissertations on Government, the Affairs of the Bank, and Paper Money

“Of all the various sorts of base coin, paper money is the basest. It has the least intrinsic value of anything that can be put in the place of gold and silver. A hobnail or a piece of wampum far exceeds it. And there would be more propriety in making those articles a legal tender than to make paper so.” – Dissertations on Government, the Affairs of the Bank, and Paper Money

“Nature has provided the proper materials for money, gold and silver, and any attempt of ours to rival her is ridiculous.” – Dissertations on Government, the Affairs of the Bank, and Paper Money

“A body of men holding themselves accountable to nobody ought not to be trusted by anybody.” – Rights of Man

“A single expression, boldly conceived and uttered, will sometimes put a whole company into their proper feelings; and whole nations are acted upon in the same manner.” – Rights of Man

“All the great laws of society are laws of nature.” – Rights of Man

“All the great services that are done in the world are performed by volunteer characters, who accept nothing for them.” – Rights of Man

“Are not conquest and defeat each of the same price, and taxes the never-failing consequence?” – Rights of Man

“By the simple operation of constructing government on the principles of society and the rights of man, every difficulty retires, and all the parts are brought into cordial unison.” – Rights of Man

“Every religion is good that teaches man to be good; and I know of none that instructs him to be bad.” – Rights of Man

“For a nation to love liberty, it is sufficient that she knows it; and to be free, it is sufficient that she wills it.” – Rights of Man

“From a small spark, kindled in America, a flame has arisen, not to be extinguished.” – Rights of Man

“Government is a beast.” – Rights of Man

“Governments now act as if they were afraid to awaken a single reflection in man.” – Rights of Man

“I do not believe that any two men, on what are called doctrinal points, think alike who think at all. It is only those who have not thought that appear to agree.” – Rights of Man

“If the crimes of men were exhibited with their sufferings, stage effect would sometimes be lost, and the audience would be inclined to approve where it was intended they should commiserate.” – Rights of Man

“If the good to be obtained be worthy of a passive, rational, and costless revolution, it would be bad policy to prefer waiting for the calamity that should force a violent one.” – Rights of Man

“If we examine, with attention, into the composition and constitution of man, the diversity of his wants, and the diversity of talents in different men for reciprocally accommodating the wants of each other, his propensity to society, and consequently to preserve the advantages resulting from it, we shall easily discover, that a great part of what is called government is mere imposition.” – Rights of Man

“In the representative system, the reason for everything must publicly appear. Every man is a proprietor in government, because it affects his property. He examines the cost, and compares it with the advantages; and above all, he does not adopt the slavish custom of following what in other governments are called LEADERS.” – Rights of Man

“Independence is my happiness, and I view things as they are, without regard to place or person; my country is the world, and my religion is to do good.” – Rights of Man

“Instead of seeking to reform the individual, the wisdom of a Nation should apply itself to reform the system.” – Rights of Man

“Invention is continually exercised, to furnish new pretences for revenue and taxation. It watches prosperity as its prey, and permits none to escape without a tribute.” – Rights of Man

“It can only be by blinding the understanding of man, and making him believe that government is some wonderful mysterious thing, that excessive revenues are obtained.” – Rights of Man

“It is a general idea, that when taxes are once laid on, they are never taken off.” – Rights of Man

“It is time that nations should be rational, and not be governed like animals, for the pleasure of their riders.” – Rights of Man

“Laws difficult to be executed cannot generally be good.” – Rights of Man

“Lay then the axe to the root, and teach governments humanity. It is their sanguinary punishments which corrupt mankind.” – Rights of Man

“Man has no property in man; neither has any generation a property in the generations which are to follow.” – Rights of Man

“Man is not the enemy of man, but through the medium of a false system of government.” – Rights of Man

“Man will not be brought up with the savage idea of considering his species as his enemy, because the accident of birth gave the individuals existence in countries distinguished by different names.” – Rights of Man

“Man, were he not corrupted by governments, is naturally the friend of man, and human nature is not of itself vicious.” – Rights of Man

“Nations can have no secrets; and the secrets of courts, like those of individuals, are always their defects.” – Rights of Man

“Nations, like individuals, who have long been enemies, without knowing each other, or knowing why, become the better friends when they discover the errors and impositions under which they had acted.” – Rights of Man

“Nothing is to be looked for but what has already happened; and as to reformation, whenever it come, it must be from the nation, and not from government.” – Rights of Man

“Only partial advantages can flow from partial reforms.” – Rights of Man

“Principles must stand on their own merits, and if they are good they certainly will.” – Rights of Man

“Public money ought to be touched with the most scupulous consciousness of honor. It is not the produce of riches only, but of the hard earnings of labor and poverty.” – Rights of Man

“Reason and discussion will soon bring things right, however wrong they may begin.” – Rights of Man

“Reason obeys itself; and ignorance submits to whatever is dictated to it.” – Rights of Man

“Taxes were not raised to carry on wars, but wars were raised to carry on taxes.” – Rights of Man

“That there are men in all nations who get their living by war, and by keeping up the quarrels of nations, is as shocking as it is true; but when those who are concerned in the government of a country, make it their study to sow discord, and cultivate prejudices between nations, it becomes the more unpardonable.” – Rights of Man

“The American constitutions were to liberty, what a grammar is to language: they define its parts of speech, and practically construct them into syntax.” – Rights of Man

“The greatest of all ridiculous things are acted in governments.” – Rights of Man

” Commerce needs no other protection than the reciprocal interest which every nation feels in supporting it.” – Rights of Man

“The instant formal government is abolished, society begins to act. A general association takes place, and common interest produces common security.” – Rights of Man

“The most unprofitable of all commerce is that connected with foreign dominion. To a few individuals it may be beneficial, merely because it is commerce; but to the nation it is a loss. The expense of maintaining dominion more than absorbs the profits of any trade.” – Rights of Man

“The name of the Creator ought not to be introduced to witness the degradation of his creation.” – Rights of Man

“The probability is always greater against a thing beginning, than of proceeding after it has begun.” – Rights of Man

“The right of war and peace is in the nation. Where else should it reside, but in those who are to pay the expense?” – Rights of Man

“There is existing in man, a mass sense lying in a dormant state, and which, unless something excites it to action, will descend with him, in that condition, to the grave.” – Rights of Man

“What at first was plunder, assumed the foster name of revenue.” – Rights of Man

“What inducement has the farmer, while following the plough, to lay aside his peaceful pursuit, and go to war with the farmer of another country?” – Rights of Man

“Whatever is my right as a man, is also the right of another; and it becomes my duty to guarantee, as well as possess.” – Rights of Man

“When governments are at war, the attack is made on the common stock of commerce, and the consequence is the same as if each had attacked his own.” – Rights of Man

“Why do men continue to practice themselves the absurdities they see in others?” – Rights of Man

“Wisdom degenerates in governments as governments increase in age.” – Rights of Man

“It is a dangerous attempt in any government to say to a nation, “thou shalt not read.” – Letter Addressed to the Addressers of the Late Proclamation

“The principles of and conduct of any government must be bad, when that government dreads and startles at discussion, and seeks security by a prevention of knowledge.” – Letter Addressed to the Addressers of the Late Proclamation

“It is error only, and not truth, that shrinks from inquiry.” – Letter Addressed to the Addressers of the Late Proclamation

“Principles have no connection with time, nor characters with names.” – Letter Addressed to the Addressers of the Late Proclamation

“It is only in governments founded on assumption and false principles, that reasoning upon, and investigating systems and principles of government, and showing their several excellencies and defects, are termed libellous and seditious. These terms were made part of the charge brought against Locke, Hampden, and Sydney, and will continue to be brought against all good men, so long as bad governments shall continue.” – Letter Addressed to the Addressers of the Late Proclamation

“If, to expose the fraud and imposition of monarchy, and every species of hereditary government–to lessen the oppression of taxes–to propose plans for the education of helpless infancy, and the comfortable support of the aged and distressed–to endeavour to conciliate nations to each other–to extirpate the horrid practice of war–to promote universal peace, civilization, and commerce–and to break the chains of political superstition, and raise degraded man to his proper rank; –if these things be libellous, let me live the life of a libeller, and let the name LIBELLER be engraved on my tomb.” – Letter Addressed to the Addressers of the Late Proclamation

“I have written a book; and if it cannot be refuted, it cannot be condemned. But I do not consider the prosecution as particularly levelled against me, but against the general right, or the right of every man, of investigating systems and principles of government, and showing their several excellencies or defects.” – Letter Addressed to the Addressers of the Late Proclamation

“Whatever the rights of people are, they have a right to them, and none have a right either to withhold them, or to grant them.” – Letter Addressed to the Addressers of the Late Proclamation

“A thing, moderately good, is not so good as it ought to be. Moderation in temper is always a virtue; but moderation in principle is a species of vice.” – Letter Addressed to the Addressers of the Late Proclamation

“If you now enjoy freedom and happiness, you should be conscious of the reasons for your contentment.” – An Essay for the Use of New Republicans in Their Opposition to Monarchy

“A person educated in the belief that he has a right to command others is inevitably bound by his surroundings to lose all sense of reason and justice.” – An Essay for the Use of New Republicans in Their Opposition to Monarcy

“Why assume an evil solely for the purposes of providing a remedy?” – An Essay for the Use of New Republicans in Their Opposition to Monarchy

“It is our duty as legislators not to spill a drop of blood when our purpose may be effectually accomplished without it.” – Reasons for Preserving the Life of Louis Capet

“I have always strenuously supported the right of every man to his own opinion, however different that opinion might be to mine. He who denies to another this right, makes a slave of himself to his present opinion, because he precludes himself the right of changing it.” – Age of Reason

“All national institutions of churches, whether Jewish, Christian or Turkish, appear to me no other than human inventions, set up to terrify and enslave mankind, and monopolize power and profit.” – Age of Reason

“It is necessary to the happiness of man that he be mentally faithful to himself. Infidelity does not consist in believing, or in disbelieving; it consists in professing to believe what he does not believe.” – Age of Reason

“The commandments carry no internal evidence of divinity with them; they contain some good moral precepts, such as any man qualified to be a lawgiver, or a legislator, could produce himself, without having recourse to supernatural intervention.” – Age of Reason

“That many good men have believed this strange fable, and lived very good lives under that belief (for credulity is not a crime), is what I have no doubt of. In the first place, they were educated to believe it, and they would have believed anything else in the same manner.” – Age of Reason

“Whenever we read the obscene stories, the voluptuous debaucheries, the cruel and torturous executions, the unrelenting vindictiveness, with which more than half the Bible is filled, it would be more consistent that we called it the word of a demon than the Word of God. It is a history of wickedness that has served to corrupt and brutalize mankind; and, for my part, I sincerely detest it as I detest everything that is cruel.” – Age of Reason

“There is not, throughout the whole book called the Bible, any word that describes to us what we call a poet, nor any word which describes what we call poetry. The case is that the word prophet, to which latter times have affixed a new idea, was the Bible word for poet, and the word prophesying meant the art of making poetry. It also meant the art of playing poetry to a tune upon any instrument of music.” – Age of Reason

“Had it been the object of Jesus Christ to establish a new religion, he would undoubtedly have written the system himself, or procured it to be written in his life-time. But there is no publication extant authenticated with his name. All the books called the New Testament were written after his death. He was a Jew by birth and by profession; and he was the Son of God in like manner that every other person is–for the Creator is the Father of All.” – Age of Reason

“Do we want to know that God is? Search not the book called the Scripture, which any human hand might make, but the Scripture called the creation.” – Age of Reason

“As to the Christian system of faith, it appears to me a species of Atheism–a sort of religious denial of God. It professes to believe in a man rather than in God.” – Age of Reason

“Wealth is no proof of moral character; nor poverty of the want of it.” – Dissertation on First Principles of Government

“When all other rights are taken away the right of rebellion is made perfect.” – Dissertation on First Principles of Government

“The moral principle of revolutions is to instruct, not to destroy.” – Dissertation on First Principles of Government

“There are cases in which silence is a loud language.” – Letter to George Washington

Thank you for displaying true liberalism, Tom–not whatever the modern “liberal” wackos espouse today.

Nationalists on the Right, Socialists on the Left, compromise for a planned economy with Muslims in concentration camps

The following was a response to the letter that appears below it, and I share as proof that neoconservatives are a little confused about reality–too much Fox News perhaps.  The writer of this rudimentary stream of consciousness–if it can be called that–is to remain anonymous.  I would not sacrifice a friend for a political disagreement, regardless of his obvious flaws.  My next entry will be a response to this.

Yes, you are crazy. While you may have a long grocery list of complaints, you seem to be ignoring one of the fundamental truths in life; True freedom, and true patriotism, begin with personal responsibility. Personal responsibility means carrying your share of the load. Think on this for some time before you launch into criticism of others. If every one of us did our part, there would be no need for a Nanny State. However, your laundry list is not linked together by any common ideals, except maybe that you poetically copied liberal talking points (which you also lamented, ironic no?). Personally, I find empty liberal rhetoric to be one of the most repulsive things in our society, if you want to attach values to personal interests.

Americans do not incite violence, but we sure do use it when attacked or when necessary. The deaths of our soldiers is very sad and unfortunate, but so would be the deaths of innocent Americans going about their business in any number of potential terrorist targets. If you are so logical, as you espouse in this letter, how can you not link the conflict in Iraq with the absence of terrorist attacks here, or even in Europe (not since London has there been a large attack). Also, being the true defender of freedom that you are, how do you fail to link the concept of personal responsibility into freedom. Whether or not you agree with invading Iraq, we did it. That cannot change. We must take responsibility and help the country rebuild. Please do not respond to this with the typical empty liberal smears about empire building, controlling the Iraqi government, etc, because we are blatantly doing none of that. We have reaped no huge “oil gains” from the war, and we are not telling Iraq how to run their country any more than we bargain with other world governments. We are providing security, both for Iraq to rebuild, and for ourselves.

Further, you are preaching to the choir about the wastes of big government. Take your song and dance to someone who disagrees about high taxes, bad economic policy (in the whole Bear Stearns mess) if you want to enact change. But remember, change always begins at home.

“Iraq is the perfect stage for the start of Jihad” – Osama Bin Laden. Translated: if we win Iraq, the jihad rolls on.

Democrats are not liberals. Republicans are socialists.

No exits!
The word “liberal” has been butchered in this country, almost beyond repair.  Too often, political pundits in America refer to socialistic or collectivistic beliefs as “liberal,” when in fact these beliefs are anything but liberal.  Republicans like to call Democrats “liberal,” as though the charge is somehow dishonorable, when in fact a liberal person is one who defends freedom, and almost no American finds fault in real liberalism, which is the belief in individual freedom and equal opportunity.  The user of the term “liberal” is usually criticizing certain collectivistic aspirations common to the Democrat party, and these goals have nothing to do with being liberal.  When we recognize liberals as defenders of individual freedom, and socialists as activists for the “greater good,” we realize that liberals only act in the absence of freedom, and that socialists must stifle liberalism in order to achieve their goals.  Big-government liberalism–or individualistic socialism–is an akward but frightening monstrosity that has conquered both major political parties in the United States, and it uses irrational beliefs, boundless hope, and the propaganda of patriotism and social welfare to advance its steady march toward imperialism, fascism and collapse.

There are very few liberals in government representing either the Democrat or Republican parties.  It is safe to say that nearly the entire lot of American politicians are socialists, and therefore cannot be considered liberal.  There is little sense in the Republican who calls the Democrat “liberal”; it is the pot calling the kettle periwinkle.  Politicians are almost all socialist “planners,” who talk about freedom to gain political support, but in reality, they harbor fear and disdain for liberalism.

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