22 July 2013

Only Folly and Shame

Thomas Paine, "Anti-Monarchal Essay," in The Writings of Thomas Paine, ed. Moncure Daniel Conway, Vol. III (New York: Putnam, 1906), p. 106:
Whether one jests or reasons, there is found in this idea of hereditary royalty only folly and shame. What then is this office, which may be filled by infants or idiots? Some talent is required to be a simple workman; to be a king there is need to have only the human shape, to be a living automaton. We are astonished when reading that the Egyptians placed on the throne a flint, and called it their king. We smile at the dog Barkouf, sent by an Asiatic despot to govern one of his provinces. But monarchs of this kind are less mischievous and less absurd than those before whom whole peoples prostrate themselves. The flint and the dog at least imposed on nobody. None ascribed to them qualities or characters they did not possess. They were not styled 'Father of the People,' — though this were hardly more ridiculous than to give that title to a rattle-head whom inheritance crowns at eighteen. Better a mute than an animate idol.