Common Sense, British Edition
Of the Origin and Design of Government in General. With Concise Remarks on the English Constitution.
4 COMMON SENSE.
sions, and incapable of producing what it seems to promise,
is easily demonstrated.
Absolute governments, (tho’ the disgrace of human nature)
have this advantage with them, that they are simple ; if the
people suffer, they know the head from which their suffering
springs, know likewise the remedy, and are not bewildered
by a variety of causes and cures. But the constitution of
England is so exceedingly complex, that the nation may
fuffer for years together without being able to discover in
which part the fault lies; some will say in one and some in
another, and every political physician will advise a different
I know it is difficult to get over local or long standing pre-
judices, yet if we will suffer ourselves to examine the com-
ponent parts of the English constitution, we shall find them
to be the base remains of two ancient tyrannies, compounded
with some new republican materials.
First.—The remains of monarchial tyranny in the person
of the king.
Secondly.-- The remains of aristocratical tyranny in the
persons of the peers.
Thirdly.—The new republican materials in the persons
of the commons, on whose virtue depends the freedom of
The two first, by being hereditary, are independent of the
people ; wherefore in a constitutional sense they contribute no-
thing towards the freedom of the state.
To say that the constitution of England is a union
of three powers reciprocally checking each other, is farci-
cal, either the words have no meaning, or they are flat
To say that the commons is a check upon the king, pre-
supposes two things:
First.-- That the king is not to be trusted without being
looked after, or in other words, that a thirst for absolute
power is the natural disease of monarchy.
Secondly.—That the commons, by being appointed for
that purpose, are either wiser or more worthy of confidence
than the crown.
But as the same constitution which gives the commons a
power to check the king by withholding the supplies, gives
afterwards the king a power to check the commons by em-