The Enlightenment, without doubt, brought many clashes between ancient and modern traditions.

Perhaps one of the most important of these clashes was political. Since ancient times, the world had been prevalently governed by some form of monarchy. During this period, the traditional government of monarchy was challenged by the form of a republic. Perhaps one of the best examples of this clash is the American Revolution. A republic was by no means a new form of government, but at no other time had the clash been so significant. Small pockets of republicans had been active in Britain, but the authority of monarchs was still absolute. Perhaps monarchy had its place in the past, but in the Enlightenment many thinkers, such as Thomas Paine, believed it was time for change. The idea of monarchy became both outdated and unnecessary during the Enlightenment, marking the decline of the age of kings and the dawn of a new age in politics. During this period and today, it is more desirable to be governed by laws of our own making than those of a monarch. The origin of government is an important factor in proving a republic superior to a monarchy. Thomas Paine, through his theory on the origin of government, simultaneously disproves the natural claim and validity of monarchy. In the beginning “let us suppose a small number of persons” (Paine, 3) settled somewhere. These people “represent the first peopling of any country” (3). In this “state of natural liberty” (3), these people would come together to form a society. They would do this for a “thousand motives” (3), such as seeking “assistance and relief of another” (3). Two men are stronger than one, and two heads are better than one, so naturally men would come together to be able to do more. This is a society: everyone working towards a common want. Paine writes that it is important that we distinguish the difference between society and government (2). In a society, everyone lives in camaraderie, doing (as Plato would say) their own thing. In pursuing their self-interest everyone would also contribute to the wellbeing of the


society. For example, a hunter gathers food while others build shelter. At the end of the day both the hunter and the builders have food in their bellies and a roof over their head. It is through this mutual relationship, or society, that people are able to accumulate more property. Since selfinterest is without a doubt motivating— if not the sole motivating factor for humans—then it is only natural that some individuals would take the property of others. Since loss of property is undesirable, the society will install a government as a preventative measure. To create a government requires resources, so men “surrender…part of [their] property to furnish the needs of protection for the rest” (3): taxation. In creating this government each individual in the society also gives up his own prerogative and subjects himself to the authority of the government. In doing so, each man would be punished for his abuse of the law. Given this, we can see that “security [is] the true design and end of government” (3). The purpose of government is not questioned by Paine, but rather how this purpose is attained. It is from this question that many forms of government are created. Autocracy, monarchy, democracy, timocracy, aristocracy and oligarchy are just a few of many forms of government. Each form of government has its own theory to “insure [security]…with the least expence and greatest benefit” (3). People, motivated by self-interest, would want security for their property at the smallest personal cost. Although societies choose different forms of government, Paine argues that naturally the most profitable form of government is a republic. Paine derives this “form of government from a principle in nature” (5). The society in which we previously discussed will establish a republic-like government. This is because the people in a republic “will mutually and naturally support each other” (5). A republic is able to provide security at the least expense because it is simple (5). “[T]he more simple any thing is, the less liable it is to be disordered” (5), likewise, it will be simple to repair. A monarchy is also simple,


but unfortunately does not always come with the least expense. On one hand, a republic can function with a bare minimum of expense. On the other hand, a monarchy may require more. Under the right circumstances, a monarchy can appear superior to a republic. Theoretically, a king can provide security to a society at the least expense of property, but seldom does this occur. There is nothing to prevent a king or ruler from corruption, opening “a door to the foolish, the wicked and the improper” (15). Because the ruler is the supreme authority, he is irreproachable. It is because the “thirst for absolute power is the natural disease of monarchy” (6) that monarchy is inferior to a republic. History itself proves that more kings have been hated rather than loved. For example: “England…hath known some few good monarchs, but groaned beneath a much larger number of bad ones” (13). Not all kings are suitable to rule, but because they “look upon themselves [as] born to reign, and others to obey, [they] soon grow insolent” (15). Any criticism of their rule, despite evidence, would be inconceivable to most kings. This is because “their minds are…poisoned by importance” (15) that they—“selected from the rest of mankind” (15) by divine right—can never be wrong. This ignorance is the result of a lifetime of brainwashing. A king is most susceptible to brainwashing during his most youthful and elderly years. “In both these cases the public becomes prey to every miscreant, who can tamper successfully with the follies either of age or infancy” (15). It is very easy to manipulate a young king, and possibly even easier to manipulate an elderly king with mental-stability issues. Along with being too open to corruption and manipulation, it is easy to see that monarchy is also a catalyst rather than an impediment of war. According to Paine, it is a common misconception that monarchy prevents civil war. For many people, the king would act as the glue that holds the country together. This misconception “is the most barefaced falsity ever imposed on mankind” (15). Paine cites the “whole history of England” (15) to support his assertion. Over


thirty-five kings “have reigned in that…kingdom…in which time there have been…no less than eight civil wars and nineteen rebellions” (15). Instead of holding a country together, “monarchy…[has] laid…the world in blood and ashes” (15). Due to a series of checks and balances within a republic, corruption, manipulation and war are not so easily accomplished. This is further proof of a republic’s superiority. The origin of government also brings into question the validity of monarchy. During the time of the Enlightenment, the world had scarcely known anything other than monarchy. It is because this form of government is archaic that people habitually accept it. Paine addresses this problem by saying that, “[A] long habit of not thinking a thing wrong, gives it a superficial appearance of being right” (1). The common misconception about monarchs is that they were placed in their position by God. ‘Divine right’ rendered generations of monarchs absolute rulers since no one can question God. Paine instead questions the claim of divine right by monarchs, pointing to some passages of the Bible that “have been smoothly glossed over in monarchical governments” (9). These anti-monarchial passages refer to the declination of Gideon in the book of Judges and the crowning of Saul in the first book of Samuel. In each account monarchy is frowned upon by God himself. Through God’s “protest against monarchial government” (12) it is clear that God had another plan in mind, a plan that Paine describes as a republic. With monarchy denounced by God, what about monarchs? All monarchs, for some reason, have become “distinguished like some new species” (9), an idea that is totally and utterly wrong. Since all people were “originally equals” (12), it is doubtful that “kings in the world…have…an honorable origin” (13). Paine asserts that if you trace ‘royal’ lineage back far enough, we would find “nothing better than the…ruffian of some…gang” (13). There is no doubt that God is capable of selecting the best kings, but never did He choose by hereditary means. Saul was


chosen by God (1 Samuel 9:16) but then David, the next king of Israel, was not related to him. This is proof that God did not select kings based on heredity alone, “for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7). God did not choose monarchy as the best form of government and most certainly did not choose hereditary succession as the sole means to select kings. Monarchy and hereditary succession “hath no parrallel in or out of scripture” (14), making the claim of divine right by most monarchs a down right lie. This is not to say that all monarchy is bad, or that the world would have always been better without it. We cannot forget that nearly everything leading up to the Enlightenment was a result, or at least highly influenced by both good and bad monarchs. Monarchy may have had its time, but that relevance has long since passed. In a world of violence and fear, it is no wonder that the people of Israel looked for a king to “fight [their] battles” (1 Samuel 8:20). The rule of a king may have been necessary in times where education and literacy were lacking. Giving the king the choice of what was best is more favorable than the decisions of the uneducated. During the Enlightenment it became very clear that the age of kings had reached its end. Literacy and education reached new heights and thus the common people were ready to make their own decisions. These decisions left us with today’s forms of government, in which the majority of people would agree that the law should indeed be king.

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