Front Page Titles (by Subject) XII.: TO THE ATTORNEY GENERAL, ON THE PROSECUTION AGAINST THE SECOND PART OF RIGHTS OF MAN. - The Writings of Thomas Paine, Vol. III (1791-1804)
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XII.: TO THE ATTORNEY GENERAL, ON THE PROSECUTION AGAINST THE SECOND PART OF RIGHTS OF MAN. - Thomas Paine, The Writings of Thomas Paine, Vol. III (1791-1804) 
The Writings of Thomas Paine, Collected and Edited by Moncure Daniel Conway (New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1894). Vol. 3.
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TO THE ATTORNEY GENERAL, ON THE PROSECUTION AGAINST THE SECOND PART OF RIGHTS OF MAN.1
11th of November, 1st Year of the Republic. [1792.]
Sir,—As there can be no personal resentment between two strangers, I write this letter to you, as to a man against whom I have no animosity.
You have, as Attorney General, commenced a prosecution against me, as the author of Rights of Man. Had not my duty, in consequence of my being elected a member of the National Convention of France, called me from England, I should have staid to have contested the injustice of that prosecution; not upon my own account, for I cared not about the prosecution, but to have defended the principles I had advanced in the work.
The duty I am now engaged in is of too much importance to permit me to trouble myself about your prosecution: When I have leisure, I shall have no objection to meet you on that ground; but, as I now stand, whether you go on with the prosecution, or whether you do not, or whether you obtain a verdict, or not, is a matter of the most perfect indifference to me as an individual. If you obtain one, (which you are welcome to if you can get it,) it cannot affect me either in person, property, or reputation, otherwise than to increase the latter; and with respect to yourself, it is as consistent that you obtain a verdict against the Man in the Moon as against me; neither do I see how you can continue the prosecution against me as you would have done against one of your own people, who had absented himself because he was prosecuted; what passed at Dover proves that my departure from England was no secret.1
My necessary absence from your country affords the opportunity of knowing whether the prosecution was intended against Thomas Paine, or against the Right of the People of England to investigate systems and principles of government; for as I cannot now be the object of the prosecution, the going on with the prosecution will shew that something else was the object, and that something else can be no other than the People of England, for it is against their Rights, and not against me, that a verdict or sentence can operate, if it can operate at all. Be then so candid as to tell the Jury, (if you choose to continue the process,) whom it is you are prosecuting, and on whom it is that the verdict is to fall.1
But I have other reasons than those I have mentioned for writing you this letter; and, however you may choose to interpret them, they proceed from a good heart. The time, Sir, is becoming too serious to play with Court prosecutions, and sport with national rights. The terrible examples that have taken place here, upon men who, less than a year ago, thought themselves as secure as any prosecuting Judge, Jury, or Attorney General, now can in England, ought to have some weight with men in your situation. That the government of England is as great, if not the greatest, perfection of fraud and corruption that ever took place since governments began, is what you cannot be a stranger to, unless the constant habit of seeing it has blinded your senses; but though you may not chuse to see it, the people are seeing it very fast, and the progress is beyond what you may chuse to believe. Is it possible that you, or I, can believe, or that reason can make any other man believe, that the capacity of such a man as Mr. Guelph, or any of his profligate sons, is necessary to the government of a nation? I speak to you as one man ought to speak to another; and I know also that I speak what other people are beginning to think.
That you cannot obtain a verdict (and if you do, it will signify nothing) without packing a Jury, (and we both know that such tricks are practised,) is what I have very good reason to believe, I have gone into coffee-houses, and places where I was unknown, on purpose to learn the currency of opinion, and I never yet saw any company of twelve men that condemned the book; but I have often found a greater number than twelve approving it, and this I think is a fair way of collecting the natural currency of opinion. Do not then, Sir, be the instrument of drawing twelve men into a situation that may be injurious to them afterwards. I do not speak this from policy, but from benevolence; but if you chuse to go on with the process, I make it my request to you that you will read this letter in Court, after which the Judge and the Jury may do as they please. As I do not consider myself the object of the prosecution, neither can I be affected by the issue, one way or the other, I shall, though a foreigner in your country, subscribe as much money as any other man towards supporting the right of the nation against the prosecution; and it is for this purpose only that I shall do it.1
As I have not time to copy letters, you will excuse the corrections.
P.S. I intended, had I staid in England, to have published the information, with my remarks upon it, before the trial came on; but as I am otherwise engaged, I reserve myself till the trial is over, when I shall reply fully to every thing you shall advance.
Read to the Jury by the Attorney General, Sir Archibald Macdonald, at the trial of Paine, December 18, 1792, which resulted in his outlawry.—Editor.
See Chapter VIII. of this volume.—Editor.
In reading the letter in court the Attorney General said at this point: “Gentlemen, I certainly will comply with this request. I am prosecuting both him and his work; and if I succeed in this prosecution, he shall never return to this country otherwise than in vinculis, for I will outlaw him.”—Editor.
In reading this letter at the trial the Attorney interspersed comments. At the phrase, “Mr. Guelph and his profligate sons,” he exclaimed: “This passage is contemptuous, scandalous, false, cruel. Why, gentlemen, is Mr. Paine, in addition to the political doctrines he is teaching us in this country, to teach us the morality and religion of IMPLACABILITY? Is he to teach human creatures, whose moments of existence depend upon the permission of a Being, merciful, long-suffering, and of great goodness, that those youthful errors from which even royalty is not exempted, are to be treasured up in a vindictive memory, and are to receive sentence of irremissible sin at His hands.... If giving me pain was his object he has that hellish gratification.” Erskine, Paine’s counsel, protested in advance against the reading of this letter (of which he had heard), as containing matter likely to divert the Jury from the subject of prosecution (the book). Lord Kenyon admitted the letter.—Editor.