In Common Sense, Paine first summarises the components of the English Constitution:

  • First. - The remains of monarchical 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 England.

He then follows up with:

The two first, by being hereditary, are independent of the people; wherefore in a constitutional sense they contribute nothing towards the freedom of the state.

What exactly does Paine mean by, "in a constitutional sense they contribute nothing towards the freedom of the state?"

  • Do you know where these citations are taken from? Commented Feb 6, 2018 at 8:26
  • Directly from Common Sense.
    – QMord
    Commented Feb 6, 2018 at 20:10
  • 1
    You mean you have a printed version floating around? It might be a good idea to indicate section headings so the citations are easier to find if someone is interested in some context. Commented Feb 7, 2018 at 8:09

2 Answers 2


The act of governing a free society has to involve a negotiation between the will of the governed and the will of the governing. Because the first two come into their positions without regard for the will of the governed and do not have to concern themselves with the will of the governed (at least not by law) restricting their governing actions, they do not participate in this negotiation of the wills. So the do not contribute to the governing of a free state.

  • Is this different from the answer given four years ago? Commented Feb 6, 2018 at 8:29
  • @Trilarion, can you define "different"? If it explains the same idea, but differently, is it different? What if the idea itself is so simple (and some may think it is) that it needs no explanation? Would any explanation be a restatement of the idea (and not different from the idea itself) because it communicates the same concept albeit with different words? Commented Feb 6, 2018 at 8:37
  • Different as in conveying more information. Using different words to explain the same things if not done much better looks a bit like waste of time. Don't get me wrong. Of course you can answer. No problem. Commented Feb 6, 2018 at 9:06
  • I actually prefer this answer and appreciate your input Dmitry. Dmitry's answer converges a little bit more, I think, on Paine's intent; the means by which the aristocracy and monarchy obtain their position sets them outside of what would be implied by a constitution.
    – QMord
    Commented Feb 6, 2018 at 20:19

They rule without responsibility. They subject the state to their own whim and interests, therefore obstructing it in its role of fulfilling the constitution. The state should be free to enforce public interest, which is what the constitution warrants.

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