Paine asserts that mankind was originally in a state of equality, and, therefore, present inequalities must have been brought about by some circumstance. Paine says that a common distinction that lacks any natural or religious basis, is the division between kings and their subjects. This distinction, unlike those between male and female or good and evil, is not one "of heaven," and Paine wishes to inquire into its origin and its consequences.

Originally, Paine says, there were no kings in the world. Then, the ancient Jews copied the custom from the "heathens" who surrounded them. This was a grave mistake, and Paine maintains that in establishing a king for themselves, the Jews sinned. Man is supposed to have only God ruling over him, and to introduce a king, who in ruling over the people is like a God, is a grave misdeed. Eventually, Paine says, the Jewish people asked the prophet Samuel for a king. Samuel attempted dissuade the people, but they insisted that they wanted to have a King like the other nations, and God assented, even though he thought it evil that the people should want someone other than God to rule over them.

Having considered the biblical origin of monarchy, Paine concludes that it is a practice begun in sinfulness. The many pages of scriptural evidence make it clear that God stands in opposition to monarchy. Paine moves on to attack the notion of the hereditary succession of the monarchy. Paine argues that, since all men are born equal, no man could have the right to establish his family as forever presiding over others. Even if a person deserves certain honors, his children may not deserve them, and that person has no right to pass those honors on.

Paine also observes that the recent kings of England have mostly been bad, which he says should indicate, even to those who favor hereditary succession, that the present line of kings does not exercise legitimate power.

Paine wonders where the power of kings originally comes from, and decides that this power is always based on one of three things: election, random selection, or usurpation. Paine says that if a king is chosen by election, this means all future kings should be chosen in the same way, and if the king usurped his throne, then the entire reign is illegitimate. Any way you look at it, hereditary succession is not valid. Paine adds that hereditary succession brings other evils with it. For example, people who see themselves as born into an elite existence are often "ignorant and unfit." Lastly, Paine refutes the theory that hereditary succession reduces civil wars, as there have been at least eight civil wars and nineteen rebellions in Britain's history. Monarchy and hereditary succession, Paine concludes have produced nothing in the world but bad governance and bloodshed.


To the contemporary reader, Paine's slogging through mounds of biblical evidence might seem less interesting and less relevant, but in Paine's time, the bible shaped opinions on most matters. It was not uncommon to believe that kings ruled by divine right, and for this reason, many were hesitant to revolt against a King—after all, if the king's power was genuinely divine, a revolt against the king was akin to a revolt against God. Paine tries to undercut this line of thinking by attacking it on its own terms, and presenting Biblical passages that reject the idea of a divinely appointed monarchy. In this case, Paine presents an arsenal of Biblical evidence to show that monarchy is neither a natural nor a preferable institution.