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In Thomas Paine's Common Sense he says:

Most wise men, in their private sentiments, have ever treated hereditary right with contempt; yet it is one of those evils, which when once established is not easily removed; many submit from fear, others from superstition, and the more powerful part shares with the king the plunder of the rest.

What superstitions did the English people hold that lead them to submit to the hereditary elite?

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That the ruling hierarchy was appointed by God was one, in any case. –  Lennart Regebro Feb 20 at 19:58
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possible hint: google "Thomas Paine" and "religion" ... –  Drux Feb 24 at 9:44

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up vote 2 down vote accepted

There's a good chance this is referring to the philosophy known as The Divine Right of Kings. The general gist of this is that kings are essentially appointed by God, and thus answerable only to Him. A corollary would be that any attempt to depose a king is a violation of the will of God, and thus sacrilegious.

Supposedly King James I of England was a big fan of this theory. By the time of The Glorious Revolution (1688, so only a generation or so earlier), it was distinctly out of favor in England. This might have made it a really effective strawman for Thomas Paine.

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You could also call the supposition that aristocratic 'blue' blood was better than anyone thus justifying their privilege another superstition and one that an American might be more inclined to take issue with right before the Revolution. It wasn't King James I that was the problem, but the entire English ruling class, founded on the aristocrats.

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