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Thomas Paine

Oil painting by Auguste Millière (1880)
Full name Thomas Paine
Born February 9, 1737[1]
Thetford, Norfolk, England, Great Britain
Died June 8, 1809 (aged 72)
New York, NY, U.S.
Era 18th-century philosophy
Region Western Philosophy
School Enlightenment, Liberalism, Radicalism, Republicanism
Main interests Religion, Ethics, Politics

Thomas Paine (February 9, 1737 [O.S. January 29, 1736[1]] – June 8, 1809) was an author, pamphleteer, radical, inventor, intellectual, revolutionary, and one of the Founding Fathers of the United States.[2][3] Born in Thetford, England, Paine emigrated to the British American colonies in 1774 in time to participate in the American Revolution. His principal contributions were the powerful, widely-read pamphlet Common Sense (1776), advocating colonial America's independence from the Kingdom of Great Britain, and The American Crisis (1776–1783), a pro-revolutionary pamphlet series. The historian Saul K. Padover in the biography Jefferson: A Great American's Life and Ideas, refers to Paine as "a corsetmaker by trade, a journalist by profession, and a propagandist by inclination."[4]

Paine greatly influenced the French Revolution. He wrote the Rights of Man (1791), a guide to Enlightenment ideas. Despite not speaking French, he was elected to the French National Convention in 1792. The Girondists regarded him as an ally, so, the Montagnards, especially Robespierre, regarded him as an enemy. In December of 1793, he was arrested and imprisoned in Paris, then released in 1794. He became notorious because of The Age of Reason (1793–94), his book advocating deism, promoting reason and freethinking, and arguing against institutionalized religion and Christian doctrines.[3] He also wrote the pamphlet Agrarian Justice (1795), discussing the origins of property, and introduced the concept of a guaranteed minimum income.

Paine remained in France during the early Napoleonic era, but condemned Napoleon's dictatorship, calling him "the completest charlatan that ever existed".[5] In 1802, at President Jefferson's invitation, he returned to America where he died on June 8, 1809. Only six people attended his funeral as he had been ostracized for his criticisms and ridicule of Christianity.[6]


Early life

Thomas Paine's house in Lewes.

Paine was born February 9, 1737 [O.S. January 29, 1736,[1]] the son of Joseph Pain, or Paine, a Quaker, and Frances (née Cocke), an Anglican, in Thetford, an important market town and coach stage-post, in rural Norfolk, England.[7] Born Thomas Pain, despite claims that he changed his family name upon his emigration to America in 1774,[8] he was using Paine in 1769, whilst still in Lewes, Sussex.[9]

He attended Thetford Grammar School (1744-1749), at a time when there was no compulsory education.[10] At age thirteen, he was apprenticed to his stay-maker father; in late adolescence, he enlisted and briefly served as a privateer,[11] before returning to Britain in 1759. There, he became a master stay-maker, establishing a shop in Sandwich, Kent. On September 27, 1759, Thomas Paine married Mary Lambert. His business collapsed soon after. Mary became pregnant, and, after they moved to Margate, she went into early labour, in which she and their child died.

In July 1761, Paine returned to Thetford to work as a supernumerary officer. In December 1762, he became an excise officer in Grantham, Lincolnshire; in August 1764, he was transferred to Alford, at a salary of £50 per annum. On August 27, 1765, he was fired as an Excise Officer for "claiming to have inspected goods he did not inspect." On July 31, 1766, he requested his reinstatement from the Board of Excise, which they granted the next day, upon vacancy. While awaiting that, he worked as a stay maker in Diss, Norfolk, and later as a servant (per the records, for a Mr. Noble, of Goodman's Fields, and for a Mr. Gardiner, at Kensington). He also applied to become an ordained minister of the Church of England and, per some accounts, he preached in Moorfields.[12]

In 1767, he was appointed to a position in Grampound, Cornwall; subsequently, he asked to leave this post to await a vacancy, thus, he became a schoolteacher in London. On February 19, 1768, he was appointed to Lewes, East Sussex, living above the fifteenth-century Bull House, the tobacco shop of Samuel Ollive and Esther Ollive.

Plaque at the White Hart Hotel, Lewes.

There, Paine first became involved in civic matters, when Samuel Ollive introduced him to the Society of Twelve, a local, élite intellectual group that met semestrally, to discuss town politics. He also was in the influential Vestry church group that collected taxes and tithes to distribute among the poor. On March 26, 1771, at age 34, he married Elizabeth Ollive, his landlord's daughter.

From 1772 to 1773, Paine joined excise officers asking Parliament for better pay and working conditions, publishing, in summer of 1772, The Case of the Officers of Excise, a twenty-one-page article, and his first political work, spending the London winter distributing the 4,000 copies printed to the Parliament and others. In spring of 1774, he was fired from the excise service for being absent from his post without permission; his tobacco shop failed, too. On April 14, to avoid debtor's prison, he sold his household possessions to pay debts. On June 4, he formally separated from wife Elizabeth and moved to London, where, in September, a friend introduced him to Benjamin Franklin, who suggested emigration to British colonial America, and gave him a letter of recommendation. In October, Thomas Paine emigrated from Great Britain to the American colonies, arriving in Philadelphia on November 30, 1774.

He barely survived the transatlantic voyage. The ship's water supplies were bad, and typhoid fever killed five passengers. On arriving at Philadelphia, he was too sick to debark. Benjamin Franklin's physician, there to welcome Paine to America, had him carried off ship; Paine took six weeks to recover his health. He became a citizen of Pennsylvania "by taking the oath of allegiance at a very early period."[13] In January, 1775, he became editor of the Pennsylvania Magazine, a position he conducted with considerable ability.

Paine designed the Sunderland Bridge over the Wear River at Wearmouth, England. It was patterned after the model he made for the Schuylkill River Bridge at Philadelphia in 1787, and the Sunderland arch became the prototype for many subsequent voussoir arches made in iron and steel.[14][15] He also received a British patent for a single-span iron bridge, developed a smokeless candle,[16][17] and worked with inventor John Fitch in developing steam engines.

American Revolution

Common Sense, published in 1776.

Thomas Paine has a claim to the title The Father of the American Revolution because of Common Sense, the pro-independence monograph pamphlet he anonymously published on January 10, 1776; signed "Written by an Englishman", the pamphlet became an immediate success.[18], it quickly spread among the literate, and, in three months, 100,000 copies sold throughout the American British colonies (with only two million free inhabitants), making it a best-selling work in eighteenth-century America.[19] Paine's original title for the pamphlet was Plain Truth; Paine's friend, pro-independence advocate Benjamin Rush, suggested Common Sense instead.

Paine was not expressing original ideas in Common Sense, but rather employing rhetoric as a means to arouse resentment of the Crown. To achieve these ends, he pioneered a style of political writing suited to the democratic society he envisioned, with Common Sense serving as a primary example. Part of Paine's work was to render complex ideas intelligible to average readers of the day, with clear, concise writing unlike the formal, learned style favored by many of Paine's contemporaries.[20]

Common Sense was immensely popular, but how many people were converted to the cause of independence by the pamphlet is unknown.[21] Paine's arguments were rarely cited in public calls for independence, which suggests that Common Sense may have had a more limited impact on the public's thinking about independence than is sometimes believed.[22] The pamphlet probably had little direct influence on the Continental Congress's decision to issue a Declaration of Independence, since that body was more concerned with how declaring independence would affect the war effort.[23] Paine's great contribution was in initiating a public debate about independence, which had previously been rather muted.

Loyalists vigorously attacked Common Sense; one attack, titled Plain Truth (1776), by Marylander James Chalmers, said Paine was a political quack[24] and warned that without monarchy, the government would "degenerate into democracy".[21] Even some American revolutionaries objected to Common Sense; late in life John Adams called it a "crapulous mass." Adams disagreed with the type of radical democracy promoted by Paine, and published Thoughts on Government in 1776 to advocate a more conservative approach to republicanism.

In the early months of the war Paine published The Crisis pamphlet series, to inspire the colonists in their resistance to the British army. To inspire the enlisted men, General George Washington had The American Crisis read aloud to them.[25] The first Crisis pamphlet begins:

These are the times that try men's souls: The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value. Heaven knows how to put a proper price upon its goods; and it would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as freedom should not be highly rated Thomas Paine, The Crisis

In 1777, Paine became secretary of the Congressional Committee on Foreign Affairs. The following year, he alluded to continuing secret negotiation with France in his pamphlets; the resultant scandal and Paine's conflict with Robert Morris eventually led to Paine's expulsion from the Committee in 1779. However, in 1781, he accompanied John Laurens on his mission to France. Eventually, after much pleading from Paine, New York State recognised his political services by presenting him with an estate, at New Rochelle, N.Y., and Paine received money from Pennsylvania and from the U.S. Congress at George Washington's suggestion. During the Revolutionary War, Paine served as an aide to the important general, Nathanael Greene. Paine's later years established him as "a missionary of world revolution."

Funding the American Revolution with Henry and John Laurens:

According to Daniel Wheeler's "Life and Writings of Thomas Paine," Volume 1 (of 10, Vincent & Parke, 1908) p. 26-27: Thomas Paine accompanied Col. John Laurens to France and is credited with initiating the mission. It landed in France in March 1781 and returned to America in August with 2.5 livres in silver, as part of a "present" of 6 million and a loan of 10 million. The meetings with the French king were most likely conducted in the company and under the influence of Benjamin Franklin. Upon return to the United States with this highly welcomed cargo, Thomas Paine and probably Col. Laurens, "positively objected" that General Washington should propose that Congress remunerate him for his services, for fear of setting "a bad precedent and an improper mode."

Thomas Paine statue erected on Prince Street in Bordentown City by the Bordentown Historical Society, New Jersey.

In addition, according to an appreciation by Elbert Hubbard in the same volume (p. 314) "In 1781 Paine was sent to France with Colonel Laurens to negotiate a loan. The errand was successful, and Paine then made influential acquaintances, which were later to be renewed. He organized the Bank of North America to raise money to feed and clothe the army, and performed sundry and various services for the colonies."

Henry Laurens (the father of Col. John Laurens) had been the ambassador to the Netherlands, but he was captured by the British on his return trip there. When he was later exchanged for the prisoner Lord Cornwallis (in late 1781), Paine proceeded to the Netherlands to continue the loan negotiations. There remains some question as to the relationship of Henry Laurens and Thomas Paine to Robert Morris as the Superintendent of Finance and his business associate Thomas Willing who became the first president of the Bank of North America (in Jan. 1782). They had accused Morris of profiteering in 1779 and Willing had voted against the Declaration of Independence. Although Morris did much to restore his reputation in 1780 and 1781, the credit for obtaining these critical loans to "organize" the Bank of North America for approval by Congress in December 1781 should go to Henry or John Laurens and Thomas Paine more than to Robert Morris.

Paine bought his only house in 1783 on the corner of Farnsworth Avenue and Church Streets in Bordentown City, New Jersey, and he lived in it periodically until his death in 1809. This is the only place in the world where Paine purchased real estate.

Rights of Man

In Fashion before Ease; —or,— A good Constitution sacrificed for a Fantastick Form (1793), James Gillray caricatured Paine tightening the stays of Britannia; protruding from his coat pocket is a measuring tape inscribed "Rights of Man".

Having taken work as a clerk after his expulsion by Congress, Paine eventually returned to London in 1787, living a largely private life. However, his passion was again sparked by revolution, this time in France, which he visited in December 1790. Edmund Burke, who had supported the American Revolution, changed his views within the decade, and wrote the critical Reflections on the Revolution in France, partially in response to a sermon by Richard Price, the radical minister of Newington Green Unitarian Church. Many pens rushed to defend the Revolution and the Dissenting clergyman, including Mary Wollstonecraft, who published A Vindication of the Rights of Men only weeks after the Reflections. Paine wrote Rights of Man, an abstract political tract critical of monarchies and European social institutions. He completed the text on January 29, 1791. On January 31, he gave the manuscript to publisher Joseph Johnson for publication on February 22. Meanwhile, government agents visited him, and, sensing dangerous political controversy, he reneged on his promise to sell the book on publication day; Paine quickly negotiated with publisher J.S. Jordan, then went to Paris, per William Blake's advice, leaving three good friends, William Godwin, Thomas Brand Hollis, and Thomas Holcroft, charged with concluding publication in Britain. The book appeared on March 13, three weeks later than scheduled, and sold well.

Undeterred by the government campaign to discredit him, Paine issued his Rights of Man, Part the Second, Combining Principle and Practice in February 1792. It detailed a representative government with enumerated social programs to remedy the numbing poverty of commoners through progressive tax measures. Radically reduced in price to ensure unprecedented circulation, it was sensational in its impact and gave birth to reform societies. An indictment for seditious libel followed while government agents followed Paine and instigated mobs, hate meetings, and burnings in effigy. The authorities aimed, with ultimate success, to chase Paine out of Great Britain and then try him in absentia.

In summer of 1792, he answered the sedition and libel charges thus: "If, to expose the fraud and imposition of monarchy . . . to promote universal peace, civilization, and commerce, and to break the chains of political superstition, and raise degraded man to his proper rank; if these things be libellous . . . let the name of libeller be engraved on my tomb".[26]

Paine was an enthusiastic supporter of the French Revolution, and was granted, along with Alexander Hamilton, George Washington, Benjamin Franklin and others, honorary French citizenship. Despite his inability to speak French, he was elected to the National Convention, representing the district of Pas-de-Calais. He voted for the French Republic; but argued against the execution of Louis XVI, saying that he should instead be exiled to the United States: firstly, because of the way royalist France had come to the aid of the American Revolution; and secondly because of a moral objection to capital punishment in general and to revenge killings in particular.

Regarded as an ally of the Girondins, he was seen with increasing disfavour by the Montagnards who were now in power, and in particular by Robespierre. A decree was passed at the end of 1793 excluding foreigners from their places in the Convention (Anacharsis Cloots was also deprived of his place). Paine was arrested and imprisoned in December 1793.

The Age of Reason

Title page from the first English edition of Part I

Before his arrest and imprisonment in France, knowing that he would probably be arrested and executed, Paine, following in the tradition of early eighteenth-century British deism, wrote the first part of The Age of Reason, an assault on organized "revealed" religion combining a compilation of inconsistencies he found in the Bible with his own advocacy of deism, calling for "free rational inquiry" into all subjects, especially religion. The Age of Reason critique on institutionalized religion resulted in only a brief upsurge in deistic thought in America, but would later result in Paine being derided by the public and abandoned by his friends.[3] In his "Autobiographical Interlude," which is found in The Age of Reason between the first and second parts, Paine writes, "Thus far I had written on the 28th of December, 1793. In the evening I went to the Hotel Philadelphia . . . About four in the morning I was awakened by a rapping at my chamber door; when I opened it, I saw a guard and the master of the hotel with them. The guard told me they came to put me under arrestation and to demand the key of my papers. I desired them to walk in, and I would dress myself and go with them immediately."

Being held in France, Paine protested and claimed that he was a citizen of America, which was an ally of Revolutionary France, rather than of Great Britain, which was by that time at war with France. However, Gouverneur Morris, the American ambassador to France, did not press his claim, and Paine later wrote that Morris had connived at his imprisonment. Paine thought that George Washington had abandoned him, and he was to quarrel with Washington for the rest of his life. Years later he wrote a scathing open letter to Washington, accusing him of private betrayal of their friendship and public hypocrisy as general and president, and concluding the letter by saying "the world will be puzzled to decide whether you are an apostate or an impostor; whether you have abandoned good principles or whether you ever had any."[27]

While in prison, Paine narrowly escaped execution. A guard walked through the prison placing a chalk mark on the doors of the prisoners who were due to be sent to the guillotine on the morrow. He placed a 4 on the door of Paine's cell, but Paine's door had been left open to let a breeze in, because Paine was seriously ill at the time. That night, his other three cell mates closed the door, thus hiding the mark inside the cell. The next day their cell was overlooked. "The Angel of Death" had passed over Paine. He kept his head and survived the few vital days needed to be spared by the fall of Robespierre on 9 Thermidor (July 27, 1794).[28]

Paine was released in November 1794 largely because of the work of the new American Minister to France, James Monroe[29], who successfully argued the case for Paine's American citizenship.[30] In July 1795, he was re-admitted into the Convention, as were other surviving Girondins. Paine was one of only three deputees to oppose the adoption of the new 1795 constitution, because it eliminated universal suffrage, which had been proclaimed by the Montagnard Constitution of 1793.[31] Paine believed that America, under John Adams, had betrayed revolutionary France and so in September 1798 he wrote an article for Le Bien Informé, advising the French government on how best to conquer America.[32]

In 1800, Paine purportedly had a meeting with Napoleon. Napoleon claimed he slept with a copy of Rights of Man under his pillow and went so far as to say to Paine that "a statue of gold should be erected to you in every city in the universe."[33] Paine discussed with Napoleon on how best to invade England and in December 1797 wrote two essays, one of which was pointedly named Observations on the Construction and Operation of Navies with a Plan for an Invasion of England and the Final Overthrow of the English Government,[34] in which he promoted the idea to finance 1000 gunboats to carry a French invading army across the English Channel. In 1804 Paine returned to the subject, writing To the People of England on the Invasion of England advocating the idea.[32]

On noting Napoleon's progress towards dictatorship, he condemned him as: "the completest charlatan that ever existed".[35] Thomas Paine remained in France until 1802, returning to the United States only at President Jefferson's invitation.

Later years

Thomas Paine's monument on North Avenue in New Rochelle, New York.

Paine returned to the U.S. in the early stages of the Second Great Awakening and a time of great political partisanship. The Age of Reason gave ample excuse for the religiously devout to dislike him, and the Federalists attacked him for his ideas of government stated in Common Sense, for his association with the French Revolution, and for his friendship with President Jefferson. Also still fresh in the minds of the public was his Letter to Washington, published six years before his return.

Paine died at the age of 72, at 59 Grove Street in Greenwich Village, New York City on the morning of June 8, 1809. Although the original building is no longer there, the present building has a plaque noting that Paine died at this location. At the time of his death, most American newspapers reprinted the obituary notice from the New York Citizen, which read in part: "He had lived long, did some good and much harm." Only six mourners came to his funeral, two of whom were black, most likely freedmen. The great orator and writer Robert G. Ingersoll wrote:

Thomas Paine had passed the legendary limit of life. One by one most of his old friends and acquaintances had deserted him. Maligned on every side, execrated, shunned and abhorred – his virtues denounced as vices – his services forgotten – his character blackened, he preserved the poise and balance of his soul. He was a victim of the people, but his convictions remained unshaken. He was still a soldier in the army of freedom, and still tried to enlighten and civilize those who were impatiently waiting for his death. Even those who loved their enemies hated him, their friend – the friend of the whole world – with all their hearts. On the 8th of June, 1809, death came – Death, almost his only friend. At his funeral no pomp, no pageantry, no civic procession, no military display. In a carriage, a woman and her son who had lived on the bounty of the dead – on horseback, a Quaker, the humanity of whose heart dominated the creed of his head – and, following on foot, two negroes filled with gratitude – constituted the funeral cortege of Thomas Paine.[36]

"In the summer of 1803 the political atmosphere was in a tempestuous condition, owing to the widespread accusation that Aaron Burr had intrigued with the Federalists against Jefferson to gain the presidency. There was a Society in New York called "Republican Greens," who, on Independence Day, had for a toast "Thomas Paine, the Man of the People", and who seem to have had a piece of music called the "Rights of Man". Paine was also apparently the hero of that day at White Plains, where a vast crowd assembled".

The original burial location of Thomas Paine in New Rochelle, New York.

A few years later, the agrarian radical William Cobbett dug up his bones and transported them back to the UK. The plan was to give Paine a heroic reburial on his native soil, but the bones were still among Cobbett's effects when he died over twenty years later. There is no confirmed story about what happened to them after that, although down the years various people have claimed to own parts of Paine's remains, such as his skull and right hand.[37][38]

Political views

Thomas Paine developed his natural justice beliefs in childhood, while listening to a mob jeering and attacking the town folk being punished in the Thetford stocks.[citation needed] He may also have been influenced by his Quaker father.[39] In The Age of Reason – the treatise supporting deism – he says:

The religion that approaches the nearest of all others to true deism, in the moral and benign part thereof, is that professed by the Quakers . . . though I revere their philanthropy, I cannot help smiling at [their] conceit; . . . if the taste of a Quaker [had] been consulted at the Creation, what a silent and drab-colored Creation it would have been! Not a flower would have blossomed its gaieties, nor a bird been permitted to sing.

Later, his encounters with the Indigenous peoples of the Americas made a deep impression. The ability of the Iroquois to live in harmony with nature while achieving a democratic decision making process, helped him refine his thinking on how to organize society.[40]

He was an early advocate of republicanism and liberalism, dismissing monarchy, and viewing government as a necessary evil. He opposed slavery, proposed universal, free public education, progressive taxation, guaranteed minimum income, and other ideas then considered to be radical.[citation needed]

In the second part of The Age of Reason, about his sickness in prison, he says: ". . . I was seized with a fever, that, in its progress, had every symptom of becoming mortal, and from the effects of which I am not recovered. It was then that I remembered, with renewed satisfaction, and congratulated myself most sincerely, on having written the former part of 'The Age of Reason'". This quotation encapsulates its gist:

The opinions I have advanced . . . are the effect of the most clear and long-established conviction that the Bible and the Testament are impositions upon the world, that the fall of man, the account of Jesus Christ being the Son of God, and of his dying to appease the wrath of God, and of salvation, by that strange means, are all fabulous inventions, dishonorable to the wisdom and power of the Almighty; that the only true religion is Deism, by which I then meant, and mean now, the belief of one God, and an imitation of his moral character, or the practice of what are called moral virtues – and that it was upon this only (so far as religion is concerned) that I rested all my hopes of happiness hereafter. So say I now – and so help me God.

Portait of Thomas Paine by Matthew Pratt, 1785-1795

About religion, The Age of Reason says:

I do not believe in the creed professed by the Jewish church, by the Roman church, by the Greek church, by the Turkish church, by the Protestant church, nor by any church that I know of. My own mind is my own church.

All national institutions of churches, whether Jewish, Christian or Turkish, appear to me no other than human inventions, set up to terrify and enslave mankind, and monopolize power and profit.

He also wrote An Essay on the Origin of Free-Masonry (1803-1805), about the Bible being allegorical myth describing astrology:

The Christian religion is a parody on the worship of the sun, in which they put a man called Christ in the place of the sun, and pay him the adoration originally payed to the sun.

He described himself as deist, saying:

How different is [Christianity] to the pure and simple profession of Deism! The true Deist has but one Deity, and his religion consists in contemplating the power, wisdom, and benignity of the Deity in his works, and in endeavoring to imitate him in everything moral, scientifical, and mechanical.

Paine was once often credited with writing "African Slavery in America", the first article proposing the emancipation of African slaves and the abolition of slavery. It was published on March 8, 1775 in the Postscript to the Pennsylvania Journal and Weekly Advertiser (aka The Pennsylvania Magazine and American Museum).[41] Citing a lack of evidence that Paine was the author of this anonymously published essay, some scholars (Eric Foner and Alfred Owen Aldridge) no longer consider this one of his works. By contrast, John Nichols speculates that his "fervent objections to slavery" led to his exclusion from power during the early years of the Republic.[42]

His last, great pamphlet, Agrarian Justice, he published in winter of 1795, further developing the ideas in the Rights of Man, about how land ownership separated the majority of people from their rightful, natural inheritance, and means of independent survival. Contemporarily, his proposal is deemed a form of basic Income Guarantee.[citation needed] The U.S. Social Security Administration recognizes Agrarian Justice as the first American proposal for an old-age pension; per Agrarian Justice:

In advocating the case of the persons thus dispossessed, it is a right, and not a charity . . . [Government must] create a national fund, out of which there shall be paid to every person, when arrived at the age of twenty-one years, the sum of fifteen pounds sterling, as a compensation in part, for the loss of his or her natural inheritance, by the introduction of the system of landed property. And also, the sum of ten pounds per annum, during life, to every person now living, of the age of fifty years, and to all others as they shall arrive at that age.

(Note that £10 and £15 would be worth about £800 and £1,200 in today's money.) [1]


Thomas Paine statue in Thetford, Norfolk, Paine's birthplace.

Thomas Paine's writing greatly influenced his contemporaries and, especially, the American revolutionaries. His books inspired philosophic and working-class radicals in the U.K., and U.S. liberals, libertarians, feminists, democratic socialists, social democrats, anarchists, freethinkers, and progressives often claim him as an intellectual ancestor. Many of his works have also been an inspiration for rapidly expanding secular humanism. His Deism and his writings on Deism have inspired the creation of the World Union of Deists and the writing of the book Deism: A Revolution in Religion, A Revolution in You.

Abraham Lincoln and Thomas Edison respectfully read his works.[43] Lincoln's law partner, William Herndon, reports that he (Lincoln) wrote a defence of Paine's deism in 1835, and friend Samuel Hill burned it to save Lincoln's political career;[44] and of him, Thomas Edison said:

I have always regarded Paine as one of the greatest of all Americans. Never have we had a sounder intelligence in this republic . . . It was my good fortune to encounter Thomas Paine's works in my boyhood . . . it was, indeed, a revelation to me to read that great thinker's views on political and theological subjects. Paine educated me, then, about many matters of which I had never before thought. I remember, very vividly, the flash of enlightenment that shone from Paine's writings, and I recall thinking, at that time, 'What a pity these works are not today the schoolbooks for all children!' My interest in Paine was not satisfied by my first reading of his works. I went back to them time and again, just as I have done since my boyhood days.[45]

At the war's end, the Congress gave Thomas Paine a farm in New Rochelle, N.Y., for services rendered. On it are located the Thomas Paine Cottage and the Thomas Paine Historical Society museum.[46] In the United Kingdom a statue of Thomas Paine (quill pen and inverted copy of Rights of Man in hand), stands in King Street, Thetford, Norfolk, his birth place. Moreover, in Thetford, the Sixth form is named after him.[47] Thomas Paine was ranked #34 in the 100 Greatest Britons 2002 extensive Nationwide poll conducted by the BBC [48]

At Bronx Community College, there is a bust of Thomas Paine in their Hall of Fame of Great Americans, and there are statues of Paine in Morristown and Bordentown, New Jersey, and in the Parc Montsouris, in Paris.[49][50] The town of Diss has a Thomas Paine Street. In Paris, there is a plaque in the street where he lived from 1797 to 1802, that says: "Thomas PAINE / 1737–1809 / Englishman by birth / American by adoption / French by decree". Yearly, between 4 and 14 July, the Lewes Town Council in the United Kingdom celebrates the life and work of Thomas Paine.[51]

The Thomas Paine Museum, 983 North Avenue, New Rochelle, New York.

Though Age of Reason resulted in only a brief upsurge in deistic thought in America, Paine's critique on institutionalized religion advocating rational thinking inspired and guided many British freethinkers of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, such as William Cobbett, George Holyoake, Charles Bradlaugh and Bertrand Russell; judging by the works of contemporary British writers like Christopher Hitchens, his influence and spirit endure.

See also


  1. ^ a b c Conway, Moncure D. (1892). The Life of Thomas Paine. Volume 1, page 3. Retrieved on 18 July 2009.
  2. ^ Bernstein, Richard B. (2009). The Founding Fathers Reconsidered. Oxford University Press US. p. 36. ISBN 0195338324. Retrieved 7 September 2009. 
  3. ^ a b c Thomas Paine "These are the times that try men's souls". Retrieved on 18 July 2009.
  4. ^ Saul K. Padover, Jefferson: A Great American's Life and Ideas, New York: The New American Library, 1952, p. 32
  5. ^ Original source of this quotation is Henry York, Letters from France, Two volumes (London, 1804). Thirty three pages of the last letter are devoted to Paine.
  6. ^ Conway, Moncure D. (1892). The Life of Thomas Paine. Volume 2, pages 417-418. Retrieved on 18 July 2009.
  7. ^ Crosby, Alan (1986). A History of Thetford (1st ed.). Chichester, Sussex: Phillimore & Co Ltd. pp. 44–84. ISBN 0 85033 604 X.  (Also see discussion page )
  8. ^ Ayer, Alfred Jules (1990), Thomas Paine, University of Chicago Press, p. 1, ISBN 0226033392,,M1 
  9. ^ National Archives, UK National Archives, 
  10. ^ School History Thetford Grammar School, Accessed January 3, 2008,
  11. ^ Rights of Man II Chapter V
  12. ^ Conway, Moncure Daniel (1892). "The Life of Thomas Paine: With a History of Literary, Political, and Religious Career in America, France, and England". Thomas Paine National Historical Association. p. Volume 1, page 20. 
  13. ^ Conway, Moncure Daniel, 1892. The Life of Thomas Paine vol. 1 p. 209
  14. ^ History of Bridge Engineering, H.G. Tyrrell, Chicago, 1911
  15. ^ A biographical Dictionary of Civil Engineers in Great Britain and Ireland at 753-755, A. W. Skempton and M. Chrimes, ed.,Thomas Telford, 2002 (ISBN 072772939X, 9780727729392)
  16. ^ Thomas Paine, Independence Hall Association. Accessed online November 4, 2006.
  17. ^ Leaflet number 4: The Adventures of Thomas Paine, The Pink Triangle Trust. Accessed online November 4, 2006.
  18. ^ Introduction to Rights of Man, Howard Fast, 1961
  19. ^ Oliphant, John; Encyclopedia of the American Revolution: Library of Military History. "?". "Paine,Thomas". Charles Scribner's Sons (accessed via Gale Virtual Library). Retrieved 2007-04-10. 
  20. ^ Merrill Jensen, The Founding of a Nation: A History of the American Revolution, 1763–1776 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1968), 668.
  21. ^ a b Jensen, Founding of a Nation, 669.
  22. ^ Pauline Maier, American Scripture: Making the Declaration of Independence (New York: Knopf, 1997), 90-91.
  23. ^ Jack N. Rakove, The Beginnings of National Politics: An Interpretive History of the Continental Congress (New York: Knopf, 1979), 89.
  24. ^ New, M. Christopher. ""James Chalmers and Plain Truth A Loyalist Answers Thomas Paine"". "Archiving Early America". Retrieved 2007-10-03. 
  25. ^ "Thomas Paine. The American Crisis. Philadelphia, Styner and Cist, 1776-77.". Indiana University. Retrieved 2007-11-15. 
  26. ^ Thomas Paine, Letter Addressed To The Addressers On The Late Proclamation, in Michael Foot, Isaac Kramnick (ed.), The Thomas Paine Reader, p. 374
  27. ^ Paine, Thomas. "Letter to George Washington, July 30, 1796: "On Paine's Service to America"". Retrieved 2006-11-04. 
  28. ^ Paine, Thomas; Rickman, Thomas Clio (1908), The Life and Writings of Thomas Paine: Containing a Biography, Vincent Parke & Co., pp. 261–262,, retrieved 2008-02-21 
  29. ^ Foot, Michael, and Kramnick, Isaac. 1987. The Thomas Paine Reader, p.16
  30. ^ Eric Foner, 1976. Tom Paine and Revolutionary America. p. 244. Foner wrote, "... it was not until the arrival of the new American ambassador, James Monroe, who claimed Paine as a citizen of the United States, that he was released -- the "citizen of the world" saved by the principle of national citizenship."
  31. ^ Aulard, Alphonse. 1901. Histoire politique de la Révolution française, p.555
  32. ^ a b Mark Philp, 'Paine, Thomas (1737–1809)', Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, Sept 2004; online edn, May 2008, accessed July 26, 2008 (subscription required)
  33. ^ O'Neill, Brendan (2009-06-08). "Who was Thomas Paine?". BBC. Retrieved 2009-06-08. 
  34. ^ "Papers of James Monroe... from the original manuscripts in the Library of Congress"". 
  35. ^ Craig Nelson. Thomas Paine. p. 299. 
  36. ^ Robert G. Ingersoll, Thomas Paine, written 1870, published New Dresden Edition, XI, 321, 1892. Accessed online at, February 17, 2007.
  37. ^ "The Paine Monument at Last Finds a Home". The New York Times. October 15, 1905. Retrieved 2008-02-23. 
  38. ^ Chen, David W.. "Rehabilitating Thomas Paine, Bit by Bony Bit". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-02-23. 
  39. ^ Claeys p. 20.
  40. ^ Weatherford, Jack "Indian Givers How the Indians of the Americas Transformed the World".1988, p.125
  41. ^ Van der Weyde, William M., ed. The Life and Works of Thomas Paine. New York: Thomas Paine National Historical Society, 1925, p. 19-20.
  42. ^ Nichols, John (2009-01-20). "Obama's Vindication of Thomas Paine". The Nation (blog). 
  43. ^ Lewis, Joseph. "Thomas Paine and The Age of Reason". Retrieved 2006-11-04. 
    Transcript of an address delivered February 17, 1957 on radio station WMIE-FM, Miami, Florida.
  44. ^ Herndon, William. "Abraham Lincoln's Religious Views". Positive Atheism. Retrieved 2008-01-09. 
  45. ^ Thomas Edison, Introduction to The Life and Works of Thomas Paine, Citadel Press, New York, 1945 Vol. I, p.vii-ix. Reproduced online on, accessed November 4, 2006.
  46. ^ "Museum". Thomas Paine National Historical Association. Retrieved 2008-01-08. 
  47. ^ "Thomas Paine Sixth Form". Rosemary Musker High School. Retrieved 2008-01-08. 
  48. ^ BBC - 100 great British heroes.
  49. ^ "Photos of Tom Paine and Some of His Writings". Retrieved 2008-01-10. 
  50. ^ "Parc Montsouris". Paris Walking Tours. Retrieved 2008-01-10. 
  51. ^ The Tom Paine Project, Lewes Town Council. Retrieved November 4, 2006.

<1—35. Henry Yorke, Letters From France, 2 vols (London: Symonds, 1804), 2:396. This the original primary reference for this quotation.


  • Aldridge, A. Owen, 1959. Man of Reason: The Life of Thomas Paine. Lippincott. Regarded by British authorities as the standard biography.
  • Aldridge, A. Owen, 1984. Thomas Paine's American Ideology. University of Delaware Press.
  • Ayer, A. J., 1988. Thomas Paine. University of Chicago Press.
  • Bailyn, Bernard, 1990. "Common Sense", in Bailyn, Faces of Revolution: Personalities and Themes in the Struggle for American Independence. Alfred A. Knopf.
  • Bernstein, R. B. "Review Essay: Rediscovering Thomas Paine." New York Law School Law Review, 1994 – valuable blend of historiographical essay and biographical/analytical treatment.
  • Butler, Marilyn, 1984. Burke Paine and Godwin and the Revolution Controversy.
  • Claeys, Gregory, 1989. Thomas Paine, Social and Political Thought. Unwin Hyman. Excellent analysis of Paine's thought.
  • Conway, Moncure Daniel, 1892. The Life of Thomas Paine, 2 vols. G.P. Putnam's Sons. Vol. 1, Vol. 2, Facsimile. Long hailed as the definitive biography, and still valuable.
  • Fast, Howard, 1946. Citizen Tom Paine (historical novel, though sometimes taken as biography).
  • Foner, Eric, 1976. Tom Paine and Revolutionary America. Oxford University Press. The standard monograph treating Paine's thought and work with regard to America.
  • Foot, Michael, and Kramnick, Isaac, 1987. The Thomas Paine Reader. Penguin Classics.
  • Griffiths, Trevor (2004), These Are the Times: A Life of Thomas Paine, Spokesman Books 
  • Hawke, David Freeman, 1974. Paine. Regarded by many American authorities as the standard biography.
  • Hitchens, Christopher, 2006. Thomas Paine's "Rights of Man": A Biography.
  • Ingersoll, Robert G., 1892, "Thomas Paine," North American Review.
  • Kates, Gary, 1989, "From Liberalism to Radicalism: Tom Paine's Rights of Man," Journal of the History of Ideas: 569-87.
  • Kaye, Harvey J., 2005. Thomas Paine and the Promise of America. Hill and Wang.
  • Keane, John, 1995. Tom Paine: A Political Life. London. One of the most valuable recent studies.
  • Larkin, Edward, 2005. Thomas Paine and the Literature of Revolution. Cambridge University Press.
  • Lessay, Jean. L'américain de la Convention, Thomas Paine: Professeur de révolutions. Paris, éditions Perrin, 1987, 241 p.
  • Lewis, Joseph, 1947, "Thomas Paine: The Author of the Declaration of Independence." Freethought Association Press Assn.: New York.
  • Nelson, Craig, 2006. Thomas Paine: Enlightenment, Revolution, and the Birth of Modern Nations. Viking. ISBN 0670037885.
  • Paine, Thomas (Foner, Eric, editor), 1993. Writings. Library of America. Authoritative and scholarly edition containing Common Sense, the essays comprising the American Crisis series, Rights of Man, The Age of Reason, Agrarian Justice, and selected briefer writings, with authoritative texts and careful annotation.
  • Paine, Thomas (Foner, Philip S., editor), 1944. The Complete Writings of Thomas Paine, 2 volumes. Citadel Press. We badly need a complete edition of Paine's writings on the model of Eric Foner's edition for the Library of America, but until that goal is achieved, Philip Foner's two-volume edition is a serviceable substitute. Volume I contains the major works, and volume II contains shorter writings, both published essays and a selection of letters, but confusingly organized; in addition, Foner's attributions of writings to Paine have come in for some criticism in that Foner may have included writings that Paine edited but did not write and omitted some writings that later scholars have attributed to Paine.
  • Powell, David, 1985. Tom Paine, The Greatest Exile. Hutchinson.
  • Russell, Bertrand (1934), The Fate of Thomas Paine 
  • Vincent, Bernard, 2005. The Transatlantic Republican: Thomas Paine and the age of revolutions.
  • Williams, Walton, July, 1994. "The Declaration of Independence: Was it Written by Thomas Paine?" The Crooked Lake Review (Reprinted from the Hammondsport Herald, July 6, 1906)
  • Wheeler, Daniel, Life and Writings of Thomas Paine, Vincent & Parke, 1908.
  • Wilensky, Mark (2008), The Elementary Common Sense of Thomas Paine. An Interactive Adaptation for All Ages, Casemate, ISBN 9781932714364 

External links



Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

I view things as they are, without regard to place or person; my country is the world, and my religion is to do good.

Thomas Paine (29 January 17378 June 1809) was an English political writer, theorist, and activist who claimed American citizenship (a court later rejected his claim) and was given French citizenship. He wrote three of the most influential and controversial works of the 18th Century: Common Sense, The Rights of Man and The Age of Reason.



  • These people are either too superstitiously religious, or too cowardly for arms; they either can not or dare not defend ; their property is open to anyone who has the courage to attack them... The supposed quietude of a good man allures the ruffian; while on the other hand, arms, like law, discourage and keep the invader and the plunderer in awe, and preserve order in the world as well as property. The balance of power is the scale of peace. The same balance would be preserved were all the world destitute of arms, for all would be alike; but since some will not, others dare not lay them aside. Horrid mischief would ensue were one-half the world deprived of the use of them; for while avarice and ambition have a place in the heart of man, the weak will become a prey to the strong.
  • I speak an open and disinterested language, dictated by no passion but that of humanity. To me, who have not only refused offers, because I thought them improper, but have declined rewards I might with reputation have accepted, it is no wonder that meanness and imposition appear disgustful. Independence is my happiness, and I view things as they are, without regard to place or person; my country is the world, and my religion is to do good..
    • The Rights of Man (1791)
  • Man is not the enemy of man but through the medium of a false system of government.
    • The Rights of Man (1791)
  • The christian religion is a parody on the worship of the Sun, in which they put a man whom they call Christ, in the place of the Sun, and pay him the same adoration which was originally paid to the Sun.
    • An Essay on the Origin of Free-Masonry (1803-1805); found in manuscript form after Paine's death and thought to have been written for an intended part III of The Age of Reason. It was partially published in 1810 and published in its entirety in 1818.

Common Sense (1776)

First published 10 January 1776, the most commonly reproduced edition is the third, published on 14 February 1776. Full text online
Perhaps the sentiments contained in the following pages, are not YET sufficiently fashionable to procure them general favour... Time makes more converts than reason.
  • Time makes more converts than reason. (the Introduction)
  • Some writers have so confounded society with government, as to leave little or no distinction between them; whereas they are not only different, but have different origins. Society is produced by our wants, and government by our wickedness; the former promotes our happiness POSITIVELY by uniting our affections, the latter NEGATIVELY by restraining our vices. The one encourages intercourse, the other creates distinctions. The first a patron, the last a punisher. (Opening Line)
  • Perhaps the sentiments contained in the following pages, are not YET sufficiently fashionable to procure them general favour; a long habit of not thinking a thing WRONG, gives it a superficial appearance of being RIGHT, and raises at first a formidable outcry in defense of custom. But the tumult soon subsides. Time makes more converts than reason.
  • The cause of America is in a great measure the cause of all mankind. Many circumstances hath, and will arise, which are not local, but universal, and through which the principles of all Lovers of Mankind are affected, and in the Event of which, their Affections are interested. The laying a Country desolate with Fire and Sword, declaring War against the natural rights of all Mankind, and extirpating the Defenders thereof from the Face of the Earth, is the Concern of every Man to whom Nature hath given the Power of feeling; of which Class, regardless of Party Censure, is the AUTHOR.
  • Who the Author of this Production is, is wholly unnecessary to the Public, as the Object for Attention is the DOCTRINE ITSELF, not the MAN. Yet it may not be unnecessary to say, That he is unconnected with any Party, and under no sort of Influence public or private, but the influence of reason and principle.
  • Society in every state is a blessing, but government even in its best state is but a necessary evil; in its worst state an intolerable one; for when we suffer, or are exposed to the same miseries BY A GOVERNMENT, which we might expect in a country WITHOUT GOVERNMENT, our calamity is heightened by reflecting that we furnish the means by which we suffer.
  • WHEREFORE, security being the true design and end of government, it unanswerably follows, that whatever FORM thereof appears most likely to ensure it to us, with the least expense and greatest benefit, is preferable to all others.
  • Of more worth is one honest man to society and in the sight of God, than all the crowned ruffians that ever lived.
  • O! ye that love mankind! Ye that dare oppose not only tyranny but the tyrant, stand forth! Every spot of the Old World is overrun with oppression. Freedom hath been hunted round the globe. Asia and Africa have long expelled her. Europe regards her like a stranger and England hath given her warning to depart. O! receive the fugitive and prepare in time an asylum for mankind.
  • When we are planning for posterity, we ought to remember that virtue is not hereditary.
  • The sun never shined on a cause of greater worth. 'Tis not the affair of a city, a country, a province, or a kingdom, but of a continent—of at least one eighth part of the habitable globe. 'Tis not the concern of a day, a year, or an age; posterity are virtually involved in the contest, and will be more or less affected, even to the end of time, by the proceedings now. Now is the seed time of continental union, faith and honor. The least fracture now will be like a name engraved with the point of a pin on the tender rind of a young oak; The wound will enlarge with the tree, and posterity read it in full grown characters.
  • It is of the utmost danger to society to make it (religion) a party in political disputes.
  • Mingling religion with politics may be disavowed and reprobated by every inhabitant of America.
  • I bid you farewell, sincerely wishing, that as men and christians, ye may always fully and uninterruptedly enjoy every civil and religious right.
  • I love the man that can smile in trouble, that can gather strength from distress, and grow brave by relection.
  • There is something exceedingly ridiculous in the composition of monarchy; it first excludes a man from the means of information, yet empowers him to act in cases where the highest judgment is required.
  • Hereditary succession has no claim. For all men being originally equals, no one by birth could have the right to set up his own family in perpetual preference to all others for ever, and tho' himself might deserve some decent degree of honours of his cotemporaries, yet his descendants might be far too unworthy to inherit them.
  • I offer nothing more than simple facts, plain arguments, and common sense . . .
  • A long habit of not thinking a thing wrong, gives it a superficial appearance of being right, and raises at first a formidable outcry in defense of custom.
  • Society is produced by our wants, and government by wickedness; the former promotes our happiness positively by uniting our affections, the latter negatively by restraining our vices. The one encourages intercourse, the other creates distinctions. The first is a patron, the last a punisher. Society in every state is a blessing, but government even in its best state is but a necessary evil.
  • In the early ages of the world, according to the Scripture chronology there were no kings; the consequence of which was, there were no wars; it is the pride of kings which throws mankind into confusion.
  • Every thing that is right or natural pleads for separation. The blood of the slain, the weeping voice of nature cries, 'tis time to part.
  • Government by kings was first introduced into the world by the Heathens, from whom the children of Israel copied the custom. It was the most prosperous invention the Devil ever set on foot for the promotion of idolatry.
  • But where, say some, is the King of America? I'll tell you, friend, he reigns above, and doth not make havoc of mankind like the Royal Brute of Great Britain.... so far as we approve of monarchy, that in America the law is king.
  • O ye that love mankind! Ye that dare oppose, not only the tyranny, but the tyrant, stand forth! Every spot of the old world is overrun with oppression. Freedom hath been hunted round the globe. Asia, and Africa, have long expelled her--Europe regards her like a stranger, and England hath given her warning to depart. O! receive the fugitive, and prepare in time an asylum for mankind.
  • ... have every opportunity and every encouragement before us, to form the noblest purest constitution on the face of the earth. We have it in our power to begin the world over again. A situation, similar to the present, hath not happened since the days of Noah until now. The birthday of a new world is at hand, and a race of men, perhaps as numerous as all Europe contains, are to receive their portion of freedom from the event of a few months."
  • "Wherefore, since nothing but blows will do, for God's sake let us come to a final separation...
  • Small islands not capable of protecting themselves are the proper objects for kingdoms to take under their care; but there is something very absurd in supposing a continent to be perpetually governed by an island.

The American Crisis (1776 - 1783)

Full text online
  • THESE are the times that try men's souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value. Heaven knows how to put a proper price upon its goods; and it would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as FREEDOM should not be highly rated.
  • 'Tis surprising to see how rapidly a panic will sometimes run through a country. All nations and ages have been subject to them. Britain has trembled like an ague at the report of a French fleet of flat-bottomed boats; and in the fourteenth [sic (actually the fifteenth)] century the whole English army, after ravaging the kingdom of France, was driven back like men petrified with fear; and this brave exploit was performed by a few broken forces collected and headed by a woman, Joan of Arc. Would that heaven might inspire some Jersey maid to spirit up her countrymen, and save her fair fellow sufferers from ravage and ravishment! Yet panics, in some cases, have their uses; they produce as much good as hurt. Their duration is always short; the mind soon grows through them, and acquires a firmer habit than before. But their peculiar advantage is, that they are the touchstones of sincerity and hypocrisy, and bring things and men to light, which might otherwise have lain forever undiscovered. In fact, they have the same effect on secret traitors, which an imaginary apparition would have upon a private murderer. They sift out the hidden thoughts of man, and hold them up in public to the world. Many a disguised Tory has lately shown his head, that shall penitentially solemnize with curses the day on which Howe arrived upon the Delaware.
    • The Crisis No. I
  • It matters not where you live, or what rank of life you hold, the evil or the blessing will reach you all. The far and the near, the home counties and the back, the rich and the poor, will suffer or rejoice alike. The heart that feels not now is dead; the blood of his children will curse his cowardice, who shrinks back at a time when a little might have saved the whole, and made them happy. I love the man that can smile in trouble, that can gather strength from distress, and grow brave by reflection. 'Tis the business of little minds to shrink; but he whose heart is firm, and whose conscience approves his conduct, will pursue his principles unto death.
    My own line of reasoning is to myself as straight and clear as a ray of light. Not all the treasures of the world, so far as I believe, could have induced me to support an offensive war, for I think it murder; but if a thief breaks into my house, burns and destroys my property, and kills or threatens to kill me, or those that are in it, and to "bind me in all cases whatsoever" to his absolute will, am I to suffer it? What signifies it to me, whether he who does it is a king or a common man; my countryman or not my countryman; whether it be done by an individual villain, or an army of them? If we reason to the root of things we shall find no difference; neither can any just cause be assigned why we should punish in the one case and pardon in the other. Let them call me rebel and welcome, I feel no concern from it; but I should suffer the misery of devils, were I to make a whore of my soul by swearing allegiance to one whose character is that of a sottish, stupid, stubborn, worthless, brutish man.
    • The Crisis No. I
  • If there must be trouble, let it be in my day, that my child may have peace.
    • The Crisis No. I
  • Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom must, like men, undergo the fatigue of supporting it.
  • But when the country, into which I had just set my foot, was set on fire about my ears, it was time to stir. It was time for every man to stir.

First Principles of Government (1795)

He that would make his own liberty secure must guard even his enemy from oppression; for if he violates this duty he establishes a precedent that will reach to himself.
Dissertation on First Principles of Government (July 1795)
  • The right of voting for representatives is the primary right by which other rights are protected. To take away this right is to reduce a man to slavery, for slavery consists in being subject to the will of another, and he that has not a vote in the election of representatives is in this case.
  • It is never to be expected in a revolution that every man is to change his opinion at the same moment. There never yet was any truth or any principle so irresistibly obvious that all men believed it at once. Time and reason must cooperate with each other to the final establishment of any principle; and therefore those who may happen to be first convinced have not a right to persecute others, on whom conviction operates more slowly. The moral principle of revolutions is to instruct, not to destroy.
  • It is the nature and intention of a constitution to prevent governing by party, by establishing a common principle that shall limit and control the power and impulse of party, and that says to all parties, thus far shalt thou go and no further. But in the absence of a constitution, men look entirely to party; and instead of principle governing party, party governs principle.
  • An avidity to punish is always dangerous to liberty. It leads men to stretch, to misinterpret, and to misapply even the best of laws. He that would make his own liberty secure must guard even his enemy from oppression; for if he violates this duty he establishes a precedent that will reach to himself.

Letter to the Addressers

  • And the final event to himself (Mr. Burke) has been, that, as he rose like a rocket, he fell like the stick.

The Age of Reason

The Age of Reason: Being an Investigation of True and Fabulous Theology was written in three parts; Part I was composed during 1792 and 1793 and published in 1794; Part II written in 1794 after Paine was released from French prison, and published in 1795; Part III written in the 1790s and published in 1807, after initially delaying publication in 1802, on the advice of Thomas Jefferson. Part I - Part II

Part I (1793)

  • I believe in one God, and no more; and I hope for happiness beyond this life.
  • Each of those churches show certain books, which they call revelation, or the word of God. The Jews say, that their word of God was given by God to Moses, face to face; the Christians say, that their word of God came by divine inspiration: and the Turks say, that their word of God (the Koran) was brought by an angel from Heaven. Each of those churches accuse the other of unbelief; and for my own part, I disbelieve them all.
  • All national institutions of churches, whether Jewish, Christian, or Turkish, appear to me no other than human inventions set up to terrify and enslave mankind, and monopolize power and profit.
  • Whenever we read the obscene stories the voluptuous debaucheries, the cruel and torturous executions, the unrelenting vindictiveness with which more than half the bible is filled, it would be more consistent that we call it the word of a demon rather than the word of god. It is a history of wickedness that has served to corrupt and brutalize mankind; and, for my part, I sincerely detest it as I detest everything that is cruel.
  • It is necessary to the happiness of man, that he be mentally faithful to himself. Infidelity does not consist in believing, or in disbelieving; it consists in professing to believe what he does not believe.
  • It is impossible to calculate the moral mischief, if I may so express it, that mental lying has produced in society. When a man has so far corrupted and prostituted the chastity of his mind, as to subscribe his professional belief to things he does not believe, he has prepared himself for the commission of every other crime.
  • It is a contradiction in terms and ideas to call anything a revelation that comes to us at second hand, either verbally or in writing. Revelation is necessarily limited to the first communication. After this, it is only an account of something which that person says was a revelation made to him; and though he may find himself obliged to believe it, it cannot be incumbent on me to believe it in the same manner, for it was not a revelation made to me, and I have only his word for it that it was made to him.
  • But if objects for gratitude and admiration are our desire, do they not present themselves every hour to our eyes? Do we not see a fair creation prepared to receive us the instant we are born — a world furnished to our hands, that cost us nothing? Is it we that light up the sun, that pour down the rain, and fill the earth with abundance? Whether we sleep or wake, the vast machinery of the universe still goes on. Are these things, and the blessings they indicate in future, nothing to us? Can our gross feelings be excited by no other subjects than tragedy and suicide? Or is the gloomy pride of man become so intolerable, that nothing can flatter it but a sacrifice of the Creator?
  • If Jesus Christ was the being which those Mythologists tell us he was, and that he came into this world to suffer, which is a word they sometimes use instead of to die, the only real suffering he could have endured, would have been to live. His existence here was a state of exilement or transportation from Heaven, and the way back to his original country was to die. In fine, everything in this strange system is the reverse of what it pretends to be.
  • The doctrine of redemption is founded on a mere pecuniary idea corresponding to that of a debt which another person might pay; and as this pecuniary idea corresponds again with the system of second redemption, obtained through the means of money given to the Church for pardons, the probability is that the same persons fabricated both the one and the other of those theories; and that, in truth there is no such thing as redemption — that it is fabulous, and that man stands in the same relative condition with his Maker as he ever did stand since man existed, and that it is his greatest consolation to think so.
  • For what is the amount of all his prayers but an attempt to make the Almighty change his mind, and act otherwise than he does? It is as if he were to say: Thou knowest not so well as I.
  • The word of god is the creation we behold and it is in this word, which no human invention can counterfeit or alter, that God speaketh universally to man.
  • I do not believe in the creed professed by the Jewish church, by the Roman church, by the Greek church, by the Turkish church, by the Protestant church, nor by any church that I know of. My own mind is my own church.
  • It is only by the exercise of reason that man can discover God.
  • What more does man want to know than that the hand or power that made these things is divine, is omnipotent? Let him believe this with the force it is impossible to repel, if he permits his reason to act, and his rule of moral life will follow of course.
  • As to the Christian system of faith, it appears to me as a species of Atheism — a sort of religious denial of God. It professes to believe in a man rather than in God. It is a compound made up chiefly of Manism with but little Deism, and is as near to Atheism as twilight is to darkness. It introduces between man and his Maker an opaque body, which it calls a Redeemer, as the moon introduces her opaque self between the earth and the sun, and it produces by this means a religious, or an irreligious, eclipse of light. It has put the whole orbit of reason into shade.
  • That which is now called natural philosophy, embracing the whole circle of science, of which astronomy occupies the chief place, is the study of the works of God, and of the power and wisdom of God in his works, and is the true theology.
  • The Book of Job and the 19th Psalm, which even the Church admits to be more ancient than the chronological order in which they stand in the book called the Bible, are theological orations conformable to the original system of theology. The internal evidence of those orations proves to a demonstration that the study and contemplation of the works of creation, and of the power and wisdom of God, revealed and manifested in those works, made a great part in the religious devotion of the times in which they were written; and it was this devotional study and contemplation that led to the discovery of the principles upon which what are now called sciences are established; and it is to the discovery of these principles that almost all the arts that contribute to the convenience of human life owe their existence. Every principal art has some science for its parent, though the person who mechanically performs the work does not always, and but very seldom, perceive the connection.
  • It is a fraud of the Christian system to call the sciences human invention; it is only the application of them that is human. Every science has for its basis a system of principles as fixed and unalterable as those by which the universe is regulated and governed. Man cannot make principles, he can only discover them.
  • The Almighty Lecturer, by displaying the principles of science in the structure of the universe, has invited man to study and to imitation. It is as if He had said to the inhabitants of this globe that we call ours, "I have made an earth for man to dwell upon, and I have rendered the starry heavens visible, to teach him science and the arts. He can now provide for his own comfort, and learn from my munificence to all to be kind to each other."
  • The age of ignorance commenced with the Christian system.

Part II (1795)

  • People in general do not know what wickedness there is in this pretended word of God. Brought up in habits of superstition, they take it for granted that the Bible is true, and that it is good; they permit themselves not to doubt of it, and they carry the ideas they form of the benevolence of the Almighty to the book which they have been taught to believe was written by his authority. Good heavens! it is quite another thing; it is a book of lies, wickedness, and blasphemy; for what can be greater blasphemy than to ascribe the wickedness of man to the orders of the Almighty?
    • Chapter I: The Old Testament
  • The sublime and the ridiculous are often so nearly related, that it is difficult to class them separately. One step above the sublime makes the ridiculous, and one step above the ridiculous makes the sublime again. 1
    • Chapter I: The Old Testament, note
    • This is probably the original of Napoleon's celebrated mot, Du sublime au ridicule il n'y a qu'un pas (From the sublime to the ridiculous there is but one step).
  • Of all the systems of religion that ever were invented, there is none more derogatory to the Almighty, more unedifying to man, more repugnant to reason, and more contradictory in itself, than this thing called Christianity. Too absurd for belief, too impossible to convince, and too inconsistent for practice, it renders the heart torpid, or produces only atheists and fanatics.
    • Chapter III: Conclusion
  • The study of theology as it stands in Christian churches, is the study of nothing; it is founded on nothing; it rests on no principles; it proceeds by no authorities; it has no data; it can demonstrate nothing; and admits of no conclusion. Not any thing can be studied as a science without our being in possession of the principles upon which it is founded; and as this is not the case with Christian theology, it is therefore the study of nothing.
    • Chapter III: Conclusion

Agrarian Justice (1795 - 1796)

Full text
  • Men did not make the earth... It is the value of the improvements only, and not the earth itself, that is individual property... Every proprietor owes to the community a ground rent for the land which he holds.

A Discourse delivered by Thomas Paine, at the Society of the Theophilanthropists at Paris, 1798

  • The universe is composed of matter, and, as a system, is sustained by motion. Motion is not a property of matter, and without this motion the solar system could not exist. Were motion a property of matter, that undiscovered and undiscoverable thing, called perpetual motion, would establish itself. It is because motion is not a property of matter, that perpetual motion is an impossibility in the hand of every being, but that of the Creator of motion. When the pretenders to Atheism can produce perpetual motion, and not till then, they may expect to be credited.
    • Published in: The Monthly review, or, Literary journal, Volume 30. by Ralph Griffiths, G. E. Griffiths, 1798.

Quotes about Paine

Without the pen of Paine, the sword of Washington would have been wielded in vain. ~ John Adams
  • Without the pen of Paine, the sword of Washington would have been wielded in vain.
    • Attributed to John Adams since at least its appearance in the Annual Report of the Attorney General (1957) by New York Department of Law; in Religion and Political Thought‎ (2006) by Michael Hoelzl and Graham Ward it quoted as a statement of 1805; conflicting attribution is made in Thomas Paine and the Promise of America‎ (2006) by Harvey J. Kaye, p. 5, where it is attributed to Joel Barlow. The earliest incident of it yet found in internet searches is The Tragic Patriot: A Drama of Historical Significance in Five Acts and Twenty-Five Scenes (1954) by Joseph Lewis.
  • I know not whether any man in the world has had more influence on its inhabitants or affairs for the last thirty years than Tom Paine.
    • John Adams, in a letter to Benjamin Waterhouse (29 October 1805). Though these are often cited as if they were words which continued in his early admiration and respect for Paine, they actually came at a time of bitter dispute with many of his religious and political ideas. A more extensive quotation of the statement reads: "I am willing you should call this the Age of Frivolity as you do, and would not object if you had named it the Age of Folly, Vice, Frenzy, Brutality, Daemons, Buonaparte, Tom Paine, or the Age of the Burning Brand from the Bottomless Pit, or anything but the Age of Reason. I know not whether any man in the world has had more influence on its inhabitants or affairs for the last thirty years than Tom Paine. There can be no severer satyr on the age. For such a mongrel between pig and puppy, begotten by a wild boar on a bitch wolf, never before in any age of the world was suffered by the poltroonery of mankind, to run through such a career of mischief. Call it then the Age of Paine."
  • I never tire of reading Tom Paine.
    • Abraham Lincoln, as quoted in A Literary History of the American People‎ (1931) by Charles Angoff, p. 270
  • When Bonaparte returned from Italy he called on Mr. Paine and invited him to dinner: in the course of his rapturous address to him he declared that a statue of gold ought to be erected to him in every city in the universe, assuring him that he always slept with his book "Rights of Man" under his pillow and conjured him to honor him with his correspondence and advice.
    This anecdote is only related as a fact. Of the sincerity of the compliment, those may judge who know Bonaparte's principles best.
  • I have been lately introduced to the famous Thomas Paine, and like him very well. He is vain beyond all belief, but he has reason to be vain, and for my part I forgive him. He has done wonders for the cause of liberty, both in America and Europe, and I believe him to be conscientiously an honest man. He converses extremely well; and I find him wittier in discourse than in his writings, where his humour is clumsy enough.

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1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

THOMAS PAINE (1737-1809), English author, was born at Thetford, Norfolk, on the 29th of January 1737, the son of a Quaker staymaker. After several years at sea and after trying various occupations on land, Paine took up his father's trade in London, where he supplemented his meagre grammar school education by attending science lectures. He succeeded in 1762 in gaining an appointment in the excise, but was discharged for neglect of duty in 1765. Three years later, however, he received another appointment, at Lewes in Sussex. He took a vigorous share in the debates of a local Whig club, and in 1772, he wrote a pamphlet embodying the grievances of excisemen and supporting their demands for an increase of pay. In 1774 he was dismissed from the service for absence without leave - in order to escape his creditors.

A meeting with Benjamin Franklin in London was the turning point in his life. Franklin] provided him with letters to his son-in-law, Richard Bache, and many of the leaders in the colonies' resistance to the mother country, then at an acute stage. Paine sailed for America in 1774. Bache introduced him to Robert Aitkin, whose Pennsylvania Magazine he helped found and edited for eighteen months. On the 9th of January 1776 Paine published a pamphlet entitled Common Sense, a telling array of arguments for separation and for the establishment of a republic. His argument was that independence was the only consistent line to pursue, that "it must come to that some time or other"; that it would only be more difficult the more it was delayed, and that independence was the surest road to union. Written in simple convincing language, it was read everywhere, and the open movement to independence dates from its publication. Washington said that it "worked a powerful change in the minds of many men." Leaders in the New York Provincial Congress considered the advisability of answering it, but came to the conclusion that it was unanswerable. When war was declared, and fortune at first went against the colonists, Paine, who was then serving with General Greene as volunteer aide-de-camp, wrote the first of a series of influential tracts called The Crisis, of which the opening words, "These are the times that try men's souls," became a battle-cry. Paine's services were recognized by an appointment to be secretary of the commission sent by Congress to treat with the Indians, and a few months later to be secretary of the Congressional committee of foreign affairs. In 1779, however, he committed an indiscretion that brought him into trouble. He published information gained from his official position, and was compelled to resign. He was afterwards clerk of the Pennsylvania legislature, and accompanied John Laurens during his mission to France. His services were eventually recognized by the state of New York by a grant of an estate at New Rochelle, and from Pennsylvania and, at Washington's suggestion, from Congress he received considerable gifts of money.

In 1787 he sailed for Europe with the model of an iron bridge he had designed. This was publicly exhibited in Paris and London, and attracted great crowds. In England he determined to "open the eyes of the people to the madness and stupidity of the government." His first efforts in the Prospects on the Rubicon (1787) were directed against Pitt's war policy, and towards securing friendly relations with France. When Burke's Reflections on the Revolution in France appeared, in 1790, Paine at once wrote his answer, The Rights of Man first part appeared on the r3th of March 1791, and had an enormous circulation before the government took alarm and endeavoured to suppress it, thereby exciting intense curiosity to see it, even at the risk of heavy penalties. Those who know the book only by hearsay as the work of a furious incendiary will be surprised at the dignity, force and temperance of the style; it was the circumstances that made it inflammatory. Pitt "used to say," according to Lady Hester Stanhope, "that Tom Paine was quite in the right, but then he would add, `What am I to do? As things are, if I were to encourage Tom Paine's opinions we should have a bloody revolution.'" Paine was indicted for treason in May 1792, but before the trial came off he was elected by the department of Calais to the French convention, and escaped into France, followed by a sentence of outlawry. The first years that he spent in France form a curious episode in his life. He was enthusiastically received, but as he knew little of the language translations of his speeches had to be read for him. He was bold enough to speak and vote for the "detention of Louis during the war and his perpetual banishment afterwards," and he pointed out that the execution of the king would alienate American sympathy. He incurred the suspicion of Robespierre, was thrown into prison, and escaped the guillotine by an accident. Before his arrest he had completed the first part of the Age of Reason, the publication of which made an instant change in his position on both sides of the Atlantic, the indignation in the United States being as strong as in England. The Age of Reason can now be estimated calmly. It was written from the point of view of a Quaker who did not believe in revealed religion, but who held that "all religions are in their nature mild and benign" when not associated with political systems. Intermixed with the coarse unceremonious ridicule of what he considered superstition and bad faith are many passages of earnest and even lofty eloquence in favour of a pure morality founded on natural religion. The work in short - a second part, written during his ten months' imprisonment, was published after his release - represents the deism of the 18th century in the hands of a rough, ready, passionate controversialist.

At the downfall of Robespierre, Paine was restored to his seat in the convention, and served until it adjourned in October 1795. In 1796 he published a long letter to Washington, attacking his military reputation and his presidential policy with inexcusable bitterness. In 1802 Paine sailed for America, but while his services in behalf of the colonies were gratefully remembered, his Age of Reason and his attack on Washington had alienated many of his friends. He died in New York on the 8th of June 1809, and was buried at New Rochelle, but his body was in 1819 removed to England by William Cobbett.

See the biography by Moncure D. Conway (1892) .

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Thomas Paine
Full name Thomas Paine
Era 18th-century philosophy
Region Western Philosophy
School Enlightenment, Radicalism, Classical liberalism, Republicanism
Main interests Ethics, Politics

Thomas Paine (January 29, 1737June 8, 1809) was an English pamphleteer, revolutionary, radical, inventor, and intellectual. He lived and worked in Britain until he was 37, when he emigrated to the British American colonies during American Revolution. His main contribution was the powerful, widely-read pamphlet Common Sense (1776), advocating colonial America's independence from the Kingdom of Great Britain, and of The American Crisis (1776–1783), a pro-revolutionary pamphlet series. Thomas Paine after the American Revolution wrote the Age of Reason. This pamphlet advocated for the usage of reason when it came to religious claims and was critical of organized religion. Paine along with other American founders such as Thomas Jefferson and James Madison were supporters of reason when it comes to religion in lieu of revelation. Paine was part of the greater Age of Enlightenment movement that dated back to about the early 17th century.

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