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papers, the sixteenth, appeared XVI and the Reign of Terror, on December 9, 1783, at the end he was imprisoned in the Luxof the war. Meanwhile Paine embourg. He had already sent to had served on various commit- press in Paris the first part of tees of the Continental Con- The Age of Reason, a deistic gress; he had been clerk of the
treatise advocating a rationalisPennsylvania Assembly, tic view of religion. Set free as a ceived an honorary degree from result of the death of Robesthe College of Philadelphia (the pierre and the friendly intercesUniversity of Pennsylvania), sion of James Monroe, then gone to France to help negotiate American ambassador to France, a loan for the colonies, and he recuperated for many months published much concerning the in Monroe's home, where he war and the eventual federal
completed The Age of Reason union of the colonies.
(1794–1795), and wrote his The war over, he turned to in- last important treatise, Agrarvention, perfecting the model of ian Justice (1797). In 1802 he an iron bridge without piers. In returned to America, only to find 1787 he went to Paris and Lon- that his patriotic services had don, and secured foreign patents been forgotten in the wave of for his bridge. In both countries resentment against his “atheistihe was received as an important cal” beliefs and the reaction of international figure; Burke and conservatives against the French Fox became his friends, and La- Revolution. During his remainfayette presented him with a key ing years, neglected by all but to the Bastille to be transmitted his vilifiers, he remained in obto General Washington. In Eng- scurity, for the most part on his
, land, the patronage of the great farm in New Rochelle. There he terminated suddenly. Paine's was buried in 1809, after a year Rights of Man (Part I, 1791; of illness in New York; his fuPart II,
answering neral was attended by six people, Burke's recent Reflections on the two of them Negroes. In 1819, French Revolution, not only William Cobbett, returning to championed Rousseau's doc- England, transported Paine's retrines of freedom, but also sug- mains to their native soil, in gested the overthrow of the Brit- token of repentance for his earish monarchy. On May 21, 1792, lier condemnation. At Cobbett's Paine was indicted for treason, death no one knew where Paine and he was forced to seek refuge was buried; his final resting place in France, where he had taken is still unknown. part in the early events of the Paine's writings, his doctrines Revolution during his visits in of the social contract, political 1789 and 1791:
liberalism, and the equality of The French revolutionaries all men, resulted less from his received him enthusiastically; he own originality than from his was elected a member of the Na- journalistic ability to make vigtional Convention, representing orous restatements of the popufour districts. But when he op- lar liberal thought of the eightposed the execution of Louis eenth century. Even the much debated Age of Reason was an extensive formulation of Deism, a familiar theological concept of contemporary rationalism, the advanced thought of that era. But his prose still possesses many of the qualities that made it stimulating and inspiring to his contemporaries. His excellence lies in the fiery ardor and determination of his words, the conviction of his courageous and indomitable spirit, and the sincerity and passion of his belief in the rights of the humblest man.
The_comprehensive edition is Moncure D. Conway, The Writings of Thomas Paine, 4 vols., 1894-1896; and the most nearly definitive biography is Conway's The Life of Thomas Paine, 2 vols., 1892. Shorter lives are by F. J. Gould, 1925; by Crane Brinton in the Dictionary of American Biography, 1934; and by Hesketh Pearson, 1937. Longer, and authoritative, is Alfred O. Aldridge, Man of Reason: The Life of Thomas Paine, 1959. Leo Gurko, Tom Paine, Freedom's Apostle, 1957, is topical, and so is I. M. Thompson, The Religious Beliefs of Thomas Paine, 1957. A careful text is A. W. Peach, Selections from the Works * 1928; an excellent one-volume scholarly edition with introduction is Thomas Paine: Representative Selections, edited by H. H. Clark, American Writers Series, 1944.
From Common Sense
Thoughts on the Present State of American Affairs
In the following pages I offer nothing more than simple facts, plain arguments, and common sense; and have no other preliminaries to settle with the reader, than that he will divest himself of prejudice and prepossession, and suffer his reason and his feelings to determine for themselves; that he will put on, or rather that he will not put off, the true character of a man, and generously enlarge his views beyond the present day.
Volumes have been written on the subject of the struggle between England and America. Men of all ranks have embarked in the controversy, from different motives, and with various designs; but all have been ineffectual, and the period of debate is closed. Arms as the last resource decide the contest; the appeal was the choice of the king, and the continent has accepted the challenge.
It hath been reported of the late Mr. Pelham? (who though an able minister was not without his faults) that on his being attacked in the House of Commons on the score that his measures were only of a temporary kind, replied, “They will last my time.” Should a thought so fatal and unmanly possess the colonies in the present contest, the name of Ancestors will be remembered by future generations with detestation,
The sun never shined on a cause of greater worth. 'Tis not the affair of a city, a county, 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 seedtime 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 would enlarge with the tree, and posterity read it in full grown characters.
1. “Thoughts on the Present State of American Affairs" was Part III of Common Sense. Part I discussed the British constitution in relation to "the origin and design of government"; Part II analyzed the weaknesses of "monarchy
and hereditary succession.” The American Declaration of Independence was promulgated six months later, on July 4. 2. Henry Pelham, British prime min. ister (1743–1754).
By referring the matter from argument to arms, a new era for politics is struck—a new method of thinking has arisen. All plans, proposals, &c. prior to the nineteenth of April,3 i.e. to the commencement of hostilities, are like the almanacks of the last year; which though proper then, are superseded and useless now. Whatever was advanced by the advocates on either side of the question then, terminated in one and the same point, viz. a union with Great Britain; the only difference between the parties was the method of effecting it; the one proposing force, the other friendship; but it has so far happened that the first has failed, and the second has withdrawn her influence.
As much has been said of the advantages of reconciliation, which, like an agreeable dream, has passed away and left us as we were, it is but right that we should examine the contrary side of the argument, and inquire into some of the many material injuries which these colonies sustain, and always will sustain, by being connected with and dependent on Great Britain. To examine that connection and dependence on the principles of nature and common sense; to see what we have to trust to, if separated, and what we are to expect, if dependent.
I have heard it asserted by some, that as America has flourished under her former connection with Great Britain, the same connection is necessary towards her future happiness, and will always have the same effect. Nothing can be more fallacious than this kind of argument. We may as well assert that because a child has thrived upon milk, that it is never to have meat, or that the first twenty years of our lives is to become a precedent for the next twenty. But even this is admitting more than is true; for I answer roundly that America would have flourished as much, and probably much more, had no European power taken any notice of her. The commerce by which she hath enriched herself are the necessaries of life, and will always have a market while eating is the custom of Europe.
But she has protected us, say some. That she hath engrossed us is true, and defended the continent at our expense as well as her own is admitted; and she would have defended Turkey from the same 3. April 19, 1775, the date of the bat- ammunition
against British tles of Lexington and Concord, where troops—the first armed engagements of American minutemen defended their the Revolution.
motive, viz. for the sake of trade and dominion.
Alas! we have been long led away by ancient prejudices and made large sacrifices to superstition. We have boasted the protection of Great Britain without considering that her motive was interest, not attachment; and that she did not protect us from our enemies on our account, but from her enemies on her own account, from those who had no quarrel with us on any other account, and who will always be our enemies on the same account. Let Britain waive her pretensions to the continent, or the continent throw off the dependence, and we should be at peace with France and Spain were they at war with Britain. The miseries of Hanover's* last war ought to warn us against connections.
It hath lately been asserted in parliament, that the colonies have no relation to each other but through the parent country, i.e. that Pennsylvania and the Jerseys, and so on for the rest, are sister colonies by the way of England; this is certainly a very roundabout way of proving relationship, but it is the nearest and only true way
proving. enmity (or enemyship, if I may so call it). France and Spain never were, nor perhaps ever will be, our enemies as Americans, but as our being the subjects of Great Britain.
But Britain is the parent country, say some. Then the more shame upon her conduct. Even brutes do not devour their young, nor savages make war upon their families; wherefore, the assertion, if true, turns to her reproach; but it happens not to be true, or only partly so, and the phrase parent or mother country hath been jesuitically adopted by the King and his parasites, with a low papistical design of gaining an unfair bias on the credulous weakness of our minds. Europe, and not England, is the parent country of America. This new world hath been the asylum for the persecuted lovers of civil and religious liberty from every part of Europe. Hither have they iled, not from the tender embraces of the mother, but from the cruelty of the monster; and it is so far true of England, that the same tyranny which drove the first emigrants from home pursues their descendants still.
In this extensive quarter of the globe, we forget the narrow limits of three hundred and sixty miles (the extent of England) and carry our friendship on a larger scale; we claim brotherhood with every European Christian, and triumph in the generosity of the sentiment.
It is pleasant to observe by what regular gradations we surmount the force of local prejudices as we enlarge our acquaintance with the world. A man born in any town in England divided into parishes, will naturally associate most with his fellow parishioners (because their interests in many cases will be common) and distinguish him 4. The Prussian house of Hanover oc- French invasions of Hanover, during cupied the British throne from 1714 to the Seven Years' War (1756-1763), 1901. Paine thus connects the repeated with the Franco-British- rivalries.
by the name of neighbor; if he meet him but a few miles from home, he drops the narrow idea of a street, and salutes him by the name of townsman; if he travel out of the county and meet him in any other, he forgets the minor divisions of street and town, and calls him country-man, i.e. county-man; but if in their foreign excursions they should associate in France, or any other part of Europe, their local remembrance would be enlarged into that of Englishman. And by a just parity of reasoning, all Europeans meeting in America, or any other quarter of the globe, are countrymen; for England, Holland, Germany, or Sweden, when compared with the whole, stand in the same places on the larger scale; which the divisions of street, town, and county do on the smaller ones; distinctions too limited for continental minds. Not one third of the inhabitants, even of this province,5 are of English descent. Wherefore, I reprobate the phrase of parent or mother country applied to England only, as being false, selfish, narrow, and ungenerous.
But, admitting that we were all of English descent, what does it amount to? Nothing. Britain, being now an open enemy, extinguishes every other name and title; and to say that reconciliation is our duty, is truly farcical. The first king of England, of the present line (William the Conqueror) was a Frenchman, and half the peers of England are descendants from the same country; wherefore, by the same method of reasoning, England ought to be governed by France.
Much hath been said of the united strength of Britain and the colonies, that in conjunction they might bid defiance to the world. But this is mere presumption, the fate of war is uncertain; neither do the expressions mean anything, for this continent would never suffer itself to be drained of inhabitants to support the British arms in either Asia, Africa, or Europe.
Besides, what have we to do with setting the world at defiance? Our plan is commerce, and that, well attended to, will secure us the peace and friendship of all Europe; because it is the interest of all Europe to have America a free port. Her trade will always be a protection, and her barrenness of gold and silver secure her from invaders.
I challenge the warmest advocate for reconciliation to show a single advantage that this continent can reap, by being connected with Great Britain. I repeat the challenge, not a single advantage is derived. Our corn will fetch its price in any market in Europe, and our imported goods must be paid for, buy them where we will.
But the injuries and disadvantages which we sustain by that connection are without number; and our duty to mankind at large, as well as to ourselves, instruct us to renounce the alliance: because any submission to, or dependence on, Great Britain, tends directly 5. 1.e., Pennsylvania.