Thomas Paine (January 29, 1737 – June 8, 1809) was a British pamphleteer,
revolutionary, radical, inventor, and intellectual. Author of Common Sense
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PAINE, Thomas, born in Thetford,
Norfolk, England, 29 January, 1737; died in New York, 8 June, 1809. His father
was a Quaker and stay-maker, and Paine was brought up to the trade. He left home
before reaching his majority, and went to London, but soon moved to Sandwich,
where he married the daughter of an excise man and entered the excise service.
On the death of his wife, who lived but a year, he returned to London, and,
after teaching, re-entered the excise service, in which he remained for some
years, employing some of his leisure time in writing prose and verse and
preaching from dissenting pulpits. He was selected by his official associates to
embody in a paper their complaints and desires regarding the management of the
excise: and on this work he displayed such ability as a writer that
then the Pennsylvania colony's agent at London, suggested that America would be
a more satisfactory field for the exercise of his special abilities. Naturally a
republican and radical, and so persistent a critic of England's government and
political customs that he seemed almost to hate his native land, Paine came to
this country in 1774, and, through letters from Franklin, at once found work for
his pen. Within a year he became editor of the "Pennsylvania Magazine,"
and in the same year contributed to Bradford's "Pennsylvania Journal" a
strong antislavery essay.
The literary work that gave him greatest prominence, and probably has had
more influence than all his other writings combined, was "Common Sense,"
a pamphlet published early in 1776, advocating absolute independence from the
mother country. In this little book appeared all the arguments that had been
made in favor of separation, each being stated with great clearness and force,
yet with such simplicity as to bring them within the comprehension of all
classes of readers. The effect of this pamphlet was so powerful, instantaneous,
and general that the Pennsylvania legislature voted Paine £500, the university
of the state conferred upon him the degree of M. A., and the Philosophical
society admitted him to membership. " Common Sense" soon appeared in
Europe in different languages, and is still frequently quoted by republicans in
European nations. His "Crisis," which appeared at irregular intervals
during the war for independence, was also of great service to the patriot cause;
the first number, published in the winter of 1776, was read, by
to each regiment and detachment in the service, and did much to relieve the
despondency that was general in the army at that time.
It has frequently been asserted that Paine was the author of the original
draft of the
Declaration of Independence, but the evidence offered is far from
conclusive. After serving a short time in the army as aide to
General Nathanael Greene,
he became secretary of the congressional committee on foreign affairs, and
losing this place in 1779, through charges against
Silas Deane, commissioner to
France, he became clerk of the Pennsylvania legislature. While holding this
place Paine made an urgent appeal to the people in behalf of the army, which was
in extreme destitution and distress, and he proved his earnestness by
subscribing his entire salary for the year to the fund that was raised.
In 1781 he was associated with Colonel Laurens in the successful effort to
obtain loans from France and Holland. The nation was profoundly grateful for
Paine's services, and endeavored to reward him. Soon after peace was declared
congress voted him $3,000, the state of New York gave him a large farm in
Westchester county, and Pennsylvania again made him clerk of her legislature The
close of the war deprived him for a time of the intense mental stimulus that
seemed necessary to his pen, and he turned his attention to mechanics, one of
his inventions being an iron bridge, which he endeavored, in 1787, to introduce
in Europe. Reaching France during the revolutionary period, he published, under
an assumed name, a pamphlet advocating the abolition of royalty.
In 1791 he published in England his " Rights of Man," in reply to
Burke's "Reflections on the French Revolution." For this he was outlawed
by the court of king's bench, in spite of an able de fence by Lord Erskine.
Escaping from England, he went to France, where he was received as a hero and
elected a member of the National convention His republicanism, however, was not
extreme enough to please the Jacobins; he opposed the beheading of the king,
urging that Louis should be banished to America. The Jacobins finally expelled
him from the convention on the ground that he was a foreigner, although he had
become a French citizen by naturalization, and Robespierre had him thrown into
the Luxembourg prison, where he spent nearly a year in anticipation of the
guillotine. Released finally through the efforts of
James Monroe, American
minister to France, he resumed his seat in the convention, and gave lasting
offence to the people of the United States by writing an abusive letter to
whom he accused of not endeavoring to secure his release from prison. He also
alienated most of his American friends and admirers who were religiously
inclined by his "Age of Reason " (2 parts, London and Paris, 1794:-'5),
an attack upon the Bible, written partly while he was in the Luxembourg prison.
Six years later, however, when he returned to the United States, he still
stood so high in public esteem that
allowed him, at his own request, to be brought home by an American sloop-of-war,
and he was favorably received in society. He took no active part in politics
after his return, and it is generally admitted that intemperance and other vices
had weakened his mental abilities.
In 1809 he died in New York, and by his own direction was buried on his farm
at New Rochelle, where he had spent most of the seven last years of his life. A
few years later William Cobbett, the English radical, removed Paine's bones to
England, with the hope of increasing enthusiasm for the republican ideas of
which Paine was still the favorite exemplar in print; but the movement did not
produce the desired effect, and it is believed that the remains found their
final resting-place in France. The monument for which Paine provided in his will
still stands over his first grave, beside the road from New Rochelle to White
In addition to the books that made him prominent as a republican, patriot,
and unbeliever, Paine wrote many pamphlets, some published anonymously. Most of
them were on political topics of the time ; but he also wrote largely on
economics and applied science. Among his later works were suggestions on the
building of war-ships, iron bridges, the treatment of yellow fever, Great
Britain's financial sys-tern, and the principles of government ; he also
formulated and published a plan by which governments should impose a special tax
on all estates, at the owner's death, for the creation and maintenance of a fund
from which all persons, on reaching twenty-one years, should receive a sum
sufficient to establish them in business, and by which all in the decline of
life should be saved from destitution Few men not occupying his official or
ecclesiastical position have been as widely known as Paine, or subjects of
opinions so contradictory. Abhorrence of his anti-religious writings has made
many critics endeavor to belittle his ability and attribute his " Common Sense,"
" Crisis," and "Rights of Man" to the inspiration of other minds. It is known
that " Common Sense" was written at the suggestion of the noted
Dr. Benjamin Rush, of
Philadelphia. But beyond doubt Washington, Franklin, and all other prominent men
of the Revolutionary period gave Paine the sole credit for everything that came
from his pen, and regarded his services to the patriot cause as of very high and
enduring quality. His "Rights of Man," if the undenied statement as to
its circulation (a million and a half copies) is correct, was more largely read
in England and France than any other political work ever published.
His "Age of Reason," although very weak as an attack upon the
Scriptures, when compared with some of the later criticisms of the German
school, and even of some followers of Bishop Colenso, was so dreaded in its day
that more than twenty replies, by as many famous divines, quickly appeared;
among these was Bishop Watson's famous "Apology for the Bible." Many of
Paine's later acquaintances believed that the author of the "Age of Reason" was
not proud of his most berated book. Paine admitted, on his return to this
country, that he regretted having published the work, for, while he did not
disavow any of the contents, he had become convinced that it could do no good
and might do much harm. It is known that
himself a doubter, counseled Paine not to publish the " Age of Reason,"
"Burn this piece before it is seen by any other person, whereby you will
save yourself a good deal of mortification from the enemies it may raise you,
and perhaps a good deal of regret and repentance."
The fault of the book was not merely that it questioned cherished religious
beliefs, but that it attacked them with invective and scurrility of a low order.
Paine's apologists plead in extenuation that much of the book was written in
prison, under circumstances that destroyed the faith of thousands more religious
than the author of the "Age of Reason." It must be noted that Paine never
was an atheist; born a Quaker, and roaming through the various fields of dissent
from the established faith, he always believed in the existence of a God, and
had high and unselfish ideals of the Christian virtues. Men who died not many
years ago remembered that in the last few years of his life Paine frequently
preached on Sunday afternoons in a grove at New Rochelle, and that his sermons
were generally earnest and unobjectionable homilies. By nature Paine was a
special pleader, and neither education nor experience ever modified his natural
bent. He was a thinker of some merit, but had not enough patience, continuity,
or judicial quality to study any subject thoroughly.
Whatever conscience he possessed was generally overborne by the impulse of a
strong nature that never had practiced self-control. He lacked even the
restraint of family influence; his first wife lived but a short time, from his
second wife he soon separated, an irregular attachment to the wife of a Paris
publisher did not improve his character, and he had no children nor any relative
in this country. Although affectionate and generous, he was so self-willed and
arrogant that none of his friendships could be lasting after they became close.
Between improvidence and the irregularities of his life he frequently fell into
distresses that embittered his spirit and separated him from men who admired his
abilities and desired to befriend him. In spite of his faults, however, the
sincerity of his devotion to the cause of liberty cannot be doubted, nor can the
magnitude of his service to the United States be diminished.
He remained in France during the early
Napoleonic era, but condemned Napoleon's dictatorship, calling him "the
completest charlatan that ever existed".
In 1802, at President
Thomas Jefferson's invitation, he returned to America.
Thomas Paine was son of Joseph Pain, a
Quaker, and Frances Pain (née Cocke), an
an important market town and coach stage-post,
Norfolk. Born Thomas Pain, it is sometimes claimed that he changed his
family name upon his emigration to America in 1774.
However, he was using the new spelling by 1769 whilst still in Lewes, Sussex.
He attended Thetford Grammar School (1744-1749), at a time when there was no
At age thirteen, he was apprenticed to his
stay-maker father; in late adolescence, he enlisted and briefly served as
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
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.
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
Sussex, living above the fifteenth-century Bull House, the tobacco shop of
Samuel Ollive and Esther Ollive. 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
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 England to America, arriving in Philadelphia on November 30, 1774.
He barely survived the transatlantic voyage, because the ship's water
supplies were bad, and
typhoid fever had killed five passengers. On arriving to 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
In January, 1775, he became editor of the Pennsylvania Magazine, a position
he conducted with considerable ability.
Moreover, Thomas Paine was an inventor, who received a European patent for
a single-span iron bridge, developed a smoke-less candle,
and worked with inventor
John Fitch in developing steam engines. Mechanical aptitude and
intellectual originality made him most highly revered by a devoted
Thomas Edison. 
Thomas Paine has a claim to the title The Father of the American
Revolution because of
Common Sense, the pro-independence
pamphlet he anonymously published on January 10, 1776; 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.
Paine's original title for the pamphlet was Plain Truth; Paine's
friend, pro-independence advocate
Benjamin Rush, suggested Common Sense instead.
The strength of Common Sense was not in the originality of its
ideas, but rather in the simplicity of its style.
Paine was a pioneer in a new style of political writing suitable to the kind
of democratic society he envisioned.Common Sense rendered complex ideas intelligible to average readers,
with clear, concise writing unlike the formal, learned style favored by many
of Paine's contemporaries. Many were shocked by Paine's undisguised hostility
to the British monarchy; the pamphlet labeled
King George III as "the Royal Brute of Great Britain."
Common Sense was immensely popular, but how many people were
converted to the cause of independence by the pamphlet is unknown.
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.
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.
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
and warned that without monarchy, the government would "degenerate into
Even some American revolutionaries objected to Common Sense; late in
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.
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." 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 lead to Paine's expulsion from the Committee in 1779.
However, in 1781, he accompanied
Laurens on his mission to France. Eventually, after much pleading from
Paine, New York State recognised his political services with an estate, at New
Rochelle, and money from Pennsylvania and from the Congress, at Washington's
suggestion. In the Revolutionary War, he served as an aide to General
Nathanael Greene. His later years established him as "a missionary of
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." 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 (father of Col. John Laurens) had been the ambassador to the
Netherlands but was captured by the British on his return trip there. When he
was later exchanged for Cornwallis (late 1781) he proceeded to the Netherlands
to continue loan negotiations. There remains some question as to the
relationship of Henry Laurens and Thomas Paine to Robert Morris as
Superintendent of Finance and his business associate Thomas Willing who became
the first president of the Bank of North America (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.
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. In response to the criticisms of the revolution
Edmund Burke in
Reflections on the Revolution in France, 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,
Thomas Brand Hollis, and
Thomas Holcroft, charged with concluding publication. 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 England and then try him
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".
Paine was an enthusiastic supporter of the French Revolution, and was
granted, along with
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
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
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.
Before his arrest and imprisonment, knowing that he would probably be
arrested and executed, Paine 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. 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."
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
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).
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."
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,
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.
On noting Napoleon's progress towards dictatorship, he condemned him as:
"the completest charlatan that ever existed".
Thomas Paine remained in France until 1802, returning to America only at
President Jefferson's invitation.
Paine returned to America 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
Paine died at the age of 72, at 59 Grove Street in
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
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.
"In the summer of 1803 the political atmosphere was in a tempestuous
condition, owing to the widespread accusation that
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
The burial location of Thomas Paine in New Rochelle, New York.
A few years later, the agrarian radical
William Cobbett dug up his bones and shipped them back to England. 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.
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
needed] He may also have been influenced by his Quaker
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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).
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
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.
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