Breakout 5A (Harvey Kaye) - "Paine in His Own Words".doc
PAINE IN HIS OWN WORDS:
prepared by Harvey J. Kaye, UWGB
Paine quickly expressed his view of America’s prospects and possibilities:
Degeneracy is here almost a useless word. Those who are conversant with Europe would
be tempted to believe that even the air of the Atlantic disagrees with the constitution of
foreign vices; if they survive the voyage, they either expire on their arrival, or linger away in an
incurable consumption. There is a happy something which disarms them of all their power
both of infection and attraction.
”The Magazine in America,” Pennsylvania Magazine, January 24, 1775.
But he also warned of America’s dangerous contradictions:
That some desperate wretches should be willing to steal and enslave men by violence and
murder for gain, is rather lamentable than strange. But that many civilized, nay,
Christianized people should approve, and be concerned in the savage practice, is surprising.
“African Slavery in America," Pennsylvania Journal, March 8, 1775.
And he came to see Independence as the answer to British oppressions:
When I reflect on these [horrid cruelties], I hesitate not for a moment to believe that the
Almighty will finally separate America from Britain. Call it independence or what you will, if
it is the cause of God and humanity it will go on. And when the Almighty shall have blest us,
and made us a people dependent only upon him, then may our first gratitude be shown by an
act of continental legislation, which shall put a stop to the importation of Negroes for sale,
soften the hard fate of those already here, and in time procure their freedom
“A Serious Thought,” Pennsylvania Journal, October 18, 1775.
FROM COMMON SENSE
Paine saw the American Revolution in world-historic terms:
The cause of America is in a great measure the cause of all mankind…
-OF THE ORIGIN AND DESIGN OF GOVERNMENT-
Paine attacked [existing?] Government as Oppressive:
Society in every state is a blessing, but government even in its best state is but a necessary
But he believed in the naturalness of Democratic government:
In order to gain a clear and just idea of the design and end of government, let us suppose a
small number of persons settled in some sequestered part of the earth, unconnected with the
rest… Some convenient tree will afford them a State-House, under the branches of which,
the whole colony may assemble to deliberate on public matters. It is more than probable that
their first laws will have the title only of REGULATIONS, and be enforced by no other
penalty than public disesteem. In this first parliament every man, by natural right, will have a
2/PAINE IN HIS OWN WORDS:
-OF MONARCHY AND HEREDITARY SUCCESSION-
Paine insisted that equality preceded inequality – and he used the Bible to make his case:
Mankind being originally equals in the order of creation, the equality could only be
destroyed by some subsequent circumstance…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… As the
exalting one man so greatly above the rest cannot be justified on the equal rights of nature,
so neither can it be defended on the authority of scripture…
Paine also used history to undermine attachment to King and Crown:
A French bastard [William the Conqueror] landing with an armed banditti, and establishing
himself king of England against the consent of the natives, is in plain terms a very paltry
rascally original. – It certainly hath no divinity in it... The plain truth is, that the antiquity of
English monarchy will not bear looking into.
And mockery as well:
One of the strongest natural proofs of the folly of hereditary right in kings, is, that nature
disapproves it, otherwise she would not so frequently turn it into ridicule by giving mankind
an ass for a lion.
The best form of government was a Republic;
The nearer any government approaches to a republic the less business there is for a king…
-THOUGHTS ON THE PRESENT STATE OF AMERICAN
Paine distinguished his writing from that of the elites (who spoke only to each other):
In the following pages I offer nothing more than simple facts, plain arguments, and common
And he reiterated America’s world-historic opportunity AND responsibility:
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
seed time of continental union, faith and honour...Our strength is continental not provincial.
He challenged Americans’ attachment to England/Britain:
Europe, 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.
3/PAINE IN HIS OWN WORDS:
He portrayed the connection to Britain as a liability:
Europe is too thickly planted with kingdoms to be long at peace, and whenever a war breaks
out between England and any foreign power, the trade of America goes to ruin,
BECAUSE OF HER CONNECTION WITH ENGLAND. The next war
may not turn out like the last, and should it not, the advocates for reconciliation now, will be
wishing for separation then, because, neutrality in that case, would be a safer convoy than a
man of war.
He urged Americans to see their duty to both the fallen and the future:
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.
He referred to God’s intention in the Creation (Geography!):
Even the distance at which the Almighty hath placed England and America, is a strong and
natural proof, that the authority of the one, over the other, was never the design of Heaven…
It is repugnant to reason, to the universal order of things, to all examples from former ages, to
suppose, that this continent can longer remain subject to any external power.
And to Divine Providence (and again History!):
The time likewise at which the continent was discovered, adds weight to the argument, and
the manner in which it was peopled increases the force of it. The Reformation was preceded
by the discovery of America, as if the Almighty graciously meant to open a sanctuary to the
Persecuted in future years, when home should afford neither friendship nor safety.
Paine recognized the need for political vision:
If there is any true cause of fear respecting independence, it is because no plan is yet laid
down. Men do not see their way out-- LET the assemblies be annual, with a President only.
The representation more equal. Their business wholly domestic, and subject to the
authority of a Continental Congress…
He also appreciated – for the sake of Unity and Freedom - the need for a Constitution:
A government of our own is our natural right… Let a CONTINENTAL
CONFERENCE be held… The conferring members being met, let their business be to
frame a CONTINENTAL CHARTER, Or Charter of the United Colonies…
Securing freedom and property to all men, and above all things, the free exercise of religion,
according to the dictates of conscience…
And he made clear that the Law would govern American life, not monarchs!
But where, says 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 Britain. Yet that we may not appear to
be defective even in earthly honors, let a day be solemnly set apart for proclaiming the
charter; let it be brought forth placed on the divine law, the word of God; let a crown be
placed thereon, by which the world may know, that so far we approve of monarchy, that in
America THE LAW IS KING. For as in absolute governments the King is law, so in free
countries the law OUGHT to be King; and there ought to be no other. But lest any ill use
should afterwards arise, let the crown at the conclusion of the ceremony, be demolished, and
scattered among the people whose right it is.
4/PAINE IN HIS OWN WORDS:
Paine – the immigrant – envisioned America as a refuge for those who loved and needed
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.
-OF THE PRESENT ABILITY OF AMERICA, WITH SOME
[Paine surveyed America’s natural & human resources and argued for the construction of a
Paine presses the need for action NOW!
Youth is the seed time of good habits, as well in nations as in individuals. It might be difficult,
if not impossible, to form the Continent into one government half a century hence… The
present time, likewise, is that peculiar time, which never happens to a nation but once, viz. the
time of forming itself into a government. Most nations have let slip the opportunity, and by
that means have been compelled to receive laws from their conquerors, instead of making laws
Paine also repeatedly demanded that America be democratic and free in every respect:
In a former page I likewise mentioned the necessity of a large and equal representation; and
there is no political matter which more deserves our attention…As to religion, I hold it to be
the indispensable duty of all government, to protect all conscientious professors thereof, and
I know of no other business which government hath to do therewith…. For myself, I fully and
conscientiously believe, that it is the will of the Almighty, that there should be diversity of
religious opinions among us…
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.
And looking back in the midst of the struggle, Paine reflected:
I happened to come to America a few months before the breaking out of hostilities. I found
the disposition of the people such, that they might have been led by a thread and governed
by a reed. Their suspicion was quick and penetrating, but their attachment to Britain was
obstinate, and it was at that time a kind of treason to speak against it. They disliked the
ministry, but they esteemed the nation. Their idea of grievance operated without
resentment, and their single object was reconciliation… I had no thoughts of independence or
of arms. The world could not have persuaded me that I should be either a soldier or an
author… But when the country, into which I had just set foot, was set on fire about my ears,
it was time to stir. It was time for every man to stir.
American Crisis #7, November 21, 1778.
5/PAINE IN HIS OWN WORDS:
FROM THE AMERICAN CRISIS #1 (December 23, 1776)
Paine’s most stirring – and most quoted – words, written at a most desperate time:
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
FROM LETTER TO THE ABBE RAYNAL (1782) – at the end of
the Revolutionary War…
Paine continued to see the American Revolution as truly the beginning of a new age:
We see with other eyes; we hear with other ears; and think with other thoughts, than those we
formerly used… A union so extensive, continued and determined, suffering with patience and
never in despair, could not have been produced by common causes. It must be something
capable of reaching the whole soul of man and arming it with perpetual energy. It is in vain to
look for precedents among the revolutions of former ages… The spring, the progress, the
object, the consequences, nay, the men, their habits of thinking, and all the circumstances of
the country, are different.
And he again argued that the United States had world-historic responsibilities:
The true idea of a great nation, is that which promotes and extends the principles of
Paine loved America and was a Patriot, but he also saw himself as a Citizen of the World:
My country is the world, and my religion is to do good.
NOTE: Paine’s mentor Benjamin Franklin would say, “Where liberty is, there is my
– to which Paine would reply, “Where liberty is not, there is my country.”
FROM RIGHTS OF MAN, Parts 1 & 2 (1791-1792)
– Paine’s great contribution to the British struggle for democracy and his
defense of the French Revolution (against the conservative Edmund Burke)
Paine emphasized freedom and equality of persons and the rights of the living:
Man has no property in man; neither has a generation a property in the generations which are
He had confidence in democracy:
The greatest characters the world has known, have risen on the democratic floor.
Aristocracy has not been able to keep a proportionate place with democracy.
6/PAINE IN HIS OWN WORDS:
He had confidence in America:
By ingrafting representation upon democracy, we arrive at a system of government capable
of embracing and confederating all the various interests and every extent of territory and
population... It is on this system that the American government is founded. It is
representation ingrafted upon democracy…. What Athens was in miniature America will be in
And he held up America as an example to the world – indeed, as proof that the global
movement for freedom, equality, and democracy has commenced!
What Archimedes said of the mechanical powers, may be applied to Reason and Liberty.
"Had we," said he, "a place to stand upon, we might raise the world." The revolution of
America presented in politics what was only theory in mechanics. So deeply rooted were all
the governments of the old world, and so effectually had the tyranny and the antiquity of
habit established itself over the mind, that no beginning could be made in Asia, Africa, or
Europe, to reform the political condition of man.
The independence of America, considered merely as a separation from England, would
have been a matter but of little importance, had it not been accompanied by a revolution in
the principles and practice of governments. She made a stand, not for herself only, but for
the world, and looked beyond the advantages she herself could receive.
As America was the only spot in the political world where the principle of universal
reformation could begin, so also was it the best in the natural world. An assemblage of
circumstances conspired, not only to give birth, but to add gigantic maturity to its principles.
The scene which that country presents to the eye of a spectator, has something in it which
generates and encourages great ideas. Nature appears to him in magnitude. The mighty
objects he beholds, act upon his mind by enlarging it, and he partakes of the greatness he
contemplates.- Its first settlers were emigrants from different European nations, and of
diversified professions of religion, retiring from the governmental persecutions of the old
world, and meeting in the new, not as enemies, but as brothers.
If there is a country in the world where concord, according to common calculation, would be
least expected, it is America. Made up, as it is, of people from different nations, accustomed
to different forms and habits of government, speaking different languages, and more
different in their modes of worship, it would appear that the union of such a people was
impracticable; but by the simple operation of constructing government on the principles of
society and the rights of man, every difficulty retires, and all the parts are brought into
Paine also issued a challenge to Europeans that would apply to Americans as well…
When, in countries that are called civilised, we see age going to the workhouse and youth to the
gallows, something must be wrong in the system of government…. When it shall be said in any country
in the world, “My poor are happy; neither ignorance nor distress is to be found among them; my jails
are empty of prisoners, my streets of beggars; the aged are not in want, the taxes are not oppressive;
the rational world is my friend, because I am a friend of happiness”: when these things can be said,
then may that country boast of its constitution and its government.
7/PAINE IN HIS OWN WORDS:
FROM THE AGE OF REASON (1793-1795)
– his Deist statement against both Atheism and Organized Religion
Paine attacked the Bible and the existing organized religions:
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.
But he was no atheist:
I believe in one God, and no more; and I hope for happiness beyond this life…I believe in the equality
of man; and I believe that religious duties consist in doing justice, loving mercy, and endeavouring to
make our fellow-creatures happy. I do not believe...in the creed of any church I know of. My own
mind is my own church.
FROM AGRARIAN JUSTICE (1795)
- his pioneering Social-Democratic work
His principled starting point:
It is wrong to say God made both rich and poor; He made only male and female; and He gave them
the earth for their inheritance.
His critical historical perspective:
Poverty is a thing created by…civilized life. It exists not in the natural state… The present state of
civilization is as odious as it is unjust. It is absolutely the opposite of what it should be, and…a
revolution should be made in it… I care not how affluent some may be, provided that none be
miserable in consequence of it. But it is impossible to enjoy affluence with the felicity it is capable of
being enjoyed, while so much misery is mingled in the scene.
His proposal to address the problem:
To 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