History's HEROES? 1737 - 1809

Thomas Paine

Views and opinions

History is to ascribe the American Revolution to Thomas Paine
John Adams in a letter to Thomas Jefferson 1819

Without the pen of Paine, the sword of Washington would have been wielded in vain
Quote has been attributed to both John Adams and Joel Barlow. Unknown

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
Thomas Edison from the Introduction to 'The Life and Works of Thomas Paine, Vol. I', 1925
Today belongs to Barack Obama. But it also belongs to Thomas Paine. When our new president says that his election proves "the dream of our founders is alive in our time," it is Paine's dream of which he speaks
John Nichols, 20 January, 2009
He believed that government shouldn't be fixed and that it was up to every generation to say how they should be governed. He would have been a great supporter of the Freedom of Information Act [under which MPs' expenses came to be revealed]. He always said there is nothing mysterious about government
Chad Goodwin, chair of the Thomas Paine Society, reported in newsbbc.co.uk, 2009

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Our Traders in MEN (an unnatural commodity!) must know the wickedness of the SLAVE-TRADE, if they attend to reasoning, or the dictates of their own hearts
Thomas Paine, Essay on Slavery, 1774, published 1775

Can nothing be done in our Assembly for poor Paine? Must the merits of Common Sense continue to glide down the stream of time unrewarded by this country? His writings certainly have had a powerful effect upon the public mind. Ought they not meet an adequate return. He is poor! He is chagrined! and almost if not altogether, in despair of relief
George Washington, in a letter to James Madison, 12 June, 1784

A man of gigantic political genius, who made, while other men took baby steps, the strides of a giant
An English Admirer. Unknown

If ever a man's memory deserved a place in the breast of a freeman, it is that of the deceased, for "Take'em all in all we ne'er shall look on his like again
A Republican Editor's Obituary, 1809
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
Thomas Paine from Common Sense, 1776
The Christian religion is, above all the religions that ever prevailed or existed in ancient or modern times, the religion of wisdom, virtue, equity and humanity, let the Blackguard scoundrel, rogue Paine say what he will
John Adams, c. 1795
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 though himself might deserve some decent degree of honors of his contemporaries, yet his descendents might be far too unworthy to inherit them
Thomas Paine, Common Sense, 1775
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
Thomas Paine from Common Sense 1775
...all men are of one degree, and consequently that all men are born equal, and with equal natural right, in the same manner as if posterity had been continued by creation instead of generation, the latter being only the mode by which the former is carried forward; and consequently, every child born into the world must be considered as deriving its existence from God. The world is as new to him as it was to the first man that existed, and his natural right in it is of the same kind
Thomas Paine from Rights of Man 1791
Paine was too great a libertarian to be satisfied with the independence of America, so he went abroad and sought freedom for England with his "Rights of Man". There he was outlawed and hung in effigy for his pains, but "Rights of Man" is today, as has been pointed out, the living Constitution of modern England
Thomas Edison from the Introduction to 'The Life and Works of Thomas Paine, Vol. I', 1925
He devoted his whole life to the attainment of two objects—rights of man and freedom of conscience
John Wesley Jarvis (American Painter) c. 1809
I believe in the equality of man; and I believe that religious duties consist in doing justice, loving mercy, and endeavoring to make our fellow-creatures happy
Thomas Paine, Age of Reason 1792
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
Thomas Paine, Age of Reason 1794

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
Theobald Wolfe Tone 1797

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
Thomas Rickman 1819
The words of Thomas Paine have inspired me and encouraged me. Words have tremendous force, that's why the media is so influential, that's why religion is so influential. What we need in the world is more encouragement. The political class and the media underestimate people's intelligence. And what a speech or a book can do is to give people confidence in themselves. Paine believed in that passionately
Tony Benn. Unknown
At the centre of his thought was a profound trust in the people and in their 'common sense'. He encouraged the public's aspirations for a better, more democratic world... Today, political leaders on both sides of the Atlantic pay lip service to concepts like 'personal empowerment' but Paine truly believed in the transformative power that the people could and should wield
Cheryl Hudson, Oxford University, reported in newsbbc.co.uk, 2009

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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 his 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: 'tis dearness only that gives everything 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, December 1776

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If the slavery of the parents be unjust, much more is the children's, if the parents were justly slaves, yet the children are born free; this is the natural, perfect right of all mankind
Thomas Paine, Essay on Slavery, 1774, published 1775

What a poor, ignorant, malicious, short-sighted, crapulous mass, is Tom Paine's Common Sense
John Adams, Letter to Thomas Jefferson, 22 June 1819
Demand that Thomas Paine be decreed of accusation for the interest of America as well as France
Robespierre, October 1793

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
Robert G. Ingersoll, writing about Thomas Paine's funeral, 2009
The county of Yorkshire, which contains near a million souls, sends two county members; and so does the county of Rutland which contains not a hundredth part of that number. The town of Old Sarum, which contains not three houses, sends two members; and the town of Manchester, which contains upwards of sixty thousand souls, is not admitted to send any. Is there any principle in these things?
Thomas Paine, Rights of Man, 1791
You slept away your time in the field, till the finances of the country were completely exhausted, and you have but little share in the glory of the final event. It is time, Sir, to speak the undisguised language of historical truth
Thomas Paine, in his letter to George Washington, July 1796
I offer nothing more than simple facts, plain arguments, and common sense
Thomas Paine from Common Sense 1775
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
Thomas Paine from Common Sense 1775
The duty of man is not a wilderness of turnpike gates, through which he is to pass by tickets from one to the other. It is plain and simple, and consists but of two points. His duty to God, which every man must feel; and with respect to his neighbour, to do as he would be done by. If those to whom power is delegated do well, they will be respected; if not, they will be despised
Thomas Paine from Rights of Man 1791
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 wild boar on a bitch wolf, never before in any age was suffered by the poltroonery of mankind, to run through such a career of mischief. Call it then the Age of Paine
John Adams, letter 1805
My country is the world. My religion is to do good
Thomas Paine 1792
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
Thomas Paine answers the charges against him for sedition and libel, summer 1792
I am unacquainted with his age, but he had lived long, done some good, and much harm
An American Federalist Editor's Obituary, New York Paper, 1809
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