Tag Archives: Thomas Paine

Our Belittled Founding Father, by George F. Smith

Thomas Paine gave us one of the greatest opening lines in an essay ever: “These are the times that try men’s souls.” He rallied American revolutionaries to the cause during its darkest hours. He is the author of a monumental book, The Age of Reason. Yet, he died in virtual penury and obscurity, and he gets little recognition today. From George F. Smith at lewrockwell.com:

Thomas Paine (1737-1809) is a figure from our revolutionary past who emerged from obscurity to upset the world with his popular writings.  “He wrote the three top-selling literary works of the eighteenth century, which inspired the American Revolution, issued a historic battle cry for individual rights, and challenged the corrupt power of government churches,”researcher Jim Powell tells us.

After enduring a long illness Paine, 72, died in Greenwich Village, New York City on June 8, 1809.  Though he was known throughout the world his friends, such as they were, were in short supply.  Wikipedia says only “six mourners came to his funeral, two of whom were black, most likely freedmen.”  The free world had abandoned Paine.  Why?

Politically, the US had changed since he published his explosive anti-government pamphlet, Common Sense, in January 1776.  The Federalists, under the intellectual leadership of Alexander Hamilton, were pushing for a United States of England, with all the corruption and taxes that came with it.  Paine, writing during Jefferson’s administration, fired back with a series of articles titled “To the Citizens of the United States and Particularly to the Leaders of the Federal Faction (p. 908).”  Referring to the Federalists as apostates who clung to the word while changing its meaning, Paine wrote that “federalism” now

served as a cloak for treason, a mask for tyranny. Scarcely were they placed in the seat of power and office, than federalism was to be destroyed, and the representative system of government, the pride and glory of America, and the palladium of her liberties, was to be over- thrown and abolished.  [p. 915]

Continue reading→

He Said That? 6/27/18

From Thomas Paine (1737–1809), English-born American political activist, philosopher, political theorist and revolutionary, Rights of Man (1791):

That there are men in all countries who get their living by war, and by keeping up the quarrels of nations, is as shocking as it is true; but when those who are concerned in the government of a country, make it their study to sow discord and cultivate predjudices between nations, it becomes the more unpardonable.

He Said That? 3/7/18

From Thomas Paine 1737–1809), English-born American political activist, philosopher, political theorist and revolutionary, The Age of Reason (1807):

Each of those churches shows 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 accuses the other of unbelief; and, for my own part, I disbelieve them all.

He Said That? 9/21/17

From Thomas Paine (1736-1809), English-American political activist, philosopher, political theorist, and revolutionary, Letter Addressed To The Addressers On The Late Proclamation, 1792 (Paine’s response to the charge of “seditious libel” brought against him after the publication of The Rights of Man)

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

Common Sense 2017, Parts 1 and 2, by Jim Quinn

These are definitely turning into times that try men’s souls. From Jim Quinn at theburningplatform.com (Part 1):

Thomas Paine was born in 1737 in Britain. His first thirty seven years of life were pretty much a series of failures and disappointments. Business fiascos, firings, the death of his first wife and child, a failed second marriage, and bankruptcy plagued his early life. He then met Benjamin Franklin in 1774 and was convinced to emigrate to America, arriving in Philadelphia in November 1774. He thus became the Father of the American Revolution with the publication of Common Sense, pamphlets which crystallized opinion for colonial independence in 1776.

The first pamphlet was published in Philadelphia on January 10, 1776, and signed anonymously “by an Englishman.” It became an instantaneous sensation, swiftly disseminating 100,000 copies in three months among the two and a half million residents of the 13 colonies. Over 500,000 copies were sold during the course of the American Revolution. Paine published Common Sense after the battle of Lexington and Concord, making the argument the colonists should seek complete independence from Great Britain, rather than merely fighting against unfair levels of taxation. The pamphlets stirred the masses with a fighting spirit, instilling in them the backbone to resist a powerful empire.

It was read aloud in taverns, churches and town squares, promoting the notion of republicanism, bolstering fervor for complete separation from Britain, and boosting recruitment for the fledgling Continental Army. He rallied public opinion in favor of revolution among layman, farmers, businessmen and lawmakers. It compelled the colonists to make an immediate choice. It made the case against monarchy, aristocracy, tyranny and unfair taxation, offering Americans a solution – liberty and freedom. It was an important precursor to the Declaration of Independence, which was written six months later by Paine’s fellow revolutionaries.

To continue reading: Common Sense-2017, Part 1

And the link to Common Sense-2017, Part 2

He Said That? 7/15/16

Tonight’s quotes are an excerpt from and link to an article by Steven Mihailovich at antiwar.com noting Thomas Paine’s remarkable prescience concerning the US government he had helped establish.

Around the globe, the United States faces more enemies than ever before.

American troops are deploying to Syria and Libya, and returning to Iraq to combat maniacal ISIS terrorists, among others.

American forces are shipping out to the Baltic States and Ukraine to contain a revanchist despot in Russia.

America’s navy is steaming into the South China Sea to curtail the territorial claims of an expansionist Communist regime.

The list goes on and on. Never in its history has America confronted so many adversaries at once. It’s unprecedented. Even World War II, with 50 times the number of US military casualties, had only two theaters of operation.

New foes pop up faster than old ones can be dispatched. An entire generation of American soldiers is fighting twice as long to liberate Afghanistan from tyranny as it took their forefathers and mothers to liberate themselves from the tyranny of a British king.

Which means George Washington couldn’t help even if he were raised from the dead. None of the Founding Fathers could have foreseen the full spectrum of threats assailing the country today to offer anything but a process and some vague principles to follow. The variety, voracity, viciousness and sheer volume of villains imperiling America on several fronts is beyond anyone’s experience – past or present – to address conclusively.


Maybe. However, in the same way one puts more faith in the words of a religion’s founder than its present practitioners, odds are if you could wake up Thomas Paine for advice on the current crisis, he’d holler at you to shut the light and let him sleep.

He wrote everything you need to know about today’s hostilities and hazards some 225 years ago in “The Rights of Man.”

“The attention of the government…appears…to have been so completely engrossed and absorbed by foreign affairs, and the means of raising taxes, that it seems to exist for no other purposes. Domestic concerns are neglected; and with respect to regular law, there is scarcely such a thing.”

“Had governments agreed to quarrel on purpose to fleece their countries by taxes, they could not have succeeded better than they have done.”

“If the miseries of war, and the deluge of evils it spreads over a country, did not check the desire of pleasantry, or did not change the desire of laughter into grief, the frantic conduct of the government would only excite ridicule.”

Yup, if good old Tom Paine were around today, he’d instantly recognize the operations against ISIS, al-Qaeda and its assorted derivatives, Russia, China, Iran, North Korea and the whole panoply of America’s opponents as mere parts of a single response to a single menace toward a single end.

“It seems the government has at present fixed up posting [notices], signifying it is in want of an enemy; for unless it finds one somewhere, it has no longer any pretext for the revenue and the excessive imposts and taxes which are actually necessary to it.”

“Therefore the government appears to say to the universe, or to say to itself, ‘If no one will be so kind as to become my foe, I shall no longer have occasion for navies or armies, and shall be forced to reduce my taxes. . . .Unless I make an enemy, the harvest of wars will be terminated.’”

Makes you want to reach across the aisle to shake hands, don’t it? Throw in an “amen” for good measure.

Paine nailed it, even though he was describing conditions and issues at the end of the – ahem – 18th century!

No one ever accused Paine of being a pacifist. After arriving at Philadelphia in December 1774, Paine picked up his pen to eloquently inspire an American Revolution, but unlike others merely writing about it, he also picked up his musket to join the fighting.

Paine knew reason alone doesn’t convince the powerful to give up their plunder and privileges. It takes a little bloodshed; sometimes a lot. While some of the Founders couldn’t be bothered to get their wigs dirty, Paine was taking aim at and dodging fire from blokes whom he possibly toasted in some pub months earlier.

Paine recognized that it was ordinary people – the “nation” as they were called at the time – who do most of the bleeding on both sides of a conflict. That observation led him to appreciate an important divergence.

“It will be necessary to consider the interest of Governments as a distinct interest to that of Nations.”

Paine pitied the lot of the common soldier; fighting battles and getting maimed or killed in exotic places which had nothing to do with the daily chores of regular folk trying to make a living back home. Who’s in charge of a distant land matters only to the few who might make a ton of dough on the outcome; not to the average Joes and Josephines that pay the price regardless of outcomes.

“What inducement has the farmer, while following the plough, to lay aside his peaceful pursuit, and go to war with the farmer of another country?. . . .Does it add an acre to any man’s estate, or raise its value? Are not conquest and defeat each of the same price, and taxes the never-failing consequence? — Though this reasoning may be good to a nation, it is not so to a government. War is the card-table of governments, and [people] the dupes of the game.”

For more great insight and quotes: Tom Paine Warned About America’s Perpetual War

He Said That? 3/26/16

From Thomas Paine,  (1737-1809) British-American political writer, theorist, and activist, The Age of Reason (1793):

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.

He Said That? 3/12/16

From Thomas Paine (1737-1809), English-American political writer, theorist, and activist, Common Sense (1776):

Men who look upon themselves born to reign, and others to obey, soon grow insolent; selected from the rest of mankind their minds are early poisoned by importance; and the world they act in differs so materially from the world at large, that they have but little opportunity of knowing its true interest, and when they succeed to the government are frequently the most ignorant and unfit of any throughout the dominions.

He Said That? 10/5/15

From Thomas Paine (1737-1809), English-American political activist, philosopher, political theorist and revolutionary, Common Sense (1776):

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…