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THE POLITICAL INFLUENCE OF THOMAS PAINE
"With his name left out, the history of Ilberty cannot be written."
the hatred of his corrupt superiors, and Modern psychologists tell us that, if
be dismissed from the service on a trivthere be any difference between the mind
ial charge. Shortly afterwards he beof man and that of the other animals, lin, who was then in London pleading
came intimately acquainted with Frankit is that man conceives the relations between objects, while animals merely per
the cause of the colonies, and emigrated ceive the related objects. For many years
to Philadelphia on his advice. The reamen have vaguely felt that each man has
sons for this sudden and extreme inticertain inalienable rights which society macy, with Franklin are not known, nor or the government may not abridge or
is it known how Paine, who was an uninfringe ; but it was Thomas Paine who
educated man, acquired a style so reconverted this hazy animal perception markably clear and forcible, albeit not into a rational human conception, who always grammatical
, as in that Common first realized and made others realize
Sense, and his other publications. that the Rights of Man exist, and that To bridge these two remarkable lacks they stand, not on the permission or tol- of fact about Paine's life, some have superation of society, or the government, or
posed that he wrote the celebrated Junius the ruler, but on their own merits.
letters. Between them and Paine's In the acted history of the United works there is a great similarity of style States, Thomas Paine played a great and revealed mental characteristics; and part; in its written histories, his name
both labored toward the same end-the hardly appears. Historians have not
destruction of monarchy and aristocracy, been able to deny the vastness of his in- and the formation of a republic. The fluence upon the development of contem
Junius letters stopped shortly before poraneous Europe and America; but Paine's departure to America, and tothey have been able to keep it in the ward the end of the American Revolubackground. The religious opinions tion, Paine is known to have desired to which he expressed-opinions which, at return to England and carry on the war the present time, would merely give him there by a series of anonymous letters an orthodox place amongst the so-called against the government; that is, by the "Higher Critics”-had, at the time they method of Junius. This hypothesis has were uttered the effect of arousing to
the advantage of not merely explaining wrath the whole Christian world, and of Junius as well or better than any other, burying his great and well-earned repu
but of also explaining Thomas Painetation under a flood of slander and vilifi
his remarkable style and the fact that cation. It is the purpose of this essay
Franklin, at the very beginning of their not to refute the libelous lies which are acquaintanceship, treated him as a bopiously circulated even to the present som friend and a most trustworthy conday, but merely to recount the services fidant. rendered by the "Author Hero of the No sooner had Paine followed FrankAmerican Revolution."
lin's advice and emigrated to America, Born in 1737, in Thetford, England, than the was engaged as editor of the Paine exhiibted no very marked signs of Pennsylvania Magazine. His most faunusual genius until his emigration to mous article in it was African Slavery in America in 1774. He had, it is true, America, which led to the formation of published in 1772, a pamphlet, The Case the first American anti-slavery society of the Excise Officers, in which he (April 14, 1775), and thus began the showed up the evils and abuses of the ex- glorious work which Lincoln's Emancicise system so successfully as to secure pation Proclamation and the Thirteenth
Amendment have completed. Another tune. It came out on the very day in famous article was on the position of which arrived the royal proclamation women, and anticipated most of the valid which stamped the patriots as rebels and contentions of our contemporaneous outlaws, and threatened them with dire women's-suffragists.
punishment. This proclamation might The first of Paine's great works was easily have discouraged the Americans Common Sense. When the colonies pro- and induced them to give up the strugtested and rose in revolt, they had abso- gle, had not its voice been drowned by lutely no desire for independence.
the thunder-tones of Paine exhorting the May, 1775, Washington wrote to Bouch- colonists to strike for absolute separation er, the chaplain of Congress: “If you and freedom. Common Sense, which, ever hear of me joining in any such being published anonymously, was at measure (as separation from Great Brit- first attributed to Franklin, John Adain), you may have my leave to set me ams, and other patriots, proved concludown for anything wicked.” About the sively that the colonists would be better same time he said of Massachusetts: “It off if independent of Britain, that they is not the wish of this government, or of had good prospects of obtaining that any other upon this continent, separately freedom, and that they could easily give or collectively, to set up for independ themselves good government. ence." And Franklin made assurances The scheme of government proposed of the same kind to the English govern- in Common Sense-a republic of, by, and ment. In short, none of the patriot for the people, had been approached beleaders dreamed of an independent re- fore, but never reached. The pseudopublic: “they were only monarchial reb- republics of antiquity were always more els, fighting for better terms of union or less onligarchic, and held in subjecwith their mother country.'
tion numerous enslaved countries; and Then Paine appeared. When the the ideas of Locke, Rousseau, and other memory of Lexington and Bunker Hill republican writers were based, not upon was still vivid, Franklin, John Adams, the inherent rights of man, but upon an Washington, and Benjamin Rush-four omnipotent government. Previous of the most prominent members of the thinkers had regarded the right of the rebel congress—met in fear and perplex- individual as conferred by the governity to discuss the affairs of the colonies. ment, by law or custom: the colonists At length Franklin asked the momen- petitioned for redress on the ground, not tous question: "Where is this war to that they were men, but that they were end? Are we fighting only for a change British subjects and ought not to be disin the British ministry or-or
criminated against because they hapword "independence" stuck in his throat. pened to live in America,-on the No one answered: "bound to England ground, not that what they asked for by ties of ancestry, language, religion, was their eternal natural right, but that the very idea of separation from her it was the old, undoubted right of the seemed a blasphemy. At that moment English people, conferred by custom and Paine was introduced by Franklin, and act of parliament; these "rights and libbegan to express his views. At first his erties” were merely the “laws and free hearers were horrified by his political customs of the realm.” Thomas Paine impiety; but, when he finished, they was the first to realize and prove that grasped his hand as one man and im- every man has certain natural rights, plored him to publish his views immedi- which he possesses, not through the ately. Paine seized his pen, and, at the state, but by his own nature. beginning of 1776, gave to the world The influence of Common Sense is Common Sense, the forerunner and agreed by both friends and foes to have foundation of the Declaration of Inde- been almost incalculable. Richard Carpendence.
lile, in his Life of Paine, says that "for Nothing could have been more oppor- its consequences and rapid effect it was
the most important production which Pane, who had been fighting and sufferever issued from the press.” Benjamin ing as a common soldier, was equal to Rush stated that "it burst forth from the the emergency. On December 23, 1776, press with an effect which has been he produced the Crisis—the first of a rarely produced by types and paper in series of pamphlets under that name. It any age or country." Conway speaks of was read at the head of every regiment, it as "a pamphlet whose effect has never and aroused tremendous enthusiasm. been paralleled in literary history." Jef- Two days later, on Christmas night, ferson speaks of the patriots "rallying Washington crossed the ice-filled Delaabout the standard of Common Sense." ware with his re-inspirited army and And Cheetham, one of Paine's most captured the Hessians at Trenton, shameless calumniators, admits that the where, standing over the dead body of author "was hailed as an angei sent from the Hessian commander, he confessed heaven to save from all the horrors of the might of Thomas Paine's pen. This slavery, by his timely, powerful and un- victory, followed closely by that at erring counsels, a faithful but abused, a Princeton, completely restored the spirbrave but misrepresented people.” Sim- its of the patriots. ilar testimonies could be multiplied in- From that time to the end of the war, definitely. No one has ever had the face Paine was constantly serving his counto deny that Common Sense was one of try; and, at every opportunity, a new the great causes, if not the great cause,
Crisis (there were sixteen in all) sprang which produced the Declaration of Inde- into being to reanimate the flagging enpendence and the resulting present posi- ergies of the patriots. Even his hostile tion of the United States.
biographer, Cheetham, states that, to the The Declaration of Independence is continental army, "his pen was an apalmost wholly founded upon the ideas of pendage almost as necessary and formidCommon Sense; and it follows very able as its cannon.” But his aid was not closely the outlines of a memorial which confined to literary work alone. When, Paine proposed to send to the govern- in June, 1780, not a cent was in the treasments of Europe. Indeed some have ury for Washington's starving soldiers thought that it was originally written by --when ruin stared the new-born repubPaine for the committee on drawing it lic in the face—Thomas Paine, after up, of which Jefferson was the chair- reading to the congress an appealing letman. The style of the document—and ter from Washington, and looking at this is especially true of the original ver- the blank faces around him, proposed a sion is very similar to that of Common subscription and offered to begin it with Sense; and contrasts strongly with the $500 in hard cash. His example fired confused and labored prolixity so fre- the other delegates; enough was raised, quent in Jefferson's writings. Moreover, and the country again was saved. the fierce denunciation of slavery and the At the close of the Revolution, Paine slave-trade, found in the original ver- stood with Washington and Franklin in sion, could hardly have originated with the popular estimation. But he deterthe slave-holding Jefferson, but might mined to leave America. It had attained easily have been written by the author of its independence; he desired that all the African Slavery in
in America. That world should be in the same condition: Paine had a hand in this slavery clause in his own words, "Where freedom is is pretty certain ; and the whole Declara- not, there is my home.” He desired to tion is, at the very least, permeated by destroy monarchy, and determined to his ideas.
take up the work which Junius had laid Shortly after the Declaration had been down. In England he published a few signed, the British landed on Staten pamphlets, the most notable one being, Island, captured New York, and men- Prospects on the Rubicon, and superinaced Philadelphia, the continental capi. tended the structure of an iron bridge tal. Washington was in despair. But which he had invented. Then the
French Revolution broke out, and Paine lican idea which Paine was the first to who was intimate with many of its chief ally with American independence. To participants, hastened to Paris to assist them, therefore, we should turn for the in its development.
original, genuine Jeffersonian DemocShortly afterwards Burke published his Reflections on the French Revolu- When Paine arrived in France after tion. Paine at once answered it by the his escape from England, he received a first part of his Rights of Man, and ex- tremendous ovation. Four departments posed the defects and abuses of the -Calais, Abbeville, Beauvais and Vervaunted English system of government. sailles-elected him deputy to
the The book appeared in March, 1791. In National Convention. That of Calais the following May, Paine returned to being the first presented, he accepted Paris—just in time for the flight of it. He and Condorcet drew up the masLouis XVI., and the next morning pla- terful constitution of 1793, which would carded Paris with posters demanding the most certainly have provided France organization of a republic. In July he with good government, had not the returned to England, and in February ignorance of the people, the treachery of published the second part of Rights of the king, and the exasperation produced Man.
by the conduct of the emigres nobles and Few books have ever raised such the great powers brought on the Reign commotion. The English government of Terror. Paine was no more connecthad looked upon the first part with fu- ed with the Jacobin atrocities than St. rious disapproval; but when the second Peter with the massacre of St. Barappeared their rage and terror knew no tholomew's. The execution of the king bounds. They endeavored to purchase he opposed with all his strength; but the copyright or get control of its sale in the populace refused to listen to reason, some other way, but were unsuccessful. and Louis XVI was condemned to the Within a year nearly two hundred thou- guillotine. sand copies had been sold. The govern- The only result to Paine of his heroic ment was furious. “They saw,” says conduct was that he was thrown into Sherwin, "that it inculcated truths prison, where he stayed until the death which they could not controvert; that it of Robespierre. He had been sentenced contained plans which, if adopted, would to the guillotine, and escaped only by a benefit at least nine-tenths of the com- mistake of the jailer. Meanwhile he munity.” Accordingly they resolved to published his "Age of Reason," of which suppress it. Every bookseller who sold
it may be interesting to know that a it was outrageously persecuted, and somewhat expurgated edition of the first Paine himself was compelled to fly for part was used in England as a tract his life to France.
against atheism. On his release from Rights of Man, in addition to refuting prison, at the end of the Reign of TerBurke's slanders, was a continuation of ror, he accepted a unanimous invitation the republican principles which Paine to resume his seat in the Convention. had previously expressed. Its logic was In 1798, Napoleon, who was preparing irresistible: Pitt himself had to to invade England, secured the services admit this. The Government could of Paine to establish, after the conquest, answer Paine only by
prose- a more popular form of government cutions, imprecations and burnings in ef- there. But the scheme did not figy-plain confessions of defeat. His terialize. ideas, says Conway, were "the earliest Paine, perceiving that Napoleon had complete statement of republican prin- practically overthrown republicanism, ciples;" they were pronounced to be the then resolved to return to the United fundamental principles of the American States, and, refusing the offer of PresiRepublic by Jefferson, Madison and dent Jefferson to go on a special warJackson—the three Presidents who, ship, he landed at Baltimore on October above all others, represented the repub- 30, 1802. He was welcomed tumultu
ously by his old friends, except a few Thomas Paine's was a glorious work. whom his religious views had estranged; He gave to the world the principle that but the more violent of the Federalist every man has, from his own nature, journals declared that he should be certain inalienable rights, and that govhung on the same tree with Jefferson. ernment should be limited to the protecFrom that time he lived in comparative tion of those rights—that governments retirement, rendered necessary by his ill-, were made for man, not man for governhealth, and died on June 8, 1809, at the ments. Thomas Paine formulated the age of seventy-two years.
first practical system of true democratic after, in 1819, his remains were removed government. He worked for humanity to England by William Cobbett, on the alone : at so low a price did he sell Comground that America had shown herself mon Sense and the Crisis that, in spite too ungrateful to retain them. His of their enormous sale, he got greatly former grave,
at New Rochelle, is in debt through them. His relation to marked by a magnificent stone monu- the United States can be best stated in ment, to which a large bronze bust of the words of Andrew Jackson: "Thomas the author-hero has been added.
Paine needs no monument made with Thomas Paine's was an illustrious hands; he has erected a monument in career. We have seen him rousing in the hearts of all lovers of liberty.” Euthe American colonists the idea of and rope, where he thought he had failed, hope of independence. We haye seen is permeated with his ideas: every govhim preventing, by purse and pen, any ernment in it, except Russia and Turkey, collapse of the, patriot cause; defying is closely modeled on his plans. And the British government in the name of England, his birthplace, towards whom mankind; risking his life in the vain at- his affections were always directed, has tempt to save a hostile king from the pushed on step by step towards his refury of the Jacobin mob. And, last of forms, until Disraeli said to Gladstone: all-piteous spectacle !--we have seen "How does your reform government him leaving France, overwhelmed by the differ from that of Thomas Paine, exbelief that democracy was destroyed. cept that the sovereign is left in name?” Little did he know what a harvest would and the great premier made no reply. spring from his seeds!
He could not.
AMONG THE FACULTY
Professor Herman Schumacher, the been away for more than a year on a first man to fill the Kaiser Wilhelm pro- leave of absence, but his health has not fessorship of German institutions and been improved. He has been spending history at Columbia University, has ar- the time at his old home in Boston, and rived in this country. Prof. Schumacher has devoted some time to his submarine is from Bonn University, where he has signalling apparatus, which has proved a the chair of political economy. During great success and has been adopted by the academic year he will lecture four many countries of the world. Prof. times a week in English on the develop- Blake has been with the University of ment of German commerce, industries Kansas for many years, and Blake hall, and the German banking system.
the home of the physics department of
the institution, is named for him. He is Professor L. I. Blake of the University one of the most widely known educators of Kansas has sent his resignation to the in the West, and his departure will create regents of that institution as head of the a faculty vacancy that will be most diffidepartment of physics, a position he has cult to fill. held for many years. The step is taken on account of ill health. Prof. Blake has Three University of Chicago profes