Inspiration and Wisdom
from the Writings of
by Joseph Lewis
Inspiration and Wisdom
from the Writings of Thomas Paine
from the Writings
of Thomas Paine
Three Addresses on Thomas Paine
by Joseph Lewis
1 9 5 4
The Freethought Press Association
New York 1, N. Y.
and in the 177th year
of American Independence,
by Joseph Lewis
No part of this book may be reproduced in any form without the written permission of the author, except by a reviewer who wishes to quote brief passages in connection with a review for inclusion in magazine, newspaper or radio broadcast.
Printed in the United States of America
American-Book Stratford Press, Inc., New York
Go Forth Little Book
Consolation to the Distressed --
Knowledge and Wisdom
to all who read --
Peace and Happiness
to All Mankind.
I have been a student of Thomas Paine for over four decades. I have read and reread his works innumerable times. I can truthfully say, with Thomas A. Edison, that Paine educated me. The knowledge I received from his works replaced my lack of schooling. I was forced to leave school when I was nine years old. It is needless to say that I became fascinated with the man who preferred to call himself, "Common Sense."
So carefully did I read Thomas Paine that I sensed an indistinguishable relationship between his writings and the original draft of the Declaration of Independence, and I wrote a book to prove this thesis. I also found something besides political wisdom and religious enlightenment in the writings of Thomas Paine. I found inspiration, intellectual stimulation, erudite maxims, moral precepts, as well as a rare and exceptional literary excellence. I found words of consolation for times of distress, as well as rules of conduct that are productive of happiness.
From time to time, I would copy these gems and file them away, and now, after many years, these extracts consist of a formidable collection. I feel that if the writings of Thomas Paine have proved of such inestimable value to me, that they would likewise be of immense benefit to others, and that is why I decided to put this collection into a volume worthy of the great thoughts which they contain by this supremely great man.
I have added to the book three addresses which I have delivered on Thomas Paine.
Purdys, New York
Inspiration and Wisdom from the Writings of Thomas Paine
Independence is my happiness, and I view things as they are, without regard to place or person; my country is the world, and my religion is to do good.
It is necessary to the happiness of man that he be mentally faithful to himself.
It is not our belief or disbelief that can make or unmake the fact.
It is easy to tell a lie, but it is difficult to support the lie after it is told.
My own mind is my own church.
I believe that religion consists not in believing or disbelieving, but in doing justice, loving mercy and endeavoring to make our fellow creatures happy
Youth is the seed-time of good habits as well in nations as in individuals.
Suspicion is the companion of mean souls, as well as the bane of all good society.
When we are planning for posterity, we ought to remember that virtue is not hereditary.
Wisdom is not the purchase of a day.
It is folly to argue against determined hardness; eloquence may strike the ear, and the language of sorrow draw forth the tear of compassion, but nothing can reach the heart that is steeled with prejudice.
I love the man that can smile in trouble, that can gather strength from distress, and grow brave by reflection. 'Tis the business of little minds to shrink; but he whose heart is firm, and whose conscience approves his conduct, will pursue his principles unto death.
Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom, must, like men, undergo the fatigues of supporting it.
To argue with a man who has renounced the use and authority of reason, and whose philosophy consists in holding humanity in contempt, is like administering medicine to the dead.
Why do men continue to practise on themselves the absurdities they despise in others?
Certain, as I am, that when opinions are free, either in matters of government or religion, truth will finally and powerfully prevail.
There is perhaps no condition from which a man conscious of his own uprightness cannot derive consolation; for it is in itself a consolation for him to find that he can bear that condition with calmness and fortitude.
An army of principles will penetrate where an army of soldiers cannot; it will succeed where diplomatic management would fail: it is neither the Rhine, the Channel, nor the ocean that can arrest its progress: it will march on the horizon of the world, and it will conquer.
When the valleys laugh and sing, it is not the farmer only, but all creation that rejoices. It is a prosperity that excludes all envy; and this cannot be said of anything else.
The mind once enlightened cannot again become dark.
It ought not to be, that because we cannot do everything, that we ought not to do what we can.
Where knowledge is a duty, ignorance is a crime.
What renders us kind and humane? Is it not sympathy, the power which I have of putting myself in my neighbor's place?
Let us be careful not to promote the cause of delusion and falsehood.
We may as well attempt to unite truth and falsehood as inspiration and contradiction.
Morality is injured by prescribing to it duties that are impossible to be performed.
Sensible men should never guess.
Errors or caprices of the temper can be pardoned and forgotten; but a cold deliberate crime of the heart is not to be washed away.
It is an affront to truth to treat falsehood with complaisance.
Every lie is welcome that suits its purpose.
The ear can commit no crime, but the tongue may.
None can feel like those who suffer.
A man may often see reason, and he has, too, always the right of changing his opinion; but this liberty does not extend to matters of fact.
It is not because right principles have been violated that they are to be abandoned.
Public money ought to be touched with the most scrupulous consciousness of honor. It is not the produce of riches only, but of the hard earnings of labor and poverty. It is drawn even from the bitterness of want and misery. Not a beggar passes, or perishes in the streets, whose mite is not in that mass.
A long habit of not thinking a thing wrong, gives it a superficial appearance of being right.
The cause of America is in a great measure the cause of all mankind.
Memory, like a beauty that is always present to hear itself flattered, is flattered by everyone. But the absent and silent goddess, Forgetfulness, has no votaries, and is never thought of; yet we owe her much. She is the goddess of ease, though not of pleasure.
When the mind is like a room hung with black, and every corner of it crowded with the most horrid images imagination can create, this kind, speechless goddess of a maid, Forgetfulness, is following us night and day with her opium wand, and gently touching first one and then another, benumbs them into rest, and at last glides them away with the silence of a departing shadow. It is thus the tortured mind is restored to the calm condition of ease, and fitted for happiness.
How dismal must the picture of life appear to the mind in that dreadful moment when it resolves on darkness, and to die! One can scarcely believe such a choice was possible. Yet how many of the young and beautiful, timid in everything else, and formed for delight, have shut their eyes upon the world, and made the waters their sepulchral bed! Ah, would they in that crisis, when life and death are before them, and each within their reach, would they but think, or try to think, that Forgetfulness will come to their relief, and lull them into ease, they could stay their hand, and lay hold of life.
But there is a necromancy in wretchedness that entombs the mind, and increases the misery, by shutting out every ray of light and hope. It makes the wretched falsely believe they will be wretched ever. It is the most fatal of all dangerous delusions; and it is only when this necromantic night-mare of the mind begins to vanish, by being resisted, that it is discovered to be but a tyrannic specter.
All grief, like all things else, will yield to the obliterating power of time. While despair is preying on the mind, time and its effects are preying on despair; and certain it is the dismal vision will fade away and Forgetfulness, with her sister Ease, will change the scene. Then let not the wretched be rash, but wait, painful as the struggle may be, the arrival of Forgetfulness; for it will certainly arrive.
Here, my contemplative correspondent, let us stop and look back upon the scene. The matters here related being all facts, are strongly pictured in my mind, and in this sense Forgetfulness does not apply. But facts and feelings are distinct things, and it is against feelings that the opium wand of Forgetfulness draws us into ease.
Look back on any scene or subject that once gave you distress, for all of us have felt some, and you will find, that though the remembrance of the fact is not extinct in your memory, the feeling is extinct in your mind. You can remember when you had felt distress, but you cannot feel that distress again, and perhaps will wonder you felt it then. It is like a shadow that loses itself by light.
It is often difficult to know what is a misfortune: that which we feel as a great one to-day may be the means of turning aside our steps into some new path that leads to happiness yet unknown....
Under that impenetrable veil, futurity, we know not what is concealed, and the day to arrive is hidden from us. Turning then our thoughts to those cases of despair that lead to suicide, when, "the mind," as you say, "neither sees nor hears, and holds counsel only with itself; when the very idea of consolation would add to the torture, and self-destruction is its only aim," what, it may be asked, is the best advice, what the best relief? I answer, seek it not in reason, for the mind is at war with reason, and to reason against feelings is as vain as to reason against fire: it serves only to torture the torture by adding reproach to horror.
All reasoning with ourselves in such cases acts upon us like the reason of another person, which, however kindly done, serves but to insult the misery we suffer. If reason could remove the pain, reason would have prevented it. If she could not do the one, how is she to perform the other? In all such cases we must look upon Reason as dispossessed of her empire, by a revolt of the mind. She retires herself to a distance to weep, and the ebony scepter of Despair rules alone. All that Reason can do is to suggest, to hint a thought, to signify a wish, to cast now and then a kind of bewailing look, to hold up when she can catch the eye, the miniature-shaded portrait of Hope; and though dethroned, and can dictate no more, to wait upon us in the humble station of a hand-maid.
Is life so very long that it is necessary, nay even a duty, to shake the sand and hasten out the period of duration? Is the path so elegantly smooth, so decked on every side and carpeted with joys, that wretchedness is wanting to enrich it as a soil? Go ask shine aching heart, when sorrow from a thousand causes wounds it, go ask thy sickened self, when every medicine fails, whether this be the case or not?
Some writers have so confounded society with government, as to leave little or no distinction between them; whereas they are not only different, but have different origins. Society is produced by our wants and government by our 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; 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. Government, like dress, is the badge of lost innocence; the palaces of kings are built upon the ruins of the bowers of paradise. For were the impulses of conscience clear, uniform and irresistibly obeyed, man would need no other law-giver; but that not being the case, he finds it necessary to surrender up a part of his property to furnish means for the protection of the rest; and this he is induced to do by the same prudence which in every other case advises him, out of two evils to choose the least. Wherefore, security being the true design and end of government, it unanswerably follows that whatever form thereof appears most likely to ensure it to us, with the least expense and greatest benefit, is preferable to all others.
Here then is the origin and rise of government; namely, a mode rendered necessary by the inability of moral virtue to govern the world; here too is the design and end of government, viz. freedom and security.
This remissness will point out the necessity of establishing some form of government to supply the defect of moral virtue....
In this first parliament every man by natural right will have a seat.
Prudence will point out the propriety of having elections often.
The more simple anything is, the less liable it is to be disordered, and the easier repaired when disordered.
When the world was overrun with tyranny the least removed therefrom was a glorious rescue.
Time makes more converts than reason.
I know it is difficult to get over local or long standing prejudices.
It will always happen that the nicest construction that words are capable of, when applied to the description of something which either cannot exist, or is too incomprehensible to be within the compass of description, will be words of sound only, and though they may amuse the ear, they cannot inform the mind.
We are never in a proper condition of doing justice to others, while we continue under the influence of some leading partiality, so neither are we capable of doing it to ourselves while we remain fettered by any obstinate prejudice.
Mankind being originally equals in the order of creation, the equality could only be destroyed by some subsequent circumstance.
How impious is the title of sacred majesty applied to a worm, who in the midst of his splendor is crumbling into dust!
Evils which when once established is not easily removed.
Men who look upon themselves born to reign, and others to obey, soon grow insolent.
Sudden transitions of temper are seldom lasting.
When republican virtues fail, slavery ensues.
Of more worth is one honest man to society, ... than all the crowned ruffians that ever lived.
'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 honor. The least fracture now will be like a name engraved with the point of a pin on the tender rind of a young oak; the wound would enlarge with the tree, and posterity read it in full grown characters.
It is pleasant to observe by what regular gradations we surmount the force of local prejudices, as we enlarge our acquaintance with the world.
Hath your property been destroyed before your face? Are your wife and children destitute of a bed to lie on, or bread to live on? Have you lost a parent or a child by their hands, and yourself the ruined and wretched survivor? If you have not, then are you not a judge of those who have. But if you have, and can still shake hands with the murderers, then are you unworthy the name of husband, father, friend, or lover, and whatever may be your rank or title in life, you have the heart of a coward, and the spirit of a sycophant.
There was a time when it was proper, and there is a proper time for it to cease.
In no instance hath nature made the satellite larger than its primary planet; and as England and America, with respect to each other, reverse the common order of nature, it is evident that they belong to different systems. England to Europe: America to itself.
Men do not change from enemies to friends by the alteration of a name.
It is but seldom that our first thoughts are truly correct.
Where there are no distinctions there can be no superiority; perfect equality affords no temptation.
There are injuries which nature cannot forgive.
Can we but leave posterity with a settled form of government, an independent constitution of its own, the purchase at any price will be cheap.
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.
'Tis not in numbers but in unity that our great strength lies.
Common sense will tell us, that the power which hath endeavored to subdue us, is of all others, the most improper to defend us.
History sufficiently informs us, that the bravest achievements were always accomplished in the non-age of a nation.
The more men have to lose, the less willing are they to venture.
The intimacy which is contracted in infancy, and the friendship which is formed in misfortune, are of all others the most lasting and unalterable.
It is from our enemies that we often gain excellent maxims, and are frequently surprised into reason by their mistakes.
To conclude, however strange it may appear to some, or however unwilling they may be to think so, matters not, but many strong and striking reasons may be given to show, that nothing can settle our affairs so expeditiously as an open and determined Declaration for Independence.
Were a manifesto to be published, and despatched to foreign courts, setting forth the miseries we have endured, and the peaceful methods which we have ineffectually used for redress; declaring at the same time, that not being able any longer to live happily or safely under the cruel disposition of the British court, we had been driven to the necessity of breaking off all connections with her; at the same time, assuring all such courts of our peaceable disposition towards them, and of our desire of entering into trade with them: such a memorial would produce more good effects to this continent, than if a ship were freighted with petitions to Britain.
Will not a Declaration of Independence lessen the number of our friends, and increase the rage of our enemies in Britain?
Your friends (as you call them) are too few -- too divided -- and too interested to help you. And as for your enemies, they have done their worst. They have called upon Russians -- Hanoverians -- Hessians -- Canadians -- savages and Negroes to assist them in burning your towns -- desolating your country -- and in butchering your wives and children. You have nothing further to fear from them. Go, then, and awaken the Congress to a sense of their importance; you have no time to lose. France waits for nothing but a declaration of your independence to revenge the injuries they sustained from Britain in the last war. But I forbear to reason any further with you. The decree is finally gone forth. Britain and America are now distinct empires. Your country teems with patriots -- heroes -- and legislators, who are impatient to burst forth into light and importance. Hereafter your achievements shall no more swell the page of British history.
The day in which the colonies declare their independence will be a jubilee.
It may not always happen that our soldiers are citizens, and the multitude a body of reasonable men; virtue, as I have already remarked, is not hereditary, neither is it perpetual. Should an independency be brought about by the first of those means, we have every opportunity and every encouragement before us, to form the noblest, purest constitution on the face of the earth. 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 events of a few months. The reflection is awful, and in this point of view, how trifling, how ridiculous, do the little paltry cavilings of a few weak or interested men appear, when weighed against the business of a world.
Wherefore, instead of gazing at each other with suspicious or doubtful curiosity, let each of us hold out to his neighbor the hearty hand of friendship, and unite in drawing a line, which, like an act of oblivion, shall bury in forgetfulness every former dissension. Let the names of Whig and Tory be extinct; and let none other be heard among us, than those of a good citizen; an open and resolute friend; and a virtuous supporter of the rights of mankind, and of the free and independent states of America.
As to religion, I hold it to be the indispensable duty of government to protect all conscientious professors thereof, and I know of no other business which government has to do therewith.
He who takes nature for his guide, is not easily beaten out of his argument.
A firm bargain and a right reckoning make long friends.
Peace, with trade, is preferable to war without it.
Not a place upon earth might be so happy as America.
When in the Course of human Events it becomes necessary for a People to advance from that Subordination, in which they have hitherto remained and to assume among the Powers of the Earth, the equal and independent Station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent Respect to the opinions of Mankind requires that they should declare the Causes, which impell them to the Change.
We hold these truths to be Self evident; that all Men are created equal and independent; that from that equal Creation they derive Rights inherent and unalienable; among which are the Preservation of Life, and Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness; that to Secure these Ends, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the Consent of the Governed; that whenever, any form of Government, Shall become destructive of these Ends, it is the Right of the People to alter, or abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its Foundation on Such Principles, and organizing its Powers in Such Form, as to them Shall Seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence indeed will dictate that Government long established Should not be changed for light and transient Causes: and accordingly all Experience hath strewn, that Mankind are more disposed to Suffer, while Evils are Sufferable, than to right themselves, by abolishing the Forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long Train of Abuses and Usurpations, begun at a distinguish'd Period, and pursuing invariable, the Same Object, evinces a Design to reduce them under absolute Power, it is their Right, it is their Duty, to throw off Such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future Security. Such has been the patient Sufferance of these Colonies; and Such is now the Necessity, which constrains them to expunge their former Systems of Government. The History of his present Majesty, is a History, of unremitting Injuries and Usurpations, among which no one Fact Stands Single or Solitary to contradict the Uniform Tenor of the rest, all of which have in direct object, the Establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be Submitted to a candid World, for the Truth of which we pledge a Faith, as yet unsullied by Falsehood.
We fight not to enslave, but to set a country free, and to make room upon the earth for honest men to live in.
There is a natural firmness in some minds which cannot be unlocked by trifles, but which, when unlocked, discovers a cabinet of fortitude.
Though the flame of liberty may sometimes cease to shine, the coal can never expire.
There are cases which cannot be overdone by language.
Slow and sure is sound work.
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. 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.
Universal empire is the prerogative of a writer. The Republic of Letters is more ancient than monarchy; he that rebels against reason is a real rebel, but he that in defense of reason rebels against tyranny has a better title to "Defender of the Faith," than George the Third.
Surely there must be something strangly degenerating in the love of monarchy, that can so completely wear a man down to an ingrate, and make him proud to lick the dust that kings have trod upon.
"The United States of America," will sound as pompously in the world or in history, as "the kingdom of Great Britain."
Honest men are naturally more tender of their civil than their political fame.
It is the madness of folly, to expect mercy from those who have refused to do justice; and even mercy, where conquest is the object, is only a trick of war; the cunning of the fox is as murderous as the violence of the wolf, and we ought to guard equally against both.
Plain language may perhaps sound uncouthly to an ear vitiated by courtly refinements, but words were made for use, and the fault lies in deserving them, or the abuse in applying them unfairly.
A traitor is the foulest fiend on earth.
I am not for declaring war with every man that appears not so warm as myself: difference of constitution, temper, habit of speaking, and many other things, will go a great way in fixing the outward character of a man, yet simple honesty may remain at bottom. Some men have naturally a military turn, and can brave hardships and the risk of life with a cheerful face; others have not; no slavery appears to them so great as the fatigue of arms, and no terror so powerful as that of personal danger.
There is a knot of men among us of such a venomous cast, that they will not admit even one's good wishes to act in their favor.
A bad cause will ever be supported by bad means and bad men.
He that would sell his birthright for a little salt, is as worthless as he who sold it for pottage without salt; and he that would part with it for a gay coat, or a plain coat, ought for ever to be a slave in buff. What are salt, sugar and finery, to the inestimable blessings of "Liberty and Safety!" Or what are the inconveniences of a few months to the tributary bondage of ages?
I would rather die in attempting to obtain permanent freedom for a handful of people, than survive a conquest which would serve only to extend the empire of despotism. A band of heroes now beckon to me. I can only add that America is the theater where human nature will soon receive its greatest military, civil, and literary honors.
Is it the interest of a man to be a boy all his life?
We have been amused with the tales of ancient wonders; we have read, and wept over the histories of other nations: applauded, censured, or pitied, as their cases affected us. The fortitude and patience of the sufferers -- the justness of their cause -- the weight of their oppressions and oppressors -- the object to be saved or lost -- with all the consequences of a defeat or a conquest -- have, in the hour of sympathy, bewitched our hearts, and chained it to their fate: but where is the power that ever made war upon petitioners? Or where is the war on which a world was staked till now?
What I write is pure nature, and my pen and my soul have ever gone together. My writings I have always given away, reserving only the expense of printing and paper, and sometimes not even that. I never courted either fame or interest, and my manner of life, to those who know it, will justify what I say. My study is to be useful.
It is a much pleasanter task to prevent vice than to punish it.
We ought not so much to ground our hopes on the reasonableness of the thing we ask, as on the reasonableness of the person of whom we ask it: who would expect discretion from a fool, candor from a tyrant, or justice from a villain?
Error in opinion has this peculiar advantage with it, that the foremost point of the contrary ground may at any time be reached by the sudden exertion of a thought; and it frequently happens in sentimental differences, that some striking circumstance, or some forcible reason quickly conceived, will effect in an instant what neither argument nor example could produce in an age.
The connection between vice and meanness is a fit subject for satire, but when the satire is a fact, it cuts with the irresistible power of a diamond.
We profess liberality of sentiment to all men; with this distinction only, that those who do not deserve it would become wise and seek to deserve it. We hold the pure doctrines of universal liberty of conscience, and conceive it our duty to endeavor to secure that sacred right to others, as well as to defend it for ourselves.
We persecute no man, neither will we abet in the persecution of any man for religion's sake; our common relation to others being that of fellow-citizens and fellow-subjects of one single community; and in this line of connection we hold out the right hand of fellowship to all men.
Nature, in the arrangement of mankind, has fitted some for every service in life: were all soldiers, all would starve and go naked, and were none soldiers, all would be slaves.
A narrow system of politics, like a narrow system of religion, is calculated only to sour the temper, and be at variance with mankind.
There is a bastard kind of generosity, which being extended to all men, is as fatal to society, on one hand, as the want of true generosity is on the other.
A lax manner of administering justice, falsely termed moderation, has a tendency both to dispirit public virtue, and promote the growth of public evils.
When one villain is suffered to escape, it encourages another to proceed, either from a hope of escaping likewise, or an apprehension that we dare not punish.
It is disgraceful to the pure cause of truth, that men can dally with words of the most sacred import, and play them off as mechanically as if religion consisted only in contrivance.
Suspicion and persecution are weeds of the same dunghill, and flourish together.
A substantial good drawn from a real evil, is of the same benefit to society, as if drawn from a virtue; and where men have not public spirit to render themselves serviceable, it ought to be the study of government to draw the best use possible from their vices. When the governing passion of any man, or set of men, is once known, the method of managing them is easy; for even misers, whom no public virtue can impress, would become generous, could a heavy tax be laid upon covetousness.
It is not the number of dollars that a man has, but how far they will go, that makes him either rich or poor.
He that can conquer, finds his mind too free and pleasant to be brutish; and he that intends to conquer, never makes too much show of his strength.
Mankind are not universally agreed in their determination of right and wrong; but there are certain actions which the consent of all nations and individuals has branded with the unchangeable name of meanness. In the list of human vices we find some of such a refined constitution, they cannot be carried into practise without seducing some virtue to their assistance; but meanness has neither alliance nor apology. It is generated in the dust and sweepings of other vices, and is of such a hateful figure that all the rest conspire to disown it.
The glow of hope, courage and fortitude, will, in a little time, supply the place of every inferior passion, and kindle the whole heart into heroism.
The nearer any disease approaches to a crisis, the nearer it is to a cure. Danger and deliverance make their advances together, and it is only the last push, in which one or the other takes the lead.
It is dangerous to make men familiar with a crime which they may afterwards practise to much greater advantage against those who first taught them.
A man whose soul is absorbed in the low traffic of vulgar vice, is incapable of moving in any superior region.
A fog is always favorable to a hunted enemy.
When we take a survey of mankind, we cannot help cursing the wretch, who, to the unavoidable misfortunes of nature, shall wilfully add the calamities of war. One would think there were evils enough in the world without studying to increase them, and that life is sufficiently short without shaking the sand that measures it. The histories of Alexander, and Charles of Sweden, are the histories of human devils; a good man cannot think of their actions without abhorrence, nor of their deaths without rejoicing. To see the bounties of heaven destroyed, the beautiful face of nature laid waste, and the choicest works of creation and art tumbled into ruin, would fetch a curse from the soul of piety itself.
It is pleasant to look back on dangers past, and equally as pleasant to meditate on present ones when the way out begins to appear.
An army in a city can never be a conquering army.
It is not the farcical benedictions of a bishop, nor the cringing hypocrisy of a court of chaplains, nor the formality of an act of Parliament, that can change guilt into innocence, or make the punishment one pang the less.
There is something in meanness which excites a species of resentment that never subsides, and something in cruelty which stirs up the heart to the highest agony of human hatred.
If there is a sin superior to every other, it is that of wilful and offensive war. Most other sins are circumscribed within narrow limits, that is, the power of one man cannot give them a very general extension, and many kinds of sins have only a mental existence from which no infection arises; but he who is the author of a war, lets loose the whole contagion of hell, and opens a vein that bleeds a nation to death.
It is the object only of war that makes it honorable. And if there was ever a just war since the world began, it is this in which America is now engaged. She invaded no land of yours. She hired no mercenaries to burn your towns, nor Indians to massacre their inhabitants. She wanted nothing from you, and was indebted for nothing to you: and thus circumstanced, her defense is honorable and her prosperity is certain.
The only way to finish a war with the least possible bloodshed, or perhaps without any, is to collect an army, against the power of which the enemy shall have no chance. By not doing this, we prolong the war, and double both the calamities and expenses of it.
Vigor and determination will do anything and everything.
The worst of all policies is that of doing things by halves. Penny-wise and pound-foolish, has been the ruin of thousands.
I cannot help being sometimes surprised at the complimentary references which I have seen and heard made to ancient histories and transactions. The wisdom, civil governments, and sense of honor of the states of Greece and Rome, are frequently held up as objects of excellence and imitation. Mankind have lived to very little purpose, if, at this period of the world, they must go two or three thousand years back for lessons and examples. We do great injustice to ourselves by placing them in such a superior line. We have no just authority for it, neither can we tell why it is that we should suppose ourselves inferior.
Could the mist of antiquity be cleared away, and men and things be viewed as they really were, it is more than probable that they would admire us, rather than we them. America has surmounted a greater variety and combination of difficulties, than, I believe, ever fell to the share of any one people, in the same space of time, and has replenished the world with more useful knowledge and sounder maxims of civil government than were ever produced in any age before. Had it not been for America, there had been no such thing as freedom left throughout the whole universe. England has lost hers in a long chain of right reasoning from wrong principles, and it is from this country, now, that she must learn the resolution to redress herself, and the wisdom how to accomplish it.
The Grecians and Romans were strongly possessed of the spirit of liberty but not the principle, for at the time that they were determined not to be slaves themselves, they employed their power to enslave the rest of mankind. But this distinguished era is blotted by no one misanthropical vice. In short, if the principle on which the cause is founded, the universal blessings that are to arise from it, the difficulties that accompanied it, the wisdom with which it has been debated, the fortitude by which it has been supported, the strength of the power which we had to oppose, and the condition in which we undertook it, be all taken in one view, we may justly style it the most virtuous and illustrious revolution that ever graced the history of mankind.
A good opinion of ourselves is exceedingly necessary in private life, but absolutely necessary in public life, and of the utmost importance in supporting national character. I have no notion of yielding the palm of the United States to any Grecians or Romans that were ever born. We have equalled the bravest in times of danger, and excelled the wisest in construction of civil governments.
Here are men Of all nations, characters, professions and interests ... surviving, like sparks in the ocean, unquenched and uncooled in the midst of discouragement and disaffection. Here are men losing their all with cheerfulness, and collecting fire and fortitude from the flames of their own estates.
There never was a scheme against which objections might not be raised. But this alone is not a sufficient reason for rejection. The only line to judge truly upon is to draw out and admit all the objections which can fairly be made, and place against them all the contrary qualities, conveniences and advantages, then by striking a balance you come at the true character of any scheme, principle or position.
That in which every man is interested, is every man's duty to support. Any burden which falls equally on all men, and from which every man is to receive an equal benefit, is consistent with the most perfect ideas of liberty.
It is a shame and a sin to suffer a soldier in the field to want a blanket while there is one in the country.
Though age will naturally exempt a person from personal service, it cannot exempt him from his share of the charge, because the men are raised for the defense of property and liberty jointly.
Men in a state of intoxication, ... forget that the rest of the world have eyes, and that the same stupidity which conceals you from yourselves exposes you to their satire and contempt.
As you do, so shall you be done by.
If nothing but distress can recover you to reason, to punish will become an office of charity.
There is something in corruption, which, like a jaundiced eye, transfers the color of itself to the object it looks upon, and sees everything stained and impure.
Man with man cannot arrange in the same opposition. Their quarrels are accidental and equivocally created. They become friends or enemies as the change of temper, or the cast of interest inclines them.
Even wolves may quarrel, still they herd together.
There is something in obstinacy which differs from every other passion; whenever it fails it never recovers, but either breaks like iron, or crumbles sulkily away like a fractured arch. Most other passions have their periods of fatigue and rest; their suffering and their cure; but obstinacy has no resource, and the first wound is mortal.
If peace can be procured with more advantages than even a conquest can be obtained, he must be an idiot indeed that hesitates.
There are stages in the business of serious life in which to amuse is cruel, but to deceive is to destroy.
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. Bad as I believed the ministry to be, I never conceived them capable of a measure so rash and wicked as the commencing of hostilities; much less did I imagine the nation would encourage it. I viewed the dispute as a kind of law-suit, in which I supposed the parties would find a way either to decide or settle it. I had no thoughts of independence or of arms. The world could not then have persuaded me that I should be either a soldier or an author. If I had any talents for either, they were buried in me, and might ever have continued so, had not the necessity of the times dragged and driven them into action. I had formed my plan of life, and conceiving myself happy, wished every body else so. But when the country, into which I had just set my foot, was set on fire about my ears, it was time to stir. It was time for every man to stir. Those who had been long settled had something to defend; those who had just come had something to pursue; and the call and the concern was equal and universal. For in a country where all men were once adventurers, the difference of a few years in their arrival could make none in their right.
Misfortune and experience are lost upon mankind, when they produce neither reflection nor reformation. Evils, like poisons, have their uses, and there are diseases which no other remedy can reach.
When information is withheld, ignorance becomes a reasonable excuse.
In a general view, there are few conquests that repay the charge of making them, and mankind are pretty well convinced that it can never be worth their while to go to war for profit's sake.
War never can be the interest of a trading nation, any more than quarrelling can be profitable to a man in business. But to make war with those who trade with us, is like setting a bull-dog upon a customer at the shop-door.
My attachment is to all the world, and not to any particular part, and if what I advance is right, no matter where or who it comes from.
There is such an idea existing in the world, as that of national honor, and this, falsely understood, is oftentimes the cause of war.
The reception which the last petition of Congress met with put it past a doubt that such was their design, on which I determined with myself to write the pamphlet Common Sense. As I knew the time of the Parliament meeting, and had no doubt what sort of King's speech it would produce, my contrivance was to have the pamphlet come out just at the time the speech might arrive in America, and so fortunate was I in this cast of policy that both of them made their appearance in this city on the same day. [January 10, 1776].
I think the importance of that pamphlet was such that if it had not appeared, and that at the exact time it did, the Congress would not now have been sitting where they are. The light which that performance threw upon the subject gave a turn to the politics of America which enabled her to stand her ground. Independence followed in six months after it, although before it was published it was a dangerous doctrine to speak of, and that because it was not understood.
In order to accommodate that pamphlet to every man's purchase and to do honor to the cause, I gave up the profits I was justly entitled to, which in this city only would at the usual price of books [have] produced me £1,000 at that time a day, besides what I might have made by extending it to other States. I gave permission to the printers in other parts of this State [Pennsylvania] to print it on their own account. I believe the number of copies printed and sold in America was not short of 150,000 -- and is the greatest sale that any performance ever had since the use of letters, -- exclusive of the great run it had in England and Ireland.
A few days after our army had crossed the Delaware on the 8th of December, 1776, I came to Philadelphia on public service, and, seeing the deplorable and melancholy condition the people were in, afraid to speak and almost to think, the public presses stopped, and nothing in circulation but fears and falsehoods, I sat down, and in what I may call a passion of patriotism wrote the first number of the Crisis. It was published on the 19th of December, which was the very blackest of times.
To oblige and be obliged is fair.
Peace by treaty is only a cessation of violence for a reformation of sentiment. It is a substitute for a principle that is wanting and ever will be wanting till the idea of national honor be rightly understood.
It is, I think, exceedingly easy to define what ought to be understood by national honor; for that which is the best character for an individual is the best character for a nation.
Nothing is more common than to agree in the conquest and quarrel for the prize.
Trade flourishes best when it is free.
I have frequently and carefully thought of it since, and were I now to give an opinion on it as a measure to which I was not a party, it would be like this: that as the press in that country is free and open, could a person possessed of a knowledge of America, and capable of fixing it in the minds of the people of England, go suddenly from this country to that, and keep himself concealed, he might, were he to manage his knowledge rightly, produce a more general disposition for peace than by any method I can suppose.
I see my way so clearly before me in this opinion, that I must be more mistaken than I ever yet was on any political measure, if it fails of its end. I take it for granted that the whole country, ministry, minority, and all, are tired of the war, but the difficulty is how to get rid of it, or how they are to come down from the high ground they have taken, and accommodate their feelings to a treaty for peace. Such a change must be the effect either of necessity or choice. I think it will take at least three or four more campaigns to produce the former, and they are too wrong in their opinions of America to act from the latter. I imagine that next spring will begin with a new Parliament, which is so material a crisis in the politics of that country that it ought to be attended to by this; for, should it start wrong, we may look forward to six or seven years more of war.
The influence of the press rightly managed is important; but we can derive no service in this line, because there is no person in England who knows enough of America to treat the subject properly. It was in a great measure owing to my bringing a knowledge of England with me to America that I was enabled to enter deeper into politics, and with more success, than other people; and whoever takes the matter up in England must in like manner be possessed of a knowledge of America. I do not suppose that the acknowledgment of independence is at this time a more unpopular doctrine in England than the declaration of it was in America immediately before the publication of the pamphlet Common Sense, and the ground appears as open for the one now as it did for the other then.
The manner in which I would bring such a publication out would be under the cover of an Englishman who had made the tour of America incognito. This will afford me all the foundation I wish for and enable me to place matters before them in a light in which they have never yet viewed them.... Now there is no other method to give this information a national currency but through the channel of the press, which I have ever considered the tongue of the world, and that which governs the sentiments of mankind more than anything else that ever did or can exist.
The simple point I mean to aim at is to make the acknowledgment of independence a popular subject, and that not by exposing and attacking their errors, but by stating its advantages and apologizing for their errors, by way of accommodating the measure of their pride. The present parties in that country will never bring one another to reason. They are heated with all the passion of opposition, and to rout the ministry, or to support them, makes their capital point. Was the same channel open to the ministry in this country which is open to us in that they would stick at no expense to improve the opportunity. Men who are used to government know the weight and worth of the press, when in hands which can use it to advantage.
Perhaps with me a little degree of literary pride is connected with principle; for, as I had a considerable share in promoting the Declaration of Independence in this country, I likewise wish to be a means of promoting the acknowledgment of it in that; and were I not persuaded that the measure I have proposed would be productive of much essential service, I would not hazard my own safety, as I have everything to apprehend should I fall into their hands; but, could I escape in safety, till I could get out a publication in England, my apprehensions would be over, because the manner in which I mean to treat the subject would procure me protection.
When any of the prouder passions are hurt, it is much better philosophy to let a man slip into a good temper than to attack him in a bad one.
Nothing hurts the affections both of parents and children so much, as living too closely connected, and keeping up the distinction too long.
It is seven years, this day, since I arrived in America, and though I consider them as the most honorary time of my life, they have nevertheless been the most inconvenient and even distressing. From an anxiety to support, as far as laid in my power, the reputation of the Cause of America, as well as the Cause itself, I declined the customary profits which authors are entitled to, and I have always continued to do so; yet I never thought (if I thought at all on the matter), but that as I dealt generously and honorably by America, she would deal the same by me. But I have experienced the contrary -- and it gives me much concern, not only on account of the inconvenience it has occasioned to me, but because it unpleasantly lessens my opinion of the character of a country which once appeared so fair, and it hurts my mind to see her so cold and inattentive to matters which affect her reputation.
Almost everybody knows, not only in this country but in Europe, that I have been of service to her, and as far as the interest of the heart could carry a man I have shared with her in the worst of her fortunes, yet so confined have been my private circumstances that for one summer I was obliged to hire myself as a common clerk to Owen Biddle of this city for my support: but this and many others of the like nature I have always endeavored to conceal, because to expose them would only serve to entail on her the reproach of being ungrateful, and might start an ill opinion of her honor and generosity in other countries, especially as their are pens enough abroad to spread and aggravate it.
Unfortunately for me, I knew the situation of Silas Deane when no other person knew it, and with an honesty, for which I ought to have been thanked, endeavored to prevent his fraud taking place. He has himself proved my opinion right, and the warmest of his advocates now very candidly acknowledge their deception.
While it was everybody's fate to suffer I cheerfully suffered with them, but though the object of the country is now nearly established and her circumstances rising into prosperity, I feel myself left in a very unpleasant situation. Yet I am totally at a loss what to attribute it to; for wherever I go I find respect, and everybody I meet treats me with friendship; all join in censuring the neglect and throwing blame on each other, so that their civility disarms me as much as their conduct distresses me. But in this situation I cannot go on, and as I have no inclination to differ with the country or to tell the story of her neglect, it is my design to get to Europe, either to France or Holland. I have literary fame, and I am sure I cannot experience worse fortune than I have here. Besides a person who understood the affairs of America, and was capable and disposed to do her a kindness, might render her considerable service in Europe, where her situation is but imperfectly understood and much misrepresented by the publications which have appeared on that side the water, and though she has not behaved to me with any proportionate return of friendship, my wish for her prosperity is no ways abated, and I shall be very happy to see her character as fair as her cause.
Yet after all there is something peculiarly hard that the country which ought to have been to me a home has scarcely afforded me an asylum.
In thus speaking to your Excellency [Washington], I know I disclose myself to one who can sympathize with me, for I have often cast a thought at your difficult situation to smooth over the unpleasantness of my own.
It is a long lane that has no turning.
That advice should be taken wherever example has failed, or precept be regarded where warning is ridiculed, is like a picture of hope resting on despair.
Where nature and interest reinforce with each other, the compact is too intimate to be dissolved.
No human foresight can discern, no conclusion can be formed, what turn a war might take, if once set on foot by an invasion.
A mind disarmed of its rage feels no pleasure in contemplating a frantic quarrel. Sickness of thought, ... leaves no ability for enjoyment.
In the second number of the Crisis, I endeavored to set forth the impracticability of conquering America. I stated every case, that I conceived could possibly happen, and ventured to predict its consequences. As my conclusions were drawn not artfully, but naturally, they have all proved to be true. I was upon the spot; knew the politics of America, her strength and resources, and by a train of services, the best in my power to render, was honored with the friendship of the congress, the army and the people. I considered the cause a just one. I know and feel it a just one, and under that confidence never made my own profit or loss an object. My endeavor was to have the matter well understood on both sides, and I conceived myself tendering a general service, by setting forth to the one the impossibility of being conquered, and to the other the impossibility of conquering. Most of the arguments made use of by the ministry for supporting the war, are the very arguments that ought to have been used against supporting it; and the plans, by which they thought to conquer, are the very plans in which they were sure to be defeated. They have taken every thing up at the wrong end. Their ignorance is astonishing, and were you in my situation you would see it. They may, perhaps, have your confidence, but I am persuaded that they would make very indifferent members of Congress. I know what England is, and what America is, and from the compound of knowledge, am better enabled to judge of the issue than what the king or any of his ministers can be.
Hitherto you have experienced ... nothing of the miseries of war.... Like fire at a distance you heard not even the cry; you felt not the danger, you saw not the confusion.... You knew not what it was to be alarmed at midnight with an armed enemy in the streets. You were strangers to the distressing scene of a family in flight, and to the thousand restless cares and tender sorrows that incessantly arose. To see women and children wandering in the severity of winter, with the broken remains of a well furnished house, and seeking shelter in every crib and hut, were matters that you had no conception of. You knew not what it was to stand by and see your goods chopped for fuel, and your beds ripped to pieces to make packages for plunder. The misery of others, like a tempestuous night, added to the pleasures of your own security. You even enjoyed the storm, by contemplating the difference of conditions, and that which carried sorrow into the breasts of thousands served but to heighten in you a species of tranquil pride. Yet these are but the fainter sufferings of war, when compared with carnage and slaughter, the miseries of a military hospital, or a town in flames.
That there are men in all countries to whom a state of war is a mine of wealth, is a fact never to be doubted. Characters like these naturally breed in the putrefaction of distempered times, and after fattening on the disease, they perish with, or, impregnated with the stench, retreat into obscurity.
But, perhaps, there is something in the extent of countries, which, among the generality of people, insensibly communicates extension of the mind. The soul of an islander, in its native state, seems bounded by the foggy confines of the water's edge, and all beyond affords to him matters only for profit or curiosity, not for friendship. His island is to him his world, and fixed to that, his every thing centers in it; while those who are inhabitants of a continent, by casting their eye over a larger field, take in likewise a larger intellectual circuit, and thus approaching nearer to an acquaintance with the universe, their atmosphere of thought is extended, and their liberality fills a wider space. In short, our minds seem to be measured by countries when we are men, as they are by places when we are children, and until something happens to disentangle us from the prejudice, we serve under it without perceiving it.
In addition to this, it may be remarked, that men who study any universal science, the principles of which are universally known, or admitted, and applied without distinction to the common benefit of all countries, obtain thereby a larger share of philanthropy than those who only study national arts and improvements. Natural philosophy, mathematics and astronomy, carry the mind from the country to the creation, and give it a fitness suited to the extent. It was not Newton's honor, neither could it be his pride, that he was an Englishman, but that he was a philosopher: the heavens had liberated him from the prejudices of an island, and science had expanded his soul as boundless as his studies.
At a crisis, big, like the present, with expectation and events, the whole country is called to unanimity and exertion. Not an ability ought now to sleep, that can produce but a mite to the general good, nor even a whisper to pass that militates against it. The necessity of the case, and the importance of the consequences, admit no delay from a friend, no apology from an enemy. To spare now, would be the height of extravagance, and to consult present ease, would be to sacrifice it perhaps forever.
Come hither ye that are lovers, or ye that have been lovers, and decide the controversy between us! What comparison is there between the soft murmurs of an heart mourning in secret, and the loud horrors of war -- between the silent tears of pensive sorrow, and rivers of wasted blood -- between the sweet strife of affection, and the bitter strife of death -- between the curable calamities of pettish lovers, and the sad sight of a thousand slain!
We seek not a fleet to insult the world, or range in foreign regions for conquests. We have more land than we can cultivate; more extent than we can fill. Our natural situation frees us from the distress of crowded countries, and from the thirst of ambitious ones. We covet not dominion, for we already possess a world; we want not to export our laboring poor, for where can they live better, or where can they be more useful?
It is impossible to sit down and think seriously on the affairs of America, but the original principles upon which she resisted, and the glow and ardor which they inspired, will occur like the undefaced remembrance of a lovely scene. To trace over in imagination the purity of the cause, the voluntary sacrifices that were made to support it, and all the various turnings of the war in its defense, is at once both paying and receiving respect. The principles deserve to be remembered, and to remember them rightly is repossessing them. In this indulgence of generous recollection, we become gainers by what we seem to give, and the more we bestow the richer we become.
Could I find a miser whose heart never felt the emotion of a spark of principle, even that man, uninfluenced by every love but the love of money, and capable of no attachment but to his interest, would and must, from the frugality which governs him, contribute to the defense of the country, or he ceases to be a miser and becomes an idiot. But when we take in with it every thing that can ornament mankind; when the line of our interest becomes the line of our happiness; when all that can cheer and animate the heart, when a sense of honor, fame, character, at home and abroad, are interwoven not only with the security but the increase of property, there exists not a man in America, unless he be an hired emissary, who does not see that his good is connected with keeping up a sufficient defence.
Every passion that acts upon mankind has a peculiar mode of operation. Many of them are temporary and fluctuating; they admit of cessation and variety. But avarice is a fixed, uniform passion. It neither abates of its vigor nor changes its object; and the reason why it does not, is founded in the nature of things, for wealth has not a rival where avarice is a ruling passion. One beauty may excel another, and extinguish from the mind of man the pictured remembrance of a former one: but wealth is the phoenix of avarice, and therefore it cannot seek a new object, because there is not another in the world.
The man that does not now feel for the honor of the best and noblest cause that ever a country engaged in, and exert himself accordingly, is no longer worthy of a peaceable residence among a people determined to be free.
Of all the innocent passions which actuate the human mind there is none more universally prevalent than curiosity.
How easy it is to abuse truth and language, when men, by habitual wickedness, have learned to set justice at defiance.
One broken leg is better than two, but still it is not a source of joy.
To be nobly wrong is more manly than to be meanly right, is an expression I once used on a former occasion, and it is equally applicable now. We feel something like respect for consistency even in error. We lament the virtue that is debauched into a vice, but the vice that affects a virtue becomes the more detestable: and amongst the various assumptions of character, which hypocrisy has taught, and men have practised, there is none that raises a higher relish of disgust, than to see disappointed inveteracy twisting itself, by the most visible falsehoods, into an appearance of piety which it has no pretensions to.
Every attempt to do a thing for less than it can be done for, is sure to become at last both a loss and a dishonor.
Too great to yield, and too noble to insult; superior to misfortune, and generous in success, let us untaintedly preserve the character which we have gained, and show to future ages an example of unequalled magnanimity. There is something in the cause and consequence of America that has drawn on her the attention of all mankind. The world has seen her brave. Her love of liberty; her ardour in supporting it; the justice of her claims, and the constancy of her fortitude have won her the esteem of Europe, and attached to her interest the first power in that country.