Abbildungen der Seite

probably was never known to the public. After the separation from his wife, he went to London, where he procured an introduction to Dr. Franklin, who advised him to go to America; this advice he followed, and arrived in Philadelphia about the close of the year 1774. Here his political career commenced.

His first engagement was with Mr. Aitkin, a bookseller, who established the Pennsylvania Magazine in January, 1775, which Paine edited for some time with great ability. His monody on the Death of Gen. Wolfe, and Reflections on the death of lord Clive, were first published in this magazine, and contributed much to its popularity. At this time he became acquainted with, and visited, many people of the first rank; among whom were Franklin, Rittenhouse, G. Clymer, Dr. Rush, and others.

It was Dr. Rush who suggested to him the idea of writing Common Sense, which was published in January, 1776; and, as the doctor says, "bursted from the press with an effect which has rarely been produced by types and paper in any age or country." Before this work was published it was submitted to the inspection of Dr. Franklin, Mr. Samuel Adams, and other distinguished patriots, who spoke in the highest terms of it.

In the summer and autumn of 1776, he served as a volunteer in the American army, under Gen. Washington, and associated with officers of the first class.

The first number of The Crisis was published December, 1776, and had a most invigorating effect on the spirits of the army, of public bodies, and of private citizens. "These," said The Crisis," are the times that try men's souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of his country, but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman."

Three numbers of The Crisis were published in the year 1777, with the same success as the first.

On the 17th of April, 1777, Paine was elected Secretary to the Committee of Foreign Affairs, which office he held twenty-one months. He also acted as clerk to the legislature of Pennsylvania about the year 1780.

Three more numbers of The Crisis were published in 1778; three in 1780, in which year he wrote the pamphlet entitled Public Good, on the claim of Virginia to the Western Territory.


In 1782, four numbers of The Crisis appeared. The two last were written in 1783.

In February, 1781, Mr. Paine accompanied Col. Laurens to France, where they obtained for the United States a loan of ten millions of livres, and a present of six millions. On his return he published his Letter to the abbe Raynal.

When the army was about to be disbanded in 1783, Washington used all his influence to obtain from Congress some compen. sation for the services which Paine had rendered the country by his revolutionary writings. In August, 1785, Congress passed the following resolution. "Resolved, that the early, unsolicited, and continued labors of Mr. Thomas Paine, in explaining and enforcing the principles of the late revolution, by ingenious and timely publications upon the nature of liberty and civil government, have been well received by the citizens of these states, and merit the approbation of Congress; and that in consideration of these services, and the benefits produced thereby, Mr. Paine is entitled to a liberal gratification from the United States." This liberal gratification was three thousand dollars; which was all the compensation he ever received from government.

Some have supposed that he applied personally to Congress for remuneration for his writings, and have condemned him on that ground, as evincing a sordid disposition; but if he did do so, it rather throws a stigma upon that government, which, knowing his circumstances, reduced him to the necessity of reminding it of its duty. Very few men render services to any country without being paid for them; some get money, and others, who happen to have that, get fame and honors. There is a vast difference between a poor patriot and a rich one: both may act from the same motives and yet get different appellations.

Paine also received from the state of Pennsylvania 5007, currency; and from New-York a fine estate of 300 acres of land, with all necessary buildings attached to it; situated in New-Rochelle, West Chester county.

Dissertations on Government, the affairs of the Bank, and Paper Money was published in 1786. The occasion of it was as follows: In the year 1780, when the British army had overrun the southern states; when the finances of the country were exhausted; and the American army were in the greatest distress, a



voluntary subscription for its relief was proposed in Philadelphia. The amount raised in this way was three hundred thousand pounds; which was afterwards converted into a bank by the subscribers, headed by Robert Morris, and supplied the wants of the army. This supply was probably instrumental in enabling Washington to carry into effect his well-concerted plan against Cornwallis. This bank was incorporated by Congress, in 1781, and further incorporated by an act of the Pennsylvania legislature the following year.

"When the war was over-when extreme distress had ceased, and the services which the bank had rendered were forgotten, it was attacked as an institution incompatible with individual prosperity, and public safety. The legislature of Pennsylvania was urgently petitioned to repeal their act of incorporation. The petitions were referred to a select committee, who reported in favor of its repeal. Here was an attempt, under the pretence of promoting liberty, happiness and safety, to violate them all by a most tyrannical invasion of private property! Paine, very unceremoniously and vigorously, assailed both the assembly and its petitioners, and probably averted the act of despotism which the freemen were about to commit."

Paine sailed from the United States, in April 1787, for France, where he exhibited the model of a bridge, of his invention, to the Academy of Sciences. From France he passed over to England, and arrived in London, Sept. 1787. He visited his mother at Thetford, whom he supported while he remained in the country.

While in England, Paine became acquainted with Mr. Thomas Walker, of Manchester, the friend and companion of Fox. He was a liberal encourager of the arts; and with his assistance Paine was enabled to have an arch of his bridge cast in iron, at Rotherham, in Yorkshire. The bridge obtained for him a high reputation among the mathematicians of Europe.

Early in the year 1788, he published in London, Prospects on the Rubicon. The United Provinces and France being embroiled with Prussia, it was supposed that England would be drawn into the quarrel. It was written on this subject.

Mr. Paine subscribed 500%.

The Rights of Man, part first, was published in London, in March, 1791, and gained as much popularity in England, as his Common Sense had in the United States.

In February, 1792, the second part of the Rights of Man was published in London. In May, of the same year, the king issued a proclamation for suppressing all " seditious and libellous works;" designating none, but evidently aiming at the Rights of Man. The attorney-general commenced a prosecution the same day against Paine, as the author.

His trial was to come on the following December. In September, preceding, a French deputation announced to him his elec tion to the National Convention, from the department of Calais. He immediately left England; but his trial came on as if he were present for libellous passages in the Rights of Man, and of course a verdict of guilty was rendered. It is never very difficult for the British government, in state prosecutions, to have a verdict awarded in its favor.

In the National Convention, Paine voted for the trial of Louis XVI. and on the trial, delivered a speech in favor of preserving his life.

The French Convention, in December, 1793, passed a decree for the expulsion of all members from it who were foreigners by birth; and by consequence Paine was expelled. This decree was followed by another the same month, for imprisoning every man in France who was born in England. Under this decree he was thrown into prison. He had just finished the first part of the Age of Reason, which he left with Mr. Barlow, when he was arrested. His confinement lasted eleven months, from Dec. 1793, to Nov. 1794. After his liberation he found an asylum in the house of Mr. Munroe, the American minister in France, where he continued eighteen months. He resumed his seat in the National Convention, on the invitation of that body.

His next work was a pamphlet On the English system of Finance, published April, 1796. In July following, he published his Letter to General Washington. In this, it is to be regretted that he suffered himself to abuse Gen. Washington, if not causelessly, at least ungenerously. The chief reason assigned was, that Washington did not make any exertion to obtain his liberation from prison. It is well known that the critical

situation of our affairs, at that time, both with England and France, precluded the possibility of interfering in his behalf, without endangering the peace of the country. Some excuse may be found for Paine, in the fact of his confinement eleven months in a French prison. It is well calculated to engender unfavorable feelings towards others.

In October, 1796, he published the second part of the Age of Reason, and in the year following, a Letter to the Hon. Thomas Erskine, a pamphlet entitled Agrarian Justice, and a Letter to the people and armies of France. This was his last publication in France.

Paine now wished to return to the United States, which was no easy matter: the fleets of Great Britain covered the ocean, having received orders to search for him in all vessels leaving France. He made arrangements for accompanying Mr. Munroe home, which circumstances, fortunately for him, prevented; as the vessel in which he embarked was boarded by a British frigate and strictly searched. After a number of unsuccessful attempts to procure a safe passage, he finally succeeded, and arrived at Baltimore, Oct. 30, 1802. From thence he went to Washington, where he continued five or six months. While there he wrote several letters, addressed To the people of the United States.

Besides the works here enumerated, Paine was the author of several minor productions, and among them a number of pieces of poetry; the best of which are the monody on the death of Gen. Wolfe, and the Castle in the Air.

In May, 1803, he went to New-York, with the intention of residing there. His estate in New-Rochelle, West Chester county, had greatly increased in value during his absence of fourteen years. Here and in the city of New-York, he resided till his death, which occurred in the latter place. He was removed to New-Rochelle and buried on his estate, and this inscription, at his own request, placed on his tombstone. "Thomas Paine, author of Common Sense: died June 8th, 1809, aged 72 years and 5 months."

Probably no man ever was more abused by writers than Thomas Paine. Nothing like an impartial history of his life and writings has been published: he seems, according to his biographers, a rara avis; a man without one good quality;-who lived more

« ZurückWeiter »