Thomas Paine: If There Must Be Trouble…

Some of Thomas Paine’s words, still relevant centuries later…

Man is not the enemy of man but through the medium of a false system of government.

The circumstances of the world are continually changing, and the opinions of man change also; and as government is for the living, and not for the dead, it is the living only that has any right in it.

– The Rights of Man (1791)

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.

­If there must be trouble, let it be in my day, that my child may have peace.

– The Crisis No. I (written 19 December 1776, published 23 December 1776)

Thomas Paine is deeply involved in the early stages of the French Revolution. He writes the ‘Rights of Man (1791) in defence of the French Revolution against its critics, especially our Irish Edmund Burke.

Despite not speaking French, he is elected to the French National Convention in 1792. The Girondists regard him as an ally, the Montagnards, especially Robespierre, regard him as an enemy. In December of 1793, he is arrested and imprisoned in Paris, then released in 1794.

He becomes notorious because of ‘The Age of Reason (1793–94), advocating deism, promoting reason and freethinking, and arguing against institutionalised religion and Christian doctrines.

Thomas  Paine remains in France during the early Napoleonic era, but condemned Napoleon’s dictatorship. In 1802, at President Jefferson’s invitation, he returns to America where he dies on June 8, 1809. Only six people attend his funeral as he had been ostracized due to his criticism and ridicule of Christianity.

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