I have always been interested in this man. My father had a set of Tom Paine's books on the shelf at home. I must have opened the covers about the time I was 13. And I can still remember the flash of enlightenment which shone from his pages. It was a revelation, indeed, to encounter his views on political and religious matters, so different from the views of many people around us. Of course I did not understand him very well, but his sincerity and ardor made an impression upon me that nothing has ever served to lessen.I have heard it said that Paine borrowed from Montesquieu and Rousseau. Maybe he had read them both and learned something from each. I do not know. But I doubt that Paine ever borrowed a line from any man...Many a person who could not comprehend Rousseau and would be puzzled by Montesquieu, could understand Paine as an open book. He wrote with a clarity, a sharpness of outline and exactness of speech that even a schoolboy should be able to grasp. There is nothing false, little that is subtle and an impressive lack of the negative in Paine. He literally cried to his reader for a comprehending hour and then filled that hour with such sagacious reasoning as we find surpassed nowhere else in American letters - seldom in any school of writing.Paine would have been the last to look upon himself as a man of letters. Liberty was the dear companion of his heart; truth in all things his object....we, perhaps, remember him best for his declaration:'The world is my country; to do good my religion.'Again we see the spontaneous genius at work in 'The Rights of Man' and that genius busy at his favorite task - liberty. Written hurriedly and in the heat of controversy, 'The Rights of Man' yet compares favorably with classical models and in some places rises to vaulting heights. Its appearance outmatched events attending Burke's effort in his 'Reflections'.Instantly the English public caught hold of this new contribution. It was more than a defense of liberty; it was a world declaration of what Paine had declared before in the Colonies. His reasoning was so cogent, his command of the subject so broad, that his legion of enemies found it hard to answer him.'Tom Paine is quite right,' said Pitt, the Prime Minister, 'but if I were to encourage his views we should have a bloody revolution.'Here we see the progressive quality of Paine's genius at its best. 'The Rights of Man' amplified and reasserted what already had been said in 'Common Sense', with now a greater force and the power of a maturing mind. Just when Paine was at the height of his renown, an indictment for treason confronted him. About the same time he was elected a member of the Revolutionary Assembly and escaped to France.So little did he know of the French tongue that addresses to his constituents had to be translated by an interpreter. But he sat in the assembly. Shrinking from the guillotine, he encountered Robespierre's enmity and presently found himself in prison, facing that dread instrument.But his imprisonment was fertile. Already he had written the first part of 'The Age of Reason' and now turned his time to the latter part.Presently his second escape cheated Robespierre of vengeance and in the course of events 'The Age of Reason' appeared. Instantly it became a source of contention which still endures. Paine returned to the United States a little broken and went to live at his home in New Rochelle - a public gift. Many of his old companions in the struggle for liberty avoided him and he was publicly condemned by the unthinking.{The Philosophy of Paine, June 7, 1925}
Thomas A. Edison
You are to make up your mind whether it is to be God or man. Whether you are to be free or a slave. Whether it is to be progress or stagnation.As long as man loves a phantom in the sky more than he loves his fellow man, there will never be peace upon this earth; so long as man worships a Tyrant as the Fatherhood of God, there will never be a Brotherhood of Man.You must make the choice, you must come to the decision. Is it to be God or Man? Churches or Homes—preparation for death or happiness for the living?If ever man needed an example of the benefit of the one against the other, he need but read the pages of history for proof of how religion retarded progress and provoked hatred among the children of men.When theology ruled the world, man was a slave. The people lived in huts and hovels. They were clad in rags and skins; they devoured crusts and gnawed bones; the priests wore garments of silk and satin; carried mitres of gold and precious stones, robbed the poor and lived upon the fat of the land!Here and there a brave man appeared to question their authority. These martyrs to intellectual emancipation slowly and painfully broke the spell of superstition and ushered in the Age of Reason and the Dawn of Science.Man became the only god that man can know.He no longer fell upon his knees in fear.He began to enjoy the fruits of his own labor.He discovered a way to relieve himself from the drudgery of continuous toil; he began to enjoy a few comforts of life—and for the first time upon this earth he found a few moments for happiness. It is far more important to learn how to live than to learn how to pray.A new day and a new era dawned for him. His labors produced enormous dividends. He looked at the sky for the first time and saw that it was blue! He searched the heavens and found no God. He no longer feared the manifestations of nature.
Joseph Lewis