The Age of Reason
by Joseph Lewis
typeset by Cliff Walker
(Address delivered Feb. 17, 1957,
over Radio Station WMIE, Miami Florida)
Good evening Ladies and Gentlemen.
I am going to make the most remarkable offer ever made over the radio. This offer is Free. Absolutely Free. No obligations of any kind. It concerns one of the greatest books ever written. A Book that has done more for the emancipation of the human mind from ignorance, and superstition than any other volume in existence. It has been responsible for the education of some of our greatest men. The title of the book is, "The Age of Reason" by Thomas Paine. Do you know who Thomas Paine was? He was born in Thetford, England in 1737. When he was 35 years old he met Benjamin Franklin in a coffee house, in London. Benjamin Franklin sensed something unusual in this "ingenious worthy young man" and gave him a letter of introduction and urged him to go to America. He did.
The wisdom of Benjamin Franklin was never better exemplified than when he recognized the rare ability of Thomas Paine. How fortunate was that meeting.
Thomas Paine landed upon our shores penniless, and like many immigrants he enriched our country. Not only that, but he also made one of the most valuable contributions in behalf of Freedom in the history of mankind.
Shortly after his arrival here he became editor of the Pennsylvania Magazine, and could not help but feel the tyranny under which the people were living. He saw an opportunity that never existed before. He saw an opportunity to establish a new government and wrote the pamphlet "Common Sense." It electrified the people as no other writing before or since! That pamphlet, "Common Sense" caused the Declaration of Independence to be proclaimed, provoked the Revolutionary Was and was responsible for the establishment of the United States of America.
No wonder Benjamin Franklin took pride in being responsible for Thomas Paine's contribution to the cause of America's Independence. He said, "I value myself on the share I had in procuring for America the acquisition of so useful and valuable a citizen."
In fact, when I made a study of Thomas Paine's association with the American Revolution, and reread his Common Sense, I was forcibly impressed with the similarity of the writings of this pamphlet and the language of The Declaration of Independence.
I worked for years in further research, and became convinced that Thomas Paine wrote the ORIGINAL draft of that immortal document. I wrote a book to prove my premise, and I am happy to say that this book is now used in the classrooms of many colleges in the United Sates and Europe.
But when the war started and defeat after defeat had been suffered by the Continental Army, it became a grave question as to whether we would be successful in the conflict. This concern was expressed time and again by the Commander-In-Chief of the Army. On more than one occasion, General Washington sent up moans of despair, which culminated in his final gasp of desperation, when he cried, "I think the game pretty well up!"
And now there has just come to public light an hitherto unknown letter which makes us realize the desperation of Washington's plight. This letter was written to George Mason, one of the leaders of the Revolution. Washington wrote: "We are without money ... without provisions ... the history of this war is a history of false hopes ... our efforts are in vain."
If the Commander-In-Chief of the Army thought our struggle for Independence was a "false hope," and that our efforts to achieve Freedom "are in vain," what must have been the temper of the people in such a hopeless situation. They too had become discouraged, enthusiasm began to wane, many deserted the great Cause, and mutiny had already taken place in the Army.
It was during this time, in the very depths of despair, that General Von Stueben said that pamphlet written by Thomas Paine "would produce a better effect than all the recommendations of Congress, in prose and verse."
He was right. It did. It began with these immortal words: "These are the times that try men's souls ... " Paine called it, THE CRISIS. Washington had it read to his soldiers, and I need not tell you what effect it produced. It was on the lips of all the people, and a revolution in sentiment and determination came over the American colonies. They were once more determined that the war for Independence must be won. Whenever the situation became desperate, whenever another defeat was suffered, these words of Paine reverberated throughout the camps:
"These are the times that try men's souls ... He that stands it now deserves the love and thanks of man and woman."
Whenever there was a shortage of food, whenever there was insufficient clothing, whenever there were mumblings of discontent, these words suddenly became audible:
"These are the times that try men's souls ... Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered."
Whenever plagued by anxious thoughts of home and farm, the soldier heard these words.:
"These are the times that try men's souls ... The harder the struggle the more glorious the triumph."
Whenever in moments of loneliness, thinking of wife and child, wondering whether his patriotic devotion to enlist in the Cause was too high a price to pay, he was answered by the gem:
"These are the times that try men's souls ... " What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: It is dearness only that gives everything its value."
When fighting seemed never to cease, these words rang out, drowning all despairing thoughts:
"These are the times that try men's souls ... 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."
Paine's inspiring words had been mixed with the blood of Washington's soldiers and never before had such a combination flowed through the arteries of man.
In these Crisis papers, thirteen in all, are to be found not only messages of inspiration, comforting and reassuring words, but sound military advice, valuable suggestions of administration, and equally as important precious knowledge that was so essential for the proper guidance of the people during so serious a time. They also cemented the diverse forces when the country was so dangerously divided.
While words can cheer, while words can inspire, while words can dry eyes wet with sorrow and soothe the heart gripped with fear, words cannot feed you, they cannot clothe you, they cannot protect you from the chills of night, the winter's blast, the cold of snow, nor can they stay the pangs of hunger. While words can fortify the mind and make the timid courageous, something more practical is needed to meet the realities of life. More than words are needed to plant the food, fell the forests, turn the wheels of machinery, provide transportation for an Army, sustain the soldiers in battle, and achieve victory in the struggle.
Many a genius has been lost because he needed first the wherewithal to feed and clothe his body.
Many a cause has failed because of the lack of the means of achieving it. Thomas Paine combined inspiration with action and deeds. And so at the crucial moment when the Army was without food and clothing and ammunition, Thomas Paine went to France to secure those things which we lacked, and which were so essential to hold our Army together.
His plea to the French Government resulted in a shipload of ammunition, clothing and money.
Such help in such a crisis is beyond the measure of words to tell. Only let it be known that it was Thomas Paine's efforts which accomplished these results!
No wonder John Adams said, that "History will ascribe the American Revolution to Thomas Paine."
Through seven long years of this struggle Paine continued his labors, both as a soldier and author until the publication of the thirteenth and last crisis, beginning with these cherished words:
"The times that tried men's souls are over, and the greatest and completest revolution the world has ever known, gloriously and happily accomplished."
I have no hesitation in stating emphatically, that if there had been NO Thomas Paine, there would have been no United States of America.
Recently, a prominent citizen of Miami, and a well known writer, Mr. Tom Thursday, referred to Thomas Paine as "Mr. U.S.A."
In my opinion, this is the most appropriate name ever applied to this great patriot.
When the war was over, Benjamin Franklin said to Paine:
"Where liberty is, that is my country," and Paine replied, "Where liberty is not, that is mine."
And so Thomas Paine left these shores for Europe to help establish Republics in England and in France.
When Thomas Paine arrived on French soil he was hailed as the "Symbol of Freedom."
So great was his fame, that he was elected by four "departments," that is, four separate constituents, to represent them in the new National Assembly.
Paine wrote the French Declaration of the Rights of Man, a manifesto similar to our own Declaration of Independence.
He also wrote the new Constitution of France, and if the French Deputies had heeded his advice, there would have been no "Reign of Terror."
Paine wanted the French people to adopt a Constitution as their first order of business, while Robespierre and Murat, and other fanatical leaders of the Revolution, demanded, as the first act of the new government, the death of Louis the sixteenth.
Thomas Paine, with, I believe, some knowledge that it might mean his death, stood up in the National Assembly and made an eloquent plea for the life of the French ruler in the face of a fanaticism that demanded the King's death. The enraged Assembly, upon the slightest provocation, was ready to tear limb from limb any who dared to interfere with their mad determination, to make the King pay the supreme penalty, because of the accident of birth. Nevertheless, Thomas Paine stood firm and said, "I would rather record a thousand errors, dictated by humanity, than one of severe justice"; and at the conclusion of his impassioned plea, he cried, "Kill the King; but not the man."
By this act, Thomas Paine not only proved his love for mankind, but gave the world an example of unparalleled courage.
Thomas Paine stood before that hostile convention and pleaded for the life of a man for whom he had no personal regard, and for no other purpose whatever, except to save a life -- to prevent an injustice, and to heal the scars of battle with the salve of mercy.
The Bible says what greater act can a man do than lay down his life for his friend. Thomas Paine performed even a greater deed -- he faced the ire and fanaticism of blood thirsty tyrants, not to fight for the life of a friend, on the contrary, he fought for one whom he detested and whose office he abhorred.
To Thomas Paine, justice and humanity were above personal safety.
When you consider the circumstances, when you consider Paine's detestation for monarchy, when you consider Paine's hatred of tyranny, then it is the inevitable conclusion that this was one of the grandest acts of moral courage ever performed by a single individual. Thomas Paine was ready to die that the principles of just might prevail.
This heroic act of Thomas Paine shall be remembered forever as unequaled in the annals of man's struggle for Freedom and Justice.
For this sublime deed Thomas Paine was arrested, thrown into prison, and condemned to be guillotined.
Before being taken to the Luxembourg Prison, Paine gave Joel Barlow the manuscript of his book "The Age of Reason," with the request that if anything should happen go him, Barlow should see to it that the book was published.
On the very first page of the book, Paine wrote: "It has been my intention, for several years, to publish my thoughts upon religion. I am well aware of the difficulties that attend the subject, and from that consideration, had reserved it to a more advanced period of my life ... and at a time when the purity of my motives could not admit of a question ... "
However, the book had not been completed, and from all appearances, only the First Part, would ever see the light of publication.
While Paine was in prison, orders had been issued, to mark, with a white cross, the door of the cell of each prisoner, who was to be taken out at daybreak, to be guillotined!
That night, Paine's cell was extremely hot, and he opened the door to get some air.
Now it happened, that the doors of the prison cells, were so constructed that, when open, or closed, they looked alike.
During the night, when the guards came to mark the doors of the doomed men, they made a white cross on the door of Paine's cell, while it was open!
Just before daybreak, his cell having cooled off, Paine closed the door. Thus, the white cross was on the inside, which left the outside of his cell door, unmarked!!!
At daybreak, when the guards came to take the prisoners to be guillotined, there being no white cross on the outside of the door of Paine's cell, they passed him by!!!
Because of this strange coincidence, THOMAS PAINE ESCAPED BEING GUILLOTINED!!! Without the slightest knowledge of what was taking place, Thomas Paine was saved from death!!!
Through the connivance of the detestable Gouverneur Morris, our then Ambassador to France, Paine remained in the Luxembourg Prison for over nine tortuous months.
However, WHILE IN PRISON HE WROTE THE SECOND PART OF THE AGE OF REASON.
Fortunately, for the world, Gouverneur Morris was recalled as our Ambassador from France and was replaced by the distinguished James Monroe.
When James Monroe arrived in Paris, he wrote to Paine while still in prison this letter.
"The crime of ingratitude has not yet stained, and I trust never will stain, our national character. You are considered by them as not only having rendered important service in our own revolution, but as being, on a more extended scale, the friend of human rights, and able advocate of public liberty. To the welfare of Thomas Paine, the Americas are not, nor can they be, indifferent ...
To liberate you will be the object of my endeavors, as soon as possible."
After much effort, Ambassador Monroe secured the release of Paine. He took him to his home, and he, and Mrs. Monroe, nursed Paine back to health.
Now it is this world famous book, The Age of Reason, which Thomas Paine finished while in prison, that we want to send to you absolutely free.
But another word concerning Thomas Paine before giving you the details.
Thomas Paine wanted to abolish slavery at the same time that American Independence was won, but the pressure from slave owners was too great to overcome, and so it was left to another man to finish the job. Early in life Abraham Lincoln was inspired by Paine's writings, particularly his essay advocating the abolition of Negro slavery. Lincoln said, "I never tire of reading Paine." As a result of Paine's influence, Abraham Lincoln became the Great Emancipator and saved the Union.
And in view of the statement which I am about to read I think I can rightfully ask -- what was the secret of Thomas A. Edison's greatness? He tells it in his own words. In a letter to me shortly before his death, he wrote:
"I have always regarded Thomas Paine as one of the greatest of all Americans. Never have we had a sounder intelligence in this republic ... It was my good fortune to encounter Thomas Paine's works in my boyhood ... it was, indeed, a revelation to me to read that great thinker's views on political and theological subjects. Paine educated me then about many matters of which I had never before thought. I remember very vividly the flash of enlightenment that shone from Paine's writings, and I recall thinking at that time, "What a pity these works are not today the schoolbooks for all children!" My interest in Paine was not satisfied by my first reading of his works. I went back to them time and again, just as I have done since my boyhood days."
These are Mr. Edison's own words acknowledging his indebtedness to Thomas Paine.
What Thomas Paine did for Abraham Lincoln and Thomas A. Edison, he can do for you!
Through the generosity of a friend who attributes his success in life to the reading of Paine's works, and who has made a very substantial contribution to The Thomas Paine Foundation, we will send you, absolutely free, as part of an educational campaign, a copy of the complete and unexpurgated edition of this remarkable book "The Age of Reason," containing 190 pages, beautifully printed and finely bound. It is yours to keep. You will read it and treasure it as have hundreds of thousands of others. In it you too will find inspiration and courage, and who knows, you too may be inspired by its great logic to become another Lincoln or another Edison.
In sending for your copy, we would appreciate your enclosing 10 cents to cover the cost of mailing and handling. This is all you have to do to get your FREE copy of "The Age of Reason." Address The Thomas Paine Foundation, 370 West 35th street, New York, 1, New York, and simply enclose 10 cents to cover the cost of mailing and handling.
Don't miss this rare opportunity -- as this offer may never be made again!
Thank you for listening. Good night.
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