Inspiration and Wisdom
from the Writings of
Thomas Paine
by Joseph Lewis


That some desperate wretches should be willing to steal and enslave men by violence and murder for gain, is rather lamentable than strange. But that many civilized, nay, Christianized people should approve, and be concerned in the savage practice, is surprising; and still persist, though it has been so often proved contrary to the light of nature, to every principle of justice and humanity, and even good policy, by a succession of eminent men, and several late publications.

Our traders in MEN (an unnatural commodity!) must know the wickedness of that SLAVE-TRADE, if they attend to reasoning, or the dictates of their own hearts; and such as shun and stifle all these, wilfully sacrifice conscience, and the character of integrity to that golden idol.

The managers of that trade themselves, and others, testify, that many of these African nations inhabit fertile countries, are industrious farmers, enjoy plenty, and lived quietly, averse to war, before the Europeans debauched them with liquors, and bribing them against one another; and that these inoffensive people are brought into slavery, by stealing them, tempting kings to sell subjects, which they can have no right to do, and hiring one tribe to war against another, in order to catch prisoners. By such wicked and inhuman ways the English are said to enslave towards one hundred thousand yearly; of which thirty thousand are supposed to die by barbarous treatment in the first year; besides all that are slain in the unnatural wars excited to take them. So much innocent blood have the managers and supporters of this inhuman trade to answer for to the common Lord of all!


He has waged cruel War against human Nature itself, violating its most Sacred Right of Life and Liberty in the Persons of a distant People who never offended him, captivating and carrying them into Slavery in another Hemisphere, or to incur miserable Death, in their Transportation thither. This piratical Warfare, the opprobrium of infidel Powers, is the Warfare of the Christian King of Great Britain.

He has prostituted his Negative for Suppressing every legislative Attempt to prohibit or to restrain an execrable Commerce, determined to keep open a Market where MEN Should be bought and Sold, and that this Assemblage of Horrors might want no Fact of distinguished Die.

He is now exciting those very People to rise in Arms among us, and to purchase that Liberty of which he has deprived them, by murdering the People upon whom he also obtruded them: thus paying off former Crimes committed against the Liberties of one People, with Crimes which he urges them to commit against the Lives of another.


Put it not off too long. Forget not the hapless African.


I think of nothing but the destructive consequences of slavery. The calamities of war are transitory and confined in their effects. But the calamities of slavery are extensive and lasting in their operation. I love mankind as well as you, and I could never restrain a tear when my love of justice has obliged me to shed the blood of a fellow creature. It is my humanity that makes me urge you against a reconciliation with Great Britain, for if this takes place, nothing can prevent the American colonies from being the seat of war as often as the king of Great Britain renews his quarrels with any of the colonies, or with any of the belligerent powers of Europe.


As much in vain, perhaps, will they search ancient history for examples of the modem slave-trade. Too many nations enslaved the prisoners they took in war. But to go to nations with whom there is no war, who have no way provoked, without farther design of conquest, purely to catch inoffensive people, like wild beasts, for slaves, is an height of outrage against humanity and justice, that seems left by heathen nations to be practiced by pretended Christians. How shameful are all attempts to color and excuse it!

As these people are not convicted of forfeiting freedom, they have still a natural, perfect right to it; and the governments whenever they come should, in justice set them free, and punish those who hold them in slavery.

So monstrous is the making and keeping them slaves at all, abstracted from the barbarous usage they suffer, and the many evils attending the practice; as selling husbands away from wives, children from parents, and from each other, in violation of sacred and natural ties; and opening the way for adulteries, incests, and many shocking consequences, for all of which the guilty masters must answer to the final Judge.


When we contemplate our abhorrence of that condition, to which the arms and tyranny of Great Britain were exerted to reduce us, when we look back on the variety of dangers to which we have been exposed, and how miraculously our wants in many instances have been supplied, and our deliverances wrought, when even hope and human fortitude have become unequal to the conflict, we are unavoidably led to a serious and grateful sense of the manifold blessings which we have undeservedly received from the hand of that Being, from whom every good and perfect gift cometh.

Impressed with these ideas, we conceive that it is our duty, and we rejoice that it is in our power, to extend a portion of that freedom to others, which has been extended to us, and release them from the state of thralldom, to which we ourselves were tyrannically doomed, and from which we have now every prospect of being delivered. It is not for us to inquire why, in the creation of mankind, the inhabitants of the several parts of the earth were distinguished by a difference in feature or complection.... We find in the distribution of the human species, that the most fertile as well as the most barren parts of the earth are inhabited by men of complexions different from ours, and from each other;  ...

We esteem it a peculiar blessing granted to us, that we are enabled this day to add one more step to universal civilization, by removing, as much as possible, the sorrows of those who have lived in undeserved bondage, and from which, by the assumed authority of the kings of Great Britain, no effectual legal relief could be obtained. Weaned, by a long course of experience, from those narrow prejudices and partialities we had imbibed, we find our hearts enlarged with kindness and benevolence toward men of all conditions and nations; and we conceive ourselves at this particular period particularly called upon by the blessings which we have received, to manifest the sincerity of our profession, and to give a substantial proof of our gratitude.

And whereas the condition of those persons, who have heretofore been denominated Negro and mulatto slaves, has been attended with circumstances, which not only deprived them of the common blessings that they were by nature entitled to, but has cast them into the deepest afflictions, by an unnatural separation and sale of husband and wife from each other and from their children, an injury, the greatness of which can only be conceived by supposing that we were in the same unhappy case. In justice, therefore, to persons so unhappily circumstanced, and who, having no prospect before them whereon they may rest their sorrows and their hopes, have no reasonable inducement to render their services to society, which they otherwise might, and also in grateful commemoration of our own happy deliverance from that state of unconditional submission to which we were doomed by the tyranny of Britain.

Be it enacted, etc.


Did necessity always justify the severity of a conqueror, the rude tongue of censure would be silent.


A life chequered with uncommon varieties is seldom a long one. Action and care will in time wear down the strongest frame, but guilt and melancholy are poisons of quick despatch.


When I reflect on the pompous titles bestowed on unworthy men, I feel an indignity that instructs me to despise the absurdity. Virtue is inflamed at the violation, and sober reason calls it nonsense. Nay more, they are, as it were, bewitched to admire in the great, the vices they would honestly condemn in themselves. This sacrifice of common sense is the certain badge which distinguishes slavery from freedom; for when men yield up the privilege of thinking, the last shadow of liberty quits the horizon.


The balance of power is the scale of peace.


While avarice and ambition have a place in the heart of man, the weak will become a prey to the strong.


When any necessity or occasion has pointed out the convenience of addressing the public, I have never made it a consideration whether the subject was popular or unpopular, but whether it was right or wrong; for that which is right will become popular, and that which is wrong, though by mistake it may obtain the cry of fashion of the day, will soon lose the power of delusion, and sink into disesteem.


I am apt to think that the wisest men dream the most inconsistently. For as the judgment has nothing or very little to do in regulating the circumstances of a dream, it necessarily follows that the more powerful and creative the imagination is, the wilder it runs in that state of unrestrained invention; while those who are unable to wander out of the track of common thinking when awake, never exceed the boundaries of common nature when asleep.


For the present, Sir, farewell. I have seen thy soliloquy and despise it. Remember thou hast thrown me the glove, Cato, and either thee or I must tire. I fear not the field of fair debate, but thou hast stepped aside and made it personal. Thou hast tauntingly called on me by name; and if I cease to hunt thee from every lane and lurking hole of mischief, and bring thee not a trembling culprit before the public bar, then brand me with reproach, by naming me in the list of your confederates.


Questions which, when determined, cannot be executed, serve only to show the folly of dispute and the weakness of disputants.


It frequently happens that in proportion as we are taught to dislike persons and countries, not knowing why, we feel an ardor of esteem upon the removal of the mistake: it seems as if something was to be made amends for, and we eagerly give in to every office of friendship, to atone for the injury of the error.


An association of vice will reduce us more than the sword.


The valor of a country may be learned by the bravery of its soldiery.


The power of choosing is an agreeable thing to the mind.


Could the wolf bleat like the lamb the flock would soon be enticed into ruin.


It is the part of an incendiary to endeavor with specious falsehoods to mislead the credulity of unwary readers.


Jesuitical cunning always endeavors to disgrace what it cannot disprove.


Letters, the tongue of the world, have in some measure brought all mankind acquainted, and by an extension of their uses are every day promoting some new friendship. Through them distant nations became capable of conversation, and losing by degrees the awkwardness of strangers, and the moroseness of suspicion, they learned to know and understand each other.

Science, the partisan of no country, but the beneficent patroness of all, has liberally opened a temple where all may meet. Her influence on the mind, like the sun on the chilled earth, has long been preparing it for higher cultivation and further improvement. The philosopher of one country sees not an enemy in the philosopher of another: he takes his seat in the temple of science, and asks not who sits beside him.

This was not the condition of the barbarian world. Then the wants of men were few and the objects within his reach. While he could acquire these, he lived in a state of individual independence; the consequence of which was, there were as many nations as persons, each contending with the other, to secure something which he had, or to obtain something which he had not. The world had then no business to follow, no studies to exercise the mind. Their time was divided between sloth and fatigue. Hunting and war were their chief occupations; sleep and food their principal enjoyments.

Now it is otherwise. A change in the mode of life has made it necessary to be busy; and man finds a thousand things to do now which before he did not. Instead of placing his ideas of greatness in the rude achievements of the savage, he studies arts, sciences, agriculture and commerce, the refinements of the gentleman, the principles of society, and the knowledge of the philosopher.

There are many things which in themselves are neither morally good nor bad, but they are productive of consequences, which are strongly marked with one or other of these characters. Thus commerce, though in itself a moral nullity, has had a considerable influence in tempering the human mind. It was the want of objects in the ancient world, which occasioned in them such a rude and perpetual turn for war. Their time hung on their hands without the means of employment. The indolence they lived in afforded leisure for mischief, and being all idle at once, and equal in their circumstances, they were easily provoked or induced to action.

But the introduction of commerce furnished the world with objects, which, in their extent, reach every man, and give him something to think about and something to do; by these his attention is mechanically drawn from the pursuits which a state of indolence and an unemployed mind occasioned, and he trades with the same countries, which in former ages, tempted by their productions, and too indolent to purchase them, he would have gone to war with.

Thus, as I have already observed, the condition of the world being materially changed by the influence of science and commerce, it is put into a fitness not only to admit of, but to desire, an extension of civilization. The principal and almost only remaining enemy, it now has to encounter, is prejudice; for it is evidently the interest of mankind to agree and make the best of life. The world has undergone its divisions of empire, the several boundaries of which are known and settled. The idea of conquering countries, like the Greeks and Romans, does not now exist; and experience has exploded the notion of going to war for the sake of profit. In short, the objects for war are exceedingly diminished, and there is now left scarcely anything to quarrel about, but what arises from that demon of society, prejudice, and the consequent sullenness and untractableness of the temper.

There is something exceedingly curious in the constitution and operation of prejudice. It has the singular ability of accommodating itself to all the possible varieties of the human mind. Some passions and vices are but thinly scattered among mankind, and find only here and there a fitness of reception. But prejudice, like the spider, makes every place its home. It has neither taste nor choice of situation, and all that it requires is room. Everywhere, except in fire or water, a spider will live.

So, let the mind be as naked as the walls of an empty and forsaken tenement, gloomy as a dungeon, or ornamented with the richest abilities of thinking, let it be hot, cold, dark or light, lonely or inhabited, still prejudice, if undisturbed, will fill it with cobwebs, and live, like the spider, where there seems nothing to live on. If the one prepares her food by poisoning it to her palate and her use, the other does the same; and as several of our passions are strongly characterized by the animal world, prejudice may be denominated the spider of the mind.


There are men who have not virtue enough to be angry.


He who dares not offend cannot be honest.


The stoutest heart must fail at last.


Government showed always be considered as a matter of convenience, not of right.


It is far nobler to be a ruler by the choice of the people, than a king by the chance of birth.


A republican state cannot produce its own destruction, it can only suffer it.


Nature seems sometimes to laugh at mankind, by giving them so many fools for kings; at other times, she punishes their folly by giving them tyrants.


Falsehoods, if uncontradicted, might have passed for truths.


If, on the other hand, we take a review of what part Britain has acted, we shall find everything which ought to make a nation blush -- the most vulgar abuse, accompanied by that species of haughtiness which distinguishes the hero of a mob from the character of a gentleman. It was equally as much from her manners as from her injustice that she lost the colonies. By the latter she provoked their principles, by the former she wore out their temper; and it ought to be held out as an example to the world, to show how necessary it is to conduct the business of government with civility. In short, other revolutions may have originated in caprice, or generated in ambition; but here, the most unoffending humility was tortured into rage, and the infancy of existence made to weep.

A union so extensive, continued and determined, suffering with patience and never in despair, could not have been produced by common causes. It must be something capable of reaching the whole soul of man and arming it with perpetual energy. It is in vain to look for precedents among the revolutions of former ages, to find out, by comparison, the causes of this.

The spring, the progress, the object, the consequences, nay, the men, their habits of thinking, and all the circumstances of the country, are different. Those of other nations are, in general, little more than the history of their quarrels. They are marked by no important character in the annals of events; mixed in the mass of general matters, they occupy but a common page; and while the chief of the successful partisans stepped into power, the plundered multitude sat down and sorrowed. Few, very few of them are accompanied with reformation, either in government or manners; many of them with the most consummate profligacy. Triumph on the one side and misery on the other were the only events. Pains, punishments, torture, and death were made the business of mankind, until compassion, the fairest associate of the heart, was driven from its place, and the eye, accustomed to continual cruelty, could behold it without offense.

But as the principles of the present Revolution differed from those which preceded it, so likewise did the conduct of America both in government and war. Neither the foul finger of disgrace nor the bloody hand of vengeance has hitherto put a blot upon her fame. Her victories have received lustre from a greatness of lenity; and her laws have been permitted to slumber, where they might justly be awakened to punish. War, so much the trade of the world, has here been only the business of necessity; and when the necessity shall cease, her very enemies must confess, that as she drew the sword in her just defense, she used it without cruelty, and sheathed it without revenge.


Are defeated and disappointed tyrants to be considered like mistaken and converted friends? Or would it be right, to receive those for Governors, who, had they been conquerors, would have hung us up for traitors?


There are particular periods both in public and domestic life, in which, the excellence of wisdom consists in a due government of the temper: Without this, zeal degenerates into rage, and affection into bitterness. And so necessary is this qualification, in every stage of life, that a person had better be a novice with a fund of temper than a wise man without it. The tempter is that particular string in the heart, on which the far greater part of our happiness or misery is tuned. 'Tis capable of being set to any music rough or smooth, and when strained to its highest pitch, will command the whole man.


A treacherous friend in power is the most dangerous of enemies.


To be at peace certainly implies something more than barely a cessation of war. It is supposed to be accompanied with advantages adequate to the toils of obtaining it. It is a state of prosperity as well as safety, and of honor as well as rest.


To suppose a rejection is to invite it.


Wealth like water soon spreads over the surface.


There are but two natural sources of wealth and strength -- the earth and the ocean -- and to lose the right to either is, in our situation, to put up the other to sale.


The toleration act in England, which granted liberty of conscience to every man, in religion, was looked upon as the perfection of religious liberty. In America we consider the assumption of such power as a species of tyrannic arrogance, and do not grant liberty of conscience as a favor but confirm it as a right. And in so doing we have in point of justice exceeded every part of the known world.


The seeds of almost every former war have been sown in the injudicious or defective terms of the preceding peace. Either the conqueror has insisted on too much, and thereby held the conquered, like an overbent bow, in a continual struggle to snap the cord, or the latter has artfully introduced an equivocal article, to take such advantages under as the turn of future affairs might afford.


A treaty of peace cannot precede the settlement of disputes.


I feel the more free the less I consult.


It often happens that the weight of an argument is lost by the wit of setting it off; or the judgment disordered by an intemperate irritation of the passions.


Things, like men, are seldom understood rightly at first sight.


I take up the appointment of the civil Magistrate. It is not an office which requires a peculiarity of ... genius or acquired accomplishments to fill, and which the public, considered as a public, may not be supposed to understand; that is, it is not the office of a professor of natural philosophy, or of mathematics, or of any branch of the arts or sciences, or of languages; but it is a civil office, an office of trust and honor, an office of decision, arbitration or compromise, between neighbors differing with each other, and between the claims of the State upon the individual, and the individual upon the State. It is established with a design to prevent frivolous and vexatious lawsuits, by healing disputes in the first instance; to secure property from invasion, and freedom from oppression; to give relief without the terror of expence, and administer justice from a goodness of heart: Therefore it requires those very kind qualifications in which the judgment of the public, as a public, is supposed to be the most complete, and this leads me to consider what the necessary qualifications in a magistrate are.

He ought to be neither proud, passionate nor given to drink; easy of access, and serenely affable in his deportment. Patient enough to hear a tale of wretchedness, and wise enough to discover invention from fact. He ought to understand the laws, not for practice like a lawyer, but for advice like a friend, or for decision like a fudge, and to be neither subtile in his refinements, nor obscure in his definitions. He ought to be a man of application as well as knowledge; and of sound, rather than of fine sense. He is to be the useful, rather the shining man, and to consider himself more like a physician to recover than the surgeon to cut off. He ought to have fortitude enough to be neither fascinated by splendor, nor womanishly--> affected by a melancholy tale, and is always to remember that he is to decide on cases not on persons.


The tender mercies of the wicked are cruel.


It is the nature of law to require obedience.


There is something in a grateful mind, which extends itself even to things that can neither be benefited by regard, nor suffer by neglect; but so it is; and almost every man is sensible of the effect.


Facts are more powerful than arguments.


Divided love is never happy.


That which is bravery in distress, becomes insult in prosperity.


In all causes, good or bad, it is necessary there should be a fitness in the mind, to enable it to act in character with the object: therefore, as a bad cause cannot be prosecuted with a good motive, so neither can a good cause be long supported by a bad one.


Every man in America stands in a two-fold order of citizenship. He is a citizen of the State he lives in, and of the United States; and without justly and truly supporting his citizenship in the latter, he will inevitably sacrifice the former. By his rank in the one, he is made secure with his neighbors; by the other, with the world. The one protects his domestic safety and property from internal robbers and injustice; the other his foreign and remote property from piracy and invasion, and puts him on a rank with other nations.


The defense of our country against an unprincipled and powerful enemy, the establishment of our natural rights, the exalting the human race to their original freedom, and guaranteeing the blessings of civil government, were the great objects of our heart, and we were a united, though a suffering people.

Why is it that so many little cares, unworthy our greatness, and injurious to our peace, have stolen upon our better thoughts? Are we tired of being successful? Is our domestic liberty of less value than formerly? or are we disposed to surrender to contention that which the enemy could never take from us by force?

It would perhaps be quite as well were [we] to talk less about our independence, and more about our union. For if the union be justly supported, our independence is made secure. The former is the mother, the latter the infant at her breast. The nourishment of the one is drawn through the other, and to impoverish the mother is famishing her offspring.

Is there a country in the world that has so many openings to happiness as this? Masters of the land, and proprietors of the government, unchained from the evils of foreign subjection, and respected by sovereign powers, we have only to deserve prosperity, and its attainment is sure.

But it ever was and probably ever will be the unfortunate disposition of some men to encumber business with difficulties. The natural cast of their mind is to contention; and whatever is not to their particular wish, or their immediate interest, is sure to be magnified with invented calamities, and exhibited in terror. Such men can see the fate of empires in the snuff of a candle, and an eternity of public ruin wrapt up in every trifling disappointment to themselves. They build their hopes of popularity on error and accident; and subsist by flattering the mistakes and bewildering the judgment of others, till unable to discover the truth, or unwilling to confess it, they run into new inconsistencies, or retreat in angry discontent .


To draw foolish portraits of each other, is a mode of attack and reprisal, which the greater part of mankind are fond of indulging. The serious philosopher should be above it, more especially in cases from which no good can arise, and mischief may, and where no received provocation can palliate the offense.


Principle, like truth, needs no contrivance.


More mischief is effected by wrapping up guilt in splendid excuse, than by directly patronizing it.


There is a temper in some men which seeks a pretense for submission. Like a ship disabled in action, and unfitted to continue it, it waits the approach of a still larger one to strike to, and feels relief at the opportunity. Whether this is greatness or littleness of mind, I am not inquiring into. I should suppose it to be the latter, because it proceeds from the want of knowing how to bear misfortune in its original state.


When once the mind loses the sense of its own dignity, it loses, likewise, the ability of judging of it in another.


Peace, to every reflecting mind, is a desirable object; but that peace which is accompanied with a ruined character, becomes a crime to the seducer, and a curse upon the seduced.


Whenever politics are applied to debauch mankind from their integrity, and dissolve the virtue of human nature, they become detestable; and to be a statesman on this plan, is to be a commissioned villain. He who aims at it, leaves a vacancy in his character, which may be filled up with the worst of epithets.


The rage for conquest has had its fashion, and its day. Why may not the amiable virtues have the same? The Alexander and Cæsars of antiquity have left behind them their monuments of destruction, and are remembered with hatred; while those more exalted characters, who first taught society and science, are blessed with the gratitude of every age and country. Of more use was one philosopher, though a heathen, to the world, than all the heathen conquerors that ever existed.


A right which originated to-day, is as much a right, as if it had the sanction of a thousand years.


Insolence is sure to provoke hatred, whether in a nation or an individual.


The sea is the world's highway; and he who arrogates a prerogative over it transgresses the right, and justly brings on himself the chastisement of nations.


The mind of man is not sufficiently capacious to attend to every thing at once, and while it suffers itself to be eaten up by narrow prejudices or fretted by personal politics, it will have neither relish nor appetite for public virtues.


It will be much easier to overturn a second constitution than the first, because the precedent will be before us.


It is not length of time, but power that gives stability.


There are three sorts of men in every State, the willing and able, the willing and not able, and the able and not willing.


The wretch who will write on any subject for bread, or in any service for pay, and he who will plead in any case for a fee, stands equally in rank with the prostitute who lets out her person.


Freedom is the associate of innocence, not the companion of suspicion. She only requires to be cherished, not to be caged, and to be beloved, is, to her, to be protected. Her residence is in the undistinguished multitude of rich and poor, and a partisan to neither is the patroness of all.


There are some points so clear and definitive in themselves that they suffer by any attempt to prove them.


Property alone cannot defend a country against invading enemies. Houses and lands cannot fight; sheep and oxen cannot be taught the musket; therefore the defense must be personal, and that which equally unites all must be something equally the property of all, viz. an equal share of freedom, independent of the varieties of wealth, and which wealth, [n]or the want of it, can neither give or take away. To be telling men of their rights when we want their service, and of their poverty when the service is over, is a meanness which cannot be professed by a gentleman.


It is well worth observing, that all those principles and maxims which are unjust in public life are so in private life. Justice is one uniform attribute, which acting in the man or in the multitude, is always the same, and produces the same consequences.


To have matters fairly discussed, and properly understood, is a principal means of preserving harmony and perpetuating friendship.


It is somewhat strange that the theory of government, which is exceedingly simple in itself, and in general well known by almost every farmer in America, should be so perplexed, misconceived and tortured, by those whose very business and duty it is to understand it fully, and exercise it justly.


There is no such thing in America as power of any kind, independent of the people. There is no other race of men in it but the people.


If the creditor has his interest to take care of, the debtor has his honor to preserve, and the loss to the one is fully as severe as to the other.


A man ought never to leave an assertion to shift for itself. It is like turning out a sickly infant to beg a home in other people's houses.


The last convinced is often the most effectually convinced.


I am no enemy to genteel or fashionable dress, or to the moderate enjoyment of those articles of indulgence we are furnished with from abroad; but they ought to bear their proportion of the public expence as well as the soil we live on, and not be solely consigned as a revenue to the persons who import them, or the foreigners who bring them.


The United States constitute one extended family, one imperial Commonwealth, the greatest and most equal in its rights and government of any ever known in the world: And while its principles permit the free exercise of debate, its manners ought to restrain every licentious abuse of it.


Having got into the habit of doing a thing from necessity, we have continued it to an impropriety.


There is always some respect due to experience.


To be free is a happiness -- but to be just is an honor, if that can be called an honor which is only a duty.


Can nothing but misfortune awaken us? Must adversity alone be the minister of exertion? Or must we forever be tossed from uncertainty to uncertainty, by trusting every thing to the moment of distress? The fairest prospects may fail, and the best calculated system of finance become unproductive of its end, if left to the caprice of temper and self-interest.


Though the cause of America is the most honorable that man ever engaged in, I am not so dazzled by it as not to perceive the faults that are twisting themselves round it, and unnaturally claiming kindred with it.


When an objection cannot be made formidable, there is some policy in trying to make it frightful; and to substitute the yell and the war-whoop, in the place of reason, argument and good order.


I have never yet made, and I hope I never shall make, it the least point of consideration, whether a thing is popular or unpopular, but whether it is right or wrong.

That which is right will become popular, and that which is wrong will soon lose its temporary popularity, and sink into disgrace.


And as it is impossible to be wounded by a wasp that never had the power of stinging, it would be folly indeed to be discomposed at the buzzing of a harmless insect.


He that has a turn for public business and integrity to go through it, untempted by interest, and unawed by party, must likewise sit down with the calm determination of putting up with the mistakes, petulance and prejudices of mankind.


I have had the happiness of serving mankind, and the honor of doing it freely.


The transition from disobedience to disorder is easy and rapid.


The man who will say that he will enrich himself by smuggling, cuts asunder the laws that are to protect him, and exposes himself to a second plunder.


As we are not to live forever ourselves, and other generations are to follow us, we have neither the power nor the right to govern them, or to say how they shall govern themselves. It is the summit of human vanity, and shows a covetousness of power beyond the grave, to be dictating to the world to come. It is sufficient that we do that which is right in our own day, and leave them with the advantage of good examples.


It is the nature of the mind to feel uneasy under the idea of a condition perpetually existing over it, and to excite in itself apprehensions that would not take place were it not from that cause.


The term "forever" is an absurdity that would have no effect. The next age will think for itself, by the same rule of right that we have done, and not admit any assumed authority of ours to encroach upon the system of their day. Our forever ends, where their forever begins.


The farmer understands farming, and the merchant understands commerce; and as riches are equally the object of both, there is no occasion that either should fear that the other will seek to be poor. The more money the merchant has, so much the better for the farmer who has produce to sell; and the richer the farmer is, so much the better for the merchant, when he comes to his store.


It has always been a maxim in politics, founded on, and drawn from, natural causes and consequences, that the more foreign countries which any nation can interest in the prosperity of its own, so much the better. Where the treasure is, there will the heart be also; and therefore when foreigners [in]vest their money with us, they naturally invest their good wishes with it; and it is we that obtain an influence over them, not they over us.


It is impossible on the principles of a republican government and the Constitution, to pass an act to forbid any of the citizens the right of appealing to the courts of justice on any matter in which his interest or property is affected.


Gold and silver are the emissions of nature: paper is the emission of art. The value of gold and silver is ascertained by the quantity which nature has made in the earth. We cannot make that quantity more or less than it is, and therefore the value being dependent upon the quantity, depends not on man. Man has no share in making gold or silver; all that his labors and ingenuity can accomplish is, to collect it from the mine, refine it for use and give it an impression, or stamp it into coin.

Its being stamped into coin adds considerably to its convenience but nothing to its value. It has then no more value than it had before. Its value is not in the impression but in itself. Take away the impression and still the same value remains. Alter it as you will, or expose it to any misfortune that can happen, still the value is not diminished. It has a capacity to resist the accidents that destroy other things. It has, therefore, all the requisite qualities that money can have, and is a fit material to make money of; and nothing which has not all those properties, can be fit for the purpose of money.

Paper, considered as a material whereof to make money, has none of the requisite qualities in it. It is too plentiful, and too easily come at. It can be had anywhere, and for a trifle.

There are two ways in which I shall consider paper.

The only proper use for paper, in the room of money, is to write promissory notes and obligations of payment in specie upon. A piece of paper, thus written and signed, is worth the sum it is given for, if the person who gives it is able to pay it; because in this case, the law will oblige him. But if he is worth nothing, the paper note is worth nothing. The value, therefore, of such a note, is not in the note itself, for that is but paper and promise, but in the man who is obliged to redeem it with gold or silver.

Paper, circulating in this manner, and for this purpose, continually points to the place and person where, and of whom, the money is to be had, and at last finds its home; and, as it were, unlocks its master's chest and pays the bearer.

But when an assembly undertakes to issue paper as money, the whole system of safety and certainty is overturned, and property set afloat. Paper notes given and taken between individuals as a promise of payment is one thing, but paper issued by an assembly as money is another thing. It is like putting an apparition in the place of a man; it vanishes with looking at it, and nothing remains but the air.

Money, when considered as the fruit of many years' industry, as the reward of labor, sweat and toil, as the widow's dowry and children's portion, and as the means of procuring the necessaries and alleviating the afflictions of life, and making old age a scene of rest, has something in it sacred that is not to be sported with, or trusted to the airy bubble of paper currency.


Of all the various sorts of base coin, paper money is the basest.


It is not so much the quantity of wealth, as the quantity that circulates, that constitutes the monied riches of a country. If we may credit history and reports, there is more money in some countries, where the generality of the people are wretched and poor, than in some others that are esteemed rich; but in the one it is hoarded, and in the other it is dispersed by circulation and gives briskness and vigor to industry and improvement. One of the best methods to increase wealth in a country is to increase the circulation of it, by inducing every part of it to be brought forth, and constantly moving.


Ingratitude has a short memory.


The love of gold and silver may produce covetousness, but covetousness, when not connected with dishonesty, is not properly a vice. It is frugality run to an extreme.


The laws of a country ought to be the standard of equity, and calculated to impress on the minds of the people the moral as well as the legal obligations of reciprocal justice.


Paper money is like dram-drinking, it relieves for a moment by deceitful sensation, but gradually diminishes the natural heat, and leaves the body worse than it found it.


As mischief is not lessened by the apology of error, nor encreased by the criminality of design, therefore those who sacrifice to prejudice, are, as to matters of public trust, alike the objects of public reprobation.


But such is the intoxicating spirit of party, and such the operation of envy, that where it cannot do the service that is wanted, it endeavors to prevent its being done.


Error like guilt is unwilling to die.


A man under the tyranny of party spirit is the greatest slave upon earth, for none but himself can deprive him of the freedom of thought.


Unjust measures must be supported by unjust means.


Slander and falsehood [are] the ministering angels of malevolence.


An open liar is a highwayman in his profession, but an insinuating liar is a thief sculking in the night.


A man never turns a rogue but he turns a fool.


Even an ignorant man will not blunder in a true story -- nor can an artful man keep a false story straight.


Least said is soonest mended.


So unhappy is the spirit of envy, that it can be just to no merit but its own.


When I look into history and see the multitudes of men, otherwise virtuous, who have died, and their families been ruined, in the defense of knaves and fools, and which they would not have done, had they reasoned at all upon the system; I do not know a greater good that an individual can render to mankind, than to endeavor to break the chains of political superstition.


The system of government purely representative, unmixed with anything of hereditary nonsense, began in America.


The name by which a man is called is of itself but an empty thing. It is worth and character alone which can render him valuable, for without these, kings, and lords, and presidents, are but jingling names.


How easy does even the most illiterate reader distinguish the spontaneous sensations of the heart, from the labored productions of the brain. Truth, whenever it can fully appear, is a thing so naturally familiar to the mind, that an acquaintance commences at first sight ... so neither can the best invented fiction fill the mind with every conviction which truth begets.


There never was a cover large enough to hide itself.


Whoever the men be to whom the government of any country be intrusted, they ought to be the best and wisest that can be found, and if they are not so, they are not fit for the station. A man derives no more excellence from the change of a name, or calling him king, or calling him lord, than I should do by changing my name from Thomas to George, or from Paine to Guelph. I should not be a whit more able to write a book because my name was altered; neither would any man, now called a king or a lord, have a whit more sense than he now has, were he to call himself Thomas Paine.


It seldom happens that the mind rests satisfied with the simple detection of error or imposition. Once put in motion, that motion soon becomes accelerated; where it had intended to stop, it discovers new reasons to proceed, and renews and continues the pursuit far beyond the limits it first prescribed to itself.


There are two distinct classes of men in the nation, those who pay taxes, and those who receive and live upon the taxes.


The object of all curiosity is knowledge.


It is error only, and not truth, that shrinks from inquiry.


Principles have no connection with time, nor characters with names.


If, to expose the fraud and imposition of monarchy, and every species of hereditary government -- to lessen the oppression of taxes -- to propose plans for the education of helpless infancy, and the comfortable support of the aged and distressed -- to endeavor to conciliate nations to each other -- to extirpate the horrid practice of war -- to promote universal peace, civilization, and commerce -- and to break the chains of political superstition, and raise degraded man to his proper rank; -- if these things be libellous, let me live the life of a libeller, and let the name of Libeller be engraved on my tomb.


A constitution is a thing antecedent to a government; it is the act of a people creating a government and giving it powers; and defining the limits and exercise of the powers so given.


I have written a book; and if it cannot be refuted, it cannot be condemned. But I do not consider the prosecution as particularly leveled against me, but against the general right, or the right of every man, of investigating systems and principles of government, and showing their several excellencies or defects. If the press be free only to flatter Government ... and not free to examine into its errors or abuses ... a jury in this case, would not be a jury to try, but an inquisition to condemn.


Confidence, to be permanent, must be based on reason.


As every man in the nation, of the age of twenty-one years, pays taxes, either out of the property he possesses, or out of the product of his labor, which is property to him; and is amenable in his own person to every law of the land; so has everyone the same equal right to vote, and no one part of the nation, nor any individual, has a right to dispute the right of another. The man who should do this ought to forfeit the exercise of his own right, for a term of years. This would render the punishment consistent with the crime.

When a qualification to vote is regulated by years, it is placed on the firmest possible ground; because the qualification is such, as nothing but dying before the time can take away; and the equality of rights, as a principle, is recognized in the act of regulating the exercise. But when rights are placed upon, or made dependent upon property, they are on the most precarious of all tenures. "Riches make themselves wings, and fly away," and the rights fly with them; and thus they become lost to the man when they would be of most value.


Investigation always serves to detect error, and to bring forth truth.


If juries are to be made use of to prohibit inquiry, to suppress truth, and to stop the progress of knowledge, this boasted palladium of liberty becomes the most successful instrument of tyranny.


When the rich plunder the poor of his rights, it becomes an example to the poor to plunder the rich of his property; for the rights of the one are as much property to him, as wealth is property to the other, and the little all is as dear as the much. It is only by setting out on just principles that men are trained to be just to each other; and it will always be found, that when the rich protect the rights of the poor, the poor will protect the property of the rich. But the guarantee, to be effectual, must be parliamentarily reciprocal.


The boldness to do wrong at first, changes afterwards into cowardly craft, and at last into fear.


It is worth remarking, that while every other branch of science is brought within some commodious system, and the study of it simplified by easy methods, the laws take the contrary course, and become every year more complicated, entangled, confused, and obscure.


Moderation in temper is always a virtue; but moderation in principle, is a species of vice.


The rights of man belong as much to our descendants as they do to us.


The felicity which liberty insures us is transformed into virtue when we communicate its enjoyment to others.


I am not the personal enemy of kings. Quite the contrary.

No man more heartily wishes than myself to see them all in the happy and honorable state of private individuals; but I am the avowed, open and intrepid enemy of what is called monarchy; and I am such by principles which nothing can either alter or corrupt -- by my attachment to humanity; by the anxiety which I feel within myself, for the dignity and the honor of the human race; by the disgust which I experience, when I observe men directed by children, and governed by brutes; by the horror which all the evils that monarchy has spread over the earth excite within my breast; and by those sentiments which make me shudder at the calamities, the exactions, the wars, and the massacres with which monarchy has crushed mankind: in short, it is against all the hell of monarchy that I have declared war.


When men depart from an established principle they are compelled to resort to trick and subterfuge.


It is seldom that our first thought, even upon any subject, is sufficiently just.


It is impossible to be a hypocrite and to be brave at the same instant.


A burnt child dreads the fire.


We should have been reduced to a very low condition indeed, if our ancestors had succeeded in laying that yoke upon our shoulders which we would fain lay upon our posterity. The enjoyment of his rights does not suffice for man; he should also be secured in their exercise by the principles of social order.

If we wish to benefit our posterity politically, let us leave them liberty as a bequest, and, along with it, the encouragement of good example. Everything that deserves imitation is sure to be imitated. If our institutions are intrinsically admirable, posterity will assimilate them, and there will be no necessity for us to try to exercise our authority over our descendants.


When a whole nation acts as an army, the despot knows not the extent of the power against which he contends....


We will exercise the reason with which we are endued, or we possess it unworthily. As reason is given at all times, it is for the purpose of being used at all times.


Man advances from idea to idea, from thought to thought, and all the time he is unaware of his marvelous progress.


We live to improve, or we live in vain.


Why assume an evil solely for the purpose of providing a remedy?


It is to the peculiar honor of France, that she now raises the standard of liberty for all nations; and in fighting her own battles, contends for the rights of all mankind.

The same spirit of fortitude that insured success to America will insure it to France, for it is impossible to conquer a nation determined to be free!  ...


In entering on this great scene, greater than any nation has yet been called to act in let us say to the agitated mind, be calm. Let us punish by instructing, rather than by revenge. Let us begin the new era by a greatness of friendship, and hail the approach of union and success.


To reason with despots is throwing reason away. The best of arguments is a vigorous preparation....


It is the office of royalty rather than the holder of the office that is fatal in its consequences.


When rights are secure, property is secure in consequence.


It is impossible that a mind employed upon ribands and titles can ever be great. The childishness of the objects consumes the man.


I come not to enjoy repose. Convinced that the cause of France is the cause of all mankind, and that liberty cannot be purchased by a wish, I gladly share with you the dangers and honors necessary to success....


It is always useful to know the position and the designs of one's enemies.


Let us maintain inviolably equality in the sacred right of suffrage: public security can never have a basis more solid.


A negative proved on one thing, where two only are offered, and one must be accepted, amounts to an affirmative on the other.


To be satisfied of the right of a thing to exist, we must be satisfied that it had a right to begin. If it had not a right to begin, it has not the right to continue.


The protection of a man's person is more sacred than the protection of property.


Nothing can present to our judgment, or to our imagination, a figure of greater absurdity, than that of seeing the government of a nation fall, as it frequently does, into the hands of a lad necessarily destitute of experience, and often little better than a fool. It is an insult to every man of years, of character, and of talents, in a country.


The system of royalty has begun in the same fashion in all countries and among all peoples. A band of robbers, gathered together under a leader, throw themselves on a country and make slaves of its people; then they elect their leader king. Next comes another robber chief, who conquers and kills the first, and makes himself king in his stead. After a time, the recollection of all this violence is obliterated, and the successors of the robber are held to reign quite legitimately. They are shrewd enough to confer a few benefits now and then on their subjects; they corrupt those about them, and, to give an air of sanctity to their origin, they devise pedigrees that are purely fictitious; afterward, they are aided by the dishonesty of the priests, and religion befriends their usurped power, which will henceforth be regarded as their hereditary possession.


Just consider: a person cannot be a mere workman without some sort of ability; to be a king all that a man requires is to be born.


We laugh at the folly of the Egyptians, who set up a pebble on a throne and acknowledged it as their King. But a pebble or a dog would be less harmful to the people who bowed before them than are kings to the nations that pay them servile homage.

An irrational animal or a piece of lifeless rock is less dangerous to a nation than a human idol.


Let the rights of man be established, Equality enthroned, a sound Constitution drafted, with its powers clearly defined; let all privileges, distinctions of birth and monopolies be annulled; establish liberty of trade and industry, the freedom of the press, equal division of family inheritances, publicity of all government measures, and you will be certain to have excellent laws, and may dispell from your mind the dread of the powerful; for, whether they like it or not, all citizens will then be subject to the law.


Principles which are influenced and subject to the control of tyranny have not their foundation in the heart.


The mind, highly agitated by hope, suspicion and apprehension, continues without rest till the change be accomplished. But let us now look calmly and confidently forward, and success is certain. It is no longer the paltry cause of kings, or of this, or of that individual, that calls France and her armies into action. It is the great cause of all. It is the establishment of a new era, that shall blot despotism from the earth, and fix, on the lasting principles of peace and citizenship, the great Republic of Man....


It is our duty as legislators not to spill a drop of blood when our purpose may be effectually accomplished without it.


For myself I seriously confess, that when I reflect on the unaccountable folly that restored the executive power to his hands, all covered as he was with perjuries and treason, I am far more ready to condemn the Constituent Assembly than the unfortunate prisoner Louis Capet.

But abstracted from every other consideration, there is one circumstance in his life which ought to cover or at least to palliate a great number of his transgressions, and this very circumstance affords to the French nation a blessed occasion of extricating itself from the yoke of kings, without defiling itself in the impurities of their blood.

It is to France alone, I know, that the United States of America owe that support which enabled them to shake off the unjust and tyrannical yoke of Britain. The ardor and zeal which she displayed to provide both men and money, were the natural consequence of a thirst for liberty. But as the nation at that time, restrained by the shackles of her own government, could only act by the means of a monarchical organ, this organ -- whatever in other respects the object might be -- certainly performed a good, a great action.

Let then those United States be the safeguard and asylum of Louis Capet. There, hereafter, far removed from the miseries and crimes of Royalty, he may learn, from the constant aspect of public prosperity, that the true system of government consists not in kings, but in fair, equal and honorable representation.

In relating this circumstance, and in submitting this proposition, I consider myself as a citizen of both countries. I submit it as a citizen of America, who feels the debt of gratitude which he owes to every Frenchman. I submit it also as a man, who, although the enemy of kings, cannot forget that they are subject to human frailties. I support my proposition as a citizen of the French Republic, because it appears to me the best, the most politic measure that can be adopted.


It often happens that an error in politics, like an error in war, admits of being turned to greater advantage than if it had not occurred.


Of what use is peace with a government that will employ that peace for no other purpose than to repair, as far as it is possible, her shattered finances and broken credit, and then go to war again?


It is not the weight of a thing, but the numbers who are to bear that weight, that makes it feel light or heavy to the shoulders of those who bear it.


The supreme of all laws, in all cases, is that of self-preservation .


Flames once kindled are not always easily extinguished.


Monarchical governments have trained the human race, and inured it to the sanguinary arts and refinements of punishment; and it is exactly the same punishment which has so long shocked the sight and tormented the patience of the people, that now, in their turn, they practice in revenge upon their oppressors. But it becomes us to be strictly on our guard against the abomination and perversity of monarchical examples: as France has been the first of European nations to abolish royalty, let her also be the first to abolish the punishment of death, and to find out a milder and more effectual substitute.


My compassion for the unfortunate, whether friend or enemy, is equally lively and sincere.


Monarchs and ministers, from ambition or resentment, often contemplate to themselves schemes of future greatness, and set out with what appears to them the fairest prospect. In the meanwhile, the great wheel of time and fate revolves unobserved, and something never dreamed of turns up and blasts the whole.


Alliances have such a natural tendency to sink into harmless, unoperative things, that to make them a cause for going to war, either to prevent their being formed, or to break any already formed, is the silliest speculation that war can be made upon, or wealth wasted to accomplish.


I may lay claim to the possession of a certain amount of experience; I have taken no inconsiderable part in the struggle for freedom during the Revolution of the United States of America: it is a cause to which I have devoted almost twenty years of my existence. Liberty and humanity have ever been the words that best expressed my thoughts, and it is my conviction that the union of these two principles, in all cases, tends more than anything also to insure the grandeur of a nation. I am aware of the excitement and anger aroused by the perils to which France, and especially Paris, have been subjected; and yet, if we could only catch a glimpse of the future, long after all this excitement and anger have passed away, it is not unlikely that the action which you have sanctioned today will assume the aspect of having been performed from a spirit of revenge rather than from a spirit of justice. My solicitude for the welfare of France has now been transformed into concern for her honor.

Should I, after returning to America, spend my leisure in writing a history of the French Revolution, it would give me greater satisfaction to be able to set down a multitude of mistakes prompted by a feeling of compassion rather than to record a single deed prompted by even a just severity.

Do not, I beseech you, bestow upon the English tyrant the satisfaction of learning that the man who helped America, the land of my love, to burst her fetters, has died on the scaffold.


After the establishment of the American Revolution, it did not appear to me that any object could arise great enough to engage me a second time. I began to feel myself happy in being quiet; but I now experience that principle is not confined to time or place, and that the ardor of Seventy-six is capable of renewing itself.


When I left America in the year 1787, it was my intention to return the year following, but the French Revolution, and the prospect it afforded of extending the principles of liberty and fraternity through the greater part of Europe, have induced me to prolong my stay upwards of six years. I now despair of seeing the great object of European liberty accomplished, and my despair arises not from the combined foreign powers, not from the intrigues of aristocracy and priestcraft, but from the tumultuous misconduct with which the internal affairs of the present Revolution are conducted.


Serious argument and sound reasoning are preferable to ridicule.


Interest is as predominant and as silent in its operations as love; it resists all the attempts of force, and countermines all the stratagem of control.


It is an error very frequently committed in the world to mistake disposition for condition.


Liberty is the power to do everything that does not interfere with the rights of others: thus, the exercise of the natural rights of every individual has no limits save those that assure to other members of society the enjoyment of the same rights.


Men immersed in trade and the concerns of a counting-house are not the most speculative in national affairs, or always the best judges of them. Accustomed to run risks in trade, they are habitually prepared to run risks with government, and though they are the first to suffer, they are often the last to foresee an evil.


There appears a uniformity in all the works of nature, from individual animals up to nations. The smaller animals are always the most fretful, passionate and insulting. They mistake temper for strength, and often fall a sacrifice to vexatious impetuosity, while larger ones go calmly on, and require repeated provocations to incense them.


It is always better policy to leave removable errors to expose themselves than to hazard too much in contending against them theoretically.


Imitation is naturally progressive and is rapidly so in matters that are vicious.


His ignorance is his best excuse.


An inquiry into the origin of rights will demonstrate to us that rights are not gifts from one man to another, nor from one class of men to another; for who is he who could be the first giver, or by what principle, or on what authority, could he possess the right of giving?

A declaration of rights is not a creation of them, nor a donation of them. It is a manifest of the principle by which they exist, followed by a detail of what the rights are; for every civil right has a natural right for its foundation, and it includes the principle of a reciprocal guarantee of those rights from man to man. As, therefore, it is impossible to discover any origin of rights otherwise than in the origin of man, it consequently follows, that rights appertain to man in right of his existence only, and must therefore be equal to every man.


In a state of nature all men are equal in rights, but they are not equal in power; the weak cannot protect themselves against the strong. This being the case, the institution of civil society is for the purpose of making an equalization of powers that shall be parallel to, and a guarantee of, the equality of rights. The laws of a country, when properly constructed, apply to this purpose.

Every man takes the arm of the law for his protection as more effectual than his own; and therefore every man has an equal right in the formation of the government, and of the laws by which he is to be governed and judged.


There are however some things deducible from reason, and evidenced by experience, that serve to guide our decision. The one is never to invest any individual with extraordinary power; for besides his being tempted to misuse it, it will excite contention and commotion in the nation for the office. Secondly, never to invest power long in the hands of any number of individuals. The inconveniences that may be supposed to accompany frequent changes are less to be feared than the danger that arises from long continuance.


Some vices make their approach with such a splendid appearance that we scarcely know to what class of moral distinctions they belong. They are rather virtues corrupted than vices, originally. But meanness and ingratitude have nothing equivocal in their character. There is not a trait in them that renders them doubtful. They are so originally vice that they are generated in the dung of other vices, and crawl into existence with the filth upon their back.


I undertake nothing but what I believe to be right, I abandon nothing that I undertake.


A man will pass better through the world with a thousand open errors upon his back than in being detected in one sly falsehood. When one is detected, a thousand are suspected.