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Author of "The Life Of Thomas Paine," "Omitted Chapters Of HistoryDisclosedIn The Life And Papers Of Edmund Randolph," "George Washington And MountVernon," etc.
VOLUME IV. G.P. PUTNAM'S SONS NEW YORK LONDON 27 WEST TWENTY-THIRD STREET 24 BEDFORD STREET, STRAND 1896
GENERAL INTRODUCTION, WITH LAST GLEANINGS, HISTORICAL AND BIOGRAPHICAL
BEFORE sending out this final volume, I have rambled again insome of the fields harvested in my seven years' labor on the Lifeand Works of Thomas Paine, and present the more important gleaningsin these preliminary pages.
I recently obtained from a solicitor of Rotherham, Mr. Rising,a letter (on whose large seal part of the P remains), written byPaine from London to Thomas Walker, Esq., a member of the firmwhich manufactured the large model of the iron bridge invented bythe author, and exhibited at Paddington in June, 1790. The letteris dated February 26, 1789, and the first part, which relates tothe bridge, is quoted in Appendix E. The political part, heregiven, relates to the controversy which arose on the insanity of hePrince of Wales by hereditary right, while the Pitt Ministrymaintained that the Prince had no right during the King's lifetime,more than any other person, though it was "expedient" to select himas the Regent, with restrictions on his power imposed by the twoHouses of Parliament. Paine writes:
"With respect to News and Politics, the King is certainlygreatly amended, but what is to follow from it is a matter of muchuncertainty. How far the Nation may be safe with a man of aderanged mind at the head of it, and who, ever since he took up thenotion of quitting England and going to live in Hanover, has beencontinually planning to entangle England with German connections,which if followed must end in a war, is a matter that will occasionvarious opinions. However unfortunate it may have been for thesufferer, the King's malady has been no disservice to the Nation;he was burning his fingers very fast in the German war, and whetherhe is enough in his senses to keep out of the fire is a matter ofdoubt.
"You mention the Rotherham Address as complimenting Mr. Pitton the success of his administration, and for asserting andsupporting the Rights of the People. I differ exceedingly from youin this opinion, and I think the conduct of the Opposition muchnearer to the principles of the Constitution, than what the conductof the Ministry was. So far from Mr. Pitt asserting and supportingthe Rights of the people, it appears to me taking them away -- butas a man ought not to make an assertion without giving his reasons,I will give you mine.
"The English Nation is composed of two orders of men -- Peersand Commoners. By Commoners is properly meant every man in theNation not having the title of Peer. And it is the existence ofthose two orders, setting up distinct and opposite Claims, the onehereditary and the other elective, that makes it necessary toestablish a third order, or that known by the name of the RegalPower, or the Power of the Crown.
"The Regal Power is the Majesty of the Nation collected to acenter, and residing in the person exercising the Regal Power. TheRight therefore of the Prince is a Right standing on the Right ofthe whole Nation. But Mr. Pitt says it stands on the Right ofParliament. Is not Parliament composed of two houses, one of whichis itself hereditary, and over which the people have no control,and in the establishment of which they have no election; and theother house the representative of only a small part of the nation?How then can the Rights of the People be asserted and supported byabsorbing them into an hereditary house of Peers? Is not onehereditary power or Right as dangerous as the other? And yet theAddressers have all gone on the Error of establishing Power in thehouse of Peers, over whom, as I have already said, they have nocontrol, for the inconsistent purpose of opposing it in the princeover whom they have some control.
"It was one of those Cases in which there ought to have beena National Convention for the express purpose: for if Government bepermitted to alter itself, or any of the parts be permitted toalter the other, there is no fixed Constitution in the Country. Andif the Regal Power, or the person exercising the Regal Power,either as King or Regent, instead of standing on the universalground of the Nation, be made the mere Creature of Parliament, itis, in my humble opinion, equally as inconsistent andunconstitutional as if Parliament was the mere Creature of theCrown.
"It is a common Idea in all countries that to take Power fromthe Prince is to give liberty to the people. But Mr. Pitt's conductis almost the reverse of this: his is to take power from one partof the Government to add it to another; for he has increased thePower of the Peers, not the Rights of the People. -- I must givehim credit for his ingenuity if I do not for his principles, andthe less so because the object of his conduct is now visible, whichwas to [keep] themselves in pay after they should be out off[avor], by retaining, thro' an Act of Parliament of their ownmaking, between four and five hundred thousand pounds of the CivilList in their own hands. This is the key of the whole business; andit was for this and not for the Rights of the people that he set upthe Right of Parliament, because it was only by that means that thespoil could be divided. If the restrictions had been that he shouldnot declare war, or enter into foreign alliances without theconsent of Parliament, the objects would have been national andwould have had some sense in them; but it is, that he should nothave all the money. If Swift was alive he would say ---- on suchPatriotism.'
"How they will manage with Ireland I have no opportunity oflearning, as I have not been at the other end of the Town since theCommission arrived. Ireland will certainly judge for itself, andnot permit the English Parliament or Doctors to judge for her. --Thus much for Politics."
The letter just quoted is the more remarkable because thePrince Regent was particularly odious to Paine. The reader willfind this issue of the Regency dealt with in theRights of Man
(ii., p. 371 of this edition), but it may be remarked in passingthat this supposed purblind enemy of thrones was found in 1789maintaining that the monarch, however objectionable, was morerelated to the people than a non-representative Parliament, andthat in 1793 he pleaded for the life of Louis XVI.
The last paragraph in the above extract shows that Paine wasalready in sympathy with Irish discontent. I have a little scrap ofhis writing (early 1792) which appears to be from the draft of anote to one of the associations in London, respecting the Societyof United Irishmen, whose Declaration was issued in October, 1791:
"I have the honor of presenting the Gentlemen present a letter I have received from the United Irishmen of Dublin informing me of my having been elected an honorary member of their Society. By this adoption of me as one of their body I have the pleasure of considering myself on their" -- [caeteradesunt].
The tremendous effect produced in Ireland by Paine's answer toBurke is indicated in the Charlemont Papers (Hist. MSS. Com. 1894).Mr. Thomas Shore first called attention to the items concerningPaine in the London 'Freethinker,' March and April, 1896. Althougha Liberal Whig. In 1791 (April ii) Sheridan writes from Downpatrickto Charlemont;
"I find from the newspapers that the Whigs of the capital (a society of which I am a member, and into which I entered with the best intentions) have, in my absence, and without my knowledge, named and published me one of a committee for disseminating Mr. Paine's pamphlet in reply to Mr. Burke's 'Reflections on the French Revolution.' I have read that pamphlet; it appears to me designed to level all distinction, and to have this object in view -- a total overthrow of the Constitution. With this opinion I must naturally feel it indecent, in my public situation as a member of parliament, a citizen, a barrister and (what I value least) one of his majesty's counsel, to disseminate that work, but I am at a loss how to act. My first intention was to contradict it publicly. I fear a misinterpretation of my motives, and I dislike public differences with men in whose cause I am an humble assistant."
Two days later Charlemont replies:
"Thinking exactly as you do of Paine's very entertaining, very ingenious, but very dangerous performance . . . yet how to advise upon this occasion I do not well know. A serious public contradiction would not be pleasant, and possibly not innoxious. Perhaps the best method may be to expostulate between jest and earnest with some of your brethren on the liberty they have taken, and to declare in all companies, without being too serious, your real opinion of the tendency of the pamphlet, giving it, however, its due praise, for much merit it certainly has. . . . Men connected with the popular party will often be brought into scrapes of this sort, as the people who sometimes do not go too far will seldom go far enough."
It is evident that Paine had a powerful following, and thatit was not at that time prudent for a Whig politician torepudiate him. Soon after we find Earl Charlemont writing fromDublin, May 9, 1791, to Dr. Alexander Haliday, Belfast: "I did,indeed, suppose that Paine's pamphlet, which is, by the way, awork of great genius, would be well received in your district;yet, in my opinion, it ought to be read with some degree ofcaution. He does, indeed, tear away the bandage from the publiceye; but in tearing it off there may be some danger of injuringthe organ." In reply to a radical outburst from Haliday,Charlemont writes (July 30, 1791): "Though I admire Mr. Paine, Iam by no means a convert to his doctrine concerning ourconstitution, and cannot help thinking that some approbation ofthis constitution, as it ought to be, should at all times bejoined with the applause which we so justly bestow on theemancipation of a great people from utter slavery." Charlemontwas a friend and correspondent of Burke, and frankly expressedhis differences of opinion, but Holiday gave him proofs of adishonorable proceeding on Burke's part, eleven years before(borrowing a manuscript play of Haliday's in confidence, showingit to Sheridan, and never returning it, professing that it waslost), and pronounced him (Burke) a snake in the grass.Thereafter no communication appears between Charlemont and Burke.
The prosecution of the second Part of theRights of Man,and the panic caused by massacres in France, thinned the ranks ofPaine's eminent friends, while the popularity of his workincreased. Malone, writing from London to Charlemont, December 3,1792, says: "For several weeks past not less than four thousandper week of Paine's despicable and nonsensical pamphlet have beenissued forth, for almost nothing, and dispersed all over thekingdom. At Manchester the innovators bribe the poor by drink tohear it read." And on December 22, four days after Paine's trial,Malone has the satisfaction of reporting: "That vain fellowErskine has been going about this month past, saying he wouldmake a speech in defence of Paine's nonsensical and impudentlibel on the English constitution, that would astonish the world,and make him to be remembered when Pitt and Fox and Burke, etc.,were all forgotten. After speaking for four hours, and faintingin the usual form, the jury, without suffering the attorney-general to reply, found Paine guilty." Malone (Edmund, theShakespearian) was an admirable Irishman, but he seems to havebeen taken off his feet by 'the court-panic in London. There is atouch of comedy in finding him bringing out a quarto with arepublican publisher.
"This person," he tells Charlemont, November 15, 1793, "a Mr. George Robinson, is unluckily too a determined republican, on which account alone I am sorry that I have employed him. In consequence of his political frenzy he at this moment is apprehensive of judgment being pronounced against him by the king's bench for selling Paine's pamphlet, and may probably be punished for his zeal in the 'good old cause,' as they called it in the last century, by six months' imprisonment. I shall not have the smallest pity for him. To do any act whatever that may tend to forward the principles maintained by the diabolical ruffians in France is so highly criminal that I hope the chief justice will inflict the most exemplary punishment on all the favorers of that vile system, whenever he can lay hold on them."
Robinson had been found guilty August 10, and when called upfor judgment seems to have escaped with a fine (Sherwin's"Paine," p. 138). Before leaving the Charlemont Papers it may beremarked that in no case does the Earl respond to Malone'sacrimonious language against Paine, and even when the goodCatholic has before him the author's direst offenses, he limitshimself in writing to Haliday (long since scared) to a mildsentence: "So Paine has now attacked Washington! No wonder; hehas lately dared to attack heaven."
From the papers of Francis Place (British Museum), itappears that the work of repressing political discussion wasbegun by the Lord Mayor, who on November 27, 1792, closed thedebating society which had been meeting at the King's Arms,Cornhill. (By the diary of Paine's friend, John Hall, I find thatafter the information had been lodged against Paine, all of thedebating societies in London were intimidated, and the King'sArms debate had come down to the question, "Whether a husbandobstinate and ignorant, or a man of parts, though tyrannical, wasthe most eligible for woman of refined sensibilities?" Halladds:" Did not stay a to the end, but it seemed to be going infavor of the sensible man, the tyrant." Whether the Lord Mayorscented sedition in such questions or not, John Hall, after someabsence from London, enters in his diary, November 26, "Could notfind where Debating Society met.")
In the Francis Place MSS., 27, 809, p. 268, there is a listof the prosecutions in 1793; and in 27, 812, pp. 10, 12, aredocuments showing that about the middle of June, 1792,subscriptions had been opened, for the defence of Paine, by boththe "London Corresponding Committee and the "ConstitutionalSociety." In MSS. 27, 817, p. 24, "Mr. Payne" (sic) and Rickmanare in the list of those who met in the London Coffee House, May9, 1792, and founded the Society of Friends of the People."
Paine was elected a member of the French National Conventionby four departments -- Oise, Puy-de-Dome, the Somme, and Pas-de-Calais, and decided to sit for the latter. Among the manuscriptsof Genet, the first Minister sent by the Convention to the UnitedStates, confided to me by his son, George Clinton Genet of NewYork, I find a memorandum of great historical interest, which maybe inserted here in advance of the monograph I hope to prepareconcerning that much-wronged ambassador. In this memorandum Genet-- a brother of Madame Campan -- states that his appointment tothe United States was in part because of the position his familyhad held at Court, and with a View to the banishment of the royalfamily to that country. (It had already been arranged that Paineshould move for this in the Convention.) I now quote Genet:
Roux Facillac, who had been very intimate in my father's family at Versailles, met me one morning [January 14, 1793] and wished me to spend the evening at Le Brun's, where I had been invited. He accompanied me there and we met Brissot, Guadet, Leonnet, Ducos, Fauchet, Thomas Paine, and most of the Gironde leaders. ... Tom Paine, who did not pretend to understand French, took no part in the conversation, and sat quietly sipping his claret. "Ask Paine, Genet," said Brissot, "what effect the execution of Capet would have in America? "Paine replied to my enquiry by simply saying "bad, very bad." The next day Paine presented to the Convention his celebrated letter demanding in the name of Liberty, and the people of the United States, that Louis should be sent to the United States. Vergniaux enquired of me what effect I thought it would have in Europe, I replied in a few words that it would gratify the enemies of France who had not forgiven Louis the acceptance of the Constitution nor the glorious results of the American Revolution. . . . "Genet," continued Le Brun, "how would you like to go to the United States and take Capet and his family with you?
The next day, January 15, Genet was appointed by Le Brun(Minister of Foreign Affairs), and Paine's appeal was made in theConvention; but there is reason to believe that Le Brunos servantwas a spy; and the conversation, reported to the Jacobins soonafter its occurrence, "contributed," Genet believed, "to theearly fall of Louis."
I will now call attention to a passage in "The Journal of aSpy in Paris during the Reign of Terror," recently published, andwill place it beside an extract from Paine's memorial to Monroewhile in prison.
The Spy. Paine, 1794. "April 2, 1793. He "However discordant the [Paine] is said to be moving late American Minister heaven and earth to get Gouverneur Morris and the late himself recognized as an French Committee of Public 'American Citizen,' and Safety were, it suited the thereon liberated. . . The purpose of both that I should Minister of the American be continued in arrestation. States [Gouverneur Morris] is The former wished to prevent too shrewd to allow such a my return to America that I fish to go over and swim in should not expose his his waters, if he can prevent misconduct; and the latter, it; and avows to Robespierre lest I should publish to the that he knows nothing of any world the history of its rights of naturalization wickedness. Whilst that Min- claimed by Paine." ister and the Committee con tinued I had no expectation of liberty. I speak here of the Committee of which Robespierre was a member."
Here then is corroboration, were it needed, of the criminaltreachery of Morris to both Paine and Washington, of which I havegiven unanswerable documentary evidence (vol. iii., chap. 21),although I had not then conceived that Morris' guilt extended topersonal incitements of Robespierre against Paine.
Morris knew well that "naturalization," though an effectiveword to use on Robespierre, had nothing to do with thecitizenship acquired at the American Revolution by persons ofalien birth, such as Paine, Hamilton, Robert Morris, -- to namethree who had held high offices in the United States. But, asMonroe stated, all Americans of 1776 were born under the Britishflag, and needed no formal process to make them citizens.
Mr. J.G. Alger, author of "Englishmen in the FrenchRevolution," and "Glimpses of the French Revolution," whosecontinued researches in Paris promise other original and strikingworks, has graciously sent me a document of much interest justdiscovered by him in the National Archives, where it is marked U1021. It is the copy of a "Declaration" made by Paine, theoriginal being buried away in the chaos of Fouquier-Tinvilledocuments. The Declaration was made on October 8, 1794, inconnection with the trial of Denis Julien, accused of having beena Spy of Robespierre and his party in the Luxembourg prison. Itwas proved that on June 29, 1794, Julien had been called on inthe prison, where he was detained, to inform the revolutionarytribunal concerning the suspected conspiracy among the prisoners.He said that he knew nothing; that his room was at the extremityof the building divided off from the mass of prisoners, and hecould not pronounce against any one. (Wallon's "Hist. TribunalRdvolutionnaire," iv., p. 409.) Wallon, however, had notdiscovered this document found by Mr. Alger, which shows thatPaine was long a room-mate of Julien in the prison where his(Paine's) Declaration was demanded and given as follows:
"Denis Julien was my room mate from the time of his entering the Luxembourg prison at the end of the month of Ventose [about the middle of March] till towards the end of Messidor [about the middle of July], at which date I was visited with a violent fever which obliged me to go into a room better suited to the condition I was in. It is for the time when we were room mates that I shall speak of him, as being within my personal knowledge. I shall not go beyond that date, because my illness rendered me incapable of knowing anything of what happened in the prison or elsewhere, and my companions on their part, all the time that my recovery remained doubtful, were silent to me on all that happened. The first news which they told me was of the fall of Robespierre. I state all this so that the real reason why I do not speak of any of the allegations preferred against Julien in the summoning of him as a witness before the revolutionary tribunal, in the case of persons accused of conspiracy, may be clearly known, and that my silence on that case may not be attributed to any unfavorable reticence. Of his conduct during the time of our room intimacy, which lasted more than four months, I can speak fully. He appeared to me during all that time a man of strict honor, probity, and humanity, incapable of doing anything repugnant to those principles. We found ourselves in entire agreement in the horror which we felt for the character of Robespierre, and in the opinion which we formed of his hypocrisy, particularly on the occasion of his harangue on the Supreme Being, and on the atrocious perfidy which he showed in proposing the bloody law of the 22 Prairial [June 10, 1794]; and we communicated our opinions to each other in writing, and these confidential notes we wrote in English to prevent the risk of our being understood by the prisoners, and for our own safety we threw them into the fire as soon as read. As I knew nothing of the denunciations which took place at the Luxembourg, or of the judgments and executions which were the consequence, until at least a month after the event, I can only say that when I was informed of them, as also of the appearance of Julien as a witness in that affair, I concluded from the opinion which I had already formed of him that he had been an unwilling witness, or that he had acted with the view of rendering service to the accused, and I have now no reason to believe otherwise. That the accused were not guilty of any anti- revolutionary conduct is also what I believe, but the fact was that all the prisoners saw themselves shut up like sheep in a pen to be sacrificed in turn just as they daily saw their companions were, and the expression of discontent which the misery of such a situation forced from them was converted into a conspiracy by the spies of Robespierre who were posted in the prison. -- Luxembourg, 7 Vendemiaire, Year 3."
Julien was discharged without trial. The answers he hadgiven to the Revolutionary Committee, quoted above, unknown ofcourse to Paine, justified his opinion of Julien, though the factof his being summoned at all looks as if Julien had been placedwith Paine as an informer. In the companionship of the authorJulien may have found a change of heart! Mr. Alger in a note tome remarks, "What a picture of the prisoners' distrust of eachother!" The document also brings before us the notable fact that,though at its date, fourteen weeks after the fall of Robespierre,the sinister power of Gouverneur Morris' accomplices on theCommittee of Public Safety still kept Paine in prison, histestimony to the integrity of an accused man was called for andapparently trusted.
The next extract that I give is a clipping from a Londonpaper of 1794, the name not given, preserved in a scrap-bookextending from 1776 to 1827, which I purchased many years ago atthe Bentley sale.
"GENERAL O'HARA AND MR. THOMAS PAYNE -- These well known Gentlemen are at Paris -- both kept at the Luxembourg -- imprisoned, indeed, but in a mitigated manner as to accommodations, apartments, table, intercourse, and the liberty of the garden -- which our well-informed readers know is very large. The ground plan of the Luxembourg is above six acres. In this confinement General O'Hara and Mr. Thomas Payne have often met, and their meeting has been productive of a little event in some sort so unexpected as to be added to the extraordinary vicissitudes of which the present time is so teeming. The fact was that General O'Hara wanted money; and that through Mr. Thomas Payne he was able to get what he wanted. The sum was 200 pounds sterling. The General's bill, through other channels tried in vain, was negotiated by Mr. Thomas Payne."
The story of this money, and how Paine contrived to keep it,is told in vol. iii., p. 396, n. The mitigations of punishmentalluded to in the paragraph did not last long; the last months ofPaine's imprisonment were terrible. O'Hara, captured at Toulonand not released until August, 1795, was the General who carriedout the sword of Cornwallis for surrender at Yorktown.
Charles Nodier, in his "Souvenirs de la Revolution et deI'Empire " (Paris, 1850), has some striking sketches of Paine andhis friends in the last years of the eighteenth century. Nodierhad no sympathy with Paine's opinions, but was much impressed bythe man. I piece together some extracts from various parts of hisrambling work.
"One of our dinners at Bonneville's has left such an impression on me that when I am thinking of these things it seems like a dream. There were six of us in the Poet's immense sitting room. It had four windows looking on the street. The cloth was spread on an oblong table, loaded at each end with bronzes, globes, maps, books, crests, and portraits. The only one of the guests whom I knew was the impenetrable Seyffert, with his repertory of ideas a thousand times more profound, but also a thousand times more obscure than the cave of Trophonius. Old Mercier came in and sat down with his chin resting on his big ivory-topped cane. ... The fifth guest was a military man, fifty years of age, with a sort of inverted curled up face, reserved in conversation, like a man of sense, common in manners, like a man of the people. They called him a Pole. The last guest was an Anglo-American, with a long, thin, straight head, all in profile as it were, without any expression; for gentleness, benevolence, shyness, give little scope for it. ... This Anglo-American was Thomas Payne, and the Tartar with sullen looks was Kosciusko. ... Thomas Payne, whom I seldom saw, has left on me the impression of a well-to-do man, bold in principle, cautious in practice; liable to yield himself up to revolutionary movements, incapable of accepting the dangerous consequences; good by nature, and a sophist by conviction. ... On the whole an honest and unpretending person who, in the most fatal day of our annals, exhibited every courage and virtue; and of whom history, in order to be just to his memory, ought to forget nothing but his writings."
At a somewhat later period Paine was met in Paris by theeminent engraver, Abraham Raimbach, Corresponding Member of theInstitute of France, whose "Recollections," privately printed,were loaned me by Mr. Henry Clifton. I am permitted by Mr. W.L.Raimbach, grandson of the engraver, to use this family volume.Raimbach probably had met Paine between 1800 and 1802, andwrites:
"He was at this time constantly to be seen at an obscure cabaret in an obscure street in the fauxbourg St. Germain (Cafe Jacob, rue Jacob). The scene as we entered the room from the street -- it was on the ground floor -- was, under the circumstances, somewhat impressive. It was on a summer's evening, and several tables were occupied by men, apparently tradesmen and mechanics, some playing at the then universal game of dominoes, others drinking their bottle of light, frothy, but pleasant beer, or their little glass of liqueur. while in a retired part of the room sat the once- dreaded demagogue, the supposed conspirator against thrones and altars, the renowned Thomas Paine! He was in conversation with several well-dressed Irishmen, who soon afterwards took leave, and we placed ourselves at his table. His general appearance was mean and poverty-stricken. The portrait of him engraved by Sharp from Romney's portrait is a good likeness, but he was now much withered and careworn, tho' his dark eye still retained its sparkling vigor. He was fluent in his speech, of mild and gentle demeanor, clear and distinct in enunciation, and his voice exceedingly soft and agreeable. The subject of his talk being of course political, resembled very much his printed opinions; and the dogmatic form in which he delivered them seemed to evince his own perfect self-conviction of their truth."
Raimbach mentions having afterwards understood that ColonelBosville, of Yorkshire, was very kind to him, and enabled Paineto return to America. Lewis Goldsmith says that Sir FrancisBurdett and Mr. William Bosville made him a present of 300 louisd'ors, with which he remunerated Bonneville, with whom he hadresided nearly six years. Goldsmith's article on Paine (Anti-Gallican Monitor, February 28, 1813) contains a good many errors,but some shrewd remarks:
"From what I knew of this man, who once made such a noise in this country and America, I judge him to have been harmless and inoffensive; and I firmly believe that if he could have imagined that his writings would have caused bloodshed be would never have written at all. . . . He never was respected by any party in France, as he certainly was not an advocate of (what was falsely called) French liberty, -- that system which enforced Republican opinions by drowning, shooting, and the guillotine. ... He even saw several foreigners, who like himself were staunch admirers of the French Revolution, led to the scaffold -- such as Anacharsis Clootz, Baron Trenk, etc. -- and had Robespierre lived eight days longer Paine would have certainly followed them, as his name was already on the Proscribed list of the Public Accuser. . . . I have no doubt that if Paine, on his return to America, had found the head of the government of that country [Jefferson] to be that stern Republican which he professed to be, he would have written some account of the French Revolution, and of the horrid neglect which he experienced there from Robespierre as well as from Buonaparte; for if the former designed to take away his life, the latter refused him the means of living. . . . I must in justice to him declare that he left France a decided enemy to the Revolution in that country, and with an unconquerable aversion to Buonaparte, against whom he indulged himself in speaking in severe terms to almost every person of his acquaintance in Paris."
The last of my gleanings were gathered at Bromley, in Kent,where Paine went on April 21, 1792, "to compose," says his friendHall, "the funeral sermon of Burke," but local tradition says, towrite theAge of Reason
.Paine, as a private letter proves, was anxious for a prosecution of hisRights of Man
,which Burke hadpublicly proposed, and no doubt began at Bromley his pamphletwith the exposure of Burke's pension. However, when Paine soughtrefuge from the swarm of radicals and interviewers besetting himin his London lodgings, it is highly probable that he wished tocontinue his meditations on religious subjects and add to hismanuscripts, begun many years before, ultimately pieced togetherin theAge of Reason
.Under the guidance of Mr. Coles Childs,present owner of Bromley Palace, I visited Mr. How, anintelligent watchmaker, who remembers when a boy of twelvehearing his father say that Paine occupied "Church Cottage," andthere wrote theAge of Reason
.There is also a local traditionthat Paine used to write on the same work while seated under the"Tom Paine Tree," which is on the palace estate. "Church Cottage"was ecclesiastical property, may even have been the Vicarage, andPaine would pass by the beautiful palace of the Bishops ofRochester to his favorite tree. The legend which has singled outthe heretical work of Paine as that which was written in anecclesiastical mansion, and in an episcopal park, is toopicturesque for severe criticism. The "Tom Paine Tree" is a veryancient oak, solitary in its field, and very noble. Mr. Childspointed out to me some powerful but much rusted wires, amid theupper branches, showing that it had been taken care of. Theinterior surface of the trunk, which is entirely hollow, iscompletely charred. The girth at the ground must be twenty-fivefeet. Not a limb is dead: from the hollow and charred trunk asuperb mass of foliage arises. I think Paine must have rememberedit when writing patriotic songs for America in the Revolution, -"The Liberty Tree," and the "Boston Patriot's Song," with itslines --
"Our mountains are crowned with imperial oak, Whose roots like our Liberty ages have nourished."
From this high and clear spot one may almost see thehomestead of Darwin who, more heretical than Paine, hasWestminster Abbey for his monument; and whose neighbor, the Rev.Robert Ainslie, of Tromer Lodge, kept in his house the skull andright hand of Thomas Paine! Of the remains of Paine, exhumed byCobbett in America, the brain came into the possession of Rev.George Reynolds, the skull into that of Rev. Robert Ainslie, bothorthodox at the time, both subsequently unorthodox, possiblythrough some desire to know what thoughts had played through thelamp whose fragments had come into their hands. The daughter ofMr. Ainslie, the first wife of the late Sir Russell Reynolds,wrote me that she remembered the relics, but could not find themafter her father's death; if ever discovered they might well begiven quiet burial or cremation at the foot of this "Tom PaineTree." However that may be, it is a Talking Oak, if one listensclosely, and tells true fables of the charred and scarred andstorm-beaten man, rooted deep in the conscience and soul ofEngland, whose career, after its special issues are gone, isstill crowned with living foliage. That none can doubt whowitnessed the large Paine Exhibition in South Place Chapel, inDecember, 1895, or that in the Bradlaugh Club, January 29, 1896,and observes the steady demand for his works in England andAmerica. Yet it is certain that comparatively few of those whocherish relics of Paine, and read his books, agree with hisreligious opinions, or regard his political theories as nowpracticable. Paine's immortality among the people is derivedmainly from the life and spirit which were in him, consuming allmean partitions between man and man, all arbitrary and unrealdistinctions, rising above the cheap jingoism that calls itselfpatriotism, and affirming the nobler State whose unit is the man,whose motto is "My country is the world, to do good my religion."
Personally I place a very high value on Paine's writings inthemselves, and not simply for their prophetic genius, theirhumane spirit, and their vigorous style. While his type of deismis not to me satisfactory, his religious spirit at times attainssublime heights; and while his republican formulas are at timesimpaired by his eagerness to adapt them to existing conditions, Ido not find any writer at all, not even the most modern, who hasequally worked out a scheme for harmonizing the inevitable ruleof the majority with individual freedom and rights. Yet it is byno means on this my own estimate of Paine's ideas that I rest theclaims of his writings to attention and study. Their historicalvalue is of the highest. Every page of Paine was pregnant withthe life of his time. He was the 'enfant terrible' of the timesthat in America, England, France, made the history that is nowour international heritage: he was literally the only man whocame out with the whole truth, regardless of persons: histestimony is now of record, and the gravest issues of to-daycannot be understood until that testimony is mastered.
I especially invoke to the study of Paine's Life, and ofthese volumes of his Writings, the historians, scholars,statesmen of the mother of nations -- England. I have remarked atendency in some quarters to preserve the old odium againstPaine, no longer maintainable in respect of his religion or hischaracter, by transferring it to his antagonism to the governmentof England in the last century. And it is probable that thisprejudice may be revived by the republication in this edition ofseveral of his pamphlets, notably that on the "Invasion ofEngland" in the Appendix (to which some of Paine's most importantworks have been relegated). But if thinking Englishmen will ridthemselves of that counterfeit patriotism now called "Jingoism,"and calmly study those same essays, they will begin to understandthat while Paine arraigned a transient misgovernment of England,his critics arraign England itself by treating attacks on minionsof George III. as if hostile to the England of Victoria. Thewidespread hostility to England recently displayed in America haswith some justice been traced to the kind of teaching that hasgone on for nearly four generations in American schools under thename of history; but what remedy can there be for thisdisgraceful situation so long as English historians areignorantly keeping their country, despite the friendship of itspeople for Americans, in the attitude of a party to a 'vendetta'transmitted from a discredited past? And much the same may besaid concerning the strained relations between England andFrance, which constitute a most sad, and even scandalous, featureof our time. About a hundred years ago an English government wasinstigating parochial mobs to burn "Tom Paine" in effigy forwriting theRights of Man,little reflecting that it was makingthe nation it misgoverned into an effigy for American and Frenchdemocrats to burn, on occasion, for a century to come. Paine, hisname and his personal wrongs, passed out of the case altogether,like the heart of the hollow "Tom Paine Tree" at Bromley: butlike its living foliage the principles he represented are stillrenewed, and flourish under new names and forms. But old namesand forms are coined in prejudices. The Jeffersonian in Americaand the Girondin in France are now in power, and are sometimesvictimized by a superstition that George III. is still monarch ofEngland, and Pitt still his Minister. Meanwhile the credit ofEnglish Literature commands the civilized world. The next greatwriter will be the historian who shall without flattery, and withinflexible justice and truth, examine and settle these long-standing accounts with the past; and to him I dedicate in advancethese volumes, wherein he will find valuable resources andmaterials.
Here then close my labors on the history and the writings ofthe great Commoner of Mankind, founder of the Republic of theWorld, and emancipator of the human mind and heart,
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