Happy Birthday Thomas Paine!

January 29th is the 273rd birthday of the man who gave our country the name, “The United States of America.” In the 1820’s, more than a decade after his ignominious death, admirers of Thomas Paine began a tradition of meeting in pubs around the world on his birthday to raise a glass to the man who gave words to the greatest freedom movement in human history. So take a moment, go to the fridge and pop a cold one, and read along with us!

In an open letter to the people of Britain, Thomas Paine informed the King’s subjects that their economy had become so dependent on war, that mere trade and taxation was no longer enough to keep the crown in business. In his Crisis Pamphlet, No. VII he told them, “they looked on conquest as certain and infallible, and under that persuasion, sought to drive the Americans into what they might style a general rebellion, and then crushing them with arms in their hands, reap the rich harvest of a general confiscation and silence them forever. The dependants at Court were too numerous to be provided for in England. The market for plunder in the East-Indies was over: and the profligacy of government required that a new mine should be opened and that mine could be no other than America conquered and forfeited. They had nowhere else to go…Taxation could never, as I mentioned before could never be worth the charge of obtaining it by arms…”

In Crisis No. III he is even more succinct:
There was a “…fixt design in the king and ministry of driving America into arms, in order that they might be furnished with a pretence for seizing the whole Continent as the immediate property of the Crown. A noble plunder for hungry courtiers!”

Elsewhere in Crisis No. VII he scolds the English, “Where information is with-held, ignorance becomes a reasonable excuse… surrounded by the sea, preserves them (the English) from the calamities of war, and keeps them in the dark as to the conduct of their own armies. They see not, therefore they feel not. They tell the tale that is told them and believe it, and accustomed to no other news than their own, they receive it, stript of its horrors and prepared for the palate of the nation… They are made to believe that their Generals and armies differ from those of other nations, and have nothing of rudeness or barbarity in them. They suppose them what they wish them to be.”

His assertion was that England perpetrated a ruse to get America to fire a shot, and when they did, England would then be justified to send in troops and put us down with the intention of confiscating our wealth. So I ask you, are we condemned to repeat the sins of our fathers? Think Gulf of Tonkin, think Weapons of Mass Destruction.

More from Paine:

“The Creator of man did not constitute him the natural enemy of each other. He has not made any one order of beings so. Even wolves may quarrel, still they herd together.”

“War never can be the interest of a trading nation, any more than quarreling can be profitable to a man in business.”

“As individuals, we profess ourselves to be christians, but as nations we are heathens.”

“That which is the best character for an individual is the best character for a nation.”

“By a curious kind of revolution in accounts, the people of England seem to mistake their poverty for their riches, that is, they reckon their national debt as part of their national wealth.  They make the same kind of error which a man would do, who, after mortgaging his estate, should add the money borrowed, to the full value of the estate in order to count up his worth, and in this case he would conceit that he got rich by running into debt.”

“Here then is the origin and rise of government; namely, a mode rendered necessary by the inability of moral virtue to govern the world.”

“Cato seems to be possessed of that Jesuitical cunning, which always endeavors to disgrace that which it cannot disprove.”

“That men never turn rogues without turning fools, is a maxim, sooner or later, universally true.”

“Who would ever expect discretion from a fool, candour from a tyrant, or justice from a villain?”

“Men whose political principals are founded on avarice, are beyond the reach of reason, and the only cure for Toryism of this cast, is to tax it.”

“When we take a survey of mankind we cannot help cursing the wretch, who, to the unavoidable misfortunes of nature shall willfully add the calamities of war.”

“If there is a sin superior to every other it is that of willful and offensive war. Most other sins are circumscribed within narrow limits… but he who is the author of a war, lets loose the whole contagion of Hell. And opens a vein that bleeds a nation to death.”

He wrote a pamphlet addressed to General Howe, the commander of British forces in the colonies, stating that “You are fighting for what you can never obtain, and we are defending what we mean never to part with.”

His point was that Howe’s army could conquer anything but could hold nothing, that he was fighting a nation and not another army; that wherever the British army resided, the colonists would wither them away through attrition, and bankrupt their endeavor.

Sound familiar?
And there’s more…

“If a government requires the support of oaths, it is a sign that it is not worth supporting, and ought not to be supported. Make government what it ought to be, and it will support itself.”

“There is no such thing as the idea of a compact between the people on one side, and the government on the other. The compact was that of the people with each other, to produce and constitute a government… a constitution is not the act of a government, but of a people constituting a government; and government without a constitution, is power without a right.”

“All power exercised over a nation, must have some beginning. It must either be delegated or assumed. There are no other sourses. All delegated power is trust, and all assumed power is usurpation. Time does not alter the nature or quality of either.”

And lastly,

“I do not believe in the creed professed…by any church that I can think of. My own mind is my own church.”

“…it is necessary to the happiness of man, that he be mentally faithful to himself. Infidelity does not consist in believing, or in disbelieving; it consists in professing to believe what he does not believe…”
“When a man has so far corrupted and prostituted the chastity of his mind, as to subscribe his professional belief to things he does not believe, he has prepared himself for the commission of every other crime.”

Common Sense.

Reccommended Reading:

The Collected Works

Thomas Paine and Revolutionary America by Eric Foner

Citizen Tom Paine by Howard Fast

Thomas Paine and the Promise of America by Harvey Kaye

Thomas Paine’s Rights of Man by Christopher Hitchens

Thomas Paine,

Enlightenment, Revolution, and the Birth of Modern Nations by Craig Nelson

More later…