Table of Contents

Common Sense

The Rights of Man

The Life Of Thomas Paine by Moncure D. Conway

The Rights of Man

Table of Contents

Part I: Being an Answer to Mr. Burke's Attack on the French Revolution

The Author's Preface to the English Edition

The Author's Preface to the French Edition

Rights of Man

Declaration Of The Rights Of Man And Of Citizens By The National Assembly Of France

Miscellaneous Chapter


Part II: Combining Principle and Practice



Of Society and Civilisation

Of the Origin of the Present Old Governments

Of the Old and New Systems of Government

Of Constitutions

Ways And Means Of Improving The Condition Of Europe Interspersed With Miscellaneous Observations


Chapter II. Early Struggles

Table of Contents

In the middle of the eighteenth century England and France were contending for empire in India and in America. For some service the ship Terrible, Captain Death, was fitted out, and Thomas Paine made an effort to sail on her. It seems, however, that he was overtaken by his father on board, and carried home again. "From this adventure I was happily prevented by the affectionate and moral remonstrances of a good father, who from the habits of his life, being of the Quaker profession, looked on me as lost." This privateer lost in an engagement one hundred and seventy-five of its two hundred men. Thomas was then in his seventeenth year. The effect of the paternal remonstrances, unsupported by any congenial outlook at Thetford, soon wore off, and, on the formal declaration of war against France (1756), he was again seized with the longing for heroic adventure, and went to sea on the King of Prussia, privateer, Captain Mendez. Of that he soon got enough, but he did not return home.

Of Paine's adventures with the privateer there is no record. Of yet more momentous events of his life for some years there is known nothing beyond the barest outline. In his twentieth year he found work in London (with Mr. Morris, stay-maker, Hanover Street, Longacre), and there remained near two years. These were fruitful years. "As soon as I was able I purchased a pair of globes, and attended the philosophical lectures of Martin and Ferguson, and became afterwards acquainted with Dr. Bevis, of the society called the Royal Society, then living in the Temple, and an excellent astronomer."

In 1758 Paine found employment at Dover with a stay-maker named Grace. In April, 1759, he repaired to Sandwich, Kent, where he established himself as a master stay-maker. There is a tradition at Sandwich that he collected a congregation in his room in the market-place, and preached to them "as an independent, or a Methodist" Here, at twenty-two, he married Mary Lambert. She was an orphan and a waiting-woman to Mrs. Richard Solly, wife of a woollen-draper in Sandwich. The Rev. Horace Gilder, Rector of St. Peter's, Sandwich, has kindly referred to the register, and finds the entry: "Thomas Pain, of the parish of St. Peters, in the town of Sandwich, in Kent, bachelor, and Mary Lambert, of the same parish, spinster, were married in this church, by licence, this 27th day of Sept., 1759, by me William Bunce, Rector." Signed "Thomas Pain, Mary Lambert In the presence of Thomas Taylor, Maria Solly, John Joslin."

The young couple began housekeeping on Dolphin Key, but Paine's business did not thrive, and he went to Margate. There, in 1760, his wife died, Paine then concluded to abandon the stay-making business. His wife's father had once been an exciseman. Paine resolved to prepare himself for that office, and corresponded with his father on the subject. The project found favor, and Paine, after passing some months of study in London, returned to Thetford in July, 1761. Here, while acting as a supernumerary officer of excise, he continued his studies, and enjoyed the friendship of Mr. Cock-sedge, the Recorder of Thetford. On 1 December, 1762, he was appointed to guage brewers' casks at Grantham. On 8 August, 1764, he was set to watch smugglers at Alford.

Thus Thomas Paine, in his twenty-fifth year, was engaged in executing Excise Acts, whose application to America prepared the way for independence. Under pressure of two great hungers—for bread, for science—the young exciseman took little interest in politics. "I had no disposition for what is called politics. It presented to my mind no other idea than is contained in the word jockey-ship." The excise, though a Whig measure, was odious to the people, and smuggling was regarded as not only venial but clever. Within two years after an excise of £1 per gallon was laid on spirits (1746), twelve thousand persons were convicted for offences against the Act, which then became a dead letter. Paine's post at Alford was a dangerous one. The exciseman who pounced on a party of smugglers got a special reward, but he risked his life. The salary was only fifty pounds, the promotions few, and the excise service had fallen into usages of negligence and corruption to which Paine was the first to call public attention. "After tax, charity, and fitting expenses are deducted, there remains very little more than forty-six pounds; and the expenses of housekeeping in many places cannot be brought under fourteen pounds a year, besides the purchase at first, and the hazard of life, which reduces it to thirty-two pounds per annum, or one shilling and ninepence farthing per day."

It is hardly wonderful that Paine with his globes and scientific books should on one occasion have fallen in with the common practice of excisemen called "stamping,"—that is, setting down surveys of work on his books, at home, without always actually travelling to the traders' premises and examining specimens. These detective rounds were generally offensive to the warehouse people so visited, and the scrutiny had become somewhat formal. For this case of "stamping," frankly confessed, Paine was discharged from office, 27 August, 1765. 1

"Thomas Paine, officer of Alford (Lincolnshire), Grantham collection, having on July 11th stamped the whole ride, as appears by the specimens not being signed in any part thereof, though proper entry was shown in journal, and the victuallers stocks drawn down in his books as if the same had been surveyed that day, as by William Swallow, Supervisor's letter of 3rd instant, and the collector's report thereon, also by the said Paine's own confession of the 13th instant, ordered to be discharged; that Robert Peat, dropped malt assistant in Lynn collection, succeed him."

The following is Paine's petition for restoration:

"London, July 3, 1766. Honourable Sirs,—In humble obedience to your honours' letter of discharge hearing date August 29, 1765, I delivered up my commission and since that time have given you no trouble. I confess the justice of your honours' displeasure and humbly beg to add my thanks for the candour and lenity with which you at that unfortunate time indulged me. And though the nature of the report and my own confession cut off all expectations of enjoying your honours' favour then, yet I humbly hope it has not finally excluded me therefrom, upon which hope I humbly presume to entreat your honours to restore me. The time I enjoyed my former commission was short and unfortunate—an officer only a single year. No complaint of the least dishonesty or intemperance ever appeared against me; and, if I am so happy as to succeed in this, my humble petition, I will endeavour that my future conduct shall as much engage your honours' approbation as my former has merited your displeasure. I am, your honours' most dutiful humble servant, Thomas Paine."

Board's minute: "July 4, 1766. Ordered that he be restored on a proper vacancy."

Mr. S. F. Dun, for thirty-three years an officer of excise, discovered the facts connected with Paine's discharge, and also saw Paine's letter and entry books. In a letter before me he says: "I consider Mr. Paine's restoration as creditable to him as to the then Board of Excise."

After Paine's dismission he supported himself as a journeyman with Mr. Gudgeon, a stay-maker of Diss, Norfolk, where he is said to have frequently quarrelled with his fellow-workmen. To be cast back on the odious work, to be discharged and penniless at twenty-eight, could hardly soothe the poor man's temper, and I suppose he did not remain long at Diss. He is traceable in 1766 in Lincolnshire, by his casual mention of the date in connection with an incident related in his fragment on "Forgetfulness." He was on a visit at the house of a widow lady in a village of the Lincolnshire fens, and as they were walking in the garden, in the summer evening, they beheld at some distance a white figure moving. He quitted Mrs. E. and pursued the figure, and when he at length reached out his hand, "the idea struck me," he says, "will my hand pass through the air, or shall I feel anything?" It proved to be a love-distracted maiden who, on hearing of the marriage of one she supposed her lover, meant to drown herself in a neighboring pond.

That Thomas Paine should sue for an office worth, beyond its expenses, thirty-two pounds, argues not merely penury, but an amazing unconsciousness, in his twenty-ninth year, of his powers. In London, for some months there stood between him and starvation only a salary of twenty-five pounds, given him by a Mr. Noble for teaching English in his academy in Goodman's Fields. This was the year 1766, for though Paine was restored to the excise on July 11th of this year no place was found for him. In January, 1767, he was employed by Mr. Gardiner in his school at Kensington. Rickman and others have assigned to this time Paine's attendance of lectures at the Royal Society, which I have however connected with his twentieth year. He certainly could not have afforded globes during this pauperized year 1766. In reply to Rickman's allusion to the lowly situations he had been in at this time, Paine remarked: "Here I derived considerable information; indeed I have seldom passed five minutes of my life, however circumstanced, in which I did not acquire some knowledge."

According to Oldys he remained in the school at Kensington but three months. "His desire of preaching now returned on him," says the same author, "but applying to his old master for a certificate of his qualifications, to the bishop of London, Mr. Noble told his former usher, that since he was only an English scholar he could not recommend him as a proper candidate for ordination in the church." It would thus appear that Paine had not parted from his employer in Goodman's Fields in any unpleasant way. Of his relation with his pupils only one trace remains—a letter in which he introduces one of them to General Knox, September 17, 1783: "Old friend, I just take the opportunity of sending my respects to you by Mr. Darby, a gentleman who was formerly a pupil of mine in England."

Oldys says that Paine, "without regular orders," preached in Moorfields and elsewhere in England, "as he was urged by his necessities or directed by his spirit." Although Paine's friendly biographers have omitted this preaching episode, it is too creditable to Paine's standing with the teacher with whom he had served a year for Oldys to have invented it. It is droll to think that the Church of England should ever have had an offer of Thomas Paine's services. The Quakerism in which he had been nurtured had never been formally adopted by him, and it offered no opportunities for the impulse to preach which seems to mark a phase in the life of every active English brain.

On May 15, 1767, Paine was appointed excise officer at Grampound, Cornwall, but "prayed leave to wait another vacancy." On February 19, 1768, he was appointed officer at Lewes, Sussex, whither, after a brief visit to Thetford, he repaired.

Not very unlike the old Norfolk borough in which Paine was born was Lewes, and with even literally an Ouse flowing through it Here also marched the "Heathen Men," who have left only the legend of a wounded son of Harold nursed into health by a Christian maiden. The ruined castle commands a grander landscape than the height of Thetford, and much the same historic views. Seven centuries before Paine opened his office in Lewes came Harold's son, possibly to take charge of the excise as established by Edward the Confessor, just deceased.

"Paine" was an historic name in Lewes also. In 1688 two French refugees, William and Aaron Paine, came to the ancient town, and found there as much religious persecution as in France. It was directed chiefly against the Quakers. But when Thomas Paine went to dwell there the Quakers and the "powers that be" had reached a modus vivendi, and the new exciseman fixed his abode with a venerable Friend, Samuel Ollive, a tobacconist. The house then adjoined a Quaker meetinghouse, now a Unitarian chapel. It is a quaint house, always known and described as "the house with the monkey on it." The projecting roof is supported by a female nondescript rather more human than anthropoid. I was politely shown through the house by its occupant, Mr. Champion, and observed in the cellar traces of Samuel Ollive's—afterward Paine's—tobacco mill. The best room upstairs long bore on its wall "Tom Paine's study." The plaster has now flaked off, but the proprietor, Mr. Alfred Hammond, told me that he remembers it there in 1840. Not far from the house is the old mansion of the Shelleys,—still called "The Shelleys,"—ancestors of a poet born with the "Rights of Man," and a child of Paine's revolution. And—such are the moral zones and poles in every English town—here in the graveyard of Jireh Chapel—is the tomb of William Huntington S. S. [Sinner Saved] bearing this epitaph:

"Here lies the Coalheaver, beloved of God, but abhorred of men: the omniscient Judge, at the grand assize, shall ratify and confirm that to the confusion of many thousands; for England and its metropolis shall know that there hath been a prophet among them. W. H: S. S."

While Paine was at Lewes this Hunt alias Huntington was a pious tramp in that part of England, well known to the police. Yet in his rubbish there is one realistic story of tramp-life which incidentally portrays an exciseman of the time. Huntington (born 1744), one of the eleven children of a day-laborer earning from seven to nine shillings a week in Kent, was sent by some friends to an infant school.

"And here I remember to have heard my mistress reprove me for something wrong, telling me that God Almighty took notice of children's sins. It stuck to my conscience a great while; and who this God Almighty could be I could not conjecture; and how he could know my sins without asking my mother I could not conceive. At that time there was a person named Godfrey, an exciseman in the town, a man of a stern and hard-favoured countenance, whom I took notice of for having a stick covered with figures, and an ink-bottle hanging at the button-hole of his coat. I imagined that man to be employed by God Almighty to take notice, and keep an account of children's sins; and once I got into the market-house, and watched him very narrowly, and found that he was always in a hurry by his walking so fast; and I thought he had need to hurry, as he must have a deal to do to find out all the sins of children. I watched him out of one shop into another, all about the town, and from that time eyed him as a most formidable being, and the greatest enemy I had in all the world."

To the shopkeepers this exciseman was really an adversary and an accuser, and one can well believe that his very physiognomy would be affected by such work, and the chronic consciousness of being unwelcome. We may picture Paine among the producers of Lewes—with but four or five thousand people, then a notorious seat of smugglers—with his stick and ink-bottle; his face prematurely aged, and gathering the lines and the keen look which mask for casual eyes the fundamental candor and kindliness of his face.

Paine's surveys extended to Brighton; the brilliant city of our time being then a small fishing-town known as Brighthelmston. It was scarce ten miles distant, and had no magistrates, offenders being taken to Lewes. There was a good deal of religious excitement in the neighborhood about the time Paine went there to reside, owing to the preaching of Rev. George Whitefield, chaplain of Lady Huntingdon, at a chapel built by her ladyship at Brighthelmston. Lady Huntingdon already had a quasi-miraculous fame which in Catholic times would have caused her to be honored as St. Selina. In those days a pious countess was more miraculous than the dream that foretold about Lady Huntingdon's coming. Surrounded by crowds, she had to send for her chaplain, Whitefield, who preached in a field till a chapel was built. At the time when Lady Huntingdon was exhorting the poor villagers of Brighton, two relatives of hers, Governor Shirley of Massachusetts and his aide-de-camp Colonel George Washington, were preparing the way for the great events in which Paine was to bear a part.

When Paine went on his survey he might have observed the Washington motto, possibly a trace of the pious countess, which long remained on a house in Brighton: Exitus acta probat. There was an ancient Washington who fought at the battle of Lewes; but probably if our exciseman ever thought of any Washington at all it was of the anomalous Colonel in Virginia founding a colonial association to disuse excisable articles imported from England. But if such transatlantic phenomena, or the preaching of Whitefield in the neighborhood, concerned Paine at all, no trace of their impression is now discoverable. And if there were any protest in him at that time, when the English government had reached its nadir of corruption, it cannot be heard. He appears to have been conventionally patriotic, and was regarded as the Lewes laureate. He wrote an election song for the Whig candidate at New Shoreham, for which the said candidate, (Rumbold by name) paid him three guineas; and he wrote a song on the death of General Wolfe, which, when published some years later, was set to music, and enjoyed popularity in the Anacreontic and other societies. While Britannia mourns for her Wolfe, the sire of the gods sends his messengers to console "the disconsolate dame," assuring her that her hero is not dead but summoned to lead "the armies above" against the proud giants marching against Heaven.

The ballad recalls Paine the paien, but the Thetford Quaker is not apparent. And, indeed, there are various indications about this time that some reaction had set in after the preaching phase.

"Such was his enterprise on the water," says Oldys, "and his intrepidity on the ice that he became known by the appellation of Commodore" William Carver (MS.) says he was at this time "tall and slim, about five feet eight inches."

At Lewes, where the traditions concerning Paine are strong, I met Miss Rickman, a descendant of Thomas "Clio" Rickman—the name Clio, under which his musical contributions to the Revolution were published, having become part of his name. Rickman was a youth in the Lewes of Paine's time, and afterwards his devoted friend. His enthusiasm was represented in children successively named Paine, Washington, Franklin, Rousseau, Petrarch, Volney. Rickman gives an account of Paine at Lewes:

"In this place he lived several years in habits of intimacy with a very respectable, sensible, and convivial set of acquaintance, who were entertained with his witty sallies and informed by his more serious conversations. In politics he was at this time a Whig, and notorious for that quality which has been defined perseverance in a good cause and obstinacy in a bad one. He was tenacious of his opinions, which were bold, acute, and independent, and which he maintained with ardour, elegance, and argument. At this period, at Lewes, the White Hart evening club was the resort of a social and intelligent circle who, out of fun, seeing that disputes often ran very warm and high, frequently had what they called the 'Headstrong Book.' This was no other than an old Greek Homer which was sent the morning after a debate vehemently maintained, to the most obstinate haranguer in the Club: this book had the following title, as implying that Mr. Paine the best deserved and the most frequently obtained it: 'The Headstrong Book, or Original Book of Obstinacy.' Written by ———— ——— of Lewes, in Sussex, and Revised and Corrected by Thomas Paine.

"'Immortal Paine, while mighty reasoners jar, We crown thee General of the Headstrong War; Thy logic vanquish'd error, and thy mind No bounds but those of right and truth confined. Thy soul of fire must sure ascend the sky, Immortal Paine, thy fame can never die; For men like thee their names must ever save From the black edicts of the tyrant grave.'

"My friend Mr. Lee, of Lewes, in communicating this to me in September, 1810, said: 'This was manufactured nearly forty years ago, as applicable to Mr. Paine, and I believe you will allow, however indifferent the manner, that I did not very erroneously anticipate his future celebrity.'"

It was probably to amuse the club at the White Hart, an ancient tavern, that Paine wrote his humorous poems.

On the 26 March, 1771, Paine married Elizabeth, daughter of Samuel Ollive, with whom he had lodged. This respected citizen had died in July, 1769, leaving in Lewes a widow and one daughter in poor circumstances. Paine then took up his abode elsewhere, but in the following year he joined the Ollives in opening a shop, and the tobacco-mill went on as before. His motive was probably compassion, but it brought him into nearer acquaintance with the widow and her daughter. Elizabeth is said to have been pretty, and, being of Quaker parentage, she was no doubt fairly educated. She was ten years younger than Paine, and he was her hero. They were married in St. Michael's Church, Lewes, on the 26th of March, 1771, by Robert Austen, curate, the witnesses being Henry Verrall and Thomas Ollive, the lady's brother.

Oldys is constrained to give Paine's ability recognition. "He had risen by superior energy, more than by greater honesty, to be a chief among the excisemen." They needed a spokesman at that time, being united in an appeal to Parliament to raise their salaries, and a sum of money, raised to prosecute the matter, was confided to Paine. In 1772 he prepared the document, which was printed, but not published until 1793.2 Concerning the plea for the excisemen it need only be said that it is as clear and complete as any lawyer could make it. There was, of course, no room for originality in the simple task of showing that the ill-paid service must be badly done, but the style is remarkable for simplicity and force.

Paine put much time and pains into this composition, and passed the whole winter of 1772-3 trying to influence members of Parliament and others in favor of his cause. "A rebellion of the excisemen," says Oldys, "who seldom have the populace on their side, was not much feared by their superiors." Paine's pamphlet and two further leaflets of his were printed. The best result of his pamphlet was to secure him an acquaintance with Oliver Goldsmith, to whom he addressed the following letter:

"Honored Sir,—Herewith I present you with the Case of the Officers of Excise. A compliment of this kind from an entire stranger may appear somewhat singular, but the following reasons and information will, I presume, sufficiently apologize. I act myself in the humble station of an officer of excise, though somewhat differently circumstanced to what many of them are, and have been the principal promoter of a plan for applying to Parliament this session for an increase of salary. A petition for this purpose has been circulated through every part of the kingdom, and signed by all the officers therein. A subscription of three shillings per officer is raised, amounting to upwards of £500, for supporting the expenses. The excise officers, in all cities and corporate towns, have obtained letters of recommendation from the electors to the members in their behalf, many or most of whom have promised their support. The enclosed case we have presented to most of the members, and shall to all, before the petition appear in the House. The memorial before you met with so much approbation while in manuscript, that I was advised to print 4000 copies; 3000 of which were subscribed for the officers in general, and the remaining 1000 reserved for presents. Since the delivering them I have received so many letters of thanks and approbation for the performance, that were I not rather singularly modest, I should insensibly become a little vain. The literary fame of Dr. Goldsmith has induced me to present one to him, such as it is. It is my first and only attempt, and even now I should not have undertaken it, had I not been particularly applied to by some of my superiors in office. I have some few questions to trouble Dr. Goldsmith with, and should esteem his company for an hour or two, to partake of a bottle of wine, or any thing else, and apologize for this trouble, as a singular favour conferred on His unknown

"Humble servant and admirer,

"Thomas Paine.

"Excise Coffee House,

"Broad Street, Dec. 21, 1772.

"P. S. Shall take the liberty of waiting on you in a day or two."3

To one who reads Paine's argument, it appears wonderful that a man of such ability should, at the age of thirty-five, have had his horizon filled with such a cause as that of the underpaid excisemen, Unable to get the matter before Parliament, he went back to his tobacco-mill in Lewes, and it seemed to him like the crack of doom when, 8 April, 1774, he was dismissed from the excise. The cause of Paine's second dismission from the excise being ascribed by his first biographer (Oldys) to his dealing in smuggled tobacco, without contradiction by Paine, his admirers have been misled into a kind of apology for him on account of the prevalence of the custom. But I have before me the minutes of the Board concerning Paine, and there is no hint whatever of any such accusation. The order of discharge from Lewes is as follows:

"Friday 8th April 1774. Thomas Pain, Officer of Lewes 4th O. Ride Sussex Collection having quitted his Business, without obtaining the Board's Leave for so doing, and being gone off on Account of the Debts which he hath contracted, as by Letter of the 6th instant from Edward Clifford, Supervisor, and the said Pain having been once before Discharged, Ordered that he be again discharged."

In Paine's absence in London, writing his pleas for the excisemen, laboring with members of Parliament, his tobacco-mill had been still, his groceries unsold, and his wife and her mother had been supported from the bank of flattering hope. No sooner was it known that the hope of an increased salary for the exciseman had failed than he found himself in danger of arrest for debt. It was on this account that he left Lewes for a time, but it was only that he might take steps to make over all of his possessions to his creditors. This was done. The following placard appeared:

"To be sold by auction, on Thursday the 14th of April, and following day, all the household furniture, stock in trade and other effects of Thomas Pain, grocer and tobacconist, near the West Gate, in Lewes: Also a horse tobacco and snuff mill, with all the utensils for cutting tobacco and grinding off snuff; and two unopened crates of cream-coloured stone ware."

This sale was announced by one Whitfield, grocer, and if there were other creditors they were no doubt paid by the results, for Paine had no difficulty in returning to Lewes. He once more had to petition the Board, which shortly before had commended his assiduity. Its commissioner, George Lewis Scott, labored in his behalf. In vain. Whether it was because it was a rule that a second discharge should be final, or that his failure to move Parliament had made him a scapegoat for the disappointed excisemen, his petition was rejected. At thirty-seven Paine found himself penniless.

1. I am indebted to Mr. G. J. Holyoake for documents that shed full light on an incident which Oldys has carefully left in the half-light congenial to his insinuations. The minute of the Board of Excise, dated 27 August, 1765, is as follows:

2. The document was revived as a pamphlet, though its subject was no longer of interest, at a time when Paine's political writings were under prosecution, and to afford a vehicle for an "introduction," which gives a graphic account of Paine's services in the United States. On a copy of this London edition (1793) before me, one of a number of Paine's early pamphlets bearing marks of his contemporary English editor, is written with pencil: "With a preface (Qy. J. Barlow)." From this, and some characteristics of the composition, I have no doubt that the vigorous introduction was Barlow's. The production is entitled, "The Case of the Officers of Excise; with remarks on the qualifications of Officers; and of the numerous evils arising to the Revenue, from the insufficiency of the present salary. Humbly addressed to the Hon. and Right Hon. Members of both Houses of Parliament."

3. Goldsmith responded to Paine's desire for his acquaintance. I think Paine may be identified as the friend to whom Goldsmith, shortly before his death, gave the epitaph first printed in Paine's Pennsylvania Magaritu, January, 1775, beginning,

"Here Whitefoord reclines, and deny it who can, Though he merrily lived he is now a grave man."

In giving it Goldsmith said, "It will be of no use to me where I am going."

I am indebted for these records to the Secretary of Inland Revenue, England, and to my friend, Charles Macrae, who obtained them for me.

Chapter IX. French Aid, And The Paine-deane Controversy

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In Bell's addenda to "Common Sense," which contained Paine's Address to the Quakers (also letters by others), appeared a little poem which I believe his, and the expression of his creed.


"Parent of all, omnipotent
In heaven, and earth below,
Through all creation's bounds unspent,
Whose streams of goodness flow,

"Teach me to know from whence I rose,
And unto what designed;
No private aims let me propose,
Since link'd with human kind.

"But chief to hear my country's voice,
May all my thoughts incline;
'T is reason's law, 't is virtue's choice,
'T is nature's call and thine.

"Me from fair freedom's sacred cause
Let nothing e'er divide;
Grandeur, nor gold, nor vain applause,
Nor friendship false misguide.

"Let me not faction's partial hate
Pursue to this Land's woe;
Nor grasp the thunder of the state
To wound a private foe.

"If, for the right to wish the wrong
My country shall combine,
Single to serve th' erroneous throng,
Spight of themselves, be mine."

Every sacrifice contemplated in this self-dedication had to be made. Paine had held back nothing from the cause. He gave America the copyrights of his eighteen pamphlets. While they were selling by thousands, at two or three shillings each, he had to apologize to a friend for not sending his boots, on the ground that he must borrow the money to pay for them! He had given up the magazine so suited to his literary and scientific tastes, had dismissed his lucrative school in Philadelphia, taken a musket on his Quaker shoulders, shared the privations of the retreat to the Delaware, braved bullets at Trenton and bombs at Fort Mifflin. But now he was to give up more. He was

"Single to serve th' erroneous throng,
Spight of themselves,"

and thereby lose applause and friendship. An ex-Congressman, sent to procure aid in France, having, as Paine believed, attempted a fraud on the scanty funds of this country, he published his reasons for so believing. In doing so he alarmed the French Ambassador in America, and incurred the hostility of a large party in Congress; the result being his resignation of the secretaryship of its Foreign Affairs Committee.

It has been traditionally asserted that, in this controversy, Paine violated his oath of office. Such is not the fact. His official oath, which was prepared for Paine himself—the first secretary of a new committee,—was framed so as to leave him large freedom as a public writer.

"That the said secretary, previous to his entering on his office, take an oath, to be administered by the president, well and faithfully to execute the trust reposed in him, according to his best skill and judgment; and to disclose no matter, the knowledge of which shall be acquired in consequence of his office, that he shall be directed to keep secret."

Not only was there no such direction of secrecy in this case, but Congress did not know the facts revealed by Paine. Compelled by a complaint of the French Minister to disown Paine's publication, Congress refused to vote that it was "an abuse of office," or to discharge him. The facts should be judged on their merits, and without prejudice. I have searched and sifted many manuscripts in European and American archives to get at the truth of this strange chapter in our revolutionary history, concerning which there is even yet an unsettled controversy.1

The reader who desires to explore the subject will find an ample literature concerning it, but with confusing omissions, partly due to a neglect of Paine's papers.

The suggestion of French aid to America was first made in May, 1775, by Dubourg, and a scheme was submitted by Beaumarchais to the King. This was first brought to light in November, 1878, in the Magazine of American History, where it is said: "It is without date, but must have been written after the arrival of the American Commissioners in Paris." This is an error. A letter of December 7, 1775, from Beaumarchais proves that the undated one had been answered. Moreover, on June 10, 1776, a month before Deane had reached Paris, and six months before Franklin's arrival, the million for America had been paid to Beaumarchais and receipted. It was Deane's ruin that he appeared as if taking credit for, and bringing within the scope of his negotiations, money paid before his arrival. It was the ruin of Beaumarchais that he deceived Deane about that million.

In 1763 France had suffered by her struggle with England humiliations and territorial losses far heavier than those suffered by her last war with Germany. With the revolt of the English colonies in America the hour of French revenge struck. Louis XVI. did not care much about it, but his minister Vergennes did. Inspired by him, Beaumarchais, adventurer and playwright, consulted Arthur Lee, secret agent of Congress in London, and it was arranged that Beaumarchais should write a series of letters to the King, to be previously revised by Vergennes. The letters are such as might be expected from the pen that wrote "The Marriage of Figaro." He paints before the King the scene of France driven out of America and India; he describes America as advancing to engage the conqueror of France with a force which a little help would make sufficient to render England helpless beside her European foes—France and Spain. Learning through Vergennes that the King was mindful of his treaty with England, Beau-marchais made a proposal that the aid should be rendered as if by a commercial house, without knowledge of the government This, the most important document of the case, suppressed until 1878, was unknown to any of the writers who have discussed this question, except Durand and Stille\ the latter alone having recognized its bearing on the question of Beaumarchais' good faith. Beau-marchais tells the King that his "succor" is not to end the war in America, but "to continue and feed it to the great damage of the English"; that "to sacrifice a million to put England to the expense of a hundred millions, is exactly the same as if you advance a million to gain ninety-nine." Half of the million (livres) is to be sent to America in gold, and half in powder. So far from this aid being gratuitous, the powder is to be taken from French magazines at "four to six sols per pound," and sent to America "on the basis of twenty sols per pound." "The constant view of the affair in which the mass of Congress ought to be kept is the certainty that your Majesty is not willing to enter in any way into the affair, but that a company is very generously about to turn over a certain sum to the prudent management of a faithful agent to give successive aid to the Americans by the shortest and the surest means of return in tobacco."

How much of this scheme actually reached the King, and was approved by him, is doubtful. He still hesitated, and another appeal was made (February 29, 1776) embodying one from Arthur Lee, who says: "We offer to France, in return for her secret assistance, a secret treaty of commerce, by which she will secure for a certain number of years after peace is declared all the advantages with which we have enriched England for the past century, with, additionally, a guarantee of her possessions according to our forces." Nothing is said by Arthur Lee about other payments. The Queen had now become interested in the gallant Americans, and the King was brought over to the scheme in April. On May 2, 1776, Vergennes submits to the King the order for a million livres which he is to sign; also a letter, to be written by the hand of the Minister's son, aged fifteen, to Beaumarchais, who, he says, will employ M. Montandoin (the name was really Montieu) to transmit to the Americans "such funds as your Majesty chooses to appropriate for their benefit." There are various indications that the pecuniary advantages, in the way of "sols" and tobacco, were not set before the King, and that he yielded to considerations of state policy.

After receiving the million (June 10th) Beaumarchais wrote to Arthur Lee in London (June 12, 1776): "The difficulties I have found in my negotiations with the Minister have determined me to form a company which will enable the munitions and powder to be transmitted sooner to your friend on condition of his returning tobacco to Cape Francis."

To Arthur Lee, whom he had met at the table of Lord Mayor John Wilkes, Beaumarchais had emphasized the "generous" side of his scheme. Tobacco was indeed to be sent, chiefly to give a commercial color to the transaction for the King's concealment, but there appeared no reason to do more with Lee, who had no power of contract, than impress him with the magnanimity and friendship of the French government. This Lee was to report to the Secret Committee of Congress, which would thus be prepared to agree to any arrangement of Beaumarchais' agent, without any suspicion that it might be called on to pay twenty sols a pound for powder that had cost from four to six. Lee did report it, sending a special messenger (Story) to announce to Congress the glad tidings of French aid, and much too gushingly its quasi-gratuitous character.

A month later Silas Deane, belated since March 5th by wind and wave, reached Paris, and about July 17, 1776, by advice of Vergennes, had his first interview with Beaumarchais. Had Beaumarchais known that an agent, empowered by Congress to purchase munitions, was on his way to France, he would have had nothing to do with Lee; now he could only repudiate him, and persuade Deane to disregard him. Arthur Lee informed Deane that Beaumarchais had told him that he had received two hundred thousand pounds sterling of the French administration for the use of Congress, but Deane believed Beaumarchais, who "constantly and positively denied having said any such thing." It had been better for Deane if he had believed Lee.2 It turned out in the end that Beaumarchais had received the sum Lee named, and the French government—more anxious for treaty concessions from America than for Beaumarchais' pocket—assured the American Commissioners that the million was a royal gift.

This claim to generosity, however, or rather the source of it, was a secret of the negotiation. In October, 1777, the commissioners wrote to Congress a letter which, being intercepted, reached that body only in duplicate, March, 1778, saying they had received assurances "that no repayment will ever be required from us for what has already been given us either in money or military stores." One of these commissioners was Silas Deane himself (the others Franklin and Lee). But meanwhile Beaumarchais had claimed of Congress, by an agent (De Francy) sent to America, payment of his bill, which included the million which his government declared had been a gift. This complication caused Congress to recall Deane for explanations.

Deane arrived in America in July, 1778. There were suspicious circumstances around him. He had left his papers in Paris; he had borrowed money of Beaumarchais for personal expenses, and the despatch he had signed in October, saying the million was a gift, had been intercepted, other papers in the same package having duly arrived. Thus appearances were against Deane. The following statement, in Paine's handwriting, was no doubt prepared for submission to Congress, and probably was read during one of its secret discussions of the matter. It is headed "Explanatory Circumstances."

"1st The lost dispatches are dated Oct. 6th and Oct. 7th. They were sent by a private hand—that is, they were not sent by the post. Capt. Folger had the charge of them. They were all under one cover containing five separate Packets; three of the Packets were on commercial matters only—one of these was to Mr. Robert Morris, Chairman of the Commercial Committee, one to Mr. Hancock (private concerns), another to Barnaby Deane, S. Deane's brother. Of the other two Packets, one of them was to the Secret Committee, then stiled the Committee for foreign Affairs, the other was to Richard H. Lee—these two last Packets had nothing in them but blank white French Paper.

"2d. In Sept'r preceding the date of the dispatches Mr. Beau-marchais sent Mr. Francis (De Francy) to Congress to press payment to the amount mentioned in the official Letter of Oct. 6. Mr. Francy brought a letter signed only by S. Deane—the Capt of the vessel (Landais) brought another letter from Deane; both of these letters were to enforce Mr. Beaumarchais' demand. Mr. Francy arrived with his letters and demand. The official despatches (if I may so say) arrived blank. Congress therefore had no authoritative information to act by. About this time Mr. Deane was recalled and arrived in America in Count D'Estaing's fleet. He gave out that he had left his accounts in France.

"With the Treaty of Alliance come over the Duplicates of the lost Despatches. They come into my office not having been seen by Congress; and as they contain an injunction not to be conceded by (to?) Congress, I kept them secret in the office because at that time the foreign Committee were dispersed and new members not appointed.

"On the 5th of Dec. 1778, Mr. Deane published an inflamatory piece against Congress. As I saw it had an exceeding ill effect out of doors I made some remarks upon it—with a view of preventing people running mad. This piece was replied to by a piece under the Signature of Plain Truth—in which it was stated, that Mr. Deane though a stranger in France and to the Language, and without money, had by himself procured 30,000 stand of Arms, 30,000 suits of Cloathing, and more than 200 pieces of Brass Cannon. I replied that these supplies were in a train of Execution before he was sent to France. That Mr. Deane's private letters and his official despatches jointly with the other two Commissioners contradicted each other.

"At this time I found Deane had made a large party in Congress—and that a motion had been made but not decided upon for dismissing me from the foreign office, with a kind of censure."

Deane was heard by Congress twice (August 9 and 21, 1778) but made a bad impression, and a third hearing was refused. In wrath he appealed in the press "to the free and virtuous Citizens of America," (December 5, 1778) against the injustice of Congress. This Paine answered in the Pennsylvania Packet of December 15, 1778. His motives are told in the following letter addressed to the Hon. Henry Laurens:

"Philadelphia, Dec. 15th, 1778.—Dear Sir.—In this morning's paper is a piece addressed to Mr. Deane, in which your name is mentioned. My intention in relating the circumstances with wch. it is connected is to prevent the Enemy drawing any unjust conclusions from an accidental division in the House on matters no ways political You will please to observe that I have been exceedingly careful to preserve the honor of Congress in the minds of the people who have been so exceedingly fretted by Mr. Deane's address—and this will appear the more necessary when I inform you that a proposal has been made for calling a Town Meeting to demand justice for Mr. Deane. I have been applied to smoothly and roughly not to publish this piece. Mr. Deane has likewise been with the Printer. I am, &c."

1. "Beaumarchais et son Temps," par M. De Lomenie, Paris, 1856. "Histoire de la Participation de la France a l'Etablissement des Etats Unis d'Amerique." par M. Doniol, Paris. "Beaumarchais and 'The Lost Million,'" by Charles J. Stille (privately printed in Philadelphia). "New Materials for the History of the American Revolution," by John Durand, New York, 1889. Magazine of American History% vol. ii., p. 663. "Life and Times of Benjamin Franklin," by James Parton, New York, 1864. "Papers in Relation to the Case of Silas Deane," Philadelphia, printed for the Seventy- six Society, 1855.

2. M. Doniol and Mr. Durand are entirely mistaken in supposing that Lee was "substantially a traitor." That he wrote to Lord Shelburne that "if England wanted to prevent closer ties between France and the United States she must not delay," proves indeed the reverse. He wanted recognition of the independence of his country, and peace, and was as willing to get it from England as from France. He was no doubt well aware that French subsidies were meant, as Beaumarchais reminded the King, to continue the war in America, not to end it. Arthur Lee had his faults, but lack of patriotism was not among them.

Chapter XI. Cause, Country, Self

Table of Contents

Whatever might be thought of Paine's course in the Deane-Beaumarchais affair, there could be no doubt that the country was saved from a questionable payment unjustly pressed at a time when it must have crippled the Revolution, for which the French subsidies were given. Congress was relieved, and he who relieved it was the sufferer. From the most important congressional secretaryship he was reduced to a clerkship in Owen Bid-die's law office.

Paine's patriotic interest in public affairs did not abate. In the summer of 1779 he wrote able articles in favor of maintaining our right to the Newfoundland fisheries in any treaty of peace that might be made with England. Congress was secretly considering what instructions should be sent to its representatives in Europe; in case negotiations should arise, and the subject was discussed by "Americanus" in a letter to the Pennsylvania Gazette, June 23d. This writer argued that the fisheries should not be mentioned in such negotiations; England would stickle at the claim, and our ally, France, should not be called on to guarantee a right which should be left to the determination of natural laws. This position Paine combated; he maintained that independence was not a change of ministry, but a real thing; it should mean prosperity as well as political liberty. Our ally would be aggrieved by a concession to Great Britain of any means of making our alliance useful. "There are but two natural sources of wealth—the Earth and the Ocean,—and to lose the right to either is, in our situation, to put up the other for sale." The fisheries are needed, "first, as an Employment Secondly, as producing national Supply and Commerce, and a means of national wealth. Thirdly, as a Nursery for Seamen." Should Great Britain be in such straits as to ask for peace, that would be the right opportunity to settle the matter. "To leave the Fisheries wholly out, on any pretence whatever, is to sow the seeds of another war." (Pennsylvania Gazette, June 30th, July 14th, 21st.) The prospects of peace seemed now sufficiently fair for Paine to give the attention which nobody else did to his own dismal situation. His scruples about making money out of the national cause were eccentric. The manuscript diary of Rickman, just found by Dr. Clair Grece, contains this note:

"Franklin, on returning to America from France, where he had been conducting great commercial and other concerns of great import and benefit to the States of America, on having his accounts looked over by the Committee appointed to do so, there was a deficit of £100,000. He was asked how this happened. 'I was taught,' said he very gravely, 'when a boy to read the scriptures and to attend to them, and it is there said: muzzle not the ox that treadeth out his master's grain.' No further inquiry was ever made or mention of the deficient £100,000, which, it is presumed, he devoted to some good and great purpose to serve the people,—his own aim through life."