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The Wit and Wisdom of Thomas Paine 

Always a champion for genuine freedom, Paine opposed slavery and capital punishment.  My simple description of Paine would be "a Newtonian Deist who believed in the divine sanction of individual rights, republican government, capitalism, and religious liberty."  His major works, Common Sense, The Crisis, The Age Of Reason, and The Rights Of Man should be considered some of the most important documents of human history.




The rights of men in society are neither devisable nor transferable not annihilable, but are descendable only; and it is not in the power of any generation to intercept finally and cut off the descent.



It [government] has of itself no rights; they are altogether duties.



Whatever is the cause of taxes to a nation becomes also the means of revenue to a government...War, therefore, from its productiveness, as it easily furnishes the pretense of necessity for taxes and appointments to places and offices, becomes the principle part of the system of old governments; and to establish any mode to abolish war, however advantageous it might be to nations, would be to take from such government the most lucrative of its branches.  The frivolous matters upon which war is made show the disposition and avidity of governments to uphold the system of war, and betray the motives upon which they act.



Man is not the enemy of man, but through the medium of a false system of government.



In reviewing the history of the English government, its wars and taxes, an observer, not blinded by prejudice nor warped by interest, would declare that taxes were not raised to carry on wars, but that wars were raised to carry on taxes.



Every government that does not act on the principle of a not a good government.



It can only be by blinding the understanding of man, and making him believe that the government is some wonderful mysterious thing, that excessive revenues be obtained.



The government of a free country, properly speaking, is not in the persons, but in the laws.



War is the faro-table of governments, and nations the dupes of the game.



...the character and services of this gentleman [George Washington] are sufficient to put all those men called kings to shame...He accepted no pay as commander-in-chief; he accepts none as president of the United States.



The error of those who reason by precedents drawn from antiquity, respecting the rights of man, is that they do not go far enough into antiquity.  They do not go the whole way...but if we proceed on, we shall at last come our right: we shall come to the time when man came from the hand of his maker.



It is authority against authority all the way till we come to the divine origin of the rights of man at the creation.  Here our inquiries find a resting-place, and our reason finds a home.



Why then not trace the rights of man to the creation of man?  I will answer the question.  Because there have been an upstart of governments, thrusting themselves between, and presumptuously working to un-make man.



Toleration is not the opposite of toleration, but the counterfeit of it.  Both are despotisms.  The one assumes to itself the right of withholding liberty of conscience, and the other of granting it.  The one is the pope, armed with fire and faggot, and the other is the pope selling or granting indulgences.



Adam, if ever there was such a man, was created a Deist; but in the meantime let every man follow, as he has a right to do, the religion and the worship he prefers.



All religions are in their nature mild and benign, and united with principles of morality...By engendering the church with the state, a sort of mule animal, capable only of destroying and not of breeding up, is produced, called the church established by law...Persecution is not an original feature in any religion; but it is always the strongly-marked feature of all law-religions, or religions established by law.



Admitting that government is a contrivance of human wisdom, it must necessarily follow that hereditary succession and hereditary rights (as they are called) can make no part of it, because it is impossible to make wisdom hereditary.



Men are born and always continue free and equal in respect to their rights.



What is the history of all monarchical governments but a disgustful picture of human wretchedness, and the accidental respite of a few years of repose?



A constitution is not a thing in name only, but in fact.  It is not an ideal, but a real existence....A constitution is a thing antecedent to a government.



The constitution of a country is not the act of its government, but of the people constituting a government.



Why do men continue to practice on themselves the absurdities they despise in others?



In short, man is so naturally a creature of society, that it is almost impossible to put him out of it.



Excess and inequality of taxation, however disguised in the means, never fail to appear in their effect.  As a great mass of the community are thrown thereby into poverty and discontent, they are constantly on the brink of commotion...



Give to any man a million a year, and add thereto the power of creating and disposing of places at the expense of a country, and the liberties of that country are no longer secure...It [the state] is made  up of a band of parasites living in luxurious indolence out of the public taxes.



...governments being in an uncivilized state and almost continually at war, they pervert the abundance which civilized life produces, to carry on the uncivilized part to a greater extent.



Revolutions, then, have for their object a change in the moral condition of governments...



If commerce were permitted to act to the universal extent it is capable of, it would extirpate the system of war, and produce a revolution in the uncivilized state of governments.



...the people of France were running headlong into Atheism, and I stop them in that career, and fix them to the first article...of every man's Creed who has any Creed at all, I believe in God.



As to religion, I hold it to be the indispensable duty of government to protect all conscientious professors thereof...For myself, I fully and conscientiously believe that it is the will of the Almighty that there should be diversity of religious opinions among us.



The creation speaketh a universal language...



Every man is an evidence to himself that he did not make himself...and it is this conviction arising from this evidence that carries us the belief of a first cause eternally existing...and this first cause, man calls God.  It is only by the exercise of reason that man can discover God.



I believe that any system of religion that has anything in it that shocks the mind of a child cannot be a true system.



Society in every state is a blessing, but government, even in its best state, is but a necessary evil; in its worst state an intolerable one.








All of the above quotations belong to Thomas Paine.



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