He that picks your pocket always tries to make you look another way. "Look," says he, "at yon man t'other side the street—what a nose he has got?—Lord, yonder is a chimney on fire!—Do you see yon man going along in the salamander great coat? That is the very man that stole one of Jupiter's satellites, and sold it to a countryman for a gold watch, and it set his breeches on fire!" Now the man that has his hand in your pocket, does not care a farthing whether you believe what he says or not. All his aim is to prevent your looking at him; and this is the case with the remnant of the Federal faction. The leaders of it have imposed upon the country, and they want to turn the attention of it from the subject.
In taking up any public matter, I have never made it a consideration, and never will, whether it be popular or unpopular; but whether it be right or wrong. The right will always become the popular, if it has courage to show itself, and the shortest way is always a straight line. I despise expedients, they are the gutter-hole of politics, and the sink where reputation dies. In the present case, as in every other, I cannot be accused of using any; and I have no doubt but thousands will hereafter be ready to say, as Gouverneur Morris said to me, after having abused me pretty handsomely in Congress for the opposition I gave the fraudulent demand of Silas Deane of two thousand pounds sterling: "Well, we were all duped, and I among the rest!"(1)
1 See vol. I., chapters xxii., xxiii., xxiv., of this work. Also my "Life of Paine," vol. I., ch. ix., x.—Editor.
Were the late administration to be called upon to give reasons for the expence it put the country to, it can give none. The danger of an invasion was a bubble that served as a cover to raise taxes and armies to be employed on some other purpose. But if the people of America believed it true, the cheerfulness with which they supported those measures and paid those taxes is an evidence of their patriotism; and if they supposed me their enemy, though in that supposition they did me injustice, it was not injustice in them. He that acts as he believes, though he may act wrong, is not conscious of wrong.
But though there was no danger, no thanks are due to the late administration for it. They sought to blow up a flame between the two countries; and so intent were they upon this, that they went out of their way to accomplish it. In a letter which the Secretary of State, Timothy Pickering, wrote to Mr. Skipwith, the American Consul at Paris, he broke off from the official subject of his letter, to thank God in very exulting language, that the Russians had cut the French army to pieces. Mr. Skipwith, after showing me the letter, very prudently concealed it.
It was the injudicious and wicked acrimony of this letter, and some other like conduct of the then Secretary of State, that occasioned me, in a letter to a friend in the government, to say, that if there was any official business to be done in France, till a regular Minister could be appointed, it could not be trusted to a more proper person than Mr. Skipwith. "He is," said I, "an honest man, and will do business, and that with good manners to the government he is commissioned to act with. A faculty which that BEAR, Timothy Pickering, wanted, and which the BEAR of that bear, John Adams, never possessed."(2)
2 By reference to the letter itself (p. 376 of this volume) it will be seen that Paine here quotes it from memory.— Editor. vol III—
In another letter to the same friend, in 1797, and which was put unsealed under cover to Colonel Burr, I expressed a satisfaction that Mr. Jefferson, since he was not president, had accepted the vice presidency; "for," said I, "John Adams has such a talent for blundering and offending, it will be necessary to keep an eye over him." He has now sufficiently proved, that though I have not the spirit of prophecy, I have the gift of judging right. And all the world knows, for it cannot help knowing, that to judge rightly and to write clearly, and that upon all sorts of subjects, to be able to command thought and as it were to play with it at pleasure, and be always master of one's temper in writing, is the faculty only of a serene mind, and the attribute of a happy and philosophical temperament. The scribblers, who know me not, and who fill their papers with paragraphs about me, besides their want of talents, drink too many slings and drams in a morning to have any chance with me. But, poor fellows, they must do something for the little pittance they get from their employers. This is my apology for them.
My anxiety to get back to America was great for many years. It is the country of my heart, and the place of my political and literary birth. It was the American revolution that made me an author, and forced into action the mind that had been dormant, and had no wish for public life, nor has it now. By the accounts I received, she appeared to me to be going wrong, and that some meditated treason against her liberties lurked at the bottom of her government. I heard that my friends were oppressed, and I longed to take my stand among them, and if other times to try mens souls were to arrive, that I might bear my share. But my efforts to return were ineffectual.
As soon as Mr. Monroe had made a good standing with the French government, for the conduct of his predecessor [Morris] had made his reception as Minister difficult, he wanted to send despatches to his own government by a person to whom he could confide a verbal communication, and he fixed his choice on me. He then applied to the Committee of Public Safety for a passport; but as I had been voted again into the Convention, it was only the Convention that could give the passport; and as an application to them for that purpose, would have made my going publicly known, I was obliged to sustain the disappointment, and Mr. Monroe to lose the opportunity.(1)
When that gentleman left France to return to America, I was to have gone with him. It was fortunate I did not. The vessel he sailed in was visited by a British frigate, that searched every part of it, and down to the hold, for Thomas Paine.(2) I then went, the same year, to embark at Havre. But several British frigates were cruizing in sight of the port who knew I was there, and I had to return again to Paris. Seeing myself thus cut off from every opportunity that was in my power to command, I wrote to Mr. Jefferson, that, if the fate of the election should put him in the chair of the presidency, and he should have occasion to send a frigate to France, he would give me the opportunity of returning by it, which he did. But I declined coming by the Maryland, the vessel that was offered me, and waited for the frigate that was to bring the new Minister, Mr. Chancellor Livingston, to France. But that frigate was ordered round to the Mediterranean; and as at that time the war was over, and the British cruisers called in, I could come any way. I then agreed to come with Commodore Barney in a vessel he had engaged. It was again fortunate I did not, for the vessel sank at sea, and the people were preserved in the boat.
1 The correspondence is in my "Life of Paine," vol. ii., pp. 154-5.—Editor.
2 The "Dublin Packet," Captain Clay, in whom Paine, as he wrote to Jefferson, "had no confidence."—Editor.
Had half the number of evils befallen me that the number of dangers amount to through which I have been pre-served, there are those who would ascribe it to the wrath of heaven; why then do they not ascribe my preservation to the protecting favour of heaven? Even in my worldly concerns I have been blessed. The little property I left in America, and which I cared nothing about, not even to receive the rent of it, has been increasing in the value of its capital more than eight hundred dollars every year, for the fourteen years and more that I have been absent from it. I am now in my circumstances independent; and my economy makes me rich. As to my health, it is perfectly good, and I leave the world to judge of the stature of my mind. I am in every instance a living contradiction to the mortified Federalists.
In my publications, I follow the rule I began with in Common Sense, that is, to consult nobody, nor to let any body see what I write till it appears publicly. Were I to do otherwise, the case would be, that between the timidity of some, who are so afraid of doing wrong that they never do right, the puny judgment of others, and the despicable craft of preferring expedient to right, as if the world was a world of babies in leading strings, I should get forward with nothing. My path is a right line, as straight and clear to me as a ray of light. The boldness (if they will have it to be so) with which I speak on any subject, is a compliment to the judgment of the reader. It is like saying to him, I treat you as a man and not as a child. With respect to any worldly object, as it is impossible to discover any in me, therefore what I do, and my manner of doing it, ought to be ascribed to a good motive.
In a great affair, where the happiness of man is at stake, I love to work for nothing; and so fully am I under the influence of this principle, that I should lose the spirit, the pleasure, and the pride of it, were I conscious that I looked for reward; and with this declaration, I take my leave for the present.(1)
1 The self-assertion of this and other letters about this time was really self-defence, the invective against him, and the calumnies, being such as can hardly be credited by those not familiar with the publications of that time.—Editor.
Federal City, Lovett's Hotel, Dec. 3, 1802.
1 The National Intelligencer, Feb., 1803. In the Tarions collections of these Letters there appears at this point a correspondence between Paine and Samuel Adams of Boston, but as it relates to religious matters I reserve it for the fourth volume.—Editor..
It is always the interest of a far greater part of the nation to have a thing right than to have it wrong; and therefore, in a country whose government is founded on the system of election and representation, the fate of every party is decided by its principles.
As this system is the only form and principle of government by which liberty can be preserved, and the only one that can embrace all the varieties of a great extent of country, it necessarily follows, that to have the representation real, the election must be real; and that where the election is a fiction, the representation is a fiction also. Like will always produce like.
A great deal has been said and written concerning the conduct of Mr. Burr, during the late contest, in the federal legislature, whether Mr. Jefferson or Mr. Burr should be declared President of the United States. Mr. Burr has been accused of intriguing to obtain the Presidency. Whether this charge be substantiated or not makes little or no part of the purport of this letter. There is a point of much higher importance to attend to than any thing that relates to the individual Mr. Burr: for the great point is not whether Mr. Burr has intrigued, but whether the legislature has intrigued with him.
Mr. Ogden, a relation of one of the senators of New Jersey of the same name, and of the party assuming the style of Federalists, has written a letter published in the New York papers, signed with his name, the purport of which is to exculpate Mr. Burr from the charges brought against him. In this letter he says:
"When about to return from Washington, two or three members of Congress of the federal party spoke to me of their views, as to the election of a president, desiring me to converse with Colonel Burr on the subject, and to ascertain whether he would enter into terms. On my return to New York I called on Colonel Burr, and communicated the above to him. He explicitly declined the explanation, and did neither propose nor agree to any terms."
How nearly is human cunning allied to folly! The animals to whom nature has given the faculty we call cunning, know always when to use it, and use it wisely; but when man descends to cunning, he blunders and betrays.
Mr. Ogden's letter is intended to exculpate Mr. Burr from the charge of intriguing to obtain the presidency; and the letter that he (Ogden) writes for this purpose is direct evidence against his party in Congress, that they intrigued with Burr to obtain him for President, and employed him (Ogden) for the purpose. To save Aaron, he betrays Moses, and then turns informer against the Golden Calf.
It is but of little importance to the world to know if Mr. Burr listened to an intriguing proposal, but it is of great importance to the constituents to know if their representatives in Congress made one. The ear can commit no crime, but the tongue may; and therefore the right policy is to drop Mr. Burr, as being only the hearer, and direct the whole charge against the Federal faction in Congress as the active original culprit, or, if the priests will have scripture for it, as the serpent that beguiled Eve.
1 In the presidential canvas of 1800, the votes in the electoral college being equally divided between Burr and Jefferson, the election was thrown into the House of Representatives. Jefferson was elected on the 36th ballot, but he never forgave Burr, and between these two old friends Paine had to write this letter under some embarrassment. The last paragraph of this Letter shows Paine's desire for a reconciliation between Burr and Jefferson. Aaron Burr is one of the traditionally slandered figures of American history. —Editor.
The plot of the intrigue was to make Mr. Burr President, on the private condition of his agreeing to, and entering into, terms with them, that is, with the proposers. Had then the election been made, the country, knowing nothing of this private and illegal transaction, would have supposed, for who could have supposed otherwise, that it had a President according to the forms, principles, and intention of the constitution. No such thing. Every form, principle, and intention of the constitution would have been violated; and instead of a President, it would have had a mute, a sort of image, hand-bound and tongue-tied, the dupe and slave of a party, placed on the theatre of the United States, and acting the farce of President.
It is of little importance, in a constitutional sense, to know what the terms to be proposed might be, because any terms other than those which the constitution prescribes to a President are criminal. Neither do I see how Mr. Burr, or any other person put in the same condition, could have taken the oath prescribed by the constitution to a President, which is, "I do solemnly swear (or affirm,) that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States."
How, I ask, could such a person have taken such an oath, knowing at the same time that he had entered into the Presidency on terms unknown in the Constitution, and private, and which would deprive him of the freedom and power of acting as President of the United States, agreeably to his constitutional oath?
Mr. Burr, by not agreeing to terms, has escaped the danger to which they exposed him, and the perjury that would have followed, and also the punishment annexed thereto. Had he accepted the Presidency on terms unknown in the constitution, and private, and had the transaction afterwards transpired, (which it most probably would, for roguery is a thing difficult to conceal,) it would have produced a sensation in the country too violent to be quieted, and too just to be resisted; and in any case the election must have been void.
But what are we to think of those members of Congress, who having taken an oath of the same constitutional import as the oath of the President, violate that oath by tampering to obtain a President on private conditions. If this is not sedition against the constitution and the country, it is difficult to define what sedition in a representative can be.
Say not that this statement of the case is the effect of personal or party resentment. No. It is the effect of sincere concern that such corruption, of which this is but a sample, should, in the space of a few years, have crept into a country that had the fairest opportunity that Providence ever gave, within the knowledge of history, of making itself an illustrious example to the world.
What the terms were, or were to be, it is probable we never shall know; or what is more probable, that feigned ones, if any, will be given. But from the conduct of the party since that time we may conclude, that no taxes would have been taken off, that the clamour for war would have been kept up, new expences incurred, and taxes and offices increased in consequence; and, among the articles of a private nature, that the leaders in this seditious traffic were to stipulate with the mock President for lucrative appointments for themselves.
But if these plotters against the Constitution understood their business, and they had been plotting long enough to be masters of it, a single article would have comprehended every thing, which is, That the President (thus made) should be governed in all cases whatsoever by a private junto appointed by themselves. They could then, through the medium of a mock President, have negatived all bills which their party in Congress could not have opposed with success, and reduced representation to a nullity.
The country has been imposed upon, and the real culprits are but few; and as it is necessary for the peace, harmony, and honour of the Union, to separate the deceiver from the deceived, the betrayer from the betrayed, that men who once were friends, and that in the worst of times, should be friends again, it is necessary, as a beginning, that this dark business be brought to full investigation. Ogden's letter is direct evidence of the fact of tampering to obtain a conditional President. He knows the two or three members of Congress that commissioned him, and they know who commissioned them.
Federal City, Lovett's Hotel, Jan. 29th, 1803.
1 The Aurora (Philadelphia).—Editor..
Religion and War is the cry of the Federalists; Morality and Peace the voice of Republicans. The union of Morality and Peace is congenial; but that of Religion and War is a paradox, and the solution of it is hypocrisy.
The leaders of the Federalists have no judgment; their plans no consistency of parts; and want of consistency is the natural consequence of want of principle.
They exhibit to the world the curious spectacle of an Opposition without a cause, and conduct without system. Were they, as doctors, to prescribe medicine as they practise politics, they would poison their patients with destructive compounds.
There are not two things more opposed to each other than War and Religion; and yet, in the double game those leaders have to play, the one is necessarily the theme of their politics, and the other the text of their sermons. The week-day orator of Mars, and the Sunday preacher of Federal Grace, play like gamblers into each other's hands, and this they call Religion.
Though hypocrisy can counterfeit every virtue, and become the associate of every vice, it requires a great dexterity of craft to give it the power of deceiving. A painted sun may glisten, but it cannot warm. For hypocrisy to personate virtue successfully it must know and feel what virtue is, and as it cannot long do this, it cannot long deceive. When an orator foaming for War breathes forth in another sentence a plaintive piety of words, he may as well write hypocrisy on his front.
The late attempt of the Federal leaders in Congress (for they acted without the knowledge of their constituents) to plunge the country into War, merits not only reproach but indignation. It was madness, conceived in ignorance and acted in wickedness. The head and the heart went partners in the crime.
A neglect of punctuality in the performance of a treaty is made a cause of war by the Barbary powers, and of remonstrance and explanation by civilised powers. The Mahometans of Barbary negociate by the sword—they seize first, and ex-postulate afterwards; and the federal leaders have been labouring to barbarize the United States by adopting the practice of the Barbary States, and this they call honour. Let their honour and their hypocrisy go weep together, for both are defeated. Their present Administration is too moral for hypocrites, and too economical for public spendthrifts.
A man the least acquainted with diplomatic affairs must know that a neglect in punctuality is not one of the legal causes of war, unless that neglect be confirmed by a refusal to perform; and even then it depends upon circumstances connected with it. The world would be in continual quarrels and war, and commerce be annihilated, if Algerine policy was the law of nations. And were America, instead of becoming an example to the old world of good and moral government and civil manners, or, if they like it better, of gentlemanly conduct towards other nations, to set up the character of ruffian, that of word and blow, and the blow first, and thereby give the example of pulling down the little that civilization has gained upon barbarism, her Independence, instead of being an honour and a blessing, would become a curse upon the world and upon herself.
The conduct of the Barbary powers, though unjust in principle, is suited to their prejudices, situation, and circumstances. The crusades of the church to exterminate them fixed in their minds the unobliterated belief that every Christian power was their mortal enemy. Their religious prejudices, therefore, suggest the policy, which their situation and circumstances protect them in. As a people, they are neither commercial nor agricultural, they neither import nor export, have no property floating on the seas, nor ships and cargoes in the ports of foreign nations. No retaliation, therefore, can be acted upon them, and they sin secure from punishment.
But this is not the case with the United States. If she sins as a Barbary power, she must answer for it as a Civilized one. Her commerce is continually passing on the seas exposed to capture, and her ships and cargoes in foreign ports to detention and reprisal. An act of War committed by her in the Mississippi would produce a War against the commerce of the Atlantic States, and the latter would have to curse the policy that provoked the former. In every point, therefore, in which the character and interest of the United States be considered, it would ill become her to set an example contrary to the policy and custom of Civilized powers, and practised only by the Barbary powers, that of striking before she expostulates.
But can any man, calling himself a Legislator, and supposed by his constituents to know something of his duty, be so ignorant as to imagine that seizing on New Orleans would finish the affair or even contribute towards it? On the contrary it would have made it worse. The treaty right of deposite at New Orleans, and the right of the navigation of the Mississippi into the Gulph of Mexico, are distant things. New Orleans is more than an hundred miles in the country from the mouth of the river, and, as a place of deposite, is of no value if the mouth of the river be shut, which either France or Spain could do, and which our possession of New Orleans could neither prevent or remove. New Orleans in our possession, by an act of hostility, would have become a blockaded port, and consequently of no value to the western people as a place of deposite. Since, therefore, an interruption had arisen to the commerce of the western states, and until the matter could be brought to a fair explanation, it was of less injury to have the port shut and the river open, than to have the river shut and the port in our possession.
That New Orleans could be taken required no stretch of policy to plan, nor spirit of enterprize to effect. It was like marching behind a man to knock him down: and the dastardly slyness of such an attack would have stained the fame of the United States. Where there is no danger cowards are bold, and Captain Bobadils are to be found in the Senate as well as on the stage. Even Gouverneur, on such a march, dare have shown a leg.(1)
1 Gouverneur Morris being now leader of the belligerent faction in Congress, Paine could not resist the temptation to allude to a well-known incident (related in his Diary and Letters, i., p. 14). A mob in Paris having surrounded his fine carriage, crying "Aristocrat!" Morris showed his wooden leg, declaring he had lost his leg in the cause of American liberty. Morris was never in any fight, his leg being lost by a commonplace accident while driving in Philadelphia. Although Paine's allusion may appear in bad taste, even with this reference, it was politeness itself compared with the brutal abuse which Morris (not content with imprisoning Paine in Paris) and his adherents were heaping on the author on his return to America; also on Monroe, whom Jefferson had returned to France to negotiate for the purchase of Louisiana.—Editor.,
The people of the western country to whom the Mississippi serves as an inland sea to their commerce, must be supposed to understand the circumstances of that commerce better than a man who is a stranger to it; and as they have shown no approbation of the war-whoop measures of the Federal senators, it becomes presumptive evidence they disapprove them. This is a new mortification for those war-whoop politicians; for the case is, that finding themselves losing ground and withering away in the Atlantic States, they laid hold of the affair of New Orleans in the vain hope of rooting and reinforcing themselves in the western States; and they did this without perceiving that it was one of those ill judged hypocritical expedients in politics, that whether it succeeded or failed the event would be the same. Had their motion [that of Ross and Morris] succeeded, it would have endangered the commerce of the Atlantic States and ruined their reputation there; and on the other hand the attempt to make a tool of the western people was so badly concealed as to extinguish all credit with them.
But hypocrisy is a vice of sanguine constitution. It flatters and promises itself every thing; and it has yet to learn, with respect to moral and political reputation, it is less dangerous to offend than to deceive.
To the measures of administration, supported by the firmness and integrity of the majority in Congress, the United States owe, as far as human means are concerned, the preservation of peace, and of national honour. The confidence which the western people reposed in the government and their representatives is rewarded with success. They are reinstated in their rights with the least possible loss of time; and their harmony with the people of New Orleans, so necessary to the prosperity of the United States, which would have been broken, and the seeds of discord sown in its place, had hostilities been preferred to accommodation, remains unimpaired. Have the Federal ministers of the church meditated on these matters? and laying aside, as they ought to do, their electioneering and vindictive prayers and sermons, returned thanks that peace is preserved, and commerce, without the stain of blood?
In the pleasing contemplation of this state of things the mind, by comparison, carries itself back to those days of uproar and extravagance that marked the career of the former administration, and decides, by the unstudied impulse of its own feelings, that something must then have been wrong. Why was it, that America, formed for happiness, and remote by situation and circumstances from the troubles and tumults of the European world, became plunged into its vortex and contaminated with its crimes? The answer is easy. Those who were then at the head of affairs were apostates from the principles of the revolution. Raised to an elevation they had not a right to expect, nor judgment to conduct, they became like feathers in the air, and blown about by every puff of passion or conceit.
Candour would find some apology for their conduct if want of judgment was their only defect. But error and crime, though often alike in their features, are distant in their characters and in their origin. The one has its source in the weakness of the head, the other in the hardness of the heart, and the coalition of the two, describes the former Administration.(1)
1 That of John Adams.—Editor.
Had no injurious consequences arisen from the conduct of that Administration, it might have passed for error or imbecility, and been permitted to die and be forgotten. The grave is kind to innocent offence. But even innocence, when it is a cause of injury, ought to undergo an enquiry.
The country, during the time of the former Administration, was kept in continual agitation and alarm; and that no investigation might be made into its conduct, it entrenched itself within a magic circle of terror, and called it a SEDITION LAW.(1) Violent and mysterious in its measures and arrogant in its manners, it affected to disdain information, and insulted the principles that raised it from obscurity. John Adams and Timothy Pickering were men whom nothing but the accidents of the times rendered visible on the political horizon. Elevation turned their heads, and public indignation hath cast them to the ground. But an inquiry into the conduct and measures of that Administration is nevertheless necessary.
The country was put to great expense. Loans, taxes, and standing armies became the standing order of the day. The militia, said Secretary Pickering, are not to be depended upon, and fifty thousand men must be raised. For what? No cause to justify such measures has yet appeared. No discovery of such a cause has yet been made. The pretended Sedition Law shut up the sources of investigation, and the precipitate flight of John Adams closed the scene. But the matter ought not to sleep here.
It is not to gratify resentment, or encourage it in others, that I enter upon this subject. It is not in the power of man to accuse me of a persecuting spirit. But some explanation ought to be had. The motives and objects respecting the extraordinary and expensive measures of the former Administration ought to be known. The Sedition Law, that shield of the moment, prevented it then, and justice demands it now. If the public have been imposed upon, it is proper they should know it; for where judgment is to act, or a choice is to be made, knowledge is first necessary. The conciliation of parties, if it does not grow out of explanation, partakes of the character of collusion or indifference.
1 Passed July 14, 1798, to continue until March 3, 1801. This Act, described near the close of this Letter, and one passed June 35th, giving the President despotic powers over aliens in the United States, constituted the famous "Alien and Sedition Laws." Hamilton opposed them, and rightly saw in them the suicide of the Federal party.—Editor.,
There has been guilt somewhere; and it is better to fix it where it belongs, and separate the deceiver from the deceived, than that suspicion, the bane of society, should range at large, and sour the public mind. The military measures that were proposed and carrying on during the former administration, could not have for their object the defence of the country against invasion. This is a case that decides itself; for it is self evident, that while the war raged in Europe, neither France nor England could spare a man to send to America. The object, therefore, must be something at home, and that something was the overthrow of the representative system of government, for it could be nothing else. But the plotters got into confusion and became enemies to each other. Adams hated and was jealous of Hamilton, and Hamilton hated and despised both Adams and Washington.(1) Surly Timothy stood aloof, as he did at the affair of Lexington, and the part that fell to the public was to pay the expense.(2)
1 Hamilton's bitter pamphlet against Adams appeared in 1800, but his old quarrel with Washington (1781) had apparently healed. Yet, despite the favors lavished by Washington on Hamilton, there is no certainty that the latter ever changed his unfavorable opinion of the former, as expressed in a letter to General Schuylor, Feb. 18, 1781 (Lodge's "Hamilton's Works," vol. viii., p. 35).—Editor.
2 Colonel Pickering's failure, in 1775, to march his Salem troops in time to intercept the British retreat from Lexington was attributed to his half-heartedness in the patriotic cause.—Editor.
But ought a people who, but a few years ago, were fighting the battles of the world, for liberty had no home but here, ought such a people to stand quietly by and see that liberty undermined by apostacy and overthrown by intrigue? Let the tombs of the slain recall their recollection, and the forethought of what their children are to be revive and fix in their hearts the love of liberty.
If the former administration can justify its conduct, give it the opportunity. The manner in which John Adams disappeared from the government renders an inquiry the more necessary. He gave some account of himself, lame and confused as it was, to certain eastern wise men who came to pay homage to him on his birthday. But if he thought it necessary to do this, ought he not to have rendered an account to the public. They had a right to expect it of him. In that tete-a-tete account, he says, "Some measures were the effect of imperious necessity, much against my inclination." What measures does Mr. Adams mean, and what is the imperious necessity to which he alludes? "Others (says he) were measures of the Legislature, which, although approved when passed, were never previously proposed or recommended by me." What measures, it may be asked, were those, for the public have a right to know the conduct of their representatives? "Some (says he) left to my discretion were never executed, because no necessity for them, in my judgment, ever occurred."
What does this dark apology, mixed with accusation, amount to, but to increase and confirm the suspicion that something was wrong? Administration only was possessed of foreign official information, and it was only upon that information communicated by him publicly or privately, or to Congress, that Congress could act; and it is not in the power of Mr. Adams to show, from the condition of the belligerent powers, that any imperious necessity called for the warlike and expensive measures of his Administration.
What the correspondence between Administration and Rufus King in London, or Quincy Adams in Holland, or Berlin, might be, is but little known. The public papers have told us that the former became cup-bearer from the London underwriters to Captain Truxtun,(1) for which, as Minister from a neutral nation, he ought to have been censured. It is, however, a feature that marks the politics of the Minister, and hints at the character of the correspondence.
1 Thomas Truxtun (1755-1822), for having captured the French frigate "L'Insurgente," off Hen's Island, 1799, was presented at Lloyd's coffee-house with plate to the value of 600 guineas. Rufus King (1755-1827), made Minister to England in 1796, continued under Adams, and for two years under Jefferson's administration.—Editor.
I know that it is the opinion of several members of both houses of Congress, that an enquiry, with respect to the conduct of the late Administration, ought to be gone into. The convulsed state into which the country has been thrown will be best settled by a full and fair exposition of the conduct of that Administration, and the causes and object of that conduct. To be deceived, or to remain deceived, can be the interest of no man who seeks the public good; and it is the deceiver only, or one interested in the deception, that can wish to preclude enquiry.
The suspicion against the late Administration is, that it was plotting to overturn the representative system of government, and that it spread alarms of invasions that had no foundation, as a pretence for raising and establishing a military force as the means of accomplishing that object.
The law, called the Sedition Law, enacted, that if any person should write or publish, or cause to be written or published, any libel [without defining what a libel is] against the Government of the United States, or either house of congress, or against the President, he should be punished by a fine not exceeding two thousand dollars, and by imprisonment not exceeding two years.
But it is a much greater crime for a president to plot against a Constitution and the liberties of the people, than for an individual to plot against a President; and consequently, John Adams is accountable to the public for his conduct, as the individuals under his administration were to the sedition law.
The object, however, of an enquiry, in this case, is not to punish, but to satisfy; and to shew, by example, to future administrations, that an abuse of power and trust, however disguised by appearances, or rendered plausible by pretence, is one time or other to be accounted for.
BORDENTOWN, ON THE DELAWARE,
New Jersey, March 12, 1803. vol. III—27
This letter was printed in The True American, Trenton, New Jersey, soon after Paine's return to his old home at Bordenton. It is here printed from the original manuscript, for which I am indebted to Mr. W. F. Havemeyer of New York. Although the Editor has concluded to present Paine's "Maritime Compact" in the form he finally gave it, the articles were printed in French in 1800, and by S. H. Smith, Washington, at the close of the same year. There is an interesting history connected with it. John Hall, in his diary ("Trenton, 20 April, 1787") relates that Paine told him of Dr. Franklin, whom he (Paine) had just visited in Philadelphia, and the Treaty he, the Doctor, made with the late King of Prussia by adding an article that, should war ever break out, Commerce should be free. The Doctor said he showed it to Vergennes, who said it met his idea, and was such as he would make even with England. In his Address to the People of France, 1797 (see p. 366), Paine closes with a suggestion on the subject, and a year later (September 30, 1798), when events were in a critical condition, he sent nine articles of his proposed Pacte Maritime to Talleyrand, newly appointed Minister of Foreign Affairs. The letters that passed are here taken from the originals (State Archives, Paris, Etats Unis, vol. 48).
"Rue Theatre francaise, No. 4, 9 Vendemaire, 6 year.
"Citizen Minister: I promised you some observations on the state of things between France and America. I divide the case into two parts. First, with respect to some Method that shall effectually put an end to all interruptions of the American Commerce. Secondly, with respect to the settlement for the captures that have been made on that Commerce.
"As to the first case (the interruption of the American Commerce by France) it has foundation in the British Treaty, and it is the continuance of that treaty that renders the remedy difficult. Besides, the American administration has blundered so much in the business of treaty-making, that it is probable it will blunder again in making another with France. There is, however, one method left, and there is but one that I can see, that will be effectual. It is a non-importation Convention; that America agrees not to import from any Nation in Europe who shall interrupt her Commerce on the seas, any goods, wares, or merchandize whatever, and that all her ports shall be shut against the Nation that gives the offence. This will draw America out of her difficulties with respect to her treaty with England.
"But it will be far better if this non-importation convention were to be a general convention of Nations acting as a Whole. It would give a better protection to Neutral Commerce than the armed neutrality could do. I would rather be a Neutral Nation under the protection of such a Convention, which costs nothing to make it, than be under the protection of a navy equal to that of Great Britain. France should be the patron of such a Convention and sign it. It would be giving both her consent and her protection to the Rights of Neutral Nations. If England refuse to sign it she will nevertheless be obliged to respect it, or lose all her Commerce.
"I enclose you a plan I drew up about four months ago, when there was expectation that Mr. Madison would come to France. It has lain by me ever since.
"The second part, that of settlement for the captures, I will make the subject of a future correspondence. Salut et respect."
Talleyrand's Reply ("Foreign Relations, 15 Vendemaire An. 6," Oct. 6, 1797): "I have the honor to return you, Citizen, with very sincere thanks, your Letter to General Washington which you have had the goodness to show me.
"I have received the letter which you have taken the trouble to write me, the 9th of this month. I need not assure you of the appreciation with which I shall receive the further indications you promise on the means of terminating in a durable manner the differences which must excite your interest as a patriot and as a Republican. Animated by such a principle your ideas cannot fail to throw valuable light on the discussion you open, and which should have for its object to reunite the two Republics in whose alienation the enemies of liberty triumph."
Paine's plan made a good impression in France—He writes to Jefferson, October 6, 1800, that the Consul Le Brun, at an entertainment given to the American envoys, gave for his toast: "A l'union de 1' Amerique avec les Puissances du Nord pour faire respecter la liberte des mers."
The malignant mind, like the jaundiced eye, sees everything through a false medium of its own creating. The light of heaven appears stained with yellow to the distempered sight of the one, and the fairest actions have the form of crimes in the venomed imagination of the other.
For seven months, both before and after my return to America in October last, the apostate papers styling themselves "Federal" were filled with paragraphs and Essays respecting a letter from Mr. Jefferson to me at Paris; and though none of them knew the contents of the letter, nor the occasion of writing it, malignity taught them to suppose it, and the lying tongue of injustice lent them its aid.
That the public may no longer be imposed upon by Federal apostacy, I will now publish the Letter, and the occasion of its being written.
The Treaty negociated in England by John Jay, and ratified by the Washington Administration, had so disgracefully surrendered the right and freedom of the American flag, that all the Commerce of the United States on the Ocean became exposed to capture, and suffered in consequence of it. The duration of the Treaty was limited to two years after the war; and consequently America could not, during that period, relieve herself from the Chains which the Treaty had fixed upon her. This being the case, the only relief that could come must arise out of something originating in Europe, that would, in its consequences, extend to America. It had long been my opinion that Commerce contained within itself the means of its own protection; but as the time for bringing forward any new system is not always happening, it is necessary to watch its approach, and lay hold of it before it passes away.
As soon as the late Emperor Paul of Russia abandoned his coalition with England and become a Neutral Power, this Crisis of time, and also of circumstances, was then arriving; and I employed it in arranging a plan for the protection of the Commerce of Neutral Nations during War, that might, in its operation and consequences, relieve the Commerce of America. The Plan, with the pieces accompanying it, consisted of about forty pages. The Citizen Bonneville, with whom I lived in Paris, translated it into French; Mr. Skipwith, the American Consul, Joel Barlow, and myself, had the translation printed and distributed as a present to the Foreign Ministers of all the Neutral Nations then resident in Paris. This was in the summer of 1800.
It was entitled Maritime Compact (in French Pacte Maritime), The plan, exclusive of the pieces that accompanied it, consisted of the following Preamble and Articles.
Being an Unarmed Association of Nations for the protection of the Rights and Commerce of Nations that shall be neutral in time of War.
Whereas, the Vexations and Injuries to which the Rights and Commerce of Neutral Nations have been, and continue to be, exposed during the time of maritime War, render it necessary to establish a law of Nations for the purpose of putting an end to such vexations and Injuries, and to guarantee to the Neutral Nations the exercise of their just Rights,
We, therefore, the undersigned Powers, form ourselves into an Association, and establish the following as a Law of Nations on the Seas.
ARTICLE THE FIRST. Definition of the Rights of neutral Nations.
The Rights of Nations, such as are exercised by them in their intercourse with each other in time of Peace, are, and of right ought to be, the Rights of Neutral Nations at all times; because,
First, those Rights not having been abandoned by them, remain with them.
Secondly, because those Rights cannot become forfeited or void, in consequence of War breaking out between two or more other Nations.
A War of Nation against Nation being exclusively the act of the Nations that make the War, and not the act of the Neutral Nations, cannot, whether considered in itself or in its consequences, destroy or diminish the Rights of the Nations remaining in Peace.
ARTICLE THE SECOND.
The Ships and Vessels of Nations that rest neuter and at Peace with the World during a War with other Nations, have a Right to navigate freely on the Seas as they navigated before that War broke out, and to proceed to and enter the Port or Ports of any of the Belligerent Powers, with the consent of that Power, without being seized, searched, visited, or any ways interrupted, by the Nation or Nations with which that Nation is at War.
ARTICLE THE THIRD.
For the Conservation of the aforesaid Rights, We, the undersigned Powers, engaging to each other our Sacred Faith and Honour, declare,
That if any Belligerent Power shall seize, search, visit, or any ways interrupt any Ship or Vessel belonging to the Citizens or Subjects of any of the Powers composing this Association, then each and all of the said undersigned Powers will cease to import, and will not permit to be imported into the Ports or Dominions of any of the said undersigned Powers, in any Ship or Vessel whatever, any Goods, wares, or Merchandize, produced or manufactured in, or exported from, the Dominions of the Power so offending against the Association hereby established and Proclaimed.
ARTICLE THE FOURTH.
That all the Ports appertaining to any and all of the Powers composing this Association shall be shut against the Flag of the offending Nation.
ARTICLE THE FIFTH.
That no remittance or payment in Money, Merchandize, or Bills of Exchange, shall be made by any of the Citizens, or Subjects, of any of the Powers composing this Association, to the Citizens or Subjects of the offending Nation, for the Term of one year, or until reparation be made. The reparation to be —— times the amount of the damages sustained.
ARTICLE THE SIXTH.
If any Ship or Vessel appertaining to any of the Citizens or Subjects of any of the Powers composing this Association shall be seized, searched, visited, or interrupted, by any Belligerent Nation, or be forcibly prevented entering the Port of her destination, or be seized, searched, visited, or interrupted, in coming out of such Port, or be forcibly prevented from proceeding to any new destination, or be insulted or visited by any Agent from on board any Vessel of any Belligerent Power, the Government or Executive Power of the Nation to which the Ship or Vessel so seized, searched, visited, or interrupted belongs, shall, on evidence of the fact, make public Proclamation of the same, and send a Copy thereof to the Government, or Executive, of each of the Powers composing this Association, who shall publish the same in all the extent of his Dominions, together with a Declaration, that at the expiration of —— days after publication, the penal articles of this Association shall be put in execution against the offending Nation.
ARTICLE THE SEVENTH.
If reparation be not made within the space of one year, the said Proclamation shall be renewed for one year more, and so on.
ARTICLE THE EIGHTH.
The Association chooses for itself a Flag to be carried at the Mast-head conjointly with the National Flag of each Nation composing this Association.
The Flag of the Association shall be composed of the same colors as compose the Rainbow, and arranged in the same order as they appear in that Phenomenon.
ARTICLE THE NINTH.
And whereas, it may happen that one or more of the Nations composing this Association may be, at the time of forming it, engaged in War or become so in future, in that case, the Ships and Vessels of such Nation shall carry the Flag of the Association bound round the Mast, to denote that the Nation to which she belongs is a Member of the Association and a respecter of its Laws.
N. B. This distinction in the manner of carrying the Flag is mearly for the purpose, that Neutral Vessels having the Flag at the Mast-head, may be known at first sight.
ARTICLE THE TENTH.
And whereas, it is contrary to the moral principles of Neutrality and Peace, that any Neutral Nation should furnish to the Belligerent Powers, or any of them, the means of carrying on War against each other, We, therefore, the Powers composing this Association, Declare, that we will each one for itself, prohibit in our Dominions the exportation or transportation of military stores, comprehending gunpowder, cannon, and cannon-balls, fire arms of all kinds, and all kinds of iron and steel weapons used in War. Excluding therefrom all kinds of Utensils and Instruments used in civil or domestic life, and every other article that cannot, in its immediate state, be employed in War.
Having thus declared the moral Motives of the foregoing Article, We declare also the civil and political Intention thereof, to wit,
That as Belligerent Nations have no right to visit or search any Ship or Vessel belonging to a Nation at Peace, and under the protection of the Laws and Government thereof, and as all such visit or search is an insult to the Nation to which such Ship or Vessel belongs and to the Government of the same, We, therefore, the Powers composing this Association, will take the right of prohibition on ourselves to whom it properly belongs, and by whom only it can be legally exercised, and not permit foreign Nations, in a state of War, to usurp the right of legislating by Proclamation for any of the Citizens or Subjects of the Powers composing this Association.
It is, therefore, in order to take away all pretence of search or visit, which by being offensive might become a new cause of War, that we will provide Laws and publish them by Proclamation, each in his own Dominion, to prohibit the supplying, or carrying to, the Belligerent Powers, or either of them, the military stores or articles before mentioned, annexing thereto a penalty to be levied or inflicted upon any persons within our several Dominions transgressing the same. And we invite all Persons, as well of the Belligerent Nations as of our own, or of any other, to give information of any knowledge they may have of any transgressions against the said Law, that the offenders may be prosecuted.
By this conduct we restore the word Contraband (contra and ban) to its true and original signification, which means against Law, edict, or Proclamation; and none but the Government of a Nation can have, or can exercise, the right of making Laws, edicts, or Proclamations, for the conduct of its Citizens or Subjects.
Now We, the undersigned Powers, declare the aforesaid Articles to be a Law of Nations at all times, or until a Congress of Nations shall meet to form some Law more effectual.
And we do recommend that immediately on the breaking out of War between any two or more Nations, that Deputies be appointed by all Neutral Nations, whether members of this Association or not, to meet in Congress in some central place to take cognizance of any violations of the Rights of Neutral Nations.
For the purpose of giving operation to the aforesaid plan of an unarmed Association, the following Paragraph was subjoined:
It may be judged proper for the order of Business, that the Association of Nations have a President for a term of years, and the Presidency to pass by rotation, to each of the parties composing the Association.
In that case, and for the sake of regularity, the first President to be the Executive power of the most northerly Nation composing the Association, and his deputy or Minister at the Congress to be President of the Congress,—and the next most northerly to be Vice-president, who shall succeed to the Presidency, and so on. The line determining the Geographical situation of each, to be the latitude of the Capital of each Nation.
If this method be adopted it will be proper that the first President be nominally constituted in order to give rotation to the rest. In that case the following Article might be added to the foregoing, viz't. The Constitution of the Association nominates the Emperor Paul to be first President of the Association of Nations for the protection of Neutral Commerce, and securing the freedom of the Seas.
The foregoing plan, as I have before mentioned, was presented to the Ministers of all the Neutral Nations then in Paris, in the summer of 1800. Six Copies were given to the Russian General Springporten; and a Russian Gentleman who was going to Petersburgh took two expressly for the purpose of putting them into the hands of Paul I sent the original manuscript, in my own handwriting, to Mr. Jefferson, and also wrote him four Letters, dated the 1st, 4th, 6th, 16th of October, 1800, giving him an account of what was then going on in Europe respecting Neutral Commerce.
The Case was, that in order to compel the English Government to acknowledge the rights of Neutral Commerce, and that free Ships make free Goods, the Emperor Paul, in the month of September following the publication of the plan, shut all the Ports of Russia against England. Sweden and Denmark did the same by their Ports, and Denmark shut up Hamburgh. Prussia shut up the Elbe and the Weser. The ports of Spain, Portugal, and Naples were shut up, and, in general, all the ports of Italy, except Venice, which the Emperor of Germany held; and had it not been for the untimely death of Paul, a Law of Nations, founded on the authority of Nations, for establishing the rights of Neutral Commerce and the freedom of the Seas, would have been proclaimed, and the Government of England must have consented to that Law, or the Nation must have lost its Commerce; and the consequence to America would have been, that such a Law would, in a great measure if not entirely, have released her from the injuries of Jay's Treaty.
Of all these matters I informed Mr. Jefferson. This was before he was President, and the Letter he wrote me after he was President was in answer to those I had written to him and the manuscript Copy of the plan I had sent here. Here follows the Letter:
Washington, March 18, 1801. Dear Sir:
Your letters of Oct. 1st, 4th, 6th, 16th, came duly to hand, and the papers which they covered were, according to your permission, published in the Newspapers, and in a Pamphlet, and under your own name. These papers contain precisely our principles, and I hope they will be generally recognized here. Determined as we are to avoid, if possible, wasting the energies of our People in war and destruction, we shall avoid implicating ourselves with the Powers of Europe, even in support of principles which we mean to pursue. They have so many other Interests different from ours that we must avoid being entangled in them. We believe we can enforce those principles as to ourselves by Peaceable means, now that we are likely to have our Public Councils detached from foreign views. The return of our citizens from the phrenzy into which they had been wrought, partly by ill conduct in France, partly by artifices practiced upon them, is almost extinct, and will, I believe, become quite so, But these details, too minute and long for a Letter, will be better developed by Mr. Dawson, the Bearer of this, a Member of the late Congress, to whom I refer you for them. He goes in the Maryland Sloop of War, which will wait a few days at Havre to receive his Letters to be written on his arrival at Paris. You expressed a wish to get a passage to this Country in a Public Vessel. Mr. Dawson is charged with orders to the Captain of the Maryland to receive and accommodate you back if you can be ready to depart at such a short warning. Rob't R. Livingston is appointed Minister Plenipotentiary to the Republic of France, but will not leave this, till we receive the ratification of the Convention by Mr. Dawson. I am in hopes you will find us returned generally to sentiments worthy of former times. In these it will be your glory to have steadily laboured and with as much effect as any man living. That you may long live to continue your useful Labours and to reap the reward in the thankfulness of Nations is my sincere prayer. Accept assurances of my high esteem and affectionate attachment.
This, Citizens of the United States, is the Letter about which the leaders and tools of the Federal faction, without knowing its contents or the occasion of writing it, have wasted so many malignant falsehoods. It is a Letter which, on account of its wise economy and peaceable principles, and its forbearance to reproach, will be read by every good Man and every good Citizen with pleasure; and the faction, mortified at its appearance, will have to regret they forced it into publication. The least atonement they can now offer is to make the Letter as public as they have made their own infamy, and learn to lie no more.
The same injustice they shewed to Mr. Jefferson they shewed to me. I had employed myself in Europe, and at my own expense, in forming and promoting a plan that would, in its operation, have benefited the Commerce of America; and the faction here invented and circulated an account in the papers they employ, that I had given a plan to the French for burning all the towns on the Coast from Savannah to Baltimore. Were I to prosecute them for this (and I do not promise that I will not, for the Liberty of the Press is not the liberty of lying,) there is not a federal judge, not even one of Midnight appointment, but must, from the nature of the case, be obliged to condemn them. The faction, however, cannot complain they have been restrained in any thing. They have had their full swing of lying uncontradicted; they have availed themselves, unopposed, of all the arts Hypocrisy could devise; and the event has been, what in all such cases it ever will and ought to be, the ruin of themselves.
The Characters of the late and of the present Administrations are now sufficiently marked, and the adherents of each keep up the distinction. The former Administration rendered itself notorious by outrage, coxcombical parade, false alarms, a continued increase of taxes, and an unceasing clamor for War; and as every vice has a virtue opposed to it, the present Administration moves on the direct contrary line. The question, therefore, at elections is not properly a question upon Persons, but upon principles. Those who are for Peace, moderate taxes, and mild Government, will vote for the Administration that conducts itself by those principles, in whatever hands that Administration may be.
There are in the United States, and particularly in the middle States, several religious Sects, whose leading moral principle is PEACE. It is, therefore, impossible that such Persons, consistently with the dictates of that principle, can vote for an Administration that is clamorous for War. When moral principles, rather than Persons, are candidates for Power, to vote is to perform a moral duty, and not to vote is to neglect a duty.
That persons who are hunting after places, offices, and contracts, should be advocates for War, taxes, and extravagance, is not to be wondered at; but that so large a portion of the People who had nothing to depend upon but their Industry, and no other public prospect but that of paying taxes, and bearing the burden, should be advocates for the same measures, is a thoughtlessness not easily accounted for. But reason is recovering her empire, and the fog of delusion is clearing away.
BORDENTOWN, ON THE DELAWARE,
New Jersey, April 21, 1803.(1)
1 Endorsed: "Sent by Gen. Bloomfield per Mr. Wilson for Mr. Duane." And, in a later hand: "Paine Letter 6. Found among the Bartram Papers sent by Col. Carr."—Editor.
XXXIV. TO THE FRENCH INHABITANTS OF LOUISIANA.(1)
1 In a letter to Albert Gallatin, Secretary of the Treasury (Oct 14, 1804), John Randolph of Roanoke proposed "the printing of — thousand copies of Tom Paine's answer to their remonstrance, and transmitting them by as many thousand troops, who can speak a language perfectly intelligible to the people of Louisiana, whatever that of their government may be," The purchase of Louisiana was announced to the Senate by President Jefferson, October 17, 1803.—Editor.
A publication having the appearance of a memorial and remonstrance, to be presented to Congress at the ensuing session, has appeared in several papers. It is therefore open to examination, and I offer you my remarks upon it. The title and introductory paragraph are as follows:
"To the Congress of the United States in the Senate and House of Representatives convened: We the subscribers, planters, merchants, and other inhabitants of Louisiana, respectfully approach the legislature of the United States with a memorial of our rights, a remonstrance against certain laws which contravene them, and a petition for that redress to which the laws of nature, sanctioned by positive stipulations, have entitled us."
It often happens that when one party, or one that thinks itself a party, talks much about its rights, it puts those of the other party upon examining into their own, and such is the effect produced by your memorial.
A single reading of that memorial will show it is the work of some person who is not of your people. His acquaintance with the cause, commencement, progress, and termination of the American revolution, decides this point; and his making our merits in that revolution the ground of your claims, as if our merits could become yours, show she does not understand your situation.
We obtained our rights by calmly understanding principles, and by the successful event of a long, obstinate, and expensive war. But it is not incumbent on us to fight the battles of the world for the world's profit. You are already participating, without any merit or expense in obtaining it, the blessings of freedom acquired by ourselves; and in proportion as you become initiated into the principles and practice of the representative system of government, of which you have yet had no experience, you will participate more, and finally be partakers of the whole. You see what mischief ensued in France by the possession of power before they understood principles. They earned liberty in words, but not in fact. The writer of this was in France through the whole of the revolution, and knows the truth of what he speaks; for after endeavouring to give it principle, he had nearly fallen a victim to its rage.
There is a great want of judgment in the person who drew up your memorial. He has mistaken your case, and forgotten his own; and by trying to court your applause has injured your pretensions. He has written like a lawyer, straining every point that would please his client, without studying his advantage. I find no fault with the composition of the memorial, for it is well written; nor with the principles of liberty it contains, considered in the abstract. The error lies in the misapplication of them, and in assuming a ground they have not a right to stand upon. Instead of their serving you as a ground of reclamation against us, they change into a satire on yourselves. Why did you not speak thus when you ought to have spoken it? We fought for liberty when you stood quiet in slavery.
The author of the memorial injudiciously confounding two distinct cases together, has spoken as if he was the memorialist of a body of Americans, who, after sharing equally with us in all the dangers and hardships of the revolutionary war, had retired to a distance and made a settlement for themselves. If, in such a situation, Congress had established a temporary government over them, in which they were not personally consulted, they would have had a right to speak as the memorial speaks. But your situation is different from what the situation of such persons would be, and therefore their ground of reclamation cannot of right become yours. You are arriving at freedom by the easiest means that any people ever enjoyed it; without contest, without expense, and even without any contrivance of your own. And you already so far mistake principles, that under the name of rights you ask for powers; power to import and enslave Africans; and to govern a territory that we have purchased.
To give colour to your memorial, you refer to the treaty of cession, (in which you were not one of the contracting parties,) concluded at Paris between the governments of the United States and France.
"The third article" you say "of the treaty lately concluded at Paris declares, that the inhabitants of the ceded territory shall be incorporated in the union of the United States, and admitted as soon as possible, according to the principles of the Federal Constitution, to the enjoyment of all the rights, advantages, and immunities of citizens of the United States; and in the mean time, they shall be protected in the enjoyment of their liberty, property, and the exercise of the religion they profess."
As from your former condition, you cannot be much acquainted with diplomatic policy, and I am convinced that even the gentleman who drew up the memorial is not, I will explain to you the grounds of this article. It may prevent your running into further errors.
The territory of Louisiana had been so often ceded to different European powers, that it became a necessary article on the part of France, and for the security of Spain, the ally of France, and which accorded perfectly with our own principles and intentions, that it should be ceded no more; and this article, stipulating for the incorporation of Louisiana into the union of the United States, stands as a bar against all future cession, and at the same time, as well as "in the mean time" secures to you a civil and political permanency, personal security and liberty which you never enjoyed before.
France and Spain might suspect, (and the suspicion would not have been ill-founded had the cession been treated for in the administration of John Adams, or when Washington was president, and Alexander Hamilton president over him,) that we bought Louisiana for the British government, or with a view of selling it to her; and though such suspicion had no just ground to stand upon with respect to our present president, Thomas Jefferson, who is not only not a man of intrigue but who possesses that honest pride of principle that cannot be intrigued with, and which keeps intriguers at a distance, the article was nevertheless necessary as a precaution against future contingencies. But you, from not knowing the political ground of the article, apply to yourselves personally and exclusively, what had reference to the territory, to prevent its falling into the hands of any foreign power that might endanger the [establishment of] Spanish dominion in America, or those of the French in the West India Islands.
You claim, (you say), to be incorporated into the union of the United States, and your remonstrances on this subject are unjust and without cause.
You are already incorporated into it as fully and effectually as the Americans themselves are, who are settled in Louisiana. You enjoy the same rights, privileges, advantages, and immunities, which they enjoy; and when Louisiana, or some part of it, shall be erected into a constitutional State, you also will be citizens equal with them.
You speak in your memorial, as if you were the only people who were to live in Louisiana, and as if the territory was purchased that you exclusively might govern it. In both these cases you are greatly mistaken. The emigrations from the United States into the purchased territory, and the population arising therefrom, will, in a few years, exceed you in numbers. It is but twenty-six years since Kentucky began to be settled, and it already contains more than double your population.
In a candid view of the case, you ask for what would be injurious to yourselves to receive, and unjust in us to grant. Injurious, because the settlement of Louisiana will go on much faster under the government and guardianship of Congress, then if the government of it were committed to your hands; and consequently, the landed property you possessed as individuals when the treaty was concluded, or have purchased since, will increase so much faster in value.—Unjust to ourselves, because as the reimbursements of the purchase money must come out of the sale of the lands to new settlers, the government of it cannot suddenly go out of the hands of Congress. They are guardians of that property for all the people of the United States. And besides this, as the new settlers will be chiefly from the United States, it would be unjust and ill policy to put them and their property under the jurisdiction of a people whose freedom they had contributed to purchase. You ought also to recollect, that the French Revolution has not exhibited to the world that grand display of principles and rights, that would induce settlers from other countries to put themselves under a French jurisdiction in Louisiana. Beware of intriguers who may push you on from private motives of their own.
You complain of two cases, one of which you have no right, no concern with; and the other is founded in direct injustice.
You complain that Congress has passed a law to divide the country into two territories. It is not improper to inform you, that after the revolutionary war ended, Congress divided the territory acquired by that war into ten territories; each of which was to be erected into a constitutional State, when it arrived at a certain population mentioned in the Act; and, in the mean time, an officer appointed by the President, as the Governor of Louisiana now is, presided, as Governor of the Western Territory, over all such parts as have not arrived at the maturity of statehood. Louisiana will require to be divided into twelve States or more; but this is a matter that belongs to the purchaser of the territory of Louisiana, and with which the inhabitants of the town of New-Orleans have no right to interfere; and beside this, it is probable that the inhabitants of the other territory would choose to be independent of New-Orleans. They might apprehend, that on some speculating pretence, their produce might be put in requisition, and a maximum price put on it—a thing not uncommon in a French government. As a general rule, without refining upon sentiment, one may put confidence in the justice of those who have no inducement to do us injustice; and this is the case Congress stands in with respect to both territories, and to all other divisions that may be laid out, and to all inhabitants and settlers, of whatever nation they may be.
There can be no such thing as what the memorial speaks of, that is, of a Governor appointed by the President who may have no interest in the welfare of Louisiana. He must, from the nature of the case, have more interest in it than any other person can have. He is entrusted with the care of an extensive tract of country, now the property of the United States by purchase. The value of those lands will depend on the increasing prosperity of Louisiana, its agriculture, commerce, and population. You have only a local and partial interest in the town of New-Orleans, or its vicinity; and if, in consequence of exploring the country, new seats of commerce should offer, his general interest would lead him to open them, and your partial interest to shut them up.
There is probably some justice in your remark, as it applies to the governments under which you formerly lived. Such governments always look with jealousy, and an apprehension of revolt, on colonies increasing in prosperity and population, and they send governors to keep them down. But when you argue from the conduct of governments distant and despotic, to that of domestic and free government, it shows you do not understand the principles and interest of a Republic, and to put you right is friendship. We have had experience, and you have not.
The other case to which I alluded, as being founded in direct injustice, is that in which you petition for power, under the name of rights, to import and enslave Africans!
Dare you put up a petition to Heaven for such a power, without fearing to be struck from the earth by its justice?
Why, then, do you ask it of man against man?
Do you want to renew in Louisiana the horrors of Domingo?
Sept 22, 1804.
END OF VOLUME III.
THE WRITINGS OF THOMAS PAINE
By Thomas Paine
Collected And Edited By Moncure Daniel Conway
THE AGE OF REASON
Part One Chapter I - The Author's Profession Of Faith Chapter II - Of Missions And Revelations Chapter III - Concerning The Character of Jesus Christ, And His History Chapter IV - Of The Bases Of Christianity Chapter V - Examination In Detail Of The Preceding Bases Chapter VI - Of The True Theology Chapter VII - Examination Of The Old Testament Chapter VIII - Of The New Testament Chapter IX - In What The True Revelation Consists Chapter X - Concerning God, And The Lights Cast On His Existence And Attributes By The Bible Chapter XI - Of The Theology Of The Christians; And The True Theology Chapter XII - The Effects Of Christianism On Education; Proposed Reforms Chapter XIII - Comparison Of Christianism With The Religious Ideas Inspired By Nature Chapter XIV - System Of The Universe Chapter XV - Advantages Of The Existence Of Many Worlds In Each Solar System Chapter XVI - Applications Of The Preceding To The System Of The Christians Chapter XVII - Of The Means Employed In All Time, And Almost Universally, To Deceive The Peoples Recapitulation
Part Two Preface Chapter I - The Old Testament Chapter II - The New Testament Chapter III - Conclusion
WITH SOME RESULTS OF RECENT RESEARCHES.
IN the opening year, 1793, when revolutionary France had beheaded its king, the wrath turned next upon the King of kings, by whose grace every tyrant claimed to reign. But eventualities had brought among them a great English and American heart—Thomas Paine. He had pleaded for Louis Caper—"Kill the king but spare the man." Now he pleaded,—"Disbelieve in the King of kings, but do not confuse with that idol the Father of Mankind!"
In Paine's Preface to the Second Part of "The Age of Reason" he describes himself as writing the First Part near the close of the year 1793. "I had not finished it more than six hours, in the state it has since appeared, before a guard came about three in the morning, with an order signed by the two Committees of Public Safety and Surety General, for putting me in arrestation." This was on the morning of December 28. But it is necessary to weigh the words just quoted—"in the state it has since appeared." For on August 5, 1794, Francois Lanthenas, in an appeal for Paine's liberation, wrote as follows: "I deliver to Merlin de Thionville a copy of the last work of T. Payne [The Age of Reason], formerly our colleague, and in custody since the decree excluding foreigners from the national representation. This book was written by the author in the beginning of the year '93 (old style). I undertook its translation before the revolution against priests, and it was published in French about the same time. Couthon, to whom I sent it, seemed offended with me for having translated this work."
Under the frown of Couthon, one of the most atrocious colleagues of Robespierre, this early publication seems to have been so effectually suppressed that no copy bearing that date, 1793, can be found in France or elsewhere. In Paine's letter to Samuel Adams, printed in the present volume, he says that he had it translated into French, to stay the progress of atheism, and that he endangered his life "by opposing atheism." The time indicated by Lanthenas as that in which he submitted the work to Couthon would appear to be the latter part of March, 1793, the fury against the priesthood having reached its climax in the decrees against them of March 19 and 26. If the moral deformity of Couthon, even greater than that of his body, be remembered, and the readiness with which death was inflicted for the most theoretical opinion not approved by the "Mountain," it will appear probable that the offence given Couthon by Paine's book involved danger to him and his translator. On May 31, when the Girondins were accused, the name of Lanthenas was included, and he barely escaped; and on the same day Danton persuaded Paine not to appear in the Convention, as his life might be in danger. Whether this was because of the "Age of Reason," with its fling at the "Goddess Nature" or not, the statements of author and translator are harmonized by the fact that Paine prepared the manuscript, with considerable additions and changes, for publication in English, as he has stated in the Preface to Part II.
A comparison of the French and English versions, sentence by sentence, proved to me that the translation sent by Lanthenas to Merlin de Thionville in 1794 is the same as that he sent to Couthon in 1793. This discovery was the means of recovering several interesting sentences of the original work. I have given as footnotes translations of such clauses and phrases of the French work as appeared to be important. Those familiar with the translations of Lanthenas need not be reminded that he was too much of a literalist to depart from the manuscript before him, and indeed he did not even venture to alter it in an instance (presently considered) where it was obviously needed. Nor would Lanthenas have omitted any of the paragraphs lacking in his translation. This original work was divided into seventeen chapters, and these I have restored, translating their headings into English. The "Age of Reason" is thus for the first time given to the world with nearly its original completeness.
It should be remembered that Paine could not have read the proof of his "Age of Reason" (Part I.) which went through the press while he was in prison. To this must be ascribed the permanence of some sentences as abbreviated in the haste he has described. A notable instance is the dropping out of his estimate of Jesus the words rendered by Lanthenas "trop peu imite, trop oublie, trop meconnu." The addition of these words to Paine's tribute makes it the more notable that almost the only recognition of the human character and life of Jesus by any theological writer of that generation came from one long branded as an infidel.
To the inability of the prisoner to give his work any revision must be attributed the preservation in it of the singular error already alluded to, as one that Lanthenas, but for his extreme fidelity, would have corrected. This is Paine's repeated mention of six planets, and enumeration of them, twelve years after the discovery of Uranus. Paine was a devoted student of astronomy, and it cannot for a moment be supposed that he had not participated in the universal welcome of Herschel's discovery. The omission of any allusion to it convinces me that the astronomical episode was printed from a manuscript written before 1781, when Uranus was discovered. Unfamiliar with French in 1793, Paine might not have discovered the erratum in Lanthenas' translation, and, having no time for copying, he would naturally use as much as possible of the same manuscript in preparing his work for English readers. But he had no opportunity of revision, and there remains an erratum which, if my conjecture be correct, casts a significant light on the paragraphs in which he alludes to the preparation of the work. He states that soon after his publication of "Common Sense" (1776), he "saw the exceeding probability that a revolution in the system of government would be followed by a revolution in the system of religion," and that "man would return to the pure, unmixed, and unadulterated belief of one God and no more." He tells Samuel Adams that it had long been his intention to publish his thoughts upon religion, and he had made a similar remark to John Adams in 1776. Like the Quakers among whom he was reared Paine could then readily use the phrase "word of God" for anything in the Bible which approved itself to his "inner light," and as he had drawn from the first Book of Samuel a divine condemnation of monarchy, John Adams, a Unitarian, asked him if he believed in the inspiration of the Old Testament. Paine replied that he did not, and at a later period meant to publish his views on the subject. There is little doubt that he wrote from time to time on religious points, during the American war, without publishing his thoughts, just as he worked on the problem of steam navigation, in which he had invented a practicable method (ten years before John Fitch made his discovery) without publishing it. At any rate it appears to me certain that the part of "The Age of Reason" connected with Paine's favorite science, astronomy, was written before 1781, when Uranus was discovered.
Paine's theism, however invested with biblical and Christian phraseology, was a birthright. It appears clear from several allusions in "The Age of Reason" to the Quakers that in his early life, or before the middle of the eighteenth century, the people so called were substantially Deists. An interesting confirmation of Paine's statements concerning them appears as I write in an account sent by Count Leo Tolstoi to the London 'Times' of the Russian sect called Dukhobortsy (The Times, October 23, 1895). This sect sprang up in the last century, and the narrative says:
"The first seeds of the teaching called afterwards 'Dukhoborcheskaya' were sown by a foreigner, a Quaker, who came to Russia. The fundamental idea of his Quaker teaching was that in the soul of man dwells God himself, and that He himself guides man by His inner word. God lives in nature physically and in man's soul spiritually. To Christ, as to an historical personage, the Dukhobortsy do not ascribe great importance... Christ was God's son, but only in the sense in which we call, ourselves 'sons of God.' The purpose of Christ's sufferings was no other than to show us an example of suffering for truth. The Quakers who, in 1818, visited the Dukhobortsy, could not agree with them upon these religious subjects; and when they heard from them their opinion about Jesus Christ (that he was a man), exclaimed 'Darkness!' From the Old and New Testaments,' they say, 'we take only what is useful,' mostly the moral teaching.... The moral ideas of the Dukhobortsy are the following:—All men are, by nature, equal; external distinctions, whatsoever they may be, are worth nothing. This idea of men's equality the Dukhoborts have directed further, against the State authority.... Amongst themselves they hold subordination, and much more, a monarchical Government, to be contrary to their ideas."
Here is an early Hicksite Quakerism carried to Russia long before the birth of Elias Hicks, who recovered it from Paine, to whom the American Quakers refused burial among them. Although Paine arraigned the union of Church and State, his ideal Republic was religious; it was based on a conception of equality based on the divine son-ship of every man. This faith underlay equally his burden against claims to divine partiality by a "Chosen People," a Priesthood, a Monarch "by the grace of God," or an Aristocracy. Paine's "Reason" is only an expansion of the Quaker's "inner light"; and the greater impression, as compared with previous republican and deistic writings made by his "Rights of Man" and "Age of Reason" (really volumes of one work), is partly explained by the apostolic fervor which made him a spiritual, successor of George Fox.
Paine's mind was by no means skeptical, it was eminently instructive. That he should have waited until his fifty-seventh year before publishing his religious convictions was due to a desire to work out some positive and practicable system to take the place of that which he believed was crumbling. The English engineer Hall, who assisted Paine in making the model of his iron bridge, wrote to his friends in England, in 1786: "My employer has Common Sense enough to disbelieve most of the common systematic theories of Divinity, but does not seem to establish any for himself." But five years later Paine was able to lay the corner-stone of his temple: "With respect to religion itself, without regard to names, and as directing itself from the universal family of mankind to the 'Divine object of all adoration, it is man bringing to his Maker the fruits of his heart; and though those fruits may differ from each other like the fruits of the earth, the grateful tribute of every one, is accepted." ("Rights of Man." See my edition of Paine's Writings, ii., p. 326.) Here we have a reappearance of George Fox confuting the doctor in America who "denied the light and Spirit of God to be in every one; and affirmed that it was not in the Indians. Whereupon I called an Indian to us, and asked him 'whether or not, when he lied, or did wrong to anyone, there was not something in him that reproved him for it?' He said, 'There was such a thing in him that did so reprove him; and he was ashamed when he had done wrong, or spoken wrong.' So we shamed the doctor before the governor and the people." (Journal of George Fox, September 1672.)
Paine, who coined the phrase "Religion of Humanity" (The Crisis, vii., 1778), did but logically defend it in "The Age of Reason," by denying a special revelation to any particular tribe, or divine authority in any particular creed of church; and the centenary of this much-abused publication has been celebrated by a great conservative champion of Church and State, Mr. Balfour, who, in his "Foundations of Belief," affirms that "inspiration" cannot be denied to the great Oriental teachers, unless grapes may be gathered from thorns.
The centenary of the complete publication of "The Age of Reason," (October 25, 1795), was also celebrated at the Church Congress, Norwich, on October 10, 1895, when Professor Bonney, F.R.S., Canon of Manchester, read a paper in which he said: "I cannot deny that the increase of scientific knowledge has deprived parts of the earlier books of the Bible of the historical value which was generally attributed to them by our forefathers. The story of Creation in the Book of Genesis, unless we play fast and loose either with words or with science, cannot be brought into harmony with what we have learnt from geology. Its ethnological statements are imperfect, if not sometimes inaccurate. The stories of the Fall, of the Flood, and of the Tower of Babel, are incredible in their present form. Some historical element may underlie many of the traditions in the first eleven chapters in that book, but this we cannot hope to recover." Canon Bonney proceeded to say of the New Testament also, that "the Gospels are not so far as we know, strictly contemporaneous records, so we must admit the possibility of variations and even inaccuracies in details being introduced by oral tradition." The Canon thinks the interval too short for these importations to be serious, but that any question of this kind is left open proves the Age of Reason fully upon us. Reason alone can determine how many texts are as spurious as the three heavenly witnesses (i John v. 7), and like it "serious" enough to have cost good men their lives, and persecutors their charities. When men interpolate, it is because they believe their interpolation seriously needed. It will be seen by a note in Part II. of the work, that Paine calls attention to an interpolation introduced into the first American edition without indication of its being an editorial footnote. This footnote was: "The book of Luke was carried by a majority of one only. Vide Moshelm's Ecc. History." Dr. Priestley, then in America, answered Paine's work, and in quoting less than a page from the "Age of Reason" he made three alterations,—one of which changed "church mythologists" into "Christian mythologists,"—and also raised the editorial footnote into the text, omitting the reference to Mosheim. Having done this, Priestley writes: "As to the gospel of Luke being carried by a majority of one only, it is a legend, if not of Mr. Paine's own invention, of no better authority whatever." And so on with further castigation of the author for what he never wrote, and which he himself (Priestley) was the unconscious means of introducing into the text within the year of Paine's publication.
If this could be done, unintentionally by a conscientious and exact man, and one not unfriendly to Paine, if such a writer as Priestley could make four mistakes in citing half a page, it will appear not very wonderful when I state that in a modern popular edition of "The Age of Reason," including both parts, I have noted about five hundred deviations from the original. These were mainly the accumulated efforts of friendly editors to improve Paine's grammar or spelling; some were misprints, or developed out of such; and some resulted from the sale in London of a copy of Part Second surreptitiously made from the manuscript. These facts add significance to Paine's footnote (itself altered in some editions!), in which he says: "If this has happened within such a short space of time, notwithstanding the aid of printing, which prevents the alteration of copies individually; what may not have happened in a much greater length of time, when there was no printing, and when any man who could write, could make a written copy, and call it an original, by Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John."
Nothing appears to me more striking, as an illustration of the far-reaching effects of traditional prejudice, than the errors into which some of our ablest contemporary scholars have fallen by reason of their not having studied Paine. Professor Huxley, for instance, speaking of the freethinkers of the eighteenth century, admires the acuteness, common sense, wit, and the broad humanity of the best of them, but says "there is rarely much to be said for their work as an example of the adequate treatment of a grave and difficult investigation," and that they shared with their adversaries "to the full the fatal weakness of a priori philosophizing." [NOTE: Science and Christian Tradition, p. 18 (Lon. ed., 1894).] Professor Huxley does not name Paine, evidently because he knows nothing about him. Yet Paine represents the turning-point of the historical freethinking movement; he renounced the 'a priori' method, refused to pronounce anything impossible outside pure mathematics, rested everything on evidence, and really founded the Huxleyan school. He plagiarized by anticipation many things from the rationalistic leaders of our time, from Strauss and Baur (being the first to expatiate on "Christian Mythology"), from Renan (being the first to attempt recovery of the human Jesus), and notably from Huxley, who has repeated Paine's arguments on the untrustworthiness of the biblical manuscripts and canon, on the inconsistencies of the narratives of Christ's resurrection, and various other points. None can be more loyal to the memory of Huxley than the present writer, and it is even because of my sense of his grand leadership that he is here mentioned as a typical instance of the extent to which the very elect of free-thought may be unconsciously victimized by the phantasm with which they are contending. He says that Butler overthrew freethinkers of the eighteenth century type, but Paine was of the nineteenth century type; and it was precisely because of his critical method that he excited more animosity than his deistical predecessors. He compelled the apologists to defend the biblical narratives in detail, and thus implicitly acknowledge the tribunal of reason and knowledge to which they were summoned. The ultimate answer by police was a confession of judgment. A hundred years ago England was suppressing Paine's works, and many an honest Englishman has gone to prison for printing and circulating his "Age of Reason." The same views are now freely expressed; they are heard in the seats of learning, and even in the Church Congress; but the suppression of Paine, begun by bigotry and ignorance, is continued in the long indifference of the representatives of our Age of Reason to their pioneer and founder. It is a grievous loss to them and to their cause. It is impossible to understand the religious history of England, and of America, without studying the phases of their evolution represented in the writings of Thomas Paine, in the controversies that grew out of them with such practical accompaniments as the foundation of the Theophilanthropist Church in Paris and New York, and of the great rationalist wing of Quakerism in America.