Talk:Thomas Paine

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This is the talk page for discussing improvements to the Thomas Paine page.


"Man cannot make or invent or contrive principles. He can only discover them and he ought to look through the discovery to the Author." --Thomas Paine 1797

Human Defined: Earth's Choicemaker - paradigm (Christian advocacy link, placed here by IP

This link has no bearing on the page, is not part of a running discussion and should be removed.

I restored the above statements made by an anonymous contributor because, unless there are violations of either laws or rules, it is not a good idea to censor the talk pages. They should be open to far more POV discussions and commentary than the articles are. ~ Kalki 22:52, 7 Oct 2004 (UTC)

Other quote from Thomas Paine: "The Christian religion is a parody on the worship of the sun, in which they put a man called Christ in the place of the sun, and pay him the adoration originaly payed to the sun." 14:47, 17 October 2007 (UTC)[reply]


What's going on with the capitalisation - is it present in the original texts?

I just have a few moments to check in right now... but yes, eccentric capitalization (and other typographic effects) were extensively used in the early pamphlets. ~ Kalki 00:41, 5 November 2007 (UTC)[reply]

What we might call "eccentric" capitalization was, at that time, correct and proper written English. See any history of the English or American language.


From Wikiquote:Requested entries

  • The supposed quietude of a good man allures the ruffian; while on the other hand, arms like laws discourage the keep the invader and the plunderer in awe, and preserve order in the world as well as property....Horrid mischief would ensue were (the law-abiding) deprived the use of them.
    • Writings of Thomas Paine at 56 (1894)
  • Society in every state is a blessing, but government, even in its best state, is but a necessary evil; in its worst state, an intolerable one.

Cheers! BD2412 T 03:42, 11 April 2008 (UTC)[reply]

The second of these quotes is already sourced under Common Sense; the first quote is found, not in its entirety and without the same wording, among the unsourced quotes. - InvisibleSun 03:58, 11 April 2008 (UTC)[reply]


  • Arms discourage and keep the invader and plunderer in awe, and preserve order in the world as well as property...Horrid mischief would ensue were the law-abiding deprived of the use of them.
  • Christianity is the strangest religion ever set up, for it committed a murder upon Jesus in order to redeem mankind from the sin of eating an apple.
  • He who dares not offend cannot be honest.

~ The Forester's Letters Number 3 (April 22, 1776)

  • I care not a straw for the opinions of the world.
  • Reputation is what men and women think of us; character is what God and angels know of us.
  • That government is best which governs least.
    • Attributed to Jefferson by Thoreau, this statement is used in his essay on civil disobedience, but the quote has not been found in Jefferson's own writing and the statement may well have originated with Thoreau himself. It is also commonly attributed to Paine, perhaps because of its similarity in theme to many of his well-documented expressions, such as "Society in every state is a blessing, but government even in its best state is but a necessary evil; in its worst state an intolerable one" and "security being the true design and end of government, it unanswerably follows, that whatever FORM thereof appears most likely to ensure it to us, with the least expense and greatest benefit, is preferable to all others." According to the Thomas Paine National Historical Association, this is not a Paine quote.
  • The greatest threat to our [democratic] experiment will not come from those who would openly oppose us, but those who will silently follow us.
  • The study of theology as it stands in Christian churches, is the study of nothing; it is founded on nothing; it rests on no principles; it proceeds by no authorities; it has no data; it can demonstrate nothing; and admits of no conclusion.
  • He who is the author of a war lets loose the whole contagion of hell and opens a vein that bleeds a nation to death.

Misattributions (unsourced)[edit]

  • Lead, follow, or get out of the way
    • commonly misattributed[by whom?] to Paine; cannot be found anywhere in his writings
    • Will Rogers quote in reference to his father's teachings**

Exact words?[edit]

in: "He that would make his own liberty secure must guard even his enemy from oppression; for if he violates this duty he establishes a precedent that will reach to himself." ~ Thomas Paine - should that be "reach unto himself" as I've seen some places? Is the quote edited to modern english? does anyone have the exact old wording? thanks for any info.

Curious emphasis[edit]

Thomas Paine (29 January 1737 – 8 June 1809) was an English political writer, theorist, and activist who had a great influence on the thoughts and ideas that led to the American revolution and declaration of independence. He claimed American citizenship (a court later rejected his claim) and was given French citizenship. He wrote three of the most influential and controversial works of the 18th Century

- In the minuscule information on Paine provided the emphasis was on his citizenship and not a word on what his main contribution actually achieved and thus what he is ultimately known for. It kind of leads to a feeling of a weasle tactic, wether intended or not. Besides, the emphasis on citizenship and allegiance is thoroughly discredited when one considers Paine's work. —The preceding unsigned comment was added by (talk) 10:42, 6 April 2010

I have trimmed the introduction accordingly: It is enough to identify the subject and indicate why he is notable. ~ Ningauble 13:04, 6 April 2010 (UTC)[reply]

Without the pen of Paine[edit]

The folowing analysis of the attribution of the quote, "Without the pen of Paine, the sword of Washington would have been wielded in vain," was originally posted in the article[1] by IP user

Here is further research:
It is commonly believed that John Adams made this quotation. However, John Adams did not ever say this. The first usage of a phrase similar to this is ascribed, not with complete certainty, to Joel Barlow in the 1790s, who did not say this quotation exactly. The quotation became apocryphal by the 1820s.
The following shows the various usages of this quotation, and tries to trace whether John Adams actually ever said or wrote it.
From an 1892 text -- full citation: "The Life of Thomas Paine," By Moncure Daniel Conway, New York/ London, G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1892, p. 63 (from Questia online database):
"An original copy of Paine's excise pamphlet (1792) in my possession contains a note in pencil, apparently contemporary, suggesting that the introduction was written by Barlow. In this introduction--probably by Barlow, certainly by a competent observer of events in America--it is said: 'On this celebrated publication ["Common Sense"], which has received the testimony of praise from the wise and learned of different nations, we need only remark (for the merit of every work should be judged by its effect) that it gave spirit and resolution to the Americans, who were then wavering and undetermined, to assert their rights, and inspired a decisive energy into their counsels: we may therefore venture to say, without fear of contradiction, that the great American cause owed as much to the pen of Paine as to the sword of Washington.' "
Note that while this author can't be certain it was Joel Barlow, he said in an article seven years later (1899, The Arena) that this introduction has been "justly ascribed to Joel Barlow." He also said that "At the close of the American Revolution, it became a proverb, that independence had been achieved equally by the sword of Washington and the pen of Paine."
[1902] The earliest attribution I can find to John Adams is from 1902, in a Topeka KS newspaper, and it is quite different: "The sword of Washington would have been powerless without the pen of Paine." (American Historical Newspapers database)
[1938] A book review in 1938 that claims John Adams said, "History is to ascribe to Paine the Revolution. Washington's sword would have been wielded in vain, had it not been supported by the pen of Paine." (Citation: # C. G. Woodson The Journal of Negro History, Vol. 23, No. 4 (Oct., 1938), pp. 487-489). (JSTOR)
I've searched all 10 volumes of The Works of John Adams, published between 1850-56 and edited by his son, Charles Adams, using the Stanford Law Library electronic version. In all 10 volumes, there is no mention of anything even close to this quotation.
Indeed, the 1938 review above misquotes Adams, who does say "And yet history is to ascribe the American Revolution to Thomas Paine! " However, in context the phrase seems ironic, though not quite laudatory, and it contains no mention of the addendum. In the letter to Jefferson of June 22, 1819, he says, "What a poor, ignorant, malicious, short-sighted, crapulous mass is Tom Paine's 'Common Sense,' in comparison with this paper [the Raleigh Register Declaration of Independence]!...And yet history is to ascribe the Revolution to Thomas Paine! Sat verbum sapienti."
These are the earliest usages a search of various databases could find, and none attributes it either to Barlow or Adams; it appears to be apocryphal to these users.
[1829] On Tom Paine's birthday in 1829, a friend, Mr. James McElroy, gave a speech which was printed in The Correspondent. He said: "...It is already a matter of history, which has long since briefly, but beautifully, expressed the value of those services in acknowledgment that 'Americans owe their liberties scarcely less to the pen of Paine than to the sword of Washington....'" (ProQuest)
[1835] In 1835 an article in the Workinman's Advocate said that it was a "standard toast" on the anniversary of the Revolution to say (among other toasts), "The Memory of Thomas Paine -- The literary champion of freedom, whose pen was no less powerful than the sword of Washington. Mankind owe him a debt of gratitude." (ProQuest)
[1856] In an 1856 New York Tribune does not cite this as a quotation. "Liberals should not be backward in paving this patriotic tribute, for they are aware that the American Revolution received as much aid from the pen of Thomas Paine as from the sword of Washington." (American Historical Newspapers database)
[1899] An 1899 article from the Time Picayune says that this saying became a "proverb." (American Historical Newspapers database)

End of analysis moved from article. ~ Ningauble 15:12, 29 May 2010 (UTC)[reply]

“He who is the author of a war[edit]

“He who is the author of a war lets loose the whole contagion of hell and opens a vein that bleeds a nation to death”

anyone know if this one is bona fide?

—This unsigned comment is by (talkcontribs) .

It is found in "The American Crisis" pt. 5, "TO GEN. SIR WILLIAM HOWE," which can be found here

Thank you. 21:03, 17 January 2014 (UTC)[reply]

Peace quote[edit]

"Peace, which costs nothing, is attended with infinitely more advantage than any victory with all its expence." attributed to ~Thomas Paine

anyone know if this one is bona fide?—This unsigned comment is by (talkcontribs) .

Hi, this quote is from Paine's Rights of Man, and I've just added it to the article; thanks for pointing it out. ~ DanielTom (talk) 11:47, 16 June 2014 (UTC)[reply]


"Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom, must, like men, undergo the fatigues of supporting it."

is sometimes quoted as:

"Those who reap the blessings of freedom must, like men, undergo the fatigue of supporting it." NoToleranceForIntolerance (talk) 00:54, 10 July 2016 (UTC)[reply]