American History: 14 Thomas Paine Quotes “These Are The Times That Try Men’s Souls”

Better fare hard with good men than feast it with bad.

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.

header_small American History: 14 Thomas Paine Quotes  "These Are The Times That Try Men's Souls"

Society is produced by our wants and government by our wickedness.

Such is the irresistible nature of truth that all it asks, and all it wants, is the liberty of appearing.

The real man smiles in trouble, gathers strength from distress, and grows brave by reflection.

The world is my country, all mankind are my brethren, and to do good is my religion.

 
To argue with a person who has renounced the use of reason is like administering medicine to the dead.

What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly.

When we are planning for posterity, we ought to remember that virtue is not hereditary.

 
A thing moderately good is not so good as it ought to be. Moderation in temper is always a virtue, but moderation in principle is always a vice.

“The Rights of Man”, 1792 When my country, into which I had just set my foot, was set on fire about my ears, it was time to stir. It was time for every man to stir.

Common Sense I love the man that can smile in trouble, that can gather strength from distress, and grow brave by reflection. ‘Tis the business of little minds to shrink; but he whose heart is firm, and whose conscience approves his conduct, will pursue his principles unto death.

We fight not to enslave, but to set a country free, and to make room upon the earth for honest men to live in.

All national institutions of churches, whether Jewish, Christian or Turkish, appear to me no other than human inventions, set up to terrify and enslave mankind, and monopolize power and profit.

Thomas Paine

“These are the times that try men’s souls.” This simple quotation from Founding Father Thomas Paine’s The American Crisis not only describes the beginnings of the American Revolution, but also the life of Paine himself. Throughout most of his life, his writings inspired passion, but also brought him great criticism. He communicated the ideas of the Revolution to common farmers as easily as to intellectuals, creating prose that stirred the hearts of the fledgling United States. He had a grand vision for society: he was staunchly anti-slavery, and he was one of the first to advocate a world peace organization and social security for the poor and elderly. But his radical views on religion would destroy his success, and by the end of his life, only a handful of people attended his funeral.

Brief Biography

On January 29, 1737, Thomas Paine was born in Thetford, England. His father, a corseter, had grand visions for his son, but by the age of 12, Thomas had failed out of school. The young Paine began apprenticing for his father, but again, he failed. So, now age 19, Paine went to sea. This adventure didn’t last too long, and by 1768 he found himself as an excise (tax) officer in England. Thomas didn’t exactly excel at the role, getting discharged from his post twice in four years, but as an inkling of what was to come, he published The Case of the Officers of Excise (1772), arguing for a pay raise for officers. In 1774, by happenstance, he met Benjamin Franklin in London, who helped him emigrate to Philadelphia.

commonsense_small American History: 14 Thomas Paine Quotes  "These Are The Times That Try Men's Souls"

His career turned to journalism while in Philadelphia, and suddenly, Thomas Paine became very important. In 1776, he published Common Sense, a strong defense of American Independence from England. He traveled with the Continental Army and wasn’t a success as a soldier, but he produced The American Crisis (1776-83), which helped inspire the Army. This pamphlet was so popular that as a percentage of the population, it was read by or read to more people than today watch the Super Bowl.

But, instead of continuing to help the Revolutionary cause, he returned to Europe and pursued other ventures, including working on a smokeless candle and an iron bridge. In 1791-92, he wrote The Rights of Man in response to criticism of the French Revolution. This work caused Paine to be labeled an outlaw in England for his anti-monarchist views. He would have been arrested, but he fled for France to join the National Convention.

By 1793, he was imprisoned in France for not endorsing the execution of Louis XVI. During his imprisonment, he wrote and distributed the first part of what was to become his most famous work at the time, the anti-church text, The Age of Reason (1794-96). He was freed in 1794 (narrowly escaping execution) thanks to the efforts of James Monroe, then U.S. Minister to France. Paine remained in France until 1802 when he returned to America on an invitation from Thomas Jefferson. Paine discovered that his contributions to the American Revolution had been all but eradicated due to his religious views. Derided by the public and abandoned by his friends, he died on June 8, 1809 at the age of 72 in New York City.

George Washington
PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

SIR,

I present you a small treatise in defence of those principles of freedom which your exemplary virtue hath so eminently contributed to establish. That the Rights of Man may become as universal as your benevolence can wish, and that you may enjoy the happiness of seeing the New World regenerate the Old, is the prayer of

SIR,

Your much obliged, and
Obedient humble Servant,
THOMAS PAINE