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of the Canaanites, as so contrary to the moral perfections of the Deity, as completely to brand the whole history as an impious and clumsy imposture: forgetting or not choosing to recollect that the punishment of human guilt by human agents is in strict conformity to the general laws of the divine government, and that the Jewish nation were in this instance but the executioners of the just judgments of that Being who is erery day seen to act in the same manner by natural agents, and to sweep away whole generations by war or pestilence or famine.
This moral defect of Paine's mind, although it thus perverted and clouded his faculties for the discernment of truth, and incapacitated him from acting as an upright judge, did not, however, lessen his powers as an able advocate. Drawing his arguments from his own feelings, his pride, his passions, or his prejudice, he argued boldly and forcibly to the pride, the passions, and the prejudices of his readers. He produces his effect of conviction or persuasion rather by a certain imposing air of confident assertion which at once browbeats and silences opposition, than by any dexterity or ingenuity of sophistry. Indeed the great art of his sophistry, as we have before hinted, consists in the plausibility with which he advances (or rather without formally advancing takes at once for granted) false or doubtful positions as general and undisputed truths. These once allowed, the conclusions of his coarse but powerful logic are generally irresistible.
It was a favourite boast of Paine's that he “read no books, studied no man's opinions.” This is a very common weakness of men of vigorous and original mind who have not enjoyed the advantages of early education. Observing among those who pride themselves upon their literary acquirements, many who have attained to the highest rank of crudition solely by the patient labour of plodding dulness, and who regard letters as the end of their being, not as the means of utility to others;-many too, who seek in them nothing more than the means of elegant amusement, and are content to trifle life away without turning their knowledge to any valuable purpose of existence; they proudly measure themselves with these learned idlers, and then hug themselves with joy that their minds have not been cramped and fettered by the shackles of classic discipline, and their originality destroyed by the habitual recurrence to the opinion of others. They do not consider that learning however disguised by pedantry or affectation, is in substance nothing more than knowledge that as man is not an independant but a social being, to attain to the highest excellence of his Dature he must call in the intellectual as well as the corporeal aid of his fellow-men—and that even if in the full confidence of native strength they feel enabled to rely upon their own powers of specula
tion, and to reason and to judge solely for themselves, still without the knowledge of facts their strength is impotent and their reason vain; they may indeed have the lever of Archimedes, but the fulcrum and the point of application must be supplied by the labour of others. This cant of affecting to despise what one does not possess, is in perfect conformity to the general character of Paine; for it is one of those comfortable suggestions which vanity so readily ministers to our consolation when we find ourselves mortified by conscious ignorance or manifest superiority. But ignorance, when it loses its modesty, ceases to be innocent. Error has no apology when it arises from wilful neglect of the means of information.
It is an acute remark of Hooker, borrowed we believe from some elder logician, that there is scarce any truth of moment, from which by some circuitous deduction every other truth may not be rationally inferred. Although this is not practically true, nor perhaps even theoretically, to its full extent, yet the mutual connexion and dependence of every individual part of human knowledge prove that it is not without some foundation in reason. It is perhaps impossible for man to know but one branch of science perfectly, and to know but that one, This is true even of mathematical and natural science, but peculiarly so of those higher and more important subjects which employed the pen of Thomas Paine. The divine and the politician, if they have any higher ambition than that of being sectarians and partisans, must borrow light from every quarter. Much as Paine might have despised the humble drudgery of philologists and grammarians, perhaps even the study of words might have preserved him from many an absurdity, and from some mortification.
Every one, at all versed in the theological warfare of the day will recollect the confusion in which he involved himself, and the consequent triumph of bishop Watson from the not duly distinguishing be tween the analogous, but not synonimous words, genuineness and authenticity. And if he had condescended to learn from his friend and fellow-labourer in the revolutionary vineyard Horne Tooke, the true force and meaning of his favourite phrase, the rights of man (i. e. that which is ruled or ordained (RECTUM) for man to do or to enjoy,) he might have saved himself and his followers from the mischievous error of supposing that mankind have any right to liberty farther than they are able properly to enjoy it.
From all these circumstances of Paine's character, it very natorally followed that he was much better calculated to attack than to defend-to overturn than to build up. To elicit general truth from a various and confused mass of particular facts, or ably to defend the great outworks of society against the cavils of men, who, professing themselves to be wise have become fools, demands humble and pa
tient diligence, and much and accurate knowledge. To attack, requires little other previous information than may be gleaned from a hasty examination of the subject immediately in question: and confident assertion and invective, may often supply the place of sober reason.' For (in the words of the judicious Hooker) “ he that goeth about to persuade a multitude that they are not so well governed as they ought to be, shall never want attentive or favourable hearers; because they know the manifold defects whereunto every kind of regiment is subject; but the secret lets or difficulties which in rules of state or church are innumerable and inevitable, they have not ordinarily the judgment to consider. And on the other hand, when they who withdraw their obedience pretend that the laws which they should obey, are corrupt and vitious; for proof of their goodness, it behoveth the very foundation and root, the highest wellspring and fountain of them, to be discovered.” A town may be carried by assault at the point of the bayonet by a single effort of irregular courage, but for its defence, enfeebled as it is for the purposes of war by the arts of peace and the charities of civilized life, it has need of every pro tection which can be supplied by military science, disciplined valour, and veteran experience.
But the argument and the sophistry, the ingenuity and the absurdities of Paine, have, in themselves little to interest posterity. When the passions and interests of the present day shall have gone by, and the tide of party feeling spent its force, Common Sense and the Age of Reason, may perhaps be left to moulder on the same shelf with the political reveries and the sceptical cavils of the Tindals, the Tollands, and the Gordons of the last century. If they are preserved at all, they will be preserved by style. As the malignity of Junius, so too the vulgar hardihood of Paine, may be rescued from oblivion, and preserved like toads in marble, solely by the vigour, the perspicuity, and the purity of his language. His conceptions though seldom profound were always clear; and as his style is purely English, without any taint of foreign idiom, and unencumbered by any ambitious ornament; (for he wrote to be understood and felt, not to be admired,) what he clearly conceived he as clearly expressed.
He had the rare faculty of being able to present to the minds of others the same images which filled his own, as distinctly and as clearly as he perceived them himself. Such is his lucid prespicuity that the dullest reader cannot, for a moment, mistake his meaning; and such his exquisite simplicity that the attention is never distracted from his idea by any adventitious or useless image. Not that he totally disdains the use of ornament-but his ornament is never idle or ostentatious, and from the usual chaste and temperate tone of his composition his imagery produces a more striking effect than that of the most gorgeous and splendid style. He is sometimes animated but never extravagant, occasionally concise but never obscure.
. We know of no modern writer of equal and similar excellence ex- cept Jones of Nayland, who, by a singular coincidence, as nearly re
sembled Paine in style as he widely differed from him in opinion; so that at the same time that the one was busied in disseminating the doctrines of anarchy and disbelief, the other was wielding the very same arms with equal ability in defence of the wildest tory notions of the divine right of kings, and the most extravagant and exclusive doctrines of the highest school of high church divinity. But the errors of Jones were of the head not the heart, and though on some points extravagant, his principles, in the main, were sound and excellent. Paine's object was evil; the good which he sometimes effected was, as far as regards himself, accidental, and his literary excellence served no other end than to render palatable the poison which he prepared-he profaned his “God-given strength”-liquidam temeravit crimine vocem.
Such is the light in which this extraordinary man appears to u: as an author. Let us now examine his character as it stands in Mr. Cheetham's biography and see how well the story of his life“ tells in history."
The education and early life of Thomas Paine differed in nothing from that of any other intelligent and enterprising young mechanic. As soon as he had acquired the knowledge of his trade he left his native town of Thetford, and rambled up to London, with no higher ambition than that of establishing himself in business as a master staymaker. Not immediately succeeding in his trade he abandoned it and went to sea in a privateer, which, however, he soon left to return to his original occupation. In this he remained for some time till he obtained a place in the excise, which he held for about twelve years, when he was dismissed, as it was said, for some malepractice.
Having about this time failed in business as a grocer, and soon after separated from his wife, (for what reason it is not exactly known) he found himself at the age of thirty-seven, alone, destitute, and friendless. After having scantily supported himself for a short time as a garret writer in London, he emigrated to this country, by the advice of doctor Franklin, in the year 1775. And here his literary and political career commenced. At that moment, when all the talents and enterprise of the country were roused into activity, as by an electric shock, the faculties of Paine partook of the general impulse and seemed at once to evolve themselves. He started into political existence, like the Minerva of Grecian fable, in the full maturity and perfection of popular eloquence. The popularity and effect of his Common Sense was wonderful and unexampled. Whether this was produced by the excellence of its manner, or principally by its happening to chime in with the feelings of the hour may be a fair subject of discussion. Still, however, the fact of this popularity and effect is undeniable, and Paine must be allowed the praise of having performed (like Columbus with his egg) what few had deemed practicable and none had dared to attempt. The success of this performance encouraged him to abandon some other literary occupations in which he had engaged on his first arrival and to devote himself entirely to politics. The chiefs of the revolution were too wise to neglect availing themselves of his popular talents, and he“ accompanied the army of independence as a sort of itinerant writer, of which his pen was an appendage almost as necessary and formidable as its cannon. When the colonists drooped he revived them with a CRISIS.” This publication possessed much of the same kind of excellence which marked his COMMON SENSE; yet, considering that the people had now become fully familiarized with the idea of revolution, and that the boldness of manner and daring novelty of design which had so effectually awakened the public attention to his former production, must have now lost no small part of their power of exciting interest or curiosity, it is not a little surprizing that their influence upon the community should have been so great. Perhaps it may be accounted for from this circumstance, that the popular mind at that time unaccustomed to this sort of political appeal, which has since become so frequent as to deaden all sensibility to it, was then in a state to receive a very high degree of excitement from a stimulus which in its present comparative apathy and exhaustion would scarcely be felt: upon the same principle that the effect of music, eloquence, and poetry is most powerful among the rudest nations. As a reward for the service thus rendered by his pen he was, in 1777, appointed by congress secretary to the committee of foreign affairs, a sort of under clerkship, at a low salary, but from which he afterwards sought to derive some degree of consequence by dignifying it with the title of secretary of foreign affairs. In this station he continued for nearly two years, when he was forced to resign his employment in consequence of a breach of his official oath of secresy-a very wanton violation of duty; to which he seems to have had no higher inducement than the idle desire of gratifying his vanity by a newspaper triumph. He supported bimself for some time first as a clerk to a merchant of Philadelphia, and afterwards to the assembly of Pennsylvania, still continuing his Crisis with unabated zeal and power of popular persuasion until 1781, when a mission was despatched to France for the purpose of obtaining a loan, and Paine was selected by colonel Laurens, the envoy, to accompany him as a kind of unofficial secretary. The whole merit of