Selected Writings of Thomas Paine

Selected Writings of Thomas Paine

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A central figure in Western history and American political thought, Thomas Paine continues to provoke debate among politicians, activists, and scholars. People of all ideological stripes are inspired by his trenchant defense of the rights and good sense of ordinary individuals, and his penetrating critiques of arbitrary power.

This volume contains Paine’s explosive Common Sense in its entirety, including the oft-ignored Appendix, as well as selections from his other major writings: The American Crisis, Rights of Man, and The Age of Reason. It also contains several of Paine’s shorter essays. All the documents have been transcribed directly from the originals, making this edition the most reliable one available. Essays by Ian Shapiro, Jonathan Clark, Jane Calvert, and Eileen Hunt Botting bring Paine into sharp focus, illuminating his place in the tumultuous decades surrounding the American and French Revolutions and his larger historical legacy.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780300167450
Publisher: Yale University Press
Publication date: 11/25/2014
Series: Rethinking the Western Tradition
Edition description: New Edition
Pages: 720
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.70(d)

About the Author

Jane E. Calvert is Associate Professor of History at the University of Kentucky and Director and Chief Editor of the John Dickinson Writings Project. Ian Shapiro is Sterling Professor of Political Science at Yale University, where he also serves as Henry R. Luce Director of the MacMillan Center for International and Area Studies.

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Selected Writings of Thomas Paine

By IAN SHAPIRO, Jane E. Calvert


Copyright © 2014 Ian Shapiro and Jane E. Calvert
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-300-21069-9


Thoughts on Defensive War.

COULD the peaceable principle of the Quakers be universally established, arms and the art of war would be wholly extirpated. But we live not in a world of angels. The reign of Satan is not ended; neither are we to expect to be defended by miracles. The pillar of the cloud existed only in the wilderness. In the nonage of the Israelites. It protected them in their retreat from Pharoah, while they were destitute of the natural means of defence, for they brought no arms from Egypt, but it neither fought their battles nor shielded them from dangers afterwards.

I am thus far a Quaker, that I would gladly agree with all the world to lay aside the use of arms, and settle matters by negociation; but unless the whole will, the matter ends, and I take up my musket and thank heaven he has put it in my power.

Whoever considers the unprincipled enemy we have to cope with, will not hesitate to declare that nothing but arms or miracles can reduce them to reason and moderation. They have lost sight of the limits of humanity. The portrait of a parent red with the blood of her children is a picture fit only for the gallaries of the infernals. From the House of Commons the troops of Britain have been exhorted to fight, not for the defence of their natural rights, not to repel the invasion or the insult of enemies; but on the vilest of all pretences, gold. "Ye fight for solid revenue" was vociferated in the House. Thus America must suffer because she has something to lose. Her crime is property. That which allures the highwayman has allured the ministry under a gentler name. But the position laid down, by Lord Sandwich, is a clear demonstration of the justice of defensive arms. The Americans, quoth this Quixotte of modern days, will not fight; therefore we will. His Lordship's plan when analized amounts to this. These people are either too superstitiously religious, or too cowardly for arms; they either cannot or dare not defend; their property is open to any one who has the courage to attack them. Send but your troops and the prize is ours. Kill a few and take the whole. Thus the peaceable part of mankind will be continually over run by the vile and abandoned, while they neglect the means of self defence. The supposed quietude of a good man allures the ruffian: while on the other hand, arms like laws discourage and keep the invader and the plunderer in awe, and preserve order in the world as well as property. The balance of power is the scale of peace. The same balance would be preserved were all the world destitute of arms, for all would be alike; but since some will not, others dare not lay them aside. And while a single nation refuses to lay them down, it is proper that all should keep them up. Horrid mischief would ensue were one half the world deprived of the use of them; for while avarice and ambition have a place in the heart of man, the weak will become a prey to the strong. The history of every age and nation establishes these truths, and facts need but little arguments when they prove themselves.

But there is a point to view this matter in of superior consequence to the defence of property; and that point is Liberty in all its meanings. In the barbarous ages of the world, men in general had no liberty. The strong governed the weak at will; 'till the coming of Christ there was no such thing as political freedom in any known part of the earth. The Jewish Kings were in point of government as absolute as the Pharoahs. Men were frequently put to death without trial at the will of the Sovereign. The Romans held the world in slavery, and were themselves the slaves of their emperors. The madman of Macedon governed by caprice and passion, and strided as arrogantly over the world as if he had made and peopled it; and it is needless to imagine that other nations at that time were more refined. Wherefore political as well as spiritual freedom is the gift of God through Christ. The second in the catalogue of blessings; and so intimately related, so sympathetically united with the first, that the one cannot be wounded without communicating an injury to the other. Political liberty is the visible pass, which guards the religious. It is the outwork by which the church militant is defended, and the attacks of the enemy are frequently made through this fortress. The same power which has established a restraining Port Bill in the Colonies, has established a restraining Protestant Church Bill in Canada.

I had the pleasure and advantage of hearing this matter wisely investigated, by a gentleman, in a sermon to one of the battalions of this city; and am fully convinced, that spiritual freedom is the root of political liberty.

First, Because till spiritual freedom was made manifest, political liberty did not exist.

Secondly, Because in proportion that spiritual freedom has been manifested, political liberty has encreased.

Thirdly, Whenever the visible church has been oppressed, political freedom has suffered with it. Read the history of Mary and the Stuarts. The popish world at this day by not knowing the full manifestation of spiritual freedom, enjoy but a shadow of political liberty. – Though I am unwilling to accuse the present government of popish principles, they cannot, I think, be clearly acquitted of popish practices; the facility with which they perceive the dark and ignorant are governed, in popish nations, will always be a temptation to the lovers of arbitrary power to adopt the same methods.

As the union between spiritual freedom and political liberty seems nearly inseperable, it is our duty to defend both. And defence in the first instance is best. The lives of hundreds of both countries had been preserved had America been in arms a year ago. Our enemies have mistaken our peace for cowardice, and supposing us unarmed have begun the attack.




On the following interesting


I. Of the Origin and Design of Government in general, with concise Remarks on the English Constitution.

II. Of Monarchy and Hereditary Succession.

III. Thoughts on the present State of American Affairs.

IV. Of the present Ability of America, with some miscellaneous Reflections.

A NEW EDITION, with several Additions in the Body of the Work. To which is added an APPENDIX; together with an Address to the People called QUAKERS.

N. B. The New Addition here given increases the Work upwards of one Third.

Man knows no Master save creating Heaven, Or those whom Choice and common Good ordain. THOMSON.


PERHAPS the sentiments contained in the following pages, are not yet sufficiently fashionable to procure them general favor; a long habit of not thinking a thing wrong, gives it a superficial appearance of being right, and raises at first a formidable outcry in defence of custom. But the tumult soon subsides. Time makes more converts than reason.

As a long and violent abuse of power, is generally the Means of calling the right of it in question (and in Matters too which might never have been thought of, had not the Sufferers been aggravated into the inquiry) and as the King of England hath undertaken in his own Right, to support the Parliament in what he calls Theirs, and as the good people of this country are grievously oppressed by the combination, they have an undoubted privilege to enquire into the pretensions of both, and equally to reject the usurpation of either.

In the following sheets, the author hath studiously avoided every thing which is personal among ourselves. Compliments as well as censure to individuals make no part thereof. The wise, and the worthy, need not the triumph of a pamphlet; and those whose sentiments are injudicious, or unfriendly, will cease of themselves unless too much pains are bestowed upon their conversion.

The cause of America is in a great measure the cause of all mankind. Many circumstances hath, and will arise, which are not local, but universal, and through which the principles of all Lovers of Mankind are affected, and in the Event of which, their Affections are interested. The laying a Country desolate with Fire and Sword, declaring War against the natural rights of all Mankind, and extirpating the Defenders thereof from the Face of the Earth, is the Concern of every Man to whom Nature hath given the Power of feeling; of which Class, regardless of Party Censure, is the


P. S. The Publication of this new Edition hath been delayed, with a View of taking notice (had it been necessary) of any Attempt to refute the Doctrine of Independance: As no Answer hath yet appeared, it is now presumed that none will, the Time needful for getting such a Performance ready for the Public being considerably past.

Who the Author of this Production is, is wholly unnecessary to the Public, as the Object for Attention is the Doctrine itself, not the Man. Yet it may not be unnecessary to say, That he is unconnected with any Party, and under no sort of Influence public or private, but the influence of reason and principle.

Philadelphia, February 14, 1776.

Common Sense.


SOME writers have so confounded society with government, as to leave little or no distinction between them; whereas they are not only different, but have different origins. Society is produced by our wants, and government by our wickedness; the former promotes our happiness positively by uniting our affections, the latter negatively by restraining our vices. The one encourages intercourse, the other creates distinctions. The first is a patron, the last a punisher.

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: for when we suffer, or are exposed to the same miseries by a government, which we might expect in a country without government, our calamity is heightened by reflecting that we furnish the means by which we suffer. Government, like dress, is the badge of lost innocence; the palaces of kings are built on the ruins of the bowers of paradise. For were the impulses of conscience clear, uniform, and irresistibly obeyed, man would need no other lawgiver; but that not being the case, he finds it necessary to surrender up a part of his property to furnish means for the protection of the rest; and this he is induced to do by the same prudence which in every other case advises him out of two evils to choose the least. Wherefore, 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 expence and greatest benefit, is preferable to all others.

In order to gain a clear and just idea of the design and end of government, let us suppose a small number of persons settled in some sequestered part of the earth, unconnected with the rest, they will then represent the first peopling of any country, or of the world. In this state of natural liberty, society will be their first thought. A thousand motives will excite them thereto, the strength of one man is so unequal to his wants, and his mind so unfitted for perpetual solitude, that he is soon obliged to seek assistance and relief of another, who in his turn requires the same. Four or five united would be able to raise a tolerable dwelling in the midst of a wilderness, but one man might labour out the common period of life without accomplishing any thing; when he had felled his timber he could not remove it, nor erect it after it was removed; hunger in the mean time would urge him from his work, and every different want call him a different way. Disease, nay even misfortune would be death, for though neither might be mortal, yet either would disable him from living, and reduce him to a state in which he might rather be said to perish than to die.

Thus necessity, like a gravitating power, would soon form our newly arrived emigrants into society, the reciprocal blessings of which, would supersede, and render the obligations of law and government unnecessary while they remained perfectly just to each other; but as nothing but heaven is impregnable to vice, it will unavoidably happen, that in proportion as they surmount the first difficulties of emigration, which bound them together in a common cause, they will begin to relax in their duty and attachment to each other; and this remissness, will point out the necessity, of establishing some form of government to supply the defect of moral virtue.

Some convenient tree will afford them a State-House, under the branches of which, the whole colony may assemble to deliberate on public matters. It is more than probable that their first laws will have the title only of Regulations, and be enforced by no other penalty than public disesteem. In this first parliament every man, by natural right, will have a seat.

But as the colony increases, the public concerns will increase likewise, and the distance at which the members may be separated, will render it too inconvenient for all of them to meet on every occasion as at first, when their number was small, their habitations near, and the public concerns few and trifling. This will point out the convenience of their consenting to leave the legislative part to be managed by a select number chosen from the whole body, who are supposed to have the same concerns at stake which those have who appointed them, and who will act in the same manner as the whole body would act were they present. If the colony continue increasing, it will become necessary to augment the number of the representatives, and that the interest of every part of the colony may be attended to, it will be found best to divide the whole into convenient parts, each part sending its proper number; and that the elected might never form to themselves an interest separate from the electors, prudence will point out the propriety of having elections often; because as the elected might by that means return and mix again with the general body of the electors in a few months, their fidelity to the public will be secured by the prudent reflexion of not making a rod for themselves. And as this frequent interchange will establish a common interest with every part of the community, they will mutually and naturally support each other, and on this (not on the unmeaning name of king) depends the strength of government, and the happiness of the governed.

Here then is the origin and rise of government; namely, a mode rendered necessary by the inability of moral virtue to govern the world; here too is the design and end of government, viz. freedom and security. And however our eyes may be dazzled with show, or our ears deceived by sound; however prejudice may warp our wills, or interest darken our understanding, the simple voice of nature and of reason will say, it is right.

I draw my idea of the form of government from a principle in nature, which no art can overturn, viz. that the more simple any thing is, the less liable it is to be disordered, and the easier repaired when disordered; and with this maxim in view, I offer a few remarks on the so much boasted constitution of England. That it was noble for the dark and slavish times in which it was erected, is granted. When the world was over run with tyranny the least remove therefrom was a glorious rescue. But that it is imperfect, subject to convulsions, and incapable of producing what it seems to promise, is easily demonstrated.


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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix

Introduction xi

Thomas Paine, America's First Public Intellectual Ian Shapiro xi

Note on the Texts xxxv


Thoughts on Defensive War (1775) 3

Common Sense; Addressed to the Inhabitants of America, on the Following Interesting Subjects (1776) 6

[Selections from] The Crisis: In Thirteen Numbers. Written During the Late War (1792) 53

To the People of America [A Supernumerary Crisis] (1783) 124

Dissertations on Government, the Affairs of the Bank, and Paper-Money (1786) 128

Rights of Man: Being an Answer to Mr. Burke's Attack on the French Revolution (1791) 172

Rights of Man. Part the Second. Combining Principle and Practice (1792) 262

Reasons for Wishing to Preserve the Life of Louis Capet. As Delivered to the National Convention (1793) 366

The Age of Reason, Being an Investigation of True and Fabulous Theology (1794) 372

The Age of Reason, Part the Second. Being an Investigation of True and of Fabulous Theology (1795) 418

Dissertation on First-Principles of Government (1795) 503

Letter to George Washington, President of the United States of America. On Affairs Public and Private (1796) 521

Agrarian Justice, Opposed to Agrarian Law, and to Agrarian Monopoly (1797) 552

Of the Religion of Deism Compared with the Christian Religion, and the Superiority of the Former over the Latter (1804) 568

Of the Term "Liberty of the Press" (1806) 575


Thomas Paine: The English Dimension J. C. D. Clark 579

Thomas Paine, Quakerism, and the Limits of Religious Liberty during the American Revolution Jane E. Calvert 602

Thomas Paine amidst the Early Feminists Eileen Hunt Batting 630

Index 655

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