Quotes by Thomas Paine

Our favorites:

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

“Reason obeys itself; and ignorance submits to whatever is dictated to it.”

“Freedom had been hunted round the globe; reason was considered as rebellion; and the slavery of fear had made men afraid to think. But such is the irresistible nature of truth, that all it asks, and all it wants, is the liberty of appearing.” – Rights of Man, 1791

“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.” – Dissertation on First Principles of Government, December 23, 1791

“If there must be trouble, let it be in my day, that my child may have peace.” – The American Crisis, No. 1, December 19, 1776

“We have it in our power to begin the world over again.” – Common Sense, 1776

“These are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value. Heaven knows how to put a proper price upon its goods; and it would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as freedom should not be highly rated.” – The Crisis No. I (written 19 December 1776, published 23 December 1776)

“O! ye that love mankind! Ye that dare oppose not only tyranny but the tyrant, stand forth! Every spot of the Old World is overrun with oppression. Freedom hath been hunted round the globe. Asia and Africa have long expelled her. Europe regards her like a stranger and England hath given her warning to depart. O! receive the fugitive and prepare in time an asylum for mankind.”

And some other amazing words of wisdom from Paine:

    Rights of Man, [1]

  • Man has no property in man; neither has any generation a property in the generations which are to follow.”
    p.55
  • “That which may be thought right and found convenient in one age, may be thought wrong and found inconvenient in another. In such cases, who is to decide, the living, or the dead?” p.58
  • “If the crimes of men were exhibited with their sufferings, the stage effect would sometimes be lost, and the audience would be inclined to approve where it was intended they should commiserate.” p.72
  • “[M]en are all of one degree and consequently that all men are born equal, and with equal natural rights, in the same manner as if posterity had been continued by creation instead of generation, the latter being only the mode by which the former is carried forward; …” p.78
  • “Man did not enter into society to become worse than he was before, nor to have fewer rights than he had before, but to have those rights better secured. His natural rights are the foundation of all his civil rights.” p.79
  • “Natural rights are those which appertain to man in right of his existence. Of this kind are all the intellectual rights, or rights of the mind, and also those rights of acting as an individual for his own comfort and happiness, which are not injurious to the natural rights of others.” pp.79-80
  • “Civil rights are those which appertain to man in right of his being a member of society.” p.80
  • “Every civil right has for its foundation some natural right pre-existing in the individual, but to the enjoyment of which his individual power is not, in all cases, sufficiently competent. Of this kind are all those which relate to security and protection.” p.80
  • “[A] generous parent should have said, ‘If there must be trouble let it be in my day, that my child may have peace;’ The right of reform is in the nation in its original character, and the constitutional method be by a general convention elected for the purpose. There is, moreover, a paradox in the idea of vitiated bodies reforming themselves.” p.84
  • “War is the common harvest of all those who participate in the division and expenditure of public money, in all countries.” p.87
  • “[War] is the art of conquering at home: the object of it is an increase of revenue; and as revenue cannot be increased without taxes, a pretense must be made for expenditures.” pp.87-88
  • “[T]here is an unusual unfitness in an aristocracy to be legislators for a nation. Their ideas of distributive justice are corrupted at the very source.” p.93
  • “[I]gnorance, neglect, or contempt of human rights, are the sole causes of public misfortunes and corruptions of government.” p.117
  • “Reason and ignorance, the opposites of each other, influence the great bulk of mankind. If either of these can be rendered sufficiently extensive in a country, the machinery of government goes easily on. Reason obeys itself; and ignorance submits to whatever is dictated to it.” p.142
  • “If a law be bad, it is one thing to oppose the practice of it, but it is quite a different thing to expose its errors, to reason on its defects, and to show cause why it should be repealed, or why another ought to be substituted in its place. I have always held it an opinion (making it also my practice) that it is better to obey a bad law, making use at the same time of every argument to show its errors and procure its repeal, than forcibly to violate it; because the precedent of breaking a bad law might weaken the force, and lead to a discretionary violation of those which are good.” p.155
  • “Mankind are not now to be told they shall not think, or they shall not read; and publications that go no farther than to investigate principles of government, to invite men to reflect, and to show the errors and excellences of different systems, have a right to appear.” p.156
  • “[S]uch is the irresistible nature of truth, that all it asks, and all it wants, is the liberty of appearing.” p.158
  • “The mutual dependence and reciprocal interest which man has upon man, and all parts of a civilized community upon each other, create that great chain of connection which holds it together. The landholder, the farmer, the manufacturer, the merchant, the tradesman, and every occupation, prospers by the aid which each receives from the other, and from the whole. Common interest regulates their concerns, and forms their laws; and the laws which common usage ordains, have a greater influence then the laws of government. In fine, society performs for itself almost every thing which is ascribed to government.” p.161
  • The more perfect civilization is, the less occasion has it for government, because the more does it regulate its own affairs, and govern itself.” p.163
  • “Government is not a trade which any man or body of men has a right to set up and exercise for his own emolument, but is altogether a trust, in right of those by whom that trust is delegated, and by whom it is always resumable. It has of itself no rights; they are altogether duties.” p.183
  • “When it shall be said in any country in the world, ‘My poor are happy; neither ignorance nor distress is to be found among them; my jails are empty of prisoners, my streets of beggars; the aged are not in want, the taxes are not oppressive; the rational world is my friend, because I am a friend of its happiness’: — when these things can be said, then may that country boast of its constitution and its government.” p.250
  • “[T]he greatest forces that can be brought into the field of revolutions, are reason and common interest. Where these can have the opportunity of acting, opposition dies with fear, or crumbles away by conviction.” p.250
    Age of Reason, [2]

  • “As to the learning that any person gains from school education, it serves only, like a small capital, to put him in the way of beginning learning for himself afterwards. Every person of learning is finally his own teacher, the reason of which is, that principles, being of a distinct quality to circumstances, cannot be impressed upon the memory; their place of mental residence is the understanding, and they are never so lasting as when they begin by conception.” p.315
    Agrarian Justice

  • “Poverty … is a thing created by that which is called civilized life. It exists not in the natural state. On the other hand, the natural state is without those advantages which flow from agriculture, arts, science and manufactures.” p.337
  • “[N]o person ought to be in a worse condition when born under what is called a state of civilization, then he would have been had he been born in a state of nature, …” p.341
  • “It is not charity but a right — not bounty but justice, that I am pleading for. The present state of civilization is as odious as it is unjust. It is absolutely the opposite of what it should be, and it is necessary that a revolution should be made in it. The contrast of affluence and wretchedness continually meeting and offending the eye, is like dead and living bodies chained together. Though I care as little about riches as any man, I am a friend to riches because they are capable of good.” p.346
    Crisis V

  • “If there is a sin superior to every other, it is that of witful and offensive war. Most other sins are circumscribed within narrow limits, that is, the power of one man cannot give them a very general extension, and many kinds of sins have only a mental existence from which no infection arises; but 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.” p.69

For more quotes from Thomas Paine, check out these websites:

www.cooperativeindividualism.org/painewisdom1.html

http://www.quotedb.com/authors/thomas-paine

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