Thomas Paine .... visit the
National Historical Association
Falmouth Packet Archives 1688-1850
Thomas PAINE (1736-1809)
1736: 29 January: Born at Thetford, Norfolk son of Joseph Paine (Quaker, farmer) and Frances Cocke
1756: Worked in London, in Hanover Street, Long Acre, with Mr. Morris, a noted stay-maker.
"I began my fortune, and entered on board the Terrible, Captain Death."
"I entered afterwards in the King of Prussia privateer, Captain Mendez, and went with her to sea."
1758: Staymaker at Dover
1759: Master stay-maker at Sandwich
1759: 27 September, married Mary Lambert, daughter of an exciseman of Sandwich, Kent.
1760: Moved with his wife to Margate. She died shortly after, and he returned to London.
1761: Applied to be an exciseman at Thetford. " Through the interest of Mr. Cocksedge, the recorder of Thetford, after fourteen months of study, he was established as a supernumerary in the excise, at the age of twenty-five."
1768: Exciseman at Lewes, in Sussex.
1771: 26 March, married Elizabeth Olive, daughter of (late) tobacconist in Lewes, which trade he entered carried on.
1772 Paine was solicited to draw up the excisemen's case. (4000 copies were printed by Mr. William Lee, of Lewes)
"The Case of the Salary of the Officers of Excise, and Thoughts on the Corruption Arising from the Poverty of Excise Officers."
April) "The goods of his shop were sold to pay his debts. As a grocer, he trafficked in excisable articles, and being suspected of unfair practices, was dismissed the excise after being in it twelve years. Whether this reason was a just one or not never was ascertained; it was, however, the ostensible one. Mr. Paine might perhaps have been in the habit of smuggling
, in common with his neighbors. It was the universal custom along the coast, and more or less the practise of all ranks of people
, from lords and ladies, ministers and magistrates, down to the cottager and laborer."
Toward the end of the year, he was strongly recommended to the great and good Dr. Franklin
, "the favor of whose friendship," he says, "I possessed in England and my introduction to this part of the world [America] was through his patronage."
1775: In May, Mr. Paine and his wife separated by mutual agreement.
1775: Arrived in Philadelphia in the winter, a few months before the battle of Lexington, which was fought in April, 1775.
Employed by Mr. Aitken, a book-seller, as editor of the Pennsylvanian Magazine; His first edition was dated January 24, 1775
In response to a blockade on gunpowder, he proposed, in the Pennsylvanian Journal, November 2, 1775, the plan of a Saltpeter Association for voluntarily supplying the national magazines with gunpowder.
1776: 10 January, Paine published the celebrated and powerfully discriminating pamphlet, "Common Sense."
"This pamphlet of forty octavo pages, holding out relief by proposing independence to an oppressed and despairing people, speaking a language which the colonists had felt, but not thought of. Its popularity, terrible in its consequences to the parent country, was unexampled in the history of the press."
1776: Paine accompanied the army with General Washington, and was with him in his retreat from the Hudson River to the Delaware
On the 19 December, Paine published "The Crisis," a work he continued at various intervals until the Revolution was established. The last number appeared on 19 April 1783, the same day a cessation of hostilities was proclaimed.
1777: Congress unanimously, and unknown to Mr. Paine, appointed him Secretary in the Foreign Department, from whence a close friendship continued between him and Dr. Franklin.
1779: 8 January, Paine resigned his secretaryship, and declined, at the same time, the pecuniary offers made him by the ministers of France and Spain, M. Gérard and Don Juan Mirralles. "I prevented [Silas] Deane's fraudulent demand being paid, and so far the country is obliged to me, but I became the victim of my integrity."
1781: (February) Paine accompanied Colonel Laurens on a mission to France in order to obtain a loan.
They obtained a loan of ten millions of livres and a present of six millions, and returned to America in August with two millions and a half in silver.
1782: In August, he published his spirited letter to the Abbé Raynal
1782: (29 October) His letter to the Earl of Shelburne, on his speech in the House of Lords, July 10, 1782, included;
"When Great Britain acknowledges American independence the sun of Britain's glory is set forever."
1785: Congress granted Mr. Paine three thousand dollars for his services to the people of America
"Resolved, That the early, unsolicited, and continued labors of Mr. Thomas Paine, in explaining the principles of the late Revolution, by ingenious and timely publications upon the nature of liberty and civil government, have been well received by the citizens of these states, and merit the approbation of Congress; and that in consideration of these services, and the benefits produced thereby, Mr. Paine is entitled to a liberal gratification from the United States."
1786: Paine published in Philadelphia "Dissertation on Government, the Affairs of the Bank, and Paper Money," 64-page pamphlet.
1787: After the establishment of the independence of America, Paine embarked for France, and arrived in Paris early in 1787, carrying with him his fame as a literary man, an acute philosopher, and most profound politician.
1787: (3 September) From Paris he arrived in England, just thirteen years after his departure for Philadelphia. He hastened to Thetford to visit his mother, on whom he settled an allowance of nine shillings a week.
1788: Mr. Paine resided at Rotherham in Yorkshire during part of the year, where an iron bridge upon the principle he had invented and laid before the Academy of Science was cast and erected.
(More or less upon which plan of Mr. Paine's, different iron bridges in Europe have been constructed
1791: Paine's "Rights of Man" which he finished in Versailles, was published in London in February, 1791.
1791: (May) Paine went again to France and was at Paris at the time of the flight of the King, and also on his return.
"You see the absurdity of your system of government; here will be a whole nation disturbed by the folly of one man."
1791: On 13 July, he returned to London, but did not attend the celebration of the anniversary of the French Revolution the following day
1792: (February) Paine published the second part of "Rights of Man"
" Never had any work so rapid and extensive a sale; Near a million and a half of copies were printed and published in England.
"Mr. Paine resided in London, principally with me, till the twelfth of September, 1792, when he sailed for France with Mr. Achilles Audibert, who came express from the French Convention to my house to request his personal assistance in their deliberations. On his arrival at Calais a public dinner was provided, a royal salute was fired from the battery, the troops were drawn out, and there was a general rejoicing throughout the town. He has often been heard to remark that the proudest moment of his life was that in which, on this occasion, he set foot upon the Gallic shore."
"In his own country he had been infamously treated, and at the time of his quitting Dover most rudely dealt with both by the officers who ransacked his trunks, and a set of hirelings who were employed to hiss, hoot and maltreat, and it is strongly suspected, to destroy him.
It depressed him to think that his endeavors to cleanse the Augæan stable of corruption in England should have been so little understood, or so ill appreciated as to subject him to such ignominious, such cowardly treatment. Yet seven hours after this, those very endeavors obtained him an honorable reception in France, and on his landing he was respectfully escorted, amidst the loud plaudits of the multitude, to the house of his friend, Mr. Audibert, the chief magistrate of the place, where he was visited by the commandant and all the municipal officers in form, who afterwards gave him a sumptuous entertainment in the town hall."
The London Gazette, published by authority, from Saturday, May 19th, to Tuesday, May 22nd.
"By the King, a Proclamation."
"Whereas, Divers wicked and seditious writings have been printed, published, and industriously dispersed, tending to excite tumult and disorder, by endeavoring to raise groundless jealousies and discontents in the minds of our faithful and loving subjects respecting the laws and happy constitution of government, civil and religious, established in this kingdom, and endeavoring to vilify, and bring into contempt, the wise and wholesome provisions made at the time of the glorious Revolution, and since strengthened and confirmed by subsequent laws for the preservation and security of the rights and liberties of our faithful and loving subjects: and whereas divers writings have also been printed, published, and industriously dispersed, recommending the said wicked and seditious publications to the attention of all our faithful and loving subjects: "And whereas we have also reason to believe that correspondencies have been entered into with sundry persons in foreign parts with a view to forward the criminal and wicked purposes above mentioned [sedition]. .. George R
Soon after this, Mr. Paine's excellent "Letters" to Lord Onslow, to Mr. Dundas, and the Sheriff of Sussex were published.
Mr. Paine's trial for the second part of "Rights of Man" took place on the eighteenth of December, 1792, and he being found guilty, the booksellers and publishers who were taken up and imprisoned previously to this trial forbore to stand one themselves, and suffered judgment to go by default, for which they received the sentence of three years' imprisonment each. Of these booksellers and publishers I was one, but by flying to France I eluded this merciful sentence.
It was impossible not to dwell on the absurdity of trial by jury in matters of opinion. So ludicrously did this strike Mr. Paine that his frequent toast was, "The best way of advertising good books -- by prosecution."
Mr. Paine was acknowledged deputy for Calais on September 21st, 1792. In France, during the early part of the Revolution, his time was almost wholly occupied as a deputy of the Convention and as a member of the Committee of Constitution.
1793: Paine retired to the Faubourg St. Denis, where he occupied part of the hotel that Madame de Pompadour once resided in.
Here was a good garden well laid out, and here, too, our mutual friend, Mr. Choppin, occupied apartments: at this residence, which for a town one was very quiet. Here, with a chosen few, he unbent himself; among whom were Brissot, the Marquis de Chatelet le Roi, of the galerie de honore, and an old friend of Dr. Franklin's, Bançal, and sometimes General Miranda.
After breakfast he usually strayed an hour or two in the garden, where he one morning pointed out the kind of spider whose web furnished him with the first idea of constructing his iron bridge; a fine model of which, in mahogany, is preserved at Paris.
Incorrupt, straightforward and sincere, he pursued his political course in France.
He often lamented we had no good history of America, and that the letters written by Columbus, the early navigators, and others, to the Spanish Court, were inaccessible, and that many valuable documents, collected by Philip II, and deposited with the national archives at Simania, had not yet been promulgated.
It is unfortunate for mankind that Mr. Paine by imprisonment [Luxembourg 1794] and the loss of his invaluable papers, was prevented giving the best, most candid, and philosophical account of these times. These papers contained the history of the French Revolution, and were no doubt a most correct, discriminating, and enlightened detail of the events of that important era.
Of Mr. Paine's arrest by Robespierre and his imprisonment, etc., we cannot be so well in formed as by himself in his own affecting and interesting letters. While Mr. Paine was in prison he wrote much of his "Age of Reason"
Thomas Paine was suspected of having checked the aspiring light of the public mind by opinions not suitable to the state France was in. He was for confiding more to the pen, and doubting the effect of the guillotine.Robespierre said, "that method would do with such a country as America, but could avail nothing in one highly corrupted like France."
After his liberation he found a friendly asylum at the American Minister's house, Mr. Monroe, and for some years before Mr. Paine left Paris, he lodged at M. Bonneville's, associating occasionally with the great men of the day, Condorcet, Volney, Mercier, Joel Barlow, etc., etc., and sometimes dining-with Bonaparte and his generals.* He now indulged his mechanical turn and amused himself in bridge and ship modeling,
"These models," says a correspondent of that time, "exhibit an extraordinary degree not only of skill but of taste in mechanics, and are wrought with extreme delicacy entirely by his own hands. The largest of these, the model of a bridge, is nearly four feet in length: the iron-works, the chains, and every other article belonging to it were forged and manufactured by himself. It is intended as a model of a bridge which is to be constructed across the Delaware, extending 480 feet with only one arch. The other is to be erected over a narrower river, whose name I forget, and is likewise a single arch, and of his own workmanship excepting the chains, which instead of iron are cut out of pasteboard. He was offered £3,000 for these models and refused it. He also forged himself the model of a crane of a new description, which when put together exhibited the power of the lever to a most surprising degree."
1802: Wearied with the direction things took in France, which he used to say, was "the promised land, but not the land of promise," he had long sighed for his own dear America."It is," he would say, "the country of my heart and the place of my political and literary birth. It was the American Revolution made me an author, and forced into action the mind that had been dormant and had no wish for public life, nor has it now."
Mr. Paine made many efforts to cross the Atlantic, but they were ineffectual.
In July, 1802, Mr. Jefferson, the then President of America, in a letter to Mr. Paine writes thus:
"You express a wish in your letter to return to America by a national ship."
"Mr. Dawson, who brings over the treaty, and who will present you this letter, is charged with orders to the captain of the Maryland, to receive and accommodate you back if you can be ready to return at such a short warning. You will in general find us returned to sentiments worthy of former times; in these it will be your glory to have steadily labored, and with as much effect as any man living. That you may live long to continue your useful labors, and reap the reward in the thankfulness of nations, is my sincere prayer. Accept the assurance of my high esteem and affectionate attachment.
"Thomas Jefferson." Washington, July, 1802.
By the Maryland, as Mr. Paine states, he did not go; and it was not till the first of September, 1802, after spending some time with him at Havre de Grace, that I took leave of him on his departure for America, in a ship named the London Pacquet, just ten years after his leaving my house in London.
1804: These letters, under the care of Mr. Monroe, he sent me in 1804.
"My dear Friend, [Thomas Clio Rickman]
Mr. Monroe, who is appointed Minister Extraordinary to France, takes charge of this, to be delivered to Mr. Este, banker in Paris, to be forwarded to you.
I arrived at Baltimore, thirtieth of October, and you can have no idea of the agitation which my arrival occasioned. From New Hampshire to Georgia (an extent of 1,500 miles) every newspaper was filled with applause or abuse.
My property in this country has been taken care of by my friends, and is now worth six thousand pounds sterling; which put in the funds will bring me £400 sterling a year.
Remember me in friendship and affection to your wife and family, and in the circle of our friends.
I am but just arrived here, and the Minister sails in a few hours, so that I have just time to write you this. If he should not sail this tide I will write to my good friend Colonel Bosville, but in any case I request you to wait on him for me.
Yours in friendship,
From this period to the time of his death, which was the ninth of June, 1809, Mr. Paine lived principally at New York, and on his estate at New Rochelle, publishing occasionally some excellent things in the Aurora newspaper, also "An Essay on the Invasion of England," "On the Yellow Fever," "On Gun-Boats, etc., etc.," and in 1807, "An Examination of the Passages in the New Testament, Quoted from the Old, and Called Prophecies Concerning Jesus Christ, etc."
In the course of Mr. Paine's life, he was often reminded of a reply he once made to this observation of Dr. Franklin's, "Where liberty is, there is my country:" Mr. Paine's retort was, "Where liberty is not, there is my country." And, unfortunately, he had occasion for many years in Europe to realize the truth of his axiom.
He wished to be interred in the Quakers' burying ground, and on this subject he requested to see Mr. Willet Hicks, a member of the Society, who called on him in consequence. Mr. Paine, after the usual salutations, said, "As I am going to leave one place it is necessary to provide another; I am now in my seventy-third year, and do not expect to live long; I wish to be buried in your burying ground."
He said his father was a Quaker, and that he thought better of the principles of that Society than any other, and approved their mode of burial. This request of Mr. Paine was refused, very much to the discredit of those who did so; and as the Quakers are not unused to grant such indulgences, in this case it seemed to arise from very little and unworthy motives and prejudices on the part of those who complied not with this earnest and unassuming solicitation.The above named Quaker in a conversation of a serious nature with Mr. Paine, a short time before his death, was assured by him that his sentiments respecting the Christian religion were now precisely the same as when he wrote the "Age of Reason."
About the fourth of May, symptoms of approaching dissolution became very evident to himself, and he soon fell off his milk-punch, and became too infirm to take anything; complaining of much bodily pain.
On the eighth of June, 1809, about nine in the morning, he placidly, and almost without a struggle, died, as he had lived, a Deist
[see Benjamin Franklin]. To a rational man it should seem that a Deist, if he be so from principle, and he is as likely to be so as any other religionist, is no more to be expected to renounce his principles on his deathbed or to abandon his belief at that moment, than the Christian, the Jew, the Mahometan, or any other religionist. In contemplating the immense works of God, "the creation" is the only book of revelation in which the Deist can believe; and his religion consists in contemplating the power, wisdom, and benignity of God in His glorious works, and endeavoring to imitate Him in everything moral, scientific and mechanical. It cannot be urged too strongly, so much wrongheadedness if not wrongheartedness is there on this subject, that the religion of the Deist no more precludes the blessed hope of salvation than that of the Christian or of any other religion.That Mr. Paine's religious belief had been long established and was with him a deep-rooted principle, may be seen by his conduct when imprisoned and extremely ill in the Luxembourg prison
. [see Age of Reason,
Paine was aged seventy-two years and five months. At nine of the clock in the forenoon of the ninth of June, the day after his decease, he was taken from his house at Greenwich, attended by seven persons, to New Rochelle; where he was afterwards interred on his own farm. A stone has been placed at the head of his grave according to the direction in his will, with the following inscription:
Died June 8,1809, Aged 72 Years and 5 Months.
* "He [Thomas Paine] was my inmate, the most of my associates were frequently his"
"It is better not to believe in a God than to believe unworthily of Him"
qf. Thomas Clio Rickman
References to Paine and the Falmouth Packets
During the war, in the latter end of the year 1780, I formed to myself a design of coming over to England, and communicated it to General Greene, who was then in Philadelphia on his route to the southward, General Washington being then at too great a distance to communicate with immediately. I was strongly impressed with the idea that if I could get over to England without being known, and only remain in safety till I could get out a publication, that I could open the eyes of the country with respect to the madness and stupidity of its Government. I saw that the parties in Parliament had pitted themselves as far as they could go, and could make no new impressions on each other. General Greene entered fully into my views, but the affair of Arnold and Andre happening just after, he changed his mind, under strong apprehensions for my safety, wrote very pressingly to me from Annapolis, in Maryland, to give up the design, which, with some reluctance, I did.
Soon after this I accompanied Colonel Lawrens, son of Mr. Lawrens, who was then in the Tower, to France on business from Congress. We landed at L'Orient, and while I remained there, he being gone forward, a circumstance occurred that renewed my former design.
An English packet from Falmouth to New York, with the Government dispatches on board, was brought into L'Orient.
That a packet should be taken is no extraordinary thing, but that the dispatches should be taken with it will scarcely be credited, as they are always slung at the cabin window in a bag loaded with cannon-ball, and ready to be sunk at a moment. The fact, however, is as I have stated it, for the dispatches came into my hands, and I read them.
The capture, as I was informed, succeeded by the following stratagem:- The captain of the "Madame" privateer, who spoke English, on coming up with the packet, passed himself for the captain of an English frigate, and invited the captain of the packet on board, which, when done, he sent some of his own hands back, and he secured the mail. But be the circumstance of the capture what it may, I speak with certainty as to the Government dispatches. They were sent up to Paris to Count Vergennes, and when Colonel Lawrens and myself returned to America we took the originals to Congress.
By these dispatches I saw into the stupidity of the English Cabinet far more than I otherwise could have done, and I renewed my former design. But Colonel Lawrens was so unwilling to return alone, more especially as, among other matters, we had a charge of upwards of two hundred thousand pounds sterling in money, that I gave in to his wishes, and finally gave up my plan. But I am now certain that if I could have executed it that it would not have been altogether unsuccessful.
[qf The Rights of Man : Footnotes THOMAS PAINE AUTHORS NOTES The Avalon Project
, Yale Law School]
Note: See also Benjamin Franklin
- ordering the French to seize mails from the Dover - Calais packet, on the pretext of suspected smuggling, which were brought for him to open and inspect .... (a treasonable act, surely!)