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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 48

One of the Mainstays of Liberty

One of the Mainstays of Liberty

in this world. At one time he was an exciseman, like Burns. Burns was once—speak it softly—a gauger; and yet he wrote poems that will wet the cheek of humanity with tears as long as this world travels in its orb around the sun.

Poverty was his brother, necessity his master. He had more brains than books, more courage than politeness, more strength than polish. He had no veneration for old mistakes; no admiration for ancient lies. He loved the truth for truth's sake and for man's sake. He saw oppression on every hand, injustice everywhere, hypocrisy at the altar, venality on the bench, tyranny on the throne; and, with a splendid courage, he espoused the cause of the weak against the strong, of the enslaved man against the titled few.

In England he was nothing. He belonged to the lower classes—that is, the usual people. England depended for her prosperity upon her mechanics and her thinkers, her sailors and her workers; and they are the only men in Europe who are not gentlemen. The only obstacles in the way of progress in Europe were the nobility and the priests, and they are the only gentle-men.

This, and his native genius, constituted his entire capital; and he needed no more. He found the colonies clamouring for justice, whining about their grievances; upon their knees at the foot of the throne, imploring that mixture of idiotcy and insanity—George III., by the grace of God—for a restoration of their ancient privileges. They were not endeavouring to become free men, but were trying to soften the heart of their master. They were perfectly willing to make brick if Pharaoh would furnish the straw. The colonists wished for, hoped for, and prayed for reconciliation. They did not dream of independence.

Paine gave to the world his "Common Sense." It was the first argument for separation, the first assault upon the British form of government, the first blow for a republic; and it aroused our fathers like a trumpet's blast. He was the first to perceive the destiny of the New World. No other pamphlet ever accomplished such wonderful results. It was filled with arguments, reason, persuasion, and unanswerable logic. It opened a new world. It filled the present with hope and the future with honour. Everywhere the people responded, and in a few months the Continental Congress declared the colonies free and independent States.

A new nation was born.

It is simple justice to say that Paine did more to cause the Declaration of Independence than any other man. Neither should it be forgotten that his attacks upon Great Britain were also attacks upon monarchy; and while he convinced the people that the colonies ought to separate from the mother-country, he also proved to them that a free government is the best that can be instituted among men.

In my judgment, Thomas Paine was