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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 53

Did Thomas Paine Recant?

Did Thomas Paine Recant?

Mr. Paine had prophesied that fanatics would crawl and cringe around him during his last moments. He believed that they would put a lie in the mouth of death. When the shadow of the coming dissolution was upon him, two clergymen. Messrs. Milledollar and Cunningham, called to annoy the dying man. Mr. Cunningham had the politeness to say: "You have now a full view of death; you cannot live long; whoever does not believe in the Lord Jesus Christ will assuredly be damned." Mr. Paine replied: "Let me have none of your popish stuff. Get away with you. Good morning." On another occasion a Methodist minister obtruded himself, Mr. Willett Hicks was present. The minister declared to Mr. Paine that" unless he repented of his unbelief he would be damned." Paine, although at the door of death, rose in his bed and indignantly requested the clergyman to leave the room. On another occasion, two brothers by the name of Pigott sought to convert him. He was displeased and requested their departure. Afterward, Thomas Nixon and Captain Daniel Pelton visited him for the express purpose of ascertaining whether he had, in any manner, changed his religious opinions. They were assured by the dying man that he still held the principles he had expressed in his writings.

Afterward, these gentlemen, hearing that William Cobbett was about to write a life of Paine, sent him the following note:

I must tell you now that it is of great importance to find out whether Paine recanted. If he recanted then the Bible is true—you can rest assured that a spring of water gushed out of a dead dry bone. If Paine recanted page 13 there is not the slightest doubt about that donkey making that speech to Mr. Baalam—not the slightest; and if Paine did not recant, then the whole thing is a mistake. I want to show that Thomas Paine died as he had lived, a friend of man and without superstition, and if you will stay here I will do it.