« EdellinenJatka »
tracts with foreign officers, recalled him. He returned, bringing with him a claim of Beaumarchais for the cargoes already shipped to the United States. As Deane could produce no vouchers, and Arthur Lee had cautioned Congress against his demands, the claim was laid on the table until the vouchers should be presented. Deane, confiding in the support of his numerous friends, appealed to the public in a newspaper. Congress bore this indignity so amiably,—refusing, indeed, by a small majority to take notice of it,- that Henry Laurens, the president, who had laid Deane's appeal before them for their action, resigned in disgust, and was succeeded by John Jay. But Paine, whose position as Foreign Secretary enabled him to know that the supplies had come from the French government, and not from Beaumarchais, answered Deane in several newspaper articles, entitled, "Common Sense to the Public on Mr. Deane's Affairs." In these he exposed the whole claim with his usual unmitigated directness. M. Gérard immediately announced officially that Paine's papers were false, and called upon Congress to declare them so and to pay the claim. Party feeling ran high on this question,- a foreshadowing of the French and English factions fifteen years later. Congress passed a resolution in censure of Paine. Mr. Laurens moved that he be heard in his defence; the motion was lost, and Paine resigned his office. A motion from the Deane party to refuse his resignation and to discharge him was also lost,-the Northern States voting generally in Paine's fa
rect in his facts, however injudicious it may have been to use them in his position. Deane's best friends gave him up, before many years had passed. M. de Loménie, in his interesting sketch of Beaumarchais, has tried hard to show the justice of his demands on the United States, but without much success. He does not attempt to explain how Beaumarchais, notoriously penniless in 1775, should have had in 1777 a good claim for three millions' worth of goods furnished. The American public looked upon Paine as a victim to state policy, and his position with his friends did not suffer at all in consequence of his disclosures. Personally, he exulted in his conduct to the end of his life, and took pleasure in watching and recording Deane's disreputable career and miserable end. "As he rose like a rocket, so he fell like the stick," a metaphor which has passed into a proverb, was imagined by Paine to meet Deane's case.* The immediate consequence of Paine's resignation was to oblige him to hire himself out as clerk to an attorney in Philadelphia. In his office,
*This Beaumarchais claim was kept alive until the beginning of the present generation. In 1794, Gouverneur Morris, Minister to the French Republic, obtained from the Minister of Finance a receipt to the Crown for a million of francs, signed by Beaumarchais, and sent it home to meet the claim which had again been presented. In 1806 it reappeared, urged by the Imperial Ambassador. In 1816, the Duc de Richelieu, minister of Louis XVIII., sustained it, and declared, on the strength of Gérard's assertions, that the million receipt did not in any way concern the United States. In 1824, the daughter of Beaumarchais came to this country to solicit Congress in person, with no better success. at last, in 1835, when our claim of twenty-five millions on France was settled, eight hundred thousand francs were allowed to the heirs of Beaumarchais, and the business closed forever, not creditably to us. The claim was probably unfounded; but our government admitted its validity by the fact of payment; and the money, if due, ought to have been paid forty years before, or a suitable compensation made for the long delay. To be Liberals in borrowing and Conservatives in repayment is not a desirable financial character for a nation to obtain.
Paine earned his daily bread by copying law-papers until he was appointed clerk to the Assembly of Pennsylvania.
Early in May, 1780, while the Assembly of Pennsylvania was receiving petitions from all parts of the State, praying for exemption from taxes, a letter was brought to the speaker from General Washington, and read to the House by Paine as clerk. It stated simply that the army was in the utmost distress from the want of every necessary which men could need and yet retain life; and that the symptoms of discontent and mutiny were so marked that the General dreaded the event of every hour. "When the letter was read," says Paine, "I observed a despairing silence in the House. Nobody spoke for a considerable time. At length a member, of whose fortitude I had a high opinion, rose. 'If,' said he, 'the account in that letter is true, and we are in the situation there represented, it appears to me in vain to contend the matter any longer. We may as well give up first as last. A more cheerful member endeavored to dissipate the gloom of the House, and moved an adjournment, which was carried." Paine, who knew that the Assembly had neither money nor credit, felt that the voluntary aid of individuals could alone be relied upon in this conjuncture. He accordingly wrote a letter to a friend in Philadelphia, a man of influence, explaining the urgency of affairs, and inclosed five hundred dollars, the amount of the salary due him as clerk, as his contribution towards a relief fund. The Philadelphian called a meeting at the coffee-house, read Paine's communication, and proposed a subscription, heading the list with two hundred pounds in good money. Mr. Robert Morris put his name down for the same sum. Three hundred thousand pounds, Pennsylvania currency, were raised; and it was resolved to establish a bank with the fund for the relief of the army. This plan was carried out with the best results. After Morris was appointed Superintendent of Finances, he developed it into the Bank of North America, which was incorporat
ed both by act of Congress and by the State of Pennsylvania. Paine followed up his letter by a "Crisis Extraordinary." Admitting that the war costs the Colonists à very large sum, he shows that it is trifling, compared with the burdens the English have to bear. For this reason it would be less expensive for the Americans to raise almost any amount to drive the English out than to submit to them and come under their system of taxation.
Our ancestors read the "Crisis Extraordinary," and understood every word of it, we may be sure. Paine's lucidity of statement is never more remarkable than when he handles financial questions. But conviction did not work its way down to the pocket. Few men gave who could avoid it, and each State appeared more fearful of paying, by accident, a larger sum than its neighbor, than of the success of the British arms. Congress, finding it at last almost impossible to get money or even provisions at home, resolved to resort again to the financial expedient which has proved so often profitable to this country, namely, to borrow in Europe. Colonel Laurens, son of the late President of Congress, was appointed commissioner to negotiate an annual loan from France of a million sterling during the continuation of the war. Paine accompanied him at his request. They sailed in February, 1781, and were graciously received by King Louis, who promised them six millions of livres as a present and ten millions as a loan. In little more than ten years, the American secretary, who stands respectfully and unnoticed in the presence of his Majesty of France, will sit as one of his judges in a trial for life! Is there anything more wonderful in the transmutations of fiction than this? Meanwhile, the future member of the Convention, as little dreaming of what was in store for him as the King, sailed for Boston with his principal. They carried with them two millions and a half in silver,—a great help to Washington in the movement southward, which ended with the capitulation of Yorktown. While
in Paris, Paine was again seized with the desire of invading England, incognito, with a pamphlet in his pocket, to open the eyes of the people. But Colonel Laurens thought no better of this scheme than General Greene, and brought his secretary safely home again.
Cornwallis had surrendered, and it was evident that the war could not last much longer. The danger past, the Colonial aversion to pay Union expenses and to obey the orders of Congress became daily stronger. The want of a "Crisis," as a corrective medicine for the body politic, was so much felt, that Robert Morris, with the knowledge and approbation of Washington, requested Paine to take pen in hand again, offering him, if his private affairs made it necessary, a salary for his services. Paine consented. A "Crisis" appeared which produced a most salutary effect.
This was followed a few days later by another, in which a passage occurs which may be quoted as a specimen of Paine's rhetorical powers. A rumor was abroad that England was treating with France for a separate peace. Paine finds it impossible to express his contempt for the baseness of the ministry who could attempt to sow dissension between such faithful allies. "We sometimes experience sensations to which language is not equal. The conception is too bulky to be born alive, and in the torture of thinking we stand dumb. Our feelings, imprisoned by their magnitude, find no way out; and in the struggle of expression every finger tries to be a tongue." It will be difficult to describe better the struggle of an indignant soul with an insufficient vocabulary.
When peace was proclaimed, Paine, the untiring advocate of independence, had a right to print his "Io Paan." The last" Crisis" announces, "that the times that tried men's souls were over, and the greatest and completest revolution the world ever knew gloriously and happily accomplished." "America need never be ashamed to tell her birth, nor relate the stages by which she rose to empire." But it is to the future he bids her look,
rather than to the past. brance of what is past, if it operates rightly, must inspire her with the most laudable of all ambition, that of adding to the fair fame she began with." "She is now descending to the scenes of quiet and domestic life,-not beneath the cypress shade of disappointment, but to enjoy in her own land and under her own vine the sweet of her labors and the reward of her toil. In this situation may she never forget that a fair national reputation is of as much importance as independence,-that it possesses a charm that wins upon the world, and makes even enemies civil,—that it gives a dignity which is often superior to power, and commands reverence where pomp and splendor fail." As indispensable to a future of prosper ity and dignity, he warmly recommends the Union. "I ever feel myself hurt," he says, "when I hear the Union, that great Palladium of our liberty and safety, the least irreverently spoken of. It is the most sacred thing in the Constitution of America, and that which every man should be most proud and tender of." Thus he anticipated by seventy-five years our "Union-savers" of 1856, few of whom dreamed that their pet phrases, or something very like them, originated with Thomas Paine.
The war left Paine no richer than it found him. He had made fame, but no money, by his writings. None of the proceeds of large editions had enriched his purse. He had an exalted ideal of an author's duty when his work is on political subjects. Louis Blanc has written somewhere, “Le journalisme est un sacerdoce." This seems to have been Paine's thought, although he may not have expressed it so sonorously, for there are no phrase-makers like the French. But Paine went, we suspect, much farther than Louis Blanc; for he held that the priest ought to take no pay for his ministrations. And he acted up to this unusual theory in literary ethics. If he took out a copyright, he gave it away to some public use. As he himself said, late in life," I could never reconcile it to my
principles to make money by my politics or my religion." "In a great affair, where the happiness of man is at stake, I love to work for nothing; and so fully am I under the influence of this principle, that I should lose the spirit, the pleasure, and the pride of it, were I conscious that I looked for reward."
His friends and admirers did not permit him to have the honor of giving not only his services, but his actual expenses, to the Republic. The State of New York presented him with a confiscated Royalist estate, near New Rochelle, three hundred acres of good land, with the necessary fences and buildings upon it. Pennsylvania voted him five hundred pounds, currency. And the Virginians were talking about making a similar donation, when an unlucky pamphlet from Paine appeared, demolishing the claim of Virginia to the Western country. This publication changed the views of the chivalry, and Paine lost his grant. He owned, besides, a small place in Bordentown,- a gift, we believe, of the State of New Jersey. The other nine States passed him over. New England had expended enough, both of men and means, for the cause,and the South had fine feelings, but no money.
In the autumn of 1783, when Paine was residing at Bordentown, he received a letter from Washington, who had fixed his quarters at Rocky Hill, near Princeton, until he could resign his command to Congress. It ran thus:
"I have learned, since I have been at this place, that you are at Bordentown,- whether for the sake of retirement or economy; be it for either or both, or whatever it may, I shall be exceedingly happy to see you here.
"Your presence may remind Congress of your past services to this country; and if it is in my power to impress them, command my best exertions with freedom, as they will be rendered cheerfully by one who entertains a lively sense of the importance of your works, and who, with much pleasure, subscribes himself "G. WASHINGTON."
Such a letter of hearty approval and respect, from the greatest man of the
country, perhaps of the age, (we Americans, at least, all think so,) rich, powerful, honored, is certainly a "handsome testimonial," worth writing or fighting for. It was not an empty offer of service. Washington spoke to several members of Congress in Paine's behalf, and told them that it would be pleasing to himself, as well as right and proper, to make a suitable provision for Paine. In 1785, Congress at last granted him three thousand dollars, much of which they fairly owed him for his loss on the depreciated currency in which his salary as Secretary had been paid. Paine accepted the General's invitation, and spent some time in his family, at Mrs. Berrian's, Rocky Hill. One evening of his visit was devoted to setting a neighboring creek on fire. This successful experiment, as performed by the Father of his Country, assisted by Thomas Paine, General Lincoln, and Colonel Cobb, is described in a tract on the Yellow Fever, written by Paine a few years before his death, at the request of Thomas Jeffer
Until the spring of 1787, Paine spent his time in Philadelphia or in Bordentown, writing occasionally on subjects which interested him, and indulging his taste for scientific speculations in the company of Franklin and Rittenhouse. He was a member of the American Philosophical Society, as well as an A. M. of the University of Philadelphia. His reputation, his wonderful memory, the shrewd originality of his remarks, made him a welcome guest in the best society. He was no talker or conversationist, (an excellent word we should like to see legitimated,) but a quiet, observing man, who spoke to the point, inoffensive in manner, and not unprepossessing in appearance. As one of the lions of the country, he was much looked at, especially by foreigners. We find a sketch of an interview with him in the Travels of the Chevalier de Chastellux. De Lafayette and himself requested permission to call "on that author so celebrated in America and in Europe by his excellent work entitled
'Common Sense."'" Colonel Laurens introduced them. "His physiognomy," the Chevalier thinks, "did not belie the spirit that reigns throughout his works. Our conversation was agreeable and animated, and such as to form a connection between us; for he has written to me since my departure, and seems desirous of maintaining a constant correspondence."
In common with most of the clever men of his day, Paine, as we have said, cultivated a taste for mechanics and natural science. There was an awakening of the mind, in physics as well as in politics, at that period; and it must be confessed that the natural philosophers have succeeded better than the constitution makers. Paine's mechanical hobby was an iron bridge. A single arch, of four hundred feet span, and twenty feet in height from the chord-line, was to be thrown over the Schuylkill, near Philadelphia. The idea was suggested to him by a spider's web, a section of which the bridge resembled; and the principle he worked upon was, that the small segment of a large circle was preferable to the
great segment of a small circle. Paine made a complete model of his bridge, in wrought iron and wood, at Bordentown; but, finding that the insufficiency of capital and of skill in the working of iron in America would prevent him froin carrying out his plan, he sailed for France to lay his model before the Académie des Sciences. Franklin, who always liked him, gave him letters to the celebrated Malesherbes, Le Roy, the Abbé Morellet, the Duke de la Rochefoucauld, introducing him "as an ingenious, honest man, author of Common Sense,' a famous piece, published here with great effect on the minds of people at the beginning of the Revolution." He had also a satisfactory credential from Congress, in the shape of the following resolution, adopted by that body in August, 1785:
"Resolved, That the early, unsolicited, and continued labors of Mr. Thomas Paine, in explaining and enforcing 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."
TRIAL TRIP OF THE "FLYING CLOUD."
"THROUGH in four days to San Francisco," repeated I. "Marvellous age!"
I hastily computed the distance by an air-line, and placed the speed of the craft at some thirty miles an hour. That seemed reasonable enough. Indeed, the whole statement cohered marvellously well; all the parts harmonized with each other and looked plausible, even reasonable, as I have said, except the grand fact itself, which was too momentous for belief. But why should it not be true? What new achievement of the human mind ought to startle one in this nineteenth century, after having witnessed the wonders of steam and electro-magnetism? I determined to sift the matter,
but immediately remembered that all the knowledge I had of it had been imparted to me in the strictest confidence. The ingenious inventors, as was clearly their right, had reserved it to themselves to choose the time and way of making their invention public, when it was to break on the world, some fine morning, like the discovery of a second moon performing its orbit round the earth. I sunk into a brown study.
In the evening, Mr. Bonflon called again, as he had promised. He brought with him a large roll of plans and drawings, for the purpose of illustrating more clearly the principles and method of construction and operation of his aerial ship.