Sivut kuvina
PDF
ePub

LIFE OF THOMAS PAINE.

The following memoirs of Mr. Paine, if they have no other merit, at least have that of being true.

Europe and America have for years been in possession of his works: these form the most important part of his life, and these are publicly sold and generally read; nor will the spirit of enquiry and sound reasoning, which the publication of them is so well calculated to promote, be long confined to any part of the world; for, to use his own words, "An army of prin"ciples will penetrate where an army of sol"diers cannot. It will succeed where diplo"matic management would fail. It is neither "the Rhine, the Channel, nor the Ocean, that "can arrest its progress. It will march on the "horizon of the world, and it will conquer."

B

"What manner of man" Mr. Paine was, his works will best exhibit, and from these his public, and much of his private character will be best ascertained. But, as solicitude about the life of a great man and an extraordinary writer is common to all, it is here attempted to be gratified.

The Life of Mr. Paine by Francis Oldys* was written seventeen years before Mr. Paine's death; and was, in fact, drawn up by a person employed by a certain lord, and who was to have five hundred pounds for the job, if he calumniated and belied him to his lordship's and the ministry's satisfaction.

A continuation of this Life, printed at Philadelphia in 1796, is in the same strain as the above, and equally contemptible.

• "The Life of Thomas Pain, the Author of Rights of "Man, with a Defence of his Writings, by Francis Oldys, "A. M. of the University of Pennsylvania : — Dublin "printed." This silly aud contemptible book against Mr. Paine and his writings, which was calculated every way to in? jure him and them, tells a falsehood in the title page, to secure its sale, by inserting in it, " with a Defence of his Writings."

[ocr errors]

A most vile and scandalous memoir of him, with the name of William Cobbett as the author, though we hope he was not so, appeared in London about the year 1795 with this motto:

"A life that's one continued scene
"Of all that's infamous and mean."

Mr. James Cheetham's Life of Mr. Paine, published at New York after Mr. Paine's death in 1809, is a farrago of still more silly, trifling, false, and malicious matter. It is an outrageous attack upon him which bears, upon the face of it, idle gossiping, and gross misrepresentation.

The critique on this Life, in the British Re-' view for June 1811, consists of more corrupt trash about Mr. Paine than even Cheetham's book, and is in its style inflated and bombastic to a laughable excess. Whence this came, and for what purposes published, the candid will readily discern, and cannot but lament the too frequent abuse, both by the tongue and by the pen, of characters entirely unknown to those

who libel them, and by whom, if they were known, they would be approved and esteemed.

Indeed the whole of these works are so ridiculously overstrained in their abuse that they carry their own antidote with them.

The Life by Cheetham is so palpably written to distort, disfigure, mislead, and vilify, and does this so bunglingly, that it defeats its own purposes, and becomes entertaining from the excess of its laboured and studied defamation.

It is indeed "Guilt's blunder," and subverts all it was intended to accomplish. It is filled with long details of uninteresting American matter, bickering letters of obscure individuals, gossiping stories of vulgar fanatics, prejudiced political cant, and weak observations on theology.

It may be supposed, from my long and affectionate intercourse with Mr. Paine, that these memoirs will have an opposite bias, and pourtray too flattering and exalted a character of him.

To this I reply, that I am not disposed to advocate the errors and irregularities of any man, however intimate with him, to suffer the partialities of friendship to prevent the due appreciation of character, or induce me to disregard the hallowed dictates of truth.

Mr. Paine was one of those men who,

Wise by some centuries before the croud,
Must by their novel systems, tho correct,

Of course offend the wicked, weak, and proud,
Must meet with hatred, calumny, neglect.

In his retirement to America, towards the 'close of his life, Mr. Paine was particularly unfortunate; for, as the author of the "Age of Reason," he could not have gone to so unfavorable a quarter of the world. A country, abounding in fanatics, could not be a proper one for him whose mind was bold, enquiring, liberal, and soaring, free from prejudice, and who from principle was a deist.

« EdellinenJatka »