Thomas Paine, Prophet and Martyr of Democracy

By Mary Agnes Best | Go to book overview

Chapter VII
THE FRANCO-AMERICAN GRAFT SCANDAL

True fortitude I take to be the quiet possession of a man's self, and an undisturbed doing of his duty, whatever evil beset or danger lies in the way.--LOCKE.

THE great Revolutionary graft scandal began in a stiff fight between Thomas Paine and Silas Deane, in which the whole country finally became involved, supporting one or other of the principals. His biographers have endeavored to prove that Deane was an honorable and much-abused patriot, while Paine's supporters have marshaled facts to prove exactly the contrary. Whoever is interested may read both sides of the controversy and draw his own conclusions.

The root of all the evil was a secret gift of money from the French government to the American rebels. A rankling sense of humiliation disturbed the French government. The day that England's power should be broken in the land from which she had driven her neighbor would be a glorious day for France; she was willing to pay for the pleasure of passing the cup of humiliation to England. Still, though revenge is sweet, prudence is more healthful. Eager to spring at each other, the two countries were at the moment in a state technically known as peace, and war is expensive. While the outlook for the success of the American rebellion was none too bright, an open espousal of the cause was an unnecessary risk, but

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