Thomas Paine, Prophet and Martyr of Democracy

By Mary Agnes Best | Go to book overview

Chapter IX
STANDING BEFORE KINGS

Some minds seem almost to create themselves, springing up under every disadvantage, and working their solitary but irresistible way through a thousand obstacles.--WASHINGTON IRVING.

Seest thou a man diligent in his business? He shall stand before kings.-- PROV. 22: 29.

IT was the one absorbing business of Thomas Paine's life to curtail the expanding empire of Britain by separating the American colonies from the dominions of George III. If any other was more diligent in that business, we have no record of his activities. While the men in the field lacked bread, a crust sufficed him. All he possessed, with life thrown in, he was willing to exchange for the life of the Republic.

"America has been fortunate," said Ralph Izard of South Carolina, "in having her cause supported by so able an advocate as Mr. Paine, but it is much to be lamented that she should stand in need of protection from an adopted son, against the assaults of so many of her own unnatural offspring." The patriots who gathered so gleefully for the tar-and-feathering festivities, or who lighted funeral pyres for the effigies of George III., too often dispersed when the collection-plate was passed.

Humiliated by Congress, his livelihood gone, Paine could tighten his belt and face lean times with the satisfying reflection that he had intercepted a million dollars

-187-

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