Thomas Paine, Prophet and Martyr of Democracy

By Mary Agnes Best | Go to book overview

Chapter XVII
DESPISED AND REJECTED

In a free nation it matters not whether individuals reason well or ill, it is sufficient that they do reason. Truth arises from the collision, and from hence springs liberty, which is a security from the effects of reasoning.--MONTESQUIEU.

If my government is made to stand it has nothing to fear from paper shot.--CROMWELL.

THE advice bequeathed to posterity by the Father of the country--to keep clear of foreign entanglements--was the acquired wisdom of bitter experience. Educated in the same hard school, his successor, Monroe, formulated that advice into a policy. England and France made a football field of America, and the native factions were so absorbed in the game that Washington's entreaties to see America first fell on deaf ears. Between the violently pro-French democrats and the violently pro-English aristocrats, he despaired of getting in a word edgewise for the free and independent nation which had been proclaimed, but not established. He was bored by spectacular patriotism, and distrusted it. His own soldiers had been gravely reproved by him for gleefully decapitating a leaden George III.

The French Revolution must have been a breath-arresting episode to the orderly-minded, elderly Virginian, who, like the Apostle Paul, desired that all things, including revolutions, be done decently and in order. The President's sympathies were those of a conservative, pros-

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