A London Obituary of Thomas Paine

Written soon after learning of his death, probably in the summer of 1809, author unknown:

“The biography of Mr. Thomas Paine is known, he was of low origin but even in his youth of a strong, resolute and constant temper. He had from his infancy adopted the opinions he so successfully promulgated in his manhood. All his literary productions evince an acute, profound, determined mind; his language is simple, accurate and nervous, adapted to all capacities, so pointed and unequivocal that there is no misconceiving it; he is sententious; his axioms are incontrovertible, and their impression indelible. No human being’s efforts have done more for liberty; he made more converts than Sydney or Russel. His “Common Sense” enfranchised America. America was divided into two parties; the argument of this little pamphlet decided the contest. His “Rights of Man” had a nearly similar effect in England. Innumerable replies have appeared against it; but so weak and futile as to injure the cause they meant to sustain. He reasoned from facts, and his distinction was irresistible; he poured like a torrent and bears down every thing before him; he was prosecuted for his works, but they are so admired they are in every library. He seemed stern and morose but he was lenient, friendly, and benevolent. He instances his humanity by his resolute vote to save the king’s life. The sanguinary Robespierre never forgave him. In the reign of terror, Robespierre imprisoned him, but the apostle of liberty, though in such imminent danger, never retracted his opinions, or solicited mercy; it pleased providence that he should escape this monster. Bold, manly, and fearless, he never concealed his sentiments: positive and inflexible they never varied. He continued in Paris long after Bonaparte rendered himself supreme in the state, and spoke as freely as ever. He told the writer of this article at Paris, on the peace of Amiens, that he was preparing for America; that he could not reside in comfort in the dominions of Bonaparte; that if he was to govern like an angel, he should always remember that he had perjured himself; that he had heard him himself swear that France should be a pure republic; and that he would die rather than endure the authority of a single individual; he would end his days in America, for he thought there was no liberty any where else. There he soon went, and there he paid the debt of nature; but his memory will never perish.”