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The
same sense of propriety that governs in private companies, governs in
public life. If a man in company runs his wit upon another, it may draw
a smile from some persons present, but as soon as he turns a blackguard
in his language the company gives him up; and it is the same in public
life. The event of the late election shows this to be true; for in
proportion as those papers have become more and more vulgar and abusive,
the elections have gone more and more against the party they support,
or that supports them. Their predecessor, _Porcupine_ [Cobbett] had
wit--these scribblers have none. But as soon as his _blackguardism_ (for
it is the proper name of it) outran his wit, he was abandoned by every
body but the English Minister who protected him.

The Spanish proverb says, "_there never was a cover large enough to hide
itself_"; and the proverb applies to the case of those papers and the
shattered remnant of the faction that supports them. The falsehoods they
fabricate, and the abuse they circulate, is a cover to hide something
from being seen, but it is not large enough to hide itself. It is as
a tub thrown out to the whale to prevent its attacking and sinking the
vessel. They want to draw the attention of the public from thinking
about, or inquiring into, the measures of the late administration, and
the reason why so much public money was raised and expended; and so far
as a lie today, and a new one tomorrow, will answer this purpose, it
answers theirs. It is nothing to them whether they be believed or not,
for if the negative purpose be answered the main point is answered, to
them.

He that picks your pocket always tries to make you look another way.
"Look," says he, "at yon man t'other side the street--what a nose he has
got?--Lord, yonder is a chimney on fire!--Do you see yon man going along
in the salamander great coat? That is the very man that stole one of
Jupiter's satellites, and sold it to a countryman for a gold watch,
and it set his breeches on fire!" Now the man that has his hand in your
pocket, does not care a farthing whether you believe what he says or
not. All his aim is to prevent your looking at _him_; and this is the
case with the remnant of the Federal faction. The leaders of it have
imposed upon the country, and they want to turn the attention of it from
the subject.

In taking up any public matter, I have never made it a consideration,
and never will, whether it be popular or unpopular; but whether it be
_right_ or _wrong_. The right will always become the popular, if it has
courage to show itself, and the shortest way is always a straight line.
I despise expedients, they are the gutter-hole of politics, and the sink
where reputation dies. In the present case, as in every other, I
cannot be accused of using any; and I have no doubt but thousands will
hereafter be ready to say, as Gouverneur Morris said to me, after having
abused me pretty handsomely in Congress for the opposition I gave
the fraudulent demand of Silas Deane of two thousand pounds sterling:
"_Well, we were all duped, and I among the rest!_"(1)

1 See vol. I., chapters xxii., xxiii., xxiv., of this work.
Also my "Life of Paine," vol. I., ch. ix., x.--_Editor._

Were the late administration to be called upon to give reasons for
the expence it put the country to, it can give none. The danger of an
invasion was a bubble that served as a cover to raise taxes and armies
to be employed on some other purpose. But if the people of America
believed it true, the cheerfulness with which they supported those
measures and paid those taxes is an evidence of their patriotism; and
if they supposed me their enemy, though in that supposition they did me
injustice, it was not injustice in them. He that acts as he believes,
though he may act wrong, is not conscious of wrong.

But though there was no danger, no thanks are due to the late
administration for it. They sought to blow up a flame between the two
countries; and so intent were they upon this, that they went out of
their way to accomplish it. In a letter which the Secretary of State,
Timothy Pickering, wrote to Mr. Skipwith, the American Consul at Paris,
he broke off from the official subject of his letter, to _thank God_ in
very exulting language, _that the Russians had cut the French army
to pieces_. Mr. Skipwith, after showing me the letter, very prudently
concealed it.

It was the injudicious and wicked acrimony of this letter, and some
other like conduct of the then Secretary of State, that occasioned me,
in a letter to a friend in the government, to say, that if there was any
official business to be done in France, till a regular Minister could
be appointed, it could not be trusted to a more proper person than Mr.
Skipwith. "_He is_," said I, "_an honest man, and will do business, and
that with good manners to the government he is commissioned to act with.
A faculty which that BEAR, Timothy Pickering, wanted, and which the BEAR
of that bear, John Adams, never possessed_."(2)

2 By reference to the letter itself (p. 376 of this volume)
it will be seen that Paine here quotes it from memory.--
_Editor._ vol III--

In another letter to the same friend, in 1797, and which was put
unsealed under cover to Colonel Burr, I expressed a satisfaction
that Mr. Jefferson, since he was not president, had accepted the
vice presidency; "_for_," said I, "_John Adams has such a talent for
blundering and offending, it will be necessary to keep an eye over
him_." He has now sufficiently proved, that though I have not the spirit
of prophecy, I have the gift of _judging right_. And all the world
knows, for it cannot help knowing, that to judge _rightly_ and to write
_clearly_, and that upon all sorts of subjects, to be able to command
thought and as it were to play with it at pleasure, and be always master
of one's temper in writing, is the faculty only of a serene mind, and
the attribute of a happy and philosophical temperament. The scribblers,
who know me not, and who fill their papers with paragraphs about me,
besides their want of talents, drink too many slings and drams in a
morning to have any chance with me. But, poor fellows, they must do
something for the little pittance they get from their employers. This is
my apology for them.

My anxiety to get back to America was great for many years. It is the
country of my heart, and the place of my political and literary birth.
It was the American revolution that made me an author, and forced into
action the mind that had been dormant, and had no wish for public life,
nor has it now. By the accounts I received, she appeared to me to be
going wrong, and that some meditated treason against her liberties
lurked at the bottom of her government. I heard that my friends were
oppressed, and I longed to take my stand among them, and if other times
to _try mens souls_ were to arrive, that I might bear my share. But my
efforts to return were ineffectual.

As soon as Mr. Monroe had made a good standing with the French
government, for the conduct of his predecessor [Morris] had made his
reception as Minister difficult, he wanted to send despatches to his own
government by a person to whom he could confide a verbal communication,
and he fixed his choice on me. He then applied to the Committee of
Public Safety for a passport; but as I had been voted again into the
Convention, it was only the Convention that could give the passport;
and as an application to them for that purpose, would have made my going
publicly known, I was obliged to sustain the disappointment, and Mr.
Monroe to lose the opportunity.(1)

When that gentleman left France to return to America, I was to have
gone with him. It was fortunate I did not. The vessel he sailed in was
visited by a British frigate, that searched every part of it, and down
to the hold, for Thomas Paine.(2) I then went, the same year, to embark
at Havre. But several British frigates were cruizing in sight of the
port who knew I was there, and I had to return again to Paris. Seeing
myself thus cut off from every opportunity that was in my power to
command, I wrote to Mr. Jefferson, that, if the fate of the election
should put him in the chair of the presidency, and he should have
occasion to send a frigate to France, he would give me the opportunity
of returning by it, which he did. But I declined coming by the
_Maryland_, the vessel that was offered me, and waited for the frigate
that was to bring the new Minister, Mr. Chancellor Livingston, to
France. But that frigate was ordered round to the Mediterranean; and
as at that time the war was over, and the British cruisers called in,
I could come any way. I then agreed to come with Commodore Barney in a
vessel he had engaged. It was again fortunate I did not, for the vessel
sank at sea, and the people were preserved in the boat.

1 The correspondence is in my "Life of Paine," vol. ii.,
pp. 154-5.--_Editor._

2 The "Dublin Packet," Captain Clay, in whom Paine, as he
wrote to Jefferson, "had no confidence."--_Editor._

Had half the number of evils befallen me that the number of dangers
amount to through which I have been pre-served, there are those who
would ascribe it to the wrath of heaven; why then do they not ascribe
my preservation to the protecting favour of heaven? Even in my worldly
concerns I have been blessed. The little property I left in America,
and which I cared nothing about, not even to receive the rent of it,
has been increasing in the value of its capital more than eight hundred
dollars every year, for the fourteen years and more that I have been
absent from it. I am now in my circumstances independent; and my economy
makes me rich. As to my health, it is perfectly good, and I leave the
world to judge of the stature of my mind. I am in every instance a
living contradiction to the mortified Federalists.

In my publications, I follow the rule I began with in _Common Sense_,
that is, to consult nobody, nor to let any body see what I write till
it appears publicly. Were I to do otherwise, the case would be, that
between the timidity of some, who are so afraid of doing wrong that they
never do right, the puny judgment of others, and the despicable craft of
preferring _expedient to right_, as if the world was a world of babies
in leading strings, I should get forward with nothing.



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