A B C D E F
G H I J K L M 

Total read books on site:
more than 10 000

You can read its for free!


Text on one page: Few Medium Many
If the moral deformity of Couthon, even
greater than that of his body, be remembered, and the readiness with
which death was inflicted for the most theoretical opinion not approved
by the "Mountain," it will appear probable that the offence given
Couthon by Paine's book involved danger to him and his translator.
On May 31, when the Girondins were accused, the name of Lanthenas was
included, and he barely escaped; and on the same day Danton persuaded
Paine not to appear in the Convention, as his life might be in danger.
Whether this was because of the "Age of Reason," with its fling at the
"Goddess Nature" or not, the statements of author and translator
are harmonized by the fact that Paine prepared the manuscript, with
considerable additions and changes, for publication in English, as he
has stated in the Preface to Part II.

A comparison of the French and English versions, sentence by sentence,
proved to me that the translation sent by Lanthenas to Merlin de
Thionville in 1794 is the same as that he sent to Couthon in 1793. This
discovery was the means of recovering several interesting sentences
of the original work. I have given as footnotes translations of such
clauses and phrases of the French work as appeared to be important.
Those familiar with the translations of Lanthenas need not be reminded
that he was too much of a literalist to depart from the manuscript
before him, and indeed he did not even venture to alter it in an
instance (presently considered) where it was obviously needed. Nor would
Lanthenas have omitted any of the paragraphs lacking in his translation.
This original work was divided into seventeen chapters, and these I have
restored, translating their headings into English. The "Age of Reason"
is thus for the first time given to the world with nearly its original
completeness.

It should be remembered that Paine could not have read the proof of his
"Age of Reason" (Part I.) which went through the press while he was in
prison. To this must be ascribed the permanence of some sentences as
abbreviated in the haste he has described. A notable instance is the
dropping out of his estimate of Jesus the words rendered by Lanthenas
"trop peu imite, trop oublie, trop meconnu." The addition of these
words to Paine's tribute makes it the more notable that almost the only
recognition of the human character and life of Jesus by any theological
writer of that generation came from one long branded as an infidel.

To the inability of the prisoner to give his work any revision must be
attributed the preservation in it of the singular error already alluded
to, as one that Lanthenas, but for his extreme fidelity, would have
corrected. This is Paine's repeated mention of six planets, and
enumeration of them, twelve years after the discovery of Uranus. Paine
was a devoted student of astronomy, and it cannot for a moment be
supposed that he had not participated in the universal welcome of
Herschel's discovery. The omission of any allusion to it convinces me
that the astronomical episode was printed from a manuscript written
before 1781, when Uranus was discovered. Unfamiliar with French in 1793,
Paine might not have discovered the erratum in Lanthenas' translation,
and, having no time for copying, he would naturally use as much as
possible of the same manuscript in preparing his work for English
readers. But he had no opportunity of revision, and there remains an
erratum which, if my conjecture be correct, casts a significant light
on the paragraphs in which he alludes to the preparation of the work. He
states that soon after his publication of "Common Sense" (1776), he "saw
the exceeding probability that a revolution in the system of government
would be followed by a revolution in the system of religion," and that
"man would return to the pure, unmixed, and unadulterated belief of
one God and no more." He tells Samuel Adams that it had long been his
intention to publish his thoughts upon religion, and he had made a
similar remark to John Adams in 1776. Like the Quakers among whom he
was reared Paine could then readily use the phrase "word of God" for
anything in the Bible which approved itself to his "inner light," and
as he had drawn from the first Book of Samuel a divine condemnation
of monarchy, John Adams, a Unitarian, asked him if he believed in the
inspiration of the Old Testament. Paine replied that he did not, and
at a later period meant to publish his views on the subject. There is
little doubt that he wrote from time to time on religious points, during
the American war, without publishing his thoughts, just as he worked on
the problem of steam navigation, in which he had invented a practicable
method (ten years before John Fitch made his discovery) without
publishing it. At any rate it appears to me certain that the part of
"The Age of Reason" connected with Paine's favorite science, astronomy,
was written before 1781, when Uranus was discovered.

Paine's theism, however invested with biblical and Christian
phraseology, was a birthright. It appears clear from several allusions
in "The Age of Reason" to the Quakers that in his early life, or
before the middle of the eighteenth century, the people so called were
substantially Deists. An interesting confirmation of Paine's statements
concerning them appears as I write in an account sent by Count Leo
Tolstoi to the London 'Times' of the Russian sect called Dukhobortsy
(The Times, October 23, 1895). This sect sprang up in the last century,
and the narrative says:

"The first seeds of the teaching called afterwards 'Dukhoborcheskaya'
were sown by a foreigner, a Quaker, who came to Russia. The fundamental
idea of his Quaker teaching was that in the soul of man dwells God
himself, and that He himself guides man by His inner word. God lives
in nature physically and in man's soul spiritually. To Christ, as to an
historical personage, the Dukhobortsy do not ascribe great importance...
Christ was God's son, but only in the sense in which we call, ourselves
'sons of God.' The purpose of Christ's sufferings was no other than to
show us an example of suffering for truth. The Quakers who, in 1818,
visited the Dukhobortsy, could not agree with them upon these religious
subjects; and when they heard from them their opinion about Jesus
Christ (that he was a man), exclaimed 'Darkness!' From the Old and New
Testaments,' they say, 'we take only what is useful,' mostly the moral
teaching.... The moral ideas of the Dukhobortsy are the following:--All
men are, by nature, equal; external distinctions, whatsoever they may
be, are worth nothing. This idea of men's equality the Dukhoborts have
directed further, against the State authority.... Amongst themselves
they hold subordination, and much more, a monarchical Government, to be
contrary to their ideas."

Here is an early Hicksite Quakerism carried to Russia long before the
birth of Elias Hicks, who recovered it from Paine, to whom the American
Quakers refused burial among them. Although Paine arraigned the union
of Church and State, his ideal Republic was religious; it was based on
a conception of equality based on the divine son-ship of every man. This
faith underlay equally his burden against claims to divine partiality by
a "Chosen People," a Priesthood, a Monarch "by the grace of God," or
an Aristocracy. Paine's "Reason" is only an expansion of the Quaker's
"inner light"; and the greater impression, as compared with previous
republican and deistic writings made by his "Rights of Man" and "Age
of Reason" (really volumes of one work), is partly explained by the
apostolic fervor which made him a spiritual, successor of George Fox.

Paine's mind was by no means skeptical, it was eminently instructive.
That he should have waited until his fifty-seventh year before
publishing his religious convictions was due to a desire to work out
some positive and practicable system to take the place of that which he
believed was crumbling. The English engineer Hall, who assisted Paine in
making the model of his iron bridge, wrote to his friends in England,
in 1786: "My employer has Common Sense enough to disbelieve most of the
common systematic theories of Divinity, but does not seem to establish
any for himself." But five years later Paine was able to lay the
corner-stone of his temple: "With respect to religion itself, without
regard to names, and as directing itself from the universal family of
mankind to the 'Divine object of all adoration, it is man bringing to
his Maker the fruits of his heart; and though those fruits may differ
from each other like the fruits of the earth, the grateful tribute of
every one, is accepted." ("Rights of Man." See my edition of Paine's
Writings, ii., p. 326.) Here we have a reappearance of George Fox
confuting the doctor in America who "denied the light and Spirit of
God to be in every one; and affirmed that it was not in the Indians.
Whereupon I called an Indian to us, and asked him 'whether or not, when
he lied, or did wrong to anyone, there was not something in him that
reproved him for it?' He said, 'There was such a thing in him that did
so reprove him; and he was ashamed when he had done wrong, or spoken
wrong.' So we shamed the doctor before the governor and the people."
(Journal of George Fox, September 1672.)

Paine, who coined the phrase "Religion of Humanity" (The Crisis, vii.,
1778), did but logically defend it in "The Age of Reason," by denying a
special revelation to any particular tribe, or divine authority in
any particular creed of church; and the centenary of this much-abused
publication has been celebrated by a great conservative champion of
Church and State, Mr. Balfour, who, in his "Foundations of Belief,"
affirms that "inspiration" cannot be denied to the great Oriental
teachers, unless grapes may be gathered from thorns.

The centenary of the complete publication of "The Age of Reason,"
(October 25, 1795), was also celebrated at the Church Congress, Norwich,
on October 10, 1895, when Professor Bonney, F.R.S., Canon of Manchester,
read a paper in which he said: "I cannot deny that the increase of
scientific knowledge has deprived parts of the earlier books of the
Bible of the historical value which was generally attributed to them by
our forefathers.



Pages: | Prev | | 1 | | 2 | | 3 | | 4 | | 5 | | 6 | | 7 | | 8 | | 9 | | 10 | | 11 | | 12 | | 13 | | 14 | | 15 | | 16 | | 17 | | 18 | | 19 | | 20 | | 21 | | 22 | | 23 | | 24 | | 25 | | 26 | | 27 | | 28 | | 29 | | 30 | | 31 | | 32 | | 33 | | 34 | | 35 | | 36 | | 37 | | 38 | | 39 | | 40 | | 41 | | 42 | | 43 | | 44 | | 45 | | 46 | | 47 | | 48 | | 49 | | 50 | | 51 | | 52 | | 53 | | 54 | | 55 | | 56 | | 57 | | 58 | | 59 | | 60 | | 61 | | 62 | | 63 | | 64 | | 65 | | 66 | | 67 | | 68 | | 69 | | 70 | | 71 | | 72 | | 73 | | 74 | | 75 | | 76 | | 77 | | 78 | | 79 | | 80 | | 81 | | 82 | | 83 | | 84 | | 85 | | 86 | | 87 | | 88 | | 89 | | 90 | | 91 | | 92 | | 93 | | 94 | | 95 | | 96 | | 97 | | 98 | | 99 | | 100 | | 101 | | 102 | | 103 | | 104 | | 105 | | 106 | | 107 | | 108 | | 109 | | 110 | | 111 | | 112 | | 113 | | 114 | | 115 | | 116 | | 117 | | 118 | | 119 | | 120 | | 121 | | 122 | | 123 | | 124 | | 125 | | 126 | | 127 | | 128 | | 129 | | 130 | | 131 | | 132 | | 133 | | 134 | | 135 | | 136 | | 137 | | 138 | | 139 | | 140 | | 141 | | 142 | | 143 | | 144 | | 145 | | 146 | | 147 | | 148 | | 149 | | 150 | | 151 | | 152 | | 153 | | 154 | | 155 | | 156 | | 157 | | 158 | | 159 | | 160 | | 161 | | 162 | | 163 | | 164 | | 165 | | 166 | | 167 | | 168 | | 169 | | 170 | | 171 | | 172 | | 173 | | 174 | | 175 | | 176 | | 177 | | 178 | | 179 | | 180 | | 181 | | 182 | | 183 | | 184 | | 185 | | 186 | | 187 | | 188 | | 189 | | 190 | | 191 | | 192 | | 193 | | 194 | | 195 | | 196 | | 197 | | 198 | | 199 | | 200 | | 201 | | 202 | | 203 | | 204 | | 205 | | 206 | | 207 | | 208 | | 209 | | 210 | | 211 | | 212 | | 213 | | 214 | | 215 | | 216 | | 217 | | 218 | | 219 | | 220 | | 221 | | 222 | | 223 | | 224 | | 225 | | 226 | | 227 | | 228 | | 229 | | 230 | | 231 | | Next |

N O P Q R S T
U V W X Y Z 

Your last read book:

You dont read books at this site.