PAINE, Thomas. Autograph letter signed (''Thomas Paine'') to Joel Barlow, New York, 4 May 1807. 2 pages, 4to, blank integral and address leaf. Expert repairs to seal hole and small, marginal tears. Also signed in text.
PAINE, Thomas. Autograph letter signed ("Thomas Paine") to Joel Barlow, New York, 4 May 1807. 2 pages, 4to, blank integral and address leaf. Expert repairs to seal hole and small, marginal tears. Also signed in text.
"YOU ARE NOT AN AMERICAN CITIZEN!"
VINDICTIVE OLD TORIES DENY PAINE'S RIGHT TO VOTE. The revolutionary hatreds between Tory and Patriot linger in this extraordinarily rich letter, in which Paine talks about the French and American revolutions and mentions Madison, Gouveneur Morris, Robert Fulton, and goes on to discuss his anti-clerical writings. "I have a law suit coming on in this State," he tells Barlow. "The occasion is as follows. Four or five men who had lived within the british lines in the revolutionary war got in to be inspectors of the election at New Rochelle where I lived on my farm. These men refused my vote saying to me 'You are not an American Citizen.' Upon my beginning to remonstrate with them, the chief of them (Ward, supervisor, whose father and all his brothers had joined the british, but himself not being then old enough to carry a Musket staid at home with his mother) got up and calling out for a constable said to me 'I commit you to Prison.' He chose however to sit down and go no further with it. I have prosecuted the board of inspectors for disparaging me."
His enemies acted on the odd theory that Paine had essentially been disowned by the U. S. government when ambassador Gouveneur Morris refused to reclaim him from the Luxembourg prison in Paris, into which his Jacobin enemies had thrown him in 1793, and where he languished until November 1794. Paine explains to Barlow that he has written away to President Madison, asking for the relevant correspondence between Morris and then Secretary of State Edmund Randolph. "Morris did reclaim me," Paine explains, "but his reclamation did me no good, and the probability is that he did not intend that it should. You and other Americans in Paris went in a body to the Convention to reclaim me and I want a certificate from you properly attested of this fact. If you consult with Governor Clinton he will, in friendship, inform you who to address it to."
He turns next to his pamphleteering. "It seems I had got to be master of the feds [Federalists] and the priests," he exults. For they were silent in the face of his ongoing attacks. "Had the Christian religion done any good in the world," he says, "I would not have exposed it however fabulous I might believe it to be. But the delusive Idea of having a friend at court whom they call a redeemer who pays all their scores, is an encouragement to wickedness." He closes by asking about Robert Fulton: "Is he 'taming a whale' to draw his submarine boat?" An exceptionally fine letter, showing the full range of Paine's intellectual commitments--and the political animosities he still managed to provoke.